A Grouse Hunter’s Guide To Navigating Michigan’s Seven New GEMS

GEMS logo

Grouse hunting season in Michigan is open now through November 14th. Today, guest blogger Katie Keen from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources tells us about a new program that’s giving Michigan hunters access to some of the top grouse hunting areas in the country.

Daylight is starting to give us the squeeze, and if you’re like me, you’re starting to smell fall in the air.

Fall brings prime hunting season in Michigan, and with it a new program that the DNR and many other groups – like the Ruffed Grouse Society, U.S. Forest Service, National Wild Turkey Federation and Ducks Unlimited – are really excited about.

It’s called GEMS, or Grouse Enhanced Management Systems.

Michigan is among the leading states in the nation for grouse hunting, and the GEMS showcase seven great areas for those who want to give the sport a try or maybe existing hunters looking for new locations. The great thing about grouse hunting is, if you’re already a hunter you have – or will soon have, with deer season right around the corner – the hunting license you need.  The base license serves as a small game license, which is all you need for grouse hunting. The base license provides critical funding for wildlife and habitat management and conservation officers, and also to educate the public on the benefits of hunting, fishing and trapping.

Info kioskSeven GEMS are ready for this year’s grouse season, which starts Sept. 15.  Go online and pick out the first GEMS site you want to visit, whether it’s just below the bridge in Indian River, just north of the tri-cities near Standish, or north of the bridge where you could go from Drummond Island in the eastern U.P. to the Ottawa National Forest in the far western U.P.  The adventure is there and waiting!  You’ll also notice, when you’re on the GEMS website, the local support area businesses are giving GEMS. GEMS hunters will receive some great discounts by taking a selfie at a GEMS site and showing the picture to the participating business.

Once you’ve picked out your first GEMS location, and arrived there with your fashionable hunter orange vest, you’ll find some very useful information. Learn about ruffed grouse biology and how forests are managed for wildlife through cutting, hear examples of a ruffed grouse drumming on a log, and – most importantly – check out the map that will show you the miles and miles of hunter walking trails waiting for you.

Screen Shot 2014-09-15 at 5.10.49 PMGEMS areas feature non-motorized trails planted with clover weaving through pockets of grouse’s favorite habitat – stands of young aspen trees. You can choose to stay on the trail looking for grouse, or step off a bit and venture through the stands of young timber.  And don’t forget the other great upland game bird that can be found and hunted in these GEMS – the American woodcock.  Woodcock season starts on Sept. 20, and since it is a migratory bird, an additional free “woodcock stamp” is needed for hunting.  You can grab a woodcock stamp anywhere DNR licenses are sold or online.

Once you’ve completed your first GEMS hunt, make sure to take that selfie in front of a GEMS sign and visit one of the area businesses to get a great discount.  Hunters in Michigan bring millions of dollars into our economy … and have a whole lot of fun doing it!

Katie KeenKatie Keen is a wildlife outreach technician for the DNR in Cadillac, who spends her working hours with hunters, landowners, educators and media representatives to help with their DNR-related needs. In her off-time, she is a hunting-landowner who loves to educate folks about the DNR.

 

 

How to Plan for the Perfect Pure Michigan Fall Color Tour in the Great Lakes Bay Region

Fall is in the air in Pure Michigan! Make the most of the vibrant changing colors by embarking on a fall color adventure on the waterways of the Great Lakes Bay region. Today, guest blogger Wil Hufton of Johnny Panther Quest Adventure trips tells us how to plan for the perfect Pure Michigan fall color tour. 

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

As the operator of a boating adventure tour company, people often ask me when is the best (or my favorite) time to go on a boat ride.  And for decades, my response has never changed.  “When you are BREATHING!”

This year marks my twentieth official one in a lifelong adventure of taking guests through the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge and some of my other favorite places on earth.  It’s part of my livelihood, my business –Johnny Panther Quests Adventure Trips.  More than that, it’s part of who I am.

