Michigan firearm deer season: Fewer hunters, fewer deer

Photo: Courtesy Michigan DNR

Photo: Courtesy Michigan DNR

By Howard Meyerson

Everyone knows that Michigan’s firearm deer season was cold. Snow piled up all across the state, and temperatures were brutal.

That frigid arctic start, combined with a late corn harvest, kept many hunters at home. Those factors, combined with a smaller deer herd statewide, resulted in fewer deer being killed, according to state wildlife officials.

“Most of us concluded that the opener was a little slower than expected for a Saturday opener, “said Steve Chadwick, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife supervisor for Southwest Michigan. “The weather was a big factor. It was pretty rough.

“We had fewer people out both Saturday and Sunday.”

But that would hold for much of the two-week season that closed Nov. 30. Fewer hunters ventured out or bought hunting licenses and kill tags.

“The number of license buyers decreased by 6.6 percent compared to last year, and the number of kill tags sold decreased by 10.6 percent,” said Brent Rudolph, the DNR’s former deer program manager. “Our general observations are that the deer kill is down this year compared to last.”

Preliminary estimates indicate the U.P. firearm kill was down 30 to 40 percent from 2013. Some areas had bigger declines, Rudolph said. The southern Michigan deer harvest was down about 5 percent, and the northern Lower Peninsula harvest was down by as much as 10 percent, Rudolph said.

“The late corn harvest provided a lot of extra refuge for deer. … Statewide, only 43 percent had been picked by the week before opener, compared to an average of 63 percent. By the end of the season, it was only 77 percent (picked).”

Barry State Game Area manager Sara Schaefer called the 2014 firearm season “the worst in the 15 years.”

Schaefer said, “People weren’t used to hunting in that kind of weather. They spent fewer hours hunting, and some didn’t go out at all.” Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Christmas on the Fly: gifts for the fly angler on your list

Is there a fly fishing enthusiast on your shopping list? Here are three gift possibilities, starting clockwise at top right: “The River,” a production about the Au Sable River by videographer Robert Thompson; “The Flying Mouse,” a children’s book by Charlotte Otten and illustrated by Greg Crawford; and “Rivers of Sand: Fly Fishing Michigan & The Great Lakes Region,” by Josh Greenberg, owner of Gates Au Sable Lodge near Grayling. (Ed Riojas/MLive.com photo illustration)

Is there a fly fishing enthusiast on your shopping list? Here are three gift possibilities, starting clockwise at top right: “The River,” a production about the Au Sable River by videographer Robert Thompson; “The Flying Mouse,” a children’s book by Charlotte Otten and illustrated by Greg Crawford; and “Rivers of Sand: Fly Fishing Michigan & The Great Lakes Region,” by Josh Greenberg, owner of Gates Au Sable Lodge near Grayling. (Ed Riojas/MLive.com photo illustration)

By Howard Meyerson

Fly fishing videographer Robert Thompson made a quite a splash last spring when his production, “The River,” premiered at the Rialto Theater in Grayling on the opening weekend of Michigan’s trout season. The circa-1930 movie house filled to near-capacity.

The crowd went to enjoy his two-hour feature about the Au Sable River and its Holy Waters, its history, the people who contributed to it becoming one of the nation’s most revered trout streams and what today is being done to keep it that way.

Thompson, a native of Alpena, donated the film to the event. The proceeds went to the Anglers of the Au Sable, the nonprofit founded in 1986 that has worked to protect the river ever since.

Something to see

The video took two years to produce, and Thompson was more than a little pleased with the response. It since has sold more copies than any of his other films.

“The River” is a gem. It also is my top pick this holiday season, the perfect gift for any Midwestern fly angler.

“The Au Sable was the river that really got its hooks into me,” said Thompson during a phone interview from his Chicago office, where he is a producer for CBS television. “A lot of things have happened on that river. No other (river) in the country has its history and traditions going back to the logging days; the period when it was a river full of grayling and their later extinction; the days of stocking it with trout and those who didn’t like that; and the creation of Trout Unlimited as a result.” Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Elk hunters see high success rate

Michigan hunters had a 74 percent success rate during the fall elk hunt. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Michigan hunters had a 74 percent success rate during the fall elk hunt. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

By Howard Meyerson

Grand Rapids, Michigan – Nearly three-quarters of the 50 hunters who went after Michigan elk this fall came home with something to brag about.  It turned out to be a great hunting season, according to state wildlife officials.

“We had a 74 percent success rate for quota hunters, which is on the high side of what we typically see for the early hunt,” said Jennifer Kleitch, wildlife biologist at the Michigan DNR’s Gaylord office. “We often see bull hunters being successful in this hunt, but this year, two bull hunters were unsuccessful.”

Hunters killed a total of 37 elk during the fall hunt seasons, which ended September 29. That included one calf, 23 cows and 13 bulls. Two of the bulls were killed by Pure Michigan Hunt winners. Tribal hunters also reported taking five elk total: three bulls and two cows.

