Hunters getting set for firearm deer season

Early indications from archery hunters is that the firearm season, Nov. 15-30, could be a challenging one for hunters.

But with baiting being legalized again this year there are others that predict prospects for the 2011 campaign could be bright.

The DNR runs a check station Nov. 16-17 in the rest area off of U.S. 131 south of Big Rapids.

Rich Garvon of Hersey said he’s observed that the numbers “seem to be down a fair amount. I bow hunt, too, and had trail cameras,” he said. “It appears it’s going to be down this year. There are some but not a lot of deer. Even does and fawns are down.”

On the baiting issue “I don’t think that will make much difference,” Garvon said, while acknowledging that it might increase the number of hunters that are out.

Mark Knee, a wildlife technician in the Cadillac office, looking at Osceola and Lake counties, is somewhat encouraged with prospects right now.

“It’s shaping up pretty good,” he said. “The weather has been warm and it didn’t sound like the deer were moving But in the last week, it sounds like the deer were moving. Hunters have seen a lot of scrapes being made. In the last few days, we’ve had a lot of bucks coming in.”

On number averages from 2008 to 2011, Knee reported that in Lake County, the management goal has been 26,000 but the population is 9.6 percent above that. The population is Osceola County is 26,000 about 21 percent over the DNR’s preferred figure. The population is 25,000 in Mecosta County, about 53 percent higher than the goal.

“With baiting, it seems like a lot of hunters are motivated to get back out there,” Knee said.

Knee expects favorable weather for hunters.

“With nice cool weather, deer will be moving around,” he said. “Snow would be good but it doesn’t look like, from our forecast, there will be any snow for hunters. From what I’ve heard, everyone is getting their camp set up and gearing up for Nov. 15. A lot of people have regained some confidence with the bait.”

There’s not any more special emphasis on harvest does this season “than there has been,” Knee said.

Garvon is among the active archery hunters in the area.

“I’ve passed up two small bucks so far,” he said. “The season has been slow for me. A couple of my neighbors have had success. Nothing big.”

Garvon is among the hunters that would like to see the opening day switched from the 15th to a weekend to allow more hunters to get out. That subject has been debated in the past and no action has been taken, at least for this year.

Timothy Lyon, a wildlife biologist at the Baldwin DNR offices, covering Lake and Osceola counties, indicated a decent survival rate over the winter and decent numbers for deer could bode well for hunters this fall.

“We’re not open all the time. The numbers that are coming through our field office, by appointment only, have been pretty good (for archery season),” Lyon said.

With a Tuesday opener, Lyon expects a fair amount of hunters to be out.

“There are a lot of people especially in Lake County that will get out and hunt. It doesn’t seem to make a huge difference on a mid-week or weekend opener,” he said. “We’ll have a lot of enthusiastic hunters that should be in the woods.”

The quality of deer should also be favorable, Lyon said.

“We have a lot of food for them out in the woods right now,” he said. “Some of the white oaks have been producing. If hunters can find some of those white oaks, it would be a good spot for them to set up.”

As for the impact of baiting, “I think it will make a larger impact perhaps on the harvest for the archery season,” Lyon said. “With the amount of food that’s out there I don’t see that (baiting) as increasing the harvest necessarily (for the firearm season).”

Brent Rudolph a deer and elk program leader with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, reports that over the last few years, around 700,000 individuals have bought a deer hunting license: About 600,000 hunt during firearm season, 300,000 during archery and 200,000 during muzzleloading season in December.