Better Deer Hunting Starts Here

Let’s face it, as sportsmen and sportswomen, we all want the opportunity to see more bucks and see and harvest bigger bucks. We have a history in Michigan of killing off most bucks when they are 1.5 or 2.5 years old. But bucks don’t even begin to reach their full potential in antler and body development until they are 3.5 or older. If we want to see more and older bucks, the number one thing we can do is to let them grow an extra year or two.

bipolar buck draft 6

Leelanau County has had antler restrictions in place since 2003. And even though they are a northern Lower Peninsula county, and therefore have less nutrition than some of the southern counties, hunters in Leelanau county harvest more big, old bucks per hunter than hunters in any other county in the state. When the DNR did a survey there in 2008, 72% of hunters and landowners were in favor of keeping the rules after living under them for five years.

Not only that, but the DNR and NRC are currently considering expanding those rules to 12 other counties in the region, based on another survey in which 68.5% of hunters were in favor of instituting a 3 on a side antler restriction.

Better Deer Hunting Starts Here

We are now proposing that the rules be expanded to the entire Lower Peninsula, but with some slight changes. Bucks tend to grow bigger in the Southern Lower Peninsula (SLP) than in the Northern Lower Peninsula (NLP). So our proposal is for a 3 point on a side restriction on the first buck in the NLP, and a 4 point on a side restriction in the SLP.

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41 Responses to Better Deer Hunting Starts Here

  1. Richard Toonstra says:

    Does the sponsoring group intend for regulations in the proposed area to advance the
    buck age structure, to reduce or hold deer-vehicle collisions and crop damage at
    acceptable levels, move the deer population towards an equal buck-to-doe ratio,
    maintain healthy fawns and survival rates, and hold deer populations at or below
    habitat limits like they did up north, or is this just about growing us some hawgs?

  2. admin says:

    Our proposal does not mention any of the issues in your comment except that we expect antler point restrictions to improve buck age structure. The primary goal of our proposal is to pass more yearling bucks into the older age classes.

  3. Dan Hengesbach says:

    If we go with APR’s i would like to see it start out as the same as the NLP, 3 pts on one side, much easier to distiguish 6 pointers (3 per side) from spikes and forkhorns(4 pointers) based on the shape fo the racks. Plus we seem to have more and more mature 6 pointers running around. We don’t need more rules we need simpler ones. this could possibly lead to dead bucks(mistakes) laying in the field rotting. i feel many young, old, inexperienced hunters will be made into lawbreakers. Why don’t all hunters get together and push for one buck per year regardless of the size. Lets keep hunting FUN and SIMPLE. More rules just lead for more opportunities to bend the law. Trust me i would love to kill a monster every year but we all have to be realistic. Improving Michigan deer hunting starts with changing the bag limits and season lengths!!

    • Johnny hartwell says:

      Im sure that if can count to 3 you can count to 4 , theres no bending the law here. All I know is that we have to change the way we hunt in Michigan ,we can not keep harvesting most of are year and half bucks. This is not rocket science people! I would like to see a one buck per year ,but I don’t think we can get the DNR to stop selling the money making combo tags. So lets stop killing are young bucks and let them grow!

    • JW says:

      First of all, I don’t disagree that one buck per year would be fine but there’s a couple problems with it. First, like Hartwell said, the DNR will not sacrifice selling tags. Second, and in my opinion most importantly, if we went to one buck of any size, this would not make a noticeable difference in the age of our bucks. Most hunters do not harvest 2 bucks in a year now. The hunt ers that shoot yearlings now would continue to shoot yearlings. This is what we want to avoid. On my property in Allegan county, most yearlings are 6 points. Going to 3 points on a side in the lower half of the lower peninsula wou lld not protect a majority of yearlings, which is the goal. It is not complicated to pass if you can’t see 4a points on a side.

      • Eugene says:

        I like the 3pt per side. I have a number of bucks on camera that are older than 1 1/2 yrs. that are still 6 points. With the 4pt per side rule, these bucks will die of old age. I would find it extremely hard to pass up a 100″ 6pt. that is old, heavy and mature. You can tell the difference in a 1 1/2 old buck and a 2 1/2 or older buck if you just look. Brown is down has gotta go. But don’t restrict it 4pt on a side.

