Saturday, January 28th, 2023
Saturday, January 28th, 2023

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Outlook decent for Michigan bear opener

Marquette, Mich. — Michigan bear hunters can expect another exciting season in 2015. Despite fewer licenses being issued for the past couple years, state-licensed hunters still killed between 1,400 and 1,600 black bears each year since 2012. There’s no reason to expect that success will decrease this fall.

“Things are looking good,” Kevin Swanson, DNR bear specialist, told Michigan Outdoor News. “We have very good habitat in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula and good success rates. We’re looking forward to another good year.”

Soft mast crops are light in many areas open to bear hunting this year and that could bode well for bait hunters, especially at the east end of the U.P. 

“It’s about a 50-50 berry year. Blueberries are not over-abundant this year, but raspberries are doing well in some areas,” said Kristi Sitar, DNR wildlife biologist stationed at Newberry. “Sometimes when you have a good berry year it’s tough on hunters. I don’t expect that to be an issue this year.”

What could be an issue is encounters with wolves, especially for bear hunters running hounds.

“We do have some places where we have had wolf problems with dogs,” Sitar said. “If hunters are concerned they should call the local DNR office and we can tell them where these areas are.”

At the west end of the U.P., mast is a little more abundant, as is bear sign.

“Berries were good, but they dried up around here,” said Brad Johnson, DNR wildlife technician in Baraga. “The berries are a little better in Gogebic and Ontonagon counties.

“I have talked to some houndsmen training their dogs and they are finding some bears. Overall it looks like it will be comparable to last year,” Johnson said.

A harvest goal for state-licensed hunters of 1,374 bears continues a trend of reducing the number of bears killed each year to allow the population to grow.

“There was some concern that bear numbers were declining throughout the state. We have excellent bear habitat here in Michigan, and the question was: How much do we want to grow the bear numbers based on habitat capability?” Swanson said. “We’re trying to increase bear numbers by reducing the harvest.”

State-licensed bear hunters killed 2,187 bruins in 2011, 1,690 in 2012, 1,561 in 2013, and 1,471 last year.

The harvest goal for the Upper Peninsula this year is 1,126 bears. To accomplish that goal, the DNR  issued 6,130 kill tags for state-licensed hunters, a reduction of 544 kill tags from 2014.

The DNR issued 460 tags for the Amasa BMU (down 45 from last year), 1,490 for the Baraga BMU (down 130 from 2014), 1,090 for the Bergland BMU (down 175 from 2014), 735 in the Carney BMU (down 80 from 2014), 1,165 for the Gwinn BMU (down 85 from 2014), and 1,190 for the Newberry BMU (down 29 from 2014).

The harvest recommendation for Drummond Island is one bear and one license.

Wildlife biologists are targeting a total bear kill of 248 in the northern Lower. Since the hunter success rate has risen in the L.P. in recent years, the DNR issued 820 kill tags.

In recent years there has been some conflict between bear hunters, particularly hound hunters, and deer hunters participating in the Liberty Hunt. The Liberty Hunt is a two-day deer hunt for youths and hunters with disabilities. Annually it opens on the Saturday following Sept. 15.

To reduce conflicts, the 2015 season will open on Monday, Sept. 20 in the Red Oak, Baldwin, and Gladwin BMUs. The first day is for baiting only.

An early season runs Sept. 11-26 in the Baldwin North BMU. The first day of that season also is for baiting only. 

The last two days of the Red Oak, Baldwin, and Gladwin firearms season (Sept. 27-28) are for bear hunting with dogs only. The Red Oak archery-only season (Oct. 2-8) is for bait-only hunting.

The first hunt in the U.P. opens Sept. 10. The first five days of the first hunt period (Sept. 10-14) are open for baiting only.

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