Lake Orion, Mich. – Early reports point to a pretty good firearms deer-hunting season in Michigan. Success, as usual, was good in some areas and not so good in others, but the overall picture appears to be that of a good hunting season.
"The opener was kind of slow, but as the season progressed, activity seemed to increase," DNR deer specialist Brent Rudolph told Michigan Outdoor News in a Dec. 1 interview.
"Of course, we don't have all our results in yet, but from what I've been hearing, I think we probably took as many deer as last year. Generally, hunters seemed to be pretty happy with the season."
Tim Hart works on the Q1 Buck Pole, which has 250 locations statewide for hunters to register their bucks. He said the number of bucks registered by Q1 is close to last year, but that the total kill seems to be down.
"A lot of people I've talked to said they are seeing deer, but that they are coming out really late, sometimes too late to shoot," Hart said. "A lot of people are seeing deer, but the number of kills, I think, is down."
In the Upper Peninsula, back-to-back mild winters had overall deer numbers up from the recent past, and this year's firearms kill appears to be up as well.
"I think the take is up a little this year," said Tina Love, of Love Farms and Processing in Rudyard in Chippewa County. "We probably (processed) a few more than last year, and we had a couple really nice bucks – a 12-point and a 13-point."
Mild temperatures throughout the season and a lack of snow didn't seem to impact hunters in the U.P.'s Dickinson County, either.
"We've seen more deer than last year," said Amy Fuarez, of Sonny's Market in Channing, which processes deer. "No big bucks, but a lot of 6s and 8s."
Rudolph said bucks in the northern region of the state appeared healthy.
"They had good body size and antler development," he said. "A lot of people commented on seeing several 21⁄2- and 31⁄2- year-old bucks."
The kill in the northern Lower Peninsula was fair, but most think the harvest was down slightly.
"Overall, I think we're down from last year," said Missy Millikin, of Skip's Sporting Goods in Grayling. "The season started out good with the rut in full progress. Then it got warm and everything slowed down. I think antler size was down, too. We had several spikes and 4s on our buck pole, but only one big 9-point."
In Alpena, Gerald Lucas, of Standard Provisions, a deer processor, said it was a "pretty normal" season.
"Some hunters reported seeing lots of deer and other hunters didn't see anything," Lucas said. "A lot of nice bucks came in this year, a lot of big-bodied deer."
In southern Michigan, hunters reported mixed results during the firearms season.
"It was OK," said Joel Anderson, of Anderson's Pro Bait in Port Huron. "The bucks were really nocturnal this year, maybe because of the bright moon.
"Overall, I think the kill was down, but the muzzleloader season should be good."
Over in Kalamazoo, Mike Covey of D and R Sports said the season was a good one in his area.
"We had a lot of nice bucks on our buck pole this year," Covey said. "I think, overall, hunters had a pretty good season."
"In southern Michigan we're getting a lot of varying reports so I'm not sure if we're up or down," Rudolph said. "But I think hunters still had a pretty good season.
Rudolph said the DNR's preliminary report on the firearms season will be released later this month.