Deer hunting season is officially underway. For Darrin Heckman, the annual tradition could be very different this year.
"The leaves fall and we're ready to go out and enjoy the morning and evening hunts. But this year, it's just a different spin on it," Heckman said.
Heckman hunts in the Maple River area and says he's seen few deer around. According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan has taken on a severe case of EHD. The virus kills deer by causing internal bleeding and is only spread by a kind of small fly.
"Along the rivers or creeks that were affected such as Maple River, then you could see a fairly significant decrease in your deer numbers," said DNR Wildlife Veterinarian Stephen Schmitt.
Even so, Schmitt says with about 1.6 million deer in the state, the overall population won't be affected.
"Over that large area we would probably have more deer killed in car-deer accidents," said Schmitt.
Furthermore, the percentage lost this year is expected to bounce back within three to five years. However, Heckman says he's not taking chances. Many hunters like him have decided to step back in fear of straining the deer population.
"People are going to go into the field hunting with the common goal as far as let's wait and see what we see, hold back on the trigger," Heckman said.
In the meantime, they're not holding back on the hunting tradition. They've turned to squirrels instead.