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Archive | Outdoors

Is your tree stand safe?

 

 

Hunting from a tree stand is a popular way for hunters to enjoy their season, but nearly every year a Michigan hunter is seriously injured or killed falling out of a tree stand. Conservation officers at the Department of Natural Resources remind hunters of the top safety tips when it comes to tree stands.

Before a hunt, know your equipment:

• Read and understand the manufacturer’s instructions and warnings before using a tree stand and harness.

• Check the stand, straps and chains before you go out for signs of wear and tear or missing parts.

• Practice at ground level with your tree stand and harness with a friend or family member.

• Learn how to properly use your harness. The DNR recommends a full-body harness.

• Waist belts or upper body-only harnesses can cause serious injuries or death in a fall.

• When scouting for a tree:

• Choose a healthy, straight tree that is the right size to hold you and your stand.

• Check the tree beforehand for insect nests or animal dens.

• Avoid using climbing stands on smooth-barked trees, especially during icy or wet weather.

• Clear debris from the base of the tree to minimize injury from a fall and to ensure a sturdy base if using a ladder stand.

During your hunt:

• Tell a reliable person where you are hunting and when you can be expected to return.

• Wear a full-body harness and make sure it is connected to the tree at all times. If using a ladder stand or climbing sticks, attach the harness before securing the platform to the tree or stepping onto it.

• Climb higher than your stand and always step down onto your platform.

• Wear boots with non-slip soles.

• Never carry equipment when climbing – use a haul line to raise and lower equipment, unloaded firearm or bow. Do not attach the line near the trigger or trigger guard of your firearm.

• Have emergency equipment – a knife, cellphone, flashlight and/or whistle.

“DNR conservation officers responding to tree-stand falls see the same mistakes over and over – not using a harness or a haul line,” said Sgt. Tom Wanless, supervisor of the DNR hunter education program. “Nationally, 82 percent of hunters who fall from a tree stand are wearing a harness, but it’s not connected. And 86 percent of tree-stand falls take place during the climb up or down. Harnesses and haul lines save lives.”

For more information about tree stand safety, go to the Treestand Manufacturers Association website at www.tmastands.com.

For more information about hunting in Michigan, visit the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/hunting.

 

 

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Catch of the Week

OUT-Catch-WitteKaleb Witte, 9, of Kent City, caught two red salmon with great-grandpa Leon and a friend, in the St. Mary’s River, in Detour, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula. They measured about 20-inches long. Kaleb is the son of Bobbi Jo and Rood Vaughan.

Congratulations, Kaleb, you made the Post Catch of the Week!

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Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary expansion

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

 

Walk Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary with the Michigan Botanical Club on September 13 at 2 p.m. or with the River City Wild Ones on Sept 20 at 1:30. The local conservation clubs will explore the sanctuary in search for plants, animals, and their ecological requirements while enjoying the company of nature enthusiasts.

This will be a great introduction to a couple different nature clubs and great people where many will share their knowledge and excitement for things natural and wild.

Ody Brook is managed to enhance nature’s biodiversity to support a healthy and sustainable human community. The sanctuary is located in the headwaters for Little Cedar Creek south of Cedar Springs on Northland Drive across the road from V&V Nursery. Come explore nature and meet nature enthusiasts from local conservation groups.

Meet and park at V&V Nursery. Spend some time at the nursery considering fall selection specials on plants prior to winter dormancy. V&V Nursery helps area residents beautify yards and lives. We will start the field trips from the nursery parking area. We appreciate V&V’s willingness to allow parking. Parking space is not available at Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary.

Over 116 bird species, 24 mammals, 11 herps and 52 butterfly species have been documented along with 250 species of plants. Dragonflies dart with beauty as they feed on aerial insects. They lay eggs in Little Cedar Creek where naiads spend months to years growing to the adult stage. Trout feed and utilize the headwaters in spring.

We will encounter other beautiful insects that are active in the fall. Snowy Tree Crickets, katydids, beetles, colorful flies, and various true bugs are expected. This is an opportunity to view a variety of life and to receive help with identification.

Fall flowers provide nutrition for wildlife while plants focus on seed production for their own species survival. Come learn to recognize plant families and species common to our neighborhoods. Both field trips will be fun enriching afternoons for families. Come for a short stay or for an hour and a half.

Trails lead around a pond, through the floodplain, over bridges crossing the creek and through upland field and forest. Wear long sleeved shirts and pants to protect legs. Good footwear is recommended. If it rains prior to field trip days, the floodplain may be wet and somewhat muddy.

The sanctuary recently expanded to 54 acres and protects the creek headwaters leading to Cedar Creek, Rogue River, Grand River, and Lake Michigan. This is a great open house opportunity to explore Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary’s expansion. The privately owned and managed sanctuary accepts donation support and welcomes scheduled visits.