        • LPDMI says:

          Eugene, I’m not sure where you’re located but our proposal for zone 2 is for a 3 pt on one side rule so your 2.5 yo 6 points would still be legal targets.
          The proposal we have for zone 3 is for 4 pts on one side. Data show (for both proposals) that >70% of first rack bucks will be protected and the vast majority of them will be legal at 2.5, almost certainly at 3.5.
          No regulation is going to be “perfect” and if this MAR(s) proves to be a detriment to the deer herd, the LPDMI will be first in line to lobby for it’s demise.
          Good luck this fall!

          • Eugene says:

            I am located in Ionia county. I agree with the proposal, but I am also a true believer in a trophy is in the eye of the beholder.

            I used to shoot 1 1/2 yr old bucks every year, and I just didn’t enjoy it. I got no rush or satisfaction of harvesting a small buck. I now shoot 2 1/2 yr. old bucks or better. Yes 4 per side, but that is me, and yes the old 6pts are an exception, but they are there.

            Last year there was a 3 1/2 yr old 5 pt. running around, and I am certain it is the same spike horn that I saw 2 yrs ago. Just a guess but he had 18″ spikes. This year I have him on camera as an 8pt. but now he is 4 1/2 yrs or older. and by all means not impossible to harvest, but will be very difficult to harvest.

            I guess what I am trying to say, is just don’t shoot a buck to say you shot a buck. Make it one that you will be proud to hang on the wall.
            How do we get this accross to people I don’t know.

          • LPDMI says:

            Purely, and simply, the proposals are designed to protect AT LEAST 50% of the yearling buck cohort, nothing more.
            If the results of doing this mirror, in any way, the results in DMUs 045 and 122, we should be very satisfied in a couple of years.
            Remember, even if you have “mature” 6 points, the kids can still shoot them under the exemptions we’ve included!

  4. Raymond Peltier says:

    I have prayed for restrictions for years……immature bucks just offer no challenge to me at all…..those older bucks just seem to have an extra sence…..really brings the game to a battle of wits and wakes up your instinks…..little tougher than a little six point or lil 8 walking directly down wind and staring at you begging for me to shoot it…..the little ones are good for my video camera……i am not even hunting my own land in st clair county this year……..ill go to my sisters in cadillac mi. Instead. They have big bucks to challenge me with the restrictions in place……there wont even be a 130 class buck within miles of my home ppty….dam shame

    • LPDMI says:

      Thanks for the comments Ray. FYI, the regs in Cadillac (Wexford Co.) don’t take affect until this fall and those “little sixes and 8 pts” will still be eligible for shooting.
      According to MDNR harvest data though, about 70% of the yearling cohort WILL be protected. Plenty of good there to build on! :)

  5. I think there’s good and bad with this…

    The good is obviously more bucks are gonna make it to next year…BUT you have to realize there has to be FOOD and HABITAT to support Bigger Bucks.

    I have 2.5 acres of Whitetail Institute Imperial Clover and always plant a late season crop in about 1.5 acres. This year it’s Sugar Beets. Guess what? BOTH Button Buck Fawns from last year will be dead even with the 4 point on one side restriction! Yep both yearling bucks I can positively Identify have 4 points on one side…

    The bad… You’re TELLING people to HUNT YOUR WAY! By that I mean if someone can only hunt say 3 weekends a season you are telling him in the Southern Lower he can’t shoot a SPike, 3-Point, Fork,5-Point, Six or Seven Pointer! So the poor guy/gal get’s discouraged and quits hunting or decides to Poach and says screw your rules! Not a good thing in my book.

    The 2011 Season I hunted 72 days, saw a total of 19 deer (same 6 Deer over and over) and finally December 29th I filled the Freezer with a 5 Point that was a real Trophy to me after such a hard season…YOUR rules would take that away from Me and other hunters and that was one of my most satisfying buck in years!

    Whether or not APR’s are approved will have no affect on my hunting at all. While I have a strong sense of what I want to shoot, I refuse to impose my beliefs on other hunters…and I resent those who want to do that.

