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Two consecutive harsh winters have taken their toll on the deer population in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, creating the possibility, however slight, that this year’s hunting season could be curtailed.

Michigan’s Natural Resources Commission — a governor-appointed citizen panel that regulates state hunting — is set to meet next week to discuss the situation. Among the items on the Thursday agenda is a discussion of “deer harvest reductions in the Upper Peninsula.”

It could include “closing the entire dear hunting season in the U.P.,” but Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials said Friday the chance is highly unlikely.

“I don’t know whether this is something that we’ve ever included in our recommendations before,” said DNR spokesman Ed Golder. “But we don’t think that will be the one (the commission) chooses.”

The impact of heavy and persistent snows during the 2013 and 2014 winters are starting to emerge, with rough estimates of the deer harvest numbers from last season are grim.

“Those numbers, if they hold true, we will be at the lowest levels in 30 years...,” said Chad Stewart, a DNR deer management specialist. “We were down about 20 to 30 percent (in dead deer) at our check stations this year.”

While the Natural Resources Commission will meet Thursday in Lansing, no decision about deer-hunting moves would be made until later this summer, Golder said.

In addition to the proposal for canceling deer season in the Upper Peninsula, commissioners will consider:

Maintaining the current season and license structure.

Eliminating the use of combination licenses in the UP as well as the antler-less deer option during archery season for those using a single-deer license.

Getting rid of the antler-less option during archery season for those on regular deer licenses, including combination licenses.

Eliminating antler-less hunting for all archery licensees during the late season only.

Eliminating the Liberty and Independence hunts in the U.P. this year. Liberty is a two-day hunt in September for youth and disabled veterans, while Independence is a four-day hunt in October for disabled vets.

The Natural Resources Commission meeting will start at 10 a.m. Thursday at the Michigan State University Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health, 4125 Beaumont Road.

JLynch@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2034

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