Outlook positive for hunters during rifle season

The Department of Natural Resources is predicting hunters will have a good chance at success during the 2018 rifle season. (Courtesy photo)

The Department of Natural Resources is predicting hunters will have a good chance at success during the 2018 rifle season. (Courtesy photo)

BENZIE COUNTY — The Department of Natural Resources is predicting a high rate of hunter success for the 2018 rifle season.

According to the 2018 Michigan Deer Hunting Prospects report, 2017 was a good year for hunters, with a nearly 50 percent success rate across the state.

“It was a very good season last year, and the northern lower and northwest portions of Michigan saw some of the highest gains across the state,” said Ashley Autenrieth, northern regions deer biologist for the DNR. “In the northwest, there was an increase in the antlerless harvest of little over 20 percent, and an increase in antlered harvest by a little over 9 percent. Those are significant jumps to take in one season.”

Autenrieth said the indication was the deer population was still up in these areas, and, weather permitting, hunters were expected to be as successful this year.

“We haven’t seen the harvest we expected during the first half of bow season, but we’re attributing it to the wet and rainy weather we had throughout October.”

However, she said people who have encountered deer or were successful report deer in good body condition and antler growth.

“We’re getting very positive reports, but Mother Nature makes a lot of those final decisions for us,” Autenrieth said.

Autenrieth said fairly mild to normal winters over the past few years, as well as good fawning conditions in the spring and high mast (forage) production, could be the reason for the population increase.

“I’d tell hunters to seek out those mass producing areas; places where there are apples or acorns,” she said. “Deer are going to be seeking them out as well.”

Phil Akers, chief ranger at the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, said the park is a popular place for people to hunt.

“We do get a lot of people hunting on park land, especially in the Platte River district,” he said.

“We also manage our own special deer hunt, which recently took place on North Manitou Island.”

Both Akers and Autenrieth said hunters should follow some basic safety precautions, no matter where they hunt.

“Wear orange, carry a cellphone and let people know where you are,” Autenrieth said. “I know people might want to disconnect, but carry your cellphone.”

She also said extra food and water wouldn’t hurt, either. Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger – in partnership with the DNR, Jay’s Sporting Goods, the Food Bank Council of Michigan and deer processor Carson Village Market – is offering a special opportunity for hunters to donate venison to those in need during an event at Jay’s Sporting Goods in Clare.

The event runs from noon to 7 p.m. Nov. 16 and 17 and from noon to 5 p.m. Nov. 18. Hunters who donate a deer during these three days will be entered to win a $500 Jay’s Sporting Goods gift card (some restrictions apply).

Jay’s Sporting Goods is located at 8880 S. Clare Ave. in Clare.

Since 1991, Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger, an all-volunteer, nonprofit organization, has worked to help connect donors, wild game processors and charities that help feed those in need.

“Since the beginning, an estimated 637,000 pounds of donated venison – which equates to more than 3 million meals – has helped food banks, pantries and shelters fight hunger in Michigan,” said Ray Rustem, who coordinates the DNR’s participation in the Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger program. “We encourage hunters to consider donating – each deer donated will provide more than 125 meals.”

Hunters who want to donate a deer but can’t make it to the event at Jay’s can find a list of participating processors throughout the state at sportsmenagainsthunger.org.

Hunters also can make a monetary donation when they buy a hunting license, which helps offset the cost of processing, packaging and transporting donated venison.

For more information, contact Ray Rustem at (517) 420-0005.

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Send in your deer photos, from bow or rifle season, to be published in a future edition of the News Advocate and possibly on Facebook. Please include your name, hometown and number of points on the deer. Email photos to advocate@pioneergroup.com.

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