DNR check station verifies high quality of bucks this season

DEER CHECK STATION: Jeff Greene was working at the DNR check station Monday at the Rest Area south of Big Rapids on U.S. 131 and was checking for information on each deer brought in such as its age and health. (Pioneer photos/John Raffel)

DEER CHECK STATION: Jeff Greene was working at the DNR check station Monday at the Rest Area south of Big Rapids on U.S. 131 and was checking for information on each deer brought in such as its age and health. (Pioneer photos/John Raffel)

BIG RAPIDS — Deer hunters are apparently facing various challenges so far this season.

But it would appear that they’re finding some good ones.

That’s what the DNR and various hunters were revealing on Monday during the second day of the check station located at the rest area south of Big Rapids along U.S. 131.

DNR area wildlife biologist Pete Kailing said 149 hunters came on Sunday. As of mid-day Monday, that number surpassed 200 although it wasn’t sure if the average number of around 300 might be met.

Kailing had help from other DNR workers including current wildlife technician Mark Knee and retired wildlife biologist Jeff Greene. Others including Karen Cleveland, an all-bird biologist for the DNR and Macy Ross, a volunteer and seasonal wildlife contributor.

“We’ve been checking deer and trying to stay warm,” Cleveland smiled. “I’ve been doing deer checks for about 15 years now. It was a cold winter last year, but when we had the firearm opener, it was not this cold. It’s a little bit colder than what we usually see this early on.”

Station workers check the teeth, jawbone and other aspects of the deer to determine the age and health of the ones that are being harvested.

“This deer has all six teeth so we know it’s an adult,” Greene said while examining a buck. “We know that these teeth are replaced in 18 months and they’re still in the jaw. So it has to be an 18-month-old deer.”

Kailing indicated the DNR has been finding a mixture of ages from the deer being brought in.

“We are seeing probably fewer yearlings from up north because we had such a brutal winter last year,” Kailing said. “With that age class, a lot of them didn’t survive to adulthood. We’re seeing some 2-year-old bucks, some 3- and 4-year olds. A majority of the deer are healthy. It’s been a good acorn crop. We have a lot of fat deer. We’ll compiled statewide all the age class information to know better.”

Deer will also be checked during the season at the Paris DNR field office.

 Schut bagged a buck in northeastern Osceola County on Nov. 13, on private property with his bow and brought it into the check station Monday.

It’s a 10-point buck which should score a 135, he indicated

“I hadn’t seen this one, but we have deer management up here big-time and it’s really paying off the last four to five years,” Schut said.

He was 25 yards away from the buck when he shot it.

“He was west of me and I grunted him in,” Schut said. “He dropped like a rock. This would be my biggest (deer).”

He’s been hunting for more than 30 years so it was no small
accomplishment.

“This year, it was a little bit down, but we figured we had a big winter kill,” Schut said. “We found winter kill in the swamp, actually. Otherwise we’re seeing good deer, healthy looking deer.

Trent Tackett was a successful hunter in Lake County for the opener of firearm season. He lives in Toledo, but was hunting at his dad’s cabin by Chase. They brought the deer to the check station.

It’s the second deer for the 15-year-old.

“It came by, came out and I saw it,” he said.

Tackett said he saw five deer but not many bucks. It was cold and snowy. They come up every year in the area. Last year, they saw 20 compared to five this year, said his dad, Mike.

“We’re working seven days a week but we took this time off so the boys could get up here,” Mike said.

”It was super,” Trent smiled.

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Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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