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Archive | Outdoors

Bring deer by DNR deer check station

The Department of Natural Resources encourages hunters to stop by a DNR deer check station after their successful harvest, for DNR staff to collect important data from their deer and to receive their 2014 cooperator patch. Photo from DNR.

The Department of Natural Resources encourages hunters to stop by a DNR deer check station after their successful harvest, for DNR staff to collect important data from their deer and to receive their 2014 cooperator patch. Photo from DNR.

Receive deer cooperator patch

 

The Department of Natural Resources encourages hunters to stop by a DNR deer check station after their successful harvest, for DNR staff to collect important data from their deer and to receive their 2014 cooperator patch. A deer head (antlers must still be attached on bucks) or entire carcass must be presented to receive a patch. Data the DNR collects at check stations contributes key information to aid in management decisions made throughout the state. As part of continued efforts to be mobile-friendly, the DNR now has made it easier to find locations to check deer. Smartphone users now can text “Deer Check” to 468311 and they will receive a text back with a link to the DNR’s interactive deer check station locator map. Hunters can utilize their smartphone’s GPS function to find the deer-check location closest to them and then get turn-by-turn directions to that location to have their deer checked. For questions on hunting and firearm rules and regulations, please contact the DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.

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Weekly Fishing Tip

Tips for targeting steelhead this fall If you decide to target steelhead on Michigan’s rivers while in a boat, there are two reel options you can turn to. Consider offering bait underneath a centerpin style reel, which are becoming popular with steelhead anglers. The line will come off smoothly allowing for float-suspended baits to work long distances downstream, plus it offers drag-free drifts. 

If you’re not confident on a centerpin style or you’re a novice angler, try a level-wind reel. It allows you to just drop the float behind the boat and wait for the strike. It will take care of the hard work while reeling in your catch by guiding the line on properly. Now is the perfect time to target steelhead! For more information, visit the steelhead page on the Michigan Fish and How to Catch Them website at Michigan.gov/dnr.

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DNR confirms cougars in eastern Upper Peninsula

This trail camera photo of a cougar was taken on public land in western Mackinac County in early November. Another photo was confirmed in Chippewa County in late October. 

Cougar evidence confirmed in U.P. 26 times since 2008

 

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has confirmed two recent photos of a cougar in the eastern Upper Peninsula, marking the 25th and 26th times cougar evidence has been verified in the U.P.

One of the photos was taken with a camera phone in late October on private property near Chippewa County’s Raber Township. The other was taken in early November by a trail camera on public land in Mackinac County near Garfield Township (see above). The DNR has not received permission to release the Chippewa County photo.

With the verification of these two photos, the DNR has now confirmed the presence of cougars in 11 Upper Peninsula counties 26 times since 2008. The animals are believed to be young individuals dispersing from established populations in the Dakotas in search of new territory; there is no evidence of a breeding population of cougars in the state.

The DNR’s Wildlife Division welcomes citizen reports of possible cougar evidence or sightings. Cougar photos and other evidence, such as tracks, scat or cached kills, should be reported to a local DNR office or through the DNR’s online reporting form at www.michigan.gov/cougars.

 

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Man gets 16-point buck

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Charles Steinmeyer shot this 16-point buck with a crossbow, in Oakfield Township, on Saturday, November 9. It weighed 165 pounds field dressed, and had a 22-inch spread on its antlers. That’s a lot of buck!

Congratulations, Charles!

 

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Changes in Animal Communities

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

 

Ernest Thompson Seton and his naturalist partner studied caribou, arctic hares, wolves, arctic foxes, Canada Geese, Lapland Longspurs, Ptarmigans, and many other animals when they explored the arctic tundra in 1907. He headed north from the Eastern Deciduous Forest Biome where we live to explore a vast and relatively unknown arctic biome.

He wondered if caribou and musk ox still survived with the onslaught of uncontrolled shooting. He hired local native people to guide him north through known country and then ventured farther into an unknown landscape with the use of sketchy maps created by early explorers.

When I lead groups through various habitats in the deciduous forest biome at Howard Christensen Nature Center or Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, I focus attention on the succession of animal communities in habitats. Lichens and mosses colonize bare ground and are followed by a variety of plants in succession from grasses, herbs, shrubs, and trees. Associated with each set of plants are specific animal communities of greatest interest to people. The animals can only survive when associated with appropriate plant communities. The plants sustain many animals that become prey for other animals.

Farm fields at Ody Brook and HCNC were abandoned and became good study sites. At the site that later became Ody Brook, the farmer drove his tractor and equipment through the creek in spring and found it problematic so two 5-acre fields were abandoned. This also stopped the stirring of sediments that would cover trout eggs. Farming was abandoned in one field during the 1970’s and the other in the late 1980’s. At HCNC, the farm field was abandoned in the early 1960’s.

Habitats became qualitative observation areas (general overviews) when HCNC was established in 1974 for students in the Kent Intermediate School District. Observational field trips were led to help students understand succession relationships in nature niches. Qualitative studies are a good introduction to science but provide limited evidence required for making supported conclusions.

When I became director at HCNC in 1986, we established a study plot where students could learn how to gather quantitative data (detail numerical observations) in the abandoned field. The study plots supported school curricula expectations in science, mathematics, social studies, language arts, and art classes. The field trips allowed students to gather detailed quantitative data with hands-on learning experiences that helped apply classroom “book learning” to real-life applications. Quantitative studies supported the students general qualitative impressions made on discovery hikes at the nature center.

As society becomes more urban and suburban, people have fewer opportunities to learn the importance of qualitative or quantitative farming and wildland ecology values or their importance and how they are essential for maintaining a sustainable society. Farmers need quantitative observations to know when to treat insect infestations because qualitative is not accurate enough. They also need to know how to properly space crops. Following my departure for HCNC, the Kent Conservation District that assumed management of HCNC removed the quantitative study plot in the field. Quantitative studies in wildland communities require long term detailed data collection, and require coordination and integration among a variety of subject areas. Teachers need classes to return yearly and have students gather data for current classes to analyze to make valid scientific conclusions using data from previous years. Science, math, art, social studies, and writing teachers need to coordinate together for student learning to be most effective. Students need guidance to apply connections among art, math, science, and social studies.

What does this have to do with Seton’s arctic expedition? He spent the summer recording general qualitative observations but he also gathered some scientific quantitative evidence. Both are useful. Qualitative observations provided a general appearance of occurrences but quantitative evidence provided detailed records with specific numbers, species, and plant growth that would be useful for documenting changes over time. That is what students were gathering between 1986 and 2005 at HCNC. Detailed long-term data collection is necessary to make valid conclusions. In the arctic Seton made initial qualitative observations that set the stage for quantitative studies to follow. He also gathered quantitative data by collecting animal and plant specimens. Representative animals were shot for the American Museum of Natural History. The opened the stomachs of animals to document food eaten as well as documented behaviors observed.

It was not until Dr. Curtis provided detailed quantitative data from Lake Michigan Dunes that concept of plant succession was supported with adequate quantitative scientific evidence for valid analysis and conclusions. His model is now used worldwide. Quantitative studies are essential. Quantitative studies are not perfect but further repeatable studies allow scientific debate and corrections. Quantitative science is self-correcting. Most of us did not receive that kind of education as students. I didn’t. Modern curricula better prepares students with the help of places like HCNC. Unfortunately field trips have become fewer even though they are vital for helping students apply content learned in classrooms. Cedar Springs used to visit HCNC regularly with all grades from K through fifth. Parental encouragement at schools may help reinstate them. Lily’s Frog Pad Inc. has now assumed management of HCNC and we will see where the future leads learning. HCNC has expanded opportunities beyond school groups to community programming.

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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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

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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

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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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