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Tag Archive | "hunting"

Wolves in Ecosystems Part 2


The gray wolf. Photo from the Encyclopedia Britannica online (Britannica.com)

The gray wolf. Photo from the Encyclopedia Britannica online (Britannica.com)

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

Wolves’ presence and behavior increases wildlife populations despite their killing individual prey. Their predatory role in ecosystems has significant positive impacts on animal and plant communities. For thousands of years their presence in Michigan nature niches fluctuated in relation to plant and animal population abundance.

Canada lynx studies found plant populations control top predator populations. The Hudson Bay trapping records show snowshoe hare populations increased despite lynx, wolf, and other predators until the hares over browsed the plants causing hare starvation. When hares died the predators starved. Predation slowed hare population growth that helped maintained healthier communities.

When wolves were returned to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, they caused elk and other prey species to roam more. This saved shrubs and trees from being over browsed in valleys along rivers. Shrubs and trees regenerated habitat when protected by wolves.

Mice, rabbits, and other herbivores were able to find food where deer and elk had previously devastated wildlife communities by overgrazing. Songbirds moved into areas when vegetation recovered. Beavers found rapid growing aspens provided essential food that allowed their return to streams and rivers. They built dams creating rich floodplain habitat that had been lost and washed away in the absence of wolves. Wolves eat beavers when the opportunity arises but these rodents reproduce more rapidly than predators kill them. Large fires in the Yellowstone region also rejuvenated early succession communities but wolves caused elk and deer to move preventing overgrazing.

Beavers created wetland habitats, stabilized stream banks, and reduced soil erosion. Fish populations found healthier streambeds for egg laying. More oxygen in less silted rivers aided fish survival.

With increased landscape vegetation that resulted from wolf presence, plant-eating rodents increased and resulted in more predators like hawks, eagles, weasels, foxes, and badgers. Carrion left by wolves allowed bears, ravens, and other animals to provide more food and it improved their health and reproductive success. Increased shrubs provided more berries needed by bears, birds, and many other animals. What inferences can be applied to Michigan ecosystems? No one animal or plant is responsible for all positive or negative changes. It is a community effort but some animals like the wolf start what is called a positive “trophic cascade” in how they change animal movements and cull animal populations with selected animal predation.

The wolves even changed the course of rivers. Overgrazed landscape along rivers cut straighter channels when wolves were removed but with the wolf return stream meanders returned. Vegetation recovery along banks reduced erosion causing stream meandering. More pools developed with more fish hiding places. Waterfowl increased. Wolves transformed the landscape to healthier nature niches for plants, mammals, birds, amphibians, insects and a host of native wildlife that had diminished in wolf absence.

Human social and economic aspects of wolf presence have been beneficial in the Yellowstone ecosystem but not completely. Ranchers drive cattle into the national forest and leave them unattended to feed. In Michigan, farmers graze animals on their private property and care for their livestock. The national forests are public lands used for watershed flood management, timber harvest, grazing, hunting, hiking, camping, recreation, fishing, and mineral extraction. In short they are all things for all people.

This becomes a management challenge when people consider their interests more important than their neighbors and it results in Congressional gridlock. Maintaining healthy ecosystems to provide for future generations of our families requires decisions beyond one group’s personal self-centered interest.

There are times when wolf management is important for our neighbors. At present in Michigan, each case is addressed when a problem arises. Legal hunting might one day be appropriate in balance with the multiple uses of our National and State forests in the UP. Decisions should be ecosystem focused for maintaining society’s sustainable needs. Plants and animals have essential roles in ecosystem sustainability that we cannot duplicate. Future generations are as important as our own but decisions frequently place priority only on the present.

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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Deer seasons in Michigan


 

 

It’s that time of year again, when hunters take to the woods for deer hunting season. For the most up to date changes and requirements for deer and other game licenses, see the Michigan DNR’s Hunting and Trapping Digest. It can be downloaded for free at www.michigan.gov/dnr.

