ESCANABA - With firearm deer season just a few days away, hunters from across the region are excited to head to deer camp. According to this year's hunting outlook, they have every reason to be excited.
After three consecutive mild winters, hunters should see plenty of deer, said Ashley Autenrieth, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Northern Regions Deer Program biologist from Gaylord.
"We would expect to see higher numbers of deer in the area," she said. "We've also had decent reports from trail cameras this year, as well as the concentration of acorns in the U.P. You've got to do your homework and see which trees are producing."
Autenrieth said archery season turned out fewer hunters than expected, partially due to the varying weather during the past few weeks.
"Luckily, it has tapered off a bit and we are getting ideal conditions now," she said.
In regards to bagging a buck, Autenrieth advised, "Do as much scouting as you can. That can really help increase success. Also, look for trees producing acorns, deer trails, things of that nature."
Richard P. Smith of Marquette has been an avid hunter for more than 50 years. He is also a professional photographer and writer for magazines from the state to national level. He has written 24 books, and has produced two DVDs, including "Walking with Whitetails."
In preparation for deer breeding season, Smith said bucks rub against trees, and urinate onto the scrapings from the tree. These are called buck signs.
"They are essentially advertising themselves," he said. "We look for rubs and scrapes. When you find a spot with a concentration of them, it's a good place to hunt from."
Smith said he has seen seen some promising buck signs so far this season.
"I may not find out where I am going to hunt on the 15th until the day before," he said. "All of the indications I've seen are that it is going to be an excellent season. The best season we've had in the U.P. since 1995. There's no doubt in my mind about that."
Many of the area's hunters have already began to make preparations for their trip, according to Jim Wojtko, assistant store manager of Dunham's.
"It's been a good season for us so far," he said. "Lots of people buying trail cameras, broadcast feeders, and crossbows have also been a big seller this year."
Wojtko is a resident of Stonington, and he said he has seen more deer this year than he has seen in quite some time.
"More bucks, more horns," he said. "I've got a pretty good anticipation that this is going to be a good season."
Wojtko said his customers have reported more action on their trail cameras, as well as on their scouting trips.
"Hunting season is a rite up here, almost like a religious experience," he said. "Guys are excited no matter what year it is. Maybe a little more this year though. This one seems like it's got some potential."