DNR Wildlife Division chief visits U.P. to open firearm deer season

MARQUETTE — The chief of the Michigan DNR’s Wildlife Division visited the U.P. to observe how the start of firearm deer season was coming along.

We caught up with Russ Mason when he stopped in Marquette on Sunday morning. He had been in Ironwood, Baraga and Crystal Falls on Saturday, and he saw a very slow beginning for the season because of the early blast of winter that hit the western U.P. last week.

“At least on that side, guys can’t get in,” Mason said. “They can’t get off the pavement, so things are really slow. We’ve probably checked 10 or 12 deer across the entire peninsula at this point. It could be that the weather is keeping guys in camp. If you fought to get in there, there’s no reason to fight to get out.”

Mason says he hears some negative feedback from time to time about the license changes that took place this year. Hunters now must buy a base license for $11 in addition to a single deer or a combo deer license.

“If you get something for really cheap — and it doesn’t matter what it is — and it costs a little bit more? Gasoline, for example. It turns out people don’t like that,” Mason said. “But at the same time, we’ve been very explicit about what we intend to do with those dollars. We’re very explicit about what we intend, and are doing, for deer, other big game species, grouse, woodcock, so forth. But the other part to remember is that 50% of that license increase goes back to the public, goes back to conservation groups so that they can do more and better and help us.”

The base license takes the place of a small game license. The proceeds from the base licenses pay for conservation work on both public and private land, and support the work of conservation officers.

We’ll have more from our interview with Russ Mason on Tuesday on ABC 10.