PLUS: Behind the scenes with the Keefer Brothers!

2017 WINTER EDITION

MICHIGAN’S PREMIUM OUTDOOR

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Deer | Coyotes
Trapping | s mall game
Ice Fishing | Steelhead
Christmas Gear Guide!
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bAsecamp
by Drew YoungeDyke, Editor
Michigan Out-of-Doors

WELCOME TO MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS,
Michigan’s premium outdoor journal. I'm very
proud of this issue of MOOD, not for anything I've
done with it but for the people featured within its
pages.
The cover feature is an interview with Jada Johnson,
host of Big Boys TV on the Sportsman Channel. A proud
native and resident of Gaylord, Michigan, she represents
the largest - and possibly only - growing demographic of
hunters: young women. She embraces this role through her
Boot Camp for Girls, where she mentors females who want
to learn how to hunt.
It was important to me, personally, to feature hunters
like Jada for the simple reason that I have two amazing
nieces, one five years and the other a year and a half old,
and I want them to have every opportunity open to them,
including hunting, fishing and the outdoors, should they
choose to pursue it, and hunters like Jada are keeping that
door open to them.

2

Editor Drew YoungeDyke
space is at a premium and it's so important not to lose what
we have - with less public land, Opening Day will only get
more crowded! We have two articles about deer hunting
public land, including one by Richard P. Smith, who
recently won the Dave Richey Communicator of the Year
Award from the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association.

I am proud to feature new writers in these pages, too.
Writers like Chris Engle, who has a great special report on
how conservation officers perform the jobs we ask of them
for our On Patrol section. And writers like Rob Harrell,
who has two articles, one on how and why he became a
coyote hunter and an excellent behind-the-scenes look at
the Keefer brothers' Midland-based Rusted Rooster outdoor
media compancy, which produces outdoor TV shows like
Dropped and Rival Wild.

Ice fishing is covered in this issue from a beginner's guide
by Bob Gwizdz to insights from Mark Martin about
Saginaw Bay walleye this winter.

We feature trapping heavily in this issue, which has never
been under more scrutiny. I hope you'll enjoy Jacob
VanHouten's account of trapping as a youth to purchase
Christmas presents and a Throwback to the late 60's
looking at where trapping was at that time in our state's
history.

Our goal at Michigan Out-of-Doors is to provide you with a
publication that will last you through the last frigid days of
cabin fever with a quality you'll want to save to pass down
to future generations, just as MUCC strives to keep our
natural resources and outdoor heritage worthy of passing
down to future generations.

As I write this, anti-public land legislation (SB 39 & 40)
is poised to move through the Michigan Senate, while
Michigan United Conservation Clubs continues its vigorous
defense of the places we hunt, fish and trap. Public land
sometimes gets a bum rap by deer hunters because it
can get crowded on Opening Day, but that's exactly why

I hope that we have lived up that charge in this issue.
Let me know what you think by writing to editor@
michiganoutofdoors.com with the subject, "LETTERS."

MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

And what would a winter outdoor magazine in Michigan
be without a heavy dose of coyote hunting, small game like
squirrels and snowshoe hare, and steelheading? Our own
Anna Mitterling also has an excellent feature about what
hunting is all about.

DKY

paged through it and I am so happy that
I did. His story is going into my collection
of great wilderness writing and I will share
it with friends and family. My nephew is a
hunter in Wisconsin and he will be surprised
and happy that I read your magazine.
Sincerely, Susan Herrick
Editor:

Got my hard copy 2 days ago and
love it. Great job keep up the great work.
Why would anybody not want the hard
copy?
Greg Nicolau, Cedar Rod & Gun Club

Editor:

Mr Smith's article about getting
lost, and found is great, I want to tell him so.
Thankk you to Mr. Pisani, too, he is a good
sport.

I read it with anticipation, looking for details of how Mr. Smith and Pisani
got out of the woods, and for bear lore.
Especially interesting are " the noise and the
scent left by people would clear any bears
out of the area" and " Mr Pisani marked
our course of travel to make sure we could
find our way back to the point when we
first knew we were lost". I regularly hike in
Newaygo county. I had a close encounter
with a bear near White Cloud in the spring
of 2015, and bear sightings are on the
increase here.

Earlier this spring I was lost off the
North Country Trail for a short time. It was
going to be dusk soon, and I did find my
way by using a similar system to their flags.
So you see I had some things in common
with them. Just weeks later the Geraldine
Largay story broke when her body was
found 2 years after her disappearance on
the Appalachian Trail in the thick Maine wilderness. This shook me up and I wrote to the
NCTA and asked them for information about
wayfinding, i.e. how not to get lost or how to
find yourself when you do get lost. The result
is a post about my experience on their blog
called staying found on the NCT.

Typically I don't read Michigan
Out-of-doors but today picked it up and

Editor:

First thought on seeing the Fall issue
was "Oh S--- ! What have they done now!"

A few seconds later I begin to think
better ....

Print size and font are better,
though WE still have issues with some
print-over-color/graphics that is difficult to
decipher.

All the good departments are there
... really nice lineup to read ...

But I am blown away at the quality
of the articles!

First read was "Know Trespassing".
I cannot praise Nicoll and Mitterling enough
for their concise clarity, no-nonsense,
no-geewhiz, practical approach. And you
address both sides, hunter and owner! The
authors can have a good second job writing
articles. Can you condense that into a
handy reference pamphlet?

Every article I've read after that
seems better than your usual high standard.
If going to quarterly issues is what it takes,
I'll accept that.
Thanks for a good issue.
Russell Ayers
Editor:

Just a short note to tell you that I
received my copy of the Fall Edition magazine on Friday. Since then I've barely put
it down! I really enjoy the new format, the
added content, and the stories & information
it contains. Already looking forward to the
next edition!
From one hunter to another, thank you and
keep up the good work!!
Dan Mark, Waterford Township

LETTERS

Editor:
"let me know what you think"

I like the new magazine. Size and
paper type is easy to read / handle.

It is like another periodical that I
read that changed to the same formatting,
style and size- 'Sport Pilot' is the magazine
of the Experimental Aircraft Assoc.(EAA).
Stories were good (as usual). On Patrol has
always been my favorite go-to first.

On the negative side, I thought
that cover picture image of some young
person aggressively 'humping' really turned
me off. Who want's to see that on the
cover of Michigan Out-of-Doors? It seems
nowdays the pics and the ads lean towards
aggressive -macho mean action. No sign
of happiness on his face. It is much like the
'Volunteer for Wildlife' as on the inside cover: dark, aggressive men walking. Much
like those ATV/UTV as in other magazines
consisting of mean looking riders in search
of some wild game or adventure.

I'm 67 years old and exercise
regularly on bicycle in the good weather
months and Nordic-Track in the winter. I lift
(minimal) weighs and do other core-muscle
maintenance exercises. I used to hump a
back-pack much like that of the pictured
individual in Vietnam. A the beginning of
a mission it weighed about 80 pounds and
thereafter got lighter as I used up ammo and
C-rations.

I have been a part of our Michigan
Out-of-Doors since Mort Neff back in the
1950s and 60s. I drew a bear tag this year
and will mentor a 15-year old neighbor to
whom I passed my permit to. I harvested
a bear previously and don't want/need
another.

'The work begins after the trigger is
pulled'

Just my opinion.
David Bruski
Editor:

Here is a strong vote no for the
new magazine format. You have changed
our Michigan magazine into an elitist national publication. Nebraska deer? Louisiana game farms? Whelen cartridges? Only
four times a year?
Ted Ehlert

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

3

WINTER 2017

VOLUME 71, ISSUE 1

39

28

DEPARTMENTS
2 | BASECAMP DREW YOUNGEDYKE
3 | LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
7 | DIRECTOR: UP TO THE TASK DAN EICHINGER
10 AROUND MICHIGAN STATEWIDE CONSERVATION NEWS
12 | PHOTOS FROM THE FIELD
15 | ON PATROL CHRIS ENGLE
20 | FIREARMS: MAINTENANCE SCOTT CRAWFORD
30 | THE THROWBACK: TRAPPING STAYS A HARDY SPORT 1969
34 | GEAR REVIEW: TENZING TZ3000 BIG GAME HUNTING PACK DREW YOUNGEDYKE
50 | YOUTH STORY: WHY I HUNT LYLA LUOTO
74 | THE CAMPFIRE SHAUN MCKEON
102 | THE WILDLIFE DREW YOUNGEDYKE
DEER MICHIGAN SPECIAL SECTION
58 | OLD SCHOOL OPENING DAY DREW YOUNGEDYKE
64 | A LIFETIME OF PUBLIC LAND WHITETAILS RICHARD P. SMITH
68 | FULL DRAW: BOWHUNTING LATE SEASON WHITETAILS TOM NELSON
70 | CONTROLLING THE COLD TOM NELSON
72 | RUT PREDICTING TONY HANSEN
FEATURES
22 | CENTERFIRE AT NIGHT SCOTT CRAWFORD
24 | THE COYOTE HUNTERS DARIN POTTER
4

MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

32

52

99

84

28 | WHY I BECAME A COYOTE HUNTER ROB HARRELL
32 | TRAPPING FOR CHRISTMAS JACOB VANHOUTEN
36 | CHRISTMAS GEAR GUIDE DREW YOUNGEDYKE
39 | COVER FEATURE: GIRLS HUNT TOO
52 | RUSTED ROOSTER: BEHIND THE SCENES WITH THE KEEFER BROS ROB HARRELL
79 | WINTER GOOSE HUNTING BOB GWIZDZ
84 | LATE SEASON SQUIRRELS BOB GWIZDZ
88 | HABITAT, HUNTERS AND HARES DARIN POTTER
89 | THE BEAR HUNT THAT BROUGHT HOPE ANNA MITTERLING
92 | ICE FISHING 101 BOB GWIZDZ
99 | SAGINAW BAY WALLEYE JEFF NEDWICK
NEXT ISSUE | SPRING 2017
101 | OPEN WATER WINTER ANGLING | JIM BEDFORD
STEVEN RINELLA,
105 | WINTER MAGIC FOR STEELHEAD | ROGER HINGECLIFF
WILD GAME & MORE!
MID-FEBRUARY!

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

5

PUBLISHER
DAN EICHINGER

Since7
193

MICHIGAN UNITED
MUCC CONSERVATION CLUBS
TM

EDITOR
DREW YOUNGEDYKE
editor@michiganoutofdoors.com

2101 Wood Street | PO Box 30235 | Lansing, MI 48909 | 517.371.1041 P | 517.371.1505 F | www.mucc.org

Uniting Citizens to Conserve, Protect and Enhance Michigan’s Natural Resources and Outdoor Heritage

ART DESIGN & TEMPLATE
SOLO 71 / DAVE BEHM
ADVERTISING
TYLER RIDENOUR
sales@mucc.org
PRESIDENT
THOMAS HERITIER
IMMEDIATE PAST PRESIDENT
RON BURRIS
VICE PRESIDENT
GEORGE LINDQUIST
TREASURER
JIM DECLERCK
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
RICHARD P. SMITH
BILL MALLOCH
JANE FINNERTY
CAROL ROSE
JACK VAN RHEE
CHUCK HOOVER
DAVID VAN LOPIK
BRUCE LEVEY
GREG PETER
BILL KREPPS
KRIS MATTHEW
DOUG KRIZANIC
Michigan Out-of-Doors is the official publication of Michigan United
Conservation Clubs (MUCC), 2101 Wood St., Lansing MI 48912, and is
publicshed quarterly. Telephone: 517.371.1041. Receipt of this publication is through membership in MUCC. For membership information, call
1.800.777.6720. Single copies available to the public for $5.99 each.
Periodicals postage paid at Lansing, Michigan, and additional mailing
offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to Michigan Out-of-Doors,
PO Box 30235, Lansing MI 48909. All advertising communications
should be sent to PO Box 30235. Views expressed by freelance
writers are their own and do not necessarily express those of Michigan
Out-of-Doors or Michigan United Conservation Clubs. Copyright 2016
by Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC). The Copyright Act
of 1976 prohibits the reproduction of Michigan Out-of-Doors without
written permission from Michigan United Conservation Clubs. MUCC
members may reproduce one copy for personal use without permission. For permission to reprint a specific article, and for inquiries,
contact the editor at editor@michiganoutofdoors.com.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) is a 501(c)
(3) nonprofit organization founded in 1937 by sportsmen's
clubs from around Michigan to protect conservation from
politics. Representing over 50,000 members and supporters
and approximately 250 affiliated conservation clubs, MUCC
is the largest state-based conservation organization in the
nation. MUCC members determine its conservation policies
through a robust grassroots process, which MUCC staff works
to implement by working with elected officials, state and federal
agencies, its members and the public. MUCC has published
Michigan Out-of-Doors since 1947 and operates the Michigan
Out-of-Doors Youth Camp in Chelsea, MI. Learn more about the
full range of programs MUCC uses to advance conservation in
Michigan and become a member at www.mucc.org.

MUCC Staff
DAN EICHINGER
Executive Director
deichinger@mucc.org

AMY TROTTER
Deputy Director
atrotter@mucc.org

DREW YOUNGEDYKE
Chief Information Officer/
Michigan Out-of-Doors Editor
dyoungedyke@mucc.org

LOGAN SCHULTZ
Digital Media Coordinator
lschultz@mucc.org

STEPHANIE RUSTEM
Project Manager
srustem@mucc.org
ANNA MITTERLING
Wildlife Co-op Coordinator
amitterling@mucc.org
SARAH TOPP
Wildlife Volunteer Coordinator
stopp@mucc.org
TAYLOR RENTON
Gourmet Gone Wild Manager
gourmetgonewild@mucc.org

SHAUN MCKEON
Education Coordinator
smckeon@mucc.org
LINDSAY ROCHEFORT
Membership Coordinator
llaserra@mucc.org
SUE PRIDE
Membership Relations&
Tracks Coordinator
spride@mucc.org
JEANNE ESCH
Creative Services

Director's Desk

Up To The Task

We’ve made major changes to our
communications offerings as well.
Michigan Out-of-Doors has gone
through a total overhaul from top to
bottom from inside-out. The feedback
we have gotten on the reboot
has been tremendous and almost
universally enthusiastic about the
changes.

by Dan Eichinger, Executive Director

On the advocacy side, we have seen
some success but there are many
Michigan United Conservation Clubs
forward your priorities
threats looming. Property tax relief for
across all phases of the
The deer blind is a great place to mark time and progress.
organization: advocacy; our affiliate clubs is an extraordinarily
For many of us, we hunt in basically the same place, always outreach; education; and high priority that we hope to finish
up before the end of the calendar
on the same day and time of the year. The opening day of communications.
year. The threat of commercial
deer season is a great place to mark progress in our life.
net-pen aquaculture continues to
When I was 14, on my first opening day, I tried to envision MUCC has been the
loom. Public land is under assault
what would happen over the course of the next year, things national leader in
across the country and here at home
I wanted to change, how I wanted to grow as a person. I
developing volunteeras well. We are ever-watchful of
tried to envision what I would be like one year from then.
based wildlife habitat
misguided attempts to degrade the
The next year, I thought back to that first opening and took programs that improve
quality and integrity of your public
stock of how things worked out and how I felt about the way public land and
lands. Continued vigilance is needed
things were going. It’s been a perennial thing for me each energize the public
to control and contain the spread
year since, I consider it my annual, personal performance for conservation and
of CWD, there is an alarming lack
evaluation.
securing our wildlife
of urgency in Washington to deal
dependent recreation.
with invasive carp, and anti-science
In this year alone we completed over
We strive to do the same thing at MUCC
fundraising outfits like HSUS and
20 projects and engaged nearly 300
as well and the change-over of the
calendar is a good reminder for us to take volunteers to improve thousands of acres others continue to use the court system
of public hunting land, some of which you to undermine science-based wildlife
stock of what we accomplished over the
management by state agencies.
might be utilizing right this minute.
last year and identify the things we need
to prioritize in the year to come. For our
MUCC is in the thick of all of
Our education programs have once
beloved organization it has been a year
these issues, leveraging our large
again connected hundreds of young
of growth, a year of impact, and a year
membership and top drawer
people with the wonder of nature,
of challenge. Candidly, I hope we are
communications abilities to bring
introduced
them
to
their
responsibilities
as
always able to say that about MUCC.
conservationists, and provided them with needed attention and creative thinking
the formative experiences that will forever to solve the tough issues facing our
We have seen our membership ranks
shared resources. Together, we have
connect them to our outdoor heritage.
grow at a faster rate than in recent
done a lot of good this year, and the
That is powerful stuff. Our affiliates are
memory. That growth has been
the driving force behind the success of our high stakes work that lays before us
accomplished across the organization,
outdoor education programs, by sending this coming year will demand every bit
both in terms of individual members and
of our energy and focus, but there is
kids to camp and being the labor force
clubs and organizational affiliation.
that keeps our camp facility safe and up one thing that I become more certain
Expanding the reach of MUCC enables
of each year: MUCC is up to the task.
to date for our campers.
us to more broadly and effectively carry
WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

7

MOMENTS of MEMORY
The bedrock of conservation is taking care of our natural resources so that they can be
passed down to future generations. The natural resources that we conserve today were
conserved for us by generations of conservationists preceding us, and these generations
are ever-changing, ever flowing. Here we honor the passing of one generation of conservationists to the next.

Nancy Heritier

From-Chelsea Rod & Gun Club-Greg Peter

Robert Lemon from

Donald & Lisa Pawlik
Paul & Margaret Maxwell
Donna McKenzie
Russ & Marlis Lafevre
Tricia Fowler
Dawn Lemon & Family
Douglas & Joan Sherman
Mr. Mrs. Cowen
William & Betsy Reum
Jean Lemon
David & Katherine Wemyss
W. Mckenzie
National City, MI 48748
Robert & Kathleen Pawlik
Clinton Twp, MI 48035
James & Martha Lynn Lenhardt
Grand Blanc, MI 48439

In Memory Of- Paige Duffield & Nicholas Scheal
From- Gilberta Ortega- grandchildren

Tommy Pengelly

From- Gerry & Jane Golinske & Family
We also express our condolences to the families of Representatives Peter Pettalia and
Julie Pawlecki, both of whom were great legislators to work with and whom we lost too
soon during the past year.
If you have recently lost someone you would like to honor here,
please contact Sue Pride at spride@mucc.org.

TM

MUCC
LIFE MEMBER
Thank you to the following conservationists who have made a lifetime
commitment to conserving, protecting and enhancing Michigan's
natural resources and outdoor heritage by becoming a Life Member
of Michigan United Conservation Clubs:

LaVerne Foster Sr. of Saginaw, Michigan
John Enkemann of Northville, Michigan
Matthew Inbody of Snover, Michigan
If you are willing and able to make a lifetime commitment to conservation, you can become a Life Member of
Michigan United Conservation Clubs with a $500 contribution to the organization.
Life members receive a lifetime subscription to Michigan Out-of-Doors, a Life Member MUCC ballcap,
a Life Member patch, and a certificate commemorating your commitment to conservation.
Contact Sue Pride at spride@mucc.org or visit www.mucc.org/join_mucc and select "Life Membership."

AROUND MICHIGAN

CONSERVATION NEWS FROM TWO PENINSULAS AND FOUR GREAT LAKES
DNR CONDUCTS DNA TESTS
ON UP COUGARS, CONFIRMS
ROVING THEORY

UP

Genetic testing on
tissue samples from
two cougars poached
in the Upper Peninsula shows the two animals likely came
from a population found generally in
South Dakota, Wyoming and northwest
Nebraska.
“This genetic research lines up with what
we’ve presumed previously, that cougars found in the Upper Peninsula are
males dispersing from this population
east of the Rocky Mountains,” said Kevin Swanson, a Michigan Department of
Natural Resources wildlife management
specialist with the agency’s Bear and
Wolf Program. “These males dispersed
from the main population are looking to
establish new territories.”
Since 2008, the DNR has confirmed 35
cougar reports in the Upper Peninsula,
but so far there remains noThe cougar
shown was poached in Schoolcraft
County in 2013. This is one of two male
cougars the Michigan DNR sampled
tissue from for genetic analysis. conclusive evidence of a breeding population.
No reports have been confirmed from
Lower Michigan.
Cougars are an endangered species in
Michigan protected by law.
The U.P. cougar confirmations were
derived from trail camera video, photographs, tracks, scat or in the case of the
two males poached, carcasses.

was found dead in Dickinson County,
about 4 miles north of Iron Mountain.
Conservation officers investigating the
incident said the animal – which a medical examination determined had been
in a snare – had been dumped near the
intersection of Johnson Road and County Road 607 in Breitung Township.
On April 18, researchers at the National
Genomics Center for Wildlife and Fish
Conservation in Missoula, Montana
received a tissue sample collected Feb.
1 from the dead cougar.
The sample had been sent to the center
for genetic evaluation by DNR wildlife
biologist Brian Roell in Marquette.
Researchers had previously received another cougar tissue sample from Roell on
Aug. 28, 2015, which had been collected Nov. 20, 2013, after the poaching of
a cougar in Schoolcraft County.
During the 2013 muzzle-loader deer
hunting season, conservation officers
received a tip that a cougar had been
killed at a hunting camp near Seney.

On Feb. 1, a cougar, or mountain lion,
10 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

Investigation revealed the animal was
shot and wounded with a rifle when
it entered a field near the camp. The
following day, the cougar was tracked
down and killed by a man developed
later as a suspect.
Three men from Bay City were arrested
and convicted for poaching the cougar.
The men served jail time, paid several
thousand dollars in fines, costs and
restitution, and lost hunting privileges for
several years.
The genetic results from analysis of the
two cougar samples were reported
recently to the DNR by the center.
This cougar shown was dumped alongside a roadway in Dickinson County
earlier this year. This is one of two
male cougars tissue was sampled from.
Researchers analyzed the DNA from
the two samples using mitochondrial
DNA, which traces mother-line ancestry.
A haplotype is a group of genes within
an organism inherited together from a
single parent.
Kristine Pilgrim, genomic laboratory’s
supervisor, said the two cougars had a

haplotype “M,” which is the most common North American haplotype.
Researchers investigated the potential
population of origin for the two cougars
using a database which includes samples from cougar populations in South
Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska,
Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New
Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Oregon and
Florida.
“Preliminary substructure analysis shows
that these animals are most closely
related to individuals from the region of
the Black Hills of Wyoming and South
Dakota and northwest Nebraska,”
Pilgrim said.
Using the genic information from the
tissue samples, matched against results
from other cougars in the center’s database, probabilities are calculated for the
animal’s origin.
The tissue sample from the cougar from
Schoolcraft County showed a probability of 74.1 percent to have come from
the Wyoming-South Dakota-Nebraska
population, while the Dickinson County
cougar’s probability was 99.8 percent.
Researchers caution the probability
does not necessarily mean the cougars
are directly from that location, because
there may be other populations that
have not been sampled and included in
the database.

historic range.
At one time, cougars lived in every
eastern state in a variety of habitats
including coastal marshes, mountains
and forests. They were native to Michigan, but were trapped and hunted from
the state around the turn of the 20th
Century.
Thirteen western states allow cougar
hunting and the North American cougar
is listed there as a game species.
The DNR’s Report All Poaching hotline
(1-800-292-7800) offers money to
tipsters. Information may be provided
anonymously.
To learn more about cougars in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/cougars.

today. The panel, co-chaired by 2016
Michigan United Conservation Clubs'
Conservationist of the Year Bill Demmer
and MUCC Executive Director Dan
Eichinger, was created in May 2015.
The recommendations include five operation recommendations, five recruitment,
retention and reactivation recommendations, and five recommendations for
connecting to surrounding communities,
though they stress that some of the recommendations may not be suitable for
all game areas, and should be implemented on a trial basis at select game
areas. The five operational recommendations are:
1) Dedicated Management and Allocated Use
2) Limited Draw Hunts

STATE GAME AREA
PANEL RELEASES
RECOMMENDATIONS

SLP

3) Prioritize Small Game Hunting
4) Re-Establish a Pheasant Program

The Blue Ribbon
Advisory Group
on Southern Michigan State Game
Areas released
its management recommendations

5) Qualitative Measures for Assessing
the Hunting Experience
The full set of recommendations and the
panel's report can be read here at www.
mucc.org/blog.

“This research adds a couple more
pieces to the puzzle, helping us to learn
more about the cougars found in the
Upper Peninsula,” Swanson said. “We
still have not found the presence of any
females or cubs, which would indicate a
breeding population. This analysis also
adds information to the center’s data
set.”
According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, cougars were once the most
widely-distributed land animal in the
Western Hemisphere, but have been
eliminated from about two-thirds of their
WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

11

Photos from the Field...

My First Buck - Eric McDonald

I was ten years old when I first started hunting.
That year I missed the shot and got scoped (hit in the
head with the scope and you have a red circle on your
forehead). I go hunting with my dad and my Bucka
(grandpa) and I was disappointed but they said there
was always next year.

Now I’m eleven and I was determined to get a
buck. I was using a .243 Winchester and a bipod. We
got skunked in the morning so we went out again in the
afternoon. For three hours we listened and waited for
the other animals to give us evidence that a deer was
nearby. Soon a chipmunk began to chitter and then
a blue jay joined in the scolding. Bucka told me there
was a buck out there. At first I couldn’t see it, but when
he lifted his head I could see his antlers. I had so many
mixed emotions I felt like a living earthquake! I looked
through my scope and waited for the perfect shot. I
placed my crosshairs right on the shoulder pocket when
he turned. I took a deep breath and took the shot.

I saw him fall right away. We were both so
excited that we were shaking. We walked over to my
buck and saw that he was a 6 point. It was a clean
shot, 70 yards from the blind. We took a minute to unload the gun, tag the deer and be thankful for the hunt.
I was so proud that I got my first buck! And I can’t wait
for next year!

This is a photo of a happy young hunter. His name is
Logan LaPratt. He attended & successfully completed
his Hunter Education Class on September 10 & 11 at
the Big 9 Sportsman Club of Concord in Hanover. This
is what he harvested during the Youth Hunt the following weekend. A 9 pt.
- Jim Pryce

From Caryn DeFreez
My little brother, Brendan Dodson shot
his very first bear yesterday evening
which was opening day. He's only 15
years old. He's been hunting with my
dad since he could fit into a backpack
for my dad to carry him out to hunt in
the woods. They are Michigan boys
through and through and hunting is
their world. This bear hunt was huge
to him. They raced up after school to
the UP from Buchanan, MI (an 8 hour
drive) to get things ready last week and
this week did the same. He gets his
homework from all of his teachers and
does it in between hunts so he doesn't
get behind at school from missing days.
He's a true Michigan hunter.

State Representative Triston Cole (R-Mancelona) took State Representative Harvey Santana (D-Detroit) and their families
on a bear hound training run rlier this fall in Sparr, northeast of Gaylord. Now that's the kind of bipartisanship we love to
see!
Got a great photo from the field? Send it to editor@michiganoutdofdoors.com with a short caption and you might see it
here in a future issue!

Thank You!

to our 2016 mucc conservation partners!
Without the support of generous partners like these, we could not bring you this publication nor accomplish the
work we do to unite citizens to conserve, protect and enhance Michigan’s natural resources and outdoor heritage.
Please thank and support our Conservation Partners!
Learn more at www.mucc.org.

We have a special edition of On Patrol for this issue of Michigan
Out-of-Doors. Otsego County outdoor columnist Chris Engle
rode along with Conservation Officer Mark
Depew for an inside look at how Michigan's conservation
officers enforce the game and fish laws.

by Chris Engle

ON PATROL

Special Report: Riding Shotgun with a Michigan C.O.
On a cool September morning in
2007, a budding conservation officer
crouched behind a tree and stared wide
eyed at the beast lumbering less than 15
yards from his hiding place.
Mark Depew, who’d been a seasoned
K-9 officer for Grand Traverse County,
had taken a hard left turn off his career
path and found himself somewhere in
the sprawling Pigeon River Country
State Forest that day with hardly a twotrack in sight.
Goosebumps crept over Depew’s skin
as a bull elk, its neck swollen in full rut,
paused in its tracks and split the still air
with a screeching bellow.
“I can remember seeing the steam roll
out of his mouth as he bugled,” Depew
said. “The hair on the back of my neck

stood up and that’s when I realized,
‘Wow, it’s my job to protect these animals.’”
Depew, now 39, is still charged with the
unique job of watching over the state’s
wild herd of about 1,000 elk roaming
mostly northeast of his home base in
Gaylord. This task falls on top of everything else the CO does in a daily routine
that’s as diverse as the seasons.
October in the northern Lower Peninsula brings small game, waterfowl,
turkey, deer and bear hunting, along
with salmon runs and a second round
of elk season. This makes for long days
for Depew that can start with pre-dawn
scouting for duck hunters, end with latenight patrols for salmon snaggers, and
take him anywhere and everywhere in
between.

On the morning of Oct. 2, Depew
blackened the headlights of his truck as
he turned off Old Highway 27 onto an
overgrown two track. With sunrise more
than half an hour off, only a dim green
bulb tucked behind the push bars of his
pickup guided him through the brush as
it raked the sides of his truck.
At the end of the trail sat a pothole lake
brimming with roosting ducks.
“It’s 7:02,” Depew said, the glow of his
cell phone illuminating his clean-shaven
face. “We have five minutes to go.”
It’s in those final minutes before legal
shooting hours that anxious hunters
might jump the gun and unload early on
sitting or flying birds.

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

15

Depew (center) chats with elk hunter, Bill Blohm (left), of Akron, and his guide, Gary Haskill (right) of Johannesburg. Conservation officers assist wildlife biologists with checking and sealing animals killed during Michigan’s highly regulated elk season,
wherein hunters must immediately call and report when they’ve shot an elk and where.
Patrols like these are often in response to
complaints from law-abiding fowlers undercut by early shooters. On this morning, the pond is teeming with quacking
mallards and whistling wings overhead,
but there’s not a single hunter here and
7:07 a.m. passes without a shot. A few
moments later Depew starts his truck
and sneaks out, flicking his headlights
on only when his tires hit pavement.
Stealth is one of a CO’s most powerful
tools – you may already know this if
you’ve ever been ticketed – and is at the
top of Depew’s bag of tricks.
“People are out here hunting and they
don’t think that something is looking for
them,” he said. “It behooves me to be as
silent and as sneaky I can in a location. A quarter of the time I’m watching
someone and they’ll never even know
it. Just because you don’t see us doesn’t
mean we’re not there.”
When fall salmon runs draw anglers to

dams where the fish congregate, so too
come plain-clothed COs with their own
rods. They rub shoulders with fishermen
who cast weighted treble hooks, often
cleverly disguised as normal lures, and
watch for the telltale sweeping motion
of illegal snagging. Uniformed officers
wait in the wings for a signal from their
undercover counterpart then move in to
make contact with suspected snaggers.

AFTER DEPARTING the duck-laden
pothole that morning, Depew headed
east toward Atlanta and the reports of
successful elk hunters that would soon be
coming in.