    • LPDMI says:

      Thanks for the comments Don.
      After hunting 72 straight days and only seeing the same 6 deer over and over again I can certainly understand why you wouldn’t consider a change. While I don’t doubt you have 2 1.5 yo 8 pts on your property, they are the minority according to MDNR check station data. A 4 pt. MAR is expected to protect >70% of the 1.5 yo buck cohort, and BTW a 7 pt would be a legal target just like they are now along with the (2) 8 pts on your food plots.
      This proposal was brought to the MDNR after over a year of consideration of all of the possible options. The APRs that have been proposed were the only option available for our group to consider, wether we brought them forward or someone else, doesn’t matter, the fact is that they were going to be brought forward.
      Not 1 single LPDMI member received a 2012 hunter survey so going into this journey none of us ever expected to have a voice in the outcome. This will be decided in part by a super majority of those hunters surveyed. If at least 66% of those hunters are in favor of TRYING this for a short 5 years, the NRC will consider the results before ultimately making their decision wether to implement them or not.
      As far as the hunter that only hunts a couple days/year goes…I’m confident that being able to see more and older bucks while hunting, even if SOME of them aren’t legal YET, will be an exciting experience and keep them coming back for more. For those that give up legal hunting in favor of poaching (stealing from fellow hunters), I would say that you have very little faith in your fellow hunters. Poachers are poachers and NO regulation changes that.

    • LPDMI says:


      You are correct about those that have only a few weekends to hunt and may be disappointed in the number of bucks they can shoot, but only for the first year APRs are in place. The 2nd year the number of eligible bucks will be back to pre-APR levels, and a higher percentage of them will be bigger and older. Each of the next few years will result in a greater percentage of bucks to reach the 3-5 yr old class which will be very unlike anything MI hunters have seen in their state.
      The greater number of mature bucks being taken by MI hunters will influence other former hunters who have decided to quit or go out of state, to get back into hunting and stay in MI.
      The hunting experience will improve. But we need to be willing to sacrifice for one year. For some people in this microwave society, that is difficult.
      People are already quitting at an unacceptable rate. Kids have a million other things they could be doing instead of hunting spikes and forkhorns. Kids now grow up with hundreds of cable TV hunting shows showing multiple mature bucks being taken on every show. Recruiting kids to be satisfied to shoot small young spikes and forkhorns is not reality long term for sustaining hunter numbers in MI.
      If we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ll keep getting what we’ve been getting….more hunters quitting and more hunters going out of state.
      The herd structure in MI is why there are very few hunting shows in MI.

      • Mike VanBuren says:

        I must say, I’m a bit ashamed to be associated with this group of hunters pushing for this. Trouble recruiting children to be satisfied with a forkhorn? That’s funny, because when I took my first deer, a doe, at 12, it was one of the most pride-filled moments of my life. Hunting is NOT about bagging a trophy. Not all hunters are trophy-centric. To even suggest that more people should forget the real meaning of hunting is rather disheartening when I consider our future as hunters.

        Those of us who truly care about or natural resources do not enter the field to put a rack on the wall. We grow up with an appreciation for our wildlife, and we actually do our research about carrying capacity(ie: how much can an area sustain without overflow and excess deer-vehicle incidents, crop damage, and starving populations). There are regulations in place for a reason, and they are liberal for a reason. There are many deer, with a high amount of food supply, and the population must be kept at a reasonable level. It is our responsibility as hunters to take that action, and trying to make it law that all hunters must be strictly “trophy hunters” is a slap in the face. I resent using the word “us” when talking about hunters when it includes those that only enter the woods for the rack. You care not for our deer herd’s health; you only care about the size of the rack on your wall.

        And by the way, anyway you can email me your numbers from these and other counties? I’d like to take a look. Obviously in a county with antler restrictions there will be less young bucks taken, let alone deer being taken to a DNR check station when its ILLEGAL for them to be smaller. Raw numbers would be much more insightful here, but that wouldn’t exactly be good for you campaign, would it?

