Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists said today the firearm deer hunting season in the Upper Peninsula is moving ahead according to forecast, with many hunters seeing fewer deer, while others are harvesting some fantastic older bucks.
After three consecutive severe winters in the region, DNR biologists predicted hunters this firearm deer season should expect to see fewer deer in the U.P., especially in the 1 ½- and 2 ½-year-old age classes.
Two girls from Indian River display their bucksThe season opened Nov. 15 to unseasonably warm temperatures, but with colder air and snow in some areas over the past few days, hunters have anticipated improved hunting conditions.
DNR Upper Peninsula Regional Wildlife Supervisor Terry Minzey said the season so far has been great for some hunters, disappointing for others.
"We're killing some beautiful older bucks," Minzey said. "But there are large areas where we're hearing people are not seeing many deer at all."
At the 15 DNR check stations across the U.P., the harvest is down 48 percent compared to the 10-year average.
However, some check stations are up over last year. For example, the Marquette check station is 46 percent below than the 10-year average, but the number of deer checked is up 28 percent over last year.
Last November, firearm deer hunters in the U.P. harvested 14,734 bucks and 1,574 antlerless deer for a total of 16,308 deer, down 38 percent from 2013.
"By and large, this is what we anticipated," Minzey said. "The overall harvest is down. We're really hitting that older age class hard and the younger age class deer are in low numbers."
David Jentoft, a DNR wildlife biologist at the Sault Ste. Marie office, said harvest typically varies between western and eastern portions of the region.
"Based on many of our check stations, the total number of bucks checked through last Friday appears to be down about 4 percent from the same time last season across the U.P.," Jentoft said. "West U.P. stations check the majority of bucks, and are down approximately 2 percent from last year as of last Friday."
Jentoft said the reported figures represent a snapshot in time in the season and could change in the days ahead, depending on weather or other factors.
The imbalance of older to younger deer in the harvest is clearly pronounced.
"Older bucks in the harvest are way up," Minzey said.
Historically, that condition is upside down of what occurred four years ago.
Across the U.P., the percentage of bucks harvested so far that are older than 2 years is 42 percent. By comparison, in 2011, the harvest percentage of bucks over 2 years of age was 23 percent.
In 2011, the percentage of yearling bucks harvested in the U.P. was 43 percent, compared to 23 percent this year.
"Many deer appear to be in decent condition, although antler development has generally been average to below average for bucks brought in," Jentoft said. "Having said that there have been some nice bucks brought in."
The Mackinac Bridge DNR check station in St. Ignace was open Nov. 16-17. A total of 37 deer were checked there, 36 of which were bucks. This was down from the 51 deer checked there at Bridge View Park in 2014, of which 48 were bucks.Two kids watch a DNR wildlife biologist check in a buck
The Mackinac Bridge Authority said as of 11 p.m. Sunday, the tally of toll booth workers counting deer they see on southbound vehicles was down 27 percent from last year at the same time in the season.
Workers have tallied a total of 1,121 deer so far this year, compared to 1,533 deer last year at this time, a dip of 412 deer.
The DNR, Michigan Natural Resources Commission and sporting groups are continuing efforts to improve the deer population.
Long-range work is being done to preserve and enhance winter range habitat and short-range measures have been undertaken to try to preserve a larger number of does surviving the winter. This year's spring fawn crop was improved over last year.
The firearm deer hunting season continues through Nov. 30.
The DNR has an online map
pinpointing the locations of deer check stations throughout the state and hours of operation. Hunters also are urged to call ahead whenever possible to confirm hours and days of operation.
For more information on deer hunting in Michigan, visit the DNR's webpage at: www.michigan.gov/deer.
Contact: Terry Minzey, 906-485-1031, Ext 311 or John Pepin, 906-226-1352