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A Spring
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Official Publication of Michigan United Conservation Clubs

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in action.

Find a VOLUNTEER WILDLIFE HABITAT project near you and sign up at
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Each Michigan Out-of-Doors magazine features
one or two cartoons drawn by Michigan's-own
Jonny Hawkins. I hope they make you laugh as
much as they did us.




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bAsecamp Nick Green, Editor

Conservation is in your blood — even if you don’t

know it. As a hunter or angler, you are the funder
of conservation efforts throughout Michigan and
the nation. You help ensure that game and nongame
wildlife thrive, habitats are strong and that our
policies reflect what is best for the resource.
And that resource you fund is yours.
You may walk the halls of Michigan’s Capitol or
sit in a deer blind once a year; nonetheless, you are
the gatekeeper of our way of life.
Some engage a little deeper — seeing their duty
as a calling. While the quiet, reliable majority carries
on as the citizens who bear the load day in and day
out. Some shout from the rooftops their ideals, and
others plant the seed of conservation in the next
Conservation isn’t partisan. Hunters and
anglers shouldn’t talk about conservation in
Theodore Roosevelt
terms of republicans and democrats, and our
united on that ground. We can plant our flag of
opinions shouldn’t be cast as red or blue. We are
conservation there. And we will fly it until our last
conservationists, first.
breath, together.
At conservation’s core, the resource lends the
A white-tailed deer doesn’t distinguish between
foundation for everything that embodies the term. We
republican or democrat. Our rivers don’t ebb and flow
work to improve the resource, change the resource
according to who is elected to office. And a spring tom
and protect the resource, together. We all work to
will gobble regardless of who controls House and
leave a lasting legacy for those behind us, and most of
Senate majorities.
us do it without an ulterior motive.
We need to live like the resource — ever-changing
We are at a turning point in Michigan’s
and adapting but always constant.
conservation legacy. Will the wheels fall off? Will
Let’s remember what unites us instead of
partisan politics dictate how, what and where my
what divides us. Let’s start there and gain a true
children hunt? Are we treading water until our way
appreciation for those who might stand opposed. Let’s
of life collapses?
remember that a single idea is not always telling of a
No one has a crystal ball. But everyone has
person's character.
the ability to realize we are stronger together than
There will come a time, sooner rather than
divided — as conservationists, as hunters and as
later, when our way of life will come under attack
from those outside of our circle. A united front will
Hunters comprise about six percent of Michigan’s
be needed to ensure that hunting and fishing are
citizens. What does the other 94 percent see when
remembered forever as pillars our state was founded
they watch us infighting, dragging each other down
and spitting on our resource?
We have fought battles together, and we have won
A friend who is not a hunter asked me the other
some of those battles and lost some of those battles.
day what conservation means. Is it baiting; is it
But, we fought them together — as conservationists,
hunting, she asked? I was at a loss for words. As I
thought about it, I realized that what conservation united.
means to me is likely very different than what it
means to you. Yours in Conservation,
One thing that is the same, though, is our love
for the wild, natural world around us. We can stand

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Just finished reading my fall edition

of Michigan Out-of-Doors, and
wanted to get with you on the new
design of the magazine.

The me
Call bedrock of conservation
old school, is taking care of our natural resources so that they can be passed down to future generations. The
but I enjoyed
natural resources that we conserve
the magazine better the old way. today were conserved for us by generations of conservationists preceding us, and these
When are ever-changing
I normally read the mag- and ever-flowing. Here we honor the passing of one generation of conservationists to the next.
azine its from cover to cover,
although my passion is mostly deer
hunting ,and fishing I enjoy reading In memory of
about some of the other passions Marcel Dujardin
as well. from
Mark & Cindy Mico
And I liked it better with the shorter
stories that I could read in just a In memory of
few minutes in the morning before I
head off to work. Paul Cichon
I do like the larger print now that Glenn Hunter & Associates
the years have been added to my
birth date, and the eyes don't do In memory of
so well. But that could be obtained
by reducing the picture sizes. I have
Benjamin Brush
been reading the magazine for
Denny, Peanut Butter,George, Drew, Paul, Ken, Bowjammer,
probably over 40 years now, and
Tim, Alan & Steve
hunting, and fishing the out doors
for probably 10 years more than
In memory of
that, and still find them both to be
refreshing, and joyful. I also liked Mark Battaglia
the smaller paper size of the old from
magazine, and soft covers for this Amy Elizabeth Battaglia
allowed you to fold the pages and
hold it in one had comfortably. I In memory of
know I'm only one person and like
your final story different from all Dennis Knickerbocker
others, but I really like the old mag- from
azine much better. And truly agree Amy Trotter, Terry & Jill Dedoes and Albert & Louise Massey
to Hunt Your Own Hunt.
In memory of
But do it ethically and honestly.
John Stark
Sincerely, DeLoy C. Clark
John & Suzanne Stark, Fath Oltman, Richard & Karen Morrin, Elizabeth Shumaker, Michael & Diane Sedlar and Roger & Mary
Muckegon, MI

In memory of
DEAR SIR, Alan Edwards
Having recently finished reading the Michigan Community Services, Inc.
new format magazine, my first im-
pression in a word is "slick". Upon
If you have recently lost someone you would like to honor here,
please contact Sue Pride at

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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 Life Members
of Michigan United Conservation Clubs:

Andy Little of Ortonville, MI

Bill Humphrey of Dewitt, MI
Rory Hunter of Seven Fields, PA
Walter Ewing of Canadian Lakes, MI

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 $1,000 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 or visit and select "Life Membership."

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NICK GREEN 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.
PRESIDENT Representing more than 50,000 members and supporters and
approximately 250 affiliated conservation clubs, MUCC is the
largest state-specific conservation organization in the nation.
THOMAS HERITIER MUCC members determine the organization's conservation
policies through a robust grassroots process, which MUCC
VICE PRESIDENT staff works to implement by working with elected officials, state
GREG PETER and federal agencies, its members and the public. MUCC has
published Michigan Out-of-Doors since 1947 and operates
TREASURER the Michigan Out-of-Doors Youth Camp in Chelsea, MI. Learn
FRAN YEAGER more about the full range of programs MUCC uses to advance
conservation in Michigan and become a member at www.mucc.
MUCC Staff
JACK VANRHEE Executive Director Deputy Director
DOUG KRIZANIC Wildlife Co-op Coordinator Digital Media Coordinator
Habitat Volunteer Coordinator Education Director
Michigan Out-of-Doors (ISSN 0026-2382) is the official publication of
Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC), 2101 Wood St., Lansing
MI 48912, and is published quarterly. Telephone: 517.371.1041.
Receipt of this publication is through membership in MUCC. For Membership Relations Camp Director, Educator
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 EMMA NEHAN
changes to Michigan Out-of-Doors, PO Box 30235, Lansing MI 48909.
All advertising communications should be sent to PO Box 30235. Policy and Special Events Assistant On the Water Coordinator
Views expressed by freelance writers are their own and do not nec-
essarily express those of Michigan Out-of-Doors or Michigan United
Conservation Clubs. Copyright 2020 by Michigan United Conservation NICK GREEN JOE DEWAN
Clubs (MUCC). The Copyright Act of 1976 prohibits the reproduction of
Public Information Officer Huron Pines AmeriCorps Member
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@michiganoutof-

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Great Lakes: Spring Forward, Not Back Director's Desk
Amy Trotter, MUCC Executive Director

