TRAVERSE CITY -- Local deer hunters will get a bang for their buck -- or doe, to be specific -- and they won't have to go to another county to do so.
For the first time since 2005, hunters can purchase a doe permit for this year's firearm season in Benzie, Grand Traverse and Kalkaska counties. Permits only will be available for private land hunting in those and several other nearby areas, including Antrim, Charlevoix, Leelanau, Manistee and Wexford counties.
The change is part of an increased number of doe permits available across Michigan for the upcoming firearm season. The total number will rise to about 728,000 for both public and private land, a nearly 14 percent increase from last year's 639,575 doe permits.
Records show the state received more than $5.4 million in revenue for firearm doe permits last year. Projections for this year call for level or slightly less license sales, officials said.
"The population now has come back and what we want to do now is maintain the population at a level where we have fairly robust recreational opportunities with the deer, but not social costs, like crop damage," said Mike Bailey, species and habitat section supervisor for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Firearm doe permits will not be issued in Emmet, Cheboygan and Otsego counties, an effort to replenish the herd there after a harsh winter that led to a high mortality rate and a decrease in doe productivity, he said.
Meanwhile, DNR officials are trying to reduce the number of deer in southern Lower Michigan and maintain a healthy herd in northern areas and the Upper Peninsula. Much of the statewide increase in doe permits is due to "extremely high" population levels in southern Michigan, Bailey said.
Regardless, the bump in doe permits in Kalkaska County didn't go unnoticed. Several customers already asked about it at Jack's Sport Shop in Kalkaska, said employee Cam Doherty.