2016-11-17 / Outdoors

Despite opening day fog, some success

JOHN WAKEFIELD with his opening-day deer. JOHN WAKEFIELD with his opening-day deer. Opening day of firearms deer season dawned Tuesday with fog rather than snow, leaving some hunters frustrated.

But there were also plenty of success stories to tell.

“I didn’t, but my brother Stan got one and my son Joe got one,” said Alex Garvin of Solon Township, who was hunting on family property. “So we got two deer out of six hunters.”

Other successful hunters include 13-year-old John Wakefield, a Traverse City East Junior High School student who bagged his first deer in Empire Township. Hunting with his father, Louie Salisbury, and his brother Nate Wakefield, the party saw two fawns, two large does and a forkhorn during a day of hunting.

Visibility was a problem throughout the county, including in the hardwoods where Garvin was hunting.

“That fog yesterday, it didn’t get cleared up so I could see very far until twenty after ten. I called it a dead forest,” Garvin said.

Garvin, who turns 80 later this month, was 15-years-old when he tromped into the woods for his first opening day with a single shot shotgun borrowed from his brother. He’s not missed an opener since.

“This has been a family tradition since my boys went, and before that with my brothers and cousins,” he said.

Warm weather may have put off the rut a few days, benefiting hunters, says Steve Griffith, wildlife biologist with the Department of Natural Resources.

“The bucks are definitely moving,” Griffith said earlier this week. “We saw, earlier on, it was probably average as far as bucks and does, but last week and this week it’s definitely been more of the bucks. Rut’s started and people are scoring.

“Safety, nutrition are out the window (for bucks). They’ve got one thing on their mind: breeding. I’ve seen them stand on the side of the expressway before without moving. They have a one-track mind at this time of the year. Motorists should keep an extra eye out. And if the doe is being chased, they aren’t necessarily going to be as careful as normal.”

Griffith said the rut helps explain an incident in Leelanau County on Sunday in which a duck hunter called 911 after being approached by a “large, injured and very aggressive buck.”

“When they get this elevation in testosterone with the rut, they do become more aggressive,” Griffith said. “Normally that’s taken out in sparring with other males and pursuing does to breed...”

Such reckless behavior may lead to a more voluminous harvest early in firearm season, he said, although Tuesday’s fog didn’t make it easy for those in orange.

Still, Griffin expects to check a fair number of deer this week.

“I think it’s going to be a good opener,” he said. “These guys that we’ve talked to this past week are watching bucks chasing does, hunting scrapes. A couple of them have even seen some younger bucks sparring.

He said he checked a fair number of Leelanau County deer during archery season and that most seemed to be in good health with plenty of fat.

“A couple guys said they’ve been seeing lots of deer with the couple mild winters, and a fair number of what they feel are yearling bucks — smaller antlers but a fair number of multi-point antlers like four or six or eight. We had one 7-pointer in Grand Traverse County — but it was a yearling buck that had produced that rack.”

Griffith urged hunters to heed the seemingly mundane tips that circulate this time of year: wear blaze orange, know what’s beyond your target, and use other safety precautions.

“You can’t preach safety enough,” he said. “With the antler point restrictions, it’s paramount: You need to know what you’re shooting at. Specifically, number of points. You don’t want to make a mistake like that. Any questions over regulations or animals — give your local DNR office a call.”

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