When I was a young boy, my stepdad bought a set of hand-drawn, color-coded maps, and, with these, we spent five years exploring every river, creek, ditch, and bayou of the Refuge.  We came to know the waterways so well that I could navigate their twists and bends by heart, even at 2am with no moon and no light to guide me.  When folks ask how I do it, I reply, “By braille!”

I admit being partial to the spring, but fall on the waterways of the Great Lakes Bay has a magic all its own.  The air is sweet, the foliage is ripe, and the migrations are cranking up into full swing.  As the frost gets thicker and the days get shorter, the infinite shades of green transform into a kaleidoscope of color.  It becomes easier to pick out the wildlife through the trees and the water gets clearer, sometimes so full of leaves it looks like land.

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

The Saginaw River Valley is rich with wildlife in a way you couldn’t imagine until you’ve seen it. Sometimes so many birds fill the sky, you’ll wish you had a raincoat on, and you never… (I repeat, never)… look up with your mouth open!  Jokes aside, this is the “Everglades of Michigan” at its finest.  And it’s all here when you set out for a fall color tour in Pure Michigan’s Great Lakes Bay Region.

Going on a fall color tour doesn’t have to mean cramming into a car and hitting the tarmac, mile marker after mile marker, as you watch the beautiful fall colors fly past you through the glass.  In the Great Lakes Bay, we like to make our fall color tours a little more… vibrant.  That’s why, on Johnny Panther Quest Adventure Trips (and other Great Lakes Bay fall color tour experiences like those aboard Bay City’s Appledore Tallships) you can experience the beauty of the season as it was intended.  Naturally, freely, and however you please.

That’s because you can customize your fall color tour to be exactly what you want, and nothing you don’t.  If you’re looking for a romantic, relaxing tour, early fall is perfect. From Mid-September through late October the foliage changes dramatically.  At this time in the season, sunsets become more dramatic, and couples snuggle closer together sharing warmth as the world comes alive around them.  Sharing the romance of nature with others is what I live for, and if theirs is reignited in some way, then I’ve been successful!

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

To make the most of an early fall color tour:

  • See nature at its peak.  Here, the fall colors peak around Mid-October, so it’s the perfect time to witness the waterways in all their autumn glory.
  • Dress warm! You can never bring too many layers, and can always remove a few!
  • Bring coolers. Fill them with your favorite bevereages (warm or cold!), pack a picnic basket (with wine, cheese, and chocolate perhaps?) and don’t forget to stash a camera.
  • Pack your binoculars.  As the season progresses, the migrations increase along with other animal activity. We will start seeing more raptors and sometimes multiple eagles in the trees.

Rather opt for a little more of a trailblazing adventure?  You’re not alone.  Each year, I have more and more people who are willing to put on a snowmobile suit and brave the cold to go for a boat ride later in the season (late fall and even well into winter).  Why? Because the deeper in the season we are, the more stuff we see.  Good stuff.  Like the eagle, hawk, heron, and owl.  In the later months, their nests stick out like sore thumbs.  The air is full of birds, and some of the buck’s racks are nothing short of awesome. The solitude and tranquility of thirty-two square miles of rivers, marshes, and bayous beckons.

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

Photo courtesy of Go Great Lakes Bay

To make the most of a late fall (or early winter) color tour (November):

  • Don’t underestimate the late fall or early winter chill.  Dress warm and in layers. Bring spare clothes. A snowmobile suit or similar can be your best friend.
  • Keep things toasty.  Switch from cold beverages to something warm that won’t freeze!
  • Stick with the staples.  As always, stock your picnic baskets, bring cameras (and binoculars are always highly recommended).

By branching out on a late fall or early winter adventure, the colorful leaves will be gone and a totally different landscape awaits. Spotting wildlife will be far easier, and the chorus of ducks, geese, and swans will at full amplitude. The air will be brisk and sometimes biting, we don’t call them adventure trips for nothing!

