Michigan Department of Natural ResourcesWildlife DivisionMarch 2009
A Review of Deer Management in Michigan
-History of Deer and Deer Hunting in MichiganIntroduction
“A Review of Deer Management in Michigan” is a review of scientific informationpertaining to deer, deer-related issues, and deer-management options in Michigan andsummarizes the best available biological and social science relevant to these topics. It isnot intended to provide management recommendations for white-tailed deer in Michigan.The information presented in this document was obtained from published scientificliterature, agency and university reports, unpublished agency data, and personalcommunication with deer experts and is designed to aid in completion of the MichiganWhite-tailed Deer Management Plan.You are being provided with the following information on the History of Deer and DeerHunting in Michigan to serve as background information for discussions that will occurduring the April 6-7 Deer Advisory Team (DAT) meeting. You will receive sections of the large document throughout the process of developing recommendations for the DNR.All sections will be compiled and a completed document finalized as the DAT process isconcluding.
History of Deer in Michigan
Deer have been a valuable resource in Michigan since the first Native Americans beganto hunt them. Prior to European settlement, Michigan had an abundant deer herd in thesouth. The mixture of hardwoods, wetlands, bogs, forest openings and prairies was idealfor deer. There were few deer in the virgin forests of the north, which were inhabitedmostly by elk and moose. These mature forests were so dense that sunlight could notreach the forest floor and therefore little deer food was available.As farmers and settlers moved into southern Michigan, deer habitat was eliminated byremoval of cover for crop fields and by unregulated shooting for food - deer were mostlygone from the southern Lower Peninsula by 1870. Logging of forests in the northproduced the opposite effect - more openings, brush, and young forests - the northernherd climbed to an estimated 1 million deer in the 1880s.As railroads were developed and provided access into the wilderness, market hunters shothundreds of thousands of deer. Early measures to control market hunting, by restrictingthe time frame to take deer but not the number of deer taken, were not very successful.What followed were decades of ups and downs in the deer population resulting fromchanges in hunting regulations and available habitat.