It’s a new decade, and we are on to more new

beginnings. The Great Lakes are a jewel that defines
our borders and helps to narrate the story of the
exploitation and conservation of our natural resources
throughout Michigan’s history.
MUCC has been an advocate for water quality and
the Great Lakes long before I joined this storied orga-
nization of hunters, trappers, anglers and conserva-
tionists. Back in the 1960s, MUCC passed policy resolu-
tions supporting increased regulations on commercial
fishing and pollution-elimination measures, supported
bans on phosphorus in laundry detergents in the
1970s, dug into the direct discharges of sewage into our
waterways for the last 50 years, fought water diver-
sions from the Great Lakes in the 2000s and looked for
ways to prevent zebra mussels in the 1990s and Asian
carp in the last decade.
These are not efforts we undertake alone; we rely
on coalitions and our grassroots members to support
this work at all levels of government.
As we began a new decade, many of the past issues
are still before us because state and federal policies
and funding have not evolved as fast as the challenges.
MUCC is once again working to modernize the
commercial fishing regulations, and we are working
with National Wildlife Federation to find ways to
decrease harmful algal blooms in Lake Erie while
at the same time trying to quantify the economic
impacts of these blooms on the fishing and tourism MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter holds a lake trout she
economy. We have joined with the Healing our Waters caught during a Legislative Sportsmen's Caucus event near
(HOW) Coalition. Since HOW’s inception in 2004, it Ludington in July 2019.
has seen significant victories including playing a
critical role in the establishment of the Great Lakes as hug it if it means better wildlife habitat. But, at the
Regional Collaboration Strategy, bringing more than same time, we don’t advocate for the elimination of
$2.9 billion in funding for the Great Lakes Restoration wolves in Michigan either. To me, that is the ultimate
Initiative through strong, bipartisan collaboration, and definition of a conservationist.
advocating for federal action and funding to address Instead, I think I will take a page out of the
critical Great Lakes issues. Asian carp prevention is Colorado Wildlife Council ad campaign — Hug a
closer than before, with the State of Illinois on the Hunter and Hug an Angler. Because in today’s highly-
verge of signing a design agreement that would start charged political environment, what matters more is
the preconstruction, engineering and design of the that we are not red or blue, but camo.
Brandon Road Lock and Dam project.
In my first year as MUCC’s executive director, Yours in Conservation,
I have been called a tree-hugging liberal and a wolf
killer, and any number of incorrect insults casting
dispersions on our policy stances. Our work on
protecting and restoring the Great Lakes does nothing,
in my opinion, to reduce our credibility and efforts
on defending hunting and trapping, increasing and
enhancing recreational opportunity and promoting
wise use and scientific management of natural
resources. And I would just as soon cut down a tree

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 7

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In each issue of Michigan Out-of-Doors, we highlight
some of the recent cases our brave Michigan Department
of Natural Resources conservation officers handle. You don't
want to find yourself on this list.

November 3 to November 30, 2019 stated, if it weren’t for the driver the surrounding area.
being properly stabilized while
Quick actions of CO save a life trapped in the vehicle, he likely Only shoot in a safe direction
would be paralyzed.
CO Chris Lynch was on patrol During the opening weekend
when a call came out for a vehicle Eye in the sky of Michigan's firearm deer
that rolled over and the driver season, CO Mike Haas received a
was trapped inside. During an airplane assisted complaint from Isabella County
CO Lynch was the first on patrol on November 16, a large Central Dispatch.
scene of the accident. The truck number of waterfowl were A couple was sitting in their
was tipped on its passenger side observed flying over Lake house when they heard a loud
with the driver still strapped into Leelanau by Sgt. Dan Bigger, who crash outside. They noticed their
the driver’s seat. The driver had was one of the ground units. truck windows had been broken
severe head bleeding as well as Shortly after the waterfowl by what they thought was a bullet.
neck and back pain. flew south to the river inlet, shots CO Haas investigated the
CO Lynch called for a heli- were heard. The airplane being area and located the path of
copter to transport the subject used was a float plane so Sgt. the bullet. A bullet had hit the
to a hospital and for the jaws Bigger asked if the pilot would be truck's driver side window, the
of life. CO Lynch rendered aid able to land the plane and have CO driver’s seat headrest, the rear
to the subject’s head to control William Haskin row up and check passenger window, the door frame
the bleeding and then reached the duck blinds and waterfowl of another car, and into a carport
through the front windshield hunters. wall.
of the truck to hold c-spine to After checking different CO Haas then followed the
prevent further spinal injury. groups of hunters, CO Haskin bullet’s path to a nearby farm
The subject had to be held for located an unplugged firearm in field and was able to determine
over 30 minutes while emergency one group and violations for no where the hunter was standing
personal used the jaws of life Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs) when they had shot the bullet.
to extract the subject from the in another group. A group of hunters were inter-
vehicle. The subject was eventu- Other area COs on the ground viewed, and it was discovered that
ally successfully removed from were able to observe the contact a juvenile had fired the bullet.
the vehicle and airlifted to the and assist in the issuance of The adult chaperoning the
hospital. citations to allow the plane to hunt was held responsible for not
The subject sustained a frac- continue the flight that was properly supervising the juvenile
tured vertebra in his neck and focusing on bait, feed, and other and charges are pending to
lacerations to his head from the possible violations along the address the negligent discharging
crash. Medical personnel later shoreline of Leelanau County and of a firearm and damage to

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private property. County. With the assistance of COs Tag it before you bag it
Ryan Andrews and Brian Brosky,
The opposite of a serenade contact was made at the residence in CO Nick Ingersoll received a
question. complaint that a hunter was drag-
CO Ethen Mapes responded to A hunter admitted to CO ging a deer out of the woods without
a hunter harassment complaint in Killingbeck that he had shot an a kill-tag attached.
Charlevoix County. 8-point buck but that it was not after CO Ingersoll responded to the
The complaint stated that every dark. The COs could see a bait pile area and located a hunter who was
evening during hunting hours, a behind a shed that had several flood processing his deer near the roadway
subject would start playing a saxo- lights overlooking the bait pile. in a field. CO Ingersoll watched as
phone outside. The hunters stated CO Killingbeck asked to see the hunters field dressed the deer
that the deer would get spooked and the hunter’s license and the hunter and waited to see if they were going
clear the area as soon as he started produced both combination deer to attach a kill-tag.
playing. licenses. The hunter soon admitted The hunters eventually drug
CO Mapes contacted the saxo- to not tagging the 8-point he had the deer up to the road where their
phone player who stated that he taken. truck was sitting; the deer was in
wasn’t trying to scare the deer. The While looking at the 8-point deer their possession without a kill-tag
man stated that the deer like it when that was untagged, the COs observed attached. CO Ingersoll contacted the
he plays saxophone and it shouldn’t a second deer head. The hunter hunters and asked why they did not
bother anyone’s hunting. advised that his grandson had shot tag the deer yet, and they stated that
CO Mapes and the man came the second deer. Both hunters told they did not have the tags with them.
up with a plan that he would play the COs that they had shot the deer CO Ingersoll was able to confirm
the saxophone inside during deer at a stand behind the residence. that the hunter did have valid tags
season and if playing outside, the The COs looked at the blind through checking the hunter’s RSS
man would play around lunch time with the hunters and observed no history. CO Ingersoll asked the
or after dark. tracks whatsoever in the snow near hunters what they were going to
the blind. One subject said that his do with the deer, and they advised
A picture worth a thousand words tracks had disappeared in the snow they were going to load it into the
along with deer drag marks. The truck and go home and process it
CO Raymond Gardner received COs discovered a large patch of themselves.
a complaint about a subject who blood over the bait pile behind the CO Ingersoll advised them that
harvested a 13-point buck and then residence. they were required to immediately
bought a deer license after. The subject with the 8-point tag and validate the deer before
CO Gardner contacted the buck kept telling CO Killingbeck transporting it through the woods
subject and interviewed him. The that he had shot the buck with a .243. and to the truck. CO Ingersoll
subject told CO Gardner that he shot However, there were no bullet holes advised the hunter that he needed to
the deer on the day after purchasing in the deer’s body cavity. The COs tag the deer before he transported
his license. CO Gardner asked the discovered a small caliber hole in the deer back to his residence.
suspect if he had pictures of the the head of the 8-point. After several CO Ingersoll waited an hour for
deer on his phone. more stories, the truth was obtained the hunter’s wife to bring his tag to
The subject told CO Gardner from both hunters. them, where CO Ingersoll and the
that he had pictures and showed The COs learned that the 8-point hunter validated and attached the
them to him. had been shot with a .22 the day kill-tag to the deer.
After CO Gardner showed the before firearm deer season opened The hunter was issued a citation
suspect that the time/date stamp over the bait pile. The second buck for failure to immediately validate
on the pictures were before he had had been shot by another hunter at 1 and attach a kill-tag and admitted he
purchased a license, the subject AM over the lighted bait pile with a would have drove home without a
confessed. crossbow. kill-tag attached if CO Ingersoll did
CO Gardner seized the head and The COs seized the deer, a .22 not contact him.
antlers as evidence and donated the with a lighted scope and mounted
meat. A report will be submitted flashlight, and a crossbow with a
to the Lapeer County Prosecutor’s lighted scope and attached flashlight.
These reports are
Office. A report is being sent to the Lake randomly pulled from the
County Prosecutor’s Office for DNR Law Enforcement
Piles of evidence numerous charges related to the
illegal taking of both deer. Division's bi-weekly
CO Josiah Killingbeck received reports.
an anonymous tip of shots fired
after dark at a residence in Lake

