The woods in Northeast Michigan are about to become a popular place for area hunters who wish to get an early start on filling their freezers with wild game.
Currently the antlerless deer season is under way, and next weekend the fall youth hunt commences and will attract young hunters into the forest with hopes of shooting a deer and then returning to school to share their hunting tale.
DNR wildlife biologist Brian Mastenbrook said the youth hunt serves several purposes. He said the main goal is to expose young people to the sport of hunting, in hopes it will remain a hobby of theirs for years.
"The youth hunt is Sept. 24 and 25, and it is designed to get the kids in the field while it is a little easier to do so than later in the fall and winter," Mastenbrook said. "The kids get to see a lot of deer and the weather is still pleasant, and it is our thought that the experience will help them to become lifelong hunters."
The youth hunt has been a topic of heated debate among hunters. Many claim by having people in the woods so early and killing deer, it has a negative effect on the bow and rifle seasons that follow.
"There are those that are definitely against it," Mastenbrook said. "They are right that traffic in the woods make the deer more leery, but there is a lot of people in the woods doing other things other than hunting. You have people looking or collecting leaves, hiking, or just taking walks and spending time outdoors.The deer do know when there is movement in the woods and do react to it, but I have a hard time believing the youth hunt is having a negative impact."
As far as the health of the deer herd and its population, Mastenbrook said he thinks the condition of both has improved due to the fact that the state hasn't had harsh winters in several years.
"We have had two mild winters in a row and two good fawn drops in a row, and I think as a result the people are going to be surprised by the amount of deer they could see," Mastenbrook said. "We also had a great summer, and the trees and plants still have fruit and berries on them, so the deer are going into the fall in really good shape again."
Mastenbrook said hunters who will be taking their children in the woods next weekend for the youth hunt should look for food plots or the trees and bushes with food on or around them. He said the deer will not rut for another month and a half, but the deer will be active because of the recent string of cool temperatures.
"The cold weather should have got them moving a lot better than what they were when it was 80 or 90 outside," Mastenbrook said. "The crisp night last night should have got their blood flowing, and they won't be holed up like they tend to do when it is warmer. I think overall it will be a very successful hunt, and I think that rings true for the archery and rifle season as well."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.