By Louie Stout
Deer season is underway in both Indiana and Michigan but the weather has hardly felt like it.
That won’t keep die-hard bow hunters out of the woods, despite their sweaty battle with insects, trying to find deer through the heavy foliage and other nuances of early season hunting.
Most hunters prefer to wait until the weather cools, more leaves fall and crops are coming down. However, the avid bow hunters will tell you that the early bird gets the … big buck, or at least he stands a good chance to encounter an unsuspecting trophy that hasn’t been spooked by forthcoming hunting pressure. Those odds diminish once the bow hunting season moves into full swing and before the rut.
Hunting forecast: Wildlife managers on both sides of the state predict seasons similar to last year, which is always a safe prediction. From what we gather, 2017 has been good for fawn production and there’s been plenty of food to eat. Of course, those deer won’t rate as likely targets until the next couple of years.
Fortunately for southwest Michigan hunters, the DNR has reduced the number of antlerless tags they are issuing which should put a few more deer around the tree stands.
Even so, deer management unit 311, which encompasses Cass and Berrien counties, had 198 public land and 7,600 private land antlerless permits left for sale as of last week. But the number made available is down 20 percent.
Indiana lowered some of its county quotas but most of our northern Indiana counties remained the same. For example, St. Joseph, Elkhart, LaPorte and Kosciusko county hunters can continue to take 4 does a season if they buy four permits. Marshall County was reduced from three to two.
The antlerless permits are bonus hunting opportunities beyond the normal deer licenses and provide the DNR a tool for controlling the deer population and reduce crop and vehicle damage.
Disease update: There have been some reports in southern Michigan of potential EHD disease but none confirmed. And since we don’t have a district wildlife biologist anywhere near here, it’s difficult to learn of any Hoosier reports.
As bad as EHD is, it’s not nearly the problem that Michigan wildlife managers are facing with Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). They are keeping a watchful and nervous eye on this fall’s harvest in light of another discovery of CWD last week. It marks the 10th case of CWD the state has uncovered in recent years.
The most recently infected animal was harvested by a youth hunter in Montcalm County, and preliminary tests indicate the animal may be positive for CWD. The DNR is awaiting final confirmation from the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
Montcalm is located north of Grand Rapids. The other nine cases were confined in central Michigan counties of Clinton and Ingram.
CWD is a fatal neurological disease that affects white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose. It is caused by the transmission of infectious, self-multiplying proteins (prions) contained in saliva and other body fluids of infected animals. Susceptible animals can acquire CWD by direct exposure to these fluids, from environments contaminated with these fluids or the carcass of a diseased animal.
Some CWD-infected animals will display abnormal behaviors, progressive weight loss and physical debilitation; however, deer can be infected for many years without showing internal or external symptoms. There is no cure; once a deer is infected with CWD, it will die.
Check-in locations: Michigan doesn’t require hunters report their deer although the DNR certainly prefers you do because of the CWD outbreak north of here. It’s mandatory in those areas where CWD has been detected but officials want to monitor as many deer as they can to make sure it hasn’t spread.
During bow season, the southwest Michigan check station is located at Crane Pond Game Area in Jones. Call for an appointment, 269-244-5928.
Hoosier hunters are required to check in deer one of four ways: Through the CheckIN Game system, in the Fish & Wildlife Online Services application, at an on-site check station, or by phone.
The phone-in option (800-419-1326) requires a $3 fee with Visa or Mastercard.
Or, you can do it the old-fashioned way and take the deer to an official check station of which the number of local sites is dwindling. In St. Joseph County, only the Michiana Archery Pro Shop in South Bend (574-272-5300) is listed.
In Elkhart County, it’s John’s Butcher Shop in Nappanee (574-773-4632). There is none listed on the DNR website for Marshall County.
There are three in LaPorte County – Elkins Taxidermy in New Carlisle (574-654-8845), Jonah’s in Walkerton (219-369-8339) and Kingsbury Fish and Wildlife Area in LaPorte (219-393-3612).
Deer licenses: Indiana resident deer licenses are $24 each for adults 18 and over, but avid adult hunters can also get a bundled license for $65. It is a license that can be used in all seasons and allows a hunter to harvest up to three antlerless or one antlered and two antlerless deer.
Resident youths can buy a youth hunting/trapping license for $7 which is good for the deer season as well.
Michigan residents must purchase a base license ($20 for adults, $5 seniors) before buying or applying for deer licenses. Standard deer licenses are an additional $20 while seniors pay $8.