The law requires hunters who have shot
an animal to call DNR staff at the Atlanta
elk-check station and report their kill. This
information is relayed to field biologists
An avid sportsman himself, Depew feels and conservation officers in the area,
poachers steal from the people of Michi- who confirm the kill site, seal the animal
gan and cast a negative light on anglers and collect a tooth for aging. By 7:20
a.m. the first call came in for a downed
and hunters as a group.
bull calf north of Atlanta and Depew
“The resource is owned by everyone in arrived in the neighborhood 30 minutes
the state,” Depew said. “Someone who later.
takes more than their share is a thief
With the sun finally up, he scanned the
and someone who doesn’t appreciate
what we have. With media so prevalent, horizon for the landmark he was given:
anything negative a hunter or fisherman a 1,200-foot communications antenna
does is negative for all of us. We can be standing somewhere in the thick morning
our own worst enemies when it comes to fog. Finally, at the end of a mile-long
gravel road, silhouettes of orange-clad
that and we need to watch what we’re
hunters appeared in the mist at the base
doing because others are watching.”

16 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

After stopping the lead ORV in a group in Indian River for no trail permit, Depew interviews the Ohio operator whom he suspects has been drinking. The legal limit for blood alcohol is the same as driving a car – .08 – and this operator blew .07 on
a breathalyzer after partying the night before. He was ticketed for not displaying a trail permit and his sober passenger was
asked to take the wheel.
of a hilltop tower. In the back of one
of the hunters’ trucks was an antlerless
bull, already field dressed and bearing
an orange kill tag on its hind leg.

His dirty work done, Depew hung
around for another 15 minutes to talk
hunting and fishing.

Shooting the breeze with subjects in
the field is all part of the job and helps
build relationships where information is
more freely shared -- even with someone
who has just been ticketed for a violation. He feels that by ending on a good
note, subjects are more likely to report a
poaching incident or other illegal activity
“This was the only group of cows we’ve they might witness months or years down
the road.
seen,” Blohm said. “I could have shot
12 bulls. It’s been long days.”
They can do so through the DNR’s “Report All Poaching” hotline but many call
Depew donned blue surgical gloves
Depew directly.
and got to work on removing a tooth
from the elk’s lower jaw using a combi“I need these people in order to do my
nation of pocketknife, pliers and brute
force. It’s a gruesome task but he chat- job,” he said. “I give people the benefit
of the doubt and build their trust, even
ted away with the group, paying little
attention to the sound of snapping gums with former offenders whom I treated
and crunching bone as he extracted the with respect. They’re my eyes and ears
out here and I can’t tell you how many
incisor. The tooth will go to the DNR’s
times it has beared fruit.”
lab in Lansing for aging.
Bill Blohm, of Akron, had hunted with
his guide and friends from daylight until
dark for four days of the first elk season
in September with no luck. He’d done
the same during the second hunt until he
finally had his shot that morning.

THE FOG LIFTED as Depew’s pickup
bounced down the hill and onto the highway, turning north toward the Indian River DNR Field Office for a Sunday-morning meeting with two fellow officers.
For the last several months, Depew has
served as acting sergeant for Cheboygan and Presque Isle counties following
the retirement of Sgt. Greg Drogowski.
Part of the job is facilitating the review
process of new conservation officers as
they field train with veteran COs, addressing any issues between recruits and
their trainers in one-on-one meetings.
Probationary Conservation Officer Nate
Sink, of Petoskey, recently completed
a 22-week CO academy, an intensive
combination of military boot camp and
both basic and specialized law-enforcement training in Lansing. He’s destined
for Gogebic County in the west end
of the U.P. after he finishes up this third
round of field training. Sink already spent
six weeks each training with COs in

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

17

Duck hunter Jim Thompson, of Mackinaw
City, talks with Depew about his morning’s
hunt on French Farm Lake Oct. 2 near the
Straits. Depew complimented Thompson’s
intricate paint jobs on his decades-old
decoys.
Jackson and Mackinaw counties.
“I heard there was an opening and always wanted to be up north,” the young
PCO said. “I went to Lake State (University) and I really like the U.P.”
Sink’s final phase of field training has
paired him up with CO Matt Theunick,
CO for Cheboygan County for 8 years.
“In a few days – (Sink) doesn’t even
know it yet – he’ll be taking over all duties, setting our schedule and deciding
where we’ll patrol,” said Theunick, mild
mannered but imposing at 6’6”. “He’ll
be handling all the complaints and calls
and I’ll be there to observe.”
Theunick said being a CO in Cheboygan County comes with a vast amount
of public land and water to patrol –
including part of the Pigeon River forest
and Burt, Black and Mullett lakes. In
the western U.P., Sink’s beat will center
around bears, wolves and high snowmobile traffic.

HIS SERGEANT DUTIES fulfilled and
with the Straits so near, Depew left Indian River and made the short trip north
to Mackinaw City where a duck hunter
was just coming off a local flooding.
Again, he made small talk with the
hunter as he checked the man’s license
and made sure a shotgun, cased in the
passenger seat of the truck, was empty
of shells.
That’s one unique, sometimes unnerving
fact COs face more than police officers:
So many encounters involve weapons.
“Going from regular law enforcement to
being a CO, the majority (of contacts)
have guns but it’s a tiny minority that
can wreak havoc,” Depew said. “You
don’t ever want to be comfortable with
anyone who has a firearm but I’ve come
to expect everyone has one.”
Proper procedure to follow when encountering a CO in the field is to keep
your gun pointed in a safe direction, put
it on safety and do not unload it unless
the officer directs you to do so.

18 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

He’s had a number of deer rifles aimed
his way by hunters who use their scopes
as binoculars and find a CO in their
crosshairs. This is, unsurprisingly, a good
way to get on Depew’s bad side.
Firearm handling is one component
of hunter safety Depew covers in the
half-dozen youth classes he attends
each year. He also brings in an assortment of furs and equipment he uses in
his daily routine and tells stories of his
own hunting experiences.
“I try to be as bubbly as I can in a hunter safety class just to get them excited,”
he said. “I tell them they’re joining a
family of hunters and fishermen and, as
in any family, how we have to take care
of each other by doing the right thing
when no one is looking and make the
right decisions. Those are all things that
reflect on the larger hunting family and
they resonate with that.”
His proficiency and attitude in his job
earned Depew the title of Michigan’s

“Conservation Officer of the Year” in 2012.
Depew has three kids of his own: Jake,
Haylee and Jayda. He met his wife, Dawn,
a former paramedic, 14 years ago when
they were both dispatched to the scene of a
dead body in a home. He jokes about the
encounter as “just your typical love story.”
He’s also learned to deal with working
all the “holidays” of Michigan’s season
openers.
“That was one of the concerns I had when
I started the job,” he said. “But I hunt and
trap more than I did before and I know
where to go because I know my county
like the back of my hand. If anything, it’s
fanned the fire.”
Chris Engle is a freelance writer and outdoor columnist in Otsego County. He can
be reached via email, englemobile@gmail.
com.

SAVE THE DATE
MICHIGAN UNITED CONSERVATION CLUBS
CONSERVATION POLICY MEETING
Saturday, December 10, 2016
Cadillac Sportsmen's Club
11424 Watergate Road
Cadillac, MI 49601
The Conservation Policy Board Meeting is where members and affiliate clubs
can introduce and discuss policy resolutions while hearing presentations on
pressing conservation issues for hunters, anglers and trappers in Michigan.
www.mucc.org

FIREARMS | Maintenance
by Scott Crawford
‘Take care of your tools and your tools will take care of you,”
my grandpa would tell me.
This simple advice would be repeated throughout my youth. It
did not matter if he was talking about his lawn mower, power
tools, or a simple hammer. Years later, that one sentence of
advice would be chiseled into my head forever.
As I sat on concrete floor on a hot fall day in southern California, I listened to a Marine who fought
in the Battle of Chosin Reservoir. For
those that do not know, the warriors
who fought that battle received the
nickname “Frozen Chosin”. It may be
the coldest battle any American has
ever fought in. In the story the Marine
told, he would often say how extreme
the conditions were: below freezing,
deep snow, and no cold weather
gear or equipment. He would tell
us how he and others struggled constantly to maintain their
firearms. He described their firearm maintenance as ‘dedication to preservation of self and unit.’ Meaning, they had to do
it, or they would perish. As the elderly Marine spoke I heard
my grandpa’s words in my head again thinking of how similar

they truly were. Just five years after the Battle of Chosin Reservoir my grandpa would become a Marine as well. And the
lessons from that battle were fresh in many Marines’ memory.
As Marines we pass down a high standard of maintenance for
our ‘tools of the trade’.
Fast forward to now, imagine that the sun has set on a cold
fall day, you may have just climbed down from your stand
on opening day. Frost may be forming on the ground and
you know tomorrow morning will be
colder. You return to camp and you
seek your hunting buddies to see how
they fared on opening day. If you
have been hunting long enough or
know many hunters, you surely know
or have experienced some kind of
malfunction with a firearm. We have
heard it all before: “my muzzleloader had a hang fire”; “my shotgun
misfired”; “frost froze my action,” and
so on. My first question, and one many of you ask first is, “did
you clean it?” and typically the answer is “no.” In many cases,
properly maintaining your firearm can prevent you from telling
the story of how the big one got away.

“As a responsible gun owner
you have the obligation that
when you pull the trigger
you are liable for
the consequence.”

20 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

My philosophy on firearm maintenance
is systematic. I believe there are multiple pieces and/or steps that I need
to take to complete the task. Firearms,
especially modern day sporting rifles,
have many moving parts compared to
the older bolt action hunting rifles or
muzzleloaders. The more moving parts
a firearm has, the higher the chances
of a broken part or malfunction. In the
next couple paragraphs I will give you
a brief overview of my thoughts on how
to maintain your firearms.
The first step to my process is an inspection. The initial inspection should take
place once you acquire the firearm.
New guns may still have shipping
grease and some used guns may not
have been taken care of well. After
safely checking to see if the firearm
is unloaded I would suggest disassembling the gun further than a ‘field
stripping’. Seek out videos on YouTube
or a local gunsmith if you are unsure
of the process. Check parts for cracks,
purrs, and cleanliness. Once I have
checked and verified all pieces are in
functional condition, I like to clean and
condition all metal parts. This helps with
future carbon build up and quickens
the cleaning process. A quicker inspection can be done while the firearm has
been in storage for an extended period
of time.

My next step after I condition the metal
is to reassemble the firearm. Without
any ammunition present and after I
fully assemble the firearm, I conduct a
function check. Always make certain
the muzzle is pointed in a safe position
while conducting a function check.
Again, if you are uncertain on the steps
to safely conduct your firearms function
check, use the power of the internet,
user manual, or a gunsmith to walk you
through the process. The function check
confirms you have assembled the gun
in working order without test firing. It is
often an overlooked step and one that

can save a lot of head scratching later
on.
Replacing broken and worn parts
and a deep cleaning can prevent the
majority of malfunctions that happen
afield. For the rest of the malfunctions
it may boil down to ammunition type
and hunting conditions. Whether you
are using a muzzleloader, slug gun,
or a modern sporting rifle, keeping
your powder dry and using the correct
ammunition is critical to success in preventing malfunctions and stoppages.
Using the wrong ammunition can cause
stoppages and excessive wear on your
firearm. Excessive wear and using the
wrong ammo type with your firearm
can lead to an unsafe condition that
could lead to a catastrophic failure.
This is the worst case scenario that may
leave the user injured. As a responsible
gun owner you have the obligation that
when you pull the trigger you are liable
for the consequence. The importance
of test firing and zeroing your firearm
cannot be understated. Test firing also
gives the owner/user the confidence
that the gun will perform when it is
needed most.
The last step in my personal system,
and one I believe is over looked the
most by others, is periodic maintenance. Being a firearm owner does not
just happen in the months of October,
November, and December. It is a
365/24/7 commitment and burden.
Properly maintaining of your firearm
during long off seasons seems unglamorous and unnecessary but it is your responsibility. Checking your firearms on
a regular schedule will prolong the use
of your firearm and reduce the chances of malfunctions. If you get an oil
change every 3000 miles or 3 months
on your vehicle, that same mentality
should be applied to your firearms.
And remember: “Take care of your
tools, and they will take care of you.”

Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors
Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors
(MiOFO) is a collaborative partnership
whose mission is to provide outstanding
outdoor recreation opportunities to
wounded veterans and individuals with
health challenges; and, to coordinate
a support network that facilitates their
recovery through connecting with nature.
MiOFO activities are centered around
DNR-managed Sharonville State Game
Area. The property is near several
population centers: Ann Arbor, Jackson,
Lansing, and Detroit.
The partners in this effort include the
Department of Natural Resources (DNR),
Brain Injury Association, Zero-Day, the
Passing Along The Heritage (PATH)
Foundation, the Eisenhower Center, Safari
Club International (SCI) Foundation,
Michigan Building and Construction
Trades Council, Michigan United
Conservation Clubs (MUCC), Disabled
American Veterans (DAV), American
Legion, and others.
ASSISTIVE RESOURCES AVAILABLE
FOR USE:
TRACKED WHEELCHAIR
RESERVATIONS - Limited number of
chairs available for use at Sharonville State
Game Area and other areas as arranged
Accessible Hunting Blind Reservations
- Limited number of accessible blinds on
public land available
HUNTING GUIDE TO ASSIST
OUTDOORSPEOPLE - MiOFO certified
volunteer helpers are available on
scheduled days to provide one-on-one
assistance
Contact Tom Jones, MiOFO Project
Coordinator, to inquire about availability
of services and resources from events to
individual outdoor opportunities. Call 734612-6677, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.
to 5 p.m. (unavailable on state holidays).

Centerfire
at Night

WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN YOU MIX TWO
ARMY VETERANS, A MARINE VETERAN,
AND NIGHT TIME RIMFIRE ONLY COYOTE
HUNTING? THE ANSWER MAY SURPRISE
YOU.
We took a long walk in the woods, asked neighbors for
permission to locate a wounded coyote, and came back
empty handed. This happened this past winter after 12 hours
of nonstop hunting. This wasn't the first time I have lost a
coyote but I promised myself to make it the last.
I was not the one who took the shot on the coyote - that
would be my friend Ronnie - who was hunting coyotes
for his first time. During the hour
long drive home we discussed the
events of the hunt in detail, things
we learned and things we would
do differently next time. Sounds
like an After Action Report, doesn’t
it? His first concern was if and
where he hit it. I told him he shot
the large male coyote above the
elbow joint where the heart would
be. Unfortunately, I was unable to
see the placement of this second shot.

by Scott Crawford
magnified optic was a chip shot for him. With the reaction
of the coyote, Ronnie’s ability, and the evidence of a blood
trail, I ruled out shot placement. That left me with one other
variable: type of shot.
In Michigan it is currently illegal to hunt coyotes at night
with a centerfire rifle. Centerfire rifles have a longer range
and more kinetic energy than a rimfire cartridge. In my
opinion, decision-makers have not fully grasped the
benefits of using a centerfire cartridge at night. Like most
mammals in Michigan’s woods, the coyote is more active at dusk and dawn. Combining their keen senses with
the cover of darkness has allowed the coyote to become
a more effective hunter. The coyote in Michigan is only
surpassed by wolves in the north and humans as apex
predators. Coyotes are found in all 50 continental states
in all types of habitat, even the urban areas of big cities.
With urbanization ever-encroaching on natural habitat,
animal and human conflict rises. In many areas around the
state, we have reports of coyotes
attacking pets in suburban backyards. One of the tools used to
help keep balance is hunting.

Today’s optics allow
hunters to see further with Many experienced coyote
with the aid of technolmore clarity in lower light hunters,
ogy, prefer the cover of darkness. Technology has increased
with better optics,
situations than before. exponentially
lights, and equipment used by

Now, if you have not seen or shot a coyote yourself, typically when shot they will try to bite the location of the bullet
that helps with identifying where the shot was placed. This
particular coyote did just that. Ronnie and I have been to
the range many times with each other and I have seen him
shoot beyond 300 yards with ease. A 120-yard shot with a
22 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

hunters. Today’s optics allow hunters to see further with
more clarity in lower light situations than before. Night time
hunting is nearly impossible without a red or green lens
light. There are many red and green predator lights that
allow hunters to identify animals several hundred yards
away, surpassing the range of any rimfire cartridge as well.
Using an electronic call and decoys is very popular with
predator hunters. Setting an electronic decoy or call next

to the hunter increases the chances of being
spotted by an incoming coyote. To counter
that, hunters often set their decoy or call 50
yards or more downwind of their set. Doing
so may increase the distance between the
hunter and coyote. Increasing the distance
between hunter and coyote with a rimfire
cartridge is counterproductive. With ever
increasing technology, night time coyote
hunting is becoming safer, more effective,
and ethical than before.
With the explosion of interest with coyote
hunting in the state over the past several
years, I have noticed the quickest growing
demographic are veterans. I believe there
are multiple reasons why veterans are
attracted to coyote or predator hunting.
The first one that sticks out in my mind is
using a similar rifle for hunting that we were
issued in the service. We like not having to
relearn a new weapon and it is very easy
for us to manipulate the firearm safely and
effectively. The second reason is how fastpaced a hunt can be and we can go out in
partners. While in the service we are trained
with centerfire .22 caliber ammunition. We
repeatedly trained at ranges over three,
four, five hundred yards. Our fifth weapon
safety rule is “know your target and what
lies beyond and in between.” Veterans are
trained to be accountable for every round
they fire just like new hunters taking hunter
safety classes.
Now, as I write this, the NCR is considering
allowing night time hunting with centerfire
rifles. There is a compromise that can benefit
everyone. If my friend Ronnie had a .22
caliber centerfire rifle he would have been
successful on that cold February morning.
A .22 caliber centerfire allows hunters
extended range and more kinetic energy for
a quick ethical harvest. The smaller caliber
bullet has less range and power than its
larger .30 caliber cousins. With the aid of
new technology, increasing hunter training,
and the ability to use a .22 caliber centerfire at night, we can together help manage
the local predator population and find more
success afield.

TM

MUCC
Michigan United Conservation Clubs
Policy on Centerfire Rifles at Night
At MUCC's Annual Convention in June of 2016, the representatives
from sportsmen's clubs and individual members from around the state
adopted a policy resolution to support the use of centerfire firearms
for nighttime predator hunting.
The resolution was proposed by Chris Kettler of the Michigan
Trappers and Predator Callers Association, and joined MUCC into
a push spearheaded by the MTPCA and a startup grassroots group
of predator hunters called Michigan Hunters for Centerfire at Night,
primarily led by Merle Jones, Bob Abbott and Dennis Cronk.
The action authorized by the policy resolution reads,
"THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that Michigan United Conservation
Clubs (MUCC) work with the Department of Natural Resources
(DNR) and the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) to remove the
nighttime centerfire firearm restriction and permit their use for predator hunting anytime, day and night."
Armed with this directive from MUCC members, staff now advocates
for the removal of the restriction on centerfire firearms for nighttime
predator hunting.
This is an example of the MUCC policy process at work. Members
propose policies, representatives from clubs and for individual
members vote on the policies, and if they are adopted, staff works to
implement the policies in state law or regulation.
It is the united voice of MUCC's membership speaking through this
grassroots democratic process which gives MUCC its ability to move
the needle on its members priorities.
Learn more or join MUCC at www.mucc.org

q

COYOTE

hunters
by Darrin Potter

Coyotes are proliferating everywhere in Michigan, and they didn’t do that by being dumb. Coyotes
have a well-earned reputation for self-preservation. Last Spring, the Michigan Natural Resources
Commission approved a year-round coyote hunting season, implementing a 2006 Michigan Untied Conservation Clubs resolution sponsored by the Michigan Trappers and Predator Callers Association. With more coyotes than ever and an unlimited opportunity to hunt them, Darin Potter
interviewed two veteran coyote hunters for tactics on how you can help manage their population.

24 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

The Hunters

Joshua Mapes is the founder of Overdrive Outdoors in West Michigan
and was featured on an episode of the Michigan Out-of-Doors Television Show in 2014. He has been successfully hunting coyotes throughout Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana for the last twelve years.
Andrew Kilbourn is the Marketing Coordinator at PCS Outdoors in Oscoda, Michigan.

Scouting
You can’t call to a coyote that doesn’t exist. Blindly walking
into an area that is void of any coyotes can be frustrating, and
it only wastes your time and effort. Therefore, it is essential that
you do your homework and scout several areas before the
hunt so that you have options to choose from.
Joshua Mapes, founder of Overdrive Outdoors in West Michigan, explains that there are several effective ways to scout an
area before heading out to hunt.
“One is to walk or drive the area or surrounding areas to look
for tracks or scat. Another way is to use locator sounds, usually a siren or coyote howls (pack howl is common) and wait
and listen for a response.”
These vocalizations will help you determine their home range.
One afternoon during the winter, I was on public land checking my beaver traps when I noticed two pair of coyote tracks
on the frozen lake. Then on that same day I heard a pack of
coyotes howling and yipping around 2:00pm. These vocalizations helped me determine their home range and provided
me with some valuable information that allowed me to head
back to this location for a morning hunt. Nothing gives you
more confidence in an area than real time coyote music nearby.

Mapes also explains the importance of doing your homework
before leaving the house by utilizing topographical maps and
satellite imagery. These can help you identify travel corridors
and possible bedding areas allowing you to plan your hunt in
advance. A GPS can also be used to identify these locations
and give you the confidence to walk further into unfamiliar
areas that are less pressured by other hunters.
Andrew Kilbourn, Marketing Coordinator at PCS Outdoors
in Oscoda, Michigan prefers hunting coyote travel corridors
over any other natural feature.
He explains, “It is important to know that you are in an area
where coyotes are currently present or frequently using as a
corridor for traveling. Corridors are personally my favorite
spots to hunt and what I mean by that are places coyotes feel
safe and where they can travel between hunting grounds and
feeding areas. I usually hunt low grounds in between open
fields and swales.”
A great way to find out if coyotes are frequenting a particular
area is by using a trail camera. If you set out trail cameras
during deer or turkey hunting seasons like I do, then you might
be lucky enough to capture a coyote or two passing through
the neighborhood when you pull your memory card.

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

25

Calling
Looking for either an electronic or hand operated coyote call
online or in a sporting goods store can be overwhelming if
you’re unfamiliar with which ones work the best for fooling
a wary coyote. I recall the first hand/mouth-call I bought,
which imitated coyote vocalizations. After only a couple of
times blowing on the call I felt it was time to head out and try it
on a coyote. I later found out that this was a big mistake.
“Typically, we see a lot of guys using vocals when they don’t
know what they mean,” said Mapes. “Basically, people try to
go out and challenge howl at another coyote, but if they use
the challenge howl for too long it starts to sound like a warning instead of a challenge. They just blew the stand, simply
because they didn’t know what they were saying.”
Choosing the type of call to use throughout the season is also
a critical part of being successful.
According to Mapes, “Prey distress works year round as does
pup distress, because they will always be hungry, and they
will always be protective or want to investigate an injured
coyote.”
Mapes explains the pros and cons of using electronic and
hand calls:
“It is standard practice for us to ALWAYS have hand calls

with us. The versatility of hand calls is unmatched. Sometimes those sounds can be changed with how you place your
teeth on the reed, or how much air flow you use, which is just
enough to entice that wary coyote out of cover. With enough
practice, you can do any sound you want without having to
scroll through a remote and finding it. This is very nice, especially when you have your eyes on a predator that just won’t
break that cover.
“The prey sounds we use vary. Sometimes we use sounds
that don’t make sense for the area, such as jackrabbit here in
Michigan. I like to use bird sounds when I am hunting for fox
or bobcat, but they also call in their fair share of coyotes. Rabbit is the easiest to mimic on hand calls, and they are the most
common sounds played on electronic calls as well.”
However, although extremely effective, hand calls can
sometimes blow your cover against a wary coyote. “When
using hand calls the sound is emanating from the hunter, as a
predator approaches they will be looking towards the source
of the sound, which is you,” said Mapes, “therefore, movement, both of using the call and having to possibly release a
call and pick up your gun may foil a call in.”
To help remedy this, purchase an electronic predator call.
“Electronic callers allow you to move that sound source away
from you making it less likely that an incoming predator is
looking your way,” said Mapes. “They allow you to strategically place the sound source to guide the predator into an ideal shooting location. We like to place an e-caller upwind out
to 50 yards or so depending on the terrain and other factors.
When using a shotgun the e-caller should be placed close to
the hunter, to guide the predator into close range, which is
required for a shotgun.”
About seven years ago I purchased an electronic call for
around $40. Even though I have called in a bobcat with it,
the volume was too low for luring in coyotes from a long dis-

26 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

Kilbourn states, “Most middle-of-the-road callers start at
about $150 and range all the way up to $800. The caller I
use was $250 and it works well in extreme cold temperatures
so I do not have to worry about malfunctions.”
Although worth the
risk, Mapes explains
that there are some
disadvantages to
using electronic calls.
“Having to walk out
to set the call out,
oftentimes exposing
you more than you
might want. Batteries:
They die. If you don’t
have them charged,
mid-way through a set
the call could just shut
off, which can be the
end of the hunt.”

DECOYS
Decoys, when coupled with calling, can
be a deadly combination when hunting
wary coyotes. Some
decoys attach directly
to your electronic call
or can be staked into
the ground separately. With a remote
control, these toppers
can move at different speeds adding visual confirmation to the
decoy. Life-size stand alone decoys such as a coyote or fawn
can also be the ticket to bringing them in close for a shot.
Mapes likes using a decoy when calling to coyotes. He
explains, “We prefer a decoy that is absolutely quiet, regardless of whether it is call mounted or stand alone. Decoys
are excellent for keeping that predators attention focused on
something to allow you to position for the shot. Generally, the
decoy is placed very close to the caller if it is a stand-alone
type.”

SETUP
The timing and location of your setup is extremely important
if you want to add some coyotes to your fur shed. According
to Mapes, “First and last light and after dark are considered
prime time, this is when they are generally most active, though
with the right strategies they can be called any time of day.
Best location is where they are at any given time considering
predators move a lot. That being said, types of terrain that
are good to set up on include fence rows or wind breaks,
field edges, small clearings,
and areas surrounding thick
cover.”

COYOTES

tance. Also, it only has six different types of calling options.
However, it worked great for calling softly when beginning a
calling sequence. If you’re serious about coyote hunting, you
may want to spend a few more bucks and purchase an electronic caller that will reach out to coyotes and offers numerous
calling options.

It took me awhile to become
adjusted to the short sits that
are typical of a coyote set.
I am used to hunting deer
and turkey for several hours
straight. This is not the case
when hunting coyotes. The
average setup for coyote
hunting is around 30 to 60
minutes. Kilbourn prefers
setting up for a minimum of
one hour. In the past he has
had canines sit down and
listen to the caller before
coming into shooting range.
Giving coyotes enough time
to commit to your calling is
essential if you want to be
consistently successful.
Weather also plays a factor
while pursuing coyotes. According to Mapes, “Generally we don’t hunt much if the
wind is above 15 mph and
during heavy precipitation.
Just before or after storms
are considered to be good
as well. We also have been recently trying to identify patterns
based on barometric pressure.”

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WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

27

Why I Became A
COYOTE HUNTER
by Rob Harrell

It’s early February in Southern Michigan and instead of
lying in my warm cozy bed, I find myself sitting on the edge
of a frozen soybean field as the sun rises into view. Snow
blankets the tundra and the remains of soybean stalks poke
through the surface. My electronic game call sits about 50
yards away from my new Mossberg Predator .223 Rifle
equipped with a Nikon ProStaff 5 3-9x40 scope. My numb
fingers hit the distress cottontail call and I settle into a sapling
that doubles as my backrest. Behind all
of this equipment, sits an experienced
hunter who, to this point, has focused
on Turkey’s, Whitetail’s, and Waterfowl for the past 20 years. But on this
particular morning, I’m overwhelmed
with anticipation and excitement, as if I
was stepping into the woods for the first
time.

I scan the horizon for any sort of movement as the chilled air cuts through my
facemask. As I sit motionless with my
.223 tucked at the ready and supported by a pivoting bipod, I glance to
my left and finally see the animal that I
have been preparing for. He kicks up
the white powder as he trots in a half
moon pattern around my game call at
roughly 200 hundred yards. Curiosity,
mixed with hunger, has led him this
far, but instinct cautions him to come
any closer. As I center him through my
Nikon, I realize he has shifted his focus
from the game call to me. His ears
pointed to the heavens and his razor
sharp eyes cut through me like a knife.
I slowly slide my trembling hand down
my rifle and position my index finger over the trigger. I exhale
one last time as my 200 reticle centers on his chest. I squeeze.
As if hitting the rewind button on an old VCR, let’s take a step
back and discuss what led me to this moment. All my life,
January 1st in Michigan meant two things; the end of the
Whitetail Deer Season and the start of the countdown until
Spring Turkey Season. What was once the worst time of the

year, quickly became one of
my most anticipated. I did
not start pursing coyotes based on boredom, however, I did
literally stumble across this newly found passion of mine.
As I was setting up stands and clearing out shooting lanes
during the previous summer months, I explored the property
and was sickened by the destruction that was taking place.
The remains of whitetails, both big and small, littered the
woods and field edges. Carcasses
that were picked clean to the bone
from head to hoof became evidence
that we were losing Whitetails. My
fellow hunters and I that spend hours
and hours during the offseason hanging “No Trespassing” signs, installing
gates, and kicking out wandering
locals off of our property came to
the realization that we were focusing
our efforts on just a small part of the
activities necessary for protecting our
deer herd.
Sure we all complained about the
coyote who would occasionally
come through and ruin an afternoon
sit in a deer stand. Yes, we all share
trail cam pictures of a coyote sniffing
around our bait piles, but it wasn’t
until we saw the gruesome remains of
yearling fawns scattered across our
1500+ acres of hunt-able habitat that
we realized we needed to do more.
Recent studies have shown that
during the summer months, whitetail
fawns make up 70% of a coyotes
diet. Let’s stop and think about that for a minute. That means
7 out of 10 meals a coyote consumes during this period is a
whitetail fawn! Coyotes are often thought of as scavenger
carnivores eating the rotting waste of animals that have died
of natural causes or we think of them as nocturnal hunters that
chase small game such as squirrels, rabbits, and raccoons.
However in our case, the reality was that coyotes were not
being managed on our property and they were having a

much larger impact on our deer that none of us could have
ever imagined.
A study in South Carolina conducted by the U.S Forest Service
placed radio collars on 60 fawns for observation. Within 6
weeks, 44 (73%) of the fawns died. Out of these 44 fawns,
35 (85%) of them were killed by coyotes, 6 (13%) were killed
by bobcats, and the remaining 3 (7%) were killed by unknown causes.
After stumbling across yet another fawn carcass that August
evening, I went home to fire up the computer and started to
educate myself on coyote’s impact on deer populations. As
you can see, the results are staggering. A good friend once
told me that if you are seeing them routinely, whether it be on
trail camera, up in your stand during the season, or when you
are out scouting, then you probably have too many.
The good news is that in 2016, the State of Michigan and
Michigan Department of Natural Resources expanded the
coyote hunting season. In the past, coyotes were off limits
during their birthing season between the months of April and
July. After much consideration, the data and the research
supported Michigan legislation to open hunting on coyotes
year-round.
The State of Michigan also allows for the trapping and snaring
of coyotes 365 days per year and again, without bag limitations. Residents may hunt coyotes with just a base license,
however, a furbearer’s license is required for trapping. The
Michigan Trappers and Predator Callers Association have
been supporting the management of coyotes and other predators for almost 60 years. Besides aiding the Department of
Natural Resources in wildlife management, the MTPCA also
provides education, as well as, landowner assistance to those
interested in predator control. Organizations such as these
are littered throughout the state and can be a great resource
for those unfamiliar with predator hunting and trapping.
After educating myself on all of the laws and regulations of
coyote hunting, trapping, and snaring, I knew the next step
was to learn more about their behavior and patterns. Just like
hunting whitetails, turkeys, and waterfowl, in order to be a
successful hunter you need to study the game you’re pursuing.
Hunters of old would have to hunt decades in order to obtain
the field knowledge that I was looking for. But with today’s
technology, video capabilities, social media and the internet, I
was able to watch and learn key hunting tactics right from my
computer.
I became an avid fan of predator hunting television shows,
learned how to properly use game calls from YouTube demonstrations, and engaged fellow predator hunters in Coyote
Hunting Facebook Groups to discuss their favorite setups,

seating positions, etc. Again, these are luxuries that I took advantage of that our fathers and grandfathers never had access
to. Within a few months of research I was ready to attempt
my first coyote hunt.
I have to admit, watching predator hunting television shows
gave me a false confidence as I drove down to the property
for that first evening hunt. Watching half a dozen coyotes get
shot in a 30 minute episode makes hunting these critters look
way too easy. I learned that lesson quickly as the “Wiley
Coyote” made short work of humbling this rookie predator
hunter. None-the-less, my initial experience was filled with
excitement and anticipation.
Fast-forwarding back to my encounter…. I’ve got him in my
crosshairs and I slowly squeeze the trigger. As the concussion
from my rifle echoed through the calm fields and the cluster
of birds scattered out of the wood-line, I loaded another shell
and slowly stood up. As my boots crunched through the frozen beans and snow I approached with caution and my rifle
remained focused on the animal that dropped right where he
once stood. The feeling and emotion that went through me as
I knelt down next to him is a feeling that I have never experienced before as a hunter. His winter coat mixed with grays
and browns was full and soft to the touch. However, there
was no 10 point rack to lift up and hold. There wasn’t an
immediate need to eyeball the length of his beard and spurs,
nor was there any band above his foot. I learned that the
reward of taking a large healthy male coyote is not the life of
the animal that you have just taken, but rather its lives of other
animals that are being saved that provides the reward. One
less obstacle for whitetail fawns to navigate around. One less
hungry mouth that the turkeys need to shelter themselves from.
And one less mature male to breed the females and further
increase the local population.

