Editorial: Good hunting season to all

The Detroit News

Honoring a tradition that reaches back for generations, Michigan hunters will head to the woods today for the opening of deer season. It is a special time of the year for those who love the outdoors and enjoy hunting, a chance to renew acquaintances and bond with friends and family.

It also has a tremendous economic impact on the state.

Over the next two weeks, 525,000 hunters are expected to participate in the firearms deer season, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

They will spend more than $2.3 billion on food and lodging, and will stay in the field an average of seven days.

Another $1.3 billion will be spent on hunting equipment.

It is an important fall boost to the state economy, particularly in the rural areas where most of the hunting takes place.

Deer season in Michigan attracts hunters from throughout the country. The state has added a hunting and fishing pitch to its Pure Michigan campaign.

And the impact of deer hunting extends beyond the immediate season.

Money collected from hunting and fishing licenses supports the preservation and development of wildlife habitat. The more hunters who buy licenses, the more abundant the wildlife environment in Michigan.

Deer licenses account for about 90 percent of hunting permits issued by the state.

Unfortunately, as the state’s population has become more centered in larger cities, the number of hunters has dropped.

At the start of this century, deer licenses sold in Michigan approached 800,000, after rising steadily through the last few decades of the 20th century. That number is now at 525,000.

Today, the average deer hunter is well over 40 years old, suggesting that license sales are at risk of continuing the downward trend.

The state has responded over the past decade by lowering the youth hunting age to 12 from 14, and more aggressively marketing hunting as a tourist attraction.

The Pure Michigan campaign is particularly targeted at younger hunters. It seems to be producing results.

Last year, the DNR reported 63,900 new customers for all hunting licenses combined.

It helps that the deer herd is growing stronger in the state, at least in the Lower Peninsula.

After being hit hard by chronic wasting disease and abnormally cold winters, the herd is rebounding, and hunters should see more deer this year. Success rates for hunters have been improving since 2014.

Hunting, obviously, isn’t for everyone. But there remain a solid corps of passionate hunters in Michigan who today are honoring a tradition that has helped both local economies and the overall well-being of wildlife.

We wish them happy, and safe, hunting.