2017-12-07 / Sports

Outdoors This Week in the Eastern U.P.

By Stephen King

Well, that was that. I know, smoke pole season is just around the corner and you can still toss sticks at those big furry critters, but the big hurrah that is firearm deer season has come and gone. So, this week, I’m doing a little post-game analysis of the big game.

My first contact was with the Department of Natural Resources in Newberry. I dialed up a buddy, DNR Wildlife Biologist Kristi Sitar, who quickly noted that she thought things were up a bit, but added that with firearms season just ending, she and her colleagues hadn’t had time to process the meat of the data. She passed the buck to another DNR Biologist, Dave Jentoft, in Sault Ste. Marie.

Dave gave me the same deer story: it was just too early to have anything more than preliminary numbers, but, as Kristi had noted, things are sounding pretty good for this deer season. Dave said he has been getting a lot of reports that the deer hunters were seeing a lot more deer than last year.

“I can’t say exactly how far up we are, I just don’t have the numbers yet,” he said, “but at this time, preliminary data is that we are up.”

Now, these DNR Biologists, as with any state employee, have to make sure what they say is what the numbers say. I have the utmost respect for them, but I am free to use some unscientific data, gathered from my usual variety of places.

First up, Drummond Island, where Pam Johnson, who with her husband, Rick, owns a bait shop, reported that 60 deer were brought to their buck contest this year, down one from last year. She reminded me, however, that registration wasn’t mandatory and that, from year to year, they have about the same numbers in their contest.

I asked about that new DNR rule on Drummond Island, that hunters are allowed just one deer a year and it has to have at least three points on one side of its antlers. The DNR did this to make the herd better, but, according to Pam, the deer hunters were not happy. She said numbers were down for both bow season and the gun season. While hunters may not have been happy, maybe in a few years, there will be a lot more deer on Drummond Island.

I then called K&V Grocery in Moran and chatted with Bev.

“It seems like they did pretty good this year,” she said. “Got a few reports of sixes, a few eights, and a couple of tens. And the hunters seemed pretty happy. Seemed like a lot of people got their deer this year.”

I dialed up Jamie at McNeil’s Bar in Gould City, always a wealth of knowledge when it comes to things outdoors. Who better to ask than a bar tender in a small town on the edge of the bush? She hears stories about just about every critter that walks in those parts.

“There seemed like a lot of happy hunters,” she reported. “For our contest here, we had about 50 people register, and we had a few sixes and some spikes, and even a couple of tens come in, so it was pretty good.”

The best indicator I have, so far, about this being a much better year than last year, however, is the number of deer that crossed the Mackinac Bridge. As of Monday, December 4, the official count was 2,971, up from 1,962 last year. This is a whopping 51%. That is huge!

I also have to make a prediction about next year. There are a lot of variables, such as how tough a winter we will have and how many deer are killed by bear, coyotes, wolves, cougars, cars, and trucks, but things are looking a lot better for deer hunting.

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