Mid-week firearm deer season opener debated
November 09, 2011 - After 55 years of deer hunting, Dale Springsteen has etched plenty of memories.
Dale Springsteen with the head of a buck he shot that encountered a porcupine. Photo by Patrick McAbee. (click for larger version)
In 1985 Springsteen was hunting near the Upper Peninsula village La Branche about 40 miles northwest of Escanaba when he encountered a rather unique buck.
"I was hunting a very worn down deer trail when I shot this nice seven point," said Hadley Township resident Springsteen, 76. "I realized after I shot the buck it had porcupine quills on its face and leg. All I can figure is since the rut was on, the buck got in a scrap with a porcupine that was walking on his trail—so I had the head mounted with the quills on the deer."
Springsteen will be just one of about 650,000 Michigan deer hunters that will take to the woods on Tuesday, Nov. 15. Similar to other years, the mid-week start to the popular season has sparked controversy between hunters who want to retain the traditional date and those who want to change it to a Saturday.
State Representative Kevin Cotter, (R-Mt.Pleasant) introduced HB 4259 earlier this year which takes aim at moving opening day to the Saturday closest to Nov. 15. According to the plan, the earliest the season could start is Nov. 12. The latest deer season could open would be Nov. 18.
"More licenses mean more revenue and more hunting-related spending needed in a tough Michigan economy," he said.
The bill has 13 co-sponsors and is now before the Natural Resources, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation Committee. Aides from Cotter's office reported last week that a vote from the House would not happen prior to the start of the 2011 season. And more than likely the change would begin in time for the 2012 season.
Cotter said a study from Michigan State University examined deer license sales when the season opened on a Saturday.
"License sales increased dramatically when the season opened on Saturday," he said. "The impact on hunting destination areas, hotel rooms, and hunter recruitment also is impacted positively by a Saturday opener. Michigan is one of the worst in young hunter recruitment in the nation. Since I introduced this legislation I've received statewide support for the law. Consider too, that many area schools close on opening day of firearm deer season—that would end. The biggest resistance is from deer hunters who have retired from their jobs. They claim too many people will be in the woods."
Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials say its surveys show that a majority of hunters want it to remain as Nov. 15 due to several reasons, including planning vacation time in advance.
Mary Dettloff, DNR spokesperson, said hunter surveys indicate more than 60 percent of those who participate in the firearm deer season are pleased with the Nov. 15 start.
"The season starting Nov. 15 has been around since 1925," said Dettloff. "For both scientific and social reasons the results are overwhelming to keep the Nov.15 date. It's a state holiday—the schools close upnorth—it's just very traditional. The last DNR survey indicated more than 60 percent of the hunters supported the Nov.15 opener."
State Rep. Brad Jacobsen (R-Oxford) said he would support the House version of the bill.
"I spoke with a lot of hunters and other than some sentimental value they don't seem to have a problem with changing the date," said Jacobsen, an avid hunter.
"It's a boom to the state economy and hunters will get an extra weekend of hunting, too. Northern Michigan areas are struggling economically—what better way to give them a boost. The bill has a 50-50 chance of making it to law."
After a half-century of deer hunting, Springsteen has no problem with a change in date.
"I can see positive and negative of changing the date," he said. "It's a big deal to the small towns up north—it's going to get more people out there. The negative—you're on the tail end of runt, all that shooting is going to cancel a lot of deer out. The car deer crashes would decrease—I don't think that anyone would disagree with that."