For it all, you’ll will be rewarded with “tranquilitude.”  A life changing, battery-recharging experience far removed from the hustle and bustle of civilization. If you truly want to eliminate stress, get out of the mainstream, and go on a “quest!”  And your quest for the perfect fall color tour begins right here in the Great Lakes Bay.

Take a quick preview of what you can expect on a Great Lakes Bay fall color tour with Johnny Panther Quest Adventure Trips in the video below!

Wil Hufton - Guest BloggerWil L. Hufton III is the owner and operator of Johnny Panther Quest Adventure Trips, a AAA Gem Attraction that has specialized in ecotours by boat for over 19 years.  He is an outdoor enthusiast who loves sharing his “playground” with others and educating them on everything from waterways to wildlife. 

 

A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Making of Traverse City’s New Music Video “Take Me There”

Today, guest blogger Mary Winowiecki, Marketing Manager for Traverse City Tourism, takes us behind the scenes of the making of Traverse City’s new music video, “Take Me There.” Plus, check out what’s on deck for fall in the Traverse City area. 

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism captured while filming "Take Me There"

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism captured while filming “Take Me There”

It started out like so many great ideas, with an innocent, late-afternoon brainstorming session:

“I know! We should have a Traverse City theme song!”

“Yeah! And we could make it into a contest! Of course the winner would have to be from the Traverse City area …”

“… and we could unveil it during the Cherry Festival! The winning band could play it during the Cherry Royale Parade right down Front Street! How cool would that be?”

“Oh, and we could turn it into a music video! Much better than a traditional destination video!”

And thus the Traverse City Song Search idea was born. There was only one problem with this seemingly flawless plan. Well, OK, there actually numerous challenges, but let’s stick with the main one: Time. Or, to be specific, the lack thereof. The now-infamous brainstorming session of the Traverse City Tourism marketing team took place the last week in March, and if this thing was going to be show-ready by early July’s Cherry Fest, the song entries would need to be received by mid-May … just 6 weeks away.

Photo courtesy of Traverse CIty Tourism - Filming "Take  Me There" in TC

Photo courtesy of Traverse CIty Tourism – Filming “Take Me There” in TC

No problem, said the Marketing team. Traverse City has more musical talent in its pinky finger (no pun intended) than most cities three-times its size! No doubt we would find a fresh sound that exactly captured the almost indescribable feeling that Northern Michigan imparts.

Miraculously, that is exactly what happened. And we have a Traverse City senior with a keen eye for breaking news to thank for it.

“We actually didn’t know anything about the contest until my grandpa sent me the newspaper clipping about it at school,” explains Marc Kanitz, lead singer of the contest-winning Hacky Turtles and a senior at Michigan State University. A self-described “funk/reggae fusion band with strong folk roots,” the Hacky Turtles include four Traverse City natives: Kanitz on vocals, Austin Spencer on guitar and banjo, Alex Rushlow on guitar and Erik Krueger on drums. They were among 18 musical groups who entered the contest, three of whom were chosen as finalists to appear before a local celebrity panel of judges.

While all of the entries covered the myriad of things to do and see in the Traverse City area (Beaches! Wineries! Shopping! Biking! Festivals! Sleeping Bear Dunes!), the judges agreed that the Hacky Turtles best conveyed the emotion of the region:

Sunrise paints these cherry-colored clouds

Wakes the earth, shining rays out on the ground

Brings to life our town below the bays

Great food, better people, everyone’s a friend

All are welcome where the compass ends

So raise a toast to one more day

I feel it calling me, it’s drawing me in …

Take me there, take me where it’s pushing, pulling me along

Days move slow, my heart is full, everything to right from wrong

Smiles, dancing, sun or snow, nothing ever looked so pretty

Oh my, my No. MI, take me there to Traverse City

–The Hacky Turtles

So now we had the winning song, but where to record it? Enter Grant Floering, former TC native and musician extraordinaire who happily agreed to drive up from Grand Rapids to help us out. (We love our small town!) Grant nailed it.

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism - The Hacky Turtles on set of the new video!