Deer seasons:

Early Antlerless Firearm: Sept. 20-21

Liberty Hunt: Sept. 20-21

Independence Hunt: Oct. 16-19

Archery: Oct. 1 – Nov. 14 and Dec. 1 – Jan. 1

Regular Firearm: Nov. 15-30

Muzzleloading:

Zone 1: Dec. 5-14

Zone 2: Dec. 5-14

Zone 3: Dec. 5-21

Late Antlerless Firearm: Dec. 22 – Jan. 1

 

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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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Structure hunting your buck


by Jack Payne

OUT-Jack-Payne-deer-by-pine-tree

It was Halloween before my first opportunity on a buck came along. Well actually my first since opening night, when I blew a wide-open shot. The rut was just hitting full stride and I had mapped out what I thought was a few strategic locations.

The early morning quietness was broken by a grunt and the slow crunching of leaves. Sure enough a buck was working the scent line. I hit my deer call and the buck took notice and slowly continued onward.

The buck would walk a few steps, grunt, raise his head up and sniff the air. It quickly became obvious that the buck would travel into my lap following the drag line. I was sitting in my Lone Wolf Stand that was hung just that morning.

Using my Ten Point Crossbow I was able to shoot sitting down. The Carbon Express shaft tipped with the Muzzy head found its mark. Buck number one was down for the count.

Fish use travel routes and have a deep water sanctuary from cold fronts and when spooked. Deer use certain travel paths and have a prime bedding area that they call home. Migration routes are used to travel primarily from a bedding area to a feeding area.

A thick cattail marsh bordering a set of pines is one example. Another is a clear cut bordering a thick set of pines or a swamp or possibly an oak grove. A corn field or a bean field bordering thick cover is another good example.

A deer’s sanctuary is its prime bedding area. A good bedding area can be a thick grove of pines, a cedar swamp, a cattail bog or often times in Southern Michigan an isolated patch of cover. In the farm country these small parcels might be only a quarter acre to an acre in size.

The best migration routes have something unique about them. In fishing you look for the breaks or the objects on this path from the deep water to the shallows. In hunting these objects could be a small finger of trees that stick out. It might be a small inside turn or cup that is formed by the change of terrain or ground cover. Any type of change is a potential spot for a stand.

An inside corner or an outside corner where two types of ground meet is perfect. Deer love to follow edges and if both types of terrain have something that the deer needs then more deer will be using it. A stand of oaks bordering a young clear cut offers two types of food and the young clear cut doubles up as a bedding ground.

An over looked piece of structure especially in Southern Michigan is the usage of a ditch or gullies. These two types of structure allow movement of deer to be nearly invisible. Very critical when hunting thin cover or near open areas.

In hilly areas deer love to run the edge of a gully where they are completely out of sight from danger on the flats or the use the bottoms and play the ever changing wind currents to their advantage.

A young clear cut has plenty of lush grasses and many new buds in the fall. Finding a secondary food source close to a primary food source is critical. Weather conditions can alter a food source being used. Hunting pressure will alter a preferred food source.

Trail cameras are the same as underwater cameras to many anglers. Both show fish or game. While I do not own an underwater camera, I do own one trail camera. This camera gets moved each week and is fun in showing you an actual photo.

Waterways are fun to hunt. A river or even small creeks that you can jump across are great pieces of structure to hunt. Streams twist and turn creating natural pinch points. Follow a stream and mark each time that the stream takes a hard turn.  Hang a few ribbons in the tree and after the second or third hard turn you should be able to spot a location where a stand would be able to watch both of these hard turns or points.

Protect your areas, slide in quietly and don’t over hunt a particular stand. Whatever you do, don’t spook the does. I want as many does filtering through my area as possible. The bucks will show up if the does are there.

Hunting open fields requires a change of strategy. Bucks have a tendency to hang back until darkness takes over. They also love to stage or watch over the field from a safe distance. A lone tree or a small group of trees in the middle of a field can be golden.

Just like in fishing where an angler can alter a travel route, a hunter can do the same. Blocking a trail with fallen limbs will force the deer around the obstacle. This is one trick that we use a lot.

If you can force the deer to funnel through a location that is more desirable to you the higher your odds increase. Just remember to wear gloves when altering the terrain.

