Deer Hunting Michigan’s Southern Lower Peninsula



The Southern Lower Peninsula of Michigan offers some good, but challenging hunting for white-tailed deer. Abundant food and cover in the form of agricultural crops and scattered swamps and woodlots provide very good habitat across the Southern Lower Peninsula (SLP) landscape. This high-quality habitat, combined with relatively mild winter conditions, typically results in a more abundant and productive deer population compared to the rest of the state.

The 2016 deer hunting and harvest forecast should be similar to last year, with perhaps a slight increase in antlerless deer permits given the current conditions. Harvest in the Southern Lower Peninsula can depend heavily on the percentage of standing corn. If corn harvest is delayed going into the firearms season, a reduced harvest can be expected.

Deer Hunting Lower Peninsula of Michigan

Lower Peninsula Deer Population

Over at least the last 10 years, whitetail population estimates and indices (including deer/vehicle collisions, crop damage complaints, and observations of deer by the hunting community and field staff) in the lower peninsula have stabilized or declined. In many cases, reductions intended to reduce conflicts that can occur when deer populations are high, though the the department of natural resources manages for enough deer for hunting and viewing experiences.

A severe outbreak of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) in 2012 drastically affected the deer population in many areas for several years. These areas have largely recovered from the outbreak. Though individual EHD outbreak sites affect deer at the scale of a township or smaller, these outbreaks have likely produced more variability in deer densities across southern Michigan than has occurred in many years.

Deer Management on Lower Peninsula

Management efforts are now being directed towards distinct areas at a smaller scale rather than larger. Research is under way to improve understanding of the duration of EHD impacts that hunters and landowners should expect to see where outbreaks have occurred. Earlier this year, a deer was confirmed to be positive for EHD in Berrien County.


Given the higher proportion of land in private ownership in Michigan’s Southern Lower Peninsula, and the often small property sizes, state wildlife officials are working to find more ways to support increased deer harvest and habitat management decisions among networks of private landowners and hunters. While total whitetail population size is lower, the Southern Lower Peninsula of Michigan should offer good deer hunting this season.



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EHD in Tennessee’s White-tailed Deer

Deer hunters and others out of doors in the woods and fields of Tennessee are asked to be on the lookout for white-tailed deer that appear ill. A deer disease called Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (EHD) most often impacts whitetail in August and September through the first frost, according to wildlife officials.

Hemorrhagic disease (HD) may be caused by one of two closely related viruses, including EHD virus or Bluetongue Virus.The two viruses that cause the disease are spread by biting midges, small flies often mistaken for mosquitos by observers. Symptoms of HD in deer may include falling, drooling, lethargy, respiratory distress, emitting foam from the mouth or nose, and swelling of the face, tongue and neck.

A severe outbreak can kill 10 to 20 percent of the deer herd in a single year. “We reported four dead deer in a creek, all close to each other in the back pasture,” a Central Tennessee hunter said. Tests are being performed to determine if the deer died of HD.

Deer Hunting in Tennessee

Finding dead deer in water is sort of a telltale sign that HD may be the culprit. Deer with HD get a high fever, try to cool off by drinking and that’s usually the last place they visit. The viruses cause damage to blood vessels, causing hemorrhage within internal organs.

Biting midges are small biting flies that spread HD between whitetail deer. Their bites do not transmit disease to humans, but these “no-see-ums” are to be blamed for EHD epidemics across the whitetail’s range.

Neither EHD nor BT viruses can be transmitted to people, and humans are not at risk by handling infected deer, being bitten by infected midges, or eating infected deer meat. It would, however, be wise to not consume any meat from a deer that appears ill, just out of precaution.


EHD virus rarely infects domestic animals, while BT is a known disease of domestic animals such as cattle, sheep and goats. People suspecting HD in domestic animals should have them tested for the virus.

Deer diseases such as HD can have a negative impact on deer populations as well as deer hunting, but it should be noted that not all deer die from HD. Some deer do survive and not all deer within a population will be infected within a given year. Hot, dry periods are typically when outbreaks occur, so dead deer found in late Summer or very early Fall are likely the victims of HD.

Kentucky Deer Season Has Bright Outlook

Kentucky’s 2016-17 deer season kicks off the first Saturday in September with the start of the 136-day archery season. Anticipation has been building for months. Many archery hunters in Kentucky will spend the last long weekend of summer getting an early jump on fall.

“Everything right now points toward another good season,” said Gabe Jenkins, deer program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. That is welcome news following on the heels of record deer harvests.

Hunters in Kentucky established a new benchmark last season by taking more than 155,000 deer. It was the third record harvest in the past four seasons and included 55 bucks from 40 counties documented by Kentucky Fish and Wildlife that met the Boone and Crockett Club’s minimum entry score for its awards book.

“Our deer hunting in Kentucky is better than it’s ever been,” said Steve Beam, wildlife division director for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife. “We’re harvesting record numbers of deer and our production of large-antlered bucks is completely incredible. We’ve really hit the scene in the past 10 years because of our quality white-tail,” Jenkins said. “That’s a product of good management, good habitat and being diligent about what’s being put on the landscape. With that, we still have to be good stewards.”

