Article Posted: November 21, 2001

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LANSING--Thanks to mild temperatures, which allowed hunters to stay in the field longer, deer hunting efforts appear up significantly in many parts of the state during the first week of the 2001 firearm deer season, according to field reports compiled by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Hunting Conditions

Although this has been the warmest opener since 1990, hunting conditions are quite good. The mild temperatures, along with early morning fog and dew, have given hunters excellent sitting and walking conditions. High temperatures were in the 60s each of the first three days, and low temperatures remained above 32 degrees in most areas. Winds have been moderate to calm on most days. Deer were hard to see, impossible to hear and just were not detected by hunters.

Corn harvest is slightly behind normal, providing escape cover for deer in some areas. The roads were reasonably dry providing good access to all areas.

Hunter Numbers and Attitude

Hunter numbers on public lands were similar to last year. Private land hunter numbers appeared to be similar or slightly down from past years, with areas of both heavier and lighter than normal pressure reported.

Hunter attitude has been very positive so far. Complaints generally were about the warm weather. In a few areas, hunters returned home early to keep their deer from spoiling. This may suggest a reduction in effort. Department field staff have heard from a few hunters who noted that it appears the deer herd is down in their area, but these observations are few in number and could be attributed to weather conditions.

Deer Numbers and Deer Behavior

Deer populations may have stabilized over most of Michigan at levels below peak populations of the mid-1990s. However, deer numbers remain above the DNR goal in many deer management units. Many hunters remarked that for the health of the herd, we needed fewer deer.

Hunter reports and a recent upswing in car-deer accidents indicate that many of the bucks began serious rutting activity about a week before gun deer season began. Several hunters have reported seeing rutting behavior, bucks chasing does. However, the milder temperatures have tempered some of this activity and cooler temperatures are sure to get the bucks moving again.

Harvest Impressions

Field units generally are reporting that more deer have been checked this year than last year. The number of deer reported at highway check stations initially appeared down from 2000, possibly because 92 separate stations were open this year. To date, more than 20,000 deer have been examined at DNR check stations. With the very warm temperatures it is expected that many hunters would return early from the North Country. This did not really occur until Sunday, Nov. 18. Many hunters purchased large amounts of ice and stayed in camp, or they took their deer straight to the processors and the DNR will not see them until they bring in the deer heads at a later date. Processors across the state were busy and had to refuse many deer for lack of space.

Antler development again appears to be above normal throughout most of the state. In the northeast, yearling bucks continue to improve in condition. A very large 8-point buck was checked at the Lost Nation State Game Area check station--potentially scoring in the 180+ range.

Although it appears that similar numbers of antlerless deer are being checked, there is some indication that the number of fawns being brought in are down. Yet, many hunters report they are seeing many fawns. Hunters may be selecting against fawns.

More Opportunity

For the remainder of this firearm season that ends Nov. 30, there should be excellent opportunities to hunt many private land areas in the Lower Peninsula with permission. Generally, permission to private land is easier to
obtain after the opening weekend. Excellent deer numbers remain in southern Michigan and with more cornfields being harvested and a return to more seasonal temperatures, hunting opportunities should improve.

A Final Reminder to U.P. Hunters

In an effort to prevent the accidental killing of gray wolves, hunters in the Upper Peninsula are reminded that COYOTE HUNTING IS PROHIBITED during the 16-day firearm deer season. Two wolves reportedly were killed during the first few days of deer season. DNR Conservation Officers are investigating both incidents for referral to local prosecutors.

The gray wolf is protected by both the state and federal government as an endangered species. A person convicted for killing a wolf can face up to 90 days in jail, $1,000 in fines and $1,500 restitution, plus revocation of all hunting licenses for three years.

Anyone who witnesses an illegal activity related to a protected species is encouraged to call the DNR Report All Poaching hotline at 800-292-7800. Strict confidentiality will be maintained with any information received

Source: MDNR

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