The number of Michigan hunters has been declining for 20 years. There are several reasons, but one solution could get more people back in the woods.

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Why Are Michigan Hunting Numbers Dropping?

DEA/BIBLOTECAAMBROSIANA/De Agostini via Getty Images
DEA/BIBLOTECAAMBROSIANA/De Agostini via Getty Images
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The number of Michigan hunters in the woods had continued to grow year after year since licenses were created but that number began falling around 2002.

Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
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What was a long tradition amongst Michigan families of getting together for the firearm whitetail deer season has long been declining but why? Have Michiganders lost their taste for the sport, has the digital age changed people's hobbies, has the baiting ban had an effect, or is it something else?

Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
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Are grandpas and dad's no longer passing down hunting to their children? I do know as I have been growing up that fewer of my friends hunt or fish anymore.

Slight Rise In Hunting Licenses

Firn/ThinkStock/GettyStock
Firn/ThinkStock/GettyStock
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During the pandemic when concerts were canceled and you really couldn't go anywhere. There was an uptick in people entering the woods. For the first time in 20 years, the hunting numbers began to rise.

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Now that businesses and entertainment have returned and people have gotten back into their normal routine, even fewer Michigan hunting licenses were sold this year than last year.

Has The Deer Baiting Ban Caused Fewer Hunters to Buy a License?

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dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images
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A deer baiting ban for the Lower Peninsula began in 2008 when it was determined that Chronic Wasting Disease was found to be transmitted to other animals eating off the same food source.

AFP via Getty Images
AFP via Getty Images
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Deer hunters used to be allowed to use sugar beets, carrots, corn, apples, and other fruits to lure deer to an area so a hunter could get a shot. I know a lot of hunters that said they don't even see deer now that they can't use bait and have quit hunting altogether.

Future Publishing via Getty Images
Future Publishing via Getty Images
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I get the Department of Natural Resources is trying to protect the herd by having the baiting ban, but these same deer eat off-farm crops so you would think that CWD would be spreading like crazy and it still seems to be limited to areas where it has been found. I do think the baiting ban has definitely contributed to the declining numbers of hunters entering the woods.

What Could Increase the Hunting Numbers for Firearm Deer Season?

Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images
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Not every hunter can get the day off to be out opening day. When the opening day of firearm deer season opens and it's on a Tuesday, a lot of guys can't get out until the following Saturday. A lot of hunters hunt in areas where once the guns go off opening day season is over. Not every hunter has access to private land and is able to hunt near farm crops so it gets even tougher.

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MediaNews Group via Getty Images
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What if the DNR moved firearm deer season to the closest Saturday to November 15 like a lot of other states do? This year's season would have started on November 12 and would have technically ended on November 27. This would give hunters three weekends to hunt with two weeks between which is the exact number of days during the breeding season hunters are allowed to hunt now.

Philippe Le Telier/Getty Images
Philippe Le Telier/Getty Images
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Moving the start of the season won't affect the herd and may not solve the declining numbers of hunters but would give those who hunt a better season to fit in with the work schedule and the Thanksgiving break. More hunters would hunt if the opening day was on Saturday which would bring more money to the hunting economy of Michigan and it's a free and easy thing to do. So come on DNR, what are you waiting for?

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