Deer kills up slightly across U.P.

Jordan Beck | Daily Press Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist Karen Sexton checks a deer brought to the DNR’s Escanaba office by hunter John Vandeville, who is hunting in the Perkins area, Friday.

ESCANABA — Michigan’s firearm deer season started Wednesday, and early reports from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) indicate that more deer have been checked across the Upper Peninsula in 2017 than had been checked at this point in 2016’s firearm deer season.

“Deer numbers are up slightly,” DNR Wildlife Biologist Karen Sexton said.

This is presumably due in part to the relatively mild winters of 2015-16 and 2016-17 in the area. During the winter of 2016-17, two significant thaws in January and February and below-average snow depths helped deer survive.

However, Sexton noted deer numbers have been slightly below where they were at this point in 2016 for the deer check station at the DNR’s Escanaba office.

“Here at the Escanaba office, we’ve actually checked a few less deer … (compared to) the same time last year,” she said.

This does not necessarily mean that Delta County’s hunters have had less success than hunters elsewhere in the U.P. Sexton said temperatures in the 50-degree range were observed during the start of the Escanaba area’s 2016 firearm deer season; as a result, hunters needed to have their deer checked and processed quickly.

“This year, of course, it’s much colder,” she said. Because of this, hunters have been able to let their deer hang for a day or two before bringing them in to be checked.

Sexton noted that construction on the U.S. 2 and 41 bridge over the Escanaba River — which is located near the DNR’s Escanaba office — may have had an effect on these numbers, as well.

Hunters in the area have also had good luck during Michigan’s archery deer season, which ran from Oct. 1 to Nov. 14 and will return from Dec. 1 to Jan. 1, 2018. The Escanaba office has heard encouraging feedback about this season from meat lockers and archery hunters in the area.

“Archery season was certainly up, compared to the previous couple years,” Sexton said.

The ages of the deer that have been brought to the Escanaba office during 2017’s firearm deer season have suggested that local fawn recruitment rates may be increasing.

“We’re seeing quite a few yearlings,” Sexton said.

Additionally, Sexton said many of the deer that have been brought to the office in 2017 have had high-quality fat reserves.

“That’s attributed to the good habitat conditions this past season,” she said. By providing deer with energy during the winter, fat reserves can have a positive effect on over-winter survival rates.

Sexton wished local hunters luck for the rest of November.

“(I) hope everyone has a memorable and safe hunt,” she said.