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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Weekly Fishing Tip

 

Avoid these mistakes to experience great fishing

 

OUT-Fishing-Tip
Did you know simple mistakes can make-or-break your fishing adventures? Check out these basic things to avoid if you want to have better success on the water:
• Make sure your reel is filled to capacity with line – don’t wait until it gets to half-empty and risk losing a great catch due to inadequate line.

• Check your knots – monitor their strength and durability after each fish you catch. If the strength gets compromised, cut the line down a few feet and start again.

• Set the hook – don’t forget to do this each time you even think you’ve got a bite. Why waste a great catch just because you forgot to set the hook?
Want even more tips for fishing in Michigan? Visit www.michigan.gov/fishing.

 

 

 

 

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Special everyday sightings

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

 

Celebrate special opportunities. Today I was sitting on the back porch, when I would rather walk trails and explore Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary nature niches.

It was a comfortable 77 F. The sunshine felt too hot. A flycatcher landed on a dead tree branch and it was difficult to identify the species. I thought it was in the Empidonax flycatcher group that has several look-a-like species. To separate species vocal calls or songs are required.

I narrowed the choices to Alder Flycatcher or Least Flycatcher but finally decided I was still wrong. It was most likely not an Empidonax species but an Eastern Wood-Peewee. It did not have an obvious white eye-ring. Wing bars were faint. Its behavior of perching, flitting out to prey on insects, and then return to the perch is typical for peewees. I usually expect the peewees to be in the dense forest but this one found the forest opening good for hunting.

While contemplating the flycatcher identification, a Cooper’s Hawk flew through the backyard about six feet above ground. It was in view for only a few seconds. Its size was too big for the look-a-like Sharp-shinned Hawk and it had a rounded tail instead of being squared off. I enjoy a visit to the yard by the bird eating hawks. They are seldom successful in capturing a meal.

I rejoice with them when they succeed in filling their stomach or get food to feed their young. They are a natural and healthy component in nature niches. Predators prevent other species from over abundance whether they are insect predators, bird predators, or mammal predators. I take sorrow in the death of birds, butterflies, or creatures I work to support with food, water, and shelter. Life is not easy for any creature but each has it place. Predators are welcome.

Despite my sorrow in one creature’s death, I celebrate the continued life of another. Unfortunately, several species native to other parts of the world have established in our area and are disrupting ecosystems, causing the death of species, and causing millions of dollars in damage to crops, landscapes, and species we cherish.

A Pileated Woodpecker flew over, brightened my day and was quickly followed by another that called as it passed. It was my birthday and I pretended it was wishing me a fine day. I am pleased my efforts over 35 years have created conditions for life. I reap benefits and joys of nature in the yard daily.

Closer to the ground level Giant Swallowtail, Red-spotted Purple butterfly, Cabbage White, and Clouded Sulphur butterflies traversed yard openings. A Pearl Crescent landed on the dog. I spend the most time watching birds and butterflies, but in late summer, dragonflies like meadowhawks are abundant. Grasshopper populations are peaking and provide energy for birds getting ready to migrate.

Many people do not approve of Cooper’s Hawks filling their stomach with birds, but the same people have no objection to insect eating birds killing and eating their prey. If managed ideally, our yards will provide healthy conditions for a balanced biodiversity that supports life forms including all predators.

Sit, observe and celebrate occurrences of minute to large wildlife in your neighborhood.

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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Catch of the Week

OUT-Catch-of-week-Zeppi-JobseThis 16-inch large mouth bass was caught by Zeppi Jobse, 12, while fishing on Lincoln Lake, in their boat, with grandpa Bill Jobse, of White Creek Lumber, on Friday, August 22.

“The Bass gave him quite a battle, fighting through the lily pads, but Zeppi hung on for the catch,” remarked Bill. “He was so proud. This is the first big bass keeper of his season.”

He added that they are enjoying fishing together, after restoring their 14ft. Lund fishing boat.

Congratulations, Zeppi, you made the Post Catch of the Week!

 

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Fall flutter for giant panfish 

OUT-Giant-panfish-Jack-Payne

by Jack Payne

I hear fish stories many times about a lake that is killer on giant panfish. Rarely does this pan out for me. However we did find a little gem in Mason County. Round Lake is nearly 600 acres and sits between Fountain and Walhalla.

The very first bluegill that I caught went an even 10 inches. Over the better part of three days we only caught four gills under seven inches and the majority went 8 inches or better. Our crappies were all over 10 inches with the average nearing the 12-inch mark.