FALL 2016 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS 71

TRAPPING STAYS A
HARDY SPORT (1969)

Generous Seasons
Mink and muskrat trapping seasons are very

Trapping is a pursuit which built America, especially the Great Lakes generous. In the Upper Peninsula traps may be
region. In 1969, we kicked the year off with an otter on the cover
and the first article in the issue about trapping, written by Field Editor
Gordon Charles. Keep in mind that the season dates and regualtions
are from 1969 and have changed since then, but we thought this was
an interesting snapshot of trapping in Michigan almost 50 years ago.
Please make sure to check the current edition of the DNR Trapping
Guide for current season dates and regulations.

T

rapping, which many years ago was one of Michigan's
foremost industries, is a mighty slim way to earn a living
these days.
As practiced today, it has become more of a recreational
pastime, yet it can mean a little extra casch to even the
casual trapper. For those who really work at it, trapping can
provide a nice little bundle of bucks each year.
Muskrat, Mink
Muskrats and mink are the mainstay of modern-day
trappers, although a few specialists also take raccoons,
skunks, weasels, foxes, opossums and, sometimes, coyotes
and bobcats. Most of these furbearers are taken during fall
and winter months when pelts are prime and bring best
prices.
In the case of beaver and otter, however, the open trapping
season runs mostly March and April, depending on the
area of the state. (The otter ont the cover of this month's
MOOD, therefore, has a few months to relax before he has
to start worrying about where to put his foot.) Reason for
the spring beaver and otter seasons is due to the pelts which
are at their very best in late winter and early spring.

30 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

set out Oct. 25 through Dec. 31. The season in the
northern part of the Lower Peninsula is Nov. 10 to
Jan. 15, while in southern Michigan it runs from Nov.
25 to Jan. 31. This means the action is still going on
in most of Michigan, although a lot of trappers drop
out of the scene as soon as ice begins to form.

Open water trapping is one thing but it takes a real
specialist to make successful sets under the ice. Besides,
it's a lot of work poling a boat through ice that is too thin to
support a trapper's weight but too heavy to allow a motor to
be used on the boat.
Generally speaking, racoons are legal to trap during most of
the time the muskrat and mink trapping seasons are open.
This allows trappers to keep the ringtails which blunder
into the sets. With the coming of winter weather, though,
the coons tend to hole up as muc as possible and they are
seldom caught once snow is on the ground.
Southern Bobcats Safe
Skinks, weasels, opossums, foxes and coyotes can be
trapped at any time throughout the state and U.P. bobcats
have no seasonal protection. Below the Straits, though, no
cat trapping is allowed and these "little lions" can only be
hunted during a Jan. 1 to Feb. 28 season.
In recent years, only 5,000 to 6,000 men, women and
youngsters bought trapping licenses and nobody got exactly
rich off what they caught. Upwards of 200,000 muskrats
have been caught each year, along with something like
14,000 mink, 3,000 possums, 2,500 skunks, 4,000 weasels,
14,000 beavers and 800 otter.

When all the figures are in for the 1968-69 seasons it may
develop that trapping has enjoyed an upswing since fur
prices are climbing rapidly. This is especially true of the
"long" furs, such as coons and foxes. Recent payments
for pirme adult foxes have run as high as $11 apiece in
Midwestern markets, while coons have brought as much as
$7.25 for large, well-furred pelts.

AFFILIATE CLUB NEWS

Trapping is still a lot of work but the people who tend
their traplines along Michigan waterways and wooded
areas enjoy it. Possibly they feel some kinship with early
pioneers who were also a rugged lot.

2016-2017 FUR SALES
Provided by the
Michigan Trappers and
Predator Callers Association
www.mtpca.com
Jay's Sporting Goods
Saturday Dec 17th
8800 S Clare Ave.
Clare, MI 48617
989-386-3475
Otisville Community Center
Sat Jan 21st 2017
130 E Main St
Otisville, MI 48463
810-631-3407
Kalamazoo County Expo Center
Sat Feb, 18th 2017
2900 Lakes St.
Kalamazoo, MI 49048
269-383-8778
Houghton Lake's Historical Playhouse
April 15th 2017
1601 W. Houghton Lake Dr.
Prudenville, MI 48651
989-366-9124

Congratulations to the Michigan Trappers and Predator Callers Association! In August, the MTPCA hosted
the National Trappers Convention in Kalamazoo
where they were awarded the National Trappers
Association's Affiliate of the Year Award.
The Michigan Trappers and Predator Callers Association is a 100% affiliate of Michigan United Conservation Clubs and has been an extremely active
organization in advocating for the rights to hunt, fish
AND trap!
Recently, a number of their MUCC resolutions have
been implemented by the Natural Resources Commission and the Legislature into current hunting and
trapping regulations, including:
Allowing the use of #3 and #4 buckshot at night;
A year-round coyote hunting season; and
Elimination of the 300-foot "no trapping without written permission" zone around buildings.
Additionally, the MTPCA advocated for the recent
regulation allowing the use of firearm suppressors at
night.
As of publication, an MTPCA-sponsored resolutiong to
allow centerfire rifles for coyotes at night had yet to be
acted upon. MUCC will continue advocating for this
change until it happens.

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

31

Trapping
N Christmas
by Jacob
VanHouten

Christmas is a time for keeping many traditions alive. One of
my family traditions, passed down from grandfather, to father,
to sons, was running a trap line to earn “Christmas money”.
In the “early days”, it was one of the few ways a young boy
could earn cash to spend to purchase Christmas gifts for family and friends. One of my very early trapping seasons stands
out clearly in my mind, even today…
It was mid-December and I was selling
the first pelts caught on my own trap
line. I think I had caught 20 muskrats
or so and two nice raccoons and I was
very proud of my catch. My father had
shown me how to “do it right” and I
had cleaned, skinned, stretched and
fleshed each pelt with deliberate care.
Dad drove me to the “Corson Farm”…
as in Gaylord Corson, our fur buyer.
My grandfather, father, and older
brother had all sold their furs to Mr.
Corson. He was a legend in my mind.
“Go on,” dad said as I got out of our
station wagon, “show him your furs.”

ing underneath and he pulled the cord, turning on the light to
illuminating the area. I glanced around and saw the shelves
and work benches were covered up with furs…hanging from
every nail as well. Mr. Corson looked older than the sun with
gnarled and wrinkled hands. One finger was missing a small
portion above the last knuckle. These were workman’s hands.
He had snow-white hair and blue “cowboy eyes” that burned
with an intense light.
I walked over and without a word placed
my bundle on the workbench and carefully spread out each pelt for display. As
I did, I looked out the window expecting
to see my Day approaching… but he
hadn’t moved.

Mr. Corson studied each pelt. He looked
to see that I had been neat around the
eye holes and that I had removed the
nose, whiskers and all. He brushed the
fur back with his fingers and gave a soft
breath into it, looking for the “prime” blue
color. First he did this with each muskrat
Author as a young “school boy” trapper with
his furs and Stevens .410/22 over and under pelt, and then he moved on to my true
price, the raccoon pelts.
trapping gun

I picked up my bundle and walked
towards the garage next to the house and barn. My father
stood leaning against the hood of the car, smiling.

“Well, well, looks like someone got into
the ‘coon this year,” was his comment. I froze withheld breath
as he picked up the larger of the two pelts.

“Aren’t you coming?” I asked with some hesitation.

“This one’s a beauty. Did you skin and stretch him yourself?”
he asked.

“No, I think I’ll just wait here, you go ahead… it’ll be fine” he
said. So I entered through the small side door of the garage.
It was dark inside with a small overhead light bulb hanging
from a beam with a pull cord attached. Mr. Corson was stand32 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

“Yes sir, I did” was my reply.
“Looks like good work,” he stated.

With that he moved on to the next raccoon pelt… the “sick one.” He said that
the pelt was mangy but that he would
give me 50 cents for it anyway. I was a
little bit disappointed, but I did understand.
“Okay, let’s go into the kitchen and talk
business,” he said, and I gave one last
hopeful glance out the window only to
see Dad still standing in the same spot,
smoking a Chesterfield cigarette.
I was on my own.
After leading me into the house through
the garage’s side door, Mr. Corson sat
down at a small kitchen table, opened
a large green-colored leather bound
ledger, and began writing very slowly.
“Can I see your trapping license?” he
asked.
I dug into the pouch of my red hooded
sweat shirt and produced the crumpled
document. He copied down my name,
address, date of birth and license number. Then he entered into one of the last
two columns the number and kinds of
pelts, and then he wrote a dollar amount
in the last column. I couldn’t quite make
out what the numbers were, but the total
looked “big” to me. I waited for him to
finish, and as he did, he took out another book that looked like a fold-over file.
It was the first time I had seen a real
business checkbook.
“Well son, you put up some mighty fine
fur and I am proud of the care you’ve
shown in handling it properly,” he said
while looking me straight in the eyes.
He was talking to me as if I was his
equal, somehow, and I had to look him
right back in his eyes.
“Fur prices are low this year,” he started
with as he began writing out the check
with his red ink pen. “But I’m going
to give you top dollar for what you
brought in today.”
He finished, carefully tearing the check
from the book and handing it across the

Continuing the trapping traditions through adulthood, author (on right ) with a beaver pelt.

table. “Merry Christmas,” he said with
a grin.
It was the first check ever written to
“me”. “Thank you, sir!” was all I could
blurt out. Then he reached across the
table and held out his hand. “Keep up
the good work… and hopefully I’ll see
you again next year.” I shook his big
hand with my smile so big it made my
cheeks hurt.
As I stepped outside I found my Dad
standing near the door, waiting for me.
“Well, how’d it go?”
I handed him the check.
“It looks like we’ve got some banking to
do,” he said with a slight smile.
As we turned to go, I noticed my dad
give a little wink and a wave towards
the farmhouse. Mr. Corson stood in
front of the big picture window, and he
was smiling too.
Each year thereafter, I looked forward
to selling my fur to Mr. Corson. He
always looked me in the eye, wrote
the check in red ink, and always said,
“Merry Christmas.”

After a few more years, Mr. Corson
grew too old to keep up his farm. He
leased for a while, but then sold off most
the land, but he did continue to buy fur
for a time.
But then one year he just stopped.
Although I went on to college, got
married and moved away, I still “put up
some fur” now and then just to keep at it.
Trapping teaches many skills and I use
what I learned every day in my current
career.
Whenever I return to my hometown, I
make it a point to drive by the old barn
that stands there still… with the name
“Corson Farm” long-since faded from
view… all that’s left of the place, now
surrounded by multi-family homes and
strip malls.
As we drive by, I always comment to
my wife, “That’s where Gaylord Corson
lived. He was a fur buyer.”
Thinking to myself, I add, “Thanks Mr.
Corson… and Merry Christmas.” JV

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

33

GEAR REVIEW |
Tenzing Tz3000
Big Game
Hunting Pack
by Drew YoungeDyke

Tenzing TZ3000 Big Game Hunting Pack | $330 MSRP as shown | www.tenzingoutdoors.com

My first multi-day backpack hunts were done with a $35.00
Fieldline backpack with a full-size square sleeping bag lashed
to the bottom with a belt and bouncing with every step. I
learned the hard way what gear works and doesn't.
When I first opened the box on the Tenzing TZ3000, it
seemed like every gripe I've had about any other pack had
been magically answered. But unitl I tested it on a hunt, I
couldn't be sure. It did not disappoint.
The TZ3000, released in January 2016 at the Archery
Trade Association Show, is billed as a hybrid between
Tenzing's 2,200 cubic inch day pack and its 4,000 cubic
inch overnight pack; big enough to fit a spike camp for an
overnight trip, sleek enough to keep on your back throughout
the hunt. I took it a step further: I loaded four days of hunting
and backpacking gear into its 3,000 cubic inch capacity.
You can check out the video of how I loaded it at the
MUCCVIDEO YouTube Channel, but by using a tarp and a
hammock, I saved the extra space usually occupied by a tent
and sleeping pad.
Lots of packs can fit a lot of gear, though: what I liked about
the Tenzing is how it organized it. Internal zippered pockets
inside the side pockets and the back pocket keep items
vertically secure, which prevents them from falling to the
bottom of the pack and rattling around when you hunt, and
easily accesssible when packing a full load. I transferred the
essentials of my archery kit to the internal zippered pocket on
the back pocket, opposite small items like lighters, MTN OPS
Blaze energy drink, drinking water purifying tablets, my camp
spoon, a medical kit and tooth paste in smaller pockets.
Accessablity was another great surprise when I found that the
main compartment could be accessed by a zipper opening
from the back pocket. Because I load my sleeping bag loose
at the bottom of the pack (not in a stuff sack), this opening
allowed me to add gear after the pack was fully loaded, and
easily access gear at the bottom of the pack without having to
unload the whole thing.
Load lifters and straps with abundant adjustibility ensured a
proper fit whether the load was full for the pack in and out
or light for hunting during the day. Backpack fit is always
dependent on the person and body type, but this one fit
me like a glove once adjusted correctly. My previous pack
lacked this range of adjustability and once I dropped the 40

pounds of extra weight I'd been carrying when I bought it,
it would not adjust down small enought to secure a good fit
with my waist belt. The Tenzing's strap range doesn't allow this
problem, thankfully.
But what about all those straps hanging around while you're
hunting? They thought of that, too, including elastic bands
on each strap to hold excess strap in place. This attention to
detail, specifically with hunting in mind, is evident throughout
the pack. It's not just a backpacking pack with a camo print.
Side straps cinch it tight when it's not full so that it maintains
a low profile. I kept it on my back while crawling under the
grassline to stalk within bow range of a doe on this hunt, only
to spook her by sitting up to find her in my binocs when I
thought she wasn't looking (she was).

GEAR

I'M HARD ON MY GEAR. I demand a lot of it, and I've been
through a lot of it. Trying to find gear that holds up to my style
of hunting has always been a challenge, but I also know that
if it holds up to multi-day backpack still-hunts in Michigan's
roughest country, then it will hold up to day hunts in the blind
or in the stand without a problem.

While much of the pack is constructed of lightweight and
strong Dyneema, the areas likely to be brushed inadvertantly
against branches are covered in a softer material that makes
less noise (and printed in awesome camo options like Kryptek
Highlander, pictured, or Realtree Max-1). When the rain
started pouring on Day One of my hunt before pitching camp,
and most of the way through that night, a built-in raincover
folded out of the bottom to cover the pack and keep my gear
dry; I wish the same could have been said of me! But it did
keep my gear dry, and I put it over the pack each night to
keep my gear dry throughout the four days, too.
Even emptied of my camp gear, I probably had 20 pounds of
gear on my back between the six pounds of pack weight and
extra layers, archery equipment, water in a hydration bladder
(held securely with a dedicated internal pouch, fed through
a port and clipped to my should strap) and other gear. It
was comfortable to carry throughout the four-day hunt, as
evidenced by the fact that I didn't notice any discomfort. And
that's what great hunting gear is all about: the gear doesn't do
the hunting, it allows you to do the hunting without getting in
your way. And once the hunting is complete, it holds your bow
securely to the back with a fold out cam/butt stock holder that
actually opens wide enough to hold large modern bow cams
and includes a buckle to hold it in place while you drag your
deer back to camp.
Two weeks later I put the pack through a five day, four-night
backpack bowhunting trip in the Porcupine Mountains, and it
confirmed every bit of confidence it had earned on that first
trip. About the only time it was off my back was when I was
sleeping in my hammock, and even then it was within arms
reach so I could reach my well-organized gear. If you're
looking for a true hunting pack that can hold all your gear,
whether hunting all day or the next and the next, too, you
can't go wrong with the Tenzing TZ3000. DY

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

35

Michigan Out-of-Doors

Christmas Gear Guide
DIRECTIONS:
1. Fold Michigan Out-of-Doors Winter 2017 Issue open to this page.
2. Circle desired items with highlighter or marker, indicate size if applicable.
3. Leave laying around house for loved ones to find.
4. Await Christmas morning.
5. Get outside!

by Drew YoungeDyke

It's that time of year. Whether looking for the perfect gift to get the outdoorsman or woman in your
life (or wondering what to drop a hint about for yourself), these outdoor products are sure to put a
smile on the face of anyone unwrapping them. .
Two Way Fillet Fish Cleaning System ($39.99)
Those who know me know I can't catch a fish to
save my life. But Dave Mull, editor at Great Lakes
Angler, catches a lot, and he took one look at the
Two Way Fillet at the Association of Great Lakes
Outdoor Writers annual conference and knew
it would work right away. The patent is in the
reversible clamp that fits into the end of the board,
making cleaning your fish a breeze.
Available at www.filletboard.com

Enerplex Jumpr Slate Portable Power Bank ($64.99)
& Kickr Solar Panel ($99.99)
I tested the Jumpr Slate power bank on two multiday bacpack
bowhunting trips in the Pigeon River Country State Forest and
the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park (pictureed).
The power bank stored enough charge to completely recharge
my Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge and keep it powered for an
extra day. Unfortunately, I didn't get much of a chance to test
the solar panels on the hunts as it was raining most of of both
trips. However, when I finally got a chance to use it, it started
charging the Jumpr Slate power bank immediately. And then we
had to hit the trail.
Available at www.goenerplex.com

36 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

Walls Workwear Muscle-Back Coat ($131.99)
The winter coat's purpose is to keep you warm and
dry. A work coat needs to do that without tearing
under the abuse you put it through. But that doesn't
mean it can't look good enough to wear on the
town, too. The Walls Workwear Muscle-Back Coat
with Kevlar allows your arms to move, like when
you're running a chainsaw on an OTG wildlife habitat project, and is made with Kevlar to protect it from
abrasions and shed rain, and even has a Realtree
Xtra camo printed quilted liner to keep you warm
and stylish.
Available at www.walls.com
Bite Spike Tent Stakes ($6.95 for 10)
I tested the Bite Spikes on my four-day backpack bowhunt in
the Pigeon River Country and my five-day backpack bowhunt
in the Porcupine Mountains, and I am sold. With a quick wrap
around the Bite Spike's head, its teeth grip the paracord holding down your tent, tarp, portable blind or anything else you
need staked down without a knot to untie and holds for days
in every condition from riverbank mud to root-chocked forest
floor through sunshine and thunderstorm. Plus, they're made in
Michigan by Portage-based Fallout Products. You can order
them on the company's website, but I wouldn't be surprised to
see these in the campaing isle of your favorite outdoor retailer
in the near future. It's and awesome product that should be in
every hunter's stocking.
Available at www.bitespike.com
Real Avid Gun Tool ($24.99), Gun
Boss Pro Cleaning Kit ($29.99) &
Gun Smart Mat ($19.99)
If you've read Scott Crawford's great
article about his system for maintaining his firearms, then you know that
you need to take care of the tools that
take care of you. (Seriously, though,
go read his article). Real Avid makes
the tools that take care of the tools that
take care of you, keeping you organized while you clean with SmartMats
specific to your model and the Gun
Tool, which is a multi-tool for gun nuts
like us.
Available at www.realavid.com
WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

37

Girls Hunt Too
They're not a cliche. they're not just a trend. Today's female
hunters arethe fastest-growing force in huntng, proving with
every shot that there's no glass ceiling In the out-of-doors.

We talked with some of the female hunters
in our orbit to get their views on hunting,
how they got started, what they love about it,
and where they see its future,
including:

JADA JOHNSON of Big Boys TV
AMY TROTTER of Michigan United Conservation Clubs
Archery champion SASHIKALA KUARASINGHE
Big Buck Hunter AUTUMN STAWECKI
Big Game Hunter KAYLA MOORE
Wildlife Volunteer BETHY WILLIAMS

FALL 2016 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS 29

JADA JOHNSON
THE GIRL BEHIND
BIG BOYS TV

EXCLUSIVE
INTERVIEW with
Michigan Out-of-Doors
by Drew YoungeDyke

In early October, I got the chance to sit down with Jada Johnson, who co-hosts Big Boys TV on the Sportsman Channel
with her dad Kevin Johnson, at their studio just outside Gaylord, Michigan. Even more impressive than that, though, is the
time she spends mentoring new female hunters of all ages through her all-girls boot camp. It was just a few days into Michigan's archery season and she was fresh in from a moring hunt waiting on a buck she'd been watching for years, still in
camo. We talked with about a wide range of issues, from the growing influence of female hunters and her role models and
favorite hunts, to issues like the Michigan Youth Hunt, how she feels after a kill, how to approach non-hunters, and even
quality deer managment. Her honest answers throughout the interview were refeshing and appreciated. You can watch Big
Boys TV on the Sportsman Channel Sundays, July through December at 7:30am and 2:00pm. - Drew YoungeDyke, Editor
(Michigan Out-of-Doors): COULD YOU TELL US A LITTLE
ABOUT YOURSELF?:

MINIMUM HUNTING AGE STARTED AS A MICHIGAN
UNITED CONSERVATION CLUBS RESOLUTION?

(Jada Johnson): I am Jada Johnson with Big Boys TV. I am
the host of Big Boys TV. My dad and I do it together, we’ve
been doing it for six seasons now. We have a passion for
hunting and we have a passion for passing it down to other
hunters. I’ve been hunting my whole life and I love to do it. My
dad and I have just turned our passion into a career.

Mm-hmm. And I am so glad they did that!

HOW DID YOU GET INTO HUNTING?
I started hunting pretty much when I could walk. I killed my
first animal when I was ten years old in Texas, because in
Michigan you couldn’t hunt until you were fourteen at the
time. So my dad flew me to Texas, we went on our first hunting
trip, and I have been obsessed ever since. I absolutely love
being in the outdoors, I love being able to spend time with my
family. And because we’re a very outdoors family, we can all
go out on hunting trips, and I just really, really enjoy it.
DID YOU KNOW THAT THE ELIMINATION OF THE
40 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

COULD YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR BOOT CAMP FOR
GIRLS?
We do an all-girls boot camp every summer. Because I have
such a passion for hunting and a passion for passing it down
to the next generation, I had always been mentoring girls. So
my dad and I sat down and said why don’t we just mentor a
whole group of girls at one time? Let’s teach these that maybe
have brothers, where their dad focuses more on their brothers,
or their dads have never taken them to hunting camp because
it’s such a male-dominated sport. For the longest time, there
was only men’s clothing. It was, the men go to hunting camp
and that’s when they get their boys’ time.
And so we decided we’re going to take this group of girls,
we’re going to teach them the fundamentals. We do bows, we
do guns, we teach them how to go up and down a treestand

safely with the Hunter Safety System.
We teach them how to actually bowfish,
which is one of my favorite parts. We
sit in blinds and we look at the deer
in velvet, because we do it usually in
July, and so the deer are just then really
growing some antlers. We do some
taxidermay; this year had a taxidermist
come in and skin a squirrel for us, so that
was really cool.
I just love teaching kids, and I love that I
can get all girls in one group, one group
of all outdoors women, and we can go
through and teach them the fundamentals where they can leave my camp, and
then that fall talk to their dads, their parents, and really try to get into the sport.
IT’S FUNNY TO HEAR YOU TALK
ABOUT PASSING IT ON TO THE NEXT
GENERATION, BECAUSE FOR MOST
OF US, YOU ARE THE NEXT GENERATION. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE
SPECIES TO HUNT?
My favorite species is elk. I think I love
to hunt elk so much because they talk
to you, they bugle. You can be in the
woods and hear so many elk bugle from
a ways. Just hearing them screaming on
a really cold morning is an incredible
feeling.

HOW WAS THE EXPERIENCE OF
HUNTING DURING THE YOUTH
HUNT WHEN YOU WERE THAT AGE?
WE HEAR A LOT OF NEGATIVE COMMENTS ON SOCIAL MEDIA NOW,
DID YOU HEAR ANY OF THAT AND IF
SO, HOW DID IT AFFECT YOU?
I didn’t hear a lot of that and I don’t
know where it’s really all coming from.
When we have these three days that are
designated for just kids, I think that’s an
incredible thing that the State of Michigan does. I think they should continue
doing it. I mean, that gives these kids
who go to school every single day a
chance where just they can go out with
no other competition with other hunters
and have a chance at a nice whitetail.

YOU MENTIONED THAT HUNTING HAS TRADITIONALLY BEEN A
MALE-DOMINATED PURSUIT. HAVE
YOU EXPERIENCE THAT EITHER IN
THE HUNTING COMMUNITY OR THE
HUNTING INDUSTRY? DO YOU SEE
THAT STARTING TO CHANGE?
When I was younger and in high school
it was something that all the boys talked
about, and they kind of excluded me
from that. And then I would get in their
groups and start talking about it and
they’d be like deer in headlights. They
couldn’t believe that I was able to talk
about exactly what they were talking
about.

"I love where I live in
northern Michigan...
everyone hunts
around here."

WHAT IS YOUR MOST MEMORABLE
MICHIGAN HUNT?
My most memorable Michigan hunt,
would probably be… I shot a whitetail
in Michigan, probably six years ago. It
was only my second whitetail I’d ever
shot, it was in all velvet, and it was a
buck I’d been watching from the youth
season until the opener. I ended up
shooting it the day before Thanksgiving.
I was hunting really hard for this buck,
and it was just an incredible feeling to
get him on the ground. It was actually all
in velvet during the rut, which was a different time, so he had just not developed
his testicles and so he had all velvet. It
was just a really cool buck and a hunt
that I’ll never forget.
WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

41

Mossy Oak camo, but whatever gets
girls in the outdoors, gets them motivated to learn more about it, I’m fine with.
WHAT’S YOUR MOST MEMORABLE
HUNT OVERALL?

I REALLY

LIKE ELK.
IT'S JUST SO
LEAN AND
SO GOOD.
I LOVE IT.

My most memorable hunt was my
mountain goat hunt that I went on
in British Columbia. It was the most
challenging hunt that I’ve ever been on.
We climbed the tallest mountain I think
I’ve ever seen, it felt like it anyway! We
started our hunt at eight o’clock in the
morning and didn’t finish until one a.m.
the next day. It was extremely difficult,
not only physically but mentally. I didn’t
think I would ever make it to the top of
that mountain and then when I did, it
was like, I’d never cried during a hunt,
but there were just tears of joy. Just
being so happy that I was able to accomplish this. I give serious props to the
big game hunters who are doing sheep
and mountain goat all the time, because
I’ve got one mountain goat, and I think
I’m good on that species! But that was
definitely my most memorable hunt.
HOW DID YOU PREPARE FOR THAT
HUNT?

At the time, I had a personal trainer, so
she was training me for the mountain.
So we did a lot of stair exercises, doing
a lot of endurance things. I’d put my
backpack on, my boots on and go for
hikes, even though we don’t have a lot
Johnson helps process an elk hunted by a client of her dad, who is also an elk guide.
of mountains in Michigan, just to get a
In the past few years now, the hunting
Personally, I don’t have any use for pink heavy backpack on and go for a hike.
industry has changed so much when it
camo, but I’ve always been a little bit of Even as much preparation as I did, and
comes to women in the outdoors, and I
a tomboy, and so pink was never really I was preparing for months in advance,
even with all that preparation that I did,
think it’s absolutely incredible. I mean,
my color to begin with. But I think if a
there’s nothing that can prepare you for
you look at companies like PSE, Hunter
little girl wants to wear pink camo, then
Safety System, they’re making products
let them do it, I don’t care. My little sister that type of hunt.
just for women in the outdoors and I think is a girly girl – she’s a singer, she’s a
BUILDING ON HOW YOU FELT AFTER
that’s absolutely incredible. I think that
dancer, she’s a cheerleader – and she
THAT HUNT, HOW DO YOU FEEL
the market is going to continue to grow
wears pink camo, and I have no probfor women in the outdoors and I couldn’t lem with it. If that’s what you want to do, AFTER YOU KILL AN ANIMAL?
be happier about that.
if that’s what it takes to get younger girls
I definitely believe that each animal is
into the outdoors, then let it happen. I
a different feeling. If I’m hunting here in
PINK CAMO: WHAT ARE YOUR
mean, there’s other options, too. Girls
THOUGHTS ON IT?
don’t have to wear pink camo, like I said Michigan on my own property, and it’s
a buck I’ve been watching for years, I
I don’t have any use for it. I like regular
42 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

feel maybe a little more accomplished, a
little more appreciation, because I know
that we’ve planted the food plots that it’s
been eating, I’ve watched it for years on
my trail cameras, and I’ve been pursuing
it for years trying to go after it.

believe that Gaylord is unlike any other
place I’ve been. It’s still a small town, I
mean a lot of small towns are the same
when it comes to wearing camo and
driving big trucks and whatever. But I
feel like everyone’s just part of a family
around here and when you go into Jay’s
But I think every hunt is a little different.
Sporting Goods on Opening Day you
When I was on my mountain goat hunt, it get to hear everybody’s stories, that’s so
was just this sense of accomplishment after much fun. I love where I live in northern
climbing that mountain to get an animal
Michigan. I’ll always live here because
that most people don’t ever see in their
of that reason. Everyone hunts around
lives. I also think that there’s a difference here and it’s very easy-going. You can
between bowhunting and gun hunting
walk around in camo without someone
when it comes to harvesting an animal.
looking at you and staring and thinking
When you’re 20 yards away from an
animal and you can literally see its pupils,
compared to when you’re gun hunting
– and this is meant as no offense to gun
hunting or bow hunting – I just feel like
there’s a little bit of a difference.

you’re an ‘animal killer.’ But, yeah, I
think Gaylord is unlike any other place
I’ve ever been and I love it.
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO NON-HUNTERS WHO MIGHT NOT UNDERSTAND WHAT WE DO?
One thing that I always reach out on is
that every animal that my family kills is
either eaten by ourselves or donated to
someone in need. So how can you say,
‘you can’t give this meat to a homeless
shelter.”? People just aren’t gonna do
that.

