"If there's one thing Yooper hunters agree on, it's seeing fewer deer in the woods," said WW&W political correspondent Sarah Palinen as another firearm season ended with a bang and a whimper, then morphed into muzzleloading, bow and crossbow season.
Amid rampant speculation about deer numbers heading north, south or sideways, I could add another opinion to the fire, but I'd rather head north and ask the experts at the Phoenix Store, Vansville and Cliff View Inn.
They're all venerable venison venues, excellent research resources, all lined up and laying in ambush along US-41 in Phoenix, and why a quick run to Copper Harbor can take me 3-4 hours and occasionally turn into an overnight trip.
If you did this research yourself, you'd know what thirsty work all that point-counting, data collection and number-crunching can be. Fortunately, they have refreshments handy at all three venues.
I dutifully employed all four research disciplines; buck poles, buck polls, buck pools and bar interviews that left me rich in humorous adult anecdotal information largely unfit for publication here. Any hard facts, real names and actual data came from Arbutus Peterson, Phoenix Store, Judy & Jerry Rota, Vansville, and Holly Leskinen, Cliff View Inn, all of whom have deer that wander into their back yards on all fours, not just in the backa pick-ups. And just not during deer season.
Here you can count the successful hunters for yourself: Amber Novak, 6/130; Aric Danis, 5 pt; Gene Arntsen, 8/180; Rich Jamsen, Spike/115; Joe Reilly, 9/165; Larry Smith, 8/175; Steve Smith, Fork/130; Don Nicely, 5/140; Brandon Carlson, 6/162; Pete Marks, 6/155; Hunter Johns, Spike/115; Nick Peterson, 6/145; John Dudenas, 8/190; Tom Talvensaari, 12/195; Steve Renn, 7/150; Dave Frantti, 6/125; Breezy 10/175; Randy Rastello, 7/150; Gary Colenso, 7/148; Mark Panijan, Spike/112; Josh Demois, Spike/105; Doug Lovon, 5/135; Dave Menominee, 9/195; John Cima, 8/160; Andy Jarve, 10/170; Dan Jarve, 6/160; Chuckie E, 3/105; Mark Kingstrom, 8/165; Mick Maki, 3/120; Keith Brey, 8/160; Mike Guy, 7/178; Brad Carlson, 9/180; Rich Parkin, 8/175, Bill Isaacson, 8 pt; Jim Issacson, 4 pt; Todd Mitchell, 7 pt; Dave Mitchell, spike; Dustin Keranen, spike; Ryan Kaura, 8 pt; Jim Spehar, 8 pt; Bonnie Dyni, 3 pt; Sue Gherna, 3 pt; Bill Bykkonen, 4 pt; Eric Waara, 5 pt; Bucky Koljonen, 8 pt; Joe Langdon, 6 pt; Justin Hoffman, 6 pt; Frank Spagnotti, 4 pt; Mike McMahon, Brad Wickstrom, Spike; Roger Perreault, 6 pt; Bill Warning, 3 pt; Tim Hoeft, Spike; Pete Capello, 6 pt; Bill Besner, 10 pt.
Arbutus has been keeping track of hunters and their deer for years. She was born in Phoenix and has run the place for 35 years.
The Phoenix Store has been a Keweenaw landmark since 1873. Here at the confluence of the West Branch of Eagle River and Central Creek, at the intersection of US-41 North and the M-26 turn-off to Eagle River, hunter and deer counts are down.
"This is my leanest year ever," Arbutus said. "Seventy-eight hunters registered their bucks in 2007, this year only 38 signed my list."
Just down the road at Vansville, Jerry & Judy Rota run one of the oldest buck pools in the Keweenaw. The 25-year-old contest is strictly for Keweenaw County hunters.
"The kill ratio is way down this year," Jerry said, "One hundred sixty-three hunters entered the pool, 33 got bucks. Tom Talvensaari won with that big 12-pointer."
"Some guys like to register their bucks and some don't," said Holly Leskinen, next door at the Cliff View.
"We had 26 sign up, down from 40 last year. I didn't get mine this year, but Barney did," Holly smiled, referencing her husband who got his deer on US-41 near Bumbletown the day before Opening Day. "How many hunters don't register is anybody's guess."
It ain't over yet, not by a long shot. Archery season runs Dec. 1-Jan. 1; muzzleloading season opens today and runs through Dec. 14 in the U.P. (Zone 1) and Zone 3, Southern Michigan.
Firearm, combination and antlerless-only licenses are valid throughout muzzleloading season.
Hunters may use bows and crossbows during muzzleloading season.
For more information and regs, check your 2009 Michigan Hunting & Trapping Guide online at Michigan.gov/dnrhunting.
Jim can be reached 24/7/365 at firstname.lastname@example.org, even during deer camp.