The camps are full, the rifles are ready, and first thing tomorrow some 722,000 hunters will take to the woods, fields, hills and swamps of Michigan for what is one of North America's biggest annual deer hunting seasons.
The rifle season, which extends through Nov. 30, is the biggest event of deer hunting in the state and accounts for the bulk of the estimated annual expenditures of $500 million for food, lodging, transportation and equipment that 781,000 deer hunters, archers and black-powder gunners included, spend annually.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is predicting a very good hunting season, projecting a kill of 302,000 deer, including 165,000 bucks, during the 16-day rifle season. Some five million hunter-days are expected to be spent afield during the season, the MDNR said.
The pre-archery-season herd estimate this year statewide was 1.65 million, down about five per cent from 1999. Somewhat fewer deer were noted in southern farm country and in the northern lower peninsula from a year ago, but the upper peninsula herd is up slightly.
MDNR welcome centers will be open today from 9 a.m. to noon at Clare on U.S. 27 and at St. Ignace on I-75 at the Mackinac Bridge. MDNR staff will be on hand to answer questions on the season and herd.
A series of deer-check stations will be open Thursday through Sunday at Alma on U.S. 27, Big Rapids on U.S. 131, Birch Run along I-75/U.S. 10 /U.S. 23, and St. Ignace south of U.S. 2.
On a related note, successful hunters may have a somewhat harder time finding a deer processor this year, the Associated Press reported. Fewer than 300 venison-processing sites are licensed by the state agriculture department, though butchers need to be licensed only if they sell the meat.
Some processors are said to have dropped out of the business because of bovine tuberculosis, which has been found in some 285 of 39,500 deer checked since 1995. A labor shortage and additional state rules, such as maintaining a separate cooler for deer, also may be factors behind fewer processors.
Mark Shieldcastle, a biologist at the state's Crane Creek Wildlife Research Station, reported flocks of tundra swans migrating through the region over the weekend. The hardy swans need nasty weather further north to get into gear southbound.
Shieldcastle also noted that a Canada goose, reported last week to have been banded in Canada's Northwest Territories, likely was of the interior race of Canada goose, not the lesser race. The hunter who had bagged the goose had been told by authorities that it was a lesser, but Shieldcastle noted that that race is a West Coast species which is even smaller than the interior race.
Interior Canada geese banded on the islands of Hudson Bay and James Bay actually are in the Northwest Territories, not Ontario, Shieldcastle noted. But they are part of the Southern James Bay Population of interior geese, which regularly migrate through northern Ohio.
On another note about unusual waterfowl, duck hunter Ian Graham killed a drake oldsquaw recently on the Maumee River. The oldsquaw is a diver that typically frequents the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and the Great Lakes outside Lake Erie. “We see a few here, but not that many,” said Shieldcastle. “A drake oldsquaw is a real trophy.”
He added that the current northerly weather should improve hunting. “If it doesn't happen with this, I don't know what to say.”
So far this year the waterfowling has been very slow overall, as indicated by results compiled in the controlled hunts at Magee Marsh State Wildlife Area. and Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge.
In hunts at Magee through Saturday, 625 hunters this season had taken 564 ducks and 53 geese for a 0.9-bird average, compared to 630 hunters with 1,094 ducks and 73 geese in 1999 for a 1.85-bird average. At Ottawa so far, 236 hunters have taken 180 ducks and 39 geese, a 0.93-bird average, compared to 269 hunters, 143 ducks and 61 geese, for a 0.76-bird average in 1999.
Tomorrow - Erie Shore Birding Association, 7:30 p.m., Monroe County Community College, Life Science Building, Room 201, Monroe, Mich.; program by Sharon Cummings on nature and bird photography; call Janet Volker, 734-243-6965.
Thursday - Trapshoot, 6 p.m., Sandusky County Sportsmen's Club, State Rt. 600 east of Gibsonburg.
Thursday - Hunter-education home-study and proficiency testing sessions, Defiance County, 5 to 9 p.m., call 419-658-2168; Van Wert County 6 to 10 p.m., call 1-800-WILDLIFE; also, Saturday, additional sessions, Sandusky County, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., call 419-332-4551 after 6 p.m., Williams County, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., call 1-800-WILDLIFE, Wyandot County, 8 a.m. to noon, call 1-800-WILDLIFE; also, Sunday session, Ottawa County, 1 to 5 p.m., call 1-800-WILDLIFE; also, Nov. 21 session, Defiance County, call 1-800-WILDLIFE.
Friday and Saturday - OSU-Michigan Game Campout, Maumee Bay State Park, call the park 836-7758.
Saturday - Annual dinner, Toledo Naturalists' Association, 6:30 p.m., Andersons activity center, 1833 South Holland-Sylvania Rd., program by Dr. Jackie Belwood, Cincinnati Museum of Natural History, on Ohio bats and conservation; call Eric Durbin, 866-1873.
Saturday - Ways of the whitetail, 9 to 10:30 a.m., Swan Creek Preserve Metropark, Yager Center, program on white-tailed deer, call for reservations, 535-3058 extension 101; also, Saturday, Metroparks volunteer orientation, 11 a.m., Metroparks board room, Wildwood Preserve Metropark, call for reservation, 535-3058, ext. 143; also, Saturday, hiking The Andersons' Metroparks parcel, 10 a.m. to noon, call for reservations, extension 101; also, Saturday, holiday gift ideas for nature, 1 p.m., Wildwood Preserve Metropark, Metroparks Hall; also, Saturday, geology of the Black Swamp, 1 to 2:30 p.m., Pearson Metropark, Packer-Hammersmith Center, call ext. 101 for reservations; also, Sunday, season of the squirrel, 1 p.m., Wildwood Preserve Metropark, Metroparks Hall; also, Monday, the Galapagos, 7:30 p.m., Secor Metropark Discovery Center, program by Emme Bippus, co-sponsored with Maumee Valley Audubon Society.
Saturday - Fly-tying finesse, 9 a.m. to noon, Sandusky County Park District, headquarters, Countryside Drive off U.S. 20 bypass, Fremont; led by Greg Johns, artist and fly-tyer; for reservations and fees, call the park district, 419-334-4495 or 1-888-200-5577.
Monday - Public trapshoot, 6:30 p.m., Wolf Creek Sportsmen's Association, 349 Teachout Rd., north of State Rt. 2, Curtice; call Jeff Raczkowski, 836-2033.
Monday through Nov. 22 - Pennsylvania black bear hunting season, call the Pennsylvania Game Commission, 717-705-6541.
Steve Pollick is The Blade's outdoor writer. E-mail him at email@example.com.