Upper Peninsula Focus: Firearm Deer Season Opens with Improvement Over Last Year

Donald Erickson, left, and son Ryan Erickson, both of Ishpeming, checked in their 10-point and 8-point bucks Monday at the DNR check station in Marquette. The deer were shot opening day in Marquette County.
Donald Erickson, left, and son Ryan Erickson, both of Ishpeming, checked in their 10-point and 8-point bucks Monday at the DNR check station in Marquette. The deer were shot opening day in Marquette County.
Michigan DNR MDNR
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Lansing, MI -(AmmoLand.com)- Michigan Department of Natural Resources staff said Sunday’s opening day of the firearm deer hunting season was improved in some parts of the Upper Peninsula over last year, based on reports from deer check stations.

Across the region, temperatures reached the low 50s, with sunny skies, though lingering snow that had fallen earlier in the week remained on the ground in some places. Last year, much of the northwestern part of the U.P. was buried under 3 to 4 feet of snow by opening day, in the wake of a strong winter storm that began Nov. 10 and continued for three days, followed by lake-effect snow showers.

At the Marquette DNR check station, one deer was checked on opening day last November. This year, the Marquette station checked six deer, closer to the 10-year average of 10 deer brought in on opening day.

“Last year, we didn’t really have a deer season here at Marquette,” said DNR wildlife technician Bill Rollo. “That deep snow shut things down in a lot of areas. Even if we have a poor season this year, it will be better than last year.”

Last November, firearm deer hunters in the U.P. harvested 14,734 bucks and 1,574 antlerless deer for a total of 16,338 deer, down 38 percent from 2013. After three consecutive severe winters in the region, DNR biologists said 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.

A National Weather Service map showing some of the snowfall depths recorded before last year’s opening day of the firearm deer season in the Upper Peninsula.
A National Weather Service map showing some of the snowfall depths recorded before last year’s opening day of the firearm deer season in the Upper Peninsula.

Numbers of deer checked Sunday at stations across the U.P. varied from nine at Escanaba, the six checked at Marquette, three at Crystal Falls and one each at Baraga and Shingleton. At the Mackinac Bridge, tollbooth workers count the number of deer they see on southbound vehicles. The annual count began at 7 a.m. Sunday. Counts are tallied three times daily.

Owen LaBonte, 8, and his dad, Matt LaBonte, both of Wilson, harvested this 8-point buck in Menominee County on opening day. Owen’s dad shot the buck and Owen found the deer. It was Owen’s first deer hunt.

As of 7 a.m. today, bridge workers had counted a total of six deer, compared to zero at the same time in the season last year. At Escanaba, the nine deer checked was the same number as in 2014 on opening day.

“The quality of the bucks may have been slightly better than opening day last year,” said DNR wildlife biologist Dusty Arsnoe.

Arsnoe said that as expected, deer condition seemed to trend with proximity to agriculture.

“The majority of the deer we checked had average antler development and body condition based on their age,” Arsnoe said. “We did check two bucks that had good antler development for their age.”

Arsnoe said hunters reported seeing fewer deer and similar numbers as last year.

“Most hunters thought the nice weather conditions were limiting deer movement and they observed less rutting activity than they expected,” Arsnoe said.

At the DNR check station in Sault Ste. Marie, DNR wildlife biologist David Jentoft said no deer were checked there Sunday. At a buck pole in Newberry, seven bucks were checked.

“Check station activity for the firearm season is getting off to a relatively slow start as anticipated,” Jentoft said. “The number of bucks checked yesterday in the western U.P. is similar to last year, and most bucks checked so far have been 2 ½ and 3 ½ years old or older.”

Jentoft said there were hunters out in the woods.

“The weather was unseasonably warm (upper 40s to low 50s) and sunny with light winds, which was very different than the snowy conditions experienced a year ago,” Jentoft said. “There has been activity at a number of traditional deer camps, as well as a number of cars parked along roadways indicating that at least there are some people out hunting.”

The largest deer checked Sunday at the Marquette station was an 8-point buck. At Escanaba, the oldest deer checked was a 3-year-old 10-pointer.

A 10-point buck checked in at the DNR check station in Escanaba on opening day. The deer was shot in Delta County.
A 10-point buck checked in at the DNR check station in Escanaba on opening day. The deer was shot in Delta County.

As of Sunday, 1.2 million deer hunting licenses had been purchased by Michigan residents, including 59,694 by residents living in the U.P. Statewide, 124,338 residents bought hunting licenses Saturday and 22,766 on opening day.

DNR wildlife technician Bill Rollo, at the Marquette check station, gets ready to weigh a buck shot Sunday in Marquette County by Randy Britton of Marquette.

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, visit the DNR’s webpage at www.michigan.gov/deer.

Owen LaBonte, 8, and his dad, Matt LaBonte, both of Wilson, harvested this 8-point buck in Menominee County on opening day. Owen’s dad shot the buck and Owen found the deer. It was Owen’s first deer hunt.
Owen LaBonte, 8, and his dad, Matt LaBonte, both of Wilson, harvested this 8-point buck in Menominee County on opening day. Owen’s dad shot the buck and Owen found the deer. It was Owen’s first deer hunt.

About the Michigan Department of Natural Resources:

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations.

For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.

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