I have serious respect for the animals that
we kill. It is a life and something that I
believe was given to us by our Lord Jesus
Christ, and I think they were given to us to
pursue and to eat and feed our families.
There’s a lot of controversy about hunting,
obviously, right now, but as hunters I think
that we need to remember that we hunt
these animals not as a trophy, but as food.
I mean, we may wait for a bigger trophy,
but at the end of the day we’re doing it to
fill our freezers and that’s something we
need to continue to remember.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE WILD GAME
MEAL?
My favorite wild game? I really like elk.
It’s so lean and it’s just so good! I love it.
HOW DOES THE HUNTING CULTURE
OF NORTHERN MICHIGAN COMPARE TO SOME OF THE OTHER PLACES
YOU’VE HUNTED?
I definitely think that Gaylord is unique
when it comes to our hunting world
because we all get together as a family
and a group of hunters. I mean, Opening
Day is like a holiday in Michigan. You
get school off, there’s a lot of places that
won’t work on Opening Day, and I really

"am i going to
be able to make
this perfect shot?"
WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

43

"I have serious respect
for the animals we kill...
we're doing it to fill our freezers."
I like to remind people, also, that it’s something that we’ve been doing for thousands
of years. Our ancestors did it. Even the
president of PETA’s ancestors were killing
animals to feed their family, it’s what we’ve
always done, so I like to remind people of
that as well.
It’s very hard to persuade someone when
they have their minds set, but those people
who are on the fence, when you can remind
them that we make good, clean shots, that
we fill our freezers and feed our family and
it’s something that we’ve been for thousands
of years, usually you can push them a little
closer to our way.
The other thing is, I don’t need that person
to be a hunter, I don’t need them to go out
and kill something, but I do need them to
understand why I do it so they don’t look at
me as this bloodthirsty animal, to be honest.
BACK TO YOUR CAMP: WHAT ARE THE
AGES OF THE PARTICIPANTS?

Our cutoff age is about 10 and really we’ve had girls from 10 years old to
ladies in their fifties who come. I want any girl, any woman who is interested in
learning about the outdoors to come. There’s so many times when there’s wives
who husbands go off to deer camp, and they don’t even get a taste of deer
camp because it’s ‘boys camp.’ I’ve had a couple different ladies who come
who say, ‘My husband just won’t take me, so if they won’t take me I’ll learn
myself,’ and I’m just like, ‘Props to you, girl, I’m going to teach you everything I
know!’
DO YOU THINK YOU’LL STILL BE DOING THE CAMP IN FIVE YEARS?
Yeah, I do. I love the TV show, but even if the TV show didn’t work out, I would
continue to do my boot camp. That is what I am truly passionate about. I love
the girls. I love getting to know the girls. I have a passion for kids as well, so
to be able to work with kids for two whole days about my passion is the best
feeling in the world.
LOTS OF GIRLS LOOK UP TO YOU. DID YOU HAVE FEMALE HUNTERS AS
ROLE MODELS FOR YOU AS WELL?
Yeah, actually my biggest role model growing up was Tiffany Lakowski. She has
been in this industry for so many years. She and Lee, their TV show was one of
the first ones on the Sportsman Channel and I had always went to the different outdoor shows and I’d see her and she was always very friendly, always
smiling, she’d answer any questions you had for her, so I always watched her

44 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

show. I was either recording it or I was
watching it when it was on. So I really
looked up to her and saw how much fun
she was having and that’s what really got
me started with the TV show. I was like,
‘well she’s doing it, we’re doing the same
thing, why can’t we make ours into a TV
show?’
SO HOW DID THAT HAPPEN? HOW
DID YOU CREATE THE TV SHOW AND
WHAT’S BEHIND THE NAME, BIG
BOYS, IRONICALLY WITH YOU AS THE
HOST?
So, the name behind Big Boys TV is that
we are in pursuit of ‘a big boy.’ So most of
the time when you’re hunting you’re going
after the big buck, which is male, the big
bull, which is male, you’re going after the
big boar black bear, which is male, so
I mean we’re going after the ‘big boys,’
and that’s kind of where the name came
from.
We started the TV show six years ago.
This is our sixth season. So my dad was a
big game hunter before I was ever even
born. He was trying to get all the 26
North American big game animals. So he
would always take someone with him and
he was filming it so he could come home
and show me and my mom and my sister.
He went to beautiful places like Alaska,
you know, Newfoundland. He went up to
the Arctic to hunt a polar bear. He’s been
to the most amazing places. So he would
film it, and then as I got into it, my dad
and I started filming me so that we could
show my mom and my sister if I ended up
killing something.
So I was watching The Crush with Lee and
Tiffany and said, ‘Dad, we’re filming this
stuff already, why can’t we just make ours
into a TV show?’ So we did two seasons
with DVD’s just to build our name a little
bit and we were on the Sportsman’s
Channel ever since. It has been so much
fun doing this TV show. It has its ups and
downs, but really I enjoy doing it so much.

ENCE, SHOT OR ATA?
I like ATA, because it’s a smaller crowd. SHOT is just so big, and there’s more
than just your hunting industry there. There’s the sport shooting industry, there’s
so much there. So I really like ATA, it’s a smaller group of people. The PSE trailer
is there, and they’re one of the companies we work with, and they’re like family
to us. So we get to hang out with them, and it’s closer to home so we just drive to
ATA. So I just love ATA and I love archery. Archery is huge in our industry right
now, so I love going to ATA way better than I like going to SHOT. And I’m not a
fan of big cities and Las Vegas is, like, the biggest.
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THE PROCESS OF ARCHERY?
I like that it’s a challenge. I like that, unlike your gun where you can just take it
out of your safe and it’s already sighted in and you can just go out and shoot
something, I like that you have to get close. I like that it challenges me to shoot
my bow often, to really get good with it. There’s just something about being 2050 yards away from an animal that just gets your heart beating even faster, and
your legs are shaking, and there’s so many different things going through your
mind. When was the last time I shot my bow? Was it on perfect? Am I going
to be able to make this perfect shot? It’s just more of a challenge and I like the
challenge.
WHAT ELSE IS ON YOUR MIND? IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD LIKE
TO EXPRESS TO MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS READERS?
Well, as long as I’m not offending anybody, I would love to reach out to Michigan hunters, especially northern Michigan hunters, is to practice some quality
deer management. There’s a lot of hunters that will come up north and shoot the
first buck that comes into the woods, and for those of us that have been hunting
in the area for our whole lives, and we put so much into watching these bucks
grow, and trying to get some quality deer management, it’s frustrating for us.
So that’s something that I’d really like the State of Michigan to push is to just
practice some quality deer management. You know, just wait for a little bigger
buck to come in the woods or get a doe tag if you need to fill your freezer. I understand that people need to fill their freezers, but there’s other ways to fill your
freezer than just shooting the first spike that walks into the woods.

40 acre farm in Western Lenawee County near
Hudson MI. 4 bdrm., 2 bath, 2300 sqft home, two
car attached garage. 25 acres tillable, 9 acres woods,
pasture land, Bear Creek frontage. A rare find and
only $229,000. Call Diana at Faust Real Estate, LLC
517-270-3646.

YOU MENTIONED THE SPORT SHOWS:
WHAT’S YOUR PERSONAL PREFERWINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

47

blind growing up. And it is active. You see the waterfowl
coming in, you try different calls, you shoot, you get to
watch the dogs work. My next goal is learning to call
some myself but my husband, who group up memorizing
Duck Commander videos, says I still have a ways to go.
On Taking Women in the Field
On the opener for the northern lower duck season, we
had just moved to a new location and set up again
around 10:30 AM on the Indian River. It had been
raining on and off since we hit the water just after 5 AM,
but for those most part it was comfortable weather as
duck hunting goes. Just then, 2 couples about our age
went by in duck boat. The women were wrapped in
piles of camo blankets and looked like prisoners. Those
ladies looked absolutely miserable and clearly got a bad
impression right off the get -go and the #1 reason was
Deputy Director, Michigan United Conservation Clubs that they didn't have the proper gear. While I have read
articles saying that women seem to not be able to handle
I grew up in a hunting family in Northern lower Michigan. All
the men in my family hunted and, mostly, people like my mom the cold as well, I truly believe it's due to a lack of well-fitting
and quality gear for short statured, curvy people. It's importand Grandma got their bags ready, did their grocery shopant to get a new hunter ready for their first or 15th visit to the
ping, and said good bye. Growing up eating wild game and
woods or water to ensure a good experience. After years
seeing trophies on the wall, I thought it was cool but it wasn't
really something I was invited to join in to. I have one memory of borrowing clothing and making do, I finally got myself a
youth-sized double layered camo coat, insulated bib overalls,
of my Dad taking me to deer hunting camp with the guys: I
insulated rubber boots, and good waders. It took me several
recall being one of the few young kids that could hit the milk
unsuccessful online shopping purchases and about 2 hours
jug we set up as a target. I had boyfriends over the years
of trying on waders at Jay's Sporting Goods before I found
who would take me fishing and take me hunting, and my dad
a pair that fit my hips and chest at the same time as my small
bought me my first youth model 20 gauge (with a switchable
rifled barrel), but by high school, college, and into my first job feet. Talk about a workout!
it was hard to find a hunter education program that fit into my
On Pink Camo
schedule. When I came to work at MUCC in 2007 - when I
turned 27 - it became a job requirement. I found an instructor
who was willing to let me do the online course and then show What bothers me about the marketing movement to "shrink
it and pink it" in the professional sports and sporting goods
up at the range day to take my written test and shoot with the
industry is that this assumes all women like pink. When I cheer
rest of the 12 year olds.
for my Michigan State Spartans, I wear green, and when I
hunt I wear camo. The legislation to adopt hunter pink as an
On Hunting
alternative for hunter orange also assumes that we need to
attract women to hunting things where hunter orange is reMy first trip out as a newly licensed hunter was woodcock
hunting with my friend and former colleague Erin McDonough quired. It's already happening, but pretty soon the market will
stop making any thing for women without pink. It is a distinct
and the late, great Hal Haverstick from the Michigan Hunting
Dog Federation, who was passionate about hunter recruitment disadvantage for a duck or turkey hunter, and still I see racks
of light pink camo sweatshirts but took several hours-long
and mentoring. It was powerful to watch the dog do what it
trips to find a pair of waders and had to order a jacket online
was bred and born to do in working those woods, but woodbecause it wasn't carried in the store. I want clothes that fit my
cock hunting is, as Tony Hansen warned me, "like shooting
curvy short body and I dislike pink!! Now that I have a 4 year
Oreo's in a briar patch." Jim Wale and Hal also took us out
on a pheasant farm, where I can claim my first success. Since old daughter, this trend is frustrating me even more when she
told me she wasn't sure she could play with the "boy Legos"
that time, I have hunted for squirrel, raccoon, ducks, geese,
Building blocks are building blocks and camo is camo. AT
deer, and turkey and helped run a trap line.

Amy Trotter

I have most enjoyed duck hunting because of the social
nature: it wasn't like all those times I was shushed in the deer
46 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

Kayla Moore
Mancelona, Michigan

From the time I could walk, hunting and fishing has
been an obsession of mine. I've chased down trophy
white tails and master angler fish, but an elk hunt
was on my bucket list. In October of 2015, my dad,
brother and I decided it was a great time for us to
travel out west to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Combined, we had two cow tags and one bull.
Fortunately, we have some close friends who live in
Colorado who also elk hunt, so they met us out there
and showed us the way of the land.
On opener morning, we were up at dawn and headed to
the woods. Because southwestern Colorado was under a
drought, the elk weren't moving as we had expected them to.
After an unsuccessful morning and not an elk in sight, my dad
and I had built some male shift blinds behind a water trough
for cattle, where they roam when hunting season is closed.
Just before dark, my brother calls on the walkie talkie "Elk!

Elk!" and we see three cows running down the draw into the
water trough. With no hesitation, I drew up my Mossburg
308 and dropped a 575 pound cow. Right after, my dad
dropped his 550 pound cow. All in all, I wouldn't have traded the trip for anything. Being with my family and friends as
well as a successful hunt made it a trip of a lifetime

My name is Autumn Stawecki. I was born and raised in a
small town in the thumb. I've been around hunting for over
20 years, which of course the girls that grew up with me
thought hunting was just for boys, but I didn't care. I loved
being outdoors with my dad and being in the woods was
my favorite place to
be. The anticipation of
what could come by
my stand every time
I was hunting, every
crack of a twig, every
grunt. I couldn't wait
to see what was out in
the woods.

Autumn Stawecki

I would have to give
all the credit to my
dad for getting me
Big Buck Hunter
into hunting. I started
hunting with him when I was about four years old. Throughout the years, he has taught me
so much and is still teaching me something new every day. I started gun hunting at a young
age and then got my first bow, which is what I took my first buck with. I currently have taken
four eight-points off of my family's property, two with a bow and two with a gun.
I love bow hunting and I love hunting during the rut. Seeing new bucks crossing through our
property and seeing and hearing all the action in the woods leaves me sitting on the edge
of my seat. I love being outdoors and being one with nature while enjoying my passion of
hunting.
WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

47

were crawling with more hunters than
deer. Although we were unsuccessful
in harvesting a deer, Bethy got to
experience the sounds that are familiar to
many hunters: the calls of whippoorwills,
cranes, and other birds as the sun
peaks over the horizon, the exciting
thrill of hearing leaves crunch and the
quickly following disappointment when
a squirrel appears on the ridgeline. She
was successful instead from the learning
experiences she encountered along the
way.

BETHY WILLIAMS
by Sarah Topp, MUCC Wildlife Volunteer Coordinator
Even being born and raised the small town of Negaunee in
the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Bethy Williams was not
exposed to hunting by her family or friends.
“In the 29 years I had been living there, I had gone fishing
only a few times here and there. Sarah introduced me to
everything from compound bows and traditional bows to
shotguns, rifles and handguns. I had some training with assault
rifles in my six years of experience with the military. In a total
of eight months I suddenly found myself the new owner of a
fishing pole, a compound bow, a Mossberg 500 shotgun, a
Glock 42.” says Williams.
The first time I taught Bethy how to shoot a compound bow
was at the Sharonville State Game Area’s Shooting Range
after we had completed one of MUCC’s Wildlife Habitat
Improvement Program’s events in the area. She was a natural;
by the end of a two hour session, she was hitting vital zones
at 15, 20, 25, and 35 yards almost flawlessly! I think she
was hooked on archery since then and also acquired the
confidence to try out hunting with me in the upcoming archery
season for deer on public land.
Bethy proudly purchased her first hunting license; an
apprentice license for antlerless deer in Ingham County. We
tried to fit in as many introductory hunts as possible, finding
time around both of our work and project schedules. There
were a few very early morning hunts in the Dansville State
Game Area during the week where we were undisturbed by
other hunters; weekends were a different story as the woods
48 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

Your personal introduction to hunting
makes an important impact on your
perspective of hunting and other hunters;
whether it is by your family, friends, or
neighbors. Bethy’s introduction to hunting
wasn’t solely by me, but also from various volunteers
at the many wildlife habitat improvement projects she
attended this year.

“I also learned that a lot of the amazing hunters out there
care about their environment and wildlife by donating
their time to help organizations like MUCC do things to help
conserve the very wildlife they hunt. I have donated 17 of my
own Saturdays this last year helping improve wildlife habitat
in state game areas. Hunters take pride in their hunts and do
what they can to give back so they can continue what they
love so much.” says Williams. In just one year, I witnessed
Bethy completely change her perspective on hunters and the
skill of hunting, itself.
Williams states her new perspective of hunting after her first
year as a hunter: “I never saw myself as a hunter before
because my family didn't do that, so I didn't know much
about it at all. I also have a love for animals and was
against hunting before because I didn't understand what it
was all about. What I've learned is that hunting isn't cruel or
inhumane, as many people may think because of the wrong
portrayals from unethical hunters and poachers. It's a way of
life that has always been. You hunt to eat; not to kill. There are
ethical standards that I’ve witnessed through learning from
other ethical hunters and conservationists alike. Like any skill,
it takes a lot of practice and constant learning through trial
and error.”
We’ve had many trials and errors together through archery
season, small game season, and spring turkey season. But,
with these trials come more experience and progress towards
being more knowledgeable, successful hunters!

Sashikala
Kumarasinghe
CHAMPION ARCHER | by Drew YoungeDyke

I was waiting in line to shoot the apple off a deer target's nose during
the Rinehart 100 at the Saginaw Field & Stream Club in September
when I met Sashi Kumarasinghe. She was a champion archer on the
national team for Sri Lanka, here to study at Northwood University.
She got into archery first through competitive pistol shooting. She is
a second-generation competitive shooter, as her mother was also
a competitive pistol shooter. She was attracted to the challenge of
archery, though, and said that the most important part of it, for her,
was the mental toughness to concentrate on being perfectly consistent, shot after shot, bringing to mind the Cam Hanes mantra, "It's all
mental."
She was motivated to try field 3D archery after the shoot, as she saw
a dramatic difference in shooting such a range of target distances,
angles, and sizes, verses the consistent conditions which exist in
Olympic archery. As for giving bowhunting a try? We'll see.

AFFILIATE CLUB EVENTS
The Michigan Chapter of Safari Club International is hosting its Annual Gala / Fundraising Event on February 10th
and 11th, 2017, at the Eagle Eye Resort near Lansing. They will feature three generations of female hunters, including
Kendall Jones, Diana Rupp and Mary Harter.
Kendall Jones has big dreams and ambition to represent the next generation of hunters all over the world. She
skyrocketed to fame after her Africa hunt posts created a storm of criticism from mainstream media and support from
hunters and conservationists all over the world.
Diana Rupp is the Editor-in-Chief of Sports Afield. Over a career in outdoor publishing spanning nearly twenty-five
years, Diana has worked for a variety of national and regional outdoor magazines.
Mary Harter, who, over the last 46 years, has hunted 6 continents, has taken 15 dangerous game and has 94 record book entries, is SCI's 2015 Diana Award winner.
Learn more and register at SCIMichigan.org.

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

49

Why I Hunt:

H
T
U
YO
An
Open
Letter
to
anyone
y
r
o
St
who Just Doesn't Get it
This story originally appeared
as a blog on the Michigan Youth
Conservation Council page.
We saw it shared on Facebook
and immediately reached out
for permission to publish it in
Michigan Out-of-Doors because
it so perfectly hit the mark on why
we hunt.
What was surprising was that
such a well-written piece could
have come from a teenager;
however, that shouldn't have
been surprising because the
Michigan Youth Conservation
Council is comprised of
some very bright future
conservationists.

by Lyla Luoto
I don’t hunt for the “sport” of it. I don’t get my kicks rifling down furry
woodland animals to prove my dominance as a species or to compete
against other hunters. I don’t do it for the trophy; some people do, but
this isn’t about other people. This is about why I choose to go out into the
woods and take the life of an animal.

My first reason for hunting is because I eat meat.
Eating meat and using animal products is an ethical dilemma and there
are a growing number of people who are not okay with it. I respect their
compassion and their views, and I don’t look down upon them for not
wanting to take the life of another living creature. However, I choose to eat
meat, and my reasons for that are a part of a whole different debate.

Youth under the age of 18 who
have an outdoors article they
would like to be considered for
publication can send an inquiry
to editor@michiganoutofdoors.
com.
We will select one Youth Story
for each issue, for which the
youth will receive $50, a oneyear subscription to Michigan
Out-of-Doors, and a Michigan
Out-of-Doors baseball cap.

50 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

Hunting reconnects me with nature.
We are natural, biological creatures, and I believe we
are engineered to love and connect with nature on a
very deep level. I believe nature is a very important
component to our intellectual, social, emotional, and
spiritual development. This is an element of life that
many people have lost touch with, or have never been
in touch with. People in today’s society mindlessly eat
hamburgers from
McDonalds and
pick up a package
of chicken breasts
from the super
market every day.
Do they ever stop
to think about the
cows and pigs that
were killed to feed
them? In most
cases, no. People
are constantly
consuming and are
too often oblivious
to where these
things have come
from.
When I go out
into the forest and
feel the crisp air,
the non-paved
earth beneath my
feet, and the sun
shining through
the trees, I return
home. I feel whole
and completely
stress-free. All of
the artificialness of
civilized life is gone, and I am now part of something
much older, greater, and powerful. Upon killing a deer,
and kneeling beside it to touch it’s still-warm shoulder,
I become part of the circle-of-life in a way that is lost
when ordering that bacon cheeseburger. I can see the
direct consequence of what I will later consume. And I
feel much better about cooking and eating the venison
that I took from a mature, adult deer that I know
lived a free and natural life, than I do eating a bacon

cheeseburger that came from animals from who knows
where, that lived who knows what kind of lives. There
are good farms, that take care of their animals and give
them a quality life, and there are very bad farms that
do just the opposite. If I’m not the one responsible for
killing what I eat, it’s likely that I’ll never know.
As mentioned before, I understand whole-heartedly
some people do not believe in eating meat or animal
products at all and
I respect that. But
there are far too many
people that will gladly
eat a McDouble, but
will spit on hunters
for shooting a deer.
I believe that if I am
going to be someone
who eats meat, I should
be able to kill an animal
I am eating with my
own hands; otherwise
I would feel like a
hypocrite and a coward.
I have been hunting
for around six years
now; I have killed 6
deer. One each year.
I am experienced and
knowledgeable enough
to know where and
how to shoot a deer to
make it as humane and
painless as possible
and what age and size
is appropriate to take.
I don’t do it for the
“thrill of killing” I
don’t do it to get the
“biggest trophy.” If you
talk to a genuine outdoorsperson that hunts, you will
find it is about something much bigger than that. It
is about respect, connection and consequence. I hope
people can see that. So happy hunting to everyone.
Stay safe, and remember to respect Mother Nature and
the life that you are taking.

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

51

Casey Keefer

Chris Keefer

Jason Brown

RUSTED ROOSTER
Behind the scenes with the Keefer Brothers and the team
behind the hit shows Dropped and Rival Wild

by Rob Harrell
For 5 years now Midland, Michigan has been the home
to arguably the most ground-breaking outdoor production
company that the industry has ever seen. Rusted Rooster
Media was founded by three talented individuals who came
together, shared their dreams, and have turned those dreams
into reality.
Jason Brown, Chris Keefer, and Casey Keefer discovered they
shared a key commonality when they met each other for the
first time. No, it wasn’t that they can all grow perfectly sculpted beards. Rather, it was their passion and drive to raise the
standards of outdoor television, production, and media.
If you aren’t familiar with their work, just turn on the Sportsman’s Channel or Outdoor Channel and within minutes you
will find yourself watching a show or an advertisement that
they had a hand in. Their award winning series “Dropped”
and “Rival Wild” are what they are most known for today.
However, what many people don’t know is that these two hit
outdoor television shows are just the tip of the iceberg and
represents just a small fraction of their entire portfolio of work.
What lies beneath is an entire foundation of production and
media sweat equity supporting their careers in this industry.

52 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

JASON BROWN | Producer
Jason is a homegrown talent from Beaverton, Michigan
whose blue collar roots dig deep into the soil of Michigan’s
heartland. His mother’s side grew up as dairy farmers and his
father made his living in the auto industry at DOW Chemical
Company. Jason began his collegiate career at Ferris State
University playing Bbseball, but then transferred to Central
Michigan University after his freshman year. As a Chippewa,
he discovered what his true passion was and it didn’t involve
a bat or a glove. Jason stumbled across Broadcast Journalism
and knew immediately that this was what he was put on this
earth to do. As a boy, he had always been fascinated with
running a camera and capturing memories through the lens.
His passion for filmmaking overwhelmed him, so much so, that
he decided to hang up the cleats and focus all of his energy in
his degree.
In 1998, his first major project was for a local program,
MHTV Channel 34, where he produced a hunting show that
received several different awards including Best New Series,
Best Music, and Best Host. “Being recognized with awards
for this show was a real confidence booster,” Brown says.
“My first attempt at computer editing was terrible when I look
back on it, but at the time it was just all heart."

Shortly after graduating in 2000, he started his production
company Jack Pine Productions. This was either the first or
second year of the Outdoor Channel and outdoor television
was really starting to take off. Greg Abbas with A-Way
Outdoors approached Jason and offered him his first shot at
producing a hunting show for a real network. After their pilot
was submitted and accepted, Jason was off and running. He
produced 13 episodes that first year and Jack Pine Productions was well on its way to help revolutionize the outdoor
television industry.
After starting shows such as “Heartland Bowhunter” and
“Pigman the Series”, Jason quickly found himself over capacity with projects. “I realized it was too much and I just couldn’t
do it all by myself anymore," he says. In order to help pay
the bills, Jason was a videographer for roughly 200 to 300
weddings over a six to eight
year period, but even though
it was great money, he knew
it just wasn’t what he wanted
to do. Then one day in 2007,
the phone rang and on the
other end of the line was Casey
Keefer.

the Alaskan wilderness. While sitting perched at the top of
a mountain overlooking a herd of caribou, the fog lifted and
Casey harvested a trophy bull on film. “It was sort of a surreal
moment for us," Chris explains. “The Bearing Sea was like
glass, the sun had just come out, we had a bull down and we
basically said why would we do anything different?” After
returning to the lower 48 and editing the hunt, the film generated lots of buzz from its viewers.
The brothers then hooked up with a production house in Hot
Springs, Arkansas and started their show “Back Country
Quest”. After a couple years traveling to and from Arkansas,
Chris and Casey determined it was time for a change. While
watching one of the shows produced by Jack Pine Productions, the Keefers were impressed by the editing style and
were excited at the convenience that they were also based in

THE KEEFERS | TV Hosts /
Producers
Chris and Casey Keefer were
born and raised in western
Pennsylvania. Along with their
other brother Cody, all three
grew up with two passions:
hockey and the outdoors. Chris
and Casey pursued their collegiate hockey careers at Ferris
State University and Cody traveled across Lake Michigan
to play for St. Norbert College in Green Bay. Their Father,
Chuck Keefer, followed his boys north and moved to Michigan. During the off season, Chris and Casey would work as
Guides and helped to grow big mature deer for their customers. The Keefer’s also enjoyed capturing memories on film
and always had a camera in their hands when guiding their
clients.
While living the outdoor lifestyle as guides, one day a gentleman with a television show called and asked if Chris and
Casey wanted to film and guide him on an Alaskan caribou
hunt. They jumped at the opportunity and were willing to do
whatever it took to get to Adak Island, Alaska. This included hitching a ride on a Bearing Sea crab boat for six and a
half hours around the island before getting dropped off in

Michigan. Casey picked up the phone, called the studio, and
invited Jason up to the ranch while they were guiding. Upon
arrival it was clear that it was a natural fit and the three-headed monster was formed.
DROPPED
Jack Pine Productions produced Back Country Quest for three
years, but the trio wanted to take their work to the next level.
One night over beers, Jason pitched the idea of doing a four
episode mini-series that showcased one adventure. They
had always talked about doing something in Alaska for Back
Country Quest, but they decided this would be a spin off.
Casey took it a notch further when he suggested that they film
it over a month span instead of a couple weeks. To make it
WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

53

even more interesting, they decided they wouldn’t bring any
food, which added a survival element to the show.

door filming industry by storm. They decided to start their new
production house, Rusted Rooster, and move to Midland.

Without having a name for the series, they pitched the idea
to the producer at the Sportsman Channel. As they were
explaining the premise, the Producer replies “So you basically
get dropped in Alaska and then picked up a month later?”
Before they had an opportunity to respond, the Producer
steps out for a phone call. Chris turns and whispers “That’s
the name of the show; Dropped”. Without hesitation, Casey
and Jason agreed on the spot and when the Producer walked
back into the room, Chris picked up the conversation in an
adlibbing manner and says “Yeah, so the show is called
Dropped…” The Producer replies “Dropped, yeah I really like
that name” and right then, the hit TV show was approved by
the network. It wasn’t until later down the road, that the Keefer’s and Jason ultimately told the Producer that he unknowingly, was the one who came up with the name of the show.

THE ROOST

“After filming that first season, something magical happened,"
Jason explains. That experience of being together in the bush
together for a month brought the trio even closer together
and they knew they were on the verge of something bigger.
The Keefer Brothers ability to bring shows to life with their
on-screen presence and Jason’s ability to tell a story through
a camera lens resulted in a partnership that has taken the out54 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

Rusted Rooster is located in Midland, just off of M-10, which
separates the Southern Lower Peninsula from the Northern
half. Most Midlanders have called this cozy town home
for several generations. Anchored by the DOW Chemical
Company, Midland offers a wealth of jobs to its residents and
neighboring communities. I was invited to spend the afternoon with Jason and the Keefer Brothers at their production
office that they have aptly dubbed “The Roost”. As I pulled
in the parking lot, and even more-so when I left, I found it
astonishing that all of the material they produce pours out of
this average looking office building.
When you step inside, however, the production house comes
to life and you find yourself engulfed in an outdoor heaven.
It sort of reminded me of when Charlie stepped into Willy
Wonka’s Chocolate Factory for the first time, except instead of
being surrounded by giant lollipops and chocolate rivers, The
Roost sucks you into a world of editing and recording studios,
TV film sets, and of course, trophy mounts decorate almost
every wall. The environment that I found myself in wasn’t your
typical work environment, but I quickly learned that this was

indeed a factory. A factory that manufactures creativity.
Rusted Rooster has grown from its first employee, Joel Hopkins, who has been on board since the beginning, to 27 employees currently. “When we hire new talent, one important
characteristic we look for is someone who will gel and fit with
our company," Jason states. “We look for good character
people who are just as passionate as we are about connecting with our audience," he continued.
Joel is now the Creative Director for Hatch Marketing, which
is a sister company created to satisfy their customers' demands for more options beyond video production. Hatch
allows them to expand their capabilities in showcasing their
customers' products and/or services to the consumer market.
They also partnered with Jason’s high school friend Brandon
Calhoon, who is in charge of their Recording Studio, Rooster
Traxx. One of the features that set Jason’s editing style apart
from other production companies was being one of the first
Producers to incorporate lyrical
music in a hunting show. In the
past, you would hear generic
background music, but Jason discovered that in order to bring true
emotion to a show, real lyrical
songs can play an important role.
Brandon began writing and creating songs specifically for certain
episodes and it was an immediate
success.

