2017-09-14 / Outdoors

Liberty Hunters to take on high temps

LILY JULIAN was among the Leelanau County kids to take down a deer during the 2016 youth hunt. LILY JULIAN was among the Leelanau County kids to take down a deer during the 2016 youth hunt. What can Leelanau County’s Liberty Hunt participants expect when they enter the woods this weekend?

“Pretty good deer numbers,” said Steve Griffith, a wildlife biologist with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “A fair number of people are seeing good recruitment from this spring and fair numbers of antlerless deer. Some will be button bucks, but if (numbers) aren’t equivalent to last year, they’re up a little bit.”

That said, Griffith doesn’t expect to check all that many deer at the station.

That’s because youth hunters and hunters with disabilities will set up shop in less-than-ideal weather.

“Last I saw, it’s supposed to be warm with one or two days in the 80s,” Griffith said. “That always keeps the deer more nocturnal, so they’re not going to be moving as much.

“When people get a deer, they’re going to want to find it, gut it ASAP and get it cooling down and processed.”

He said he’s spotted a few bucks in velvet. A few hunters he’s talked to have seen bucks shed their velvet.

We didn’t have a real great acorn crop last year,” Griffith said. “That definitely plays a part in the younger bucks developing antlers, but it should be a pretty good year.”

He said deer seem to be healthy, at least in northern Michigan.

A deer or deer combo license may be used for an antlered or antlerless deer during the Liberty Hunt. Antler Point Restrictions do not apply.

The bag limit is one deer.

“A trophy is an individual assessment,” Griffith said. “A nice doe can be a wonderful trophy, a first-time deer. Don’t pass up an opportunity to fill an antlerless tag.”

Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich echoed a similar sentiment, adding that parents should be mindful of what their kids can and can’t handle.

Borkovich said he had to wait until he was 12 for small game and 14 for big game. Those age limits have since been lowered (youth 16 and younger may participate in the Liberty Hunt).

“If the child has an interest in hunting, I encourage parents to take their kids out,” Borkovich said, “but don’t force your kids to go out. Don’t take kids out too early. There’s a respect factor and a safety factor. Kids have to reach a certain mental threshold.”

As always, the sheriff urges hunters to use common sense when entering the woods. All regular hunting rules apply during the Liberty Hunt, he said.

And as always, he said, wear orange.

“That’s especially important this time of year,” Borkovich said. “There’s a lot of foliage out. It’s even harder to see through that, and a bullet will go right through leaves and brush.”

Secondly, Borkovich said, anyone going up into a tree stand needs to be wearing a safety belt at all times.

Next, he said, be sure to bring a cell phone or radio, and let family members know where you’re hunting, who you’re with and when you’re expected back.

“It’s extremely important that your family knows where you’re at,” Borkovich said. “Good communication on a hunter’s part will go a long way.”

Editor’s note: Want to see your deer photo in the paper? Email photos to jason@leelanaunews.com. Please include a date, which township the deer was taken and any other details readers may find interesting.

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