'Deer rub' hurting northwestern Lower Michigan fruit farmers
SUTTONS BAY (AP) — Some fruit farmers in northwest Lower Michigan are hoping to buck the trend of deer harming their orchards.
Large bucks are rubbing their antlers against fruit trees, stripping the bark and killing the stock. It’s a natural act called a “buck rub,” or “deer rub.”
It’s a particular concern for farmers in Leelanau County, where cherry trees are an important part of the local economy.
“On one day we found seven trees damaged,” longtime farmer Don Gregory told the Traverse City Record-Eagle for a story Saturday. “In the past, we haven’t had anywhere near this type of problem.”
Some believe Leelanau County’s designation as a Quality Deer Management site is playing a part in the trend toward increased tree damage.
The restriction means hunters in the county are not permitted to shoot a buck unless it has three points on one side of its antlers. It is designed to allow bucks to grow to trophy status as they roam the woods, swamps and fruit orchards — a plus for hunters, but not farmers.
Hunters like the antler point restriction so much that they are lobbying the state to mandate it in a dozen other counties, including Antrim, Benzie, Charlevoix, Emmet, Grant Traverse, Kalkaska, Lake, Manistee, Missaukee, Mason, Osceola and Wexford.
The Michigan Natural Resources Commission plans to take public comment on the proposal next month with a vote expected in June.
Ryan Ratajczak, a leader of the Quality Deer Management Association’s northwest Michigan chapter, said he’s sympathetic to farmers’ concerns.
“Fencing is the best option from a deterrent standpoint,” he said. “However, it’s not necessarily cost effective. ... We want to work with the farmers in order to reduce the population so that it’s acceptable to hunters and farmers.”
Fencing is extremely expensive, said Gregory, who would like to see a boost to hunting license fees to offset the cost to growers.
“Why, with this being a man-made problem, do (fruit growers) end up being the losers,” he said.