Deer Hunting Traditions Run Deep in Pure Michigan

Are you ready for opening day? Today, guest blogger Katie Keen from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources shares her family’s yearly hunting season preparations and traditions. 

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Deer season means something a little different to each hunter, but for many Michiganders November is a very special time of the year!

For me, deer season will always catch me off guard!  How does fall arrive so soon?  I always have a goal of where I need to be in my deer season preparations, which I seem to fail at miserably.  It really should be easy, when the antlerless deer application period is open July 15 – August 15, the same time every year. I should be thinking deer and thinking deer should tell me to get shooting!  Usually my goal is to get my bow out sometime in the month of August and start practicing, I’ve accomplished this task about 50% of the time, because you know you have those little voices in your head saying “oh you overachiever, you’ll be fine if you don’t start until September.”

My family and I go out on our property stomping around on about a daily basis, we could be picking berries, mountain biking or taking a hike but I’m always multi-tasking.  Finding deer trails is our past-time, and we love looking for any animal sign, but tracks, scrapes, scat, and rubs are our favorite!  So really, that’s my scouting, which I generally feel good about.

For me, fall is the best time of the year to be outside, the absolute best months of the year hands down!  Many others must agree, because annually over 660,000 hunters take to Michigan’s fields and forest for deer season.  That is a lot of families, friends, and neighbors that are all sharing a common interest in getting some fresh local and organic deer meat, not to mention having a little fun while we are at it!

DSC01912This year the deer licenses are even more flexible than ever before!  You can buy a deer license (limit one so if you’re going to want to harvest two bucks go for the combo deer license) and hunt in any season!  With the deer license you can hunt archery season and harvest an antlerless or an antlered, or you can use the same license and hunt firearm season for antlered deer.  This is by far the best change of 2014 – so flexible and no application required (so it’s okay if you’re a person who can’t remember what you are did yesterday).  Visit www.michigan.gov/hunting  to read about your specific areas hunting seasons, antler point restrictions, baiting regulations, and more.

The Hunting and Trapping Digest is a must have! It’s in my purse, goes with me to the blind, and is stashed in my vehicle.

SX-Michigan-DNRSo with over 660,000 deer hunters taking to the woods, rituals or traditions are happening year after year and although the traditions may vary, they are at every deer camp and literally with every hunter.  It could be the same giant wool socks you’ve had for a decade, the big feast the night before or the “eve” of the deer season, maybe cleaning out the party the mice had in your deer blind the past winter, or walking that same trail out to your favorite spot in the crisp dark early morning of the opener.

It’s different for everyone one, but yet it’s the same.  It’s kind of nice to think about.  It’s neat to think on November 15 as I’m walking out in the darkness, questioning whether that tree was there before or if I got turned around or not, thousands of other people are doing the same exact thing.  THOUSANDS! We all might not think the same on so many other issues, we might come from so many different backgrounds, and we might say go STATE rather than go BLUE, but we are still sharing one of our most favorite times of the year – together.

Do you or a Michigan hunter you know follow any special deer camp traditions? Tell us!

DSC01915Katie Keen is a Wildlife Outreach Technician for the DNR in Cadillac who spends her working hours with hunters, landowners, educators, and media outlets for their DNR related needs! In her off-time, she is a hunting-landowner who loves to educate folks about the DNR!

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.

 

 

Turkey Hunting in Michigan – A Short, But Successful Season

Today, guest blogger Jeff Helsdon from Ontario Out of Doors Magazine tells us about his experience hunting for turkey in Michigan this spring.

Turkey hunting in Michigan is a unique experience, not so much that the birds or terrain are drastically different, but the quality of the hunt is unique.

Going into the hunt, I had memories of a prior visit to Michigan and driving down the backroads and marveling at the numbers of turkeys and deer our family saw. My daughter and I played a game – who could count more out their side of the vehicle. The turkey numbers I saw during that visit are the most I’ve ever seen, and I hunted Missouri previously, which is rated as one of the top turkey-producers in the nation.

My expectations grew after I met Al Stewart, Michigan’s upland biologist, and former National Wild Turkey Federation state chairman Dan Potter, and we saw birds in strut driving into the hunt camp where we’d be staying. We hunted those birds in the morning, but didn’t have any luck calling them in shotgun range after morning fly-down.

We were just considering our next move when Al’s phone rang. Dan had spotted birds on the other side of the bush. After traveling across it and setting up, we weren’t in place long when a loud gobble rang out from beside us. Thinking the bird was down the hill and since I was facing the other direction, I turn slightly. Just then I see the bird move forward, clucking and unsure of what I was. The going-away shot was not a good one.

After moving, we again heard it gobble and managed to get it closer, but not in range.

During lunch Al explained the reasoning behind what I viewed as a complex system of multiple seasons and low bird limit. Although the season lasts five weeks, the license I had was only good for the first week on both private and public land. In total, there are four different seasons, five in total if the over-the-counter multi-area license is included.  The system involves applying for a license and is good for a specific area.

SX-Michigan-DNRAlthough more complex, the Michigan system works. The application system is also used to control hunter numbers on public land – of which Michigan has 10 million acres. Stewart demonstrated the well-planned out MiHunt online application that maps out the public land and cover types on each.

“Many times the public land is better than private land,” he said. “The beauty of public land is there are thousands of acres of it. If you’re on 80 acres of private land and the birds aren’t there, there’s nothing you can do.”

The Michigan limit is only one bird, something Stewart believes is key in maintaining the quality of the hunt.

“Hunter success is as good on the last day as opening day, give or take a per cent or two,” Stewart said. “Our goal in the spring hunt is to maximize opportunity and maintain high quality.”

After lunch, a chance encounter with a flock of jakes while we were scouting turned into a filled tag after some excellent calling.

For more information on turkey hunting in Michigan, visit the Michigan DNR and check out this video about turkey hunting on Beaver Island.

Screen Shot 2014-06-03 at 12.47.56 PMJeff Helsdon is the turkey hunting editor of Ontario Out of Doors magazine and has completed the Canadian slam of turkey hunting as well as chasing gobblers in several states.