It appears pre-season predictions for the firearm deer season were pretty accurate. The harvest is down by all reports from the first week of the season, and the lack of yearling deer because of last winter hanging on later than usual is evident.
As of mid-week, a wildlife biologist in Sault Ste. Marie estimated the harvest across the Upper Peninsula was down about 30 percent from last year. The count at the Mackinac Bridge was even more discouraging, with a 49 percent drop in vehicles heading south with deer this year compared to the same date in 2012.
Another apparent factor in hunters experiencing a rather dismal first week has been the weather, especially the first few days with rain and warm temperatures.
These two photos are of a buck shot on the opening day of the 2011 fiream deer season. The top one shows the nice 8-pointer not long after it was bagged, while the bottom photo shows the skull and antlers after the head was buried in a garden for a year and 10 months. (Dave Schneider photos)
Of course, a friend of mine who doesn't hunt said he has observed that when hunters don't get a deer the weather is always to blame - whether it's too warm, too cold, too snowy or not snowy enough. He might have a point.
On the positive side, though, there have been some nice bucks taken that are 2 years old and older, including by some of the younger hunters who are hitting the woods.
This is encouraging to me, seeing that I start my annual deer hunting vacation today and am on my way into the bush for a handful of days.
The second week of the season - contrary to what a zany band has to say about it - can be a wonderful time in the woods. For one thing, there is noticeably fewer hunters in the woods, which I find a more enjoyable scenario for hunting.
That fickle weather can also be more winter-like, which can help get deer moving and hitting apple piles more often.
Overall I find the second week of the season a more relaxing time, when all the excitement of getting out on opening day is gone, as is the rest of the hoopla surrounding the early days of the hunt.
So now it's time to settle down and do some hunting, but first I wanted to touch on another deer-related topic.
This one has to do with the head and rack of an 8-point buck I shot on the opening day of the 2011 season. Before getting the deer butchered, I removed the head and buried it in the garden, as I've done with last half dozen bucks I've been lucky enough to bring home.
Known as a European mount, and casually referred to as a skull mount, I find the end product an interesting way to display your bucks.
After nearly a year in the ground letting bugs chew on any non-bone portions I checked on it, but it still had quite a bit of junk on it.
So I let it sit in the garden through another winter and summer, finally digging it out in mid-September after a year and 10 months in the garden. I was hoping the placement in a nice sunny spot of the garden and a good dose of fertilizer would help the rack grow a little, but it looks just the same.
Now all that's left to be done is a little work with a scrub brush and a water-bleach mixture to brighten it up, mount it on a little piece of wood and hang on the wall.
This do itself process of cleaning a skull takes quite a bit longer than having a taxidermist clean it with dermestid beetles, but it's an interesting little project to undertake.
Hopefully I'll be digging another hole in the garden sometime next week.
Editor's note: City Editor Dave Schneider can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 270