There's still a lot of talk across the region about the potential moose hunt in the Upper Peninsula since the Legislature approved such a hunt late last year.
The talk spiked again recently when we ran an article about the biennial moose survey being done this month by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
The last survey in 2009 estimated the moose population at about 420 in the west-central U.P. Biologists estimate there are fewer than 100 additional moose scattered across the eastern U.P.
Preparing for a “moose hunt” back in February 1994 are, from left, Department of Natural Resources Director Roland Harmes, DNR wildlife biologist Jim Hammill and DNR veterinarian Steve Schmitt. (Journal file photo by Dave Schneider)
The survey picks up a little more urgency this time around, seeing the results will be used by the DNRE and the Michigan Natural Resources Commission when the rules for a moose hunt are being developed, including how many kill tags to issue.
With all this talk of hunting moose, I recalled a U.P. "moose hunt" I went on several years ago.
I can remember it like yesterday - it was a frigid morning in February 1994 when the hunting party met up along the Peshekee Grade north of Champion, not far from where the moose were released in 1985 and '87.
Then-DNR Director Roland Harmes was among the hunters, as were DNR wildlife biologists John Hendrickson and Jim Hammill and DNR veterinarian Steve Schmitt.
We strapped on snowshoes and loaded the guns as Schmitt adjusted the antenna on his radio receiver. You see, we had an advantage over most hunters in the U.P. - we were hunting moose that were wearing radio-transmitter collars.
We had a chance at bagging a big cow, too, but the shooter's aim was off as a quick shot was taken at the running animal. If we had shot it, it would have been down only a brief time while the team of researchers quickly collected data that was being used during the project that had been ongoing for nine years at that time.
In the winter of 1993-94, the DNR estimated the U.P. moose herd had grown to about 265 animals, a little more than five times the total of 59 moose that were released in 1985 and '87.
While that was a good number of animals, it was far behind the hoped for growth rate when the project was launched, which would have resulted in 1,000 moose by the year 2000. Back in the mid-1980s the DNR said if that goal of a 1,000 was reached, a highly controlled hunting season could be justified.
That goal was never reached, obviously, and 10 years after the deadline the population is still way below that level, unless you believe the legislators' estimate of 800 to 1,000 animals rather than the wildlife biologists' much more conservative estimate.
I hope this winter's survey gives an accurate picture of the moose population in the U.P., and that state officials use that data when deciding whether any moose at all should be hunted.
Editor's note: City Editor Dave Schneider can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.