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.

Fun and Friendship at South Haven’s Women’s Only Weekend

The gals are taking over South Haven! November 8th-10th is Women’s Only Weekend. Groups of gal pals will hit the shops, restaurants, and local attractions in downtown South Haven to enjoy each others company and be entertained. Guest blogger Lisa Shanley gives us the scoop on this fun-filled ladies-only getaway. 

If November 15th is opening day of firearm deer hunting season in Michigan and all of the Michigan men supposedly head to the woods, then it stands to reason that the women of Michigan should lay claim to an opening day in their own right. Well, they have!

Head to South Haven, Michigan on November 8th and see for yourself why over 300 women have converged here!  Believe me, the excitement of opening day at  South Haven’s Women’s Only Weekend is better than “bagging your first buck!” With over 50 activities packed into three days, it’s important to establish your “base camp” early. Translation – book your room! Just like antlers, they come in all shapes and sizes. Choose from historic B&B’s, family resorts, waterfront inns, or a vacation rental that will sleep all of your gal pals.

Next, you’ll want to buy your “license to hunt” – also known as your Women’s Only Weekend Ticket. These can be purchased online for just $60 per person. Aside from lodging and meals, this is all you’ll need to get into most weekend events.

Now, comes the best part – staking out your territory! With so much going on, you and your group of gals will want to zero in on your targets early. Check the schedule on the home page of the visitors’ bureau website. Whether it’s shopping downtown, tasting wine, taking in classic chick flicks or just kicking back in your room with a glass of wine and a novel,  this weekend is all yours so do what you want at your own pace!

With so much shopping, entertainment and fun; the “Sisterhood is Powerful” Brunch sponsored by Midwest Living Magazine is a top draw on Sunday, and is also included with the price of your ticket this year!

In the world of “Buck Pole Contests” – you know the ones where all the men proudly display their hunt side by side to see who shot the largest buck – well, we can top that too! At the end the weekend, the women with the most shopping bags will be entered into the WOW Shopping “Hall of Fame!” It might not be a Boone and Crocket big game record buck, but when you open the next credit card bill, let’s compare who had the most fun. WOW, I guess we win!

Where do you like to go for a fun-filled Pure Michigan getaway with your friends? 

Lisa Shanley is the executive director of the South Haven/Van Buren County CVB, past president of the Michigan Association of Convention & Visitor Bureaus, and marketing chair for the Michigan Beachtowns Association. Lisa and her all-star team at the CVB have been promoters, partners, volunteers, and participants of South Haven’s Women’s Only Weekend for the past three years!