TRAVERSE CITY — The bucks dropped here.
Actually, it’s true of both does and bucks: the Michigan Department of Natural Resources says hunters in Grand Traverse County alone reported 42 percent fewer deer killed this year compared to last year.
And it’s a decline felt across northern Michigan, according to statistics collected by the DNR.
The numbers are preliminary but seem to affirm predictions from hunters that a new antler point restriction enacted this year across the Grand Traverse region would reduce hunter success.
“They did have an antler point restriction, and that likely is contributing to the lower numbers,” said Ashley Autenrieth, a deer program biologist for the DNR in Gaylord.
The antler point restriction allows hunters in 13 counties to shoot a buck bearing a minimum of three points, or tines, on one side of its antlers. The provision is designed to allow bucks to grow to trophy sizes before falling into hunters’ sights.
There were 102 deer kills voluntarily reported by Monday to the DNR at a Grand Traverse County check station, Autenrieth said. There were 177 reported at the same time last year in the county — a 42 percent decline.
The DNR has seen a similar drop in deer kills voluntarily reported to state officials across all 13 counties where the antler point restriction is in place. The number of deer kills voluntarily reported by hunters in those counties dropped from 2,123 in 2012 to 1,715 this year — a 19 percent decline.
The lower numbers come as no surprise to hunters. Brian Kracht, who processes deer in Benzie County, said he believes the harvest numbers “are off 35 to 40 percent” this year.
“I think it had a lot to do with what’s going on with the antler restriction being on in the northern counties,” Kracht said. “The guys from downstate didn’t come up. They could stay home and shoot what they wanted.
“The bow season also got off to a real ugly start. It was warm and rainy,” he said. “Most of the guys who hunt with a bow, you’ve got to run it down and track it. (When) it’s raining it’s hard to follow the blood.”
Ryan Ratajczak, a leader of the Quality Deer Management Association’s northwest Michigan chapter, said the lower numbers are no surprise.
“I think most of the hunters who knew about it ahead of time were expecting not to be as successful this year,” Ratajczak said. “Many were very surprised to still see many deer, later in the season — younger bucks — running around in daylight hours at this point and time. Its giving them hope for next season moving forward.”