“Elk were bugling during the second and third portions of the hunt, making it easier for hunters to locate the animals,” Kleitch said. “However, rainy weather and a few warm days slowed hunting for portions of the hunting period.” Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

State wolf plan to be updated, public asked to comment

 

Michigan's Gray Wolf plan is open for public review.

Michigan’s Gray Wolf plan is open for public review.

By Howard Meyerson

Grand Rapids, Michigan – State wildlife officials want to know what the public thinks about Michigan’s current Wolf Management Plan. The 96-page document, developed in 2008, was slated to be updated in 2013.

That process is now moving forward, according Michigan DNR officials. The agency is accepting public comment through December 11. The plan lays out the state’s current understanding of wolves and its intended goals and strategies for management.

“The (2008) plan calls for a five-year review and we are a year behind,” said Brian Roell, wildlife biologist with the DNR’s Marquette office. “We’re not saying the plan is broken. It’s still pretty good. We’re just updating it with current knowledge.

“The plan is a place where the public can see what we know and what we have planned, and can comment on what we might do better, or where we have, or have not, met the goals. We are doing the very same thing internally.” Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Feisty Fishes: Fall and Winter Steelhead Fishing in Grand Rapids

Miles Hanley, a Kalamazoo angler, holds up a handsome steelhead he landed on the Kalamazoo River. Photo: Howard Meyerson

Miles Hanley holds up a handsome steelhead he landed on the Kalamazoo River. Photo: Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

They hit hard, leap high, and run like a freight train when hooked, which is why hundreds of anglers converge each fall on rivers in the Grand Rapids-area hoping to hook a steelhead. Muscular and feisty, the chrome-colored fish begin running up Lake Michigan tributaries in late October and spend most of the winter in them feeding, very often waiting until spring to spawn.

Anglers know they are readily catchable. To learn more about what they are using and where to fish for them, check out my latest story on the City of Grand Rapids blog, called Experience GR Blog: Feisty Fishes: Fall and Winter Steelhead Fishing in Grand Rapids.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wind Turbines and Birds: A Case for Further Study

Michigan Wind 1 near Ubly is part of the former Noble Thumb Windpark (NTW), which John Deere Renewables acquired from Noble Environmental Power in October, 2008. The project consists of 46 GE Energy SLE wind turbines and has a total nameplate capacity of 69 MW. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Michigan Wind 1 near Ubly is part of the former Noble Thumb Windpark (NTW), which John Deere Renewables acquired from Noble Environmental Power in October, 2008. The project consists of 46 GE Energy SLE wind turbines and has a total nameplate capacity of 69 MW. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

By Howard Meyerson

Wind power has been a growth industry in Michigan, but one viewed with enthusiasm and concern. Standing high over the landscape, the long-bladed turbines can be seen for miles, powerful symbols of progress and a greener age for electric power production. But as wind’s prominence as an energy source has grown, so has scientists’ and wildlife managers’ concerns about its impacts on birds, bats, and other wildlife.

“The raw numbers (from company reports detailing bird and bat deaths from collisions) are not very high, but it’s hard to know what the actual mortality is,” said Scott Hicks, the East Lansing field supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). “We absolutely want to see more information and encourage every wind development to collect it.”

A 2014 report by the American Wind Wildlife Institute, a partnership of the wind industry, wildlife management agencies, and science and environmental organizations, states: “Fatality rates for most publicly available studies range between three and five birds per megawatt per year… Bat fatality rates can be substantially higher than bird fatality rates, especially at facilities in the Upper Midwest and eastern forests.” Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Renewing Michigan’s nongame wildlife program

The Trumpeter Swan is one of several species that have been aided by Michigan's Nongame Wildlife Program. Photo: Dick Daniels, Wikimedia Commons.

The Trumpeter Swan is one of several species that have been aided by Michigan’s Nongame Wildlife Program. Photo: Dick Daniels, Wikimedia Commons.

By Howard Meyerson

Perhaps you have heard about trumpeter swans, the beautiful all-white birds that once were plentiful in Michigan but then disappeared. They are the largest waterfowl species in North America and are readily identified by their long, straight neck and all-black bill.
Trumpeters are doing well today in Alaska, Canada and parts of the northern U.S. They have rebounded from near extinction after being hunted extensively for their plumage until the early 20th century.

In Michigan, they remain on the state’s threatened species list. But they are being considered for removal. More than 700 were counted in 2010, according to state wildlife officials.

