ST. JOHNS, Mich. (WLNS) – Hunters braved the cold and took part in ‘Opening Day’ for firearm hunting season amid a growing deer population.

They’re bundling up and showing off their kills today since the season kicked off this morning. And Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials said it’s good to see since hunting license sales are down, while deer populations are on the rise.

“November 15th, I’ve heard it described as ‘The Superbowl’ for deer hunters,” Michigan DNR Deer Biologist Chad Stewart said.

It’s the favorite time of year for hunters.

“It should be a holiday like Christmas and New Year’s,” hunter Ben Swanchara said.

Swanchara had the special honor today of hanging the first buck at Andy T’s Buck Pole.

“I shot this one at 8:32 a.m., my son had to help me get it out. I’m a senior citizen now,” Swanchara joked.

He’s one of the many in the ‘orange army’ who went out on opening day. Most say, it’s a tradition and it’s necessary.

“There are plenty of deer around, just ask Andy, he farms our ground, and they destroy a lot of pumpkins, and a lot of corn, and beans,” Swanchara said.

The state DNR said hunting season helps combat any more damage done by the deer population.

“They certainly do a good job at trying to manage deer as much as possible,” Stewart said. “But it does become more challenging as hunting numbers decline, you know, what that management looks like because deer are very prolific breeders, and their population is always wanting to grow it seems.”

Despite that, there are fewer and fewer hunters heading out each year.

“We’re down probably with license sales about 1.4% I think as of today. And that’s typical to the trends that we’ve been seeing over the past 10 or 20 years we’ve been seeing about a decline of about 1-3% in our hunters each year,” Steward said.

And if you’re still looking to get your first buck of the season, Swanchara said not to fret.

“They’re still running and chasing pretty good, it’s just tough to get them to stand still,” he said.