By David Fleet
Goodrich— Nov. 15, the opening day of firearm deer season, which happened to land mid-week on a Wednesday this year, has often been considered detrimental to hunting activity due to work or school obligations of thousands heading to the woods.
Despite the clamor for a weekend opener to boost hunter activity, the Nov.15 date first established in 1925 will remain the same.
Chad Stewart, a deer biologist for the DNR, said that following a hard look at the past 15 years of data of deer hunting seasons in Michigan with multiple differing opening days, there is no difference in license sales or success.
“Changing the date to the second Saturday of November rather than mid-week is really not an issue,” said Stewart, during an interview with The Citizen last week. “It was a surprise to us all, even when the date would create three Saturday’s to hunt. We think that by the time a third Saturday rolls around hunters are either tagged out or sick of hunting.”
A recent deer hunter survey indicated 80% said keep it Nov.15, said Stewart.
“We have lost so many hunters over the years and they are now the older generations out there,” he said. “Many hunters are retired and have plenty of time to hunt.”
According to statistics just released by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, hunting license sales are generally holding steady compared with recent years — even increasing among some demographics.
According to statistics provided by the DNR, a total of 456,731 people purchased hunting licenses and 1.18 million purchased fishing licenses through Oct. 31, 2023:
Hunting license purchases were down slightly by 0.79% from 459,490 bought in 2022.
Fishing license purchases were up 3.27% from 1.08 million bought in 2022.
Hunters and anglers aged 65 and older purchased 85,439 hunting licenses and 215,107 fishing licenses in 2023: In that demographic, hunting license purchases were up by 2.66% from 2022.
Fishing license purchases were up 5.53% from 2022. First-time hunting and fishing license purchases also increased over last year:
40,119 first-time hunting license purchases were an 0.86% increase.
252,858 first-time fishing license purchases represented a 5.79% jump.
The number of women purchasing hunting licenses dipped slightly in 2023, but the number of women buying fishing licenses saw an uptick: 44,181 women purchased hunting licenses through Oct. 31, 2023, down 0.39% from the same period in 2022.
Fishing licenses purchased by women rose 3.29% to 236,099.
Nonresident hunting license purchases jumped to 22,351, an increase of 3.03% from the 21,693 nonresident hunting licenses bought through Oct. 31, 2022. Out-of-state visitors also purchased 212,803 (est.) fishing licenses over the same period. Nonresident hunters can pay as much as 10 times more than residents for some types of licenses.
Last year, proceeds for all fees provided more than $65 million for conservation, habitat restoration and protection from invasive species.
Nick Buggia is the chair of the Michigan Wildlife Council. The council is a governor-appointed, nine-member public body subject to the advice and consent of the Michigan Senate.
“All Michiganders benefit because the health and vigor of Michigan’s outdoors, natural habitats and wildlife populations directly corresponds to the money generated from hunting and fishing license sales,” Buggia said. “Michigan’s management of the state’s wildlife and other natural resources relies primarily on the revenue from hunting and fishing license sales, not taxes.”
By David Fleet