A few minutes before 7 a.m. this Wednesday, parts of southeast Michigan will be the first in the state to ring in the time-honored tradition of firearm deer hunting season.
In the fifteen days before the season ends, more than half a million hunters are expected to take part, and the weather both past and present will have a lot to say about the luck they'll have.
Last winter and spring's relatively mild temperatures and below average snowfall led to more white-tailed deer surviving winter and being born this spring.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources expects more deer this fall in southeast Michigan and statewide. The DNR expects that to mean slightly higher success rates for hunters compared to last year.
Careful wildlife studies have shown that whitetails are most active when temperatures are below 45 degrees F. That may not be too cozy for a long vigil in a tree-stand, but hunters like deer to be moving around as much as possible.
All of southeast Michigan will be below that 45 F level at dawn Wednesday. On the flip side, similar studies have shown that deer are less active in foggy, rainy or snowy weather.
Dawn Wednesday looks dry in southeast Michigan, but rain is very likely to move in later in the day, potentially limiting game movement in those later hours. Dry and still cool conditions should return on Thursday, with most temperatures staying below the mid-40s even during the afternoon.
Another weather element that many hunters like to see is some snow cover, which can make tracking their targets easier.
Mid-November usually sees some snow cover in northern lower and the U.P., but it's not very common in our region this early. True to form, most of the snow cover is well north of us.
As you can see from the image below from this Monday morning, small amounts of snow from this weekend are scattered north of metro Detroit, but snow deep enough to help with tracking is mainly north of about Kalkaska and more plentiful in the U.P.
That scant snow cover is likely to be gone before dawn Wednesday and statewide snow cover will diminish in widespread sunshine Tuesday and with rain showers moving in Wednesday, even up north.
Our longer term outlook looks favorable for hunters for much of the firearm season, with temperatures likely to be near or slightly below average and storminess, of both rain and snow, trending toward smaller amounts than average.
Even if you don't plan to hunt, you probably know someone that will and you definitely can welcome the economic impact the sport has on our state.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that deer hunting kicks about $2.3 billion into the state in an average year. It also brings family and friends together in the great outdoors for what will hopefully be safe memory-making.
And hunters, if you find yourself with more bounty than you can use, the Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger are dedicated to using some of that excess wild game to feed our region's hungry.