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North Manitou Island deer hunt sees increased participation and harvest

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Patrick Shea
/
Interlochen Public Radio
Hunters arrive back on the mainland after the 27th annual North Manitou deer hunt.

The Leland ferry made three round trips on Sunday, as the 37th annual North Manitou Island deer hunt wrapped up.

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Patrick Shea
Hunters unload the ferry after eight days on North Manitou Island.

Hunters returned to the mainland after eight 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– a 47% increase from last season. 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 going to get this guy cooled down and find a taxidermist as soon as possible because he’s going on the wall,” Crable said.

“I’ll enjoy some venison with myself and my family. It’s kind of still settling in, 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. The goal is to eradicate the deer from North Manitou, to stop over-browsing on the island’s vegetation.

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Patrick Shea
Jason Crable of Marquette with the head of a North Manitou buck.

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.

During that time, 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 much worse: about 80%.

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

“Just the sights on the island,” Giddis said. “The island itself is amazing. The adventure’s what it’s all about.”

Giddis—and many other hunters—said they’ll be back next year.

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Patrick Shea
Hunters prepare to load the ferry from the dock on North Manitou Island.

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