Every year you can expect Rusted Rooster to add something
different to improve their shows. Sitting back and just putting
the same thing out there time and time again is not an option
for them. “Every year we sit back and ask ourselves, how can
we make it better?” says Casey. Whether it’s a new intro, new
graphics, new music, etc., all three of them have the same desire to not accept complacency. Never satisfied and always
looking to build upon a project is what drives them to show up
to work every day and it’s reflected in their work.
MICHIGAN, OUR HOME
Jason, Chris, and Casey all reside in Midland and are proud
to call Michigan home. With so much hunting and outdoor
history in this state, Rusted Rooster jumped at the opportunity
to partner with Winchester, Bear Archery, and the Sportsman
Channel to showcase this on film. Two of the most iconic
symbols of Michigan hunting are Fred Bear and the opening
day of Michigan’s Firearm Deer
Season.

“At the end of the day, there’s more
to every hunt than just pulling the
trigger. There’s comradery, there’s
the things you see when you’re out
there, and there’s the people that
you share it with." - Casey Keefer

THE VISION
What makes Rusted Rooster so special and so successful is
the drive behind each one of these guys to be one step ahead
of the industry at all times. A common theme in their work
is that all of their films tell a story. “At the end of the day,
there’s more to every hunt than just pulling the trigger. There’s
comradery, there’s the things you see when you’re out there,
and there’s the people that you share it with," Casey explains.
The premise behind “Dropped” was to showcase their entire
adventure on what it’s like being out in the wilderness for 30
days without food and minimal gear. Whether they were able
to harvest any animals or not, the goal was to bring all of the
viewers to Alaska with them.
Their other hit show, “Rival Wild”, brings the action a little
closer to home. Chris and Casey travel the Midwest chasing
mature whitetails and the show focuses again on telling a
story. This show portrays the brothers' history with the deer,
their strategies in hunting certain deer, and the tactics used to
harvest the bucks on their hit list. It’s no coincidence that more
and more hunting shows are following this format and Rusted
Rooster is proud to be part of leading this trend.

Episode 15 of “Rival Wild” was
simply called “Deer Season”. As
most of you know, the opening
day of Deer Season in Michigan is
an unofficial holiday and the team
wanted to pay tribute to this day.

“Many shows have tried this by
showing a TV Host traveling back
to hunt in his hometown, but what
if we just showed the hometown without the host?,” Jason
elaborated. Brown sacrificed his opening day to travel up to
Indian River in the Upper Peninsula and spent 3 days filming
“Deer Season” and what it means to that particular community. After it aired on “Rival Wild," the feedback began pouring in. Several people said it moved them to tears. Others
wrote in that they hadn’t been to deer camp in years, but the
show made them miss it so much that they were committed to
going next year. A majority of the viewers commented that
it brought back memories of their grandfathers, fathers, and
children and all of the deer seasons that they had shared with
them.
“To this day, out of all of the work that we have done, we
have had more feedback on “Deer Season” than anything
else,” says Chris.
The other major project that the crew was excited to create
was a tribute documentary for Fred Bear titled “Father of
Bowhunting”. This assignment was truly special to Jason as
someone who looked up to Fred Bear as the main figure who
paved the way for him to do what he does for a living. Bear
WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

55

Archery was gracious enough to open the secured vault of the
Fred Bear archives to Jason and his crew. Thumbing through
old photos, actual scripts that Fred had written, and film strips
that he had physically cut with a negative cutter and taped
together, Jason was overwhelmed with the level of production
that Fred was involved in.
“He didn’t just video his hunts,” Jason explains. “He was
a true producer and is solely responsible for me making a
career in this industry.”
One of the best parts of this documentary was their ability to
include some of the original footage from Fred’s adventures.
Not many people have a chance to gain access to this and it
was important to Jason that their documentary include his old
film clips. This was yet another extremely successful project
that brought one of Michigan’s icons to life.
Chris, Casey, and Jason are committed to Michigan, and
more specifically, Midland. “This is where my kids call
home”, Casey explained. “When we travel as much as we
do, it’s important that we know our family is safe and we have
that comfort level in Midland”, added Chris. Rusted Rooster
could be anywhere in the world. These three have traveled
across the globe and have seen more land across this great
country than most of us ever will, and yet, they always return
home to Midland, MI. When I asked Jason about his future
and the possibility of them relocating, he simply replied “I’ll
never move out of Michigan."

56 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

WHAT’S NEXT?
Rusted Rooster recently added a fourth partner to their team,
Mark Peterson, host of “Cabela’s Instinct”, owner of Cabela’s TAGS and Worldwide Trophy Adventures (WTA). Jason
explains that “Bringing Mark on board was a great fit and
we are excited about the future with Mark on board and the
opportunities that lie ahead.”
With all of their success, Rusted Rooster and its affiliate
companies are even more excited about what lies around the
corner. Currently working on projects with Nat Geo Wild and
the Discovery Channel, the opportunities seem to be endless.
When you watch their shows, remember that these aren’t just
a couple of TV Show Hosts who spend their lives traveling and
hunting for a living. These are extremely talented hard-working men who have earned their way to the top of the industry.
Jason summed it best by saying “Every day I wake up and
can’t wait to come into work."
To follow their journey or to learn more about their work,
visit www.RustedRoosterMedia.com and www.KeeferBros.
com. Special thanks to Jason Brown, Chris Keefer, and Casey
Keefer.

For Sale in Michigan's Upper Peninsula
Two bedroom home on 40 acres, half good hardwoods, half open. Near Federal land and snowmobile
trails. Phone 906-630-3674 if interested.

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Old SCHOOL
Opening Day

By Drew YoungeDyke

No trail cams. No tree stands. No food plots.
Just a public land deer camp, some old-fashioned scouting, and an on-the-ground buck.

T

It can still be done.
Montana Canvas wall tent.
My brother’s gooseneck
horse trailer next to that. I
parked my SUV and got out.
I walked inside and saw the
custom portable bunks my
cousin had built over the
summer. The wood stove
wasn’t assembled yet and,
on the floor, a light green
canvas cook tent and its metal poles on
the ground. I walked back outside and
saw a figure in camo walking down
the closed logging trail that faded off
behind the tent.

hey say there aren’t many public land
deer camps in northern Michigan
anymore. No use hunting the big woods.
If you want to kill a big buck, you have
to hunt southern Michigan. Lease some farm
property. Go to Ohio. Or Kansas. Maybe
Iowa. That wasn’t what I was after, though...

On the Friday before Michigan’s 2015
firearm deer opener, I navigated my
SUV up a rutted dirt road in the
Pigeon River Country State Forest,
about 25 miles northeast of Gaylord.
My heart swelled in anticipation of the
sight I’d find, even though my brother
had texted me a picture of it a few
days earlier. After travelling through
hardwood hills, I rounded the final
corner with five-year old clear-cut
regrowth flanking each side of me.
One lone pine towered in front of me.
I knew that pine. I turned into tire
tracks just before it. And there it was.
Set back from the road, where the old
logging access was blocked by boulders
placed by the DNR, lay the Big Wild
Bunch deer camp. My cousin’s orange
Ram pickup backed up to a worn

It was my cousin, Scott Youmans. He
drove up from Newago earlier in the
day. He was a welcome addition to
our camp when my dad, brother and I
started it the year before. For years, my
dad and I had gone to a deer camp on
Beaver Island started by my grandpa in
the late sixties. After my grandpa had
moved to Wyoming in the seventies,
my dad bought his share. I’d been a
guest there since I was twenty, except
for a few years when I was living in
Chicago. I shot my first deer there, a
doe, the first year I went. My grandpa
was there that year for the first time

58 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

in over 20 years after moving back to
Michigan. We drove him to his blind
and wheeled his oxygen cart in with
him.
“If I’m dead when you come back, I
died happy,” he joked. He made it back
one more year with my dad, my college
roommate Dan and me. Three years
later, only my dad and I remained
on this earth. So to say that it was a
hard decision to leave that deer camp
wouldn’t do it justice. But my brother,
who lived in Gaylord (as did my dad),
had a three-year-old daughter with
another on the way and wasn’t into
hunting enough to make the trip to
Beaver Island, which usually meant a
full day there and back that you weren’t
actually hunting.
So my dad and I decided we should
start up a new camp on public land.
The Pigeon River Country was the
perfect choice, close enough to
Gaylord that my brother could come
out after work and join us. Plus, we
all knew the Pigeon well. I’d spent
countless days and nights backpacking
and hunting solo in its 105,000 acres,
my dad and brother had ridden horses

The Pigeon River Country State Forest
covers the hilliest country in the Lower
Peninsula. It’s a mix of hardwoods,
pines and swamps through which
three blue ribbon trout rivers flow
north – the Sturgeon, Pigeon and the
Black. Hemingway fished and camped
here. After it was logged off in the early
twentieth century, its sandy soil didn’t
lend itself to agriculture so, using
tax-reverted lands and purchasing
more with game and fish funds, the
Department of Conservation began
piecing the forest
together in the
1920’s under
the guidance of
Parrish Storrs (P.S.)
Lovejoy.
He called it the
“The Big Wild,”
hence the name of
our deer camp, the
“Big Wild Bunch.”
He had a vision of
The Big Wild as
an undeveloped
wilderness, with
only enough
roads to serve
as firebreaks. He
wanted rough
country. It still is, but there are more
roads and pipelines since oil and
natural gas were found under the
Pigeon. An epic legal battle in the
1970’s set the stage for the compromise
that became the Michigan Natural
Resources Trust Fund, where oil and
gas royalties are used to purchase
public outdoor recreation land,
including more additions to the
Pigeon. And so the circle goes.
Our camp is just north of one of those
pipelines, which provides an unofficial
dividing line between where our camp
hunts and where another camp hunts
south of the pipeline. We chose the

area we hunt because a friend who
worked in the forest for the DNR at the
time told us no one had been hunting
that section during firearm season for
the past couple years. We had scouted
a few other locations in the summer
of 2014 but heard they were usually
heavily hunted. During our first year,
both my cousin Scott and I had seen
elk – a spike bull and a cow – but only
a few deer. The Pigeon River Country
is also the home range of Michigan’s
elk herd, which has grown from about
20 released near Vanderbilt in 1917 to
about 700. And apparently they have
a regular highway that crosses our
hunting grounds.

I saw a few elk while scouting the area
in the summer of 2015. I kicked up
a bull while following a trail along a
ridge just up the hill from a saddle.
A more faint deer trail crossed the
saddle, and I marked it on my GPS as
a possible hunting location. I scouted
the area five times in the off-season,
usually camping somewhere on the
section, including a few times when
organizing one of Michigan United
Conservation Clubs’ wildlife habitat
projects, one before our Annual
Convention in Gaylord that year and
two with the Rocky Mountain Elk
Foundation.

Most times when you hear about
“scouting” for deer these days, it means
setting and checking trail cams. Not
me. I do it old-school. I hike the area.
I look for sign, food sources, bedding
areas, doe trails, for terrain features
that might hide bucks, and for places
where I can ambush them. I look for
routes I can take while still-hunting,
depending on which way the wind is
blowing and the ground conditions. I
take notes in a Field Notes notebook
with sketches, and last year I
started marking GPS coordinates a
smartphone app, so I guess it’s not
totally old-school.

DEER

through some of it, and my brother
hung out here with his high school
buddies a little over a decade ago.

The work had
already paid off this
deer season. On
the Opening Day
of archery season, I
backpacked into the
area, still-hunting,
and set up my spike
camp just before noon.
My Kryptek camo
SJK tarp serves as my
shelter and can act
like a blind, too. While
sitting under the tarp
eating my protein
shake for lunch, I
saw and passed up a
forkhorn buck fifteen
yards away. That
afternoon, while still-hunting a halfmile away from camp, I saw two does
and arrowed one from twenty yards.
It turned out to be a button-buck and
it fed me well for a month and a half. I
brought the last few steak strips I had
left of him to deer camp to cook on
the wood stove. And I wanted more
venison.
Scott and I tried to set up the twelveby-twelve cook tent to no avail.
Honestly, we couldn’t figure out how
the poles went together and with my
brother’s horse trailer to store wood
and gear, we didn’t really need it.

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

59

A DNR Conservation Officer, Nick
Torsky, stopped at our camp while
making the rounds. It was a very
positive experience. He remarked
that there weren’t many camps up
yet, but some would be setting up the
next day. We let him know that Scott
and I, who both brought our bows,
might be bowhunting the next day,
and let him know the general areas
where each of us would probably be
hunting. He checked our dispersed
camping permit, and we told him to
stop by the camp if
he needed anything.
My dad and brother
arrived shortly after
and we set up the
cast iron cookstove
and pipe. We split
firewood and got it
started. We cooked
a tin of barbeque
beef on the stove and
made sliders. We
played euchre and
drank beer. Scott and

playing on my phone. It’s a song
about an Ontario logging camp in
the old days, an appropriate alarm
for five guys sleeping on cots and
bunks in a musty canvas tent in the
middle of a state forest. There are still
some massive burned out stumps
from those days all over the section,
remnants from Michigan’s logging
past and the forest fires that followed.
My brother rekindled the fire in the
wood stove.

Dad verses my brother
Kellen and I. We lost

badly, which are still
reminded of often.

I drove around to the opposite side
of the section we hunt. The wind was
blowing northeast to southwest, so I
wanted to still-hunt east back toward
camp, not west from it. I parked at a
truck-size clearing off the dirt road
and ritually applied camo to my face.
Even since I started bowhunting a few
years ago, there’s something different
about the early morning hours
before the firearm opener. Maybe it’s
just because it’s a recreation of the feeling
of anticipation all those
years before, since the
first time I went deer
hunting at fourteen.
We had two days of
excused absences for
deer hunting and I had
permission to hunt a
forty down the dirt
road from us because
I mowed the lawn
and did chores in the
summer for the owners,
the only time they were
there. My dad was a
still-hunter so we did
some of that, then he
sat me against a tree
overlooking a valley and
told me to be still. “Only
move your eyes.” I saw a
couple does that day but
I didn’t have a doe tag.

The next day, my
dad and brother set
up pop-up blinds
and Scott and I
bowhunted without
seeing a deer. I did
hear a dog collar
Euchre is serious at Deer Camp, most of the time. Clockwise from Top:
beeping, likely some
Kenny YoungeDyke, Kellen YoungeDyke, Scott Youmans, Denny YoungeDyke That anticipation is like
upland bird hunters
waiting for Christmas.
as the area is great
When shooting light
grouse habitat. My dad picked up my
comes and you take off your gloves
We dressed by the light of our
Uncle Kenny from town and brought
to feed rifle cartridges into the boltheadlamps, loaded our packs, stuffed
him out. Kellen’s friend Matt Koronka jerky or granola bars in our pockets,
action magazine and feel that cold
stopped out. We ate dinner and played double-checked that we each had
metal, it takes you back to every
more euchre and told stories that don’t our licenses on us, and put a few
other time you’ve performed that
leave deer camp, then got to bed early, cartridges in our pockets to load when ritual. Even though I’d already been
waking occasionally to stoke the fire.
bowhunting that year, that feeling
legal shooting hours arrived. Leaving
The next morning was Opening Day.
always says, “Now we’re hunting.”
the tent, my dad said, “If you get
anything, just hike out to your car and You’ve waited all year for this and now
I awoke a couple hours before light
it’s here. You take that first step into
honk the horn, okay?” “Sure,” we all
to Slaid Cleaves’ “Breakfast in Hell”
the forest and feel the whole world
said. “Sounds good.”
60 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

I still-hunted around a clearing,
keeping inside the edge of the woods
by about ten yards. I worked my way
across and against the wind. I saw a
few fresh tracks, but not many. Then
I leveled out on a bit of a plateau and
found some fresh rubs on trees with
about a three to four inch diameter. I
heard some shots in the distance. They
could have been one of our party, but
I doubted it. Most shots sound closer
than they are.

get a story to tell when he went back
to Central Lake and made the rounds
at other deer camps. My brother and
cousin came back in. No one had seen
a deer. My cousin hadn’t seen me,
either. We ate lunch and figured out
where we’d sit for the afternoon.

I decided to go back to that saddle.
In scouting all summer, I thought it
was the best terrain I’d found. There
was a swampy area to the north that
provided bedding and cover. A few
oaks in the hills to the south and west.
The swampy area became a valley that
crossed the ridge at the saddle. There
were faint side trails downhill from the
ridge crossing at the saddle, and those
I hunted behind the saddle I’d scouted rubs right above it. The wind was right
in the summer and emerged in a clump for a sit from the south looking over
of short red pines. Making my way
the valley. I thought about using the
through, I spotted my cousin sitting on climbing treestand I’d brought to camp,
a ridge a couple hundred
yards in front of me to
the east. I backed out and
made my way south to
get out of the area where
I might disturb his hunt.
I meandered south and
west, going with the wind
but getting into position
to still-hunt against it
again once I made a wide
enough arc. I went straight uphill into
but couldn’t find the tether rope to my
the high elevation point of the section. safety harness. Just as well. I’d sat in it
Months of trail-running paid off as I
twice during bow season, but didn’t like
was able to climb hills, duck branches, it much. I’m a still-hunter. A ground
and stay slow and quiet without getting hunter. Fast, light and mobile. I’d hunt
tired and rushing it. I passed the
the afternoon my way. Except…
location where I’d shot the button buck
during bow season. I came out of the
Except that the wet leaves covering
section on the dirt road south of camp the forest floor had dried. Every step
without seeing a deer. It was almost
elicited an audible crunch. I altered
noon. I hiked up to camp and walked
my steps to a three-step cadence,
in the wall tent.
“deer walking,” like I learned by
reading G. Fred Asbell’s “Stalking and
My dad and uncle were sleeping on
Still-Hunting: The Ground Hunter’s
their bunks. My dad awoke and we
Bible,” and then practicing it over the
reheated the leftover barbeque beef
course of a decade. I found a good
from the first night. My uncle awoke.
tree overlooking the valley, but about
They’d come back in mid-morning. My ten feet back from the ridge where I
uncle didn’t hunt, but we set him up
wouldn’t be skylined and sat against
in a pop-up blind close to camp so he
its trunk. Old-school. Just like my dad
could watch for deer or elk and maybe taught me when I was fourteen.

The first couple hours were slow,
testing all my patience to sit there
motionless, eyes alert. It’s an amazing
time to think, though. I thought
about work and family. Then I let my
thoughts take me wherever they would
go. I looked all around me, not for
deer, but to appreciate where I was.
I was in a moment in specific place
and time. I thought about where I was
geographically right down to the tree I
was sitting against. There was no other
place I’d rather be. Then I heard it.

DEER

change. You are a stranger in a strange
land. You wait and listen until you are
part of the forest again. Take another
step and don’t make a sound.

Swish, swish. Footsteps. Four does
with dark gray hides appeared out of
nowhere. They moved like ghosts. They
meandered at the bottom of the hill
opposite me, ranging from about sixty
to seventy yards away. They moved up
the valley in fits and starts. The does in
front would stop and wait
for the does in back. They
went up the hill opposite
me crossing above the
saddle to the area where
I’d found the rubs earlier.
They never saw me.

"We ate dinner and played
more euchre and told stories
that don't leave deer camp..."

About an hour later, I
heard a furious rush of
leaves. A doe trotted
out in front of me, downhill at about
twenty yards. She looked behind her.
A spike buck followed. I raised my
rifle but never took off the safety. I had
no intention of shooting the spike.
I wanted to see if I could get a shot
without being detected. I could. Even
though I had shot a button buck during
bow season, I had thought he was a
doe. It happens, especially when the
buttons have yet to show. I had already
passed a forkhorn that day of the bow
opener and had my own personal rule
to let young bucks go and shoot does
when I could. Otsego County is outside
of the northwest Lower Peninsula
Antler Point Restriction zone, so it
would have been legal to shoot the
spike.
I firmly believe that every deer hunter

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

61

is a deer manager, though. The deer
we see are up to us as hunters, not just
the DNR and Mother Nature. I want
the bucks in the area I hunt to grow up
more. I want them to live past a year
and a half. I’m not sold that that has to
be everybody’s goal, but it’s my goal, so
it’s my responsibility to pass bucks that
don’t meet my goals, even if someone
else might shoot it. With each decision
to pull the trigger or not, we as hunters
are voting about what kind of deer we
want to see. So I let him go.
As the end of legal shooting light
drew near, I had no regrets. I began to
resign myself to another Opening Day
without a buck, but I had a few more
days to hunt and I was happy with my
decision. Then, with ten minutes to
go, I heard it. Swish, swish, swish and
where is he?
There he is: Nose down, cruising.
A thick neck arced to the ground
with antlers leading the way, hot on
the scent of those first four does.
Raise the rifle. Safety off. Find him
in my scope. At least a six-pointer.
Seventy yards. Okay, next break in
the trees. There’s the shot. Center
the crosshairs on his lungs. Take it.
Muzzle flash. Bang. Work the bolt.
He sprinted up the hill climbed
earlier by the four does, cut sharply
and ran back across and down the
hill in the direction from which he’d
come. Behind a blowdown and crash.
A few swishes from his leg kicking the
air and hoof raking the leaves. A few
ragged breaths audible from where I
kneeled fifty yards away and uphill.
Safety on. I never took my eyes off that
blowdown. Darkness.
I sat there for a half hour, during
which I heard a distant elk bugle. It
wasn’t a time for celebration; there was
much work ahead. My all-consuming
thought was making sure I recovered
him. I was certain he was right behind
that blowdown, but could I be wrong?
Of course I could. Where would he go?

What was my plan for finding him?
Could I follow his blood trail in the
dark? I marked the spot on my GPS
app and walked downhill, straight
toward the blowdown. He was there,
and he was dead. I knelt beside him
and patted his thick neck. He was
bigger than I thought, an eight-pointer,
maybe two and a half years old. He
was shot through both lungs, with red
bubbly blood surrounding the wound.
Right where I’d aimed. I thanked him
and promised to eat or share all of him.
Which I did. I took a couple pictures.
Then I got to work.
He was heavy. I made the incision
below his rib cage and opened him
up with my Grandpa’s old Wyoming
Knife, like a zipper. I cut out what
needed to be cut out. It was fairly
clean until I nicked his stomach and
its contents spilled onto the liver on
the ground which I had planned to

"I thanked him and
promised to eat or
share all of him.
Which I did."
save. His lungs were bloody and shot
through. His heart was intact and I put
it in a zip-lock bag I’d brought just for
the heart and liver.
When I was finished, I had a decision
to make. Hike up to my car, about half
a mile away, uphill, in the dark, honk
my horn and return to this exact spot,
or haul him up there myself and honk
when I got there. I was paranoid about
failing to find him if I left him. I also
knew coyotes were in the area – I’d
already heard them. A scare with my
button buck fed into this paranoia.
When I’d killed the button buck during
bow season, I had left my backpack at
my campsite, including my Buck Cuffs

62 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

deer drag. So I took off my base layer
shirt and tied up the button’s front
and back legs, then slung it over my
shoulder to haul back to my campsite.
It was heavy, and as I got closer to
my campsite the knots were coming
loose. So I cached the deer next to
a prominent stump in the regrowth
field I was hiking through, went ahead
to my campsite to grab the deer drag
and returned to fetch the deer. But I
couldn’t find him.
I spent about ten panicked minutes
crossing the field trying to find the
stump before I found him. I used the
Buck Cuffs to make a shoulder strap
and carried him back to my campsite
over my shoulder and out to my SUV,
but I felt noxious during those ten
minutes at the thought that I might
not find him. The worst thing I could
imagine would be killing a deer and
not recovering it and fully utilizing it.
That happened to me with a doe once
on Beaver Island during a downpour
and I never wanted to have that
feeling again. So instead of heading
back to my SUV, I grabbed the antler
of the eight-point and started pulling.
It was slow going. Even though
I’d been working out and running
diligently in the off-season, pulling
a mature buck through the woods
uphill was another beast. So I took
my time. I pulled a little at a time and
rested. I thought I heard shouting in
the distance. I called back, “Hello!” I
thought it was my brother, come to
find me after I didn’t return to camp
immediately after dark. I thought that
was unnecessary, as I’d backpacked and
hunted solo more times than I could
count in this forest, but I appreciated
the help.
“Got a buck. I’m downhill from the
ridge,” I called. Eventually I saw a
flashlight and heard my dad. I guided
him to me. My cousin Scott was with
him. They congratulated me on a nice
buck. My dad hugged me because
he knew like no one else how hard

pole barn overnight. Matt’s grandpa
used to process deer commercially, so
Matt had a few (hundred) under his
belt and offered to help me butcher it
the next day, which we did.

be out there. So many factors went into
his surviving this long and him being
in that spot for me to take at that exact
time, the most important of which was
public land.

As we were processing the buck, I
couldn’t help but to marvel at the
muscles on the buck’s neck, his
forelegs, his hindquarters. I thought
about how those muscles helped him

Without that public land, there would
be no place for us to hunt. No place
for my uncle to see elk, for my dad
to spend time with his sons, for my
cousin to hear elk bugle and spar, for
my brother to actually
get into hunting, which
he is fully into now.
There would be no
place for us to have this
experience and harvest
wild meat. Nothing can
unite like the experience
of dragging out a deer,
planning a hunt, and
telling stories at a hunting
camp. It’s what we were
born to do. It’s what our
species has been doing
since we were a species.
And only public land
ensures the opportunity
to hunt to anyone who
wants to take part in this
ancient rite.

We talked about the
day’s hunt while we
dragged, as hunters
do. My brother had
seen a bunch of does
and passed on a fourpoint. My dad saw a
bachelor group of elk
that spooked through
the woods and
passed in front of my
brother. My cousin
didn’t see any deer
but could hear elk
bugling and sparring
on the ridge across
from him. My brother
had driven my uncle
back to Gaylord,
who got his story to
tell. While walking
back from his blind
to camp, a group of
spike bull elk “almost
ran him over!”
The next day, we
loaded the buck on to
the roof of my SUV
and I drove it into the
Gaylord DNR check
station, but not before
stopping at the Sparr Mall to have it
entered into the log book and have
Phyllis take my picture. Pete Datema
and DNR Wildlife Tech Mark Monroe
were manning the check station. I got
my patch and they determined that the
deer was three and a half years old. My
brother and I drove it over to his friend
Matt’s place, where we hung it in his

leap deadfalls, evade predators like
coyotes and us for three and half years,
and how he survived that long in a
public land state forest. Had Opening
Day not fallen in the heart of the rut,
he might still be out there. Had I not
stuck it out until the final minute of
legal light, he might still be out there.
Had I taken that spike, he might still

DEER

I’ve worked over the years to get this
opportunity. Scott grabbed one antler
and I the other, and we started pulling.
The going was much smoother. My
dad was a little upset I hadn’t returned
to the car to honk like we’d agreed,
and he was probably right. We hauled
it uphill and found we were actually
closer to camp than my SUV, so we
pulled it toward camp, a little over
a half-mile. We stopped every few
minutes to rest.

There are still some
public land deer camps in
northern Michigan. There
are still opportunities
to take a mature buck
without treestands,
without trail cams,
without private leases,
food plots or farmland.
There are still
places where, by putting
in a little boot leather in
the off-season, you can
set up a canvas tent on public land,
hike in a ways, sit against a tree on a
ridge next to a saddle overlooking a
valley, hear elk bugle, watch spikes
chase does and, maybe if you’re lucky,
have the best Opening Day of your life.
Old school. Right here in Michigan.

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

63

Lessons
from

e
m
i
t
e
f
i
L
A of

by Richard P. Smith

public land
Whitetails

L

ooking back over the more than 50 years I’ve
been hunting whitetails on public hunting
lands in the Upper Peninsula (UP), I’ve been
extremely successful. I’ve shot at least one
deer, buck or doe, for most of each of those
years, and some years like 1991, I shot multiple
whitetails. Back in ’91, I collected a pair of 8-pointers
during firearms season. One of those bucks was 2 ½
years old and the other was 4 ½.
Those bucks were collected from the same location
that I tagged my biggest Michigan buck the year
before, an 11-pointer with antlers that grossed in
the 150s and netted 148 4/8. That buck was 5 ½
years old. I passed up a 3-pointer on the morning
of November 16, 1990 and shot the 11-point that
afternoon.
I like to hunt concentrations of scrapes or scrape
lines and that’s what I was doing when I connected
on all three of those bucks. The terrain funneled deer
through this remote breeding area that was littered
with scrapes and antler-rubbed trees. I simply stood
against a large tree downwind of the buck sign when

64 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

Richard P. Smith was named the 2016 Dave Richey Communicator of the Year by the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association. He is the author of numerous hunting books including the
Great Michigan Deer Tales series, Deer Hunting, Stand Hunting, Tracking Wounded Deer, and Animal Tracks and Signs of
North America.

The 11-point and the smaller 8 came cruising through in
search of does when I shot them. The 11 took off in a death
run when I put a .30-06 bullet through his lungs and he
bounced off of a number of standing trees before slamming
into a fallen tree and dying with his head draped over that
tree. The bigger 8, which had part of one of his heavy main
beams broken off, was in pursuit of a hot doe. I dropped
him in his tracks near one of his scrapes.
When scrape hunting, I normally hunt from dark to dark
because bucks can show up at any time. Over the years,
however, I’ve killed more big bucks on public lands while
scrape hunting during the middle of the day from 10:00
a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
The spot where I killed those deer is on public land administered by the US Forest Service that is about two miles
from the nearest drivable road. I camped in a tent near the
breeding area, so I could hunt it most effectively. I skinned
and quartered those bucks near where I
shot them and packed the quarters out.
It’s not necessary to go to such extremes
to collect public land whitetails in the
UP though. I’ve also had some terrific
deer hunts on state and Commercial
Forest Act lands in the UP that were
not as remote. I’ve shot bucks and does
on public hunting lands that were within 100 to 200 yards of drivable roads on
day trips. Anyone can do the same.

the region the past two years. Last winter was a mild one,
with excellent deer survival, resulting in tremendous fawn
production this year.
The winter before started early with a major snowstorm, but
then moderated and ended early over most of the UP. The
exception is the portion from Munising to Sault Ste. Marie
north of M-28. That section of the UP suffered a third
severe winter in a row, resulting in some of the lowest deer
numbers in the region.

DEER

shooting all three bucks.

There are still plenty of deer over much of the southern UP
and deer are much better off in the northwestern counties
than the northeast. I started deer hunting in the UP during
the mid-1960s. Deer numbers were lower then than I think
they are now over much of the UP, and I was still able to fill
tags, and so can you, if you put your mind to it.
Scouting is the key to success. Scout as many parcels of land
open to public hunting as you can to look for those with the
best deer sign. It doesn’t make sense to hunt locations with
little deer sign. You want to concentrate
on locations with the most tracks, droppings and sightings. If deer are down on
your camp property, scout tracts open
to public hunting within a reasonable
driving distance.

SCOUTING
IS THE KEY
TO SUCCESS

For years, my brother and I have owned
40 acres with a camp on it in Dickinson
County. There were plenty of does on
our property, but we saw few bucks, so
we stayed at the camp, but hunted state
land about 15 miles from it. We killed
plenty of bucks on that state property.

One of the benefits of hunting lands
open to the public in the state’s northernmost region is that hunts can be
tailored to each individual’s desires. They can be as easy or
hard as you want to make them. And now is a perfect time
to plan your own public land deer hunt because deer hunting pressure is currently the lowest it has been in the UP for
many years. Historically, more than 100,000 hunters hunted
whitetails in the region annually. During 2015, that number
was down to an estimated 83,174.

