MARQUETTE - With only one day left in this fall's firearm deer season, the number of deer harvested continued to track behind last year.
At the Mackinac Bridge, this year's count of deer kills observed by toll booth staff on southbound vehicles was down 37 percent over last year, as of today's 7 a.m. count.
The count of 3,893 deer kills for this year's season at the Mackinac Straits compared unfavorably with last season's total of 6,206 over the same time period.
Adam Dollar, 14, made his first buck a big one when he bagged this 10-pointer that dressed out at 188 pounds on opening day near his family’s 80-acre property in a remote area of northwestern Marquette County west of Big Bay. Hunting with his father, John Dollar, he had to wait a bit for a clear shot at the buck, which initially stared down the pair in their blind, then went behind some trees. (Journal photo illustration by Steve Brownlee)
Mackinac Bridge Authority staff said many of the hunters coming through the toll booths had complained about the warm weather negatively affecting the deer hunt.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Brian Roell said today colder weather over the weekend, with snow in some areas, may improve the situation.
"I suspect we may pick up a little bit today," Roell said, referring to check station counts in Marquette, which are down 15 percent over last year, as of last Wednesday.
There were 313 deer kills checked at the DNR station in Marquette so far this season, compared to 368 last year.
Before the season began Nov. 15, DNR wildlife biologists had predicted a drop in the deer kill this fall based on rough winter weather over the past couple of years.
At the midpoint in the season, the DNR check station in Marquette, the number of deer checked was 236, down from 273 at the same time last year.
Roell said that in addition to warm temperatures, hunters have also said deer were not responding to bait with a good deal of natural food available.
The mild temperatures did not urge deer to move southward, as they would in colder weather.
"Deer just had no reason to move," Roell said.
With the colder weather arriving late, deer hunters during the upcoming muzzleloading season might fare better.
"It could be a great muzzleloading season," Roell said. "We'll have to wait and see how it plays out."
Of the deer checked at the Marquette station, many were 2 -year-olds. Typically, about 60 percent of the deer kills are 1 -year-olds. But check station personnel are not seeing those deer being checked.
"The age class has diminished and that's what we predicted with the winters the past couple of years," Roell said.
At the midpoint in the deer hunting season, the Mackinac Bridge count was 3,048 deer, down from 4,332 deer at this time last year.
Bridge counters tally their results at 7 a.m. and 3 and 11 p.m. daily through today.
The DNR check station in Marquette will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, excluding holidays, through Jan. 8. Muzzleloading season in the Upper Peninsula begins Friday and goes through Dec. 13.