2016-12-15 / Outdoors

‘Strange’ deer season offers double success for Omena hunter

BOB WHEELER of Omena with the 9-point he shot at mid-morning during the firearms deer season. BOB WHEELER of Omena with the 9-point he shot at mid-morning during the firearms deer season. Bob Wheeler was quite successful deer hunting, knocking down 6- and 9-point bucks during what he characterized as a “strange” season.

Maple City taxidermist Scot Schweikart offered harsher words for deer hunting on the 100 acres he owns in Kasson Township, saying that the overall deer population was down substantially in the county compared to past seasons.

“Leelanau County is getting poor,” said Schweikart, who was contacted by phone as he was driving through Indianapolis to hunt Indiana farm land during a special muzzle loader season. “Two years in a row I haven’t killed a deer on my 100 acres. Quite a few people didn’t do well; it seems that the herd is really low. There’s a lot of hunting pressure. I think there are more people hunting than ever before, and they are more efficient.”

Schweikart said his company, Bay West Taxidermy, is receiving fewer bucks to mount from Leelanau County, where antler point restrictions have been in place since 2003. The drop in business has been partially offset with more bucks shot in Antrim, Grand Traverse, Benzie and Manistee counties, where APR was put in place in 2013.

Under APR in northwest Michigan, only bucks with at least three points on one antler may be legally harvested.

Schweikart said game trail cameras on his property have not pick up any sizable bucks for the past several weeks. In past years after the firearms season deer could be patterned as they sought out food sources that would help them build strength heading into winter.

Not this year.

“I never had older bucks on camera. I never knew of any older bucks that were even around that I could pattern,” Schweikart said.

He keeps the happiness he observes on taxidermy customers in perspective.

“Everybody who comes through my door is happy because they shot one. But his three buddies aren’t happy,” Schweikart said.

Wheeler found two bucks who made the mistake of passing by his blind in the Omena area. He shot the smaller buck on the second day of the season. The 9-point wandered by on Nov. 19.

“We had been seeing a few does and a few bucks before the season started. The trail cam showed (the bucks) all at night — but not on that day.”

In fact, it was 11 a.m. when Wheeler pulled the trigger on the 9-point. “He was with some does. I never saw any chasing ... no real activity,” Wheeler said. The buck had a 14 1/2-inch inside spread between antlers and an extra point coming out of the base of one beam.

Other members of Wheeler’s deer camp saw few bucks — or does, which he said was possibly related to the warm weather that dominated November.

“We didn’t see a whole lot of deer. This whole year has been strange,” Wheeler said.

— by Alan Campbell

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