During the rut scent is huge. Making mock scrapes before the season starts and continuing throughout the season is an easy and very effective technique.

During the season we try and find an active scrape line or a least an area with sufficient deer traveling through. The best mock scrapes will have a licking branch so look for a bush or a limb that a deer can reach. One option is that you can snap a branch downward, just don’t cut it off.

Saturate both the ground and the licking branch with scent. This is where I like the scent from Buck Fever. It comes in a large bottle and really works great on the drag lines and the mock scrapes. Be extremely careful with your scent, the ideal is to lure in a deer, not give away your presence.

Think of deer hunting as you should when fishing. Edges, corners, change of elevation, areas where two types of terrain meet and your success will rapidly climb.

 

 

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Expanding opportunities for southern Michigan hunters


Hunters will see new signs like these posted on properties that participate in the Department of Natural Resources’ Hunting Access Program. HAP provides greater access to hunting opportunities on private land, especially in southern Michigan. Photo by Michigan DNR.

Hunters will see new signs like these posted on properties that participate in the Department of Natural Resources’ Hunting Access Program. HAP provides greater access to hunting opportunities on private land, especially in southern Michigan. Photo by Michigan DNR.

Michigan’s Hunting Access Program (HAP)—a long-time Department of Natural Resources offering that provides hunters with more places to hunt—had been slipping into oblivion in recent years, but seems to have found a new lease on life. In fact, the latest news is pretty encouraging.

HAP, which began in the late 1970s as a way to give hunters access to private property in southern Michigan, at one time boasted more than 790 farms totaling 188,000 acres. In 2011, HAP included just 45 farms offering some 7,400 acres.

A year later, however, after the DNR decided to reinvigorate the program, HAP includes more than 150 farms that encompass 17,032-plus acres—and all of it accessible to Michigan hunters.

“I could hardly keep up with it,” said Mike Parker, a DNR wildlife biologist who works in the private lands program and oversees HAP. “I was overwhelmed, but it was also a really good problem to have.”

Returning from a successful hunt on a participating mid-Michigan Hunting Access Program farm. Note the yellow “Safety Zone” sign in the background, clearly depicting the boundary of the HAP hunting area. Photo by Michigan DNR.

Returning from a successful hunt on a participating mid-Michigan Hunting Access Program farm. Note the yellow “Safety Zone” sign in the background, clearly depicting the boundary of the HAP hunting area. Photo by Michigan DNR.

HAP began in 1977 when Michigan United Conservation Clubs lobbied the Legislature to create a “public access to private land” program. The Legislature responded by passing a law that required every hunter who lived in southern Michigan to purchase a Public Access Stamp, with the money earmarked to lease private farmland for hunters.

Although the Legislature soon changed the program—dropping the stamp requirement and funding it, instead, with a portion of the money raised from the sale of hunting licenses to southern Michigan hunters—the concept took off, peaking in 1982. But it soon went into long-term decline as the idea of leasing land caught on with the hunting public and hunters were often willing to “outbid” the DNR for access rights.

The program rocked along, losing ground, as hunter numbers decreased. Former DNR Director Becky Humphries formed the Hunter Retention and Recruitment Work Group to address decreasing hunter numbers. When the group identified a lack of access to hunting land as a prime cause for decreasing license sales, revisiting the HAP program seemed like a no-brainer.

Although DNR budgets were tight, a provision in the 2007 federal Farm Bill created a program under the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help fund state efforts to provide more hunting access. The DNR applied for a Voluntary Public Access Grant and was awarded $900,000 for three years to expand HAP.

The DNR’s Parker—who at the time was working as a regional biologist with Pheasants Forever—was part of the recruitment and retention work group and helped the DNR write the grant. Soon after, he was hired to coordinate the HAP program. Parker immediately identified one of the key road blocks: payments to landowners were too low.

“We were not paying competitive lease rates,” Parker said. “The rates we were paying had not been increased since 1996, and they probably were not competitive in 1996. We are paying competitive lease rates now.”