  6. Eric Houser says:

    With the big push for APR’s how come nobody is pushing the issue on button bucks? If hunters are supposed to start counting points, theres no reason they cant tell if its a button or not. But its ok to put a doe tag on a button?
    I think you also hit the nail on the head about hunting shows. You never see them shoot any small bucks. That’s because they are not hunting shows! They are marketing shows! Period! And obviously your organization fell for it and now your trying to pass your beliefs on to the rest of Michigan hunters.
    You blame the falling of hunter numbers on the size of antlered bucks. Saying youngsters wont hunt because the bucks aren’t big enough? Are you kidding me!! What the hell are you teaching these kids then. Its obviously not hunting,its a game of points. And if that’s the case I don’t want them in the woods if that’s mentality they are going to have!

    • JW says:

      Eric, I think you misunderstand us and our intentiins. I’ve been hunting all my life and the experiences I’ve had hunting with my family are the moat cherished of my life, not because of the size of the trophy animal or even harvesting an animal at all. I’ll compare it to fishing. Ehat if your father taught you to kill every 6 inch largemouth you caught and not let any go to grow larger. My father taught me to enjoy the experience and maybe kill a few “eater size” fish and be very selective in killing a trophy. I compare eater size fish to does, trophies to trophy older mature bucks, and thise 6 inchers to yearling bucks. Why is letting young bucks grow to maturity, shooting does for meat, and being selective and patient for a trophy buck just about the points? I think it’s about being responsible and taking hunting seriously. Also, I dont want my young sons ti have the smar thing that happened to me as a young hunter (pasd up yearling bucks to let them grow and be patient for a mature buck, only to gave the immature adult neighbors shoot them because they just want to KILL a buck, no matter what size or age it is). Now tell me, who is the responsible one that truely cares about the sport, heritage, and deer herd in that equation?

  7. r simonson says:

    First person that can come up with ways to cook a rack then I will believe in Mi. Management.until then most people I know hunt gof food. A few should not regulate and buy the DNR out. Put the vote out when all buy their deer license and let all have a vote.

    • LPDMI says:

      This requires at least 66% support of hunters. That is hardly “a few”. If a point of sale “vote” were possible, would you be willing to raise the hundreds of thousands of dollars it would require to add the program to the license system?
      If you don’t have a good recipe for antlers, is it safe to assume you olny shoot antlerless deer? Take 26 minutes out of your life to view the LPDMI presentation on the Youtube Link. It MAY change your perspective on some things.

      • Patrick Kozakiewicz says:

        Is that 66% of all hunters or 66% of the hunters polled? How will the survey be handled, a poll of all previous license holders or some random cross section?

        • LPDMI says:

          IF you recieved a 2012 MDNR Hunter Survey (55,000 sent), returned it (only 53% did), and indicated that you hunted in one or more of the DMUs that will be affected by this proposal, THEN you will be put into a pool of possible APR survey recipients. You can also be eligable for that pool if you answered the voluntary online 2012 Hunter Survey.
          There will be 2,000 APR surveys sent out for zone 2 and 2,000 sent zone 3 hunters.
          The requirements for consideration by the DNR and NRC are that AT LEAST 50% of those surveyed return the survey (50% response) and that AT LEAST 66% of those responding are in favor of the proposed regulation change.
          It’s a straight up Yes or No survey and the survey is handled 100% by the MDNR. The LPDMI has zero input on the survey process.

          • Patrick Kozakiewicz says:

            2000? The hunting regs for two multi-county units are proposed for change and only 2000 opinions are being solicited in each unit? What percentage of the total amount of hunters does 2000 represent? What about landowners, such as farmers, who have a stake in this who don’t hunt. How will they be heard?

          • LPDMI says:

            Yes, 2000. You may not agree with the process that is in place Patrick, but it was vetted by many differnt people with competing interests were part of that process.
            If you don’t understand statistical analysis then it’s easy to have an emotional reaction like the one you are having. If you did understand statistical analysis then you would understand that 2,000 is twice what is necessary to gain the required +-3% confidence interval.

