The Buck Stops Here: Opening Day Just Around the Corner in Michigan

With the time-honored tradition of opening day just around the corner, sportsmen and women are gearing up for the hunt across Michigan. More than 540,000 hunters are expected to participate in the upcoming firearms season beginning Sunday, November 15.

While the sport is steeped in tradition and aspirations, it is also a driver of Michigan’s economy. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates hunting in Michigan generates more than $2.3 billion in economic impact in the state, including expenses related to food and lodging and $1.3 billion spent on equipment.

“Hunting is one more way that Michigan’s rich natural resources are helping to drive the state’s economy and contributing to our overall quality of life,” said Michigan Economic Development Corporation CEO Steve Arwood. “With the opening of firearms season for deer we will see more than 20,000 licensed hunters from outside of the state come to Michigan and more than half a million residents traveling to get to deer camp or their perfect spot, providing a boost to local communities along the way.”

Whitetail DeerWhile the deer harvest was down in 2014 – following trends seen across the Midwest – the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) expects 2015 to provide an increased success rate – especially in the Northern and Southern Lower Peninsula. To combat decreased deer herds across the Upper Peninsula, the result of several consecutive years of harsh winters, the DNR has brought together a U.P. Habitat Workgroup to develop detailed deer winter range habitat strategies including management plans for individual deer wintering complexes throughout the U.P.

The workgroup – comprised of natural resource professionals, private landowners and sportsmen’s groups – is led by Natural Resources Commission member J.R. Richardson of Ontonagon and Jim Hammill of Crystal Falls, a wildlife management consultant who is also a retired DNR biologist. With an estimated 80 percent of the winter deer habitat in the U.P. managed by entities other than the DNR, the U.P. Habitat Workgroup will work cooperatively with these other stakeholders to improve deer winter range strategies across all land ownerships in the region.

Helping to manage healthy herds and habitats to ensure a successful hunt has important implications for Michigan’s economy. In 2014, an estimated $85 million was spent specifically on leisure travel related to hunting activities in the state according to data from D.K, Shifflet. Hunting and fishing leisure travel spending combined for $342 million in Michigan last year.

“Deer hunting is an iconic and defining Michigan tradition,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “Whether harvesting a big buck in the woods or just spending time at camp, the deer season offers one more great way for people to experience Michigan’s world-class natural resources while connecting with family and friends. We hope hunters throughout the state have a safe and successful season.”

Currently, Michigan ranks No. 3 in the nation for the number of licensed hunters statewide and 650,000 hunters are expected to purchase a deer hunting license in 2015. The DNR estimates more than 90 percent of Michigan hunters will pursue deer this year, with hunters spending an average of 14 days afield during the season. In Michigan, 60 percent of hunters only hunt deer making the upcoming firearm season an especially important driver of the state’s hunting economy.

To promote the hunt in Michigan – both for deer and other species, including grouse – Pure Michigan and the DNR collaborated again this year on a targeted marketing campaign to reach hunters both in-state and in neighboring states, including Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin.

“This year we were especially interested in targeting active hunters and active anglers that have the potential to crossover and participate in both sports,” said Dave Lorenz, Vice President of Travel Michigan. “Ultimately this benefits the entire state by increasing hunting and fishing revenue – funding that goes back into efforts to create world-class recreational opportunities to be enjoyed by all residents and visitors.”