Bowhunters can expect another good season

Lansing  — Bowhunters across  the state can anticipate finding favorable conditions for a successful archery season come Oct. 1.

According to Brian Frawley, a DNR research biologist,  bowhunters arrowed 127,281 deer in Michigan last year, which was 3.3-percent fewer deer than were killed in 2011 (131,615). This could mean more opportunities for archers to place a tag on a mature whitetail this fall. 

Baiting continues to be allowed across the state from Oct. 1 through Jan. 1, except in the northeast counties of Alpena, Alcona, Montmorency, and Oscoda.  In Iosco County, baiting is illegal within the townships of Oscoda, Plainfield, Wildber, AuSable, and Baldwin. Check the 2013 Hunting and Trapping Digest for more details or visit www.michigan.gov/dnr.

Biologists and hunters across the state are upbeat about the coming season.

Upper Peninsula

David Jentoft, a wildlife biologist in the U.P., is optimistic about the 2013 season.

Jentoft said the lingering winter of 2012-13 took a toll on whitetails in the U.P. and that  fawn recruitment may be down.

“These conditions drain fat reserves, ultimately resulting in reduced over-winter survival and generally leaving deer in poorer condition than during the previous mild winters,” Jentoft told Michigan Outdoor News. “Fawn sightings are down, and we anticipate lower fawn recruitment than the previous few years. The impacts of this winter will likely be more visible in the 2014 hunting season, since fewer fawns this year will result in fewer yearling deer, including bucks, in the 2014 season.”

Despite the harsh winter Jentoft believes the U.P. deer herd, which has been increasing during the past few years due to mild winters, is in pretty good shape.

“On the positive side, there should be a few more 2½-year-old and older bucks out there than during the last few years,” he said. “In 2012, 67 percent of bucks aged at check stations were 2½ years of age or older, compared to 59 percent in 2011.”

Bowhunters in the U.P. will again be hunting under an antler point restriction (APR). A regular combination deer license will allow hunters to shoot a buck with at least three legal points on one side. The restricted combo tag remains good for a buck with at least four points on one side. A single archery license is good for any legal buck, but hunters who chose this option are limited to one buck per year, through all seasons.

With plenty of rain this spring and summer, deer have been offered a variety of food sources across the U.P.

“The growing season has been good this year with abundant moisture. Apples, berries, cherries, and hazelnuts are doing well in various locations around the region,” Jentoft said. “Last year was a good year for acorn production in the region, and early indications are that production may be good again, at least in some areas.”

Northern Lower Peninsula

Bowhunting is expected to be good across the northern Lower Peninsula this fall.

According to Ashley Autenrieth, the DNR’s deer program biologist for the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula, conditions have been favorable for whitetails during the past couple years, and deer numbers are in good shape.

“With numbers steadily increasing over the last four years and good mast production this year, I would anticipate an above-average bow season for most hunters, but especially those who can get out on the landscape and do some scouting,” Autenrieth said. “Seek out those mast-producing trees and shrubs, find those deer trails and bedding areas. Get to know the area you plan to hunt.”

Overall, the deer populations in the northern L.P. fared well despite the lingering conditions that occurred last winter. Autenrieth said the conditions through the winter allowed for deer movement and many areas appeared to have sufficient browse to get deer through the winter in good shape.

“The northern Lower will likely continue to see the slow to steady increase in populations that it has been experiencing over the last four years. We also had a mild spring this year, which made for good fawning conditions,” Autenrieth said.

Natural foods appear to be plentiful in the northern Lower, and hunters who dial in on these food sources will likely see deer.

“Across the northern Lower we are seeing good hard mast production of both oak acorns and beechnut. As always though, this can be spotty from year to year, so the best way to find out what areas are producing is to head out into the field,” Autenrieth said. “Apple trees appear to be doing very well this year.”

New antler point restrictions are in effect in 12 counties in northwest Lower Michigan, including Emmett, Charlevoix, Antrim, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Osceola, Lake, and Mason. Hunters in these counties may only shot a buck with three points or more on one side. If a hunter has a combo license, the second buck must have at least four points on one side.

Southern Lower Peninsula

Despite some areas of south-central Lower Michigan being hit hard by epizootic hemorrhagic disease last year, biologists are anticipating a good hunting season.

“Overall, we’ve had a good year for deer, considering that we were hit with EHD in 2012,” said Kristin Bissell, the DNR’s wildlife biologist for Hillsdale, Jackson, Lenawee, and Washtenaw counties. “The summer has not been too hot; water resources that dried up and influenced movement and habitat use patterns last year have been replenished in most places.” 

She added that corn and soybeans are doing well, too.

“Mast crops are available in my region. However, soft mast (mainly apples) seems to be much more plentiful than hard mast this year. Of course, this is a qualitative assessment based on my observations,” Bissell said.

In southwest Lower Michigan, hunters should find plenty of deer.

“In some locations EHD had an impact on local populations, and hunters in these areas may observe less deer than in years past.  However, numbers are expected to recover within a few years,” DNR wildlife biologist Kenneth Kesson said.

“I have personally observed fair numbers of mature bucks in velvet and received reports of some others in the region,” Kesson said. “I expect normal numbers of mature bucks this fall in the woods. It did seem like hunters harvested good numbers of mature bucks in the southwest region last year. I think that trend will continue.”

Thumb Region

The stage is set for another successful season for bowhunters in the Thumb. According to Don Bonnette, a wildlife biologist for Bay, Saginaw, Tuscola, Sanilac, and Huron counties, “Bowhunters can expect to see deer numbers similar to last year throughout the region.  In wooded areas hunters should focus on areas with good acorn production, particularly white oak, and old apple orchards. The timing of corn harvest in the region significantly influences deer harvest.”

When the crops come down, deer become concentrated in woodlots, making them more vulnerable to hunters.

Besides crops, plenty of natural foods also are available to deer in the Thumb area.

“Mast is available. Oak mast appears to be good. Soft mast (raspberry, wild apple, wild grape, viburnum) is abundant also,” Bonnette said.

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