MARQUETTE - The first few days of the firearm deer season have left hunters and state wildlife biologists optimistic for a pretty good deer harvest this fall.
"All the hunters I've talked to are reporting good numbers, hearing lots of shots, seeing lots of deer," said Brian Roell, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist at the check station in Marquette Thursday afternoon.
Weather conditions over the next several days were expected to remain favorable, with available tracking snow predicted in several areas.
Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Brian Roell gets ready to weigh a nice 8-point that was brought into the Marquette check station Wednesday. Activity at DNR check stations has been a little slow thus far, although biologist’s report deer are looking very healthy this fall after two mild winters in a row. (Dave Schneider photo)
Roell said with consecutive mild winters, deer are in healthy condition and good antler growth was in evidence, even in younger deer.
"We're seeing those typical spikes with branched antlers," Roell said.
Some of the deer, which would generally have spiked horns at the year-and-a-half age, were instead brought in to the Marquette check station with six, seven or even eight points. Typically, that type of antler growth is more representative of Menominee County, Roell said.
"We're seeing a lot of nice bucks," Roell said.
The mild winters have also produced a good fawn crop, boosting the number of deer in the woods.
Roell said the number of deer being brought in to the Marquette DNR check station was at, or just below, last year's figures. He suspects many hunters have decided to hang their deer at camp given cool temperatures, reducing the urgency to get deer out of the woods and to meat processors.
At the Mackinac Bridge, counts by toll booth operators tracking numbers of hunter deer kills heading south along Interstate 75 over the bridge said the census so far was down 12 percent from last fall, as of 7 a.m. Thursday.
There was a total of 128 deer counted by Thursday, compared to 146 at the same point last season. The bridge counts began with the Nov. 15 opening day of the firearm deer season and will continue, three times each day, through Dec. 1.
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.