IRONWOOD - Area hunters fear the worst may be yet to come regarding deer numbers in the western Upper Peninsula.
Hunters voiced concerns about lack of deer to the Department of Natural Resources at a Thursday meeting attended by about 75 people at Gogebic Community College.
One hunter said it was the first time in 40 years he didn't buy a deer license. He said there was no need to because there were no deer in his area.
Suggestions from the hunters ranged from closing deer season altogether to expanding the wolf hunt.
Terry Minzey, a U.P. wildlife biologist, said the DNR wouldn't have the authority to close the season, as that would take action by the legislature.
As to the wolf hunt, he said in the face of so much opposition through referendum efforts, it was necessary to take a conservative approach, "or we would have had no hunt at all."
"That (wolf) hunt was nothing," one man told the DNR personnel attending the session, referring to the 43-wolf quota that paled in comparison to harvests in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
Minzey didn't deny that after last winter, which dragged on into May here, deer appear to be in for another long, cold fight.
He said it's not the cold weather that takes a toll on the deer, but the energy they must use to fight to get through the snow.
Many attending the session complained about too many wolves. At first, Minzey said he didn't want to address the wolf situation, but it came up several times.
Denny Ellos, of Ironwood, said the deer situation is so bad that his deer camp in the Marenisco area shut down after 34 years and the DNR will continue to lose out on license sales until herd numbers rebound. He said deer numbers continue to "bottom out" and no fawns are being seen because of heavy predation.
Minzey acknowledged the DNR hasn't received enough input from the Ironwood area. "This area has kind of been then forgotten land," he said.
The frequent criticism that Michigan doesn't require registration of deer was raised. Minzey's response was that in Wisconsin, where registration is required, some deer end up in barns unregistered anyway and the DNR there must account for that fact.
He said the MDNR's surveys produce accurate deer kill estimates.
Minzey stressed with chronic wasting disease being found in Washburn County, Wis., the MDNR is watching the situation closely, responding to a complaint that there are too many restrictions connected to Michigan's supplemental deer feeding permits.
He said Wisconsin has taken a more "passive" approach to the deadly CWD and it's spreading there, adding CWD has now been found in 23 states.
Ashley Autenrieth, a DNR deer program biologist, said deer hunting rules adopted by the Natural Resources Commission for the fall won't be changed for three years.
Among the options are a no-spikehorn consideration.
Autenrieth said the U.P. Deer Advisory Team is looking for a representative from the western U.P. and application forms were available at the session. The group meets twice a year.
UPDAT is a group of citizens who work with the DNR's Wildlife Division to provide input on regional deer management issues.
It was one of numerous DNR open houses across the state concerning deer management.
Changes for the 2014 hunting seasons, including a new license format, are being debated.
Other open houses include:
-Jan. 21: Iron Mountain, Bay College West, Fornetti Hall, Room 104.
-Jan. 23: Marquette, Ramada Inn.
-Jan. 28: Munising, Sydney's Restaurant.
-Jan. 30: Baraga, Ottawa Sportsmen's Club.
-Feb. 4: Newberry, Comfort Inn.
-Feb. 6: Escanaba, Bay de Noc Community College.