ESCANABA - Ready, set, hunt! Thursday marked the opening of the 2012 firearm deer season and early indications show an increase in the number of deer harvested from last year's opening day in the Escanaba area.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources Escanaba Field Office checked 26 deer Thursday, a number which was up from the 16 checked deer on opening day in 2011. Of the 26 deer examined, six were eight-point bucks, which was the largest rack size encountered at the Escanaba Field Office. DNR officials remind hunters the station is open now until Nov. 21, and again from Nov. 26-30 from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Hunters receive a collectible patch for bringing their deer to a DNR check station.
According to DNR spokeswoman Debbie Munson Badini, deputy public information officer for the department, DNR staff at the Escanaba Field Office said all the deer they checked Thursday seemed to be full-bodied and healthy looking deer. She noted hunters there reported seeing quite a bit of deer out and about.
"The hunters coming in are saying they see a lot of deer activity," said Badini. "Not just the deer they got, but they've seen a lot of deer out moving."
According to Badini, the weather in the Escanaba area was overcast for most of Thursday with morning temperatures in the low 30s and only a medium wind. Temperatures really didn't get much higher throughout the day, with highs reaching only the low 40s. Badini said having colder weather helps in keeping the deer moving.
"The only bad thing is there isn't any snow on the ground, which would help," she said.
The overall outlook of the deer population across the Upper Peninsula is expected to be positive throughout the season.
Badini said although weather is one variable that can't be predicted, in general, the DNR is predicting a good season. Having three mild winters in a row has helped the deer herd continue its rebound from previously harsher winters. The winter of 2011-12 was quite mild and offered deer very favorable conditions for survival and spring fawn production, according to a 2012 Michigan deer hunting status and prospects forecast, located on the DNR's website.
The forecast indicates some good buck hunting opportunities, as the recent mild winters should lead to an increased availability of yearling and two and one-half year old bucks this fall. On the other hand, local areas of the U.P. are influenced differently by several factors affecting the number of deer, deer condition, and sightings at a smaller scale.
"Body size and antler development is typically best within agricultural areas, but nice bucks are also taken from forested areas where access is limited and they have an opportunity to grow older," the forecast notes.
Typically there are more deer found in the southern U.P. near Lake Michigan, with fewer in the northern U.P. by Lake Superior.
Due to drought conditions from this past summer, the production of mast (fruits and nuts) in the U.P. also appears to be limited, which will make scouting much more important. The forecast says hunters will need to invest more time to finding areas that may be producing mast or different areas that deer are targeting due to the lack of mast production.
Badini invites hunters to share photos of their harvested deer by submitting them on its website, www.michigan.gov/deer.
The Daily Press also invites area hunters to share their tales of hunting success in the "With the Deer Hunters" column located in the sports section. Hunters who bag their bucks are asked to contact the Daily Press to be included in the column. Call 786-2021, ext. 152, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Submissions may also be sent via the Daily Press' Virtual Newsroom at www.dailypress.net, or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org. Information provided should include the hunter's name, age, hometown, number of points, weight, where the deer was taken, and other interesting details of the hunt. Phone number of the person submitting the information - not for publication - would also be appreciated.
Hunters may also bring their prizes to the Daily Press office in Escanaba, at 600 Ludington St. The newspaper will take photos for possible publication. Photos may also be sent electronically.
"With the Deer Hunters" will be published in the Daily Press throughout the hunting season. Deadline for submissions is 5 p.m. Dec. 1.