The Associated Press

He”s been hunting for 66 years, but Roger Gervais has lost none of his zeal for bagging a prize buck.

“I”m looking for big horns first,” says the resident of Barbeau in rural Chippewa County. “Then after Thanksgiving, I”m not so fussy.”

Some 700,000 like-minded people were taking to the Michigan woods in the murky pre-dawn today for the opening day of firearm deer season, renewing a time-honored ritual.

The season ends Nov. 30. By then, the state Department of Natural Resources expects about 328,000 deer to have been taken and $1.2 billion spent on guns, licenses, food, beverages, gasoline, room rentals and an endless supply of accessories from blaze-orange outer clothes, warm boots and long underwear, to human scent-concealers.

Dave Grigg, of Ishpeming, had one final errand before heading to camp Tuesday: buying groceries for the nine hunters sharing his camp.

To supplement the double batch of spaghetti and meatballs his wife provided, Grigg bought steaks, bratwursts, ham, pancake mix and beverages.

He”ll be at camp for the entire two weeks of firearm season, except for a quick dash home for Thanksgiving dinner.

“The weather”s so nice I”ve got to hunt for some more coolers,” he told The Mining Journal of Marquette. “We”re going to go through a lot of ice.”

For most hunters, whatever they spend is minor compared with deer hunting”s unique brand of satisfaction.

“I started going hunting with my dad in fifth-grade,” said Lynn Strachan, 21, a veterinary technician from Ionia, who has taken two whitetail bucks since she became a licensed hunter five years ago.

“I just liked the excitement of sitting in that blind,” Stachan told The Detroit News. “I like the outdoors. And I like sitting out there now by myself.”

Many hunters say being in the outdoors, away from the noise and pressure of everyday life, and spending time with family and friends are as important as getting a deer.

“It”s just to get together with the guys mostly catch up on things and laugh a little bit,” said Jim DeCaire of Ishpeming, leader of Da Yoopers comedy troupe, whose signature song is “The Second Week of Deer Camp.”

“It goes back to the caveman days when they used to sit around the fire and tell lies,” DeCaire told The Oakland Press of Pontiac. “It”s in our blood.”

But many take the hunt quite seriously.

Gervais, 82, hunts on his eastern Upper Peninsula property, where his camp features two shacks and a series of mounted targets running out to 200 yards.

“I can still put four shots into a pop can at 100 yards,” he told The Evening News of Sault Ste. Marie.

The shack he uses isn”t fancy, but lacks nothing the experienced hunter would want in the woods. It has two silent-opening windows one vertical for the bow, one horizontal for the rifle.

The carefully spring-loaded rifle window has a rifle rest two sandbags on a ledge beneath a homemade awning, which reduces the likelihood of spooking a buck with window glare.

There”s a cot, chair, pull-up table for dining, propane stove, radio with headsets, even a carbon monoxide detector.

Gervais” sons use another shack 100 yards away. They hunt separately from their dad because they”re smokers and “I can”t stand that,” Gervais said. “They won”t quit.”

The DNR expects about 527,000 deer to be killed this fall during all the seasons firearms, archery and muzzleloading, said John Urbain, the Wildlife Division”s big game specialist.

Michigan”s whitetail herd is estimated at 1.9 million, down from 2 million last year. The state ultimately wants to reduce the herd to 1.5 million, Urbain told The Oakland Press.

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