(WLNS) – From the Upper Peninsula, to Mid-Michigan, deer hunters woke up before the sun for opening day.
Hunters say this tradition is more than something to do, and although more the 500,000 headed out, DNR officials say its a passion that is starting to wane.
For Michigan hunters, the sport is more than a hobby.
“Hunting means everything to me,” Shawn Kirk gushed.
“A bad day in the woods is better than a good day at work anytime,” Chris Carls said.
It is a lifestyle many couldn’t imagine living without.
“I lost my father this year who I’ve hunted with my entire life,” Kirk explained. “So it meant a lot getting out this morning, it was pretty emotional first thing this morning”.
For some, its about what it provides.
“Knowing that we have meat in the freezer, that we got it and took care of it ourselves,” Carls said.
Although some are still passionate, Michigan DNR Deer Management Specialist Chad Stewart says hunter numbers are declining despite attempts to bring a broader following into the sport.
“Liberalize some regulations to allow smaller caliber rifles to be used,” Stewart said. “We have specific youth season, which gives the opportunity for youths to go out ahead of time”.
Stewart says trying to recruit women and the younger generation will help fill the gap left by older hunters who have retired.
One of those replacements is 11 year old Caleb Reeder who shot an 8 point today.
“My dad actually had his finger on the trigger and I shot before him,” Reeder relays.
Having hunters to keep the deer population down is paramount to keeping a healthy and balanced ecosystem.
“They eat all the vegetation around them which has negative impacts on other wildlife, and it can cause a lot of conflict with humans,” Stewart warned.
More deer and fewer hunters means more crops eaten, and dangerous roads with increased car verses deer accidents.