MANTON — Who knows if the recent regulation changes had anything to do with it, but deer hunting in the Manton area seems to have been given a jump start.
And it looks like it could be even better next firearm season.
The hunters based out of our family cabin just outside Manton across the Missaukee County line saw perhaps the best signs and most numerous buck sightings in as long as I recall.
The antler changes — requiring at least three horns on a side, similar to what Leelanau County has had for years now — have seemingly been a boon.
I’ve hunted in Manton my entire life. It’s where my father taught me how to hunt and where my family has gone every year, regardless of whether it was place with a good chance to bag a buck. Still, it was a shame to see the quality of hunting drop so drastically there over the last few decades. But we persevered and hunted out of the modest cinder-block cabin near state land. Family tradition won out over desire to put a trophy on the wall.
Word gets out among hunters fairly quickly, and the area has seen declining hunter pressure and dropping numbers of big bucks taken in recent years.
The number of big bucks may not have taken off right away, but optimism has.
Most of the guys in our camp saw at least one buck in three days of hunts — a sad rarity in the Gurr cabin, which has been there since WWII. One observed an eight-point. Another hunter I talked to said he saw a 10-point in heavy cover that he couldn’t get a shot at.
Three of us saw the same four-point buck — always chasing after does and not paying much attention to all the people clad in orange dotting the oak ridges. He’s likely the same buck that left rubs on two trees near my cousin’s blind and a large, fresh scrape not more than 30 feet from mine.
Under the old rules, that four-pointer surely would have been atop someone’s car by now, likely weeks ago during archery season. Now, he’ll have at least another year to grow, reproduce, smarten up and turn into a prize buck instead of an easy target.
Next year, that four-point will be a six-point or probably bigger. But he likely wouldn’t get to next year under the old rules, which allowed taking any yearling buck with antlers the size of a human finger. The new requirements should see an increase in both size and number of bucks in most of Northwest Lower Michigan as it has in Leelanau.
We can only hope.