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 9

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For more than 25 years Mike Avery has
informed and entertained hunters and
anglers across Michigan. His experience
and common sense philosophy have made
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MUCC's OTG ("On the Ground") program is
in its eighth year, with multiple projects planned
across all ages and experience levels throughout
the state. Volunteers participate in a variety of
Improving Michigan's Public Lands Since 2013 wildlife habitat projects on public land and are
provided an opportunity to engage in hands-on

conservation while learning about wildlife habitat

About 3,000 volunteers have improved fish

2,199 3,001
and game habitat through weekend projects that
involve building brush piles, removing invasive
trees, restoring grassland habitat through native
flower and grass plantings, hinge-cutting trees for
Acres Improved Volunteers deer and snowshoe hare, installing wood duck
boxes, regenerating aspen stands, performing

river clean-ups and planting a variety of trees for
wildlife food and cover.

Volunteer Hours In March, we will be building rabbitat in Clare

County (3/07) and hosting two chainsaw safety
courses (3/14-15; 3/28-29), while April finds us
planting trees at Fulton State Game Area (4/22)
and in the Gladwin State Forest (4/25). April
also marks the start of our OTG Jr. season, which
brings students across Michigan outdoors to
improve wildlife habitat in their local communities.
In May, OTG will return to the Upper Peninsula
and plant mast-producing trees in the Gwinn
State Forest Area (5/16). We also events have
events planned for later in the summer and early
fall, so keep an eye out for wildlife volunteer
opportunities near you!

For more information on the event dates, details

and to register, please visit
the-ground or contact MUCC Habitat Volunteer
Coordinator Makhayla LaButte at mlabutte@ or 517-346-6456.

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Congress Shows Bipartisanship
Still Possible with Conservation
House and Senate. recreational shooters have paid
By Drew YoungeDyke, National These measures address into the fund for wildlife recovery
Wildlife Federation conservation priorities ranging through excise taxes on hunting
from hunter recruitment to chronic and shooting equipment, but
Despite the dominant political wasting disease research and declining hunting participa-
climate, bipartisanship still exists wildlife recovery, public lands and tion risks a decrease in wildlife
for some conservation priorities. invasive species funding. conservation funding through the
Building on the bipartisan The Modernizing the Pittman- Pittman-Robertson Fund.
success of the John D. Dingell Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s When the final 2020 budget
Conservation, Management, and Needs Act will provide state deal was passed, this language was
Recreation Act, which permanently wildlife agencies the flexibility to included, so it became law when
reauthorized the Land and Water use some of the hunter education President Trump signed it in late
Conservation Fund when signed allocation they get from the fund December 2019.
into law in early 2019, multiple for marketing and outreach efforts “The health of the lands,
pieces of bipartisan conservation to increase hunter recruitment, waters, and wildlife we care deeply
legislation have been passed or are retention and reactivation. about depend on funds generated
working their way through the U.S. Since 1937, hunters and through the excise tax applied

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Spring 2020.indd 14 2/12/2020 1:19:09 PM

through the Pittman-Robertson
Act,” said Marcia Brownlee,
program manager for Artemis
Sportswomen with the National
Wildlife Federation. “The partici-
pation of women is one segment of
hunting that is increasing, and this
legislation can help reach a more
diverse demographic and reverse
the current decline of hunting
participation and conservation
The budget agreement also
included $25 million for the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service to fight
Asian carp, of which $2.5 million
must be allocated for contract
fishing to remove invasive Asian
carp from waters they already
inhabit, such as in Tennessee and
It includes $10.6 million for the
U.S. Geological Survey to research
ways to control and eradicate offshore oil and gas royalties which Federation.
Asian carp, and $50,000 for the U.S. fund it. The ACE Act unanimously
Army Corps of Engineers to start The Pittman-Robertson passed the Senate in early January
preconstruction engineering and Modernization Act language 2020 but still needs House passage.
design work on the Brandon Road was also originally included in a On the House side, an even bigger
Lock and Dam project — intended Senate bill called the America’s conservation package is moving
to block Asian carp from invading Conservation Enhancement (ACE) with significant bipartisan support.
the Great Lakes while maintaining Act, but it was removed after it The Recovering America’s
shipping in the Chicago Area passed in the budget deal. Wildlife Act, introduced by Reps.
Waterway System — as well as The ACE Act still includes the Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) and
$13.9 million to complete an electric establishment of a chronic wasting Debbie Dingell (D-Mich.), would
dispersal barrier in the waterway disease task force, commissioning direct almost $1.4 billion to state
system. a study from National Academy of and tribal wildlife agencies to
“We applaud the foresight of Sciences on how CWD is spread, recover the almost one-third of
congressional leaders who came reauthorization for the North species at risk in the United States,
together on this issue. Asian American Wetlands Conservation identified as species of greatest
carp are wreaking havoc on our Act (NAWCA) and the National conservation need in state wildlife
aquatic ecosystems — including Fish and Wildlife Foundation action plans.
many threatened and endangered Act through 2025, fish habitat $1.3 billion would go to state
species — while also making rivers and conservation partnerships, wildlife agencies to implement
and lakes unusable for recreation, reimbursement measures for those existing plans to recover
destroying local economies,” said livestock producers suffering loss wildlife, with the remaining $97.5
Michael Butler, CEO of Tennessee to federally protected species, and million going to tribal nations for
Wildlife Federation (NWF’s establishing a Theodore Roosevelt wildlife recovery on tribal lands.
Tennessee affiliate) which led the genius prize for innovative, “The Recovering America’s
effort secure additional Asian non-lethal technical solutions to Wildlife Act is the most significant
carp funding for their part of the prevent wildlife conflict piece of wildlife legislation since
country. “At a time when one-third of the Endangered Species Act passed
The budget deal also increased wildlife species are at heightened in 1973,” O’Mara said.
for the Great Lakes Restoration risk of extinction and lawmakers While the dominant news head-
Initiative by $20 million to struggle to agree on anything, lines would suggest that Congress
$320 million and a $57 million the Senate is again showing that is hopelessly divided along partisan
increase for the Land and Water conservation can bring our leaders lines, conservation continues to
Conservation Fund to $495 million, together to achieve real progress,” prove a uniting force that crosses
though this is still far short of the said Collin O’Mara, president political boundaries and shows that
$900 million authorized from the and CEO of the National Wildlife bipartisanship is still possible.

