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DNR: November firearm deer season, 'slow'statewide

December 09, 2009 - Jeremy Shellnut is perplexed.

After a productive October deer archery season in Brandon Township, Shellnut was anticipating a stellar firearm deer season in November.

"This year the deer rut turned off in early November," said Shellnut, 37, a Brandon Township resident and area deer hunter.

"Typically (the rut) goes through the November gun deer season—but a lot of other area hunters saw few deer after Nov. 10," he said.

"They just stopped seeing deer, especially bucks—some does, but no bucks chasing them. The scrapes were down, too. After a good archery season it just ended in November."

Area hunters' lack of action during the Nov. 15-30 firearm deer season was reflected statewide.

John Niewoonder, Michigan Department of Natural Resources Big Game Specialist, is reporting the 2009 deer harvest was down statewide from 10 to 20 percent compared to the 2008 firearm deer season. The southern lower peninsula, which includes Atlas, Brandon and Groveland townships, was down 5 to 10 percent, while the northern lower peninsula declined 15-25 percent. Hunters' success in the upper peninsula dropped by 30-35 percent compared to last year, according to the DNR data.

"The decline from last year was not due to the deer population," said Niewoonder. "There's plenty of deer out there. If anything defined the 2009 season it was warm weather. Opening day it was in the upper 40s. Deer just don't move then. They are not out looking for food at that temperature. The other key factor for the lower counties was more than 80 percent of the corn was still out in the field—typically on Nov. 15, opening day—35 percent is still to be harvested. Not only does that provide a place for deer to hide, it's also more food out there."

Niewoonder also said the agency closed 77 of 125 deer check stations statewide this fall to cut expenses. That pushed some hunters to other stations, driving their numbers up, and potentially created voids in other areas.

Local hunter Paul Dresback, 38, found plenty of success in Brandon Township during archery deer season.

"It really slowed down when firearm deer season opened," said Dresback. "It was cold, then it warmed up in late October—it changed when November rolled around."

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