MARQUETTE — Many of us look forward to birthdays and holidays as occasions for celebration. For some people in the U.P., today was the most important day of them all: opening day of firearm deer season.

While last year’s deer population was disappointing for many, Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists say populations are working on a rebound. Thanks to last year’s mild winter, more deer overall, but fewer of those old enough to be targets, are expected out in the woods this year. That being said, a number of year-and-a-half old deer have made their way to the DNR check station in Marquette during archery season.

“We’re seeing some good antler growth on those year-and-a-half old deer, basically because they had a mild winter, and we had a bumper crop of acorns last fall,” said DNR Wildlife Biologist Brian Roell. “So those deer came through the winter in excellent condition, and we’re seeing that now reflected in the antler growth that we’re seeing this year.”

While bringing your trophy buck to a DNR check station is optional, it helps biologists gauge the health of the herd.

“It lets us build an estimate of deer – where they’re coming from in the U.P., the health of the deer herd – and that helps us in the regulation setting process,” Roell added.

The first buck checked in at the Marquette station this morning was a six-point, 130 pound buck bagged by Jake Pettit of Van Buren, Missouri.

[Photo courtesy Michigan Department of Natural Resources]