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 13

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Is the NRC
"Ripe for Reform?"
By Charlie Booher This history is important because it has laid the
MUCC Policy Intern groundwork for the system that we have — laying forth
all of its virtues and vices. These vices have not shown
In the fall of 2019, debate over wildlife manage- themselves more clearly than in the final months of
ment authority in Lansing came to a head. This is 2019.
not a new fight, nor is it one that is likely to go away In November, some members of the state legisla-
anytime soon; so, it is an important issue for us as ture sought to overturn an NRC decision through the
conservationists to know about and weigh in on. passage of a bill to allow baiting and feeding of deer
In 1996, the citizens of the state of Michigan passed (H.B. 4687). At the same time, the NRC was moving
ballot measure G, a proposal that granted the Natural forward with an order regarding brook trout limits
Resources Commission (NRC) exclusive authority to for 33 streams in the Upper Peninsula. Under this
regulate the manner and method of take of game and order, the creel limit would be changed from five to 10,
sportfish. This initiative passed by a ratio of two-to- leading many groups, including MUCC, to question
one, making it clear that the people of this state want the use of the best available science in making this
science to dictate wildlife management. Later, the NRC decision.
was further authorized to designate game species and Trout Unlimited sought recourse of the NRC
to establish the first open season for animals through through litigation, but that case was dismissed with a
the issuance of orders through the Scientific Wildlife January NRC vote to remove the 10-brook-trout creel
Management Act of 2014. This decision was reaffirmed limit. Thus, the legislature could be seen as disre-
in the Scientific Wildlife Management Act of 2016. garding Proposal G in the same month that the NRC

MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter testifies in front of the NRC in late 2019 about the commission's decision to instate
a 10-brook-trout bag limit on 33 Upper Peninsula streams despite objections from stakeholders, the Michigan DNR and

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Spring 2020.indd 16 2/12/2020 1:19:09 PM

tough position. As advocates of Proposal G, groups
like MUCC support the authority of the NRC to make
decisions regarding wildlife management and defend
that authority. However, we are also tasked to ensure
that the NRC continues to incorporate the best avail-
able science into the regulations that they set.
So, the pressure builds. Some would like to see
the NRC done away with, as they do not directly
represent voters as state legislators do. Others would
like to see the NRC given greater regulatory authority
over the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Regardless, this issue is ripe for reform, and the
conservation community must be involved.
So the question becomes: how can we better incorpo-
rate science into policy-making?
It is a question that has been arising for many,
many years and one that I decided to dedicate a
significant amount of time to studying. Over the last
four years, I have pursued a dual-degree program at
Michigan State University: one Bachelor’s of Arts in
Public Policy and a Bachelor’s of Science in Fisheries
& Wildlife Conservation. I have had the privilege of
working at this intersection nearly every day during
that time, yet it is still a challenge for me to wrap
my head around all of the moving parts involved in
this equation. However, in that time, I have been able
to consider several things that could close the gap
between researchers and policymakers.
Here in Michigan, many see rules surrounding
NRC appointments as the best way forward in closing
was accused of ignoring its obligation to incorporate this gap. As of this writing, NRC commissioners are
science in management decisions. As of January 2020, not required to have any expertise, experience or
the NRC reconsidered their decision to incorporate the training in fisheries or wildlife management. Rather
input of agency and university researchers further. than wholly discard the NRC, many individuals have
Regardless, this conflict points to a bigger issue in our proposed a reform that would establish criteria by
system. which commissioners could be appointed.
At one point, we at Michigan United Conservation In June of 2019, members of Michigan United
Clubs (MUCC) were working through multiple institu- Conservation Clubs unanimously passed a resolu-
tions, with differing authorities, to maintain scientific tion to work with the state legislature and MDNR to
wildlife management in the state of Michigan. “develop qualification and eligibility criteria which
The NRC is made up of a panel of seven residents seeks to populate the NRC with members who have
from across the state whose job is to make decisions a demonstrated interest in both game and nongame
based on sound science, not politics or emotions. As fisheries and wildlife, natural resource management,
this logic goes, by removing commissioners from the outdoor recreation, a history of personal participation
electoral process, the commission is not beholden to in these activities and suitable educational and profes-
any constituents. sional background.”
However, this description does not fully appre- This resolution also seeks to find commissioners
ciate the nuances of the scientific method, nor what from diverse backgrounds, encourage an even
“science” really is or does. Science is, based on a geographic distribution and to preclude former state
common definition, “a process by which people legislators and relevant agency personnel from service
systematically study the structure and behavior of the for a period of time.
physical and natural world through observation and There are significant challenges to these changes
experiment.” — especially in finding high-quality candidates who
It provides predictive power and may inform deci- do not work in this field already or have a conflict of
sions, but it cannot make decisions for us. Decision- interest with the commission. However, with these
making, rule- and regulation-setting are elements simple additions, I believe that we might significantly
of governance that can (and, in my opinion, should) increase the capacity of the commission to make the
incorporate science. best decisions possible for the wildlife and fisheries of
This put us in the conservation community in a the state of Michigan.

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 15

Spring 2020.indd 17 2/12/2020 1:19:09 PM

in g Re v
r By Erick Johnson
A Sp


16 |
16 |
Spring 2020.indd 18 2/12/2020 1:19:10 PM
rowing up in Michigan, So when my good friend Jeff invited responses and saw plenty of
springtime has always me to join him spring turkey turkeys, including some real boss
been a time of revival for hunting, I was a little skeptical at toms on our scouting trips. This
me. first. When I shared my concerns turkey hunting thing was already
Winter isn’t all that bad: there’s about my lack of calling experi- starting to grab ahold of me. And
always ice fishing and a little coyote
hunting to be done, and of course,
you can spend hours at the fly vise
dreaming of summer hatches. But
Cackles, gobbles and purrs quickly blended into
there’s just something about the
warmth of the sun on your shoul- a music that can only be described as sweet.
ders and a new freshness to the
breeze. The kind of April day when ence, he assured me it wouldn’t be of course, it was great to be back
the snow is gone and the foliage is a problem. Jeff had been guiding out in the spring woods again.
down, and you can see what winter friends and family for years with I had drawn a tag the first
has left for you. some success. season in our unit, and anticipation
Spring for me in Northern I got my application in that was flying high a few days before
Michigan was always a time of year January, drew a license and we it was to begin. We figured we’d
that I enjoyed being able to get back waited until spring. We got out have a great crack at a nice tom
into the swamps and haunts I had early in April and checked the local sometime during that week. Then
missed all winter. I spent days just haunts for signs that our resident I got a phone call that was a little
walking to see what winter could turkey population had thrived bittersweet for me. I was called
tell me about her season. Looking through the winter. We’d stop and back into work, and we had a new
for shed antlers, checking for buck he’d give a hoot with a locator call; job starting the Monday morning
sign I missed the previous fall and then we would wait for a gobbler to of my hunt.
finding the occasional mushroom respond before moving on to check Jeff and I both worked in the
filled my days. But, mostly, it the next construction trades and had been
was a time to scout for new trout area. We laid off for a few weeks. While it
waters. An avid trout angler since got a few was sweet relief for my depleted
my teenage years, I’d spent every checking account, it was a bummer
spring of my adult life in search of to miss the
backcountry brook trout waters.
All of that changed during one
bad winter. Layoffs and cut-backs
hit my wife and I hard. We moved
several times, finally settling in my
hometown downstate, trying to get
back on our feet. I still did a little
trout fishing here and there and my
share of two-tracking when I could,
but it just wasn’t the same. I was
missing the passion I’d once had for
the spring.
Friends and coworkers had
been suggesting for years that
I give turkey hunting a try.
They told me it was just like
bowhunting in October. The
same rush, the same antici-
pation and it got you out of
the house and sharpened
your hunting instincts
after a long winter. My
only experience in the
turkey woods had been
in college. With the mosquitoes,
poison ivy and stifling heat, it
wasn’t anything I wanted to replay
anytime soon.