A state believed to hold fewer than 1,000 white-tailed deer a century ago now is considered one of the nation’s premier hunting destinations. The latest herd estimate – derived from harvest and age structure data – pegged the statewide population at more than 820,000 after the 2015-16 hunting season and before fawning this spring.

The archery season is just one facet. Crossbow, muzzleloader and youth deer hunting opportunities are part of the overall season framework. But it is the modern gun deer season in November that drives the harvest, accounting for 70 percent of the total harvest last season.

“We’ve been setting archery records nearly every year and every month, so we’re seeing more interest in archery hunting,” Jenkins said. “But we’re still a modern gun-dominated state and weather is the biggest key in that.”

The modern gun season opens statewide Nov. 12, 2016, and spans 16 consecutive days in Zones 1 and 2 and 10 consecutive days in Zones 3 and 4. There are 43 counties assigned Zone 1 status after the addition of Hardin and Webster counties this season. In another zone change, Marion County is now a Zone 2 county.

Herd health assessments are underway and results are not yet available from the annual statewide mast survey. Hunters should take into account the availability of hard mast as the season progresses.

“Traditionally, when you have good mast years, we usually see a decline in the harvest from the previous year mainly because of a change in feeding habits,” Jenkins said. “They’re not coming to corn feeders and they’re not coming to green fields. They’re in the woods.

“I don’t know what the mast results are going to show, but in speaking with our staff and seeing for myself in the field, it looked pretty good. We’ll see.”

Hunters must check the animals they harvest and can do that by phone at 800-245-4263 or online at fw.ky.gov. The telecheck process will include some new questions this year. Hunters checking an antlered deer will be asked to enter the total number of antler points that are at least 1 inch and indicate if the outside antler spread is less than or greater than 11 inches. Those checking an antlerless male will need to distinguish if it is a male fawn (button buck) or if the animal has already dropped its antlers.

The additional data will help biologists, Jenkins said.

“What we’re looking to do is obtain additional age data, something that indicates how old that harvested animal is,” he said. “For all of the population models that we do, we need to know approximate age in the harvest. Additional age data allows us to better predict the standing crop and the age of our herd. That in turn helps us be more efficient managers of the herd.”

Kentucky Fish and Wildlife owns, leases or manages more than 80 wildlife management areas across the state for public use. Some require a user permit, hold quota hunts or have special regulations for deer hunting.


“We’ve been able to add a significant amount of acreage in recent years,” Beam said. “As a result, hunters now have more high-quality public hunting opportunities across the state.”

The department is working with partners to further expand the amount of public land available for hunting. One recent addition is the new 2,900-acre Rockcastle River WMA in eastern Pulaski. Presently, it is closed to the public while Kentucky Fish and Wildlife makes improvements necessary for public use.

The Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide, available on the department’s website and wherever licenses are sold, is a valuable resource for hunters. It includes the full list of fall hunting and trapping season dates, summarizes hunting and trapping laws, and provides information about public lands hunting by region, youth hunting opportunities, hunter education requirements and quota hunts.

There are 30 quota hunts to choose from this year. New this year is an archery and crossbow only quota hunt at Big Rivers WMA and State Forest in Crittenden and Union counties. Hunters may apply for quota hunts via the department’s website or by calling 877-598-2401. The application period runs the entire month of September.

Hunters are reminded to ask and obtain permission before hunting on private property and to report game violations by calling 800-25-ALERT. Callers are asked for the county that they are calling about and forwarded to the nearest Kentucky State Police post, which dispatches a Kentucky Fish and Wildlife conservation officer.

“We’ve had a really wet spring and a wet summer so far with lots of food available. That just equals healthy deer,” Jenkins said. “Anecdotally, it looks good across the state. Our data also supports that assertion.”

Deer Management in Mississippi

Interested in managing your Mississippi deer hunting property for quality whitetail? The Mississippi State University Extension Service will host three deer management workshops in August for hunters, land managers and forestry professionals interested in learning more about white-tailed deer management.

Speakers at the deer management workshops will cover a wide variety of topics, including deer diseases, habitats, predators and reproduction. Participants will also learn about the best selective harvest strategies for bucks and does, as well as the latest research being conducted at the MSU Deer Lab.

Quality Deer Management Workshop in Mississippi

The first workshop will be in Natchez on Aug. 12 and 13 at the Natchez Grand Hotel and Suites. The second workshop will be in Verona on Aug. 19 and 20 at the Northeast Mississippi Branch Experiment Station. The final workshop will be in Newton on Aug. 25 and 26 at the Coastal Plain Branch Experiment Station.

The registration fee is $100 for the full conference or $50 per day. Lunch and workshop materials will be provided. Registration for all workshops begins at 8:30 a.m. Each program will begin at 9 a.m. and conclude at 4 p.m.

Forestry continuing education credits will be available for workshop participants.

The whitetail management workshops are sponsored by the MSU Extension Service, MSU College of Forest Resources, and Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks. To register, visit this site. Preregistration is required. For more information about the workshops, contact Jessica Rahim at 662-325-3113 or jms4@msstate.edu, or Leigh Ann Phelps at 662-325-3174 or lap431@msstate.edu.