Another firearm deer season has come and gone, which means hunters are now looking for information from the Department of Natural Resources regarding how the season stacked up to years past.
Although results from DNR deer check stations are only preliminary at this point, early analysis indicates the 2013 firearm deer season resulted in a 15 to 20 percent drop in harvest across the Upper Peninsula. Of course some regions of the U.P. fared better than others - for example, the northern part of the U.P. in the Lake Superior snow belt saw a more noticeable drop in deer registration numbers than the stations in the south central part of the peninsula.
Considering the heavy snowfall experienced in much of the U.P. late last winter, coupled with unfavorable hunting weather on this year's season opener and first weekend of the hunt, a drop in initial harvest numbers was not unexpected.
In fact, DNR wildlife biologists had predicted before the season began that hunters would notice a marked decrease in the number of yearling bucks (typically spikes and forks) on the landscape this year, since many of last year's fawn crop were expected to have not survived the severe late winter.
Preliminary check station numbers reflect this prediction, as total yearling harvest appears to be down significantly across the peninsula. Taking into account that in an average year about 40 percent of the U.P. deer harvest is yearling bucks, it is easy to see why a reduction in that age class of deer would equate to a noticeable overall drop in harvest.
The good news is that many of the 2- to 3-year-old deer registered in the U.P. displayed excellent body condition with good fat reserves, which bodes well for those deer as they go into what has been an early start to the snowy season.
The severity of the coming winter will once again give wildlife managers a good idea of what to expect for next year's deer herd, with the final months of winter being the most critical as deer deplete their fat reserves and increasingly depend on finding food through the snow - especially pregnant does and yearlings.
In light of the significant impact winter weather can have on the deer herd, the DNR issues supplemental feeding permits to interested individuals or clubs in the northern part of the U.P. Supplemental feeding may begin Jan. 1, and permit holders must follow feeding rules regarding where the feed may be placed and what types of feed may be used.
Copper Country residents can apply for supplemental feeding permits by contacting the Baraga or Marquette DNR offices and speaking with a local wildlife biologist or technician. For more information about the supplemental feeding program and requirements, visit the DNR's website at www.michigan.gov/dnr and search for 'supplemental feeding.'
Reader question of the month:
Q: Why did the DNR issue 1,200 wolf licenses when only 43 wolves can be taken? That seems like a lot of hunters for such a small number of animals.
A: DNR wildlife biologists looked to other similar states where wolf hunting has already taken place, such as Minnesota and Wisconsin, and discovered that the hunter success rate was approximately four percent - meaning only four percent of licensed hunters successfully harvested a wolf. As such, it was determined that to reached the desired harvest quota of 43 total wolves in the three Wolf Management Units, 1,200 licenses would need to be sold. Thanks for the question!
Additional items of interest for December:
Schoolcraft and Stanton townships in Houghton County have been announced as recipients of DNR Recreation Passport grants, awarded for local park and recreation improvement projects. Details on the grant amounts and funded projects can be found at www.michigan.gov/dnrgrants.
Late archery and ruffed grouse seasons are currently open through Wednesday, Jan. 1; muzzleloader season opens today and closes Sunday, Dec. 15; wolf season closes at the end of the month or earlier if the quota is met.
Debbie Munson Badini is the DNR's Deputy Public Information Officer. Have suggestions for future column topics or questions about natural resource management in the U.P.? Contact her by phone at 906-226-1352, via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MichiganDNR_UP.