The amount of public land in the UP
can seem overwhelming. There are literally millions of acres
of public land available to pursue whitetails on. That statement is true whether you consider state, federal or commercial forest act land. There are millions of acres of property
that anyone can hunt in each category. When considered
together, there’s a huge chunk of ground to choose from
when trying to find a place to hunt.

Even when there were 100,000 plus deer hunters in the
UP, some lands open to public hunting were lightly hunted. There’s no doubt in my mind that some public hunting
lands in the UP are now not even being hunted for whitetails. A big part of the reason that deer hunter numbers are
down in the UP is a reduction in the region’s deer population due to severe winters and predation from wolves, coyotes and bears. It’s true those factors have taken their toll on
UP deer, but whitetail numbers have recovered over most of

County map books for the state are the best way to locate
state and federally owned public lands in the UP. Each type
of holding is color coded. On the map book I have, state
land is dark green in color and federal or Forest Services
lands are light green. Lists of private land enrolled in the
Commercial Forest Act can be found on the DNR website.
Owners of Commercial Forest Act lands agree to allow
the public to hunt and fish their property in exchange for
reduced tax rates.
WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

65

Simply select the parcels that are most
appealing to you and start scouting.
While scouting public hunting land
for deer, also look for signs of other
hunting pressure. You may want to
avoid spots with signs of lots of hunting pressure as well as those with few
deer.
Persistence is one of the qualities that
have helped me be consistently successful on lands open to public hunting in the UP. I’m a three-season hunter. I hunt whitetails during archery,
firearms and muzzleloader seasons.
I hunt as much as I can during each
season to increase my chances of success and as many seasons as
possible. If I’m not successful
with bow and arrow, I often
score during the gun hunt.
But there have been times
when I was skunked during
firearms season. When that
happens, I may connect
during the muzzleloader or
the late archery seasons.
I shot a doe with bow and
arrow on state land one year
on January 1, the very last
day of deer season.
I’ve also become familiar with as many
different hunting methods as possible
to increase hunting success. Scrape
hunting is most effective from late
October through November. Hunting
natural food sources such as acorns,
beechnuts or apples and or runways
leading to them is most effective
during early and late archery and muzzleloader seasons. That’s when hunting
over bait can produce results, too.
Hunting in the vicinity of cuttings can
also be effective during late seasons.
Since UP deer are migratory, moving
from summer toward winter range
once snow blankets the ground, hunting migration trails is yet another way
to score. So are drives, snow tracking
and calling deer. All of these tactics

have resulted in filled tags for me over
the years.
The first deer I ever shot were does
and they were taken on drives. I shot
my first buck, a spikehorn, while on
my way to get in position for a drive.
I’ve also taken some public land deer
while stillhunting. Some people call it
sneak hunting or walking. This tactic
is simply moving slowly through the
woods, with frequent pauses, while
looking for deer. One time I was
slowly walking along a logging road on
Forest Service property when I saw a
doe and fawn cross the road ahead of
me. Conditions were perfect for still-

you. This form of deer hunting is also
the way to go for hunters who have
difficulty sitting still for very long.
Public lands in the UP include a number of wilderness areas where travel is
limited to foot traffic, horses and dog
sleds. There’s also plenty of public land
with few roads, so navigating cross
country is essential. Always carry a
compass and know how to use it. GPS
units are also terrific for navigating on
public lands as long as you get a signal
and the batteries are working. It’s also
a good idea to carry a flashlight, snacks
and waterproof matches with you
when hunting lands open to public
hunting just in case.
I’ve gotten turned around and
temporarily lost when hunting
public lands, ending up in the
woods after dark when I wasn’t
expecting to. The same thing
can happen to you. Doing so
becomes less of a problem if you
prepare for that possibility.

hunting, with deep snow blanketing
the ground, so I could walk quietly, but
so could the deer. I waited where I was
for about 15 minutes, on the chance a
buck was following the pair.
Not seeing anything, I continued on.
After I passed where the doe and fawn
crossed, I occasionally looked behind
me for any sign of movement as well
as in front and to the sides. At one
point I looked back in time to see an
8-pointer following the doe’s tracks.
I was able to turn and shoot the buck
before he realized I was there.
Stillhunting is a great way to scout
and hunt a parcel of public ground at
the same time. It’s also the perfect way
to warm up after getting cold from
sitting and waiting for deer to come to

66 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

Plenty of campgrounds are available on state and federal land
for deer hunters who want to
use them. Cabins and yurts are
available for rent in some parks.
A permit is required to camp on public
land where there is not a campground.
I’m thankful for the abundance of
public hunting land in the UP. Without it, I certainly would not have been
able to hunt as often as I have or been
as successful on whitetails as I have
been over the years. Those same lands
can generate deer hunting memories
for you, too. RPS

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25

Full Draw |
Bowhunting
Late Season
WHITETAILS
by Tom Nelson
Slowly I drew my bow and came to full draw. Then just as
slow, eased it down. Yeah, I told myself, I can still draw
it comfortably. It was late December and the when I had
left my truck some 2 hours ago, the mercury was hovering
around that freezing mark. Now with the sun setting I was
sure that it had dropped significantly. Factor in the steady
northeast breeze and it was down right painful. sitting in
the now bare maple tree. Less than another hour I told
myself and I will be back in the truck cranking out the heat.
Was this late season whitetail hunt really worth it?
Ask any experienced whitetail hunter what his or her preferred time to hunt whitetails is and most will chime in with
either the pre rut or the rut, being their favorite time to bow
hunt whitetails. Both are excellent times to be in the field
in pursuit of antlered bucks. The prerut has bucks ready
to breed checking out the local does. They are not locked
68 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

down with does quite yet and are traveling in and out of
their normal core areas and becoming more and more
careless everyday. The rut has otherwise reclusive bucks
moving all day long in search of receptive does. Both
periods are excellent times to fill your deer tags, but more
often than we want to admit, sometimes Lady Luck does not
smile on us.
A great percentage of bow hunters stow away their gear
once gun season starts. This is quite common as many bow
hunters are two season hunters that also particapate in
Michigan’s firearm season November 15 thru the 30th.
When the late bow season opens December first, many of
us are either tagged out, worn out or just too busy with the
approaching Holidays. Still many others believe that all the
deer are now nocturnal and are laying low, thus decreasing any chance of bow bagging one. In my observations

It is this need to feed that I try to exploit when late season
bow hunting. I try and concentrate on food sources such
as any standing corn or bean
fields, food plots or natural late
s such as
season food sources
white cedar, late falling acorns,
etc. Bucks that had previously been in hiding now are out
seeking these same food sources. Finding a grain field that is
still being utilized by whitetails
is always a great place to start.
Often times I do some long
range scouting with my binoculars and watch from afar
as to spot where and when deer are moving into these
fields. Interesting fact is that deer are more likely to feed
in a field that has suitable cover close by. Cover is rates
right up there with food when winter approaches. So if
at all possible try and locate a food source with nearby
cover.

acclimated to them, they can be very effective for bow
hunting.
Back in my tree stand I dug my hands deeper into my
pockets, the small disposable handwarmers were doing
an admirable job keeping my hands warm. I glanced
around once again and this time was surprised to see
an adult doe sneaking towards me in the high grass
that abutted the food plot. Behind her was another doe
and fawn. Then as if by magic as I
glanced back to the food plot a nice
8 point appeared. Now how did
he sneak in I thought to myself as I
smiled.

DEER

within days of firearm season ending, whitetails once
again begin to return to their normal routines. With winter
knocking on the door, whitetails begin what I call a feeding frenzy. Even hard hunted bucks now worn down from
the rut and with almost no fat reserves, begin to feed in
earnest anticipation of the upcoming winter weather.

Locate a food
source with
Nearby cover

I have several small food plots that are planted specifically for late season hunting. They are surrounded by
dense cover that afford protection from the cold along
with an easy access to and
from these small plots. Perhaps
the most difficult problem of
late season hunting is finding a
suitable tree to place a stand. I
always try and find a tree that
affords at least some cover
from sharp eyed does and
bucks. Conifers are my favorite along with large diameter
oaks. But, often choices are
limited to less than perfect
trees. This is when ground
blinds, both permanent and
portable come into play. As
long as they are placed long
before you plan to bow hunt
from them, to let deer become

Turning my attention back to the big
doe I eased my bow into position
and clipped my release onto the
string. Interesting the buck paid no
attention to the now grazing does.
As the she turned a bit offering a slight quartering away
shot, I drew my bow, carefully aimed and released. The
arrow placement looked perfect as the doe raced into
the high grass and then hooked left running full out. Just
as she was about to disappear she stopped then fell
to the ground less than 60 yards from my stand. My
doe tag was filled and extracting this doe from the field
would not be difficult. Placing my bow on the bow rope
to lower it down, I suddenly realized I was not chilly any
longer.

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

69

Controlling the

COLD
One of the most important keys to filling your late season
deer tag is your ability to stay out in the field hunting,
without succumbing to the cold. Michigan’s liberal
whitetail season affords deer hunters with the opportunity
to hunt into December a month that as a hunter you can
expect a wide range of weather. As Mother Nature starts
throwing sleet and snow along with frigid temperatures
at us, whitetails begin to feed in earnest in anticipation
of the upcoming winter. This need to feed, increases
deer movement and makes it an excellent time to fill the
freezer. As whitetails attempt to stack on the calories and
increase their fat reserves, savvy hunters are doing their
own best to figure out how to stay warm in these adverse
conditions.
We as modern hunters are most fortunate with the many

by Tom Nelson
choices of insulated clothing available today. As a
novice hunter 40 plus years ago, I wore mostly cotton
and wool clothing for warmth. Albeit wool still offers
excellent insulation, it is a bit heavy and bulky. Cotton
although light weight is almost useless when it gets wet
or damp from excursion and can and will make you
colder. Thankfully we now are blessed with a wide array
of hunting clothing that utilizes modern high tech fabrics
that eliminates moisture and still has excellent insulating
properties. Factor in “wind stopper” fabrics available
in many hunting garments and you are on your way to
staying comfortable in even the worst of weather.
You can have the most expensive, heavy insulated cold
weather jacket available and still be uncomfortable
when hunting in the cold. Staying warm starts with
dressing in layers. Start with a light weight base layer.
Fabrics such as polyester or fleece makes a great first
layer. This is a crucial layer for staying warm so buy
the best base layer you can afford. The second layer
should be a mid weight fabric such as Thinsulate, fleece
or the like. I prefer a garment that again is light weight
for this second layer. Try to find a form fitting second
layer to decrease any possible bulk. This will pay off
when you try to draw your bow or shoulder your firearm.

The final layer is the outer shell . This will be your heaviest
layer and for good reason. This is the layer that should
resist, rain, wind and most of all cold. Look for a outer
layer coat or jacket that while still affording good
insulation benefits, is still quiet. Many outer layer coats
incorporate an outside fabric that that can be stiff and
noisy. Sure it helps block the wind and is durable, but it
also might alert deer to your presence when you move
about. Look for a coat with a hood as it is a major
benefit when it comes to keeping you warm. . Your head
is the number one source of heat loss when you are out
hunting. Wearing a good insulated cap is great, but for
real warmth on those blustery December days, pulling
a hood over your head is a life
saver.

still wear felt pack boots when sitting for hours to keep
their feet warm. These boots are bulky and a pain to
walk far in. With light weight rubber boots available with
up to 2000 grams of insulation, there is no excuse for
wearing uncomfortable and bulky boots when hunting.
Slide a pair of Merino wool socks over your feet and
slip into a pair of well insulated boots and you can sit
all day. If your feet are extra sensitive to the cold, add
a chemical foot warmer to each boot. Recently, heated
insoles have been introduced that slip into your boots
and can be turned on and off with the aid of a remote
control. If your feet start to get chilly, simply turn on your
insoles for an hour, then when warmed up, turn them off.
These insoles are rechargeable so there are no batteries
to mess with.

DEER

The last thing you want is to feel restricted or have too
much bulk which may inhibit your ability to draw you
bow or shoulder your firearm correctly.

The final piece of gear that can add to your staying
power when it comes to hunting is a
portable blind. By placing yourself
in a blind out of the weather can
make all the difference. Perhaps part
of it is psychological, but keeping
yourself protected from the elements
can be a game changer. Add in a
little portable heat such as a Stealth
Heater and a hunter can sit in
relative comfort all day. Remember to
keep a window open for ventilation
whenever utilizing any heat source in a blind.

Staying Warm
Starts with
Dressing
in Layers

For many hunters the first body
parts to go when it comes to
getting cold, are your feet and
hands. As mentioned earlier a
good watch cap made of wool or
fleece will keep your body heat in.
For those cold and windy days a
neck gaiter or facemask protects
your neck, cheeks and nose. If you ever find yourself in
a stand with a blustery December wind in your face you
will recognize just how valuable a gaiter of facemask
can be. Keeping your head warm helps maintain your
body heat thus keeping your hands and feet warm.
I do not like to hunt in a pair of large gloves or mittens.
Instead I prefer wearing a thin pair of gloves and
keeping them tucked in a hand muff. Hand muffs strap
around your waist and a hunter can quickly and easily
remove their hands to grab their bow or gun. When it is
extra cold I place a chemical hand warmer inside the
muff for extra warmth. Just having your hands toasty
warm seems to keep the rest of your body warm too.

The majority of hunters who are forced to leave the deer
woods early seem to be forced out because of cold feet.
More than once I have had to call it quits because my
feet were starting to hurt from the cold. With all the cold
weather foot wear available to consumers these days
there is really no excuse to have cold feet. Many hunters

Hunting is supposed to be fun. It surely is not when you
are sitting in your stand and are freezing. The old adage
of “dress for success” holds especially true when it comes
to hunting. Wear the right attire and you will enjoy your
time out hunting even on the coldest of days. Take to the
field underdressed and ill prepared and you can expect
to come home empty handed and miserable.

BDR

Farm Services

Johannesburg, Michigan
Contact: Kellen YoungeDyke
989.370.8721 | kyoungedyke@gmail.com

Food Plots|Excavating
Custom Deer Blinds
Clearing|Shooting Lanes

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

71

Rut Predicting
by Tony Hansen

I look forward to the rut prediction articles in major hunting magazines as much as the next guy.
From Field and Stream’s annual Best Days of the Rut to
Outdoor Life’s Rut Forecast to the Deer and Deer Hunting’s
rut forecasts based on Charles Alsheimer’s lunar theories, I
read them all and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t pay any attention to the advice they give in regards to the “best” days of
the rut.
But here’s the thing: Those predictions are very seldom
correct. Some years, they’re pretty close. But other years,
like last season for example, they couldn’t possibly be more
wrong.
I am not trying to paint myself as a predictor. I’m not. But I spent a fair amount
of the rut in four states last year — South
Dakota, Michigan, Ohio and Kansas —
and this is what I observed in regards to
the rut: It was a classic trickle that had its
first peak on or around November 3 and
another two weeks later. In between things
were painfully slow.

when it decides to be on, you saw great action. But if you
happen to be hunting just a mile down the road, you might
have been lucky to see a single deer.
It was exactly like that in Ohio from Nov. 8-11. And exactly
like that from Nov. 12 through Nov. 16 in Kansas. In Michigan, the rut never seemed to reach fever pitch but started
to ramp up Nov. 14 and didn’t hit that phase where truly
mature deer start to seek heavily until around.
With the gun season opening on Nov. 15, it likely didn’t see
the full impact of that movement as intense hunting pressure will force the movement to occur after dark. But my
trail cameras in both Michigan and Ohio lit
up that with mature buck activity. In Ohio,
the images were taken during daylight. In
Michigan, after dark.

"This year, the
lunar-based theories
have the rutting
moon falling in
mid-November..."

I don’t know why it turned out that way. But I can say with a
high level of confidence that I’ve never seen a more pathetic
excuse for a rut. And that’s not sour grapes. I had one of the
best seasons I’ve ever had. I killed two bucks and both were
pretty good ones. I almost had a third to boot.

So why did it happen so late? I wish I knew.
The fact is, the rut is semi-predictable at
best. It does occur at “roughly” the same
time each year. There is no question that it
does and that it will happen regardless of
weather conditions. I’ve heard plenty of folks say that a cold
front will really “kick start the rut,” That’s nonsense. The
weather has nothing to do with the breeding cycle of a doe.
When she’s in, she’s in. Cold or warm. Dry or wet. She’s in
heat and will be bred.

But I didn’t kill those bucks because they were rutty. I killed
them because I was in the right place at the right time.
Simple as that.

Alsheimer’s lunar theory claimed that the “rutting moon”
would occur Oct. 27 last year and would fire off the chase
phase with tending happening Nov. 3-10. This was actually
pretty accurate – but those dates always seem to be good
each and every year.

The rut was a stop-and-start affair since the last week of October. If you happen to be sitting in a stand in the right area

This year, the lunar-based theories have the rutting moon
falling in mid-November and are predicting a “trickle” rut

72 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

that will be later than normal.
None of these theories seem to
explain why some years are more
intense than others.
In my opinion, the fury of the
rut is absolutely impacted by the
number of estrous does available.
And while the delay in rutting
behavior may seem to indicate
that it took longer for does to
come into heat, I think perhaps
the opposite occurred. I think
the majority of does actually
came in at the same time. Bucks
had little time or reason to seek
or chase because an abundance
of does was readily available.
This would explain why the
rut seems to be more frenzied
now — there are few does left
to breed and bucks are finally
required to compete for them.
I did see decent rutting activity in late October and things
seemed ready to pop the first
couple days of November. But
it never did. To me, this would
indicate that a whole bunch of
does came into heat at roughly
the same time and kept bucks
occupied.
It’s just a theory and I’m sure it’s
a theory full of holes. But that’s
what I’ve observed.
Tony Hansen is an editor with
Outdoor Life and a land specialist
focused on hunting and recreational land in southern Michigan. You can reach him at tony.
hansen@whitetailproperties.com

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The CAMPFIRe
by Shaun McKeon, MUCC Education Director

Mike Leonard, a volunteer with Safari Club International, instructs youth in firearm safety and marksmanship.
With the warm summer days behind us and the gate closed
for the season at camp, it is time to switch gears to outreach
season. In the early fall, mainly September and October
there are opportunities galore to get kids outside and learning
about hunting, fishing, trapping and conservation. Every
weekend there are youth events going on all over the state.
These events are great ways to spend a day outside as a
family getting excited about the upcoming seasons and they
are designed to be lots of fun for the kids.
This season was the busiest season I have been a part of.
Over the course of 4 weekends I was able to represent
MUCC at nine of these outdoor events encompassing roughly
1,500 miles of travel around the state. In total, between these
nine events I was able to speak with roughly 8,500 people.
I was able to talk about the work we are doing with youth
at MUCC through camp and TRACKS and also hold several
seminars to teach kids wildlife identification and about
Michigan waterfowl. I covered events in Bay City, Clayton,
Imlay City, St. Johns, Muskegon, Marquette, Sault Sainte
Marie, Lansing, and St. Joseph.
74 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

The event in Muskegon is called Sportsmen for Youth. 2016
was the 23rd year of this event and they drew a crowd of
over 4,000 people. They get 4,000 people to the event
each year and it is only a six-hour day! There were nearly
500 people lined up outside the gate an hour before the
event started! This event is totally free to anyone under the
age of 17 and all of the youth are given a free t-shirt, a free
lunch, and a bag to fill with giveaways from all of the vendors.
The mission of Sportsmen for Youth is to create a youth day
designed to introduce youth to the great joy of everything
outdoors. The day is educational and fun for the whole family.
Activities offered include: archery shooting, firearm shooting,
live animals, wildlife management demonstrations, and many
more fun educational activities.
As you can imagine this is one of the most popular events in
the state as far as outreach days go and the organizers do a
great job of getting a variety of booths and activities for the
kids. A small sampling of the most popular activities included
The Michigan Anglers hosting an above ground pond
holding 1,000 live trout to allow each child the opportunity

to go fishing! Conservation clubs, the DNR, and
other exhibitors whose organizations bring in live
animals – allowing youth to touch and hold animals
and learn in a safe fun environment. Safari Club
International’s Sensory Safari trailer exhibits animal
mounts from around the world and MUCC was
there showcasing our camp opportunities, TRACKS
magazine, and getting the kids hands on with
animal pelts from Michigan mammals.
Another youth day event, the same weekend was
held in the Maple River State Game area just north
of St. Johns, in Mid-Michigan. This was a much
smaller event in its second year. The Grand River
Chapter of the Michigan Duck Hunters Association
in partnership with the DNR hosted the event. The
goal of the day was to get more kids involved in
waterfowl hunting. During the 4-hour event about
50 people showed up to learn more about duck
and goose hunting. Activities included a duck
cleaning and cooking demonstration, duck calling
lessons, the history of decoys, and how to use
layout blinds and set out decoys. There was also a
demonstration on dog retrieving and clay pigeon
shooting.
With a smaller group of youth attendees and
several volunteers on hand this event provided
a great opportunity for youth to get one on one
instruction. Although it was open to people new
to the sport of waterfolwing, it was held in a state
game area to draw kids who had been out hunting
during the youth waterfowl weekend. The object
was to help these early hunters continue to build
their skills and to welcome them as part of the
hunting community. This was another great event
and it was fun to be included on. Pictures and a
little more information on the event and other things
the club does in the mid-Michigan area can be
found at http://www.grandriverchaptermdha.org/
Finally, the event in Clayton was held at the Lake
Hudson Recreation Area. This event was called
the Great Outdoor Youth Jamboree and was held
by the DNR and Pheasants Forever. This event was
geared towards getting kids hands on and learning
technical skills. Youth who signed up could actually
participate in a chukar hunt as well as enjoy the
many skill building vendor booths. At this booth
I used a spread of decoys to teach waterfowl
identification. Many people were surprised to find
out the diversity of duck species we have living
in Michigan. This event had over 1,200 people
come to the park and enjoy a day of learning new

outdoor skills.
With hunting seasons open around the state, the youth day events wind
down so people can take their new skills out into the woods. A youth
day is a great start to peak a kid’s interest, but what really gets them
hooked is having the chance to actually go out into the woods and go
hunting. If you know a youth who wants to get outside take them with
you, pass on the tradition. Remember its best to hunt with your kids,
not for them, and nobody frames pictures of their kids playing video
games.

Learn more about the
Michgian Out-of-Doors Youth Camp at
www.mucccamp.org.
OCT 2016 | VOL 39 No. 1

Michigan United Conservation Clubs

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WiNter
Goose
Hunting

by Bob Gwizdz

The way our plan had been drawn
up, I figured we had it down
cold. It was in the waning days of
late goose season last year and
we were in a ditch in southern
Midland County -- complete with
fallen trees and brush piles we
could hunker down into so we
were as well hidden as possible -in between two picked cornfields.
Gabe Graham, a guy I’ve hunted
and fished with for a decade or
so now, had scouted the fields for
three successive mornings and had
watched geese – about 1,000, he
guessed – filter into one of them,
where we’d set about six dozen
decoys. It was just barely snowing,

but the weatherman had predicted
a good squall for that morning.
How could it get any better?

Graham jumped up and knocked
down one at about 50 yards and I shot
another. Two out of three ain’t bad.

So, of course, the wind made a
90 degree shift from the direction it
had been coming. And the snow,
which you probably wouldn’t have
noticed if you weren’t looking for
it, never really picked up. Figures,
doesn’t it?

There were seven of us, decked out in
snow camo, enjoying the late goose
season, which started later than usual
last winter. The Department of Natural
Resources has been pushing back the
late season (which has traditionally
opened the first Saturday of January
or even the last Saturday of December
if it fell right at the end of the month)
in recent years so it would coincide
with the so-called February thaw,
when the geese that moved out of
Michigan begin filtering back. Last year
(the season opened Jan. 23 and ran
through Valentine’s Day) the change
was totally unnecessary; we never had
the kind of weather it takes – typically
10 inches of snow or a stretch of days
with 10-degree high temperatures,
which makes it difficult for geese to
feed and freezes up their roosts -- to
make them leave. And they didn’t.

When the first trio of geese
arrived, shortly after shooting time,
they came in on a different flight
path than we’d expected and
they swung wide of our decoy set,
right at marginal shooting range.

Graham’s estimate that there were
1,000 geese around was off by a
factor of at least two and perhaps
more. (And there were hundreds of
mallards circling, too, similar to the way
you see them in the Canadian Prairie
provinces.) It was a spectacle.
The birds were arrived in increasingly
larger bunches. The second group that
gave us a look (but would not commit)
was a flight of six. The next, a group
of eight. And before you knew it they
were flying in flocks of 20 or 30 or
more and there would be six or eight
or 10 of those groups in the air at one
time. That made things tricky.
More than once a single or pair would
peel off from a larger group and come
and give our decoys a look and we
never knew whether we should shoot
WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

79

or let them come in, hopefully land in the decoys, and
then maybe they’d bring the rest of the flock in, too.
We passed up some killer opportunities – geese flying
directly above us, where they are extremely vulnerable
– looking for an even better opportunity from another
group that appeared to be heading our way. But much
more often than not, the remaining birds flared and
the suckers never did drop in and we just missed our
chances.

“Where was this an hour ago?” asked Graham. “If we’d
had this weather first thing this morning we’d have been
done by now.”

The bulk of the geese seemed to change their minds right
at that moment of truth (smelled, a rat, eh?) until Jeff
Kaufman finally said, “We better take these,” as a flock
approached. We did and knocked down a handful of
geese and decided, at that point, we’d shoot first and
ask questions later.

“It was great hunt,” Kaufman said. “Anytime you can get
into the 20s in the late season, it’s a great hunt.”

And we did, too, mostly killing singles or pairs. About the
time the geese thinned out, the snow really started flying.

And that’s the way it is during late goose season. There’s
almost always an opportunity for a great goose hunt.

80 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

After about an hour of no action, we started packing up.
We’d killed 24. Graham was vaguely disappointed -- he
was hoping we’d limit out (five apiece) – but I thought
we had a darn good hunt. Kaufman was even more
tickled.

True. The Canada geese have been educated by hunters
since Sept. 1. Considering we had to shoot most of them
at more distance than ideal, it WAS a great hunt.

geese would be out feeding early.
But the early morning flight failed to
materialize. Only one pair of birds
came by and they flared, right at
shooting range.
A little less than an hour later, I
quartet came by and the four of us,
nestled in an A-frame blind on the
edge of a picked corn field, shot
them. But the snow never arrived and
about the time we were rethinking the
hunt, everything changed.
A flight of birds (maybe 20) came
barreling in on us from the north
and when they drew within range,
Robison called for the shot and we
killed six of them. As they departed,
a foursome swung in, low from the
east, and all four us instinctively
chose the right bird to shoot at
and we killed them all, and then,
suddenly, another small bunch were
on us from the west and we killed
four from that flock: 14 birds in less
than five minutes, giving us 18 by
10:15.

Michigan waterfowl hunters have
enjoyed a late Canada goose
season since the 1980s. Begun as
an experimental season to take
advantage of the resident giant
Canadas, it is now part of the fabric
of Michigan goose hunting.
But it is changing. This winter, the
season will again be later – Jan. 21
– Feb. 11 – but the daily bag limit is
being reduced to from five to three.
It’s an accommodation the DNR
made in order to get a five-goose
daily limit for the entire September
season and a three-bird daily bag
(instead of two) during the regular

And that’s when we started
discussing whether we should stay
and try to fill out our limit – we only
needed two more birds – or call it
good. We went with the latter.

goose season.
I think it’s a smart trade, if for no
other reason, it keeps us from
educating more geese by trying to
scratch out a five-bird limit in winter.
I’m reminded of a hunt I made with
Joe Robison – a DNR biologist and
an excellent goose hunter – during
the 2015 late goose season. We
were out early, in Monroe County,
and had set up with about 100
decoys by shortly after first light.
The weatherman was calling for
morning snow and after two days
of blue skies, Robison figured the

“A lot of times you can burn out
a field waiting to fill your limit,”
Robison said. “Unless it’s the end of
the season, it’s often better to get
out of there and think about the next
hunt. If you’re in a field and you get
a flock of 30 or 40 geese come in, it
doesn’t make a lot of sense if you’re
just going to shoot two out of it.
Leave it for next time.”
(Robison apparently made the right
call; three mornings later, he said, he
and four buddies shot 25 geese – a

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

81

five-man limit – in a couple of hours.)
Robison thinks the later season -- and
the three-bird late season limit -- is the
way to go.
“The late season’s never been a huge
harvest time for Michigan,” he said.
“Sometimes you get frozen out for the
whole season.”
That happened the year before, in the
winter of 2013-14. We had a lot of snow
by opening day of firearms deer season
and it never went away until March.
There were not many geese killed that
late season.
“I used to go to Ontario every year
when they had a season that ran into
later February and we usually shot them
up pretty well,” Robison said. “Usually,
we get a mid-winter thaw and you see
the geese start coming back up from the
south. You start getting those south winds
by around the first of February and a lot
of geese come with them.”
Robison is a big fan of the late season.
“There’s not as much pressure on them
as there is during the regular season,” he
said. “You don’t have all those guys in
the marsh duck hunting that are shooting
at any goose they see. They seem more
relaxed. They’re more predictable.
They’re going to feed because it’s cold
– you don’t know what time of the day,
often it’s the warmest part of the day -but they are going to feed. Early season
they’ll fly into a golf course and sit there
all day long. In the late season they
don’t.”

“I’ve heard from a couple hardcore goose hunters who wanted to
stay with five birds, but you’re not
going to make everybody happy,”
he said. “The majority of people
I’ve heard form said it’s great.”
What’ll happen this year is largely
up to the weather gods. (There are

Reaction from the waterfowl hunting
community to the three-bird daily bag
during late season has been largely
positive, Robison said.

82 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

certainly enough geese around).
But I’ll go out on a limb and predict
the hunting will be better this winter.
Guys will (hopefully) get their three
birds and get out of there and the
next time they go, they’ll have more
less-educated birds to work with.

In
preventing
Aquatic
invasive
species!

Join Michigan United
Conservation Clubs ...

Wash your waders,
Clean your boats,
Dispose of bait properly, and
Learn more at www.mucc.org/tabs/invasives

Ducks Unlimited Restores Two
Square Miles of Saginaw Bay
Wetlands
Wildlife and outdoors enthusiasts have 1,250 additional
acres of managed wetlands near Saginaw Bay thanks to
a major Ducks Unlimited project completed at Shiawassee
National Wildlife Refuge.
Ducks Unlimited staff and partners on Oct. 4 watch water
flowing into part of the restoration project area at Shiawassee
National Wildlife Refuge.
The Maankiki Marsh project at the refuge south of Saginaw
was completed this summer. It converted agricultural land
back into wetlands for the first time in nearly a century.
“This project epitomizes the work Ducks Unlimited can accomplish with our partners, to help make nature whole again,”
said David Brakhage, conservation director at Ducks Unlimited’s Great Lakes/Atlantic Region.
Ducks Unlimited, supporters and conservation partners gathered Oct. 4, at the refuge to celebrate the project’s comple-

TM

MUCC

tion. Event participants opened newly installed flood gates to
reconnect nearly two square miles of drained land back to the
adjacent Shiawassee River.
“This land will be here for many years for us and future generations to enjoy,” said Tom Melius, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service Midwest Region director.
The effort was funded in part by a $1.5 million National Fish
and Wildlife Foundation – Sustain Our Great Lakes grant
via the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, a federal program
designed to target the most significant problems in the Great
Lakes ecosystem. Saginaw Bay Watershed Initiative Network,
Dow Chemical Company and Ducks Unlimited provided
additional financial support.
Ducks Unlimited designed and oversaw construction which
allows refuge managers to control water levels to benefit birds
and fish. The Saginaw Bay area provides many ecological
and social benefits, including habitat for other wetland-dependent fish and wildlife, flood control and abatement, water
quality improvement and areas for outdoor recreation and
education.

