Bear season off to mixed start
Marquette, Mich. — The first half of Michigan’s bear hunting season has produced mixed results.
“The first week was really good,” said John Harrison of the Marenisco Mini Mart in Gogebic County, one of several bear registration stations across northern Michigan. “About September 18 the bears started going nocturnal and guys weren’t seeing anything. Now it’s starting to pick up a little, again.”
Despite the early slow-down, Harrison said he has checked in 48 bruins as of Sept. 28, the same number checked at the Mini Mart during all of the 2015 season, and there was still about a month left to hunt.
A total of 31,209 hunters applied for one of the 6,896 bear licenses available to hunters this year.
In 2015, 4,994 hunters combined to kill 1,712 bears during the Sept. 10 to Oct. 26 season.
“So far the season has been good,” DNR bear specialist Kevin Swanson told Michigan Outdoor News. “It seems like we’re registering a lot of small bears this year, which is a good indication that the population may be growing. The early indications look like (the harvest) is up a little bit in the eastern UP and down a little in the western UP, but it’s too early to really tell.”
The average weight of a black bear in Michigan is between 120 and 150 pounds. Swanson said he has heard of several “really nice ones,” being tagged, including one that weighed around 500 pounds, that was shot near Manistique, in the eastern UP’s Schoolcraft County.
“Another really big bear was killed over near White Pine in Ontonagon County,” Swanson said. “The largest one we’ve weighed here at Marquette (DNR office) was about 300 pounds, which is a really nice bear.”
Harrison said he has registered four bears that weighed between 300 and 400 pounds so far.
Hunters must register their bears within 72 hours of a kill.
“We’re way down this year,” said Keith Peacock, of Adrian’s Sport Shop in Rogers City, which is in the northern Lower Peninsula’s Presque Isle County. “A lot of guys are sitting, sitting, sitting and not seeing any bears or are seeing sows with cubs,” which are protected.
“We’ve checked 20 so far and last year at this time we’d checked 28 or 30. The weather has been really warm. That makes it tough on hunters and keeps (bear) movement down.”
Up at McNeil’s Bar in Mackinac County’s Gould City, another registration site, owner George Trembly said the number of bears he has registered also is down.
“We’re at 31 right now and we’ll probably hit 40,” he said. “We probably average 50 to 60.”
Trembly also blames the unseasonably warm weather for the low numbers.
“The weather was really, really bad,” he said. “It’s been warm, wet and windy.
“We have seen more big bears coming in,” he added. “The biggest so far was 450 pounds and we’ve had a few 300s.”
Bear regulations are set on a two-year cycle and Swanson said a new cycle begins next year.
“We’re coming into a new cycle and will be setting regulations for 2017 and 2018 seasons.,” he said. “I’ll be meeting with the tribes next week and we have a bear forum (with constituents) December 17 at the Little Bear Arena in St. Ignace.”