 Greater flexibility for landowners

In addition, the DNR changed the types of hunting rights it was leasing. In the past, landowners were required to allow all types of hunting on the property. Now, property owners can determine the types of hunting rights they wish to lease.

“We increased the flexibility for landowners,” Parker explained. “We gave them options to choose from. They could lease us rights to all hunting, youth or apprentice only, small game only, deer only or turkey only. This increased flexibility was very well received by landowners and really helped us add farms that we would not have enrolled otherwise.”

The highest rates are paid to those landowners who lease all rights, and payment rates decrease as access becomes more restricted. All-hunting leases are the most popular option among landowners.

“The majority of our farms are all-hunting, though lately we’ve been picking up quite a few youth and apprentice farms,” Parker said.

Parked noted there are also some small-game-only farms, but the bulk are all-hunting. Some landowners who have chosen small game or turkey limit the lease rights because they want to reserve deer hunting for friends and family members who like to hunt their property.

“I thought it would be the opposite – that people would want to lease out the deer-hunting rights so they could still hunt small game, and we would help pick up the tab for the damage the deer cause,” Parker explained. “But it hasn’t happened that way.”

Now that the bulk of Michigan deer season has passed, HAP properties will appeal mostly to late-season small game hunters pursuing rabbits, squirrels and Canada geese – though archery deer hunters and late-season antlerless deer hunters have until Jan. 1 to participate. Pheasant season runs through Jan. 1 in much of southern Michigan, too.

Better opportunities for hunters

Access to HAP farms is available in two ways. At most, there is a self-service box at the farm for hunters to register. Other farmers require a mandatory check-in where hunters actually knock on the door and get direct permission from the landowner, Parker said.

“Something we’ve tried to do is make the program more hunter-friendly,” he continued. “Our new website lists all the farms in the program and they’re all listed in Mi-HUNT, which includes aerial photos of the properties,” he said. “So a hunter can sit at home in his living room and scout the property and devise a strategy of how he might want to hunt it. I think those aerial photos will really help hunters.”

Parker said he had focused on signing up farms for HAP that were already enrolled in other Farm Bill programs—such as the Conservation Reserve Program—to help ensure the land supports game animals.

“The benefit to that is we’re getting high-quality wildlife habitat,” he said. “I’m thrilled with the quality of these new farms and the hunting opportunities they will provide.

“Response from hunters thus far has been very positive and I’ve heard multiple great success stories, including a young girl who harvested a dandy 9-point buck with her bow,” Parker added. “For me, providing opportunities like this that allow hunters to enjoy the outdoors and help maintain our hunting heritage is what the program is all about.”

Parker said he plans to conduct extensive surveys of both landowners and hunters after the season to get a sense for what worked, what didn’t and what could be improved for the future. The Hunting Access Program has re-emerged as a worthwhile resource for hunters in southern Michigan, and the DNR is working to keep it that way.

To learn more about the Hunting Access Program, visit www.michigan.gov/hap. To explore hunting opportunities and land resources available through the DNR, visit www.michigan.gov/hunting or www.michigan.gov/mihunt.

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Women:
learn archery, handgun and shotgun skills




Women’s Shooting Discovery Day Sept. 29

The Department of Natural Resources will offer an opportunity for women to explore different types of shooting all in one day at the Women’s Shooting Discovery Day in Sparta on Saturday, Sept. 29.

Part of the DNR’s Becoming an Outdoors-Woman (BOW) program, the class will take place from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Sparta Hunting & Fishing Club. This shooting clinic, for beginners as well as those who would like to sharpen their shooting skills, will provide certified, one-on-one instruction for archery, handgun shooting and trap shooting (shotgun).

The day will begin with a range safety orientation, and the class will then break up into three rotation groups, where each participant will have the opportunity to learn and practice each of the shooting activities throughout the day. All shooting activities will take place outdoors.

Cost is $50 per person and includes lunch, served by the Sparta Hunting & Fishing Club membership, as well as all equipment, eye and ear protection and ammunition. The Sparta Hunting & Fishing Club is located at 13218 Long Lake Drive in Sparta. For more information about the club, visit www.spartahuntingandfishingclub.com. 
For registration forms and information on this and other BOW events, visit www.michigan.gov/bow, email dnr-outdoors-woman@michigan.gov or call 517-241-2225.

