U.P. biologist Kevin Swanson named new DNR bear, wolf, cougar specialist

By Howard Meyerson

Kevin Swanson is the Michigan DNR's new large-carnivore will be based in the Upper Peninsula. Photo: Michigan DNR.

Kevin Swanson is the Michigan DNR’s new large-carnivore will be based in the Upper Peninsula. Photo: Michigan DNR.

Grand Rapids, Mich. – Kevin Swanson believes his biggest challenge as Michigan’s new large-carnivore specialist is likely to be the debate about wolves, but black bears and cougars aren’t far behind. The Ishpeming native recently began his new duties at the Michigan DNR’s Marquette field office.

“The wolf debate is the biggest challenge. I’ll be representing our biologist’s views, assessing all sides of the debate, and bringing those recommendations to the Natural Resources Commission,” said Swanson, who was named Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Biologist of the Year in 2012. His former post was habitat biologist for the 380,000 acre Shingleton state forest unit.

“There are no big changes ahead for the wolf program plan, but it’s important for people to know that it doesn’t preclude having a wolf hunt,” Swanson said. “Bear issues are also very controversial. The houndsmen and bait-hunting groups don’t see things the same way. I’ll be handling the bear program and plan to bring those differing points of view to the table. We’re in the process of making recommendations for the 2015-16 regulation cycle.”

Swanson, who grew up hunting, and still lives in Ishpeming with his wife and three children, was selected for the post from a field of candidates from around the country. He earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Northern Michigan University, and master’s degree in forestry from Michigan Technological University. People who know him say he is a likeable guy. Continue reading

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Michigan DNR trying to grow hunter access on private farm lands

Michigan's Hunter Access Program pays farmers to allow hunters on their lands. Photo: Dave Kenyon, Michigan DNR.

Michigan’s Hunter Access Program pays farmers to allow hunters on their lands. Photo: Dave Kenyon, Michigan DNR.

By Howard Meyerson

I’ve heard a lot of southern Michigan hunters complain over the years about diminishing access to private hunting lands. Specifically, they talk about farms where they or friends once hunted. For one reason or another that access disappeared.

In some cases, the lands were sold, or farmers began to limit access because of problems with hunters. Still others closed their property because they were offered good money for private hunting leases. The end result was fewer private farms to hunt in southern Michigan.

But it appears that is changing. The Michigan DNR recently announced that it will receive a $1.2 million federal grant to expand its Voluntary Public Access-Hunting Incentive program. You may have heard of HAP (Hunting Access Program), which pays farmers to allow the public to hunt their lands.

It was created in 1977, a popular idea that quickly mushroomed. By 1981, at the peak of the program, hunters were able to access 792 southern Michigan farms and 188,000 acres. Today the HAP list offers only a fraction of that. The low point came in 2010 when only 47 farms and 7,400 acres were enrolled. The decline was due to all of the mentioned reasons along with state budget constraints. The DNR couldn’t pay farmers as much as they got from private hunting leases. Continue reading

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The Magnesium Fire Starter Scam

Maybe you’ve purchased one – just in case. But does it work? This informative piece by the Fortune Bay Expedition Team suggests that not all magnesium fire-starters are equal. When down to the wire, you’ll want the real deal. FBET also shows you another way to get a fire started with a chewing gum wrapper and battery.  Take a look. The Magnesium Fire Starter Scam | Fortune Bay Expedition Team.

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Trail guide sets new standard for books about hiking in Michigan

By Howard Meyerson

A hiker passing the South Manitou Island Lighthouse, part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Photo: Jim DuFresne

A hiker passing the South Manitou Island Lighthouse, part of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Photo: Jim DuFresne

When author Jim DuFresne first came out with his book, “50 Hikes in Michigan,” I didn’t think anyone could top it. DuFresne, a Michigan-based writer, instinctively seemed to know what hikers needed — a solid, well-crafted guide about the best walking trails in Michigan, with maps and a quality narrative that told readers where to go, how to get there and what to expect.

That was 1991, early in the outdoor recreation boom that would follow nationwide. Dozens of hiking guides soon would follow and fill bookstore shelves, leading trekkers to great trails all over the country. But, DuFresne’s book set the bar for hiking guides about Michigan.

DuFresne wrote his first hiker’s guide in 1984 — for Isle Royale National Park. He went on to publish 20 guidebooks, including one about hiking in New Zealand, another about Alaska and a series about adventures with children.

At it again

So, I was not surprised when he contacted me this year to let me know he had come out with a third edition of “50 Hikes in Michigan.”50Hike3Cover

He was excited. I was curious. Revised editions typically don’t warrant much other than a quick mention. Most involve housekeeping changes, such as trailhead updates, outhouse status and contact phone numbers.

But DuFresne’s new edition has established an altogether new bar for Michigan hiking guides. It is virtually a different book, with full-color photos, excellent color maps and an assortment of new trails.

“We changed (more than) one-third of the trails and ripped out the photos and maps,” said DuFresne, who splits his time between homes in Clarkston and Elk Rapids. “I had come across new trails and got rid of a lot of the North Country Trail segments that were there. People want loops and doable hikes where they don’t need two cars.” Continue reading

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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