With an anticipated 500,000 firearm deer hunters afield in search of white-tailed deer earlier this week, early reports indicate varied success across Michigan. Warm weather and fog in some areas seem to have had an effect on deer movement.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists across the four wildlife regions have provided feedback about the start of firearm deer season.
Upper Peninsula (U.P.)
The U.P. had nice weather for the beginning of firearm season; temperatures were in the low 40s in the morning, warming to the 50s by afternoon.
“U.P. hunters, in general, understand that the deer population is at very low numbers currently,” said Ashley Autenrieth, DNR deer program biologist. “After this past mild winter, they are happy to see some does and fawns. Many have reported seeing a good number of yearling bucks (even if just on trail cameras), which is good news.
“Deer registered at check stations seem to be in very good condition. Hunting pressure across the U.P. seems to be mixed, with few shots being heard in some areas especially during the day, while other hunters heard up to 15 shots in some areas.”
After three consecutive tough U.P. winters, beginning with the winter of 2012-13, last winter’s relatively mild conditions were expected to have aided the region’s deer population.
“There have been some really nice deer checked at our U.P. DNR deer check stations over the past couple of days,” said John Pepin, DNR deputy public information officer. “So far, the number of deer checked has improved a little bit over last year, which is in line with an increase in checked deer we saw during the archery deer season through October.”
Northern Lower Peninsula (N.L.P.)
The fog had an impact on the first two days of firearm season in the N.L.P. That, coupled with warmer temperatures, seems to be putting a damper on hunters seeing and harvesting deer in this region.
“Overall,” Autenrieth said, “season numbers are similar to slightly down across most of the region.”
Hunters don’t seem deterred though. Biologists report most hunters are enjoying the nice weather and anticipating success will improve as the season progresses. The deer being registered at DNR check stations appear healthy, with some notably nice bucks being harvested off public land. Most bucks being harvested are either 2.5 or 3.5 years old.
The DNR reminds hunters in areas in or near DMU 487 to submit the heads of their deer to test for bovine tuberculosis at a DNR check station.
Southwestern Lower Peninsula (S.W.L.P.)
Similar to the N.L.P., the fog has been a hindrance in the S.W.L.P. Since weather is warm, hunters appear to be choosing to go to processors before bringing their deer in to be checked, except in the Core CWD Area, where deer check is mandatory.
Autenrieth said that impressive antler beam measurements have been noted for all age classes of bucks this year. Corn in this region is about 85 to 90 percent down, which should help once the weather gets a bit colder.
Don’t forget, due to finding chronic wasting disease (CWD), there is mandatory deer registration in the Core CWD Area, which includes 17 townships in the southern Lower Peninsula.
Learn more about chronic wasting disease and how you can help by visiting mi.gov/cwd.
Southeastern Lower Peninsula (S.E.L.P.)
“Deer check numbers are slightly down from last year, but this seems to be due to warmer temperatures and much of the corn in the area still being up,” said Autenrieth. “Even so, hunters are in good spirits and have been very receptive to the CWD regulations near them and seem happy to help in the hopes of combating the disease.”
Russ Mason, DNR wildlife chief, visited area check stations in the southeast and central portion of the Lower Peninsula for the first couple days of deer check.
“I always enjoy getting out and talking with hunters at this important time of the year,” said Mason. “I have seen a lot of good deer come through. Check stations seem to be picking up; there was definitely an uptick in deer being checked during archery season in many places.
“I like to hear what we do well, and where there are opportunities for improvement, and yes, I’m hearing some great new ideas on how we can improve.”
DNR check stations are located across the state and have varied hours. Find the check station nearest you on the 2016 Deer Check Station Map.
Through Wednesday, Nov. 16, just over 1.2 million deer hunting licenses were purchased from nearly 560,000 deer hunters in Michigan since March, including 107,654 sold Monday, just prior to Tuesday’s opener.
The firearm deer season runs Nov. 15-30.
For more information on deer hunting in Michigan, visit the DNR’s webpage at www.michigan.gov/deer.