“We consider trumpeter swans to be doing just fine and fully expect they will come off the list,” said Dan Kennedy, endangered species coordinator for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Success stories

The trumpeter — along with the peregrine falcon, another recovering species being considered for delisting in Michigan — could be a poster child for the exceptional recovery work that was accomplished by staff working in the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Program. Since the program was created in 1983, along with the Nongame Fish and Wildlife Trust Fund, its purpose has been the management and protection of non-hunted species. That includes pine martins, Henslow’s sparrows, wood turtles and many others. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

National Forest proposes temporarily closing some roads for non-motorized winter trails

Mushers like this one at the starting line of the Sweetwater Challenge dogsled event, would be able to train and run their dogs without concern about motorized vehicles on their trails in winter. Photo: Howard Meyerson

Mushers like this one at the starting line of the Sweetwater Challenge dogsled event, would be able to train and run their dogs without concern about motorized vehicles on their trails in winter. Photo: Howard Meyerson

By Howard Meyerson

Michigan mushers eventually might get a long and safe trail system for running their dogs and for training in the Huron-Manistee National Forest. A Forest Service proposal to close about 3.5 miles of National Forest roads in winter to create a non-motorized winter recreation area for mushers, skiers and snowshoers is moving forward.

National Forest officials with the Baldwin/White Cloud Ranger District said a decision about the project is expected this winter. The public comment period closed Oct. 24, and a draft environmental assessment now is in circulation. It has a 30-day comment period, which is followed by a 45-day objection period. A link to the project can be found at bit.ly/sweettrail.

The road closures would occur in Sweetwater and Webber townships, where the popular 25-mile Sweetwater Challenge sled dog race has been run since 2006 under a special permit each time the race has been held. Mushers contend that a non-motorized winter recreation area there would allow them to run their dogs without worry during the winter.

The area has a mix of forest roads, county roads and trails that cross National Forest and private lands. It is a snowy region popular with mushers. Nearly 350 showed up in 2013 for one scheduled event. They arrived in the Manistee forest from as far away as Oregon, Vermont, Georgia and Minnesota, according to National Forest officials.

“(If approved), we expect it to go into effect this winter,” said Kathy Bietau, the National Forest District’s recreation planner. We’re looking to provide a safe environment for permitted sled dog events and for skiers and snowshoers. We’re proposing to close the roads to motor vehicles (every winter) from Dec. 1 through March 31.” Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Higher brookie limit on three new waters

Wild brook trout (above) populations can be identified in rivers along with other wild trout species. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

Three new Upper Peninsula brook trout streams will have a 10-fish daily limit in 2015. Photo: Howard Meyerson.

By Howard Meyerson

GRAND RAPIDS, MI. — Anglers will be able to keep 10 brook trout per day on eight Upper Peninsula streams when the 2015 fishing season opens. DNR Director Keith Creagh earlier this month approved experimental regulations for three new U.P. streams where the usual five-brook-trout daily limit will be doubled.

The new additions come two years after similar regulations were approved for five other U.P. streams. The experimental 10-fish bag limit will stay in place until 2017 while state fisheries managers study the impact on native brook trout populations, and angling activity across the U.P.

“This was part of the original agreement (in 2012) with the Natural Resources Commission when the first five were designated,” said Phil Schneeberger, Michigan DNR’s Lake Superior Basin Coordinator.

The newly minted experimental brook trout streams are Bryan Creek in Marquette and Dickinson counties, Lower Rock River in Alger County, and Presque Isle River in Gogebic County. The other five include portions of the Dead River in Marquette County, Driggs River in Schoolcraft County, East Branch Ontonagon River in Houghton and Iron counties, East Branch Tahquamenon River in Chippewa County, and East Branch Huron River in Baraga and Marquette counties. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Graymont submits new mine proposal for Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

An aerial shot of Graymont's Pilot Peak project in Nevada. Photo: Graymont

An aerial shot of Graymont’s Pilot Peak project in Nevada. Photo: Graymont

By Howard Meyerson

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — A Canadian mining company, Graymont Inc., has submitted a revised proposal to mine limestone on state land in the Upper Peninsula. Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials say the request is now under review and the public is encouraged to submit their comments and concerns.

“We are getting a lot of conversation from the public. The reactions are all over the board,” said Bill O’Neill, Michigan’s state forester and chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division. “We don’t know the exact date, but we plan to hold a public meeting, probably in the first half of December. It will be up in that neighborhood. (Meanwhile) the public can tell us what they think by letter and email.”
Graymont is proposing to:

  • Buy 1,005 acres of state land for a surface mine;
  • Exchange 1,630 acres of other, yet unspecified land for an equal amount of state land where a second surface mine will be developed;
  • Buy 7,250 acres of subsurface mineral rights under state forests for an underground mine;
  • Pay the state 18.75 cents per ton of extracted limestone, money that would go to Michigan’s State Park Endowment Fund.

The surface lands over the underground mine would continue to be owned and managed by the DNR. Public access would continue to be allowed.  The public would also be allowed to access areas around the surface mine that are not actively being mined. And the DNR would reserve a permanent easement for any existing trails on those lands.

Local residents in the proposed mining area in Mackinac County have expressed mixed opinions, according to O’Neill. Some think it will be good for the economy and bring jobs. Others are concerned about the disturbances that would likely follow.

O’Neill called it a “100-year proposal” that deserves a thorough review and added it is worth “hundreds of millions of dollars” to the state.

“Many local townships and county people think we should do it,” O’Neill said. “Other residents, who retired and moved there for quiet and solitude, don’t want the change.” Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment