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The Hunt Is On

Fun for guys & gals

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SAGINAW, MI (WNEM/AP) -

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the firearms deer season is off to a good start, with hunting license sales up 2 percent from the same point a year ago.

The season opened last Thursday and runs through Nov. 30.

The DNR says about 640,000 hunters bought one or more Michigan deer licenses by opening day.

It says most hunters in the Upper Peninsula have been observing more deer this year than last.

The DNR says there appears to be an increase in hunting activity in the northern Lower Peninsula, while southern Michigan hunting may be down because of outbreaks of epizootic hemorrhagic disease during the summer.

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The DNR said weather conditions around the state have been good for hunting. Tracking snow is lacking in most areas, and little precipitation of any type has occurred over the first several days of the season. Mornings have offered cool temperatures and the best hunting conditions, and winds have been mostly light. Midday temperatures have been warm for this time of year, which can reduce midday deer activity but has provided comfortable conditions for hunters to remain afield.

Meanwhile, in Oceana County, MLive.com reports sheriff's officials searched the woods starting last Thursday night for a hunter in his late 40s who was reported missing. Authorities say the hunter's companions reported he had not returned to their camp after last being seen Thursday afternoon.

Hunters across much of the southern part of Michigan's Lower Peninsula won't be allowed to kill as many deer as usual this fall because of an insect-spread deer disease.

The new limits on antlerless deer hunting are a response to epizootic hemorrhagic disease. The Department of Natural Resources has collected reports indicating at least 13,200 deer have died from the disease in Michigan this year, and the actual number is likely higher.

Wildlife officials decided this week that stricter limits on antlerless deer licenses would help populations bounce back faster in hard-hit areas.

The virus causes extensive internal bleeding and is transmitted by a type of biting fly called a midge. The disease isn't a threat to humans. More information on the disease can be found in the sidebar to the left of this story.

Meanwhile, a state Senate committee last week has approved a bill that would designate the gray wolf as a game species in Michigan, a first step toward allowing the predator to be hunted.

The measure cleared the Natural Resources, Environment and Great Lakes committee on Thursday. It now goes to the full Senate, which is in recess until Nov. 27.

If it's enacted, state Natural Resources Commission will decide whether to establish wolf hunting seasons.

Wolves have rebounded from near extinction in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, where the population is estimated at nearly 700. Wisconsin and Minnesota began allowing wolf hunts this fall.

Supporters of hunting say the wolf population is too big and poses danger to people and other animals. Opponents say wolves are still recovering and it's too soon for a hunt.

Copyright 2012 WNEM (Meredith Corporation.) All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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