Northwoods hunting expected to see comeback

The DNR says northern Michigan deer hunting, once an established tradition for hunters, is headed for a comeback.

“There was a long tradition of going to deer camp somewhere north of Clare and reports of traffic jams on northbound I-75 and U.S. 27 a couple of days before the November 15 opening,” the Department of Natural Resources website says.

The trend began changing and by 2000, the DNR reports, and the pattern seemed to have reversed itself. More and more hunters spent more time and killed more deer in the southern third of the state, than in the northern Lower and the Upper Peninsula.

In 2002, 127,000 deer were killed in southern Michigan. In the Upper Peninsula on 35,000 were taken in the northern half of the mitten the kill was listed at 79,000.

The trend has continued until recently when new license regulations and mild winters have made the old tradition of northern Michigan deer camp seem poised for a comeback.

“WE haven’t necessarily seen increased license sales, or more hunter numbers in northern Michigan, but what we are seeing is the hunters who are out there are more successful and that’s always a good thing,” said DNR deer program biologist Ashley Autenrieth, of Gaylord.

She reported more hunters are looking to buy land adjacent to public land to establish deer camps in the north Lower Peninsula.

DNR estimates say the deer herd has increased from 1.7 million in 2011 to 1.8 million this year.

The mild winters have also increased the deer herd over the last three years and improved the habitat. “In general, numbers are up and the deer seem to be very fit. They look healthy. We are getting reports …seeing some very nice quality bucks,” Autenrieth said. She said this year more antlerless permits are available in new area in northern Michigan. “A number of areas in both the U.P. and northern Lower have been opened for the first time in … years,” she continued, “Otsego, Cheboygan and Roscommon counties were all opened this year on both public and private land after being closed for the last three years.”

Recent changes in buck regulations in the UP, where hunters who opt for a combination license are limited to a buck with at least three antler points on one side and four on one side with the second tag, may have helped pass some bucks into an older age class.

Some areas of the U.P. were also opened.

“We’re really looking forward to another great hunting season in northern Michigan,” Autenrieth said, “We’ve heard very good things from archery hunters and we hope that continues right into gun season.”