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!

From Our Fans: The Best of Fall in Pure Michigan

Fall in Michigan is short, but jam-packed with spectacular seasonal offerings! Earlier this month, we asked our fans to share their favorite fall foods, activities, and traditions.  We rounded up their responses to create an at-a-glance guide to experiencing fall in Pure Michigan. Take a look at some of the best of fall in the Mitten State according to our community. 

Michigan Apples

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Photo by Mary Van Arsdell

Dark chocolate covered caramel apple from Veni’s in Niles, MI. - Mary Van Arsdall

Koezes in Grand Rapids has locally grown apples hand dipped in house made caramel and rolled in cashew pieces. Only in October, delicious! - Joyce Winters

Michigan apples in an Apple Crisp recipe from Mackinac Island Dessert cookbook. Can’t get more Michigan than that! - Eric N Susan Murrell

Fall Flavors

Just had a Short’s Brewing Funkin Punkin keg for our wedding reception. Mmmmm good! Cheers to fall beers! - Adam Crall

Founders Harvest Ale. - Jan n’ Gary Dall

I made homemade apple fritters with Michigan maple syrup glaze! - Briana Herzog

Wasem Fruit Farm in Milan for great apples, maple glazed donuts & cider at a nice price.  - Jill S. 

Nothing is as fabulous as a cider mill donut, still hot enough for the outside to be almost crispy.  - Michele Cook Hayden

Love Blackstar Farms Late Harvest Riesling . It’s the best. can’t wait to visit.  - Sandy Westen

New Holland Brewing Icabod Pumpkin Ale.  - Kim Looman

Color Tours

Photo by Becky Pawloski Scholten

Photo by Becky Pawloski Scholten

Top of the lift ride at Boyne Mountain. Awesome views! - Lynn Jones

Went up to Leelanau, came back down M-37. Was very happy to have stopped at the scenic turnout/rest stop along the way. - Shelley Ferguson

Going to Oscoda. Taking the Fall Color Cruise on the AuSable. - Patrick Shaffer

My quick fall color tour is driving Edward Hines from Northville to Dearborn. - Lynn Plachetzki White

A fall drive to see the trees. When we lived in the Detroit area, we would take the drive through Hines Park. While living in the U.P., we always drove along Lake Superior, then to Tahquamenon Falls. - Joni Johnson

Cider Mills

Franklin Cider Mill! I’m not even a resident of Michigan and we make an annual trek to the “Cider Mecca!” - Karen Page

Opening Day at Dexter cider mill for fresh cider and warm donuts! Yum! - Angela Marshall ‏

Parmenters in Northville – THE BEST fresh cinnamon donuts!!! - Tracy Nafe

Uncle Johns, Spicers, Parshallville, Montrose Orchards…..love them all! - Nancy Miller

Pumpkin Patches

Cari Angell

Photo by Cari Angell

The charming Pumpkin Barn in Levering, MI.  - Cari Angell

Johnson’s Giant Pumpkin Farm in Saginaw, MI. They have a lot of activities for kids, a corn maze, crafts, food, pumpkin chucking with a trebuchet, animals to pet & feed. Always a great time for the family.  - Terri Garabelli

Vince and Joe’s Market on Garfield Rd. in Clinton and 25/Van Dyke Rd. in Shelby Twp. They have everything pumpkin for your Octoberfest.  - Vlasta Hallova Trulik

Andy T’s! See the monster weigh-off contenders and winners! - Andrew Eagle

Fall Festivals and Events

I love Fruit Ridge Hayrides! - Star Juarez

Applefest in Charlevoix! Love my Michigan! - Ruthann LaPorte Beyer

Farmer J’s world record corn mazes by Cabela’s in Dundee. – Jill S.

Art Prize is  awesome its a must see. - Shawn Sams

Joining in on the excitement of The Detroit Marathon is memorable for both participants and spectators.

Game Day Excitement

Photo by MMB Photography

Photo by MMB Photography

Eastern Market is always a stop for my daughter and I…what a great mix of the D at it’s best.  - Jules Ryan

Comerica Park – My favorite spot in all of the great state of Michigan!! - Lynn Friedenstab Becker

Ann Arbor and East Lansing are game day hot spots throughout the season!

Outdoor Exploration

Manitou Charter Fleet – With charter captain Bill Wright out of Leland. We learned many different ways to cook salmon! - Kevin Rogers

Hiking, biking, and off-roading on Michigan trails are a great way to experience fall colors.

Fall means the start of prime hunting season!

Halloween Fun

Spooky trails, Swartz Creek. - XTREMETALS

Halloween on Tillson Street – We’ll be going… It’s a Halloween must! And a sleepover for the grandchildren. - Donna Vehar

Junction Valley Railroad is entertaining enough for the whole family – and Handicap accessible! - Dan Miller

Family Traditions

Go horseback riding in the woods and listen to the sounds and look at the colors of autumn. - Brenda Shaw

Bon fires with good friends and some good wine! - Lynn Scraver

We take a trip to Mackinac Island and walk the trails. It is a quiet way to enjoy the beauty. - Cindy Howard Murphy

What’s on your “Best of Fall” list? 

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.