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FIREARMS Season Ends with One Hunter Killed

Detroit Free Press, MI

BY ERIC SHARP

FREE PRESS OUTDOORS WRITER

Deer kill expected to be down a bit from 2002

December 4, 2003

After Michigan completed 15 days of the firearms deer season without a fatal shooting, a hunter apparently killed himself with his handgun on the 16th and final day.

Police said Ivan Renkiewicz, 43, of Gaylord was hunting near his home Sunday when he apparently tripped and triggered the gun as he fell.

Relatives heard the shot about 8:30 a.m. but did not look for Renkiewicz until about 5 p.m.

Lt. Suzanne Koppelo, head of the state Department of Natural Resources' safety office, said 16 other hunters were wounded in accidental shootings during the Nov. 15-30 season.

The firearms season produced complaints from hunters who spent time in northern Michigan and not only didn't kill a deer but didn't see many.

"Awful, just awful," was Greg Phillips' assessment of the firearms hunt.

The Lansing hunter spent five days near Baldwin in an area he had hunted for nine years, "and I saw two does the whole time I was in the woods," he said.

"I was out there four hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon for five days. We got a little snow one afternoon, so we took a walk looking for sign. There were hardly even any deer tracks.

"When we first set up that camp, we'd see 10-20 deer every day, but it has been going downhill steadily ever since. The DNR started handing out antlerless tags like they were cheese samples in a supermarket, and the deer numbers just dropped out of sight."

Phillips' complaint seemed representative of many hunters in the northern

Lower Peninsula and eastern and central Upper Peninsula. The statewide kill probably will be slightly smaller than the 2002 harvest of about 480,000 for all the deer seasons, including archery and muzzle-loader.

Tommy Dennis of Mt. Pleasant had a slow season, but he blames it on an excess of hunters, not so much a dearth of deer.

"It just seemed like there were orange suits everywhere," Dennis said of his hunting area in Missaukee County. "Maybe it was the Saturday opener, but I don't think I've ever seen so many people in the woods the first two days. I sure heard a lot of shooting going on."

Expectations of a decreased kill were reflected in preliminary information collected by Michigan United Deer Hunters, an organization formed to share information between hunters and the DNR.

Richard Heathcock said most of the early responses reported fewer deer sightings than in years past. Dramatic decreases were most evident in much of the northern Lower Peninsula, Upper Peninsula and parts of the central Lower Peninsula.

That didn't surprise Rod Clute, the DNR's big-game specialist. He was still collecting the final figures Wednesday to provide to the Natural

Resources Commission today. Clute said he expected that the kill would be down slightly from 2002, when firearms hunters killed 288,000 whitetails out of a herd of about 1.7 million.

"The southern Lower will be pretty much the same, but in the northern Lower, we have been successful in bringing the deer numbers down in many areas, and the harvest will reflect that," Clute said.

Firearms hunters account for about 60 percent of the deer killed in Michigan each year. Archery hunters kill about 25 percent, another 10 percent are taken in the December black-powder season, and special hunts and crop-damage permits account for the final 5 percent.

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