Hunting Season off to Strong Start, Despite Deer Disease

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It's only been a few days since deer hunters have been able to use firearms and several have already taken aim.

"We've actually seen quite a few deer," said Lansing hunter Dan Woodland. "More than in previous years."

However, this year, a deer-killing virus called Epizootic Hemorrhagic Disease (E.H.D.) has killed more than 13,000 white-tail deer in Michigan and it has hunters worried.

"It could affect the whole state and then we'd have a real problem," said Woodland.

E.H.D. has affected 30 Michigan counties, the hardest hit include Ionia County. Earl Flegler, who works at the DNR deer check station in Bath Township says, so far, it has not affected deer season, locally.

"I've certainly seen deer out in the fields. I was out opening day and I always keep track in the morning of how many shots I hear by eight o'clock," said Flegler, a Public Land Specialist for the Michigan DNR. "Last year, it was 77. This year, it was 87, so we're on a comparable number."

While Flegler says E.H.D. has killed off some deer in Clinton County, good weather has played a big part in the success of this year's harvest.

"Cool mornings that help deer move," said Flegler. "They're hungry so they're looking for food, but it's been comfortable enough for the hunters to stay out."

Despite E.H.D. worries around the state, local deer meat processors are still seeing long lines. Merindorf Meats in Mason is taking in 25 percent more deer than last year, at this time.

"Two days ago, we took over 100 deer in and yesterday we took over 50 deer in," said Linn Merindorf, Owner of Merindorf Meats. "I've got two 48-foot trailers and that's how we keep the deer. Once those get full, I'll probably have to stop taking them."

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