LATE
SEASON
SQUIRRELS
by Bob Gwizdz
The first three trees that Daisy
barked on didn’t appear to have
any squirrels anywhere near them.

Doug Gilley with a black squirrel

“Well, that’s about as bad a showing as I’ve ever seen
out of her,” said Doug Gilley, as we maneuvered
through six inches of snow on national forest land in
Alcona County last January. “She’s rusty.”

“Well, I guess we found out what
was going on,” said Gilley, a
retired autoworker and dedicated squirrel-dog enthusiast. “They don’t usually timber that much this late in
the year.”
Gilly is a rare man these days – a dedicated squirrel
hunter.

But at the fourth tree, things changed. While Daisy was
barking on a large oak, Gilley pointed to a tall white
pine maybe 25 yards away.

Guys my age remember when squirrel hunting was a
big deal. When I was a kid, it’s how hunters cut their
teeth. For a lot of reasons.

“I saw that squirrel timbering out of there,” he said. “It’s
in that pine tree.”

For one, youngsters could hunt small game at 12-yearsold back then, but had to be 14 to hunt deer, so plenty
of dads broke their kids in on squirrels. It gave the
youngsters an opportunity to learn how to handle a
firearm safely and, generally speaking, to see some
game. Squirrels are fairly ubiquitous – about all it takes
to find squirrels is a wood lot – and back in the days of
small family farms, just about everybody knew someone who would let them hunt. (And there was always
public land, too.)

Gilley found a sizable sapling, not far from the pine,
and leaned up against it to provide a rest for his .22
rifle. I, meanwhile, circled the tree. The squirrel, fixated
on my motion, began circling the tree in the opposite
direction until it had exposed itself to my partner.
Gilley peered through the rifle scope and squeezed the
trigger. The rifle cracked. A black squirrel tumbled to
the ground.
84 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

But squirrel hunting went by the wayside for a number

of reasons, not the least of which
was the explosion in the deer population. When I was kid in southern
Michigan, if someone even saw a
deer it practically made the newspaper. But as deer numbers have
increased – by the mid-1990s we
were killing nearly a half million
deer a year in Michigan – more
guys gravitated toward deer hunting. Advances in technology (the compound bow and
the in-line muzzleloader,
to name two) expanded the
opportunities. And now,
with the removal of minimum age requirements
and the legalization of
crossbows, youngsters start
out hunting deer and never
have to work their way up
to it. Put all that together with the fact that deer
hunting seasons run from
Oct.1 to Jan. 1, and squirrel hunting just sort of got
squeezed out of the picture.
But there’s been something
of a resurgence in squirrel
hunting in the last decade
or so because of the late
squirrel season. When the
Natural Resources Commission approved a squirrel
season for January and
February – it used to end
on Jan. 1 – hunters had some
time to go afield when they couldn’t
hunt deer.
Gilley, like most Michigan hunters – 90 percent according to
Department of Natural Resources
data – hunts deer, too. But he never
abandoned squirrel hunting and
has found that the late season just
gives him that much more opportunity.

I’ve been hunting with Gilley a day
or two a year for more than a decade now. We always go in the late
season. And we always manage to
bag a good mess of squirrels.
Our day in the woods last winter was typical. We were working
through a mixed stand of oak, pines

Doug Gilley and Daisy
and popple – a little bit of everything – that Gilley prefers when
hunting gray squirrels. When I first
met him, he lived in the Thumb and
hunted in old-age hardwoods, almost entirely for fox squirrels. Now
that he’s moved Up North, he hunts
mostly gray squirrels The grays,
he said, like woods that are thicker
and offer more cover and whenever we hit a patch of largely old-

er-aged trees that day, Gilley would
steer Daisy – his reliable but aging
mountain cur -- toward patches
that offered more stem density. The
strategy seemed to work just fine.
“The grays don’t seem to like the
open woods,” he said.
That’s the conventional wisdom; I’ve found more
fox squirrels in mature
woods – often in parklike stands -- whereas the
grays more often seem to
be in younger habitats.
But it strikes me that grays
may be more dominant;
I live in a neighborhood
that has 90-year-old trees
and when we first moved
in, it was almost entirely
fox squirrels. These days
there seem to be more
grays. (And there's plenty of understory: shrubs,
ornamentals, etc.) There
are old wives’ tales about
gray squirrels neutering
fox squirrels, which is,
I suspect, the common
man’s way of trying to
explain the phenomenon when grays become
more numerous in areas
that were once primarily
fox squirrel territory. But
maybe grays are just more
adaptable, eh?
At any rate, Gilley put Daisy back
in the crate after about two hours
– we had six squirrels in the bag
by then -- and though Daisy can
usually hunt all day long, she’d had
pups recently and wasn’t back in
hunting shape yet. Gilley turned
out Whitey, a young female. Whitey
is a bigger-running dog than Daisy;

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

85

when we first heard her bark,
Gilley’s GPS said she was 350
yards away. Before the day
was done, she was barking
on a tree that was 450 yards
away. Gilley likes big running
dogs – Daisy works a little too
close to his way of thinking -though he's a little concerned
that Whitey will get even
bigger-running as she gains
confidence. And he doesn't
want to have to trudge a half
mile to find her on a tree.

really reach out for them. An
average long shot for me is
about 70 yards. The longest one
I took last year was 110 yards.
I take a shooting stick with me
because I really can’t hold on
them at that distance.
“But as long as I’m not freezing
my butt off, I’ll just shoot them
and let them lay,” he continued.
“Usually I can pick up another
one or two at that same spot.
Whether it’s the breeding season or the males are just chasing each other around, I don’t
know, but if you find one you
find more. That seems more
so in the winter – I see more
of them together in late season
that I do earlier in the season.”

But Whitey also has another
characteristic that Gilley values; she doesn’t bark on the
trail, just when she trees.
“Seems with an openmouthed dog, they run a
lot of squirrels up den trees
or into nests,” he said. “The
squirrels can hear them coming.”
Whitey made six trees over the next
couple of hours and we shot three
squirrels out of them, Twice, when
Whitey was barking, we saw squirrels skedaddling, disappearing into
other trees with holes in the trunks.
Gilley said that if we really wanted
to, we could probably leash the dog
and wait the squirrels out as they
often emerge from their dens when
they sense that the danger has
passed. But we weren’t so much on
a mission to kill squirrels as to hunt
them and enjoy the dogs. We called
it a day one squirrel short of a limit.
Although the bulk of my late-season squirrel hunting has been with
dogs, you don’t have to have a
squirrel dog to make it happen. I’ve
gone out with a .22, often on a sunny, warmish winter day, and either
wandered the hardwoods or taken

a position and sat. Both techniques
have produced for me.
And I’m not the only one.
My buddy Chris Freiburger, a fisheries biologist and regular hunting
and fishing buddy of mine, does it
all the time.
“I went three or four times last
February and sacked them up every
time,” he said.
Freiburger prefers the sit-and-wait
approach over covering ground.
“My late winter approach is with
a .17 caliber so I can reach out
and touch them,” Freiburger said.
“There aren’t any leaves on the trees
and there’s very little cover. And
depending on the how cold the
weather is, it can be a little crunchy.
They can hear you coming. So I
try to move as little as possible and

86 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

Freiburger’s biggest piece of advice is to look down – not up –
when hunting late-season squirrels.
“Look around on the ground,” he
said. “A lot. There’s no mast left on
trees. I find a lot of squirrels on the
ground.
“And do as little moving as possible,
especially after you start shooting
because the squirrels are on high
alert,” he continued. “With no
vegetation out there they can see
forever. Quite honestly, I’ve had
days when I shot my five and never
had to move.”
Winter provides “better squirrel
hunting in my mind, as far as harvesting goes, than the early season,”
Freiburger said. “It’s more efficient.
And when it’s deer season here,
you can’t get in anybody’s woods.
Besides, when it’s deer season, I’m
out deer hunting, too.”

GIVE INVASIVE
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And Before Leaving The Recreation Site.

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• REMOVE plants, animals & mud from boots, gear, pets &
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• STAY on designated roads & trails.
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STOP INVASIVE SPECIES
IN YOUR TRACKS.

Habitat, Hunters fHares
by Darin Potter

ON A LANDSCAPE COVERED WITH FRESH POWDER the
five of us walked towards a thick stand of conifers donning
our favorite piece of orange apparel in hopes of bumping into
a snowshoe hare or two. There was rabbit sign all around us
with more than one pair of tracks on top of each other forming
little runways between cover. Although the snow was deep
we trudged forward with the determination of a seasoned
rabbit dog, which to our disadvantage neglected to show up
for duty on this particular hunt.
Despite the vacant position I considered this job security
as I approached yet one more hinge cut where hare tracks
disappeared into an abyss of safety. My goal was to rouse a
hare out from underneath the cover into the open by stomping on the overlapping conifers in hopes of allowing one of
my hunting companions to take
home some delicious table fare.
Joining me were members of
the Michigan Outdoor Writers
Association (MOWA), including
Michigan United Conservation
Clubs' (MUCC) very own Drew
YoungeDyke. This particular
weekend marked the MOWA’s
annual winter conference, which
included a variety of outdoor
activities. One of these included
hunting snowshoe hare, which
our group decided would be an
endeavor worth trekking through the deep snow and tangled
thickets. Drew enjoyed the challenge of using his compound
bow while the rest of us toted shotguns in hopes of anchoring
a fleeing hare.
Just a week earlier I had participated in one of the MUCC’s
On-the-Ground (OTG) habitat improvement projects joining
Wildlife Volunteer Coordinator Sarah Topp along with seven
other volunteers and DNR Wildlife Division employees, Brian
Piccolo and Tim Riley. Since the inception of the program
in 2013, over 1,000 hunters, trappers, and anglers have
volunteered their time to help improve fish and wildlife habitat
throughout the state during these weekend projects. Last year,
more than 20 OTG projects were completed. These habitat
projects included; tree planting, building brush piles (rabbitat),
fish spawning structures, nesting structures for ducks, and invasive species removal.
This particular OTG project involved creating low lying can88 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

opies for hares by hinge-cutting inside of the Grayling State
Forest. By hinge-cutting, trees are partially cut allowing the
branches of the tree to touch the ground and provide horizontal cover and food. Hinge-cut trees also provide protection
against predators such as owls, hawks, and coyotes. When
the project was finished we had hinge-cut around 150 black
spruce, white spruce, balsam fir trees, along with some cedar
and jack pines. In just one week’s time the snowshoe hares
were already moving around the areas that were hinge-cut,
which was evident by all of the tracks and droppings that we
found throughout the area while hunting.
Although our game vests were void of any snowshoe hare at
the end of the hunt, it didn’t matter. A game vest full of hare
couldn’t replace the camaraderie and appreciation for nature
that each of us received on that winter’s day in Northern Michigan. My
time spent hinge- cutting during the
OTG project the previous weekend
and now hunting in the same location created a sense of pride and
connection to the natural surroundings that I hadn’t felt in a long time.
Creating habitat for the snowshoe
hare made me realize how important
it is to give back to the game animals that we hunt. Sure, the hunting
licenses that I purchase every year
go towards habitat improvement
projects, but I wanted to be a part of creating habitat with
my own bare hands. Although, I had hinge cut on my family’s hunting property and created brush piles for cottontails it
didn’t have the same effect on me. However, attending this
habitat project created a sense of pride and accomplishment.
Our time spent creating hinge cuts in the Grayling State Forest
wasn’t for the personal gain of taking home some delicious
table fare, but simply to improve the snowshoe hare’s habitat. And there is no better feeling then giving back to wildlife,
especially on public land, which we all share.
As I reached yet another cluster of spruce trees that had been
hinge cut I noticed fresh sign from a hare and once again saw
first-hand the importance of creating this type of habitat. Seeing these results was contagious and I found myself wanting to
attend another OTG project in the near future.
To find out more information or volunteer for an OTG project
visit www.mucc.org/ontheground.

E

Bear Hunt That
Brought
Hope
by Anna Mitterling

It was a pretty typical bear-hunting
scenario in a secret location somewhere in northern Michigan. Two
friends, Tom Ringer and Dave Tanney,
were sitting in a pop up blind on the
evening of September 18, 2016. They
had been scouting the area for months,
maintaining bait piles and checking
trail cameras. They had several repeat
bears that they had named, including
a sow and four cubs! The pop up blind
for this particular hunt was just seven
yards from a bear trail they saw several
different bears frequent over the past
several weeks. Needless to
say, it was their first sit of the
season, and they were both nervous and full of excited energy
about the hunt ahead of them.

folks back home how you are feeling
this very second.” Tom choked up for
a moment and humbly replied, “I am
grateful. Thanks Todd, thanks Dave,
thanks Kennedy, Robin, and Debbie.
Anna.” The raw gratitude and emotion
over this moment was difficult to move
from. You see, this story is much bigger than the bear Tom had just shot.
In early 2015 Tom, my best friend
Hannah Ringer’s dad, didn’t think he
would ever be able to hunt again. He
was diagnosed multiple myeloma, a

to reach out to in the Lower Peninsula.
A couple days later, not only did I have
someone who could advise Tom on
good hunting locations, but also a gentleman who was willing to help Tom
scout, bait, and hunt. Not only that,
this guy also had a friend who owned
a luxurious cabin to stay in near the
hunting options!
Dave retired in May. His goal was to
spend a month or so by himself out
west. He put in for elk, moose, and
mule deer tags in New Mexico,
Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, any state out west that had
big game to hunt. Figured that
even if he didn’t get any of those
hunts, he was guaranteed an over
the counter tag in Idaho – they
didn’t usually sell out. Despite
all the applications, and good
odds at being drawn, Dave didn’t
get a single tag. In fact, even in
Idaho, the over the counter tag he was
counting on wasn’t available either. He
questioned, “Why didn’t I get drawn?”

He was diagnosed multiple
myeloma, a type of leukemia,
had three rounds of chemo,
and didn’t respond well.

After a while, they saw a
moving shadow in the brush,
looking up, they saw a big bear
coming in toward the bait.
“Do you think I should shoot
now?” Tom asked Dave. “Yes!” Dave
replied immediately, mostly because
he couldn’t contain his nerves at the
sight of this big bear. Tom released the
bolt from his crossbow, and uttered,
“That was a good hit… I don’t think he
went anywhere… That was a big bear!”
Minutes later, you could hear Tom
faintly ask, “Do you think he’s big? I
didn’t hear him crash at all.” “Dude,”
Dave replied, “You just killed a monster.”
Tom and Dave waited a while to
come out, and upon their exit from
the blind, Dave asked Tom, “Tell the

type of leukemia, had three rounds
of chemo, and didn’t respond well. A
year ago in in August, they completely
killed his immune system then did a
bone marrow transplant. Tom was
horribly weak and lost 70 pounds. He
could barely walk to another room. In
May of this year, Tom started getting
a little better and after gaining some
weight decided he wanted to check
into bear hunting in Michigan – he
had been saving his preference points
for years. Before Tom was sick, he did
a bear hunt in Canada years ago, and
really enjoyed it, wanting to go again.
He contacted me to get advice on who

Then he saw my post on Facebook
about a friend who was looking to bear
hunt in the Red Oak Unit. Dave decided to reply to the post, and I gave Tom
Dave’s cell number. Tom called Dave
the next day, and they made arrangements to meet up for dinner with their
wives and talk about an upcoming
bear-hunt. After meeting Tom, Dave
told his wife, “I am all in, I got it. I now
know why I didn’t get drawn!” And the
next day Tom put in for his bear tag,

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

89

and successfully drew a Red Oak Unit
tag.
For Tom, discovering there are people
out there like Dave, who were willing to help out with and meet a need
Tom was incapable of meeting was an
incredible realization. “I couldn’t have
done without him,” Tom said. Tom’s
wife JP added, “But that is what hunting is about. People just don’t realize
that.” Tom continued on, “It is amazing the people I’ve met since being

sick. Folks like Dave and Todd – they
are so awe-inspiring.” JP would have
customers come into her store, and she
would tell them about Tom going bear
hunting. One of the older gentlemen
started saving bacon grease for him,
each time stating, “ Ya gotta bait with
bacon grease.”
The power of Dave’s ambition to set
Tom up to get a bear went much deeper than simply providing a recreational
opportunity. JP said that Tom’s whole
outlook improved: mentally physically,
he began eating better. He knew he

had to be stronger – not only for the
bear hunt itself, but the whole preparation process. Tom’s feet were numb,
his balance terrible and his overall
strength frequently depleted. Determined to see this through, he would
take his walking sticks and walk laps
around Menards and other big stores
to get into better shape. From the first
time they went out to bait, Dave and JP
could see physical improvements and a
renewed determination in Tom.

Diabetes bear. Dave determined that
if Tom got that bear, the would just call
in a helicopter.

“It was amazing watching him from
the first day to towards the end. His
determination, with his ski poles. He
would talk about his good days and
bad days, I could see the good days
and bad days. Tom would say, ‘Dave
if I get a bear, how will we get it out?’
I promised that if we get a bear, it will
get out, maybe one piece at a time,”
Dave recalled. JP had asked how they
would get a bear out, and Tom assured
her to not even worry about it. Dave
could pack an elk out, and that’s bigger
than a bear. One of the bears on their
camera was magnificent. He was called

too, all just hanging out together. “It
was like living in the world of Bambi.
It is amazing what all goes on out there
that we don’t even know about,” Tom
said. They began naming the bears
they saw. “I love all the names, the
bears almost become friends, it’s really
funny,” said Tom.

90 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

Dave picked out spots that were accessible for Tom. They could still get deep
in the woods via boat, and they were
incredible spots. Tom couldn’t believe
how many different bears they had
coming into the baits – over 11 unique
bears at one site! Tom noted that while
bears were feeding on the bait piles,
raccoons and other critters were there

When Tom first told JP, he said, “I
wonder if I will get a bear, I wonder
if I will even I see a bear, what if we
bait and nothing comes in.” But then
they started bringing in trail camera
pictures and they saw lots of bears.

Tom’s concern developed into, “Which
bear do I get?” Tom couldn’t believe
Dave would share such incredible bear
hunting spots. “Thanks for sharing,”
Tom said. “It goes against conventional
wisdom, and I appreciate it.” Dave said
he knew that sharing these locations
would go and do so many good things.
“Killing a bear, I know it sounds cliché,
but that would just be the icing on the
cake,” Dave replied. “Even just the process of preparing was so much fun.”
Dave, after not hunting bears for years,
had forgotten how much fun bear
hunting was, as he and Tom had so
much fun. Todd, knowing how much
Dave had counted on bow hunting out
West for elk the year he retired, kept
insisting that Dave buy an over the
counter elk tag in Utah and go for two
weeks. Todd made Dave the promise that he would run the baits in his
absence. Finally Dave compromised
with Todd and said that if the Outfitter
in Canada he knew had any openings
for a one week bear hunt, he would
go. There was one opening available,
and Todd was more than willing to
run the baits while Dave was gone.
While hunting, Dave got a Canadian
bear! Todd and his daughter Kennedy, along with Tom, Hannah and her
fiancé Dakota, continued scouting and
maintaining bait piles.
All the hard work and time paid off.
The bolt released, a 24 yard shot. “I
was grinning so big and so much my
cheeks were just hurting,” Tom said.
The bear went 100 yards, through the
nastiest, thickest swamp. Dave and
Todd were finding tiny drops of blood,
crawling on their hands and knees,

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finding the tiniest drops of blood 10
yards apart from each other. Some
were the size of the head of the pin.
Tom could walk through there, but
Todd and Dave were able to find the
bear and drug it out. It was so thick.
They weren’t even sure how the bear go
back there, and they didn’t even hear it
crash through.
The bolt went into the right ribs and
the through both lungs, but didn’t
puncture the far side, so there was
blood coming out the right side, but it
was sparse. When they first looked at
the bear, they were disappointed that it
wasn’t one of the bears they had been
seeing on the trail camera pictures. But
after taking pictures, they realized that
one of the eyes was not reflecting the
flash. It was one of the bears they had
been tracking! Tom had shot One-eye!
They really liked one eye, and when
the figured out which bear this was,
they were thrilled.
After sharing their story, JP said to
Dave, “I know it sure has meant a lot
to Tom, it really did, you have no idea.”
Dave replied, “It has been incredible.”
“Even today, it is just hard to believe.
Everything that you guys did. JP has
been so supportive through all of this,”
Tom uttered, from the depth of his
core.
The gratitude, care, genuine relationship that has been built, this story is
so much bigger than a bear-hunt. It
is about being human, about truly
caring for someone else, about giving
of yourself to see someone else see
victory in their life. This experience
has changed so much for Tom. JP told

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me that not only he has gotten a bearhunt under his belt; he has plans to go
down to hunt deer in Indiana with two
of his granddaughters – Dessie and
Dara. Something just months ago Tom
had considered impossible. A man
who had lost so much hope, now has
found strength and drive to do things
he thought were just past memories or
impossible dreams.
We give each other a hard time sometimes… arguing about APRs, baiting,
hounds, crossbows…. But in my
experience, at the end of the day, we
can all rally around our passion for the
outdoors and the special wild critters
that inhabit our fields and forests. We
are blessed to live in Michigan where
opportunities are endless, and our
hunting family is vast. As we continue to get deeper into our fall hunting
seasons, let’s remember that each hunt,
each moment is one of a kind. Each
individual has a story and a passion for
hunting, fishing, and/or trapping. At
the end of the day, the opportunities
we all have fuel us to get up go to work,
plant some trees, build a blind, train
our dogs, or just sit and chat with our
fellow outdoor enthusiasts.
I propose a toast: Cheers to you Tom!
Congratulations on your bear, but
more so - Tom and Dave - cheers to
friendship.

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WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

91

ICE FISHING 101
by
Bob
Gwizdz

FALL 2016 Michigan Out-

But ice fishing is every bit as
complicated as fishing in open
water, though there is one major
difference: There’s no casting or
trolling. Ice fishing is all about
vertical presentations. But many
of the calculations that go into
open-water fishing -- size of line,
lure or bait selection, action of
the rods – come into play on the
ice, too.
Basically, ice anglers need just
three things to get started –
something to make a hole in the
ice, something to clear out the
hole, and something to fish with.

part, if you’re travelling by
snowmobile or ORV or even
hauling your gear behind you on a
sled, the weight is not an issue.

The alternative to an auger is a
spud, a chisel-like tool (on the
end of a pole) with which anglers
chip holes in the ice. Spuds are
perfectly fine for fishing relatively
thin ice and that’s where they
shine especially brightly as they
also serve as a safety devise.
Simply put, it’s recommended
that all ice fishermen carry a spud

fishing

On the face of it, ice fishing seems
like a pretty simple affair: You punch
a hole in the ice, clear out the slush
and start fishing.

ICE Fishing is All
About Vertical
Presentations

Most anglers use augers – tools
with helical bits – to drill holes.
Most common are hand augers,
tools that require anglers to
manually crank the device to cut
the hole, though power augers
– available in both gasoline
and electric models – are easier
to use, practically required in
places or during periods of
time where the ice is especially
thick, and a lot more expensive
than hand augers. They’re also
heavier, though electrics tend
to be significantly lighter than
gas augers and battery-powered
drills adapted to fit an auger
are all the rage. This can be an
issue if you walk on to the ice
and have any sort of physical
challenges, but, for the most
WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

93

with them and use it as they move
across the ice to test the thickness
of the ice in front of them. This is
significantly less important in the
dead of winter – when you know
there’s a foot of ice or more on the
surface -- but de rigueur during
first and last ice.
A third tool – an ice saw or chain
saw – can be used in conjunction
with an auger or spud to cut a
large opening in the ice. A large
hole is necessary for those who
prefer spearing from a shanty,
though they are often popular with

perch anglers, too, who can see
down into the water and target any
fish they see by dropping the bait
right on them.
Clearing the ice shavings and
slush from the hole is simple
enough with a skimmer (or slush
scoop) which resembles a ladle
with holes in it. Simple plastic
skimmers cost only a couple of
bucks and work well for most
applications, though you can
pay $25 for bigger, fancier metal
contraptions.

When it comes to actual fishing gear,
most anglers prefer short rods (no
more than a couple of feet long) that
allow them to sit close to their holes.
Short rods are required for those
who fish from small shanties, though
there’s a school of ice fishermen
who eschew shelters and prefer to
fish on open ice and actually prefers
longer rods, which offer a number of
advantages, not the least of which is
the ability to make a long, sweeping
hook set. For the most part, the
long-rod set is made up of wellexperienced anglers who have adapted
to a particular style of fishing that
suits them.
Ice fishing rods range from simple
fiberglass blanks fitted into a
dowel for a handle to high-dollar,
ultrasensitive graphite models.
Choosing an appropriate rod is just
like selecting a weapon for openwater angling; you wouldn’t use the
same rod for salmon and bluegills
now would you? But there are a
myriad of choices even among
bluegill anglers. A simple fiberglass
pole – often with just a couple of bent
wires protruding from the handle to
wrap line around – in the right hands
can be just as effective as a graphite
rod and high-dollar reel. One of the
best panfish anglers I’ve ever known
-- Bluegill Bob Miskowski, who is no
longer with us – often used low-cost
rods with simple spring-tension spools
to hold line. It was a rare day that
Miskowski didn’t have a pile of fish
on the ice.
And there are those who do not like
rods at all but prefer to fish tip-ups,
devices that suspend a bait under
the ice and feature a spring-loaded
flag that “tips up” to signal a strike.
Most commonly associated with pike
fishing, tip-ups can be used for any

94 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

Short rods
are required
for those
who fish
from small
shanties
game fish and, truth be known, I know some guys who
prefer to use tip-ups for perch simply because they
allow them to fish three lines effectively. And they can
always be used in conjunction with hand-held rods,
too.
Although Department of Natural Resources’ data is
scant, there’s no doubt that panfish – mostly bluegills,
but crappie and perch, too – make up the vast majority
of ice angling outings. (I’d guess it at about 90
percent.) There’s a simple reason why – panfish,
especially bluegills, are almost ubiquitous. You can
find them in most lakes across the state; it’s less likely
that a lake won’t have ‘gills than it will, and often
those that don’t have perch. And they all make fine
table fare.
For the most part, bluegills can be found in relatively
shallow water, often associated with weed beds, early
in the season. As winter progresses, the fish tend to
move deeper. Bluegills tend to relate to the bottom
at first ice, but will suspend as winter lengthens.
Most bluegill anglers begin with simple baits, either
teardrops or flies, sweetened with spikes (fly larvae)
or wax worms and begin fishing just off bottom,

slowly moving up in the water column until they start
catching fish, then offering their baits at that same
depth as long as it continues to produce. This is one
advantage the long-rod anglers have; they can cover
a much bigger swatch of the water column without
gathering line. If they start on the bottom and hit fish
four or five feet up, they can return to the same depth
by noticing where their rods are in relation to the ice.
Some of the best I know never touch their reels; when
they stick a fish, they just walk backwards until they
pull it from the hole, then drop the bait back down to
the appropriate depth.
In contrast, crappie can be found anywhere in the
water column at any time, from smack on bottom to
right under the ice. They are more difficult to home in
on than gills and, in my experience, less likely to stay
at the same depth over time. A sonar depth finder is a
crappie angler’s best friend.
In any case, light line is standard for panfish angling.
Four-pound test line is probably as heavy as you’ll
ever want, two-pound is better, and some specialists
use mono-filament sewing thread that tests out at
around 3/4th of a pound. Since most panfish anglers
WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

95

use whippy rods, the rods absorb
the shock of setting the hook or
fighting a fish.

except through the ice? The
possibilities are endless.
No discussion of ice fishing is
sufficient without a word about
safety. Every year, we lose anglers
through the ice, a tragedy that can
often have been avoided. Make
sure to test the ice – especially
early and late in the season –
and avoid any areas where there
is current or discoloration or
where something (a dead tree,
for instance) protrudes through.
Carry safety gear –a rope to toss to
someone who breaks through and
ice picks to help you get back on
the ice should you break through.
And go with a partner; no fish is
worth taking unnecessary risks.

The single most important trick to
catching panfish is being able to
detect the bite. The fish can suck in
and reject a bait faster than many
can notice it. Either an extremely
limber rod – the kind that shimmies
when you as much as breathe on
it – or a spring bobber, which is
a thin wire with a loop through
which you thread your line and
extends beyond the last eye of the
rod, can make that a lot easier. But
line-watching works, too; if you
see that line as much as twitch, set
the hook. (High-visibility line helps
here.)
Anglers who prefer to chase bigger
fish – from walleye to lake trout –
typically need more sophisticated
rods and reels with good drags.
Walleye and trout fishermen tend
to jig aggressively, usually with
spoons, jigs or swimming baits
(like a Jigging Rapala), often
tipped with a minnow or minnow
head. The drill is simple: drop
the bait to the bottom, reel in the
slack, and jig. For the most part,
the fish, which relate to the bottom,
will hit the bait on the fall. But
when the fish are being finicky,
you sometimes have to bring them
up in the water column to get
them to bite. A good fish finder is
indispensable when it gets that way
and you can often watch fish on
the depth finder following the bait
up in the water column. There are
times you’ll have to bring the fish
halfway to the surface to get them
to go.
Many walleye anglers fish two
rods – and sometimes put out a

When it comes to ice fishing,
remember your ABCs: Always Be
Careful.

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tip-up as well. In recent years, I’ve
noticed more walleye fishermen
using a dead rod with a live
minnow suspended near bottom.
The thought is, the jigging actions
gets their attention, draws them in,
then they nail the seemingly more
vulnerable minnow. I’ve had days
when the dead rod out-produced
the jigging rod and I’m hearing
more of that from more anglers all
the time.
There are as many opportunities
to fish through the ice as in open
water. Maybe more; ever hear of
anyone hook-and-lining smelt

96 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

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Saginaw Bay
Poised
for a
breakthrough
ice season

e
ey

W

la l

by
Jeff
Nedwick
82 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | FALL 2016

Sensational, attention-grabbing headlines aside, the walleye
fishing on Saginaw Bay this winter really could be the best in
decades. Sure, anglers have probably heard that prediction
before, but the combination of a walleye population that has
exploded beyond anyone’s predictions, ever improving technology and new insights into walleye behavior could make
this a season for the record books.

tion was not up to the capacity of the prey base.”

Today, there are more walleye in Saginaw Bay than at any
time in recent history. But it wasn’t that long ago that restoring the bay’s walleye population was one of the biggest
challenges facing fisheries managers. In the mid-1940’s,
declining water quality, habitat destruction, overharvest from
unregulated commercial fishing and the first wave of invasive
species led to several consecutive years of poor walleye
recruitment. Dave Fielder – the
Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) Fisheries
Research Biologist responsible for
Lake Huron - points out that while
commercial fishing typically gets
the lion’s share of the blame, the
bay’s sudden, dramatic decline
was probably a combination of all
those factors. “The most likely scenario is that the intensive commercial fishing that took place back
then merely hastened the collapse
of the fishery," says Fielder.

