2017-11-23 / Outdoors

Wet weather leads to relatively slow opener

LAKE LEELANAU St. Mary freshman Luke LaCross shot the third buck of his deer-hunting career last Thursday, an 8-point. LAKE LEELANAU St. Mary freshman Luke LaCross shot the third buck of his deer-hunting career last Thursday, an 8-point. Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich hadn’t missed an opening-day hunt since 1967.

With a nice buck already in the freezer from archery season, that streak ended last Wednesday as Borkovich opted to sit the 2017 opener out and work on a few Department of Natural Resources projects.

He may not have missed much.

Consensus among county sportsmen seems to be that firearm season is off to a somewhat slow start this year.

“Very slow start because of the wet weather conditions,” Borkovich said. “It was tough for a lot of people who took time off work or school, but that just means there’s more deer for later.”

Heavy rain and wind blew through the county on the evening before the opener, and a steady rain greeted hunters at dawn. According to National Weather Service readings kept for Maple City, .42-inch of rain fell on Nov. 15 with a high reading of 44 degrees and a low of 40.

In fact, precipitation was a major story for the first days of the firearm deer season, as rainfall was recorded every day through Monday along with measurable snowfall last Thursday and Sunday.

Borkovich finally hit the woods last Thursday and spotted three smaller bucks including a 6-point, and three does.

Others saw at least one big buck as stories of successful hunts spread across the county.

Borkovich said on Monday that he’d seen at least a dozen big-buck pictures taken on the Leelanau Peninsula.

Enterprise readers also reported a number of successful outings, including Steve Brett of Bingham Township and Mark Zientek of Kasson Township who tagged 9-points. Their hunts were especially rewarding because they overcame health challenges. Their stories appear in Section One.

St. Mary freshman Luke LaCross of Lake Leelanau shot an 8-point, the third of his short deer hunting career. Caleb Hughes shot a 6-point whose rack looked more like an elk.

And members of Hallett’s North Camp as of earlier this week had harvested two 9-points, an 8-point and a 6-point. Brothers Gary Brown and Mark Brown bagged the 9-points.

Dean Schaub didn’t have to wait long in the evening hunt on opening day to bag his 8-point, which came by at 3:30 p.m. Hunting on private property near Lake Leelanau he had previously seen four does.

That said, news of less successful hunts tends to travel slowly.

Maple City sportsman Andrew Milliron, president of the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) Northwest Michigan Branch, said rifle season started “quietly.”

“I talked to a couple guys yesterday that saw some younger bucks and some does,” Milliron said last Thursday morning. “I don’t know of anyone who has gotten anything yet.”

Steve Griffith, a wildlife biologist at the DNR Traverse City Customer Service Center, said he only checked a few opening-day deer, including a 10-point from Benzie County.

“We’ve talked with a few guys from Leelanau,” Griffith said on Friday. “We’re seeing some nice deer all over, but overall it’s been slow.”

Healthy deer and promising antler development across the region have led Griffith to believe deer numbers are “pretty darn good” and that area sportsmen are in the midst of a “good season.”

That certainly seemed to be the case on Friday, Griffith said, as action picked up at the new DNR Customer Service Center located south of Traverse City on M-37.

“I’ve been driving to and from state land and I have seen deer during the daylight hours, so they’re moving,” said Griffith, one of many DNR staff on the lookout for an elk reportedly roaming around the “Buckley- Kingsley” area. “The cold-weather front usually gets them going and the rut seems to be a little late.”

Mark Steimel of Fur-Fish-Game Taxidermy in Lake Leelanau had similar things to say about the deer herd.

Steimel said he heard from his first customer of firearm season last Thursday and anticipates many more.

“Bow season, all the way leading up to gun (season), was my best ever,” said Steimel, who had about 20 bucks brought his way for mounting during bow season.

Bob Smith, who owns The Sportsman Shop in Glen Arbor, said bow-season buck pool contest sponsored by the shop was won by Dennis Williams of Cedar, who shot an 11-point with a 13.5-inch spread.

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