Deer hunters provide mixed reports

BIG RAPIDS — Initial feedback on the 2015 deer hunting locally seems to indicate the quality of deer harvest was up, but the quantity may not have been that high.

“Locally, I don’t have a sense of the numbers, but I do have a sense that hunters were more successful this year than last,” area DNR wildlife biologist Pete Kailing said. “The first couple of days were excellent weather compared to last year. Antler development appeared to be above normal.  Even year and a half old bucks were showing some pretty good antlers this year compared to historical trends.”

The deer herd appeared to be healthy, Kailing said.

“We didn’t have any instances of sick deer that I know of,” he said. “It was a healthy herd, very fat deer. We’re ready for a rough winter if we’re to have one. But so far, it’s been mild.”

Besides deer season, hunting activity remains busy.

“The bobcat trapping season is open from (Dec. 10-20),” Kailing said. “Trappers this year, with pelt prices down, there may not be that many. But we see probably 12 to 15 cats here at the Paris (DNR) office this year from Newaygo, Mecosta, Oceana, Osceola counties. They’re a more common furbearer than people think.

“Muzzleloading season (south) of M-20 continues. If you hunt in zone 2 (north of M-20), it closed Dec.13. Small game season is open. The late antlerless season continues Dec. 21 to Jan. 1.”

Kailing said he hasn’t heard much from the muzzleloading community.

“It’s been decent hunting weather for hunters and has been so mild,” he said. “If you’re tracking, there’s been no snow. That makes it more difficult hunting. It’s hard to keep muzzleloaders dry if you’re moving out in wet conditions.”

Bow season continues through Jan. 1.

“We’ve gotten reports of smaller bucks that have gotten by or passed on by hunters,” Kailing said.

As for small game hunting, “it’s been very mild,” Kailing said. “For rabbit hunters, they like a little snow so they can see the dogs, see the rabbits and where the habitat is. I haven’t heard much from them. When it’s warm like this, rabbits aren’t likely to hole up. They’re still moving around the landscape, acting like it’s more fall than winter.

“Squirrels are enjoying it too. It’s so open and this makes fall hunting more challenging with conditions hunters aren’t used to. I know we have a lot of squirrels on the landscape, and rabbits where there’s good habitat for them.”