DNR reports initial drop in deer numbers

Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife assistant Mark Bash gets ready to weigh a buck at the Marquette check station. The firearm deer season runs through Nov. 30. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

MARQUETTE — Mixed results for the Upper Peninsula are in following Friday’s firearm deer season opener in Michigan.

Wildlife biologists with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources reported an initial drop in the number of deer checked at stations across the U.P. since Friday, compared to the same time period in 2018.

At the Marquette station, numbers are down 4% but up 24% in a 10-year average comparison.

Other results for this season so far and a 10-year average comparison are, respectively: Baraga, 23% down and 16% down; Crystal Falls, 13% down and 4% up; Escanaba, 9% down and 11% down; and Newberry, 18% down and 16% up.

Norway had 52 deer registered through Sunday, which the DNR said appeared to be down slightly from 2018 as well.

“All of these figures, which are through Sunday, are preliminary and numerous factors — such as snow depth, hunter participation, day of the week of opening day and temperatures, among others — can affect comparisons between given years,” said John Pepin, DNR deputy public information officer, in a news release.

When compared to the 10-year average, though, some check stations were up from last year, he said.

“On average, we appear to be down about 14% from the same time in 2018,” DNR wildlife biologist David Jentoft said in a news release, describing the region-wide results. “However, this is just a quick snapshot. This will likely change as the season moves on.”

Wildlife biologist observations include:

≤ Bucks comprise a majority of deer checked at U.P. DNR check stations.

≤ Deer have had good body condition and about average antler development.

≤ Staff report seeing quite a few 2.5-year-old and older bucks coming in but not as many young bucks so far.

≤ Many hunters are reporting seeing good deer numbers, including bucks, and hunter attitudes generally have been good.

≤ Hunting conditions were a little tough on opening day in some areas with strong winds and snow in some areas. Temperatures started in the upper 20s but dropped through the day.

≤ The second day started cold but warmed up and conditions have been favorable since in most areas through Sunday, although northern parts of the eastern U.P. have received as much as 30 inches of snow. This scenario has spurred deer migration and caused some hunters to be unable to reach their camps or hunting locations. 

≤ Regarding chronic wasting disease, hunters in or near the Core CWD Surveillance Area have been interested in having their deer tested for disease. Hunters in other places have been asking some questions, but few have submitted samples for testing. All deer that have come into the Norway check station have been tested.

≤ In some areas, hunters were not aware check station weekend hours were available. The DNR suggests visiting Michigan.gov/DeerCheck.

≤ Staff, particularly at southern U.P. stations, indicated their stations have been busy.

The DNR reported the number of deer licenses sold across Michigan through Sunday since March 1 totaled 1,189,912, compared to 1,224,520 in 2018. The number of distinct deer hunting license customers statewide so far this year is 557,920 versus 576,601 in 2018.

In the U.P., the number of deer licenses bought by residents since March 1 through Sunday totaled 65,750, compared to 66,256 over the same time period in 2018. The number of residents who bought deer hunting licenses in the 15 counties since March 1 totaled 41,706, compared to 42,748 in 2018.

The firearm deer season runs through Nov. 30.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.


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