Bass were a bonus fish and all went 15-20 inches and were caught while chasing the slab crappies. Now before you hook up your boat and head there, understand that we never caught our limit of fish. We caught big fish and our best 3-hour outing produced 21 fish. We averaged 16 fish each time out.

The most productive locations have cabbage weeds and the best depth was between 6-8 feet on Round Lake. Other lakes that we like include Crooked, Pine, Gun or Miner Lake and the depth might reach 10 feet. Using your graph or your eyes you will easily be able to locate the few spots that have both cabbage weeds and the depth.

When fishing the cabbage weeds in late summer or early fall, only a few lures are needed. We rigged our rods up with an action spin snell, a 2.5 inch rival worm and the Whip R Shad or Whip R Snap jigs, all from Stopper Lures.

The mini spinner has one small hook and #0 blade. The best-colored blades were chartreuse or gold. Some of the better blades will have chartreuse on one side and gold or brass on the other. Tip this rig with a small red worm.

On the calm days, we found that when we dragged near the bottom the action was best. On the windy days, casting it and working it over and through the cabbage weeds worked well. If possible, go weightless. If a sinker is needed, one number seven split shot is best.

Action tails are hands down my favorite. Due to the shallow water and the numerous cabbage weeds there is a right way to rig and fish them and the wrong way. Trust me on this—I landed 13 fish before my partner landed one.

Go light, very light. I used two one sixty four ounce jig heads. I use the jig heads that come with the Whip R Snap tails. Tie one jig on about 18 inches up from the end of your line. Tie a loop so that your jig has the greatest movement. Tie the second jig on the end of your line.

Now comes the fun part. Place a Whip R Snap on one jig and a Whip R Shad on the other jig. These ultra-light jigs will flutter up and down and can be worked through the cabbage weeds.

A painstakingly slow retrieve is needed. Lift the jigs up and over a cabbage weed and then let it flutter to the bottom. Continue working the retrieve over and over. The majority of your fish will suck in your small jig when worked in this manner. Casting and reeling over the tops of the weeds only works when the fish are extremely aggressive. Dropping the lures into their face and teasing the fish results in many more fish.

The majority of your strikes will come on the fall. About the time that your jig disappears from view is when a hungry slab reaches up from the bottom and sucks it in.

The small rival worm is the junior bait to the original Bass Stopper Worm. This little worm with its mini front spinner lands big gills and specks. Fish it in the same manner as a jig. Work it over the tops of the weeds, drop it down in a helicopter fashion and slide it briefly over the bottom.

These three lures will land plenty of panfish from Labor Day until Halloween.  Fish the tallest cabbage weeds in your lake and fish ever so slow. Watch your line and your rod tip and go as light as possible. Enjoy the fall fishing season.

For more information check out www.jackpaynejr.com or facebook outdoorsinmichigan.

 

 

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Weekly fishing tip

 

Catching big pike in the summer

 

Most anglers consider winter the best time to catch a trophy-sized pike, but following a few key pointers can make summer pike fishing worthwhile.

When it’s very warm out think about where pike will hide—places with cooler water. These spots include along the thermocline, where coldwater streams/rivers flow into lakes, or around springs.

Look for water bodies that aren’t densely populated with pike so those present may have a chance to grow fairly large. Also consider locations that have special regulations (size limits).

Lastly, focus on water bodies that have a good pike forage base, particularly other species that prefer cooler water.

Want to learn even more about fishing for northern pike? Check out their page on the Michigan Fish and How to Catch Them website at Michigan.gov/dnr.

This tip was adapted from Michigan Outdoor News.

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Missing feathers

 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Finding pretty feathers in the yard is something most of us have collected when we were children. It has been fun and challenging to identify who lost them. Blue Jay feathers are quite distinctive as are robin breast feathers. Many feathers can be quite challenging.

At this time of year I notice crows flying over with noticeable gaps in their wings. Two Mourning Doves passed without their long tail feathers. Some birds are looking rather beat up because they are missing feathers. It is molting season.

Most birds experience a complete molt where they lose all feathers after breeding season and before migration. It requires a lot of energy to change wardrobes but it occurs twice a year. The spring molt prior to migration or breeding is a partial molt where only some feathers are replaced.

When birds fly over missing noticeable feathers, it is the flight feathers we notice missing. If birds lost all there their flight feathers at once they would be grounded. That would spell death for many. They would starve before they could replace them. They also would not be protected from the weather. Feathers are important for flight and body feathers for insulation to maintain proper temperature.

Molting is orderly starting with primary feathers. Theses are the largest and most noticeable flight feathers. They are lost in succession from wingtip inward. As one is lost and replaced, the next one in succession is lost and replaced. When the primary feathers have been replaced, secondary feathers are replaced in the opposite direction. Secondaries are smaller flight feathers closer to the body. They are lost from close to the body outward toward the primaries.

