More than 600,000 hunters are expected to take to the woods during Michigan’s firearm deer season, and biologists believe that the odds are in their favor. The season begins Friday, November 15, coinciding with the opening of Michigan’s first wolf season, and will last until November 30. The average duration of firearm seasons around the country clock in at 18 days, which makes Michigan’s November hunt a little short. However, biologists say it should not be a problem.
“The 2013 deer season is expected to be a successful year for many hunters, and as always, will certainly offer the exciting challenge we call ‘hunting,’” read a report by deer and elk program leader Brent Rudolph and biologist Ashley Autenrieth.
With 2012’s hunting season much more successful than the previous year, biologists are saying that deer populations are on the rise, despite sporadic outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD).
“Bow season has been a little slow, but rut is underway. I’m expecting a lot more bucks to be killed,” Department of Natural Resources officer Christopher Holmes told MLive.com.
The production of fruits and nuts has been plentiful throughout the state and contributed to increasing populations in the Lower Peninsula, although a cold winter slightly lowered deer numbers in the Upper Peninsula. Also benefiting the state’s deer population is the low resurgence of EHD, which biologists expected to linger in areas where outbreaks occurred last year. Over the summer only one confirmed outbreak was reported, and took place in Muskegon County. Southern Michigan is expected to have the highest deer density due to a mild winter and abundant food and cover. As for the hunt, DNR officials are optimistic that hunters will have a successful season.
“We expect it will be at least as good as last year, hopefully a little better,” DNR wildlife supervisor Brian Mastenbrook told the Presque Isle County Advance. “We had another mild winter, which should have allowed deer to come through the winter OK. We had good food last fall with good acorns and apples. They should have gone into winter well and came out well. We have had fair to good reproduction. The numbers should be, generally, coming up.”
Not only are deer numbers encouraging, but the animals appear to be in good shape too.
“We know that the fourth mild winter in a row has allowed populations to rebound from the harsh winters of 2007 and 2008,” said Ashley Autenreith, co-author of the hunting prospects report. “We have seen good hunter success the last couple of years. In addition, because of the mild winters, we have seen deer coming in in really good condition. There has been good body weight, good antler development on bucks, things of that nature.”
Friday also marks the start of Michigan’s first managed wolf hunt. According to the DNR, there is a minimum winter population estimate of 658 wolves in Michigan. The hunt, which will be spread over three units in the Upper Peninsula and hold a quota of 43 animals, is not expected to have a significant impact on the overall population. The prospect of a wolf season is very popular among hunters, especially among Upper Peninsula natives. The 1,200 licenses offered for the hunt nearly sold out within two days of going on sale. The program is widely embraced by hunters and many conservationists, who believe that a management hunt will lower the likelihood of human and wolf conflicts.
“Every hunter that I know likes the idea of having wolves out there,” George Lindquist, a vice president of Michigan United Conservation Clubs, told the Associated Press. “They just feel we should be managing them like any other wildlife.”
Image courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources