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Archive | Outdoors

Be an ethical hunter 

 

Buy a license before you go out and don’t  loan kill tags

Conservation officers with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources urge deer hunters to engage in an ethical hunt and be aware that Michigan’s new hunting licenses carry certain conditions. The new licenses approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2013 took effect March 1, 2014. Deer hunters should be aware of the two options they have for licenses:

Single deer license, valid throughout archery, firearm and muzzleloader seasons. This license has replaced the separate archery and firearm licenses. Hunters who buy a single deer license may not buy a second single deer license or the deer combo license.

Deer combo license, which includes two kill tags, one regular and one restricted. Hunters who want two deer licenses must buy the deer combo license instead of the single deer license. This is required to implement antler point restrictions, which apply based on whether the hunter has purchased two deer licenses. The deer combo license is valid for use during the archery, firearm and muzzleloader seasons. A hunter can use both kill tags in the firearm seasons, both in the archery season or one in each season.

Michigan’s new license structure requires hunters to choose at the time of purchase if they want the opportunity to harvest one or two antlered deer, and purchase either a single deer license (one kill tag) or a deer combo license (two kill tags). Because this is the first year of the new structure, some hunters may have bought a single deer license without realizing they couldn’t buy another antlered deer license later.

Those who bought a single deer license and haven’t used it, and would like the deer combo license instead, may bring the unused license back to the store where they bought it during business hours (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) and ask the agent to call the DNR. The DNR will void the single deer license, the agent will keep the voided license and send it back to the DNR, and the hunter may then buy a deer combo license. Those who bought the single deer license online should call DNR Licensing at 517-284-6057 during business hours.

Every deer hunting season, DNR conservation officers encounter individuals engaged in unethical hunting practices and tackle many cases of individuals buying a hunting license after harvesting a deer or loaning kill tags to a friend or relative.
“Each year, we see cases of individuals waiting to buy licenses until after they have shot a deer,” said Dean Molnar, assistant chief of the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division. “We remind all hunters that you must buy your license before you go out to hunt and have it in your possession when afield. Buying a license is not only the ethical and responsible thing to do, it is the law. Harvesting a deer without a license is poaching.”

Deer poaching in Michigan carries a restitution payment of $1,000 per deer, a minimum $250 fine and jail time up to 90 days. In addition, a violator’s hunting privileges are suspended for three years. If an antlered deer with eight or more points is poached, fines are increased under a new law that takes effect this hunting season. Under the new law, antlered deer are assessed an additional $1,000 in restitution plus the standard $1,000 for illegally killing any deer. Deer with eight points but not more than 10 are $500 a point, while deer with 11 points or more are assessed a penalty of $750 per point. Also, additional years can be added to the hunting privileges revocation.
Another unethical practice encountered frequently each hunting season in Michigan is the loaning of kill tags to an unlicensed individual who has harvested a deer. “Loaning kill tags is among the top violations we see while on patrol, and is often done for friends or relatives who are from out of state to avoid paying the nonresident license fee,” said Molnar. “Kill tags must be attached immediately to your harvested deer and visible for inspection. It is unlawful to loan out or borrow kill tags.”
For more information on deer hunting in Michigan, go to www.michigan.gov/deer.

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Single deer license can be returned

OUT-deer-license

Did you buy a single license but wanted the chance to harvest two deer?

Michigan’s new license structure requires hunters to choose at the time of purchase if they want the opportunity to harvest one or two antlered deer, and purchase either a single deer license (one kill tag) or a deer combo license (two kill tags).

Because this is the first year of the new structure, some hunters may have bought a single deer license without realizing they couldn’t buy another antlered deer license later.

Those who bought a single deer license and haven’t used it, and would like the deer combo license instead, may bring the unused license back to the store where they bought it—during business hours (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.) and ask the agent to call the DNR. The DNR will void the single deer license, the agent will keep the voided license and send it back to the DNR, and the hunter may then buy a deer combo license. Those who bought the single deer license online should call DNR Licensing at 517-284-6057 during business hours.

Please note that state offices are closed on Nov. 4 and Nov. 11, so DNR staff members will not be available to void licenses on those days.

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Weekly fishing tip

OUT-muskellunge

 

Getting too cold to catch muskellunge? Never!

Everyone knows muskellunge are a difficult species to catch, but as the temperatures cool does it get even harder to find them? Not so according to some anglers!

In the fall many anglers use larger lures and slow the speed of their presentations. They will often search for them in shallower and warmer water and take advantage of this fish’s larger appetite that comes prior to winter’s arrival.

Want even more insight on targeting muskellunge – during all times of year? Check out their page on the Michigan Fish and How to Catch Them website.

This tip was adapted from Michigan Outdoor News.

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Easter Egg Bird

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

What you call it is not as important as what you enjoy about it. In the spring, this bird leaves Michigan’s cozy balmy winter residence, for regions to the north, where it will nest. Some people call them “snow birds.” Small flocks of the Dark-eyed Junco are seen throughout the winter but they head northward in April. Some linger well into May.

They are gone from our area during summer. My first sighting this Fall was October 10, when one arrived in the yard. Within a week several were present. They prefer open woodlands, so many of our neighborhoods are desirable habitat. Similar to us, they prefer fields with scattered trees and thicket borders. It is easy to be a good neighbor to these small active sparrows.

Take time to look closely when they are near bird feeders to notice the pink bill and their charcoal dark heads. They have gray backs and sides but their bellies are white. They also have outer white tail feathers that flash as they walk or hop about the yard. The white tail feathers are usually visible in flight. Notice the moderate long tail. Females have a brownish back but it is not obvious so separating sexes is not easy.

When I was first learning about birds, the junco reminded me of an Easter egg that had been dipped in dark gray coloring. Only the portion that was not dipped remained white so I began referring to it as the Easter egg bird. I wonder how many people remember dipping eggs? When my daughters were young, we referenced them as the Easter Egg Bird but the girls learned the name Dark-eyed Junco also. The descriptive Easter Egg Bird name was more memorable and fun for us. It was an enjoyable way to help them learn to observe the wonderful variety of shape, form, and color in nature niches. We spent family time outside observing and enjoying while experiencing the natural wonders around us.

There are several subspecies of juncos across North America. In Michigan and the East the Slate-colored Junco subspecies is normally the only one present. They tend to hop but will walk about the ground while foraging seeds. Watch how different species move about uniquely. During summer about half of their diet is insects. Young are raised on an even higher percentage of insects. Insects are important for successful rearing of young for most songbirds.

Juncos are a winter treat that offers variety from the regular summer birds. They appreciate the open yards that have scattered conifers and deciduous trees where they can take shelter. When they return north in spring to breed, they select open areas among conifers and hardwood trees.

Nesting occurs northward from Cadillac and well into Canada’s open forested areas. I have seen Juncos remain near the Howard Christensen Nature Center during summer and suspect there could be some nesting this far south. They nest on the ground near logs or other objects that help conceal the location.

While you stay nestled in the house this winter, keep feeders full and enjoy the variety of feathered neighbors that stop by for a meal. Your yard can provide entertaining activity all winter when you provide food and shelter.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433, 616-696-1753.

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Farmer’s Almanac

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Farmers are an observant group. Their livelihood depends on paying attention to the natural world. It is necessary to understand events in nature to produce successful crops.

For thousands of years, people paid attention to weather’s annual cycle and crop responses. People documented weather and then determined climate. Climate is the combined long-term average of weather events. Weather is short-term and changes in less predictable ways. Some years we receive a killing frost in mid September. This year it was the third week of October. We also experienced an early spring warming a couple years ago that caused fruit growers to lose most of the crop. Apple trees flowered before the average flowering time and flowers were later killed when normal frost occurred.

The Farmer’s Almanac makes predictions based on decades of climate data and is used to predict weather events. Studies have shown predictions of weather events in the almanac are not particularly accurate but, because it is based on long time averages, the events are not too far off. Being close serves the general intended purpose for most almanac readers.

Almanac predictions are reasonably close because people have documented “Nature Niche” events for a long time. You will not see the almanac suggesting it safe to plant crops at the beginning of January or suggest we wait to harvest grapes until November.

The lives of plants and animals, including cultivated crops that sustain our food flow and economy, have DNA genetic codes linked to local climate conditions. This sometimes becomes a problem when we do not plant local genotypes of native species. Flowering Dogwood trees grow in Georgia and Michigan but their genetics have evolved and adjusted to each region’s local climate. When a southern dogwood is brought to Michigan and planted, its survival is less likely because its DNA genotype is programmed to start spring growth too early compared with Michigan’s native genotype populations.

A reader asked if the height of a Bald-faced hornet nest in trees could be used to predict snow depth for the coming winter. Plants and animals are unable to read the future but many “Old Wives’ Tales” lead people to think it possible. Nest building behavior is based on general circumstances that allow survival. A queen hornet will start a nest in a location that appears suitable. If she fails, we will not notice. If successful, we might notice the nest when it becomes large. When fall arrives the queen hibernates in a hollow log, under tree bark, or some other protected location. The rest of the colony freezes.

People often use the width of the orange band on woollybear caterpillars to predict the severity of winter. The bandwidth is related to the age of the caterpillar instead of future weather conditions. Science has helped document many details in nature that are used to make reasonably accurate predictions. There are still many discoveries to be made. Spend time outside observing, record the observations in a journal and of course remember to enjoy the magical experiences witnessed in the yard.

I have kept observation journals since 1969. Now I have a reasonable ability to predict when certain wildflowers will bloom, particular butterflies will appear, particular bird species move through, and when fall colors will peak. Outdoor activity is healthy physically and mentally. Sharpen your mind and thinking abilities by thinking about occurrences observed in nature. Many hunters know when to expect the deer rut scrape on saplings, what size trees are used and how high above ground the tree is scraped. Follow your own interests whether you are farmer, hunter, or outdoor explorer. Look to the Farmer’s Almanac for a general idea of event occurrences but use own your observations to discover the natural world.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433. 616-696-1753

 

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Latest Asian carp eDNA sampling produces negative results

 

The Department of Natural Resources announced that the latest round of Asian carp environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling on the lower Kalamazoo River in Allegan County produced all negative results. Earlier this month, the DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced a single positive eDNA result for silver carp—a species of Asian carp—within the river, discovered during water sampling efforts conducted this summer.
Immediately after the DNR learned of the positive sample, the agency worked with USFWS to conduct this third eDNA surveillance effort. The two agencies collected 200 additional water samples on the lower Kalamazoo River Oct. 7 and 8. In addition to sampling, the DNR increased the presence of staff along the river to enlist anglers as part of surveillance efforts.
The previous positive result indicated the presence of genetic material of silver carp, such as scales, excrement or mucous. However, there is no evidence a population of silver carp is established in the Kalamazoo River. In addition to live fish, genetic material can enter water bodies via boats, fishing gear and the droppings of fish-eating birds.
“We greatly appreciate the quick work by USFWS to collect and evaluate these latest samples,” said DNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter. “We are pleased these samples were negative, but that doesn’t mean our efforts to keep Asian carp out of Michigan’s waters are over.”

The DNR will continue to take action in response to the previous positive result. Those actions will include:
• Conducting additional sampling efforts in the spring with USFWS to continue monitoring the river.
• Enhancing DNR fishery survey efforts, including expanding our outreach to anglers.
• Continuing public education efforts about all aquatic invasive species, including Asian carp, to increase general understanding of this significant threat to Michigan’s waterways.
Anglers and boaters are a first line of defense in the fight against aquatic invasive species. Anglers are urged to become familiar with the identification of Asian carp, including adults and juveniles, as the spread of juvenile Asian carp through the use of live bait buckets has been identified as a potential point of entry into Great Lakes waters.

Anglers and boaters are strongly encouraged to drain all water from their boats and to clean boats and gear after each trip. Invasive species and eDNA are known to “hitchhike” within live wells and attach to boat trails, anchors and fishing gear.
For even more information on Asian carp, visit www.michigan.gov/asiancarp.

 

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Grand Rapids angler catches state-record quillback carpsucker  

Benjamin Frey and his state record quillback carpsucker.

Benjamin Frey and his state record quillback carpsucker.

A Grand Rapids fisherman fishing in Newaygo brought home the fifth state-record fish this year.

The Department of Natural Resources confirmed the new state record last month for quillback carpsucker. The state record for quillback carpsucker was beat by a fish caught by Benjamin Frey of Grand Rapids, Michigan, on Hardy Dam Pond in Newaygo County Friday, Aug. 29, at 1:45 a.m. Frey was bow fishing. The fish weighed 8.25 pounds and measured 22.62 inches. The record was verified by Rich O’Neal, a DNR fisheries biologist in Muskegon.

The previous state-record quillback carpsucker was caught by Randy Bonter, Jr., of Grant, also on Hardy Dam Pond June 17, 2012. That fish weighed 8.12 pounds and measured 23 inches.

State records are recognized by weight only. To qualify for a state record, fish must exceed the current listed state-record weight and identification must be verified by a DNR fisheries biologist.
“2014 is shaping up to be quite a year for state-record catches, as this fish is the fifth one we’ve confirmed,” said DNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter. “These records continue to show just how phenomenal Michigan’s fishing is, and there’s still plenty of time left in the season for other anglers to catch their own potential state record.”
For more information on fishing in Michigan, including other state-record catches, visit www.michigan.gov/fishing.

 

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Passenger Pigeon Extinction

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

It has been 100 years since the last Passenger Pigeon on Earth died and joined the dinosaurs in extinction. It was on September 1, 1914, that the last remaining individual of its kind died, in the Cincinnati Zoo. We mourn the death of the last individual. Society experienced greater sorrow with loss of an entire species on that day. Gone were its contributions toward sustaining biodiversity in ecosystems.

The pigeon was the most abundant bird species, with a population that might have exceeded the number of all ducks combined. Its feeding activities likely controlled diseases like Lyme disease. Pigeon populations in the millions moved through the eastern deciduous forest feeding on acorns, American chestnuts, seeds and nuts. More than a billion total pigeons thrived. Their abundance removed food that would have supported deer and mice. This limited excessive deer and mice reproduction and resulted in fewer fleas. That reduced the spread of Lyme disease. Nature niche connections are often not obvious.

No Passenger Pigeons were left to pass on their genetic legacy into the coming millennia. An important thread in the fabric of life was stripped from ecosystems. It may seem the death of a species 100 years ago has no or little impact on people in the present. The increase in Lyme disease is just one impact that might have caused disability or even death for some people. Making absolute connections is not likely. Other connections relate to forest reproduction, abundance and composition of tree species. Pigeon feeding activity directed forest developed and numbers of other plants. In turn, it impacted the abundance and composition of animal populations present today.

Current scientific evidence suggests human activities are pushing many species toward extinction. The monarch butterfly population has declined due to land use practices. It numbered in the billions but last year’s winter population was only about 37 million. The Passenger Pigeon dropped below a threshold for survival and disappeared. There is concern the same might occur with the migratory monarch population. Several things limit monarch survival but one is human use of genetically modified crops that can tolerate herbicides so we can support an ever-growing human population. Crops growers increase the amount of chemicals on crops to eliminate wild plants like milkweed that are in or near croplands. With only a few milkweeds, monarchs cannot find food plants to lay their eggs as they migrate from Texas to Michigan.

All species strive to increase their kind but limiting factors keep them from continuous population growth. That is the case with the introduced exotic emerald ash borer that has largely eliminated ash trees in the landscape. In regions where they kill ashes, the beetles run out of food and their populations’ crash. It is a boom and bust population. People have found ways to delay human starvation for some regions. We have not responded by working to keep our population at or below the environment’s carrying capacity that would sustain our population for the centuries. Instead we are moving toward a boom number that will bust and crash. A continuous growing population will result in massive human death at some point. Human behavior today is not maintaining sustainable conditions to support future generations. Instead we focus on immediate personal interests and desires with boom and bust lifestyles.

Extinctions caused by human misuse of the Earth’s natural resources threaten other life forms but also threatens our own species long-term survival. Our population can sustain itself for millennia if we live within Earth’s carrying capacity. If not, we create a boom and bust that will cause massive deaths. Our behavior in the present is critically important for future human generations.

Many people choose to ignore evidence supporting the human influence on climate change or our impacts on species survival. Society’s behavior acted toward the Passenger Pigeon like society behaves toward climate change and species extinction threats. If we were interested in creation care and our offspring 20 generations hence, we would strive for sustainable lifestyles that do not squeeze other species off the planet. It depends on personal choices we make at home.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433. 616-696-1753.

 

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Cedar Springs man among those honored by DNR

 

Pictured here are just four of the more than 40 hunting education instructors statewide honored for 40 years of volunteer service. Pictured (L to R) are DNR Director Keith Creagh; instructor James Johnson, Houghton Lake; instructor John Seelman, North Muskegon; instructor David Hansen, Cedar Springs; instructor Joseph Primozich, Pentwater; and DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler.

Pictured here are just four of the more than 40 hunting education instructors statewide honored for 40 years of volunteer service. Pictured (L to R) are DNR Director Keith Creagh; instructor James Johnson, Houghton Lake; instructor John Seelman, North Muskegon; instructor David Hansen, Cedar Springs; instructor Joseph Primozich, Pentwater; and DNR Law Enforcement Division Chief Gary Hagler.

DNR honors longtime hunter education instructors for volunteer service

For nearly 70 years, Michigan has conducted hunter education classes, teaching new hunters firearms safety and the regulations behind having a safe and successful hunt. This year, the Department of Natural Resources has honored those longtime instructors who have been with the program more than 40 years with special recognition, including one from Cedar Springs. They have been honored at a series of Natural Resources Commission meetings.

“Our hunter education program has trained over 1 million hunters since its start in 1946 and currently trains about 20,000 students a year,” said DNR Director Keith Creagh. “We could not do this without the help of our hunter education instructors who volunteer because of their love of the outdoors and their deep interest in passing that interest along to the next generation of conservation leaders.”

There are at least 40 active hunter education instructors who have more than 40 years of service to the program, including Charles Duncan, of Bay City, who is the longest-serving instructor, having volunteered now for 49 years. Instructors honored at the Oct. 9 NRC meeting in Cadillac for their service include:

James A. Johnson, Houghton Lake (46 years).

John M. Seelman, North Muskegon (44 years).

David E. Hansen, Cedar Springs (44 years).

Joseph W. Primozich, Pentwater (43 years).

While having a crop of seasoned, veteran instructors is an advantage for Michigan’s hunter education program, there also is a need to recruit new instructors for the program in all regions of the state, said Lt. Andrew Turner, who manages the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division’s recreational safety program. “We greatly appreciate our veteran instructors who have been with the program for more than 40 years. If you have an interest in passing along your interest in hunting to new hunters, we need you in our program,” Turner said. “This is a great way to ensure that the sport you enjoy today is enjoyed by future generations of hunters.”

For more information on Michigan’s hunter education program, visit www.michigan.gov/huntereducation.

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Weekly Fishing Tip: 

 

OUT-fishing-tipHow to catch muskellunge when others can’t

For many anglers muskellunge can be quite elusive, but having a few tips in your back pocket can make your trips more successful.

The first thing to consider is the type of lure you might use. Many experts recommend using a jerkbait-style lure to trigger vertical follows.

The next item to consider is where you might look for muskellunge. Always be looking for cover, including weed patches or downed trees – these are prime spots for this species to linger.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to focus your fishing time to late afternoon/early evening. These dusty hours can produce some quality opportunities.

For even more information on fishing for muskellunge, check out their Michigan Fish and How to Catch Them page at www.michigan.gov/dnr. Click on fishing, then “fishing in Michigan,” then “Michigan fish and how to catch them.”

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