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.
"I think they will be really happy to know there are a few available this year in Kalkaska County and those other areas," he said. "I'm glad to see it back. I think the deer herd is coming back a little bit, but it will never be like it was when I was a kid."
And that's OK, said Ryan Ratajczak, president of the Northwest Michigan chapter of the Quality Deer Management Association.
"We're pretty close to where we need to be with the population level around here," he said.
Doe permit applications cost $4 and are available through Aug. 15. Drawing results will be posted Sept. 1.
The firearm season runs Nov. 15-30.
Doe permits for the 2009 firearm season by county
County, public land, private land
Antrim, 0, 5,000
Benzie, 0, 300
Charlevoix, 0, 3,400
Cheboygan, 0, 0
Crawford, 1,200, 1,500
Emmet, 0, 0
Grand Traverse, 0, 600
Kalkaska, 0, 100
Leelanau, 0, 300
Manistee, 0, 3,400
Otsego, 0, 0
Wexford, 0, 3,400
Source: Michigan Department of Natural Resources.