VALLEY TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — With regular firearms deer season getting underway in Michigan Monday, the Department of Natural Resources says it is seeing fewer hunters than last year based on license sales.

Rachel Leightner, a wildlife outreach coordinator with the DNR, was working the deer check station in the Allegan State Game Area on the first day of the hunt.

“We are on a Monday opener. Folks just might not be planning to get out this week because they’ve got other obligations, but last year we did see a banner year for deer sales,” Leightner said.

Figures provided by the DNR show license sales are down 4.36% compared with 2020. Last year saw the highest number since 2016.

“With the license sales increase, it could just be due to the COVID-19 pandemic and people wanting a reason to get outdoors. It was a safe activity to do while properly socially distancing and following COVID guidelines,” Leightner said.

Douglas Augustyniak participates in the hunt every year. 

“It’s something to look forward to. Taking off for the whole week and then camping out, hanging out, cooking food, that’s my favorite part,” Augustyniak said.

He is hopeful younger people will take an interest in hunting to continue the tradition.

“A lot of times I hunt public land I do see a lot of older people out there and I hardly ever see people my age out hunting,” he said.

Young hunter Austin Boerman got his buck of the season just five minutes after starting his hunt.

“It’s fun. You go out there and sit for a while and hopefully you get one,” Boerman said.

His mother Michelle Boerman drove him to the check station.

“It’s exciting to be with him and to experience that with him. It was a good day,” Boerman said.

Rachel Leightner of the Department of Natural Resources logs information about a harvested buck at a deer check station at the Allegan State Game Area on the first day of regular firearms deer hunting season. (Nov. 15, 2021)

The deer check station is working to surveil threats to the deer population, like chronic wasting disease.

“We’re collecting biological data from the deer as well as harvest information, so it helps us to understand the deer population a little bit better if we can understand where deer are being harvested from,” Leightner said.  

Regular firearms season runs through the end of the month.