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DNR, Natural Resources Committee Discuss Ways to Improve Deer Hunting, Prevent Chronic Wasting Disease

"Deer are big business in the state of Michigan, it’s terribly important."

A room full of state DNR officials and the public are looking to find ways to protect the future of deer hunting in Michigan.

It is a meeting that happens once every three years and it is going on right now.

The DNR meets with the Michigan Natural Resources Commission to propose ways to better manage wildlife.

9&10’s Cody Boyer was at that meeting with our top story, to see what changes could be on the way for hunters.

The DNR uses this meeting to go over the last three years of deer hunting and propose ways to improve it for the next three.

And there is a lot of public comment to hear.

"We got enough public comment around APRs that, if you didn’t bring your jammies, you should have,” Russ Mason said.

The biggest concern over the last three years, spreading disease.

"We have disease problems in the northeast Lower Peninsula. We’ve got CWD down south and so we are looking at what we need to do to contain that disease and manage it,” Mason said.

DNR Director of Wildlife Russ Mason says problems with TB and chronic wasting disease inspired new proposals.

 One includes creating a new management area and possible expansion of point restrictions.

"What we will be proposing is a change to the tag structure in TB country. There’s an antler point restriction on the combo tag. But single tag isn’t any-deer tag. We are going to propose extending that APR to that single tag."

Other proposals include making valid licenses for antlerless deer on private land, and more specific ways to test for disease.

The quality deer management association is also present, looking for new and improved APRs.

“We’re here today asking the NRC to consider expanding antler point restrictions throughout the state of Michigan except for the disease areas. In the northwest 12 plus Leelanau counties, hunter satisfaction has gone from 68 percent up to 76 percent. How often do you see three quarters of the state’s hunters happy with anything,” Erik Schnell said.

Proposals working to stop chronic wasting disease were also a key discussion in the NRC meeting.

The DNR proposed adding townships in downstate counties to a new core area where there is risk for CWD, including Mecosta and Montcalm counties.

These areas would require more deer checks and more specific ways to test for the disease in deer.

"Chronic wasting disease is something the Quality Deer Management Association is extremely concerned about. We’ve been working with the DNR for quite a while now both in Lansing and now in Mecosta County with the outbreak in the deer farm there," Schnell said. 

The proposal would also prohibit bringing carcasses into the state from elsewhere, and allow the DNR to hold a management hunt in the winter.

The proposals presented and public comment will now be considered by the NRC.

Final changes could happen later this month.

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