This winter has been tough on the Northern Michigan deer herd, this summer could be even tougher.

If this winter has been tough on the Northern Michigan deer herd, this summer could be even tougher.

In an effort to eradicate bovine tuberculosis in the state’s deer herd, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is now offering a minimum of five year-round disease control permits to all livestock producers in the Michigan Department of Agriculture’s Modified Accredited TB Zone.

Translation: Every person who owns a cow or bison in this 13 county Northern Michigan zone can legally kill a minimum of five deer at any time of year with free tags provided by the DNR. This zone includes Alcona, Alpena, Antrim, Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Crawford, Emmet, Montmorency, Oscoda, Otsego and Presque Isle counties and portions of Ogemaw and Iosco counties.

To be considered a livestock producer, a person must own at least one head of cattle or bison, according to DNR produced outline of the program. Other than owning a cow or bison there is no qualification process. Once a livestock producer makes the request for disease control tags the DNR will mail them a package containing five tags. Once those five are filled more tags can be applied for, but not guaranteed.

The disease control program also allows livestock producers to designate three different deer shooters, each of whom is legally able to fill disease control tags at any time.

Once the deer are harvested, their heads must be sent to the DNR for TB testing.

Many area hunters are angry about this program and the effect they believe it will have on a deer herd they feel is already depleted.

“What’s the point of buying licenses anymore,” said one area hunter. “I’ve already talked to five different guys who plan on applying for these tags and not buying a deer license. They can shoot a big buck in September and not worry about finding one in deer season.”

While the DNR requires the head of each deer harvested with a disease control permit be submitted to the DNR for testing, some area hunters don’t see that happening in the case of large antlered bucks.

“Guys are going to shoot the big bucks in September when they’re still visible in the fields. I bet you those heads don’t make it to the DNR,” said another Cheboygan hunter.

John Ormsbee, president of the Afton Deer Management group said, this program will squash an already dwindling deer herd.

“There aren’t that many deer around here anymore in the first place and now everyone who owns one cow can shoot five more,” he said. “How are we ever going to get our deer numbers back?”

DNR officials say this is a necessary measure in eradicating TB, which if unchecked could have much more harmful effects than an increased harvest.

Once the disease prevention tags are issued, they are good until Dec. 31, 2009.

Ormsbee and his organization members are encouraging Michigan hunters to write to their state representatives and senators and voice their disapproval of this program.

“Hunters really need to stand up and be heard,” said Ormsbee. “Complaining at the dinner table won’t do anything, but if enough of hunters call their government officials we could get this thing turned around.”

Cheboygan Daily Tribune