LANSING (WWJ/AP) – About 675,000 hunters are expected to scour woods and rural areas across the state over the 16-day firearm deer season.

The state Department of Natural Resources expects Tuesday’s opening day to feature the same number of deer in the bottom half of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula as last year.

WWJ Newsradio 950 spoke with Brent Rudolph of the Department of Natural Resources, who said hunting isn’t just about sport.

“Hunting serves a number of practical purposes. Abundant deer can cause a variety of issues ranging from extensive crop damage, or problems with deer/vehicle collisions, right through impacting habitat for other wildlife,” Rudolph said.

“Abundant deer can actually selectively eat certain plants and trees and change the way the landscape looks,” he said.

Rudolph said he expects Michigan hunters will bag 200,000 of the state’s  1.6 million deer this season, although fewer hunters could take part the first day because it begins on a Tuesday and not the weekend.

Firearm deer season started on a Monday in 2010.

Rudolph says Michigan kids don’t hunt like they used to. The average Michigan deer hunter is in his 40s.

“We don’t have the rural landscape like we used to. We’d hear stories of kids growing up, used to be able to take a shotgun to school with them,” said Rudolph. “They could hunt rabbits or squirrels walking along the railroad track on the way to school and leave it there with them and hunt on the way back home again.”

“Obviously we’re generations removed from where that’s anywhere near a feasible thing to,” he said.

The DNR reported in its annual forecast last month that the deer population appeared excessive on some private lands in the northern Lower Peninsula, while numbers were rising slowly in some publicly owned areas.

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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