    • JW says:

      I hunt for meat too. My family lives off venison and other great wild game. I shoot DOES for meat. They taste better anyway. I would shoot bucks to eat too if any of the 1.5 or 2.5 year olds that I pass up every year ever survived to be a mature 3.5 year old. I can count with two hands how many 3.5 year old bucks I have seen in 20 years of hunting in Michigan. I have seen more in Wisconsin and I have only hunted there two weeks in my life!

  8. Patrick Kozakiewicz says:

    Well pardon me sir! I guess I’m just a blood and bone deer hunter that gets a little emotional about my sport, which I’ve been at for over forty years. Thirty of which have been out of my own camp that’s been long on tradition and short on statistics (We save those for money making ventures).

  9. Jason says:

    I think its a great idea. Any plan is better than no plan at all.

    • Patrick Kozakiewicz says:

      Maybe it is for some people, I just don’t think enough people are getting a say in whether it should be adopted. There are many hunters who do not have access to private land doe permits and have a limited amount of time to hunt. These hunters may be discouraged by the fact they need to wait for six and eight point bucks.

      • Randy Rice says:

        I agree with Patrick. Look up the DNR survery for the 12 county area in Northwest west Michigan. The DNR estimated there were 97,000 deer hunters in the area, and 2100 surveys were sent out, with 1669 responses. That is less than 2% of hunters in the area taking part in the survey. I don’t think the current method of surveying and making these decisions is adequate. I also think there should be studies of deer numbers to see if this is even viable or not.

        I hunt public land in Lake county and am lucky if I see one buck in a season, let alone have time to count points as they move thru the forest or wait for a big one. Public land antlerless permits are almost nonexistant, so I can’t just shoot a doe. I just do not see as many deer period, and I think the two buck system and liberal antlerless tags contribute.

        There are always bigger mature bucks in an area, you just have to hunt for them. They are bigger and mature for a reason. They are smarter and avoid being seen. Anymore hunters sit and wait for the deer to come out or walk by instead of getting out and hunting for them. The deer just do not move as much with out hunters pushing them.

        Let the individual decide what they want to shoot. If you only want to take bigger more mature bucks, then so be it. Many hunters don’t get as much time as they would like and are happy with any buck.

        • LPDMI says:

          If you don’t care for the system that is in place you’re welcome to take steps to change it, otherwise it is the sytem that is in place to propose change and the very process that we (LPDMI) are following to the letter. Statistically 2,100 surveys and 1,669 responses is a HUGE overkill. Also keep in mind that the survey results are only there for the NRC to use when considering implementation.
          Plenty of other surveys/studies are done on a regular basis with results that support those of the APR surveys.
          There were 200 public and 3,000 antlerless tags available in Lake County this year. Did you apply?
          If you feel “lucky” to see a buck under current regulations, I can certainly understand why you’d want to stick with what’s working for you. ;)

          • Randy Rice says:

            As a matter of fact I did apply for a Lake County antlerless permit, and was unsuccessful. What I mean by “lucky” is there is not a high deer density in that area, so if I do see a buck it is most likely the only one I will see and due to limited amount of time available and family obligations, It may be the only chance I have to harvest a deer. So yes, I would like to stick to what’s working for me.

            My concern along with others commenting on this site is that the number of surveys and therefore the number of hunters who represent all of us is a very small number. Even if the results are statistically viable, the numbers are still estimates and do not necessary reflect the views of the majority.

            The Department of Natural Resources report on the 2012 deer hunting season estimated there were approximately 500,000 hunters. 6000 surveys representing the three recent proposals is only 1.2% of the estimated number of hunters.

            I do not like being represented by such a small minority, and will take the time to contact the DNR and my state representatives.

      • LPDMI says:

        Patrick, Is there any particular reason why you’re not concerned that hunters don’t have a say in antlerless regs?
        Every hunter in this state has a say if they choose to take the time to write to, or comment in front of, the NRC. The fact is, most don’t want to take the time to do it and would rather complain about those of us that do.

        • Patrick Kozakiewicz says:

          My concern is that the 200o surveys for the APR’s has the potential of not representing the majority of the stakeholders opinions. I fully understand the desire for an increase in mature bucks, with larger racks, available for harvest but am concerned that foisting these regulations on people not directly involved with survey smacks of elitism. Let’s face it there are far more doe permits issued on private lands than public so a public land hunter may need the opportunity to harvest a young buck or go without.

