An average Opening Day of deer hunting season features a high of 38 and a low of 23 at the ??official?? Upper Michigan observation station, the National Weather Service (NWS) site near Negaunee. I use the word ??average?? instead of ??normal?? because our weather is often anything but normal and a closer look at Opening Day illustrates this.
Since the NWS moved up the hill from the City of Marquette in 1979, the warmest opener was in 2001 with a balmy high of 65 degrees. The first week of Deer Camp came in 12.6 degrees above average. Possibly the warmest opening week of the hunt occurred in 1953. The mean temperature during that period was a remarkable 17 degrees above average in Marquette. In contrast, the year after our most recent balmy opener tilted to the other extreme. In 2002, the morning low was a finger-numbing 3 above zero. The first week of Fire-arm Season was nearly 6 degrees below average that year. On the west end, one of the coldest starts to the season had to be in 1982. Heavy snow fell over roughly the western third of the U.P. on November 12, 1982. The fresh snow cover, clear skies and little wind early on the morning of the 15th led to subzero cold in spots. Ironwood??s official thermometer plummeted to 7 below zero.
The thick western U.P. snow cover in 1982 combined with the frigid temperatures likely made for an unpleasant start to the season. Hunters like a little tracking snow. A thick covering hinders mobility and can stop deer movement, too. Fortunately, at this stage in November, heavy snows are rare. The most likely covering over the highlands of the western and central U.P. is a trace to around 2 inches. In southern areas and areas close to the Lake Superior shore, most openers have no snow.
At the NWS between 1979 and 2007, there were nine years with no snow on the ground. The thickest covering was 9 inches in 1997. As the deer-hunting season progresses, the odds of getting a snow cover increase. By the end of the third week of November, it is typical to have a snow cover at the NWS that stays for the winter. The snowiest season was 1991. From November 15-30, 35.7 inches fell, including a massive 31-incher the weekend of the 23rd and 24th. More recently, the deer hunt in 2005 was plagued with heavy snow. Just under three feet came down from November 15-30. On the other hand, in contrast to the far west end, the deer hunt in 1982 over central Upper Michigan had only 1.2 inches of snow during the 16-day season. The season six years ago in 2006 was also exceptionally mild and snowless. A mere 4.5 inches of snow fell during the hunt.
What??s ahead this season? The left-over snow from the lake event on the west end early this week is mostly gone after the warmth of today. A cold front will clear the U.P. this evening. Behind it, we??ll get a glancing blow of cold air. Some lake-effect clouds will probably develop, but it will not be cold enough for anything other than a flurry. Temperatures will cool back to seasonable levels Friday, with some areas a little below average.
In the longer range, a trough will develop off the West Coast over the weekend. That is a warm signal for us. Temperatures will likely be above average, on some days well above average, until at least Thanksgiving. We will have to wait at least until well into the second week of Deer Camp for a genuine taste of winter this year.
Good luck, be safe and make sure you tune it in to TV6 or Fox U.P. for the latest weather forecast.