MARQUETTE - As the muzzleloader season for deer kicked off Friday, Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials reported an increase in the deer kill this year from the two-week firearm deer season, which ended Nov. 30.
The 10-day muzzleloader season opened Friday in the Upper Peninsula. DNR officials were reminding hunters they must possess appropriate licenses. Either a firearm deer license or combination deer license is required to take an antlered buck. An antlerless deer license is required to take antlerless deer. Antler point restrictions and baiting restrictions that applied in earlier seasons remain in effect.
An additional advisory was issued for crossbow hunters: only hunters with a certified disability may use a crossbow or a modified bow during the muzzleloader season in the Upper Peninsula. This restriction applies to the Upper Peninsula only.
All deer hunters are required to wear hunter orange during muzzleloader season.
Meanwhile, the DNR said the firearm deer season harvest may be up as much as 10 percent over last year in the U.P., according to preliminary estimates.
Each year the DNR generates estimates of the firearm deer harvest shortly after the season closes on Nov. 30. Those estimates are replaced by a rigorous assessment of harvest and participation over all deer seasons using an annual hunter mail survey.
Biologists said the 2012 firearm deer season harvest statewide appears similar or up slightly compared to the 2011 season. Experiences can differ widely within regions. DNR biologists estimate the harvest was very similar to last year in the northern Lower Peninsula. Experiences in the southern Lower Peninsula varied widely and harvest in that region is expected to be anywhere from 5 percent lower to 5 percent higher compared to 2011.
At the Mackinac Bridge, toll booth workers logged a 13 percent increase in the number of deer they spotted on vehicles during this year's firearm season over last year.
Deer counts are tallied three times each day and reported by the Mackinac Bridge Authority. The counts take place from Nov. 15 through Dec. 3.
This year, a total of 6,460 deer were tallied, compared to 5,731 deer last year, an increase of 729 deer.
DNR officials said that into the first few days of the firearm season, the number of individuals that purchased a deer license was up 2 percent compared to the same point in 2011.
Firearm season check station activity also increased this year in the Upper Peninsula and southern Lower Peninsula, but was about the same in the northern Lower Peninsula. Check station data indicated deer were in good condition, with improvements to key measurements compared to 2011.
"Hunters coming to deer check stations have a great opportunity to contribute data that we use to manage the resources they care so much about," said Dr. Russ Mason, DNR Wildlife Division chief.
Brent Rudolph, DNR Wildlife Division Deer and Elk Program leader, stressed the importance of cooperation with the hunter harvest survey, which he called "another vital tool for Michigan's deer program, and another way in which data provided by hunters contributes to our information base."
Hunters that do not receive a survey in the mail but wish to provide their hunting and harvest information may visit www.michigan.gov/deer and select the "Deer Harvest Reporting Form" link. Hunters should only provide this information once they have completed all of their 2012 hunting activities, including seasons open through as late as Jan. 1, 2013.
For information about hunting in Michigan, including regulations, season dates and bag limits, go to www.michigan.gov/hunting.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is email@example.com.