  10. Jan Barto says:

    We have a cabin in Missaukee County. We love to drive around and look for deer in the evening. This is in and around Dead Stream Swamp where my husband, brothers and friends have hunted for the last 40 years. We have had weekends where we see only Bucks, 4,6,10 points and very few does and fawns. This year we seen more deer than we ever have any where from 30 -65 per night. In all this time from May thru October 5, 2013 we only seen 2 now legal bucks. 1 6 pt. and 1 7 pt. No button, no spikes and no 12 pts. We have seen many of these in the past. This also is an area where baiting is strong and poaching is year around. My family doesn’t believe in baiting but in hunting. The beautiful 8 point we have in the cabin came from sitting by a trail and waiting for a buck to come by. Most of the deer my husband has shot have been 4 & 5 pts. with plenty of left over growth from years before. He doesn’t care if its an old spike or a 12 pt. we need the meat. Isn’t that why you hunt is for the meat????? If you are only hunting for a big rack I feel sorry for you.

    • LPDMI says:

      Thanks for taking the time to comment Jan.
      The LPDMI’s proposal does not include Missaukee County, Missaukee was included in the NW12 County proposal that passed in June.
      It sounds to me like next year, and in subsequent years, your legal buck sightings will improve as those small bucks you’re seeing now mature another year, and get bigger (more meat) and gain the needed points to become legal targets. Who knows, maybe you won’t have to wait another 40 years to put a nice 8 pointer on the wall of the cabin.
      Good luck this fall and be safe!


  11. Matt VandePol says:

    I’ve been white tail hunting my whole life, all over the country I’ve been. I think the 3points on a side is a step in the right direction. However that still leaves it open for people to harvest a yearling buck or two year old. I believe it would be in the best interest for our deer herd to harvest only 1 buck per year and try to put a manditory 3.5 yrs of age limit on it regardless of the amount of pts a buck may have per side
    . Also our buck to doe ratio is way out of balance
    Farmers would like to see many of the does shot off sowhy not offer up to 4 antler less tags per landowners and 2 for state land and no more than a combination of 4. I live in missaukee county and near as I’m able to tell the doe to buck ratio is 15-1.

    • LPDMI says:

      MARs will protect >70% of the yearling buck cohort.
      There is a very vocal faction that believes that this state is over run with 4.5 yo “genetically” inferior SPIKE bucks. Do you truely believe that hunters, on a wide scale, could operate under a 3.5 yo buck restriction?

  12. Matt VandePol says:

    Another season that needs to be analized is the youth season. This season kills way too many big mature bucks that are in there summer patterns and are easy to kill. I have heard of way too many big buck being wounded because of inexperienced marksman or because of a small caliber of rifle because little kids cannot handle recoil of large rifles. Let the kids go kill off some does and let the mature bucks breed in November. The kids will have a blast shooting does.

    • LPDMI says:

      The youth season represents only 2% of the annual buck harvest. It’s not a war worth fighting.
      MARs will protect >70% of yearling bucks. If you want a better chance at older age class bucks…VOTE YES!

  13. Wayne Gibbs says:

    I am a land owner in Northern Muskegon Co. A trophy buck is in the eyes of the hunter. So far this year 20 hunts and 16 deer sightings all the same 4 deer family it appears. So far not horn in the bunch. One is a button. I would like to see fewer doe permits here and one buck a season. You can’t keep kids interested in the hunt if they can’t see a deer. If I am lucky enough to draw a survey it would be thumbs down for this old 70 yr.old

    • LPDMI says:

      Wayne, I hope I understand you correctly. 20 hunts 14 deer (same ones over and over) no antlers, your concerned kids will not hunt if they can’t see deer?
      Well, there’s certainly no reason to abandon the status quo or try something different now is there?
      If you took the time to read our proposal you’d know that we proposed a one buck limit, and that it was rejected by the MDNR.
      We also proposed exemptions for youth and first time hunters.

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