The 2012 firearm deer season opened Thursday, Nov. 15, and the Department of Natural Resources has compiled early impressions from the first few days.
As the season opened, deer license sales were about 2 percent higher than at the same time in 2011. A total of nearly 640,000 hunters had purchased one or more Michigan deer licenses. The firearm season remains open through Friday, Nov. 30.
Weather conditions around the state have been good for hunting. Tracking snow is lacking in most areas, and little precipitation of any type has occurred over the first several days of the season. Mornings have offered cool temperatures and the best hunting conditions, and winds have been mostly light. Midday temperatures have been warm for this time of year, which can reduce midday deer activity but has provided comfortable conditions for hunters to remain afield. The weekend saw lower daily high temperatures than the first two days, but morning fog rolled into many areas of the Lower Peninsula. In many locations, though, deer have been on the move, providing enjoyable hunting. Condition of deer harvested throughout the state has been reported as good to excellent.
The following are the early impressions summarized on a regional basis:
In the Upper Peninsula, most hunters have been observing more deer this year. Buck numbers are up, and fawn production appears to have been good this spring and summer. The number of deer checked has been similar to last year in the eastern U.P., while some areas of the central U.P. are seeing their highest numbers of deer checked in several years.
Northern Lower Peninsula
The increase in license sales may be resulting in an increase in hunter numbers in northern regions of the state, particularly on public land in the northern Lower Peninsula. In the eastern and southern portions of this region in particular, hunter numbers appeared higher than they were last year. The number of deer checked compared to last year has varied, though in some cases lower numbers may be due to cool temperatures allowing hunters to hang deer for several days. Hunters have seen a good number of deer, and bucks appear to be in excellent condition.
Southern Lower Peninsula
Deer have often been on the move during the early days of the firearm season in the southern Lower Peninsula, except during warm midday periods. Hunter numbers appear to be similar to recent years, though they have been lower around some areas that have been most heavily affected by outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD) this summer. However, many hunters have remained upbeat, and have indicated in some of these locations they are pleasantly surprised at the number of deer that they are still seeing. Hunter observations regarding impacts of EHD are being collected at check stations to increase information available to the department to evaluate the extent of the outbreak.