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Good deer herd news: Average winter means larger EUP deer herd


05/15/07 By SCOTT BRAND/The Evening News

EASTERN UPPER PENINSULA - An average winter should produce good news for Eastern Upper Peninsula deer hunters this fall, according to all the signs compiled by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Utilizing the winter severity index - which combines collected statistics regarding snow depth, snow compaction and temperature throughout the season - the DNR is able to get a rough idea of the weather's impact on herd survival.

“If (the number) is in the higher ranges we will have a lot fewer deer come spring,” said Ainslie of the mathematical formula. “If the number is lower we would expect higher survival.”

While this is not an exact science, biologist have traditionally used a score of 100 or more as the benchmark for a bad winter. With the 2006-07 winter season concluding at 86.5, the numbers certainly point to good survival for both last year's fawns and those that will be born this spring.

The 2006-07 winter season got off to a very slow start. With temperatures well above average and the snows holding off into the first week of January, the deer essentially avoided more than a month of full-blown winter weather. As a result, when temperatures dipped into the -30 degree range in early March and snow lingered in some areas, the herd's overall health allowed most of the animals to survive the rough spots with little difficulty.

“I don't expect it will be any worse,” said Ainslie looking into the crystal ball even in the event of a cold, wet spring. “Our calculations are showing us we can expect more deer.”

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources and many local hunters seemingly agree there were more deer going into the winter of 2006-07 than there were the in 2005-06. Last year's fawns, it appears, survived the winter in relatively good shape. For the mature does, an average winter should result in a productive fawning season this spring.

As a result, Ainslie and company are looking to increase the antlerless harvest in the fall of 2007.

“We will maintain a close line on antlerless licenses,” he predicted. “There will be a minor increase, but no drastic changes.”
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