Marquette, Mich. — Upper Peninsula deer hunters saw and shot more deer during the 2017 firearms deer season than the year before, according to last fall’s Upper Peninsula Deer Camp Survey compiled by DNR wildlife biologist Dave Jentoft. However, fewer fawns were seen.
For the entire UP, the number of deer seen per hunter day increased from 2.5 in 2016 to 4 in 2017. The percent of hunters who harvested a buck increased to 29 percent from 20 percent for 2016. The number of fawns observed per 100 does decreased to 58 last year compared to 65 during 2016.
Deer numbers and hunting success were both better in the west UP than the east, according to the report. The number of deer seen per hunter day at the west end went from 2.6 in 2016 to 4.3 in 2017, compared to an increase to 3.1 last year from 2.1 in 2016 in the east. The percent of hunters who shot bucks also increased from about 20 percent in 2016 to 30 percent last year in the west UP, and from 22 percent to 25 percent in the east end. The number of fawns per 100 does in the west UP went from 66 during 2016 to 60 last fall and from 60 in the east during 2016, to 51 during 2017.
“The decrease in the fawn-to-doe ratio compared to 2016 may surprise many hunters,” Jentoft wrote. “Some camps may have expected this to be a record-setting year for fawn-to-doe ratios. Based on camp survey observations, fawn sightings did increase substantially during 2017, but adult doe sightings increased even more due to the influx of last year’s fawns into the adult (1½ year old and older) cohort. Thus, the ratio of fawns to does didn’t increase this year due to more adult does in the population. That does not negate an impressive rebound in fawn production across most of the UP.”
Sixty-three percent of the camps that participated in the survey felt that there were more deer present during 2017 than in 2016. That increase can be attributed to two mild winters in a row. Whitetails in southern UP counties have had three easy winters in a row.
Fifty-one percent of the camps rated the 2017 season as good to excellent compared to only 18 percent who felt that way about 2016.
A total of 486 deer camps occupied by 1,962 hunters participated in the 2017 UP Deer Camp Survey.
“Eighty-six percent of the participating camps also participated in 2016. Hunters spent 10,916 days hunting, 9 percent fewer days than in 2016,” Jentoft wrote. “…Over half of the hunting effort was completed by the first Saturday (fourth day of the season).
“The average number of deer observed per hunter during the entire 2017 firearm season was 22 deer (three bucks and 19 antlerless), an increase from the 15 deer (two bucks and 13 antlerless) observed in 2016. Unidentified deer are considered antlerless in the analysis. The highest sighting rate occurred on the first day of the season (4.9 deer per hunter day). As in past years, there was never a day in which deer activity ‘shut down’ completely.”
“Only 1 percent of hunters harvested a second buck, and second bucks accounted for 3 percent of the buck harvest,” Jentoft wrote. “Since 2003, 2 percent or fewer of participating hunters reported taking a second buck each year.
Buck kill success ranged from a low of 17 percent in DMU 122 (southern Dickinson County) to a high of 48 percent in DMU 121 (Garden Peninsula).
The report pointed out that buck density appeared to have a direct impact on support for antler point restrictions..
“Hunters seem more willing to pass on bucks in areas where they have multiple buck sightings per season. In contrast, hunters appear less willing to ‘let ‘em go’ in areas where few, if any, bucks are seen,” Jentoft wrote. “This relationship generally held true again in 2017. For example, in DMU 122 (south Dickinson County), the average hunter had seven buck sightings during the season, but only 3 percent of the buck sightings resulted in a kill. In DMU 127 (west Gogebic County), where hunters averaged just one buck sighting for the season, 43 percent of the sightings resulted in a kill.”
Camps reported also shooting 28 coyotes during the 2017 gun deer season and reported seeing two cougars, 32 moose, 42 bears and 187 wolves.