Spring 2020.indd 19 2/12/2020 1:19:11 PM

hammer one down on Saturday got several aggressive responses,
morning. and we booked it into the woods
I had some concerns having trying to get set up. Jeff quickly
only one day to hunt but figured instructed me to sit against a tree
we’d give it our best shot. I got while he moved away with the
to Jeff’s house plenty early that decoy and began calling. In my
morning, and we were soon parked hurry to get settled in near dark-
morning hunts
at a small parcel of public land ness, I lost track of him.
of our short, week-
nearby in the predawn. A couple In the dawn, the spring woods
long season.
of quick hoots from his locator call exploded with the sounds of
Jeff said we’d just have to
turkeys. Cackles, gobbles and purrs
quickly blended into music that
can only be described as sweet.
Hens and jakes were around me,
sounding off, with no gobbler in
sight. I couldn’t tell where the
turkeys’ talking ended and Jeff’s
calling began. I had totally lost
track of where he had gone and
quickly decided that should a tom
show himself, I wouldn’t shoot for
safety reasons. He truly had disap-
peared into the shadows and was
speaking a language I didn’t know.
There was something about the
orange-pink dawn and the calling
in the woods that awoke something
missing in me the last couple of
years. I was in awe of what was

18 |

Spring 2020.indd 20 2/12/2020 1:19:12 PM

going on around me. The scene tom intercepted the green fiber as good as after the sweet success
was quickly broken up by the roar optic bead of my Remington 870 of a hunt. I had finally found my
of a shotgun a couple hundred shotgun at 30 yards, I fired a passion for the spring again.
yards away. We learned later that magnum load of six shot. One year later, almost to the
a neighbor had snuck in from his He quickly went into a spin, day, I called in a mature gobbler
property and collected the tom with and I ran after him firing a couple where a pine ridge met a popple
his own sweet calling. We had been of finishing shots. It was over in slashing. Jeff’s dad was less than
so close, yet so far. less time than it takes now to write 100 yards away when he heard my
Jeff quickly rose from a tree not about it. I had collected my first shot. I’d bet he could see the grin
30 yards away and said it was time spring turkey! He was a beautiful under my facemask from there.
to try the next spot. I felt a little tom with a 9 and five-eights-inch Eight seasons later, I proudly
sheepish that my caller friend had beard and three-quarter-inch spurs. called in a beautiful tom for my
been so close yet out of sight. I couldn’t have been more proud. 7-year-old son Orrin. After several
We quickly drove a few miles As we drove back to Jeff’s seasons watching his dad and
away to another little honey hole. house, I couldn’t believe we had friends in the woods, it was finally
A quick check of the area revealed pulled it off with only one morning his turn to harvest a bird in the way
plenty of turkey strutting and to hunt. The energy of a giddy, I’d been taught. In the celebration
dusting had happened recently. Jeff rookie turkey hunter with his first that followed, his grandpa declared
again gave a couple of locator calls, bird in the bag filled the truck cab. that, at the age of 65, he’s ready to
and a gobbler responded a few When we got back to the barn, we try turkey hunting.
hundred yards to our southeast. found that Jeff’s dad, Billy, had This spring will find three
We rushed to get set up as Jeff also scored a beautiful gobbler that generations of our family listening
commenced to sing another turkey morning. to the sweet sounds of turkeys
love song. We gathered up Jeff’s family gobbling at dawn. My 4-year-old
Suddenly, another tom gave a and headed out to a big breakfast twin daughters recently protested
shock gobble not a hundred yards over at the local café. We relived the unfairness that their older
to our north. the hunts over and over again, brother and grandpa get to hunt
Within minutes, I could see adding details that the other hunter with "daddy"this spring, and they
him running in through the water missed. I don’t think breakfast ever are anxiously awaiting their turn.
and blow-downs in the swamp in tastes We should all be so lucky as to
front of me. He passed me savor such a spring revival.
quickly, and I searched for
an opening in the
brush. I readied my
shotgun, and
when the
bright red
head of
With an estimated 200,000 turkeys and more than 4.5 million
acres of public land, Michigan hunters have phenomenal
opportunities to hang their tag on a bird each season. By the
time you read this, the application period for limited-draw
hunts will be closed. However, statewide, over-the-counter
tags can be purchased anytime for hunt number 0234 running
May 1 to 31 for 2020. Season dates and license information are
available at .

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 19

Spring 2020.indd 21 2/12/2020 1:19:12 PM

Second action to begin. Just shy of first
light, the giant tom that I roosted
the night before thunders off a
what to expect.
Over the last several years,
I have hunted turkeys hard and

gobble, then another and another, learned a lot, mostly by mistake.
oh so close. One of the first mistakes was
As soon as the sun peaks up, a giving up too early in the morning.
few soft clucks from my diaphragm I’d arrived bright and early, got all
call, he flies down right excited when they started to gobble

into my setup, and boom! and watched the toms crash out of
I’m done before breakfast the trees and wander off with hens
and home for more warm that they planned on spending the
coffee while everyone morning with.
else is still in bed. That is the catch. The turkey’s
By Jason Herbert Let’s face it: the
reality of turkey hunting
weakness, if you will. Most of the
hens only want to get bred for a few

is not so picture-perfect. All too hours in the morning, and then it’s
ll turkey hunters have a
often, the birds don’t gobble much, off to the nest for them, leaving the
dream of the perfect hunt.
are surrounded by hens, have lonely toms to wander.
Mine goes something like
already learned a bit about hunters Most of the toms I have killed,
or are simply not interested. That is and many I’ve encountered, have
I wake early, arrive at my pre-
one of the many great things about come between 10 a.m. and noon.
determined spot before the birds
turkey hunting; you never know I’ve also killed a handful of birds in
even make a chirp and wait for the
the early and late afternoon.
In our home state of Michigan,
afternoon turkey hunting is legal.
Last spring, my oldest son had a
late-season tag to fill, so we went
out to a familiar hayfield in hopes
of catching one of the big toms that
gave me the slip during my hunt in
the first season.
A beautiful, warm, breezy day
greeted us as we pulled into the
horse farm we had permission to
hunt. We no sooner sat down under
our “killing tree” — that same tree
where he shot his first bird 10 years
ago — and made some calls.
From what seemed like a mile
away, “GOBBLE!!!” then another
and another.
“Get ready, dude. He’s coming,”
I said to Brendan.
“Yeah, whatever,” he replied.
“I’m serious, it is 1:30, if we
have a bird gobbling now, he’s
interested,” I replied with logic and
Sure enough, a few minutes of
silence later, my son added, “Wow,
he’s beautiful.”
Brendan saw the bird before
I did. Sitting on both sides of the
tree, he was able to look over his
shoulder to see the bird. I had to
rearrange my whole body to get a
I turned behind me to see a
huge tom dang near sprinting down

Spring 2020.indd 22 2/12/2020 1:19:14 PM

Hunting in the afternoons can leave the mornings open
for Morel mushroom hunting. Two of the author's sons
pose with their harvests from a successful day.

