LANSING, Mich. — Michigan's 2014 deer hunting harvest was down about 15 percent from the previous year, due in part to severe winter weather in recent years, officials said Wednesday.
The state Department of Natural Resources said its Michigan Deer Harvest Survey Report found that roughly 615,000 hunters statewide killed a total of about 329,000 deer. Wildlife managers said regional declines were the greatest in the Upper Peninsula, where the overall harvest was down nearly 36 percent.
"In the Upper Peninsula, winter started early with more than 3 feet of snow on the ground in some areas before the Nov. 15 opening of firearm deer season," DNR wildlife biologist Brian Frawley said in a statement. "Though not as severe as the previous season, this marked the third consecutive rough winter for the deer population in the U.P."
Heavy snowfall, for example, made it challenging — and sometimes impossible — for some firearm deer hunters to get to their camps. Given the conditions, the DNR said, many decided not to hunt; others, after experiencing the two previous winters, decided not to buy licenses.
Across all hunting seasons, 84,099 people hunted deer in the Upper Peninsula in 2014, down about 19 percent from 2013.
DNR Director Keith Creagh noted, however, that the state's deer harvest numbers have risen and fallen in an ebb-and-flow pattern since the early 1960s.
"The number of deer harvested hit a low in the early 1970s at below 100,000 statewide," Creagh said. "With mild winters and changing forest conditions, deer populations then rose and hunter harvest climbed to more than 400,000 by the late 1980s."
After tough back-to-back winters in the mid-1990s, the harvest followed the decline in the deer population, but rebounded again to nearly 600,000 by the end of the decade. Since then, the DNR said the deer harvest has remained below 500,000.
The DNR and the Natural Resources commission, meanwhile, are working on ideas to improve future deer hunting seasons. The state surveys hunters as part of the effort and is promoting hunting to younger hunters and female hunters, whose numbers have been rising.