HOUGHTON - Even though recreational deer feeding is observed year-round, supplemental deer feeding begins the first Monday of the new year, which is right around the corner.
And recently, the Michigan House of Representatives passed a bill proposed by Rep. Mike Lahti, D-Hancock, that continues to give authority to the Natural Resources Commission to regulate supplemental deer feeding. The bill allows for extended the sunset dates on deer and elk feeding, which is important and supported locally in the Copper Country.
Jerry Fehrmann, an outdoorsman affiliated with several local sportsmen's clubs, said deer feeding in the four-county area is supported by a number of individuals and different organizations, including the Lake Linden-Hubbell Sportsmen's Club, Calumet-Keweenaw Sportsmen's Club and U.P. Whitetails of the Keweenaw north of the Portage Lake Lift Bridge and Whitetails Unlimited Tri-County/Houghton south of the bridge, Fehrmann said.
"With the amount of money to be raised with costs and surcharges, these organizations help out tremendously," he said.
With the help of the Lake Linden-Hubbell Sportsmen's Club fishing derby and raffle ticket sales and the Calumet Sportsmen's Club gun show in August, all proceeds go to the deer feed program. Whitetails Unlimited Tri-County/Houghton and U.P. Whitetails of the Keweenaw help distribute one semi truck load of feed to the Lake Linden-Hubbell Sportsmen's Club and the Calumet-Keweenaw Sportsmen's Club, he said, causing the need for aggressive fundraising to acquire funds for the high-grade, 14 percent crude protein content pellet feed.
"Distribution of the feed falls on the shoulders of the two clubs," Fehrmann said.
In addition, Whitetails Unlimited of the Tri-County raises the bulk of contributed funds at a banquet in the later part of February each year and U.P. Whitetails of the Keweenaw raises money in a banquet each September.
"Both organizations share with the Lake Linden-Hubbell Sportsmen's Club and the Calumet-Keweenaw Sportsmen's Club," he said. "Alone, it would very difficult to be successful because of the large amount of money needing to be raised."
Every year, deer feed is put out by recreational feeders - people who purchase and put out their own feed - and supplemental feeding, which is assisted by the clubs.
"It is monitored by the Department of Natural Resources and there are restrictions and limitations," Fehrmann said. "You need to get permits and in the end, send the volume of feed put out to the DNR and give them an overall view of how feeding went."
The DNR uses the information so they can monitor the number of deer that are coming in and also to be sure the deer are being fed properly. Using little to no corn is ideal for deer, because the starch in corn settles in a deer's stomach and can result in death. Formulas of feed, containing a realm of nutrients, are put in place and meant to sustain the deer population.
"Also, the DNR want to be sure the deer aren't being fed close to a highway and they want to keep it in a rural area," he said.
Unlike supplemental feeding, recreational feeding involves a smaller portion of deer feed and is mostly meant for feeders located in traditional deer yards, Fehrmann said.
"Another segment of society quietly goes about recreation feeding," Fehrmann said. "Recreational feeders feed about 10 to 15 resident deer."
Deer migrate to deer yards and recreational feeders are expected to follow rules as well, such as feeding within 100 yards of residents. Recreational feeders also must not put out more than two gallons of feed at a time by rule.
"Both (supplemental and recreational feeding) play a huge role," he said. "The organizations help out significantly. Those folks are the finest stewards."
Deer feeding is important to avoid starvation, Fehrmann said, and a lot of people feed deer just for fun. Most people are trying to either sustain a huntable herd or support hunting and sustaining the predator population.
"Our deer herd in the Copper Country did not happen by accident," he said.
Stacey Kukkonen can be reached at skukkonen@ mininggazette.com.