the hayfield edge, coming scratching dead leaves. My heart Like a well-trained soldier, my
nearer by the moment, was pounding! I can’t imagine how son leaned over and dropped the
hoping to catch a glimpse of Brendan felt. bird in its tracks with a silence
the lonely gal. “OK, I’m going Eventually, we became bored shattering “BOOM!”.
to call again to let him zero in on with the bird’s antics and got our I think the entire hunt lasted
us, get your gun ready.” pulses under control. I honestly five minutes. Anyone who has the
“Yelp, Yelp, YELP!” I let the call think that tom strutted behind privilege of hunting with their
rip, and it worked like a charm. us for three to four solid minutes. loved ones knows that watching
Moments later, a giant bluish- Brendan and I finally had enough your kid shoot an animal or catch a
red softball of a turkey head composure to whisper a plan. fish is way better than experiencing
crested the hill behind me. Brendan “Dude,” I whispered. “I’m going it yourself, and I was ecstatic
did not want to stick his gun near to call. He will either come out from for my son! Hugs and high-fives
my face to shoot the bird over my the back of the tree on your side to carried us out to the field to get out
lap, so he had no shot. check out decoys or come out on hands on his trophy. And what a
Our decoys, a strutting tom my side to run away. Be ready to trophy he was!
and submissive hen were out in shoot on either side.” The giant tom had a 10-inch
front of him because I had no idea I heard an affirmative “Okay” beard, 1 ⅜ inch spurs and weighed
a bird would come in from behind before I let a loud yelp rip from my almost 25 pounds. I had been after
us. Regardless, we had a mature diaphragm call. this boss of the woods for years,
longbeard close. Now, it was just a “YELP!” and then all I heard and we finally caught him off guard
matter of waiting for a shot. was raspberry vines scraping the one sunny May afternoon.
The bird zeroed in on us and turkey’s feathers as he tried to Cooperative toms are not the
ended up strutting right behind escape. only reason I like to hunt second
our tree! He was close. We could “He’s on my left, shoot!” I shift turkeys. I think it is a great
hear him spitting, drumming and yelled. way to enjoy the nice spring

Fall 2020
Spring 2019 || Michigan Out-of-Doors 21
Michigan Out-of-Doors 21

Spring 2020.indd 23 2/12/2020 1:19:16 PM

because we drive them right up to
the blind. It generally clears the
fields of any birds, but that’s Okay.
Turkeys, and deer as well,
aren’t too alarmed by vehicles in
farm country, and any animals we
scared off almost always come back
soon. We also like to use bright,
big decoys to get the bird’s atten-
tion and help them know where to
From that point, it’s just loud
calling about every 15 minutes,
maybe mixed in with a nap or two.
When I’m by myself or guiding
someone without mobility issues,
we also will “run-and-gun” hunt in
the afternoons.
Run-and-gun is all about
production, and we cover as much
ground as possible, remaining
hidden while we call loudly as well.
Every turkey hunter likes to
take on the task a bit differently, so
I won’t get too technical right now.
In closing, I would like to
challenge you all to, at least, try an
afternoon turkey hunt this spring.
Or, if you’re lucky enough to fill
weather. It is easier to get to a blind Turkey Tracks - The Eric Corey your tag in the morning, hook up
or setup without fumbling around Foundation. Turkey Tracks takes with someone who hasn’t yet and
in the dark, and hunting afternoons limited mobility kids on turkey guide them after lunch. You’ll be
allow me time to sleep in, attend hunts, and guys like me get to be amazed at how cooperative the
sporting events and do chores at part of the action. birds will be.
home. When hunting with limited As always, have fun, be safe and
I am lucky to be able to mobility kids, or adult hunters for shoot straight!
guide for a friend’s charity that matter, afternoons are great

Never Trust a Fart.

True stories of grown men who have
accidentally pooped their pants.
By Jason Herbert

The perfect book for deer camp, the fishing boat, ice shanty
or bathroom! From award-winning, Michigan outdoor writer
Jason Herbert, this book is full of quick, easy to read,
hilarious stories about when, for one reason or another,
Herbert’s buddies accidentally pooped their pants. Family-
friendly, without a single curse word, this book is the ideal
gift for that hard-to-buy-for friend with a sense of humor.
Available in paperback, or Kindle download, visit amazon.
com and search for “Never Trust a Fart” to order.

22 |

Spring 2020.indd 24 2/12/2020 1:19:18 PM

Michigan United
Conservation Clubs
Yes! I’d like to become a
member of MUCC!
Mail this to:
2101 Wood St., Lansing, MI 48912

New Member


State___________ Zip_____________________
Phone (_______)__________________________
Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) is the largest statewide Email___________________________________
conservation organization in the nation. With more than 200 affiliated clubs
and 40,000 members, MUCC has represented millions of conservationists
since 1937. Whether it’s the halls of the Capitol or on your favorite stream, Membership Categories
MUCC is the insider for your outdoor traditions. All members will receive a subscription to Mich-
igan Out-of-Doors magazine.
OUR MISSION 1 Year______________________________ $35
Uniting citizens to conserve, protect and enhance Michigan’s natural
resources and outdoor heritage. 2 Years_____________________________ $60
Life Membership (per person)_______ $1,000
OUR FUTURE Method of Payment
MUCC protects our natural resources while educating the next generation Check enclosed (payable to MUCC)
of conservation stewards.
Visa MasterCard Discover

WHY SHOULD I _______________________________________


• Receive one year of MUCC’s _______________________________________

official publication, Michigan CVC Exp. Date
• Support MUCC’s education _______________________________________
programs. Signature
• Support efforts to conserve
Michigan’s natural resources. Please call 1.800.777.6720
• Support efforts to pass policy based or visit to sign up online
on sound science.

Spring 2020.indd 25 2/12/2020 1:19:21 PM

By Shawn Stafford

Family Support
t 40 years old, I'm fortunate to have hunted multi-state tours chasing toms in the spring. There
across the US and to provide quality, wild had to be something special about it.
meat to my family. I recently relocated from Texas to Indiana and
Even with that said, I had never killed am being faced with some lofty goals at work. Moving
a wild turkey. I will admit that it is mainly due to the my family and worldly belongings 1,200 miles cross
fact that, growing up, there was no turkey season country, acclimating to a new area and working long
where I lived, so it was not something I was exposed to. hours caused high stress levels. It was time for a break.
Therefore, I never paid much attention to it. While fishing is my general go-to spring activity, I
Not being exposed to turkey hunting at a young age felt I needed a little more of a chance to recharge. I am
definitely played a part in being late to join the party. very blessed to have an uncle who owns some property
This is a prime example of the benefits and need to in Michigan and another uncle who loves calling in
introduce kids to hunting experiences at a young age. turkeys. Whether it be fate or some other godly plan, I
However, as I continued to expand my participa- got offered the chance to head north and bag my first
tion in the hunting realm, I couldn't ignore the bird.
continued growth and buzz around turkey hunting. After work on the Friday before Mother's day, I
I was meeting people that, rather than spending grabbed my two youngest kids and headed for my
their vacation in the fall chasing deer, were doing in-laws' house. We got in later than expected, and after

