View Full Version : MI: Firearms season off to much better start than '05

Bob S
11-25-2006, 08:49 PM
ARTICLE (http://www.mlive.com/outdoors/statewide/index.ssf?/base/sports-0/1164150602137130.xml&coll=1)

Saturday, November 25, 2006

By Bob Gwizdz

It may not exactly be like the good old days, but so far, the 2006 deer hunting season seems to be shaping up as an improvement from last year.

Reports from state wildlife officials around the state indicate a good harvest, good quality deer and a positive attitude from most hunters.

Department of Natural Resources wildlife supervisor Mike Bailey said he drove around the state on the third day of firearms season, stopping at seven check stations, and received positive reviews at all.

"All of them were checking slightly more deer than they did last year," Bailey said. "It was early in the season but that's one of the season's trends."

Although he acknowledged that most hunters he talks to at check stations are happy every year, the attitude this year was "excellent," Bailey said.

"We saw a considerable number of 2-, 3-, 4-year-old bucks coming in," Bailey said. "And we talked to a lot of hunters -- they all appeared to be seeing deer and were upbeat."

At the Mackinac Bridge check station, the DNR checked 528 deer over two days compared to 432 for three days last year.

"Last year, a lot of guys came back early because of that big snow storm up there," Bailey said.

In the western Upper Peninsula, biologist Bob Doepker said hunter attitude has done a 180-degree turn.

"Last year, 75 percent of the hunters were unhappy," he said. "This year, 75 percent of the hunters are pleased. All they needed was to start seeing some deer."

Doepker credited last winter's mild weather for good carryover into this year's herd and better weather for the first few days of the season, which allowed hunters to stay in the woods.

In the northwest Lower Peninsula, wildlife biologist Jeff Greene said the season has been excellent so far.

"This is the year of the buck," Greene said. "It seems to me in our area we had a combination of factors that came together to produce the nicest yearling bucks and some of the nicest older bucks that any of us can remember.

"Hunter attitude is good, as you can imagine, and the number of deer we checked -- if you average the highway check station, Cadillac, Baldwin and Traverse City -- we checked 75 percent more deer in the three days this year than we did last year."

In the northeast Lower Peninsula, biologist Glen Matthews said the number of deer checked was up about 25 percent, with a larger percentage of them bucks.

"It's pretty good," Matthews said. "Our deer check is up at most of our stations, the percent of bucks is pretty high, antler growth is better than average. We're seeing pretty good antler growth on yearling bucks and a lower percentage of spikes.

"There seems to be more smiling faces than last year."

At Bay City, DNR biologist Tim Reis said hunters were pretty happy.

"I think they saw more deer and a greater percentage of bucks," Reis said. "We've checked a greater percentage of older-age bucks at our check stations.

"We've got some very nice deer coming through and even the yearling bucks are in better shape -- even spikes have got some pretty good beam diameters on them."

In Southern Michigan, deer hunting seems to be about the same to a little better.

At Bob's Gun and Tackle shop in Hastings, Steve Hayes said it's been a pretty good season so far.

"Last year, everyone was talking about deer numbers being down," he said. "I'm not hearing that this year.

The quality of the bucks this is year is improved, too, Hayes said.

Tom Knutson at Knutson's Sporting Goods in Brooklyn said the number of deer brought in to the buck pole on opening day was up a little bit from last year, but down a little bit after five days. There seemed to be fewer hunters this year.

"Nobody's happy with a mid-week opener," he said.

"I'm hearing that they're still not seeing the numbers. But the quality of the deer is good, much better quality this year."

At the DNR's Plainwell office, biologist John Lerg said there was about a 30 percent increase in deer checked at Muskegon, though some of those deer were coming in from the north.

"The other stations are reporting pretty much the same as last year," Lerg said. "We're not seeing a lot of antlerless deer coming in yet, but that's to be expected.

"It appears antler development on year-and-half-old bucks is up from last year. We're seeing an increased number of 2 1/2-year-old deer coming in. Hunters seem to be satisfied with the number of deer they're seeing and the number of deer they're harvesting."

Overall, biologists expect the good season to continue.

"The only negative we had is, when checking with the Department of Agriculture, our harvest of corn is slightly below average, simply because of the wet weather we had this month," Bailey said. "But I'm sure corn is coming off as we speak."