HOUGHTON - Weighing in at a whopping 238 pounds, the trophy 8-pointer Seth Loyd bagged Wednesday had him grinning from ear to ear.
"It's definitely my biggest one so far," he said. "I shot him at 20 yards and dropped him in his tracks."
Loyd, of Calumet, said he shot the deer in Calumet with a .270 from his tree stand climber around 9 a.m. It wasn't the first buck in his sights that morning.
Seth Loyd of Calumet is seen with the 238-pound 8-pointer he shot Wednesday morning in Calumet. From the base of the antler to the tip measured in at 26 inches. (DMG photo by Kelly Fosness)
"I passed up three of them before he came in," he said. "This feels pretty good."
Like Loyd, hunters across the Western Upper Peninsula saw a successful first week of firearm deer season, several of which trickled into the Department of Natural Resources and Environment deer check station in Baraga Wednesday.
"I got him around 8:05 this morning," Drew Patterson of Bay City said of his 4-pointer. "We had to drag it out of the swamp and it almost killed us."
Originally of L'Anse, the Michigan State Police trooper said he was enjoying some off time, hunting with his nephew on property his late father left him in Arnheim.
"We own 80 acres of land out there," he said. "Seven years ago today, Nov. 17, 2003, my father passed away."
Unlike the camp he owns on Prickett Dam, Patterson said his deer camp in Arnheim "is very rugged."
"There's no water," he said. "You've got to walk into it. You can't drive up to it because it's swamp."
The Baraga Operations Service Center off U.S. 41 was one of a handful of check stations where wildlife officials were collecting data to aid in the management of Michigan's deer herd.
Bob Doepker, DNRE Wildlife Unit Supervisor for the Western U.P., said unit staff members collect biological information, sex and age of the animal, and measure antler beam diameters.
"We use those as an indicator to the physical condition of the deer," he said. "The better the antler development, number of points (and) beam diameter, the better the condition the deer is in."
Doepker said the unit checks the teeth and jaw of the animal, also.
"It's the dentition that we look at to age the animal," he said. "We like to get an idea of the age and sex structure of the herd so it helps us set regulations."
Some hunters, like Dave Radke of Commerce, Mich., brought only the head of his buck for checking.
"I've been coming up here for the past 20 years," Radke said, while officials took measurements of the spike horn he shot near Otter Lake around 2 p.m. opening day. "I've got a lot of family up here."
With no running water or electricity, and only propane lights, Radke's camp would be considered rustic.
"But we've got a sauna," he said with a light chuckle. "You've got to have a sauna."
Bev Yon of Tapiola beat her hubby to the punch this season, bagging a 120-pound 4-pointer with a .308 "about 45 paces" from her blind Tuesday evening.
"He went right down," she said from the tailgate of their pickup truck. "It's so exhilarating."
Bev, who "never thought (she) could shoot a deer," said her husband Les introduced her to the sport nine years ago.
"The first year I sat out in the blind with him," she said. "But I ended up shooting one and I love it."
The couple hunts in separate blinds on their property in Tapiola.
Bev said she took time off work from the Feed Mill Cafe just for the occasion.
"The freezer needs meat," she said. "We live off of it."
Spaghetti and meatballs, she said, is her favorite way to prepare venison.
"We do the meatballs 50-50," she said. "Half pork and half venison. You can't tell the difference."
While Les has a combo license to fulfill, Bev said she's done for the season. But, that doesn't mean she's not going to head back out to the blind.
"I'll probably go sit in the blind and watch the deer come in because that's enjoyable," she said. "I have a table in there so I like to play Solitaire."
While it's too soon to tell how the deer check numbers compare to last year, Doepker said they are expecting a good season.
"We might see an increase of 10 to 20 percent in the number of deer overall in the Western U.P.," he said. "Of course, there are more deer in the southern part of the unit of the Western U.P. - Menominee, Delta and Dickinson counties - because they experience milder winters and there's agricultural crops that the deer can feed on. But we still expect a good season."
Kelly Fosness can be reached at kfosness@ mininggazette.com.