2016-12-01 / Outdoors

Trophies highlight otherwise lackluster firearms season

Weather, smaller deer herd
By Alan Campbell
Of The Enterprise staff


TYLER SKEA downed a 14-point buck in Kasson Twp. TYLER SKEA downed a 14-point buck in Kasson Twp. The firearms deer season, which ended yesterday, was somewhat lackluster in Leelanau County — although there were plenty of success stories reported by successful hunters.

Included was recently seated Kasson Township supervisor Greg Julian, whose Thanksgiving tradition took a positive twist.

“It’s kind of a Julian tradition to get out on Thanksgiving morning,” he said. “But I’ve never had this much success.”

Julian said the two- or three-yearold buck he shot, whose 8-point antlers had a 17-inch inside spread, chased a doe right toward his stand.

“I think the rut is still going on,” Julian reported. “He grunted all the way in, behind a doe. He wouldn’t stop. Finally I had him at 60 yards in an opening, so I shot and made a good, killing shot.”

Julian stayed in his blind to complete an exciting morning, seeing three more bucks. Two met antler requirements in Leelanau County — and he left them for his 13-year-old daughter Lily to try to harvest.


GREG JULIAN and his Thanksgiving day buck. GREG JULIAN and his Thanksgiving day buck. “It is the biggest I’ve ever taken. There are some healthy bucks. A bigger buck than mine got killed two days after I shot mine — a big, mature old buck. There hasn’t been a lot of hunting pressure ... you just need to be patient and have fun with it the best you can.”

Anecdotal evidence shows that firearms hunters had sporadic success at best, possibly the result of warm weather through most of the 15-day season and a smaller deer herd.

Mike Gabourie Jr. of Gabe’s Country Smoked Meats near Maple City reported on Monday that he had received 418 deer to process.

“We are probably ahead (of the 2015 pace). We ended up at 481 by January, so we only have about 60 more deer to go. But at the end of bow season, we were ahead by 100,” Gabourie said.

He characterized the rifle season as a “little slower.”

“I’d say the racks are about the same, and the bodies may be a little bigger. We’ve gotten some nice bucks — a couple of them were giants.”

Gabe’s has a reputation for turning venison into delicacies such as flavored brats and smoked sausage. Still, Gabourie said the store’s most popular products are deer jerky followed by hot dogs. He said the unsung hero of Gabe’s product might be bulk breakfast sausage.

Mark Steimel of Fur-Fish-Game Taxidermy in Leland Township said archery hunters — or, to be more precise, crossbow hunters — had banner seasons. “I took in the most I ever did with the bow,” Steimel reflected. “Gun season has been slow. Everybody blames it on the weather, but there just aren’t as many deer out there. There aren’t the does out there that there should be.”

He hopes that the state DNR does away with late and early antlerless deer seasons as many hunters have become disappointed.

“Everyone I’m talking with, they aren’t seeing orange out there. People might have gone out the first two days and get discouraged, and they’re done hunting ... my friends are saying they know a lot of guys who have seen hardly any deer. We have the population down,” Steimel said.

He gives partial credit for the number of large-antlered bucks to two years of strong acorn crops. However, the mast crop fell off this fall, Steimel added.

Tyler Skea is one hunter who isn’t complaining. He and his wife, Danielle, have been kept busy with full time jobs and their 10-month-old baby boy, Kaiden. The Skeas reside in Long Lake Township, although Tyler is a Glen Lake grad and hunts in Kasson Township.

“This was only my third time sitting in the woods, and I usually bow hunt. But we just had a baby, so I couldn’t go,” Skea said.

He shot a 14-point buck on the evening of Nov. 18 after spooking seven deer on his way into the blind.

“I’ve never seen deer after that. But after 25 minutes I saw a doe by herself. I know that scene. And I looked behind her, and over the ravine all I could see is antlers,” Skea said.

The buck will measure about 150 inches on the Boone and Crockett scale.

“I pass lots of little bucks, and it looks like other people are doing that, too. Leelanau County has been amazing the last couple years for hunting,” Skea said.

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