Wolf hunt on track; deer harvest down

MARQUETTE – After 18 days of Michigan’s wolf hunting season, a total of 17 wolves have been killed so far, continuing to keep hunters on a pace to reach the quota of 43 wolves by the end of the month when the season closes.

Meanwhile, state officials said the firearm deer season harvest appears to have been lower than last year, with the effects of last winter’s severe latter days in evidence among the herd, based on hunter and check station reports.

There are three wolf management units in the Upper Peninsula, where 1,200 licensed hunters can shoot wolves during the season. There are quotas set for each of the units.

In Unit A, which is located in Gogebic County, a quota of 16 wolves can be killed in this area. As of this morning, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources said four wolves had been killed there. In Unit B – which includes portions of Gogebic, Ontonagon, Houghton and Baraga counties – 10 wolves have been killed from a quota of 19 wolves. In Unit C, which includes parts of Mackinac and Luce counties, hunters have killed three wolves so far. The quota there is eight wolves.

The bag limit is one wolf per hunter. Trapping of wolves is not allowed in Michigan. If a unit’s quota is reached, hunting will be shut down in that area by the DNR. Hunters must check daily to determine whether units remain open for hunting.

In Minnesota, late season wolf hunting is open. In the early season hunt, hunters and trappers did not reach their quota of 106 wolves. A total of 87 wolves were killed from two zones. Late season hunting and trapping will continue until Jan. 31 or until target quotas are reached. The total Minnesota quota for the early and late season wolf hunts is 220 wolves from three zones. As of today, 19 wolves had been taken from the three zones where a total of 132 wolves can be killed during the late season, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

In Wisconsin, one of six hunting zones remained open today for wolf hunting. So far, 216 wolves from a total quota of 251 have been killed. In the zone where hunting is still allowed, the quota is 71 wolves and 34 have been killed, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

Trapping is allowed in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin wolf hunting season, which began Oct. 15, will continue until the harvest quota is met or Feb. 28.

In regard to the U.P. deer harvest, the number of deer spotted on vehicles heading south across the Mackinac Bridge was down 34 percent this year from last year. During the firearm deer season, bridge toll booth staff count the numbers of deer seen on vehicles and tallies are compiled three times each day.

The firearm deer season closed Saturday. The final Mackinac Bridge tally for the firearm deer season was taken at 11 p.m. Sunday. That count totaled 4,207 deer, down from 6,420 deer counted over the same period last year.

As the firearm deer season was set to close, DNR biologists also said the number of deer registered at deer check stations was down from last year.

“It appears that the check is down approximately 25 percent from last year at the same time for the firearm season in the U.P.,” said David Jentoft, a wildlife biologist with the DNR in Sault Ste. Marie. “This does vary by station.”

Jentoft made the assessment with a couple of days left in the hunt.

“We continue to see a lower percentage of yearling (1-year-old) bucks and a higher percentage of older bucks, particularly 2-year-olds, compared to last year,” Jentoft said. “It was anticipated that the deer population would be down this year compared to last, including fewer yearling deer, given last winter’s conditions.”

The DNR will take several months to report final results of the season, including the feedback from deer hunter surveys.

The muzzleloading season for deer begins Friday in the U.P. and runs through Dec. 15. Archery season for deer is open and continues through Jan. 1.

John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.