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DNR offers firearm deer season update: An increase of 12% in regional deer checked noted

Michigan Conservation Officer Jennifer Hanson checks a tag on a deer kill in the western Upper Peninsula. The DNR just released an update for the firearm deer season. (Photo courtesy of the DNR)

MARQUETTE — Into this year’s firearm deer hunting season, which began Nov. 15, wildlife biologists with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources report an average 12% increase in the number of deer checked at stations across the region.

The preliminary results, reported as of the end of Saturday, also show a 2% increase over the 10-year average.

“Approximately 90% of the deer checked have been bucks,” said David Jentoft, DNR wildlife biologist at Sault Ste. Marie, in a news release. “Check stations were busy early last week, and activity generally slowed later in the week.”

He said check station activity might pick up again after the weekend.

Check stations will be open through Wednesday, and then closed during the Thanksgiving holiday.

DNR staffers report deer brought to check stations generally have been in good condition, with most bucks checked — 85% — having been 2.5 years old or older. Antler development has varied. 

Some older bucks have had fair antler development, with spikes, forks and smaller racks. However, some have had good antler development. In general, though, the DNR reported that antler development seems to be below average in older bucks.

Hunters have generally reported good deer numbers, including bucks, and seem happy with the season.

At the Marquette station, 261 deer have been checked, representing a 22% increase from 2018. Compared to the 10-year-average, numbers were up 15%.

A total of 449 were checked at the Escanaba station, which was 20% up from last season and 3% up compared to the 10-year average. In Baraga, 102 deer were checked, showing an increase from 2018 of 12% but a decrease of 1% compared to the 10-year average.

Results from other stations including the number of deer checked, the comparison with 2018 and the 10-year average, were, respectively: Crystal Falls, 140, 9% decrease and a 1% increase; Newberry, 261, 1% decrease and 22% increase; Sault Ste. Marie, 13, 35% decrease and 51% decrease; and Norway, 166, with a decrease of 9% from 2018 — numbers aren’t available for the 10-year average.

The DNR reported weather conditions have been good overall, with a few exceptions, one being high snow depths in some northern areas of the eastern Upper Peninsula.

“The higher snow depths spurred deer migration out of those areas and prevented some hunters from being able to get to their hunting spots, Jentoft said. “Many areas started with snow early in the firearm season, but snow has been melting and has receded in some areas as temperatures on many days have been above freezing.”

The DNR also said hunters have been submitting deer head samples for chronic wasting disease testing, particularly in and near the CWD Surveillance Area that comprises parts of Delta, Dickinson and Menominee counties. However, more samples from the core area will be needed to meeting testing goals there.

For a list of DNR check stations, including hours of operation and directions to the locations, visit Michigan.gov/DeerCheck; for more information on CWD, see Michigan.gov/CWD.

The DNR also reported the number of deer licenses sold across Michigan since March 1 and through Sunday totaled 1,226,250, compared to 1,264,278 in 2018. The number of distinct deer hunting license customers statewide so far this year is 573,691 versus 595,275 in 2018.