Thoughts of ‘a deer-hunting dinosaur’
To the editor:
This is in response to the results of the online poll on Iron County big bucks that were published in the Nov. 20 edition.
The results are probably close to what is being observed in the field, but there are drastic differences depending on where you can hunt.
If you have access to private land with controlled access, then you likely think there are more big bucks. If you hunt areas open to the general public, there has been a drastic decline in the availability of big bucks.
I am a former regional director for Region 1 of Commemorative Bucks of Michigan (CBM), which covered the entire west half of the U.P. When I signed on as official scorer in 1984, we regularly had shows where 50-70-plus deer were scored. The last three shows I participated in, there were none. I finally resigned several years ago.
The changes in deer regulations have decimated the quality of bucks on public land, and it’s only getting worse.
In the 1960s into the 1970s, the bow season was only for the month of October. Tree stands were illegal, and baiting was virtually unheard of. Also, if you got a deer, buck or doe, you were ineligible to hunt during firearm season. It was one deer per year, regardless of how you got it.
All that changed. Now tree stands are legal, baiting has gone rampant, the multiple buck law has totally screwed up the sex balance in the deer herd, and now the use of crossbows is even legal for 45 days in the U.P. bow season before a firearm hunter even goes into the woods.
Baiting deer is illegal in over half the states and most of the Canadian provinces. I don’t know why Boone & Crockett continues to recognize any deer shot in Michigan.
Personally, I have three bucks registered in the Michigan records, taken from 1968 to 1975, and three of those years I never fired a shot. The last was taken in 1988, I haven’t even seen a decent buck on lands open to the public in the last 15+ years.
The problems with the lack of quality in the deer herd are not restricted to Iron County, which used to be one of the best in Michigan.
In 2012, there were a total of 18 bucks listed by CBM in the entire U.P. In comparison, Clinton, Ingham, Jackson, Washtenaw, Gratiot, Eaton and Montcalm counties all had individually almost as many listed or more than the entire U.P. All of them are within about 100 miles of Detroit. Virtually all were taken on private land with controlled access. Translated: You buy your chances of getting a decent buck in Michigan.
The bottom line is this: If we ever want the general public to get a reasonable chance to take decent bucks on land open to the public, there needs to be some drastic changes in deer hunting regulations.
Deer habitat has been drastically overbrowsed for years to decades, but the DNR refuses to recognize that. High quality northern hardwood stands now regenerate little more than ironwood (an almost worthless pulp species) because the deer won’t eat it. The deer eat the rest of the valuable stuff that we need for the future.
I could go on for a long time about this, but I won’t. To date (Nov. 25), I have seen a total of two hunters actually in the woods on thousands of acres open to the public. One was in a tree stand with an ATV parked about 50 yards away. The other was actually walking cross country through the woods—the first one I have actually seen someone do that in almost 20 years.
To date, I have seen 44 deer, 30 of which I could have shot. Only one was an identifiable buck.
I am admittedly a deer-hunting dinosaur that still believes that it is not what you get but how you get it. If anything that I have written here offends you, good—because maybe you still have what it takes to be a hunter instead of a bait pile guard.
-s- Larry Mellstrom, retired professional forester and former Region 1 director, Commemorative
Bucks of Michigan