MARQUETTE - At the midpoint of the 2012 hunting season, hunters and experts alike report seeing a large number of deer in the woods.
Mackinaw Bridge Authority officials tallied exactly 3,958 deer as of Wednesday morning that crossed from the Upper Peninsula to the Lower Peninsula, just 14 fewer than last season when the tally was at 3,972.
But for hunters in the area, including Bob Vivian of downstate Fenton, who owns a camp near Baraga, this has been the best season in his near half-century of hunting in the U.P.
Bill Rollo, wildlife technician for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources office in Marquette, checks the age of one of two bucks shot by Bob Vivian of downstate Fenton. Vivian shot one on opening day and the second last Monday. Vivian came up to Marquette with his father, Bob senior, and brother Mike. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
"This is the best (season) I've ever had and I've been hunting up here for over 40 years," Vivian said. "I killed two big bucks-an eight point and a nine point. I have the combination license where I could take two bucks and that's the first time I've ever done that, it was just a great season."
The combination license offers hunters the option of two kill tags per season, which becomes very helpful for someone in Vivian's situation.
"I had two kill tags and I spent them both so I'm not able to hunt anymore," he said. "For me, I killed a buck on opening morning, so if I would not have had the combination license, I would have been done hunting on opening day. I wouldn't have been able to hunt anymore."
And while hunters like Vivian got the opportunity to come north for a couple days of the hunting season, many hunters in the Lower Peninsula are suffering from the spread of epizootic hemorrhagic disease in southern Lower Michigan deer populations. The disease has killed more than 12,500 deer in the past months, and has also affected nearly 30 counties in southwestern Lower Michigan.
According to the Department of Natural Resources website, hunters in the U.P. have been observing more deer this year, as buck numbers are up, and fawn production appears to have been good this spring and summer.
The DNR has also found that the number of deer checked has been similar to last year in the eastern U.P., while some areas of the central U.P. are seeing their highest numbers of deer checked in several years.
License sales in the state of Michigan were also up 2 percent more in 2012 than in 2011, with nearly 640,000 hunters purchasing licenses this season.
However with the arrival of the season came unseasonably warm temperatures and, therefore, a less-than-ideal hunting atmosphere, with some hunters even opting out of opening day when temperatures were too warm for their liking.
"The weather was actually a little too nice," Vivian said. "But it was a good season. My buddy was up and killed a seven point on my property, and my dad and brother saw a lot of deer."
With warmer weather, the possibility of tracking snow is lacking or nonexistent in most of the state, and deer also tend to lie down and become less active when warmer temperatures come in.
Yet most of the state has seen at least a couple chilly mornings thus far this season, which offers the best hunting conditions according to the DNR.
Midday temperatures have also been unseasonably warmer than normal as well, causing substantially less deer activity, but Vivian found some luck regardless of that, noting he shot his second deer on Monday at around 2:30 in the afternoon.