It is ecologically important that most birds lose feathers in succession so they do not become flightless. They depend on flight for feeding mobility. Some birds lose all their flight feathers at once and cannot fly for weeks. One might think this would surely cause starvation or vulnerability to predators.

Ducks, geese, swans, grebes, and loons lose their flight feather at one time. They feed by diving or tipping bottom up to feed on the bottom in shallow water. Tipping end up to feed is known as dabbling. There are dabbing ducks like the mallard and diving ducks like the bufflehead and scaup that dive deep to feed. They become flightless for several weeks when molting but are able to continue feeding. When threatened they run across the water but do not become airborne.

It requires tremendous energy to molt. When birds migrate there energy needs increase 7 to 15 times over resting energy levels. They cannot afford to molt, migrate, or raise young at the same time. Each must be done separately and they have adaptations to survive in their unique nature niche. Loons molt after migration and ducks before migration. Some birds have a partial molt before migration, stop molting for migration and complete molting afterwards. It is typical for most land birds to complete molting before the fall migration.

Details of life are uniquely special and worth observing near our homes.

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.

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Osprey chicks outfitted with satellite backpacks  

The Michigan DNR’s Julie Oakes and USDA Wildlife Services’ Brian Washburn outfit an osprey chick with a GPS “backpack” at Kensington Metropark.

The Michigan DNR’s Julie Oakes and USDA Wildlife Services’ Brian Washburn outfit an osprey chick with a GPS “backpack” at Kensington Metropark.

Nearly absent from much of the state due to the effects of DDT and other pesticides and habitat loss, ospreys continue to rebound in Michigan. In southern Michigan, monitoring efforts are tracking the revitalization of this species.

This year, six osprey chicks from area nests were outfitted with “backpack” satellite and GSM telemetry units. These units—funded by grants from DTE Energy, Huron Valley Audubon, photographer Lou Waldock, U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services and American Tower Corporation—will help scientists track the young birds’ daily movements and seasonal migration patterns.

In 2013, three osprey chicks were given GPS backpacks in southeast Michigan. One chick banded near Estral Beach migrated to Cuba. A chick from Kensington Metropark ventured to Colombia, and one from Pinckney found good fishing sites on a golf course in Miami.

Unfortunately, all three chicks with backpacks perished in 2013. Approximately 60 percent of the osprey chicks hatched each year do not make it to their second birthday. Factors that commonly cause mortality in young chicks include predation by great horned owls, collisions with buildings and other structures, weather, and illegal shooting of birds in Central and South America.

“We are very excited to have this opportunity to place GPS units on several ospreys this year,” said Julie Oakes, Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist. “This will provide the DNR with not only information on what migration routes the birds take, but also insight into what perils they must endure on their migration.”

The exciting part is that anyone can follow along and find out where the birds have been, just by looking at the Michigan osprey website www.michiganosprey.org. Move the cursor along the route to see GPS coordinates and time and date information for each leg of the osprey’s journey. The youngsters will begin their migration in early to mid-September, so wildlife enthusiasts can log on to watch their journey.

In 1998, the DNR began to relocate ospreys to southern Michigan. The program, supported by donations to Michigan’s Nongame Wildlife Fund, removed chicks from active nests in northern Michigan and reared them in man-made towers in southern Michigan, a process called “hacking.” Relocation efforts occurred over a span of 10 years. In 2013, the DNR identified at least 56 active nests in southern Michigan—an incredible increase from the single active nest reported in 2002.

“This is a true wildlife success story,” said Oakes. “Each year we have new nests, and we have already exceeded our original goal of 30 active nests by 2020. We have been able to remove ospreys from the threatened species list to a species of special concern, which means their population is much more secure now. In addition, they now nest across much more of the state, which provides for insurance that the population will not be endangered by a localized natural disaster like a large hail and wind storm.”

Historically, osprey chicks have been banded each year as part of a national effort to monitor the species. Banding continues this year as a cooperative venture of the DNR, Huron Clinton Metroparks, the Detroit Zoological Society and Osprey Watch of Southeast Michigan.

Because ospreys often nest on cell phone towers, staff from cell phone tower companies are invaluable partners in osprey monitoring. Their staff members alert the DNR and Osprey Watch of Southeast Michigan to osprey nests, assist with the retrieval of chicks during the banding process and delay tower repair projects until after the nesting season.

Other partners in this monitoring project include the Huron Valley Audubon Society, Michigan Audubon, volunteers from Osprey Watch and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services.

Anyone who observes a nesting pair of ospreys in southeast Michigan is asked to contact Osprey Watch of Southeast Michigan online at www.michiganosprey.org.

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