Deer hunt for hunger aims to help in battle against bovine TB

ALPENA — The Michigan DNR will host the first deer county hunt Jan. 4-7 and Jan. 11-14, where hunters can use private land to hunt antlerless deer at no cost in efforts to control deer population, minimize the spread of bovine tuberculosis and donate disease-free deer to food pantries across the state.

Michigan is the home to the largest population of whitetail deer that carry and transmit bovine TB to animals and poison upwards of four herds of cattle each year. The disease has the largest spread in Alpena and surrounding counties.

“The goals of the hunt are to reduce deer numbers for a couple of different reasons,” Brian Mastenbrook, DNR wildlife operations manager, said. “We have tuberculosis, crop damage in the area and we are trying to affect buck to doe ratio. Targeting antlerless deer is the best way to affect those things.”

For this hunt, the Hunting Access Program has coordinated with private land owners to reimburse them for the public use of their land to hunt concentration of antlerless deer.

“We’ve had people enroll in the program for this hunt so there are properties available for the public to hunt on private land,” Monique Ferris, HAP coordinator, said. “It’s first come first serve, whoever shows up to the property we limit the number of hunters on each property. There are no additional fees. It’s completely free to hunt on HAP lands, you just need license to hunt private land antlerless deer.”

Location of the private land in Alpena County is south of M-32. To inquire specific locations and property uses contact Ferris.

The HAP program encourages private land owners to allow hunting on lands year round, which supports Michigan’s hunting heritage and allow hunters the opportunity to hunt on private land.

“Being able to share your land with others that don’t have an opportunity like that is very rewarding to a lot of land owners,” she said. “We have lots of different options land owners can choose from. And it’s nice to see child to be mentored by land owners and see them encouraging the next generation of hunters to get out there and be a part of nature.”

One deer can produce approximately 33 meals. Unaffected deer will be donated to food pantries to help families in need free of charge. DNR stations will be available for use of hunters to diagnose the deer for bovine TB. The DNR does not recommend deer with bovine TB be consumed.

“This is important for cattle farmers, it’s important for non cattle farmers and for hunters who desire a different way of hunting,” Mastenbrook said. “So we trying to make things work for a bunch of different people.”

The focus of the spread is to cattle. The disease has been found in smaller animals, but will kill them rather than have the chance to reproduce.

“When we first discovered BTB in deer, in the late ’90s it was quite an effort in the hunting community to reduce population in four counties,” Dr. Rick Smith, assistant state veterinarian over food and animal programs, said. “They did a really wonderful job of that and it did help in terms of deer not spreading to cattle.”

According to Smith, the disease takes years to develop so symptoms of the disease are hard to recognize in wild animals.

“I think anything that can be done to reduce the number of deer in this area where we do have a fair bit of disease going on and is being transmitted to cattle, anything that can be done to improve the situation will be positive,” he said.

To find out more about the hunt and where deer check stations are available, contact Ferris at 517-281-5621 or visit Michigan.gov/hap

Hunters interested in donating deer can go to any DNR check stations where deer will be processed for free and given to local food banks.

Beth Gohs can be reached via email at bgohs@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693.