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North Manitou Island deer hunt sees increased participation and harvest

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

The National Park Service runs the hunt in an effort to eradicate deer from North Manitou.

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

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.

DeerHaul
Patrick Shea
/
IPR News
Hunters unload the ferry after eight days on North Manitou Island

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.”

JasonCrable
Patrick Shea
/
IPR News
Jason Crable of Marquette with the head of a North Manitou buck.

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.

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.

NMIDock
Patrick Shea
/
IPR News
Hunters prepare to load the ferry from the dock on North Manitou Island.

Patrick Shea is an environmental reporter at Interlochen Public Radio. Before joining IPR, he worked a variety of jobs in conservation, forestry, prescribed fire and trail work. He earned a degree in natural resources from Northland College in Ashland, Wisconsin, and his interest in reporting grew as he studied environmental journalism at the University of Montana's graduate school.