24 24 |

Spring 2020.indd 26 2/12/2020 1:19:21 PM

After what probably only took a few minutes
"Expecting the turkey to drop in a pile of flapping but seemed like an eternity, he finally followed her
feathers, I was shocked to see it dart off back into lead and began slowly making his way towards our
fencerow location. Expecting more of a frontal shot
the direction he came from, eventually taking from the blind, my uncle and I finally maneuvered the
gun out the window directly to my left.
flight into the trees." He didn't quite come fully into the decoys and hung
back a bit, but we decided he was within killing range.
getting everyone settled in, I headed for bed. And just like that, the gun went off.
Much to my surprise, I had a hard time falling Expecting the turkey to drop in a pile of flapping
asleep due to the anticipation of the morning. The feathers, I was shocked to see it dart off back into the
last time I looked at the clock was 12:30 a.m., and my direction he came from, eventually taking flight into
ride showed up at 4:44 a.m. Regardless I was excited the trees.
and ready as we parked the truck and headed into the I had, just the day before, a conversation with a
darkness. co-worker about not missing. We joked about how
Being so lucky and having good family members, you could possibly miss a stationary turkey with a
the blind was set up and the birds were scouted. shotgun. Well, I was currently eating crow rather than
The report had them showing up right at first light in turkey.
the void farm field. They expected birds to approach Exiting the blind, we followed up on the shot
from a dirt bridge over a small creek to the east or looking for feathers and blood. Neither were present.
possibly from the woodlot to the west. As we approached the wood line, the tom flew
Just as we settled in and the first notes from the down from his temporary perch and scurried into the
box call sounded, mother nature informed me that I deep woods to live another day.
needed to exit the blind. It was only minutes before Defeated and following another bout with mother
prime time, but it didn't matter. nature's call, uncle Mike reassured me more would
As I re-entered the blind, gobbles started sounding come.
off behind us. The gobbles continued growing closer, He was right that birds were everywhere in this
and the excitement continued to mount. location, and gobbles started ringing out again. As I sat
Something I had eaten the
previous day or perhaps the
anxiety of the new experience
was doing a number on my
innards. I once again had to
exit the blind. This time, the
look on my uncle's face was
that of "Are you kidding me?"
It didn't matter. Gobbles
were sounding off all around,
and I couldn't get back in the
blind fast enough. Shortly
after returning, a light-colored
head was spotted bobbing just
on the backside of a slight rise
in the field.
As the hen passed out
of sight, another quickly
followed. This one stuck
around for a minute, and then
at the creek crossing, a large,
black blob appeared.
The full-strutting gobbler
started sounding off at the
hen and flaunting his bouquet
of feathers in search of love.
He would not leave the inside
corner of the field until a few
hen clucks got the attention
of his date, and she started
heading for the decoys.

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 25

Spring 2020.indd 27 2/12/2020 1:19:23 PM

"The overriding desire
to fill my tag was gone;
I was free to enjoy
the moment in all its

there cursing myself and trying to understand

how I could miss, three dark forms appeared
across the field.
Through binoculars, they appeared
to be three jakes. A few notes from the
push-button call got their attention, and
they zoned in on the two decoys.
Disappearing momentarily behind
a fold in the field, unlike the cautious
gobbler, the three immature birds came
in on a string. Wanting not to blow this, I
had the barrel out of the window ahead of
time and started working on breathing and
The trio bunched up with their faux
companions, and I carefully waited for one
to clear himself from the others. Finally, he
stepped to the right, and I fired.
I was reliving a nightmare that had only
occurred moments before. The bird did not
fall and, to my absolute horror, started to
run. Fortunately for me, their youth and
inexperience led the three to remain well
within range, trying to sort out what had
just happened.
The target bird cleared the
others to the left, and this
time I bore down on the
barrel determined not to
blow this gift I was given. This
time, the bird dropped practi-
cally stone dead — what a feeling
of relief and an influx of emotion.
I didn't even run out of the blind.
Believe it or not, this had been a mentally
taxing roller coast, and I just sat there.
The fear of disappointing my uncle finally left,


Spring 2020.indd 28 2/12/2020 1:19:24 PM

Above: The results of the author's first turkey hunt, ready for the kitchen. Below: The blind the author hunted from when
he took his bird. A pop-up blind is a valuable tool for turkey hunters thanks to the portability and versatility.

and goose to turkey. It did not disappoint.

I also went ahead and fried up a couple of strips
from the breast so I could find out for myself what the
texture and taste of wild turkey was.
I'd gotten mixed reviews of eating wild turkey, with
most of them being negative. My vote is towards the
delicious side. The pieces were tender and extremely
I rounded out the day by pinning the fan and beard
to a piece of cardboard in anticipation of making a
nice mount for the wall to pay homage to this fine
The last thing I'll mention is to make sure you are
While I thought shooting and killing a turkey
(once they were located and called in) would be only a
formality in the process, I was absolutely wrong—as is
evidenced by my excessive shooting.
and a huge burden seemed to be gone. The overriding
Make sure you know where your gun patterns and
desire to fill my tag was gone; I was free to enjoy the
that you actually aim your scattergun. With proper
moment in all its glory. I sat back and poured a cup of
chokes, your pattern will be quite tight and dense.
coffee from my thermos and thanked Mike.
I realized this when cleaning the bird as there were
Finally, after composing myself and leaving the
no perforations from BB's anywhere in the breast or
blind, I headed for my trophy.
thighs and legs. The shot was all centered on the head
I touched the soft feathers and thanked the animal
and neck, where I took care to aim for when I fired the
for the future nourishment he would be providing.
last shot.
I stared at the blue sky and said a little prayer
I may not spend all my vacation days chasing
before heading to the blind to hug and show my appre-
turkeys in the spring, but I will absolutely be giving it
ciation to my uncle.
another go next year!
I spent the rest of the morning prepping the
animal for the table and freezer. I extended my tradi-
tion of eating the heart and liver from deer, elk, duck

2019 2020
| Michigan Out-of-Doors
| Michigan 27 27

Spring 2020.indd 29 2/12/2020 1:19:26 PM

Working to avert the tragedy
of the commons By Chris Lamphere

Multiple stakeholders currently embroiled in negotiations

to renew agreement governing Tribal waters
Crucial talks are underway was involved in the negotiations should be shared.”
regarding 18,730 square miles of that led to the 2000 Consent Decree The Coalition’s current
water in three of the Great Lakes. and, before that, the 1985 negotia- members include the Michigan
While differences exist between tions and agreement. United Conservation Clubs,
the parties involved, common Schultz said prior to the agree- the Michigan Charter Boat
ground can be found in the idea ments of 1985 and 2000, the regula- Association, the Michigan
that it’s better to work together tions governing use of the Great Steelhead and Salmon Fishermen’s
than apart. Lakes waters and their resources Association, the Hammond Bay
Five Native American tribes, were very fuzzy, leading to a sort of Area Anglers Association, the
the state of Michigan, the federal fishing free-for-all that decimated Black Lake Association, Sturgeon
government and various conserva- some species in parts of the lakes. for Tomorrow, the Blue Water
tion groups and sport fishers have In 1979, Schultz became Sportfishing Association, the
regularly been meeting to hash out involved in a lawsuit seeking to Grand Traverse Area Sportfishing
a new agreement to replace the halt gill net fishing in the Grand Association, the Burt Lake
2000 Consent Decree, which expires Traverse Bay. He said it had Preservation Association, the Great
in August. Negotiations began in caused a 98 percent reduction in Lakes Council of the Fly Fishers
September 2019. lake trout from the bay during the International and the Walloon Lake
The 2000 agreement was first months of tribal fishing after Trust and Conservancy.
established to collaboratively a federal court had validated the With about two thirds of Lake
govern allocation, management tribes’ treaty rights to fish. Michigan located in the decree’s
and regulation of state and tribal “It was a real tragedy of the jurisdiction, Radjenovich said
fisheries in the Great Lakes waters commons,” Schultz said. “It wasn’t major changes in the decree would
ceded to the state at the beginning good for anybody.” mean significant changes to many
of the 19th Century. The nature of the fishing also aspects of his business, which isn’t
In 1836, the United States led to some conflict between non-
government purchased a large tribal fishers and their tribal neigh-
swath of territory bordering lakes bors, Schultz said. Fortunately, he
Michigan, Superior and Huron added, that conflict has ended in
from the Ottawa and Chippewa the Grand Traverse Bay area and
Indian Tribes of the northern in other locations throughout the
Lower Peninsula and the eastern Great Lakes as tribal and sport
Upper Peninsula of Michigan. fishers have improved relations
According to the Department with each other.
of Natural Resources, treaties such Tony Radjenovich, a charter
as these often contained clauses boat captain and president of the
in which tribes reserved hunting, Coalition to Protect Michigan
fishing and gathering rights. The Resources, said the 2000 consent
courts have consistently upheld decree created a good framework
these rights through several chal- through which multiple stake-
lenges over the years, finding that holders could enjoy the resource
the state government had limited while also making contributions to
authority to regulate tribal fishing sustain it.
activity. “Co-management of
Stephen Schultz, a lawyer the resource is important,”
representing some of the conserva- Radjenovich said. “The decisions,
tion groups in the ongoing talks, along with the responsibilities,