Walleye and perch fry were known to be a favorite food
of alewives; especially during the fall when young of the
year walleye exited their spawning rivers at the same time
as alewives entered the bay. However, the extent to which
alewives were responsible for the low survival rate of young
walleye wasn’t entirely understood until they disappeared
and walleye reproductive success took off. “Our studies of
young-of-the-year fish and prey
fish in the first year after the alewife population collapse turned
up scores and scores of young
walleye," says Fielder.

After the population collapse
of the 1940’s, walleye numbers
remained at very low levels until
the early 1980’s when the bay
began to reap the benefits of the
Clean Water Act and the MDNR
was able to start stocking walleye
fingerlings with the assurance that
they could survive to adulthood.
Thanks to the fingerling stocking
program, a great recreational
walleye fishery emerged in the
mid-1980’s. While the fishery appeared to be strong, it was almost entirely dependent upon
stocking. “We had some natural reproduction, but about
80% of the fishery was hatchery-reared fish," says Fielder.
Nevertheless, this somewhat artificial fishery was popular
because the fish grew fast, grew large and were abundant –
as long as the MDNR kept stocking them.
Despite its popularity, problems were on the horizon. “The
growth rate and large size were actually a sign of a problem," says Fielder. “It was a signal that the walleye popula98 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

From “Put and Take” to “Take More”
Nevertheless, the fishery persisted through the 1990’s and
into the early 2000’s until the unexpected happened; the
Lake Huron alewife population suddenly collapsed in 2003.

Until the collapse of the alewife
population, the MDNR believed
two primary factors contributed
equally to poor walleye recruitment; predation by alewives, and
loss of habitat. After the collapse,
it was clear that alewife predation
was by far the biggest contributor.
The effects were so dramatic
that by 2006 stocking was no
longer required and by 2009,
the MDNR had already met their
long-term recovery targets. “It
was something I never thought I’d
see in my lifetime," says Fielder.
“Our stocking program demonstrated that walleye could spawn,
and when the conditions were
right the fish were able to take
advantage of it.”
Today, walleye populations are
at a much higher density than during the years when almost
all fish were stocked. The only down side is that fish are
growing at a more normal rate and trophy fish, while present, are not as plentiful.
Although it’s been 13 years since the demise of the alewives
and seven years since the fishery was declared “recovered”,
Fielder says the population is still evolving and has yet to
reach an equilibrium. He cites declining perch populations as
evidence that the walleye population has grown too dense

Now that the fishery is completely dependent on natural
reproduction, the MDNR monitors it much more closely and is
prepared to adjust regulations annually if needed. However,
Fielder says that population studies after one year under the
new regulations, show little or no impact on walleye populations.
The Digital Age of Walleye Detection
Nobody knows more about ice fishing for walleye on Saginaw Bay than Freshwater Hall of Fame angler Mark Martin.
Martin and his network of experienced pro staffers has hosted
ice fishing schools on Saginaw Bay for more than 20 years; a
generation of collective ice fishing knowledge that has led to
many breakthrough walleye fishing innovations.

“When we first noticed these signals we assumed they were
false readings or ‘noise’ and paid little attention to them”, says
Martin. “But one day I decided to drop a camera down to get
a better look.” What he saw were fish far off to the side – at
the edge of the fish finder’s cone angle.
The explanation for this phenomenon lies in a basic understanding of trigonometry (figure 1). The third leg – or hypotenuse for those who’ve forgotten their trigonometry lessons
– of a right triangle formed by the transducer, the lake bottom
and the far edge of the cone will always be longer than a line
drawn directly from the transducer to the bottom. This means
that the transducer signal travels farther to reach fish on the
outside edge of the cone and is why these fish appear to be
deeper than they actually are.

fishing

and is preying too heavily on perch. In response, the MDNR
has lowered the minimum size limit for walleye from 15 to 13
inches and increased the bag limit from five to eight for Saginaw Bay and most of the Saginaw River.

Much has changed since Martin’s first ice fishing schools on
Saginaw Bay. Advances in navigation and mobility make it
possible to travel farther and safer than ever before and new
fish finding technology and fish catching gear make it easier
to catch them when you get there.
Of all the changes impacting ice fishing, the biggest has been
in technology; specifically, fish finders, underwater cameras
and global positioning systems (GPS), all of which enable
anglers to see fish clearly and track their movements with
precision.
Fish finders have been around since 1957 when Lowrance
launched their “little green box”. Although crude by today’s
standards, those units provided the first window into the world
of walleye under the ice and allowed anglers to monitor
depth and see fish that passed directly below the transducer.

FIGURE 1
Fish approaching from far away will first appear on the fish
finder as a small thin line that sits just below the bottom signal
(figure 2). As the fish approaches the bait, the line will start to
bounce, grow thicker, rise toward and eventually through the
bottom as the fish enters the area directly below the transducer. Although it will appear that the fish has risen from below
bottom, it was simply closing the distance to the lure and
thereby shortening the length of the sonar echo.

Sixty years later and Lowrance still offers portable ice fishing
sonar units but today’s units provide infinitely more precise
views of the lake bottom and fish.
Martin’s years of ice fishing on Saginaw Bay has provided
him with an opportunity to witness firsthand how effective
these modern portable fish finders are at locating fish. Many
new units feature a combination of low, medium and high
frequencies capable of detecting fish far to the side of the
angler’s hole. This technology is incredibly powerful as long
as the angler interprets it correctly.
Such is the case with fish that are detected far to the side of the
hole. These fish often appear below or embedded within the
bottom signal of the fish finder, making them very hard to see.

FIGURE 2
WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS

99

Calling all Walleye
Being able to detect the presence of fish from so far away
is a huge advantage; after all, you can’t catch what isn’t
there. This new insight fundamentally changed Martin’s ice
fishing jigging techniques.
Historically, anglers used a “one size fits all” approach
to jigging. Whether anglers used an aggressive rip - drop
cadence or something subtler, it was assumed that the
technique that attracted walleye to the bait in the first place
would also make them strike.
However, experience has taught Martin that isn’t always
the case. He’s learned the hard way that jigging techniques
that work well to attract walleye can also make them turn
away when they get close. Therefore, when Martin doesn’t
see any fish on the fish finder or he sees one below the
bottom signal that shows no sign of coming closer, he slams
his bait – typically a rattling spoon or swimming lure tipped
with a minnow – aggressively on the bottom a few times
then holds it a couple of feet off the bottom while watching
the graph for a response from any nearby fish. He only jigs
with one rod, opting to dead stick with the other rod. Martin’s preferred dead stick lure is a shiner hooked behind the
dorsal fin on a small jig; either below a tip-up or on an ice
fishing rod in a rod holder s are kept motionless and held in
a rod holder.
At the first indication of an approaching fish – even if it’s a
fish that suddenly appears below the bottom, indicating it’s
still far away – he immediately stops the aggressive jigging
and suspends the lure a couple feet off the bottom. “It’s
critical that you stop the aggressive calling as soon as a fish
is approaching the lure," says Martin. If the fish is quickly
closing in, he leaves the lure motionless, waiting for the
fish to strike either the rod he’s holding or the nearby dead
stick rod. Only if the fish approaches but doesn’t strike does
he move the lure – either raising it a few inches or gently
jigging it in place. If the fish starts to swim away he drops
the lure to the bottom again and tries to call it back.
Going Mobile
There’s a limit to how far a walleye can be called in though.
They can’t respond to a lure they can’t see, hear or feel.
Therefore, anglers must be in the same area code as the
fish or their calling will be for naught. Considering that
Saginaw Bay covers 1,143 square miles, dialing in on that
area code requires planning, preparation and reliable
transportation.
Thankfully, advances in mobility and mapping technology
100 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

allow anglers to travel safely and move easily to locate fish.
Martin begins at the end when searching for Saginaw Bay
walleye at first ice. “You should always go back to the last
place you caught them in open water," says Martin. That’s
provided of course that you caught them in those places just
before the bay froze. Therefore, he suggests fishing as late
as possible into the open water season, saving all the locations as waypoints in a GPS and revisiting those waypoints
when the ice is safe.
In Saginaw Bay, many of these late-fall, early-ice locations
are on the deep edge of sharp drop-offs, humps or points
that extend into deep water – especially if these areas also
feature healthy, green weeds.
As heavy ice and snow cover takes its toll on weed growth,
fish that related to green weeds tend to disperse to other
locations; like rock humps, points or drop-offs.
By late ice, a walleye’s urge to reproduce drives them
toward spawning habitat and in Saginaw Bay that usually
means somewhere near the mouth of the Saginaw River or
the shallow inner bay reefs. “Walleye move progressively
shallower as spring approaches," says Martin, adding that
by March, most fish in the bay are caught in less than six
feet of water and less than a mile from shore.
This migration concentrates thousands of walleye in a
relatively small area easily accessible to anglers on foot
– perhaps too accessible, as this also leads to crowded
conditions.
While the long-term picture for Saginaw Bay remains
somewhat uncertain, one thing is almost guaranteed; there
will be plenty of walleye – and some big ones too – in
Saginaw Bay this winter. And if the weather cooperates and
anglers are able to get to them safely, the winter of 20162017 should go down as one of the best ever.

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OPEN
WATER
WINTER
ANGLING
Winter fishing for most Michigan anglers translates into fishing
through a hole in the ice. But last winter we found that for
much of the season safe ice was questionable, especially in
southern Michigan. And for those that love to fish flowing
water there are lots of rivers open to year around fishing for
steelhead and anadromous brown trout. And, many of these
streams are also home to resident trout. Lake run brown trout
and steelhead remain active even when the water temperature
drops to 32 degrees or less. Stream resident trout are most
active when their environment is between 50 and 65 degrees.
You won’t find any streams with water that warm right now but
luckily trout will still feed, although less frequently, when the
water is much colder.
An event that I have written about before helps describe a
reason trout might actively feed in surprisingly cold conditions.
My partners and I arrived at the Pere Marquette River to fish
for steelhead in January only to find floe and anchor ice in the
stream. This showed us that the river water was super cooled
below 32 degrees. Since we had driven a long distance we
decided to give it a try anyway. Initially we had no action
and ice in our guides and even on our lures made fishing
difficult. We were about to surrender when a steelhead
grabbed my spinner and spurred us on upstream.

by
Jim Bedford

The air temperature rose into the 20s and this allowed the
influx of ground water to overcome the ability of the air to
super cool the stream. The anchor ice began to lift off the
bottom bringing some of the sand and small gravel with it.
In the process insect nymphs and other invertebrates were
dislodged and the brown trout were quick to notice and filled
their stomachs. It was bonanza time for the angler who had
braved the cold as the steelhead turned on along with the
resident brown trout. Enduring anchor ice is still not much fun
so try to fish the warmest parts of the day whenever possible—
midmorning through late afternoon is usually the best time to
be on the stream. Sunny days are often better than cloudy
ones when all other factors are equal. If possible try to plan
your outing during a mid-winter thaw or at least when we are
experiencing some milder weather. If the thaw causes a bit of
snowmelt runoff, that is all the better.
Another testament to the fact that stream browns can be
active occurred more recently. I was fishing Prairie Creek for
steelhead on an early February day and only managed one
smallish five pound steelhead on my way upstream fishing
with silver spinners. On my way back downstream I re-fished
some of the better holes with minnow plugs but found no more
steelhead. But when I fished the hole where I had caught the
WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS 101

STAYING WARM
Staying comfortable is important to
enjoying a winter trout and steelhead outing. Always dress in layers
topped off by a jacket that is both
windproof and waterproof. It may be
too cold to rain, but melting snow can
get you wet, too. A warm hat is also
very important since a bare head is a
top avenue for heat loss. I detest fishing with gloves on but sometime it is
just too cold. Fingerless wool gloves
have been the compromise that
works for me but there many other
choices. Taking a break and putting
your hands under your armpits can
help. Likewise, moving to another
spot can warm you up. Of course
the adrenalin rush of hooking and
landing a steelhead or nice brown is
the ultimate in warming up.
Boot-foot neoprene waders are
ideal for winter wading. Boot-foot
is the key as water pressure tends
to squeeze stocking foot booties
around feet and decreases their
insulating qualities. You can get by
with breathable boot-foot waders by
wearing lots of layers under them.
Be sure to take your time and wade
carefully. Taking a spill in the summer
might only be a nuisance but falling
in the river in January can end your
trip pretty fast. A wading staff can be
very helpful in keeping you upright.
Studded soles can aid in dealing with
ice and slippery rocks. Felt soles are
often not a good winter choice because snow sticks to them and builds
up, making it difficult walking on the
bank when you change locations.

steelhead and a nice brown grabbed
the plug. At 6 pounds it was larger
than the steelhead and the bright red
spots on its flanks gave it away as a
stream resident brown trout. By the
way, lake run browns will darken
and become yellow or orange on
their sides but almost never have red
spots. So, while not totally foolproof,
those browns with bright red spots will
usually be stream resident trout.
We will talk more about winter tactics
later but first we will describe some
of our best streams for winter combo
fishing. Most of our Upper Peninsula
streams are frozen now so we will
concentrate on the Lower Peninsula
and make a clockwise circle starting
in southwest Michigan. In the extreme
southwest corner of the state the South
Branch of the Galien River is stocked
with brown trout and a modest number
of summer steelhead holdovers along
with winter steelhead will be present.
Focus your fishing around the U.S.
12 crossing and upstream. You must
release the browns you catch here. To
the east you will find a good mix of
steelhead and brown trout in the lower
Dowagiac River below the Pucker
Street Dam north of Niles. This stream
is quite a bit larger than the South
Branch of the Galien with room to fly
fish. You can keep a brown or two
for the table here but they must be 15
inches or longer. The water below the
three dams on the lower St. Joseph will
always be relatively free of ice for a
considerable distance.
In the Kalamazoo River watershed only
Swan Creek offers you the chance for
both browns and steelhead. It is open
from 119th Avenue down to its mouth
and the brown trout must be released.
The water stays open for winter fishing
below the Allegan Dam. There are
a bunch more opportunities in the
Grand River watershed for catching
both anadromous and stream trout in
the winter. In Ottawa and Muskegon
Counties Crockery Creek is open
to year around fishing from Moore

102 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

Road down to its confluence with
the Grand. The best trout fishing is in
its upper reaches and the steelhead
chances are better in its lower section
so focusing your effort in the middle
around Ravenna will give you a good
chance at both. The brown and brook
trout here and in the rest of the Grand
tributaries we will describe must be
released.
The Rogue River near Rockford is a
prime steelhead stream but you are
also likely to encounter some browns
and rainbows in the steelhead water
downstream from the dam in Rockford.
The resident rainbows can be harvested
if they are longer than 10 inches. Buck
Creek flows through the suburbs south
of Grand Rapids. It is stocked with
browns but does not receive steelhead
smolts. An occasional stray steelhead
can be caught but you will mostly be
limited to trying to fool some browns
and have the stream to yourself. The
previously mentioned Prairie Creek is
further upstream in Ionia County and
will have steelhead if we have a wet
fall. Try the lower part of the creek
below Nickle Plate Road and don’t be
surprised if you encounter a really big
resident brown.
The northwest part of the Lower
Peninsula is home to some of our best
streams for both trout and steelhead.
The Muskegon will always be ice-free
below Croton Dam and you will find
resident browns and rainbows mixed
in with the steelhead all the way down
to Newaygo. You can keep rainbows
over 10 inches throughout and browns
over 15 inches downstream from
Bridge Street in Newaygo. Moving
north, the White River from Hesperia
downstream and the North Branch
of the White downstream from Arthur
Road are open to catch and release
trout fishing along with the steelhead.
The Pere Marquette River offers
excellent winter fishing for both
steelhead and brown trout. The river
is open in the winter downstream

While the Sturgeon River does not
receive steelhead from the Great Lakes,
it does get a run of rainbows and
browns from Burt Lake. It is open to
fishing in the winter from Afton Road in
Wolverine down to Burt Lake. Moving
toward the sunrise side, the East Branch
of the Au Gres and the Rifle River offer
year around fishing for steelhead
and resident brown trout. Lake run
browns seem to making a comeback
in these streams. The East Branch is
open downstream from M-55 and the
best trout fishing is found in the first few
miles below M-55. The Rifle is open
for winter fishing downstream from
Sage Lake Road. And, again, the best

trout fishing is found in the upper part
of the open water. River ice can be a
problem in both rivers so plan your trip
during a stretch of mild weather. The
lower Au Sable below Foote Dam has
no resident trout but will be a good
back-up for steelhead if you find too
much ice in the Rifle and East Branch of
the Au Gres. Trout are not numerous in
the steelhead water of the Clinton River
below Dequindre Road but there some
that have drifted down stream from
Paint Creek and the upper Clinton. This
river is close to the population centers
of southeast Michigan and offer the
chance for a short afternoon outing in
the winter.

fishing

from M-37. It is flies only and catch
and release from M-37 to Gleason’s
Landing. Check the Michigan Fishing
Guide for additional special regulations.
Some of the best winter fishing is found
between the Rainbow Rapids access
site and Lower Branch Bridge. The Big
South Branch of the Pere Marquette
is also open for trout and steelhead
all year with the best trout fishing in its
middle reaches. It is catch and release
for browns in both rivers but you will
also find some resident rainbows in
these streams that can be kept for the
pan. There are a number of public
access sites on the P.M. in addition to the
road crossings but they might not always
be plowed.
The lower Manistee River below Tippy
dam is an excellent location for both
winter steelhead and trout. Steelhead
are present throughout the lower river
but trout are most numerous in the first
few miles below the dam Ice is never
a problem just below the dam and the
river usually stays open all the way to
High Bridge. You are allowed to keep
browns in the winter here, but all trout
must be 15 inches in length before they
can be harvested. Bear Creek is a
large tributary that joins the Manistee
about 15 river miles below Tippy Dam.
It is open to fishing in the winter from
Road 600 to its confluence with the
Manistee. There are some large resident
browns here along with both brookies
and rainbows. Steelhead numbers will
depend on fall rains. Like the lower
Manistee, you can keep browns and
brookies now but they must be 15 inches
in length.

The Betsie River flows mostly through
Benzie County but dips into Manistee
County and the best steelhead and
trout combo fishing is found here. It is
open up to Kurick Road and browns
must be released. Further north and
east the Jordan River is best known for
its trout fishing but you will also find
steelhead here. It is open all year from
Graves Crossing downstream to Lake
Charlevoix.

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS 103

As described earlier, timing your
outing to match mild weather and the
warmest parts of the day is a key to
winter stream fishing success. A rising
water temperature tends to turn both
trout and steelhead on, and they can
detect and respond to a change of less
than one degree. Note that rising air
temperatures, even if they are colder
than the water will allow the river
temperature to rise.

It is a good idea to choose lures or flies
that will be a substantial meal for trout
rather than trying to match the natural
food. Fish them as slowly as possible
so the fish get a long look at them. A
bright or gaudy fly or lure will get the
attention of the trout and steelhead and
excite them into grabbing your offering.
Remember that steelhead are not
feeding for the most part and invading
their territory with a very noticeable
and irritating lure will usually invoke
a positive response. Look for areas
where the current is gentle. The water
is normally very clear in the winter so
cover is especially important. Logs,
boulders, overhanging vegetation, deep
water, and a riffled surface all provide
security for the trout and steelhead. A
stealthy approach is also important
when fishing the clear water of winter.

Local tackle shops are frequently your
best source for current stream conditions
including the amount of shelf ice. You
can get phone numbers for those close
to your chosen stream by contacting the
local chamber of commerce. For info
on reaching them, contact the Michigan
Chamber of Commerce at (517) 3712100 or go online at www.michamber.
com. The DNR fisheries biologists are
also eager to help with information
on the strengths of runs and the
resident populations as well as current
conditions. Reach them at the phone
numbers listed in the Michigan Fishing
Guide you receive with your license.

104 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

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WINTER
MAGIC

n

Steelhead
Roger Hinchcliff is the author of The Steelhead Manifesto
The Great Lakes has the largest Steelhead population on planet
earth. It’s no secret were truly blessed to have the fishery we do.
But during the winter most are snuggled up next to a fireplace
somewhere inside or maybe a heated ice shanty. But then there’s
the hard core steelhead angler that fishes all winter long. Snow,
ice, slush and numb fingers are the norm sometimes. These
anglers are obsessive, patient and even half-crazy said by most.
This group of anglers is just a different breed and even accused of
almost being cult like.
Those who know winter time steelhead will tell you it’s their favorite time of the year and with the right clothing and gear time on
the water is very doable. With that being said getting these fish
to bite sometimes can also drive an angler insane. These fish are
cold-blooded and this is one reason why winter steelhead fishing
can be tough sometimes; the fish often become less active. In
addition, you’re dealing with over fished fish, which have been
fished over for weeks or even months.
Those winter anglers that know and practice this religion will tell
you if you’re lucky, this can be some of the best fishing of the
year. Now that I have peaked your interest lets delve into how to
catch them and enjoy your time on the water.

By Roger Hinchcliff
Matt Lubaway
Custom Rods

• Custom graphite
rods
• Antique restoration
and rod repairs

751 West River Dr, Commerce, MI 48382
248-790-0386
CustomRods@MattLubaway.com • www.MattLubaway.com

Grizzly Flies
by Schottsie
Todd A. Schotts
Custom Fly Tyer

GrizzlyFlies@yahoo.com

248.410.4164

www.grizzlyfliesbyschottsie.com

888-939-6667 or 231-745-6667
• Lodging, cabins and river guide service on the
Pere Marquette River.
• Fish for salmon, steelhead, trout on the Pere Marquette, Manistee, and Muskegon Rivers.
• Flyfishing or spin tackle.
• Federal & State licensed and insured guide.
Owners: Clint & Debi Anderson
www.redmooselodge.com

WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS 105

WHERE TO FIND THEM?
Larger rivers like the Manistee, Grand,
Muskegon and St. Joe are more popular
because they are not subject to freezing
up as easy as a smaller stream. But do
not discount smaller streams the fishing
can be epic during this time. Look for
eddies, slow deep water or depressions.
The slower the water the better depending on water temps. Look for darker bottoms or even structure such as a boulder
or wood that can deflect the current and
can give the lazy wintering fish a break.
When you see the river flowing
over a submerged boulder or tree,
it causes a swirling boil, giving
away a prime fish holding location. The fish’s goal is to conserve
and not expend energy.
At this time of year, we have
a situation where holding and
resting lye’s are the same. Think
slow moving pools when searching for winter steelhead holding
water. Flat slicks or soft boils and
the deepest water you can find.
Where ever the river slows and
has depth they will hold there.
Deep pools that have direct
sunlight at the warmest part of the
day tend to produce the best as
well. Look for a riffle and where
the water starts to slow down.
The guts and tail outs of the pool
will also hold fish. Lastly many
anglers avoid shelf ice during the
winter months like the plague. Please
remember these fish are trout and I have
caught many tucked up under shelf ice.
Now one touch of shelf ice on your
leader and game over. But trust me it’s
worth the risk.

THINK SMALL
The rule of thumb here is an easy one.
Think small or go home that’s it. Everything must be down sized. The right
presentation has to be slow and low.
The strike zone in the Fall or Spring goes

from 5 feet to inches in the Winter. You
must get your bait within inches of the
fish depending on the water temperature. Once water temps start to dip
below 45 degrees or less steelhead do
not like to move great distances to chase
things. The colder the water the more
you need to bump them on the nose so
to speak. Hence why the steelhead jig
is the most popular choice for the winter
steelhead angler.
Marabou jigs in 1/32 – 1/64 ounce
like the Maxi Jig from Yakima Bait or
Voodoo Tackle. The soft pulsating fibers

COLOR
Steelhead are the most color conscious
fish on planet earth, in my opinion. The
color choice while fishing can make all
the difference in the world.
For example: The color Chartreuse
doesn’t work all the time in winter conditions. Sometimes it can be way too
bright in cold, low clear water during
the winter in my opinion. This color is a
better option in low light at dawn and
dusk.
But during the day instead opt for more
natural subtle tones and colors. Such
as white, olive and black. One highly
over looked color by anglers during
low clear water periods is the color red.
That tip alone was worth the reading
this article I promise. Next Hot Pinks,
Purples and Orange are staples of the
steelhead world under an overcast sky.
Color choices can change throughout
the course of a day. So just because
one color was working in the morning
doesn’t mean mid-day that’s going to
work. If bite slows just changing the
color of your offering can make all the
difference in the world.

of a marabou jig sometimes are irresistible to winter fish. Out West these sizes
are extremely small to them but the norm
here in the Great Lakes. These jigs are
my favorites because of an awesome
color palate and 2X strong hooks are a
must for the prize fighting steelhead.
Even small flies tied with a tungsten
bead such as a black stone fly or green
cadis under a float can be deadly
during the winter bite. The colder the
water the smaller your offering should
be.

106 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

Lastly on color sometimes even none is
better. Remember over fished fish can
get conditioned to seeing the same jigs
and baits coming by day after day. If
fishing is really slow; try a plain lead
head jig with no paint or color on it.
Tipped commonly with a wax worm,
butter worms or wiggler. Another deadly
tactic is a small 1/32 oz. tube jig in
hook size number 10.
Another winter bait option is the Berkley products such as Gulp Maggots,
Hellgrammites or Honey Worms. Many
anglers use spawn, tied up into sacks
of various colors as a bait on hooks as
small as a size 14. Many will even fish
a bag on a jig. Do not tie your spawn
sacks like you do in the Fall or Spring.
Instead try small 2-4 egg bags.
Another favorite method is fishing a

anglers run longer leaders than any
other time of the year. My favorite
leader material to use is fluorocarbon.
Mono works great too and many use it.
But because flouro is a dense material
and it sinks faster it’s my go to. Mono
is near neutral buoyant and actually
floats. I want my jig down slow and
low. Plus, I think it’s less visible to the fish
in low clear water. The most common
leader sizes are 4-8lb leaders in smaller
diameters. With 4-6 lb. being the most
popular.

PRESENTATION

At these lengths the rod acts as a giant
shock absorber that helps tire the fish
out quicker, and its limber enough to
help protect those lighter tippets. Most
tend to use an 11 ft. – 13 ft. rod here in
the Great Lakes. The longer rod will also
help with controlling the drift, line mending and getting those fast hook set’s on
a jig bite.

First patience is a must during the winter.
Sometimes the same drift or presentation
must be covered over and over before
your rewarded. Run your drifts through
the run thoroughly and cover the water.
Sometimes that drift was just 6 more
inches to the right and bobber down.
Because these fish are so lethargic
and not willing to move far to intercept
bait the jig has to been coming down
at the right current speed and in the
right position. But all of these jigs and
baits will be done in vain if you do not
present it right. This tip is invaluable and
tying the right knot so the bait can be
presented right will up your odds. Let me
explain what we call; cocking the jig. If
you tie an improved clinch knot the jig
and offering will eventually slide around
on the eye of the hook with that knot.
The problem with that is; the jig will be
riding more vertical and not horizontal.
Do people still catch fish using that knot?
Yes, of course but by presenting the bait
horizontally you will catch you more fish
I promise. To accomplish this, just use the
Trilene or Palomar Knot. This knot helps
lock the jig in place and achieves that
horizontal presentation which is crucial.
Please see many YouTube videos on
how to tie.

EQUIPMENT
The Winter Steelheader must down
size everything including leader. Most

Remember to dress right so you may
enjoy your time on the water. Wool
cap or gloves are staples during winter
activities. Don’t forget the chemical hand
warmers and dress in layers is always
the best.
If the temps are at freezing or even
colder iced up rod guides can always
be a problem. A quick tip is try PAM
Cooking spray. Use on the top half of
the rod guides. This works like a charm
at slowing up iced up guides.
The float you use is important as well. I
prefer to use a Drennan Loafer Floats.
In sizes No. 3, 4 and 5 these will hold
anywhere between 4.4 to 8 grams of
shot. For those "low and clear" days
out on the stream, using these Floats
will give you an edge to be successful.
They are made of clear
plastic with its shape
allowing a clean strike
with very minimal disturbance at the surface
of the water, when
shotted properly.
Another float option is
Raven floats they have

many sizes and designs for slow, med
and fast water conditions. My favorite
sizes are anything from a 2.8 thru 11
grams depending on river size. By running this style of fixed floats a bobber
can be changed very easily to match
the current run conditions. The faster you
can change out and the longer your
rig is in the water the better chance of
catching a fish.

fishing

single egg presentation with soft and
plastic beads. Most use 6-10 MM sizes
in various colors. My favorite companies are Lickem Lures and Great Lakes
Steelhead Company. Both companies
have an awesome color palate. The single egg can be deadly on spooky wary
fish. If your starting to notice this type of
fishing is no different than any other type
of fishing. Color, Size and Profile is the
name of the game. That rule of thumb is
critical to your success during the winter
bite.

CONCLUSION
If you think small, cover the run thoroughly and change colors often, you’re
going to land more fish. While you’re
out enjoying the peace and solitude this
winter, be sure to dress right and don’t
forget to bring along a Hot Thermos of
Coffee or Soup. This can warm you up
on a cold winters day. Also a camera
is a must have. Some of the best photos
are winter time steelhead with a snow
covered back drop.
Nothing will make you a better fisherman than time spent on the water. I
hope these tips have been beneficial
to you and help you catch more prize
fighting steelhead this winter. Remember
always practice CPR… Catch, Photo and
Release. Think about that then next time
you release a fish. True happiness just
left your hands. So get out this winter
and enjoy our rivers and streams, life is
good here. The winter magic awaits you.

Lake Erie Walleye
& Perch Fishing
Monroe/Luna Pier MI
www.fishstraycat.com

(734) 781-0030

Lake Erie Walleye
& Perch Fishing
Monroe/Luna Pier MI
www.fishstraycat.com

(734) 781-0030
WINTER 2017 | MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS 107

The wild life

by Drew YoungeDyke

I love winter camping. I make it a tradition to do
at least one - and often two - winter backpacking /
scouting / squirrel hunting /snowshoeing expeditions
each year, usually just a night or two.
It's a chance to reduce life down to its essentials, make
sure I'm still as tough as I think I am, and understand
a little how the Finnish side of my family lived
just a couple millenia ago, albeit with an isobutane
backpacking stove.
Winter camping where you hunt can be a great
opportunity to scout for deer habitat and see which
bucks in the area made it through the season. Maybe
get a squirrel or two to cook over the campfire. But
mostly, for me, it's about testing myself.

Scouting in the Pigeon River Country, January 2016

I usually run just a tarp that allows me to build my
campfire within arm's reach of my sleeping bag; very
convenient when it's below zero and you don't want to
get out of your cocoon to stoke it or add another log.
The middle of the night, when the coyotes are howling
around me, when I'm shivering and feel like I can't
possibly move, these are the times that bring me back
year after year.
It's at these times that life focuses to a precise and
unmistakable single course of action: move or freeze
and die, or loose some digits if you're lucky.
The meaning of life is crystal clear in these moments:
Wiggle your toes. Unzip your bag. Put your frozen
boots back on. Trudge through the snow and find dry
wood wherever it may hide. Chop it to size. Stack it
on the embers, get on your knees and blow life back
into it.
If you're cold, get up and build a bigger fire. Yes,
sometimes life really is that simple. Sisu.
Hunt Your Hunt. DKY
108 MICHIGAN OUT-OF-DOORS | WINTER 2017

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