Frustration for Michigan deer hunters continue to build with our states inability to create a product of quality deer hunting. It is abundantly clear that the majority of sportsmen and women in this state are hungry for something more, something better. Survey after survey support this not only in the current NW13 APR zone state, but also statewide and even most recently in the surveys for the Thumb APR proposal. But those numbers have not reached the magical 66%+ to be a super majority.
Toss CWD into the mix and it only spells further setbacks to an already sub par deer hunting management practices.
So what’s a guy/gal to do!? Hunting Michigan is what most of us have done our whole lives. The traditions and rituals run deep. It’s all we’ve ever known and likely our thoughts have never drifted outside of the state. Hunting in another state is scary, it’s daunting and full of unknowns. I know these feelings. This was me a few years ago. But I could see the writing on the wall and I was getting tired of spending hours upon hours in the tree hoping for things to change. Doing everything right in my scouting, prep, and actual act of hunting with little to show for it. I was getting tired of working with local groups like LGLG and seeing no results in the larger picture.
What if I told you, that if you hunted out of state just once maybe twice, you’d likely realize what you’ve been missing and you’d never stop looking out of the state? Yes, people shoot big deer in Michigan every year and they always will. But what I have learned is there are a few key factors that make almost every other state at another level.
1. Access – for the most part Michigan is cut into 1 square mile sections. There is no piece of ground that is safe from probing hunters and thus no deer in this state does not feel the pressure. States that I’ve hunted and scouted have far more vast areas and I am convinced this alone leads to deer being less pressured and also increases the chances of reaching a higher age structure.
2. Hunter numbers – it is undisputed that Michigan has the highest amount of hunters in the US. Couple that with item 1, and every deer will feel the pressure and the chances of deer reaching maturity have no choice but to drop. I spent a week on public land during the prime rut and my son and I had it completely to ourselves for 9 days, aside from 1 local hunter that we ran into on one day. Unheard of here in Michigan!
3. Hunter Mentality – it’s easy to think that every Iowa resident has bought into only shooting mature bucks. It’s Iowa for goodness sake right?! But if you follow any of these other states hunting pages you still see the “I’ll shoot the spike if I want, they taste better” guy. BUT, it’s also very clear that this mentality is far less than in Michigan. And the results speak for themselves in the pics posted and the fame and lore that comes with these neighboring states.
These 3 factors alone are what I see as the largest keys in the differences I see. Any average Michigan hunter is easily at expert level out of state purely because Michigan has nothing but pressured deer. Michigan hunters have to work so hard to try and fool these deer just for a glimpse and those same efforts equate to more success when deer are not as pressured.
Last year was my first foray out of the state. Kansas on public land, I felt like I was on a hunting TV show! Seeing lots of deer every day, shooters every day, seeing them actually respond to calls. I also spent a couple of days in Ohio for their gun season. Their January gun season………not during the rut……..after deer have been hunted for months…….by this time every deer in Michigan is nocturnal. In those two days I passed a decent 8 and just missed out on a chance at a great 10. The 11 days spent out of state first time, boots on the ground on two different properties easily had been higher quality hunting experiences than the 20+ days spent hunting in Michigan, in areas I know and understand and have hunted for years and have “figured out” as best as I possibly can.
All that considered, I will continue to hunt in Michigan. I love being in the outdoors far too much to deprive myself completely of the convenience of that pleasure. Unfortunately, destination hunting makes it hard to do a quick afternoon hunt during the week or even to do every weekend. Not impossible with some of the closer destinations such as Indiana and Ohio just to our south. I will hunt Michigan to fill the gaps in between the real deal………hunting out of state. But out of state hunts will be what fuels my fire and keeps me motivated from season to season. It’s time to Level Up – Out of State.