MNR Releases 2021 Deer Hunting Snapshot

September 8, 2021

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources released its annual snapshot of deer hunting just before deer hunting seasons, which begin on September 11. Overall, conditions look great for the seasons to come, and deer hunters can expect the hunt to be as good or better. than last year.

Hunters who have viewed the Hunting Digest 2021 may have noticed a few regulatory changes in place this year, including an antlerless universal license that can be used in deer management units in most states. Some DMUs in the northern Upper Peninsula are closed to antlerless deer hunting, and two UP DMUs, 351 and 352, require an access permit as well as the universal antlerless permit. See pages 60 and 61 of Hunting Digest 2021 for more details.

“These regulatory changes reflect the evolution of deer hunting in Michigan,” said Chad Stewart, DNR Deer and Elk program specialist. “The last 20 years have seen a dramatic and sustained decline in the number of hunters. Combined with an abundant and resilient deer herd that continues to grow and the added challenge of managing deer disease, a change that represented this shifting dynamic was needed.

Regional perspectives follow. The full 2021 deer hunt preview is available at

Upper peninsula

The past year has been difficult for UP deer hunters, with an overall harvest down nearly 6% from 2019 and a male harvest down almost 11%. While harvest numbers were not as low as those seen in 2014-2016 after the harsh winters of 2013-2015, they are down from the harvest numbers for 2017 and 2018.

Winter 2020 UP was much milder than normal, which was a welcome respite for the deer population. The rapid spring greening allowed many adult deer to recover quickly from the winter tolls. With a bountiful production of masts (nuts, seeds, and fruit) in the fall of 2020, the deer headed for winter in general good shape. Population trends appear to be on the rise this year for the UP

The production of masts this year appears to be very uneven. Look for areas with acorn-producing oak trees, as they will definitely attract deer. The dollar count seems to be improving, but there are still areas where persistence will be required to be successful. Overall calf production looks good. With the new changes to take antlerless deer in the lower two-thirds of the peninsula, hunters have an increased opportunity to fill their freezers for what is hopefully another mild winter to come.

The DNR remains focused on chronic wasting disease surveillance in southern Dickinson County following the detection of the first CWD case on the Upper Peninsula in 2018. For hunters interested in having their deer tested, check out the “tab” For Hunters “on / CWD to view the map of the priority area in the UP

Northern Lower Peninsula

During the 2020 hunting season, the northern Lower Peninsula saw an estimated harvest of 135,906 deer, an increase of 7% from 2019. While the harvest of males declined by around 5%, From 68,168 in 2019 to 64,725 last year, the woodless harvest increased by 21%. with over 12,000 additional antlerless deer captured in 2020 compared to 2019.

Winter 2020 did not appear to have a detrimental effect on the deer herd in this region due to fewer periods of extreme cold and an overall shorter winter. Another important factor that ensured winter survival was forest management practices (new growth of saplings and crowns of harvested trees) which provided plenty of graze for deer throughout the winter.

The mast harvest in the northern Lower Peninsula looks good this year, except in areas that have been affected by gypsy moth infestations. These regions should not see much in terms of acorn production. Elsewhere, acorns and soft masts, including apples on old farm sites, blackberries and hawthorns all produce well.

Deer numbers appear to be very good in many places, although it is important to note that deer are not distributed evenly across the landscape and some areas may have fewer deer than others. Overall, MNR staff are seeing good calf production this year, with many twins lagging behind.

The spring and summer rains seemed to provide optimal fodder for the deer, and the males turned this into a nice antler growth. There are reports of people seeing better males than in recent years – something hunters may start to get excited about. In some places there is still a long way to go to balance the male / female ratio, so hunters are encouraged to take advantage of new regulations that allow antlerless deer to be taken on the deer license and / or deer combined during a gun. and the muzzleloading seasons.

Surveillance of bovine tuberculosis is still a priority in the north of the Lower Peninsula, with tests carried out in the main counties of Alcona, Alpena, Montmorency and Oscoda, but also in all the surrounding counties (Cheboygan, Crawford, Iosco, Ogemaw, Otsego, Presque Isle and Roscommon). Tuberculosis is a significant threat to the livestock industry, and hunters who wish to do their part to help with surveillance can have their deer tested at any checkpoint this year.

Southern Lower Peninsula

2020 has been quite a year in the southern Lower Peninsula, with an antlerless harvest increasing by 29% from 2019. The male harvest has also increased by over 12%, and – including deer slaughtered by deer management assistance permits – nearly 250,000 deer have been captured in this region. alone. Much of this pressure on antlerless deer has been necessary, as their numbers in much of the region have been steadily increasing for years.

With winter rarely being a factor of population-level impact on the southern Lower Peninsula deer herd, MNR relies on hunters for the bulk of deer management in this region, and recent changes regulations appear to be a step in the desired direction for deer management.

Soft mast harvests appear poor this year, possibly due to drought conditions in June and heavy rains in July. While there does not appear to be a bumper crop of acorns in the area this year, some oak trees do produce, and for those who live in an area with acorns, it is sure to be a magnet for deer early in the year. autumn.

The agricultural fields being efficient, the deer certainly did not go hungry this summer. Corn’s progress is on par with 2020 and above the five-year average, so hopefully many fields will be picked by the gun opener which should lead to continued success this season.

The number of deer seems consistent with that of previous years and, as always, beautiful males were seen. The fawns observed are well developed and on their way to entering the winter strong and healthy.

It is important to note that surveillance for chronic wasting disease is ongoing in the southernmost counties of the Lower Peninsula. Hunters are encouraged to visit checkpoints and test their deer. A complete list of checkpoints is available at

For more information on 2021 deer hunting regulations, visit or see the 2021 Hunting Digest.

The MRN wishes all hunters a safe and enjoyable season.

Note to editors: An accompanying photo is available for download below. Legend information follows.

White-tailed Deer: The deer hunting seasons begin on September 11. Overall, conditions are shaping up to be excellent for the coming seasons and deer hunters can expect hunting conditions to be as good or better than last year.

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