MARQUETTE - Nine-year-old Hailey Hytinen was planning to miss school today to go hunting with her grandpa in northern Marquette County.
Instead, her mother said the Ishpeming girl couldn't wait to go to school today to show classmates pictures of the 8-point buck she bagged Saturday from a homemade booster chair. The rifle shot went through the heart at 120 yards.
"She was hunting from a ground blind, it's one of those pop-up blinds," said Jennifer Hytinen-Polkki, Hailey's mother, who also hunts.
Hailey Hytinen, 9, of Ishpeming with the 8-point buck she shot from a ground blind Saturday in northern Marquette County. (Hytinen family photo)
Hytinen was hunting with her grandfather, John Hytinen of Ishpeming, through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' Youth Mentoring Program.
The two were set up on land where the family has a trailer on and John Hytinen has hunted since the 1970s.
Hailey had seen the buck from her blind on an initial pass.
"She freaked out," her mother said. "She clammed up at first because she had seen the horns."
The deer left, but came back a few minutes later. With her grandpa sitting next to her, the girl aimed her youth model .243-caliber Savage rifle and shot the buck. Her mother heard the blast.
"I thought it was her. She's been into hunting and she loves fishing since she's been able to walk," her mother said. "She loves being outside."
The girl's deer was brought to the DNR check station in Marquette Sunday. The 4-year-old buck weighed 237 pounds -197 pounds dressed.
DNR biologist Brian Roell said so far this firearm deer season, other hunters across the region haven't been as lucky as Hytinen.
"We're down," Roell said, referring to reports from across the region. "I think a lot of it has to do with the weather. Fifty degrees and rain is not really conducive to deer moving around."
A total of 24 deer were checked at the Marquette station Sunday, down from a 10-year third day of the hunt average of 34. Another 20 deer were checked in at the Marquette station Saturday.
Roell said a high percentage of 2-year-old bucks were being checked. He said last winter's harsh conditions, which caused a lot of deer to starve in the northern snowbelt portions of the region, were being evidenced in the deer being harvested this fall.
"We're seeing each day that our percentage of yearling bucks is down," Roell said.
Meanwhile, the number of wolves shot since the hunt began Friday has also been low.
As of 6 a.m. today, a total of six wolves have been killed. Four have been shot in Unit B, leaving a quota of 15 remaining there; and one wolf was killed in units A and C. Fifteen more wolves may be harvested from Unit A and seven from Unit C.
Roell said he thought the wolf harvest numbers would be low. He also expected many hunters would find it more difficult to harvest a wolf than they expected.
"I've been worried that we may not get our quota in some of these units," Roell said.
A total of 43 wolves are scheduled to be harvested by 1,200 hunters with tags. The percentage of successful hunters is expected to be roughly 4 percent.
Roell said a lot of the wolf hunters are opportunistic. He said they are visiting the area with wolf tags, but hunting deer is their primary focus.
Having shot their bucks and not seen any wolves, those hunters were returning downstate, not planning to come back to pursue wolves.
The firearm deer season continues through Nov. 30. The wolf hunt will continue until Dec. 31 or until the quotas for each of the wolf management units are filled.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.