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism – The Hacky Turtles on set of the new video!

But what about the parade? Could we pull it off? How would the masses of tourists and locals on Front and Union streets react? Let’s just say at one point the Marketing team had tears in its collective eyes … That’s how good it was!

Homestretch time … we needed to turn this gem into a music video — and fast! The clock was ticking since we had announced the video would be released in early September. Keeping with the Traverse City local theme (hey, it had worked well so far!) we turned to Traverse City photographer/videographer Andy Wakeman. Andy started with a sunset shoot and bonfire with the band at Lake Michigan in late July, on what might just have been the most beautiful night of the summer. Over the rest of the summer he captured teens, families, couples, and seniors enjoying all that’s great about Northern Michigan. Well, everything that he could fit into a two-and-a-half minute video.

And so now here we are, just past Labor Day Weekend and heading into yet another spectacular season Up North … fall. While in many ways it seems like the summer raced by with deadlines and to-do lists having to do with the Traverse City Song Search, we can’t say we’re sorry we came up with that overly ambitions idea last spring. Along the way we got to know four awesome young musicians who love their hometown and were able to translate that into something that makes the rest of us smile every time we hear it. We also met real people enjoying what our little slice of heaven has to offer to so many.

Let’s raise a toast to one more day!

Fall in Traverse City

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

The days might be getting shorter, but Northern Michigan is definitely not short on fun during the fall. Smaller crowds and discounted pricing makes this the perfect time of year to head north and enjoy take a color tour, go wine tasting, enjoy a round of fall golf, bike along the Sleeping Bear Dunes trails, or stroll along Traverse City’s tree-lined downtown. Visit our website for special Fab Fall savings from now through December 19. Here’s a look at what’s happening around Traverse City this fall.

 

Fall Happenings

Leelanau Peninsula Wineries
Discover breathtaking views and sample award-winning wines along the largest and oldest wine trail in Michigan.  The peninsula is home to 25 wineries located within diverse microclimates uniquely suited for a variety of wine grapes. There are three mini-trails for easy touring: the Sleeping Bear Loop, the Northern Loop and the Grand Traverse Bay Loop. Visit for a day or make it a weekend and taste the quality of Traverse City wines.

Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula
Eight distinct wineries are sprinkled along the beautiful Old Mission Peninsula. Relish in the sights and flavors while touring this wine trail featuring dynamic tasting rooms and award-winning wines. Be sure to stop at one of the scenic overlooks for a stunning display of fall colors and magnificent views of Grand Traverse Bay.

Jacob’s Corn Maze
This world class 10 acre Corn Maze is unlike any other in Northern Michigan. Jacob’s Secret Agent Adventure is an exciting and fully interactive farm experience that will captivate and entertain your family for hours with its twists and turns. Visit the website for hours and information.

Hoxsie’s Farm Market
Autumn splendor at its best at this local favorite market and farm.  Stock up on apples, pumpkins, squash, and delicious baked goods. Take a wagon ride to pick the perfect pumpkin, find your way through the corn maze, and finish off the adventure with playtime and snacks in the big red barn.

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Photo courtesy of Traverse City Tourism

Hiking and Biking
Immerse yourself in shades of orange, yellow, and red while exploring one of the area’s many scenic trails. There’s miles of woodland forests rich in color and perfect for spending an afternoon of outdoor recreation.

Driving Color Tours
Choose a route and enjoy the fall season! Take a look at our suggested areas and be sure to bring along a map of the area to help find your way.

Fall Festivals & Events

Sept. 27 – Acme Fall Festival
Sept. 27 – Harvest Festival & Scarecrow Extravaganza
Oct. 4 – Happy Apple Days
Oct. 25 – Zombie Run
Oct. 31 – Downtown Halloween Walk
Nov. 1 – Iceman Cometh Challenge
Nov. 7 – 14 – Traverse City Beer Week
Nov. 1 & 2 and 8 & 9 – Toast the Season 

 What do you think of Traverse City’s new music video?