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Michigan hunters lining up for fewer deer licenses

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Some Michigan hunters are just learning today that they won’t be able to bag as many deer this year as they have in the past.

Firearms deer season begins tomorrow.  The day before the start of firearms deer season is usually the busiest day at retailers who sell hunting licenses.

The state has reduced the number of antlerless deer licenses because of a viral disease, known as Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease or EHD.   The disease has been present in Michigan for decades.   But this year, weather conditions led to an unusually early outbreak of the disease.   State officials have confirmed more than 13 thousand Michigan deer in more than 30 counties have died of EHD.

Russ Mason is the state Wildlife Division Chief.    He says many hunters don’t know much about the disease, which may have killed as many as 50 thousand deer this fall. 

“The reason for that is the outbreak was in western and central lower peninsula…not the east,” says Mason,  “Guys on the east side …..they got no idea what’s going on…because it hasn’t gotten a lot of coverage. Guys in the central and western lower peninsula pretty acutely aware.”

Last week, state officials decided to cut in half the number of permits hunters could get.    Mason says the hope is,  by taking fewer does this year, hunters can help southern Michigan’s depleted deer herds rebound from the outbreak.

Deer hunting is a half-billion dollar industry in Michigan.

Mason doesn't think the deer deaths  or the reduction in hunting permits will have a big effect on the industry.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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