Is November 15 truly sacred?
March 25, 2011 by
November 15. If you’re a Michigan deer hunter you need no further explanation. It’s the holy day, the day already circled, around which all other vacation time is built.
It’s Opening Day. Just as it has been almost continuously since 1925 (the state did dabble in Saturday openers briefly during the 1960s, but is strangely silent about whether it inhaled).
To the serious deer hunter, it doesn’t matter where in the week day falls. Wednesday? Fine. Fewer people in the woods, more deer for me. Saturday? Fine. More activity in the woods means more deer on the hoof, which means more deer for me. Which day? Doesn’t matter. It’s Nov. 15. I’m in.
But now a state representative has decided that maybe it does matter, because Saturday is by far the most popular day to hold the annual deer party. In years with a Saturday opener, license sales typically increase by 8 percent over a Friday opener. The 2010 deer season opened on a Monday, and license sales plunged.
Kevin Cotter, a Republican from Mt. Pleasant, argues that more licenses mean more revenue and more hunting-related spending. So he introduced HB 4259, a bill to move opening day to the Saturday closest to Nov. 15. Under that plan the earliest the season could start is Nov. 12. The latest it could start is Nov. 18.
After November’s dismal license sales, people are listening. In fact the bill has 13 co-sponsors. At the moment the bill is before the Natural Resources, Tourism and Outdoor Recreation committee.
Its biggest challenge is, well, us. Surveys taken by the Department of Natural Resources repeatedly show that hunters strongly favor leaving things as they are. And changing the opener may not be a legislative issue, but one for the Natural Resources Commission to decide. Either way, the conversation is on the table, and the recently formed Regional Deer Advisory Teams will also discuss the placement of opening day.
The issue is about more than license sales according to Russ Mason, chief of the DNR’s Wildlife Division. Mason said the department also takes into account the number of days people hunt, which tends to go down in years when the season opens on a Saturday. In fact, those same studies show that Thursday openers would give the greatest combination of licenses sold and days afield.
“We do these surveys and 80 percent of the hunters say they like the November 15 opener,” said Russ Mason, chief of the DNR’s Wildlife Division. “That said, this year we opened it on a Monday and I’ve got reams of mail saying ‘why did you open it on a Monday?’ If I open it on a weekend I sell more licenses. But if I make it the Thursday before, we will sell fewer licenses but get more participation.”
What do you think?