RUTLAND CHARTER TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Wednesday is the opening day of firearm deer season in Michigan but the Department of Natural Resources expects fewer hunters will be participating this year.  

Bob’s Gun and Tackle near Hastings has seen a lot of customers stocking up on supplies before opening day. 

The owners and hunters want to see the younger generation get more involved. 

“My dad made it exciting and fun for myself and I’m trying to do the same for my nephew and children,” said customer Justin Peck.

While the store has a loyal customer base, the owners have noticed the overall drop in the number of Michiganders participating in deer hunting.

Bob's Gun & Tackle Shop near Hastings advertises a deer hunters sale. (Nov. 14, 2023)
Bob’s Gun & Tackle Shop near Hastings advertises a deer hunters sale. (Nov. 14, 2023)

“I think over the years there has been a steady decline in the hunter base and through COVID we saw those numbers pick back up for two or three years and they’re starting to edge back downward again,” said owner Steve Hayes. 

The DNR says in 2000 there were more than 800,000 deer hunters and expects about 550,000 to participate this year, according to Chad Stewart a deer, elk, and moose management specialist.  

“Within a 20-plus year period, we’ve lost about a quarter of a million deer hunters in Michigan and we expect that trend to continue at least for the next 10 years as hunters in their 60s and 70s start to age out,” Stewart said.  

The DNR has tried ways to increase participation among young people like with adding youth hunts. 

“We’re really faced with sort of a new normal with fewer hunters on our landscape because a lot of our recruitment and retention efforts to get more hunters in is really difficult to scale up,” Stewart said.       

Longtime hunters like Bill Kriekaard, who has been hunting for 57 years, hopes the tradition will carry on and more young people will learn how to hunt.  

“There isn’t any no more. They’re all playing video games or something, you know? They don’t get outside,” Kriekaard said.