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North Manitou Island Deer Hunt sees increased participation, harvest

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Michigan DNR
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The North Manitou Island deer hunt wrapped up on Sunday.

The annual hunt has been going on since 1984.

This year saw an increase in both participation and harvest.

The Leland ferry made three round trips to North Manitou Island on Sunday, returning hunters to the mainland after 8 days in the backcountry.

The boat also carried heaps of deer carcasses, that were hoisted over the side and onto the fishtown pier.

160 deer were harvested. That’s a 47% increase from last season.

And around 200 hunters participated ... compared to last year’s count of 157.

Jason Crable of Marquette was one of them. He hauled his eleven-point buck a half mile through the woods and to the island’s ferry dock.

“I am gonna get this guy cooled down and find a taxidermist as soon as possible because he’s going on the wall. And I’m gonna enjoy some venison with myself and my family. It’s kind of still settling is how big he is and how good of a buck he is.”

Since the National Park Service bought the island in 1984, it hasn’t set a harvest limit for this special annual hunt.

Its goal is to eradicate the deer from North Manitou, to stop over-browsing on the island’s vegetation.

A herd of nine whitetails from Pennsylvania were introduced to the island in 1925, and the population boomed.

For more than 50 years, North Manitou functioned as a private sportsman’s retreat for the uber wealthy.

It wasn’t uncommon to shoot four or five deer in a single afternoon, and hunters who paid for the experience had a one-deer guarantee.

The success rate this year wasn’t too much worse, about 80%.

Dan Giddis is a hunter from Lake Ann.

Even though he was one of the unlucky few who didn’t shoot a deer, he says it was still a great experience.

“I saw two does but didn’t have a good shot. The adventure’s what it’s all about, you know? Just the island itself is amazing.”

Giddis and every other hunter I spoke with says they’ll be back next year.