GLADWIN – The regular firearm’s deer season got started with a bang last Friday morning, literally. Within minutes of the legal shooting hours I heard the first shot, and by Sunday afternoon I had spotted numerous does and one small buck. While I have been unsuccessful so far I still have hope.

Michigan has a strong hunting tradition, which also has a big impact on the economy. The Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) released a study earlier in the year highlighting the importance of hunting and fishing in Michigan. The MUCC found that “Michigan ranks first among the Great Lakes states for jobs created from hunting and fishing related purchases.” Over $11 billion are generated annually in Michigan. 

The data also indicates that 171,000 jobs are created and supported across Michigan by hunting and fishing related activities. This is more than twice what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service previously estimated. Oddly enough the greatest impact is felt in southeast Michigan.

This is welcome news for the outdoor community. Anti hunting groups are growing bolder in their attempts to ban hunting often times downplaying the positive aspects of the sport. The study was conducted in partnership with the Michigan State University Eli Broad School of Business with funding support from the C.S. Mott Foundation with the goal of accurately quantifying the impact of sportsmen and sportswomen on Michigan economic well being.

Amy Trotter, MUCC executive director said, “the research results reflect that the economic benefits for local communities in every region of the state by those who hunt and fish are vital to continuing Michigan’s prosperity now and in the future.” Hunting and fishing activities are in the top 10 percent of the state’s job-creating industries.

Michigan has approximately 700,000 hunters and 1.1 million anglers. Hunting generates about $8.9 billion and fishing $2.3 billion. Many sectors of the economy are affected from purchases of gear and clothing to food and lodging and more. For every $1 million spent over 19 jobs are created. 

For study purposes Gladwin County was placed in the North Central region, which is the tier of counties running from Gladwin, Clare, Osceola and Lake counties in the south to Emmet and Cheboygan on the north. It was determined that around  $960 million worth of economic benefit was gained through hunting and fishing activities.  

Wildlife management and conservation activities in Michigan receive a big boost from the sales of hunting and fishing licenses. By law the proceeds must go back to support these activities. Hunting licenses generate $62 million and fishing licenses produce $40 million a year. These license fees and surcharges on hunting and fishing equipment pay for most of the conservation work done in the state.

The decline in the number of hunters and fisherman in the state doesn’t bode well for conservation efforts. A demographic study done by Michigan Technological University shows that the number of deer license sold has declined by 21% since 1988 from 785,000 to 621,000 in 2017. They project that by 2035 the 1998 figure will be cut in half. Anyone using state land will be affected. Sportsmen and women pay the bills while other outdoors enthusiast such as hikers; cross-country skiers, bird watchers and others reap the benefits. 

Hunting is also the primary tool for managing the deer population in Michigan. Without hunting the deer population would far exceed the carrying capacity of the ecosystem. Crop damage and car-deer crashes would increase along with the incidences of diseases such as bovine tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease. Hunting is the main tool is combating these problems.

Bovine tuberculosis (BTB) is still a problem in Michigan particularly in the northeastern counties of Alcona, Alpena, Montmorency and Oscoda. Last April a small heard of beef cattle in Alpena County was the 74th to be identified since 1998. Prior to 1994 only eight wild white-tailed and mule deer had been identified with the disease. In 1994, a hunter in Alpena County shot an infected buck spurring the examination of harvested, road killed and other dead deer. 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reports that BTB is spread mainly through the exchange of respiratory secretions. This usually happens when the animals are in close contact making animal density a key factor in its spread. It is possible for humans to contract tuberculosis (TB) from wildlife. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a report in September of this year warning hunters that a man in Michigan had developed TB after field dressing and infected deer.

Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) is a contagious, neurological disease that affects deer, elk and moose. It causes the degeneration of the brain leading to emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death. In some localities the infected deer are know a “zombie deer,” because of their odd behavior.

A protein called a prion causes CWD. According to the DNR it can be passed directly from animal to animal and by contact with saliva, urine, feces, blood, neurological tissue and even infected soil. Prions are extremely resistant in the environment and stay infectious for years. Since Prions are not alive they remain infectious after cooking and treatment with disinfectants. 

No cases of chronic wasting disease have been reported in humans, but studies have shown that it can be transmitted to animals other animals, including primates. The Alliance for Public Wildlife estimates that between 7,000 and 15,000 inefected animals are eaten each year. As more infected meat is consumed the likelihood of it crossing over to humans increases.

In an effort to combat the spread of CWD baiting for deer and elk was banned in the Lower Peninsula and much of the Upper Peninsula. The Natural Resources Commission issued the ban in 2018. The ban has become a contentious issue, which will probably eventually be repealed by the state legislature.

A more ominous development may be tied to the presence of Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) found in various places in Michigan. In October of 2018 the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) and DNR issued a “Do Not Eat” advisory for deer taken within five miles of Clark’s Marsh in Oscoda Township. 

The “Do Not Eat advisory was issued in response to high levels of PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonic acid) found in a deer two miles from Clark’s Marsh in Oscoda Township. Clark’s Marsh borders the former Wurtsmith Air Force Base in Oscoda. PFO is a type of PFAS (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substance). PFAS were used in the fire fighting foam used at the base and plume has been slowly expanding in the ground water.

Deer from other known contamination sites have been tested and so far none have come back with levels of PFAS and PFOS that require consumption guidelines. Since this is all relatively new much more study will be needed. 

I hunt on public land in the northwest corner of the Lower Peninsula where antler point restrictions require at least three points on one side. It is also in an area where most hunters do not bait. We generally see multiple big bucks, which do not become nocturnal after opening day. In my opinion it makes for a better hunting experience.



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