Becoming an Outdoors-Woman helps women learn about and enjoy hunting, fishing, backpacking, shooting sports, canoeing and many other outdoor recreation activities. BOW specializes in beginners, but also offers a variety of programs that support a mix of skill levels. BOW is a noncompetitive program, designed to let each individual learn and gain confidence at her own pace. The program emphasizes the enjoyment, fun and camaraderie of outdoor activities, while sharing in one another’s success. Learn more at www.michigan.gov/bow.

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Teen gets first deer


Austin M. Coalter, 11, shot his first deer, a 6-point buck on Nov. 16, 2011, while hunting with his uncle Keith Coalter, just north of Cedar Springs. He was shooting a Ruger 270 cal. rifle and the deer was about 120 yards out. His family is very proud of him. Congrats, Austin!

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Teen bow hunter gets his buck


Michael Smith Jr., 15, the son of Mike and Betty Smith, shot this nice 8-point buck with his bow on Nov. 5. He was hunting behind his house in Solon Township. He is a freshman at Cedar Springs High School. Congratulations Michael!

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Ten-year-old gets deer


Trey Lewis, 10, the son of Jake and Amy Lewis, of Solon Township, went hunting on opening day evening on his family’s property, near 22 Mile and Trenton, with his Uncle Bill Woudwyk, and got this 8-point buck his first time out.
Congratulations, Trey!

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Firearm deer season underway


The 2011 firearm deer season opened Tuesday, Nov. 15, and impressions regarding deer observations, hunting activity, and check station operations from the first few days of the season have been compiled by the Department of Natural Resources. Overall, hunting activity started slow but appeared to increase later in the week and over the weekend. Deer condition throughout the state has been reported as good to excellent. The following are the early impressions summarized on a regional basis:
 Upper Peninsula: Hunter numbers across the region appear the same or lower than during the early days of the 2010 firearm season. Most hunters are reporting seeing more deer than last year, and that deer are in good condition. The excellent conditions of deer at check stations supports hunter observations. Initially slow activity at check stations picked up near the end of last week to now include similar or increased numbers of deer checked compared to last year.
Northern Lower Peninsula: Hunting activity last week was reported as fairly light compared to previous years. The northeast portion of the region noted an increase in number of deer checked, but the western and southern portions have noted similar to fewer deer brought in compared to last year. Early reports on weekend check station activity suggest check station and harvest numbers may now have caught up to or exceeded numbers from last year. Deer condition has been described as very good with several exceptional bucks observed at a number of check stations around the region.
Southern Michigan: About 71 percent of corn was picked by opening day, which matches the five-year average but was less than last year, when 97 percent was picked. Hunting activity varied somewhat around the region, but appeared the same or lower than last year; shots heard were consistently lower than last year throughout the region over the first few days of the season. Fewer deer have been checked compared to last year, but deer are in good condition. Some check stations noted an increase in 3-½ and even 4-½ year-old bucks compared to recent years.
Each year, DNR Wildlife Division staff working at check stations around the state submit their impressions and a summary of comments provided by hunters from the first few days of the firearm season. These impressions provide an early view of how the firearm season is faring. Deer populations in both northern regions have come through two relatively mild winters in a row, on the heels of two relatively severe winters of 2007 and 2008. Deer numbers appear to be recovering, but more notable is the good to excellent condition being observed by hunters and confirmed by data collected at check stations. License sales through opening day were about 2.5 percent lower than in 2010, which supports the observations of generally lighter hunting pressure in most areas of the state.
Firearm deer season continues through Nov. 30, with archery season resuming Dec. 1.
For more information about deer hunting opportunities in Michigan, go online to www.michigan.gov/deer. Updated field observations and check station summaries will be posted on the collaborative DNR Wildlife Division and Michigan State University Department of Fisheries and Wildlife website at www.deer.fw.msu.edu.

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