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DMU 118 Clare County Michigan four year harvest data

5 year demonstration three points on one side minimum mandatory buck rule

Antlerless Harvest


male fawns

% total antlerless

doe fawns

adult does

average age

total antlerless harvest

doe to buck harvest ratio

3 year base


19 %








10 %








11 %








14 %








11 %







Adult Buck Harvest



1 1/2

% of total bucks


2 1/2

% of total bucks


3 1/2

% of total bucks


4 1/2+

% of total bucks

total bucks

3 year base


78 %


16 %


5 %


1 %




68 %


23 %


7.5 %


1.5 %




47 %


32 %


18 %


3 %




48 %


27 %


21 %


4 %




41 %


42 %


14 %


3 %


An analysis of the four-year data of DMU 118 Clare County, Mi

The data appears legitimate considering it is data taken in by the DNR at the field offices and highway check stations for four years and compared to three years 1996-1998 of base data collected immediately previous to the start of the five year demonstration and averaged out. The data shows a large increase in the deer harvest in 1999 when it would be expected to show a decrease especially the buck harvest since 1999 is the first year of the three point minimum on one side point rule and at least half of the yearling bucks are protected. This occurred due to an aggressive gathering of harvest data by the MDNR due to the TB we are now experiencing. The data for the years 2001 and 2002 reflect normalcy. The deer harvest data (see accompanying charts) as received from the Michigan DNR Wildlife Division for Deer Management Unit 118 in Clare County reflect that antler restrictions produce positive results and soon after implementation. The first thing that strikes you is the low number of male fawns harvested in comparison to the state average The state average is 22% of all the anterless deer harvested are male fawns (button bucks). This DMU 118 number is half of the state average and except for the year 2001 the other demonstration years are the same number. The 17% for 2001 may be explained by the following. This was a slow deer hunting year, and the reason for it was explained by the DNR as the much higher than average temperatures during the seasons. The only deer moving were the fawns. There was no rule in place to tag male fawns as bucks so why the improvement? A mandatory antler restriction is a major change for Michigan deer hunters but once in place there is an automatic change in the mindset. Why should I take a button buck when it is illegal for me to take his older yearling brother? This restraint in the harvest of button bucks comes free.

One of the goals for this demonstration is to get the buck to doe ratio to 1:2 or better. Many hunters in the DMU think the ratio prior to 1999 was closer to 1:5.All four years showed a major increase in the harvest of does, which means the hunters took their responsibility as deer managers seriously. The doe to buck harvest average for the base was 1:1.9 with the prior six years of 1990 through 1995 a dismal 1:3. It is impossible to achieve a balanced deer population with these harvest ratios. For DMU 118 it should be closer to 1:1.4 doe to buck harvest ratio to reach that more natural buck to doe ratio of 1:2. There are a lot fewer deer seen now by the hunters of DMU 118 and many if not all say the buck to doe ratio may now be at the magical number of 1:2.


The higher doe to buck harvest ratio (1:1.7) last year may be explained through the lower deer sightings. They saw less deer overall and held back in taking that doe. The average age (3.22) of the harvested doe, which is a very good indicator if the deer harvest management plan is working, is holding steady and at the right number for the area and buck to doe ratio goal of 1:2. Every area in conjunction with a buck to doe ratio goal has its own preferred average age of the harvested doe. Example, it would be close to an age of 2.5 for the Ohio border while 4.0 would be closer to the preferred age for the harsh winter area of the Lake Superior watershed in the UP for the same buck to doe ratio goal of 1:2.

The base data shows a 78% yearling buck harvest of the total buck harvest. This is pretty much the state average, which ranges from 45% in parts of the upper to more than 85% in the farm area of the thumb. It is impossible to attain a buck to doe average of 1:2 taking this percentage of the yearling bucks without decimating the doe population. For a state average of 1:2 buck to doe ratio the yearling buck harvest should be no more than 55% of the total buck harvest. Data from prestigious universities heavily involved in deer research make this conclusion and yet we are told by our officials the buck to doe ratio statewide is 1:2. The data showing the yearling buck harvest gets better year after year with last year showing only 41 percent of all the bucks taken in DMU 118 are yearlings. It looks more like the harvest data of the UP in the mid 1970’s and before. Without a voluntary restraint of hunters raising their bar to four points on one side minimum this is about the best we can expect from DMU 118. A good deer management program protects around 90% of the yearlings and this would be reflected by data showing the yearling harvest is below 20% of the total.

We actually harvested more two year olds than yearlings last season, which sounds awesome but it would be better if we advanced a few more into an older age class and this would be accomplished by raising the bar. The base data shows no deer taken in the 3 ½ age class for all three years that had eleven points or better and yet last year there were five taken in this age class. This is not only good for the hunters it is good for the deer with better bucks finally appearing to take charge and pass on their genes. A buck is not considered mature until he attains the age of 3 ½ or older. The 3 year base data shows only 6% of the bucks harvested were 3 ½ or older. The 2001-2002 data shows an average of 21%. This is a significant improvement and the hunters of DMU 118 should be applauded. The oft repeated phrase "Antler restrictions take away my chances to take a buck" does not appear to be the case in DMU 118. In fact the opposite is the case for not only are more bucks now being taken, but a better class of buck.

It is the recommendation of the Mid Michigan Branch QDMA that the hunters of DMU 118 voluntarily raise their standards to four points on one side minimum buck rule, which will protect around 85% of the yearling bucks and produce even better results.

There were 150 bucks taken last year, which is considerably more than the 131 taken as a base average. It is all the more astounding when one considers that this is taking place with a buck harvest restraint in place, which would under most circumstances lower the buck harvest. With the protection of around 50% of the yearling bucks that a rule of three points on one side in DMU 118 creates it would be expected to have a lower buck harvest of around 90% of the base. The last two years in Michigan has shown a continual decrease in the buck harvest. What’s the story with DMU 118 with an increase? The deer are dynamic and subject to many forces. The lower male fawn harvest certainly would add to this increase of the mature bucks and it may be of a major significance. There are less does now and one would obviously think that there should be less bucks, but as more knowledgeable deer managers know this is not how it works. With the buck to doe ratio being close to natural there is more competition for the does, which means most if not all are bred in their first estrus producing a bumper crop of fawns born at the same and right time resulting in a much improved fawn recruitment number and not only for the first fall but more importantly the recruitment to one year of age. This natural condition has a truly major influence in the fawn survival phenomenon. Studies have shown a rather dismal fawn survival and doe fawn birth rate when the population density is high, there is nutritional depravation or the buck to adult doe ratio exceeds 1:3

Keep the fun in hunting! Ed Spinazzola