LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — It’s an unofficial holiday in Michigan. Firearm deer hunting season began Wednesday morning at sunrise, and more than a half-million Michiganders have been looking forward to it.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says this decades-long tradition has some new rules, and that they are seeing fewer hunters hit the woods.

On opening day at Rose Lake Park in Bath, everyone’s got buck fever.

“It’s a holiday for us. A lot of people take it off work or pull their kids out of school,” said Curtis Hoskins, who has been hunting since he was 4 years old.

People could be seen all around with their hunting gear, like Taylor Horn, who drove into town from Livonia.

Hoskins, who was excited in his hunter orange and camouflage gear, was already thinking about eating.

“Filet mignon, deer. It’s delicious,” Hoskins said.

For many, the season is a family tradition and a time to make special memories.

“My son, he shot his first deer this year. On the same property that I shot mine. I don’t even care that I haven’t shot one. That was the best thing that could’ve ever happened to us this year,” Hoskins said.

The DNR anticipates 350,000 deer will be taken down. But even with those numbers, DNR wildlife biologist Chad Fedewa says the sport isn’t as popular as it once was. 

“About 20 years ago, we had about 800,000 licensed deer hunters in the state of Michigan. This year, we’re expecting about 550,000. So as hunter numbers are declining, deer population numbers are increasing,” Fedewa said.

“This is a time many hunters look forward to, but it’s also important to know that this is the second year you’ve got to report your harvest,” Fedewa added. “Hunters are now required to report their harvest online. And that’s a new thing for most hunters.”

Hunters can do their reporting on Michigan’s official DNR app.

Even though many are aging out of deer hunting, Hoskins hopes people will reconsider being trained to help decrease deer numbers.

“If we don’t eat it, you know, I donate to some people. And it’s just a family tradition with us,” Fedewa said.

DNR officials say hunting more antlerless deer can also cut down Michigan’s deer population since those kinds of deer tend to be female and won’t reproduce more fawns. The last day of firearm season is Nov. 30.