28 |

Spring 2020.indd 30 2/12/2020 1:19:26 PM

necessarily a bad thing, as long
as the changes are positive for the
“It’s more about the resource,”
Radjenovich said. “I think there’s
room for all of us to co-manage and
continue to use these resources.”
According to a fact sheet
prepared by Schultz and dissemi-
nated to members of the Coalition,
the decree “directly affects where
Tribal fishing operations may fish,
where sportfishing is available, how
the resource is shared, who may
fish and when, what kinds of fish
may be caught, what kind of fishing
gear may be used by the Tribes and
how many fish may be caught by
tribal fishers and sport fishers.”
The tribes involved in the
ongoing negotiations are the Bay they were not able to come to a potentially to a situation similar
Mills Indian Community, Grand consensus on a new agreement, to the decades before the consent
Traverse Band of Ottawa and Craven said. decrees were in effect.
Chippewa Indians, Little River “Working together generates Schultz said he’s also more than
Band of Ottawa Indians, Little more ideas and perspectives,” a little worried the parties have
Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Craven said. “I think we have a not left themselves enough time to
Indians and Sault Ste. Marie Tribe much better recognition of what come to a new agreement. Between
of Chippewa Indians. each brings to the table now.” now and August, Schultz said they
Doug Craven, natural resources At this point in negotiations, are scheduled to meet monthly to
director for the Little Traverse Craven said he’s confident the work out a new agreement, while
Bay Band of Ottawa and Chippewa parties are going in the right previous agreements took over a
Indians, said initial negotiations direction, although he also was year to reach.
with the parties concerning the remaining realistic about the During the 2000 Consent
use of the waterways in 1985 were situation. Decree negotiations, the Michigan
somewhat adversarial, but the “Anytime you’re working with United Conservation Clubs repre-
benefits of the decrees have far (several different organizations), sented themselves; for upcoming
exceeded the downsides since those it can be tricky,” Craven said. talks, they have teamed with the
days. “There’s not as much animosity Coalition to Protect Michigan
From the perspective of the as there used to be. We have differ- Resources.
tribes, Craven said it was important ences, absolutely, but there also is a MUCC Executive Director Amy
the agreements preserve their willingness to work together.” Trotter said the consent decrees are
right to fish the waterways, along Schultz had similar sentiments integral to managing the fisheries,
with the natural balance of the about the possibility of reaching considering all the moving pieces
ecosystem and sustainability of the consensus in negotiations at this involved, including fish-stocking
fish species. point in time. strategies, species protection initia-
Under the 2000 Consent Decree, “We don’t know exactly what tives and enforcement of laws.
the state of Michigan and the five everyone’s positions are yet,” She said the original impetus
tribes shared resources. According Schultz said. “From our perspec- behind the decrees’ formation is the
to the DNR, the allocations differed tive, (the 2000 decree) has worked same now as it was in 1985 and 2000:
among management units, but in very well, though there are to bring some alignment between
general, the tribes were allocated improvements that could be made. commercial fishing activities, sport
the majority of whitefish, the state What happens if we don’t have a fishing and tribal fishing activities.
harvested the majority of salmon new agreement is a big unknown.” “It’s about protecting the
and lake trout were allocated In a worst-case scenario, fishing heritage of the Great
approximately equally. Schultz said everyone would go Lakes,” Trotter said. “It’s about
The relationships developed their separate ways and manage- how the resource will be shared
through the 1985 and 2000 decrees ment of the Great Lakes fisheries and how all those things are
have been invaluable, and it would would eventually become inconsis- connected.”
be a “missed opportunity” if tent between the groups, leading

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 29

Spring 2020.indd 31 2/12/2020 1:19:27 PM

"Forever Chemicals" are
Impacting our Natural Resources
PFAS threatens Michigan's iconic natural resources,wildlife
By Makhayla LaButte
MUCC Habitat Volunteer Coordinator
be conducted in order to effectively identify their pres-
ence in the United States and how they are impacting
the living organisms exposed to them.
First introduced in the development of fire-fighting While the existence of these “forever chemicals”
foams, the market involving PFAS expanded quickly to has been identified in humans, additional alarm bells
include “revolutionary” consumer products like Teflon are sounding as these chemicals are being identified
cookware, household cleaning products and other in our natural resources. A growing list of states have
products with fire, grease, stain and water-repellant site-specific problems related to PFAS, and Michigan is
properties. among them.
So what does this acronym mean? According to Anyone who has looked into PFAS may have come
the United States Environmental Protection Agency across a study commissioned by the Environmental
(EPA), PFAS are defined as per- and polyfluoroalkyl Working Group (EWG) regarding PFAS contamination
substances that include, but are not limited to, perfluo- sites in the U.S. In the study, Michigan was highlighted
rooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctanesulfonic
acid (PFOS).
Michigan PFAS Sites
These chemicals are man-made and designed to


be very stable when exposed to heat and substances HOUGHTON

like water or grease. This means upon entering an ONTONAGON


ecosystem, they do not break down. Instead it accumu- GOGEBIC MARQUETTE LUCE

lates in soil, water and wildlife. IRON


Both PFOS and PFOA, two versions of the many DICKINSON

chemicals included in the PFAS group and the two !


most commonly found in the U.S., are no longer made MENOMINEE EMMET CHEBOYGAN

here. However, sister chemicals with new names like CHARLEVOIX


“GenX” are currently used in their place, and many OTSEGO MONTMORENCY (

imported goods contain these chemicals.


Based on the results of a study between 1999 and WEXFORD


2012, largely-manufactured PFAS chemicals like PFOA


and PFOS appeared in the blood serum of 99 percent



of a sample pool representing of the entire U.S. popu- OCEANA

! !

lation. This study is cited in the EPA’s “PFAS Action Legend !



Plan,” ! !
( PFAS Sites (74)
! !
( !
! (!
( !
( !
Aside from causing cancer, exposure to large !
( !
Cities !!
( ! (IONIA
( (!!
( !
amounts of these chemicals is also linked to a variety
of other ailments in humans that impact the liver, > 70 ppt !
( !
(( !
( !
( !
( !

thyroid and reproductive organs.

( !
in Groundwater !
The EPA concludes that, while the effects of
chemicals like PFAS in humans are being increasingly Miles

well-researched and documented, more research must 0 25 50 100

November 13, 2019

30 |

Spring 2020.indd 32 2/12/2020 1:19:28 PM

as being home to the most PFAS contamination sites
out of the 49 impacted states.
Despite this, Michigan has one of the most aggres-
sive response plans to PFAS contamination in the
country and far exceeds the average testing efforts of
most states. This statistic may change as more states
increase their testing efforts to match the rigor of
Michigan’s and more contaminations are detected.

PFAS, Water and Wildlife

In response to public concerns and a slow
response from the federal government, the Michigan
Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy
(EGLE) has created the Michigan PFAS Action
Response Team (MPART).
They are collecting data to better understand what
these chemicals mean for the future of Michigan’s
public water supplies, watersheds and wildlife
White-tailed deer in identified contamination
areas are being tested, and a “do not eat” advisory has
been issued for deer harvested within a 5 mile radius
of Clark’s Marsh in Oscoda Township. The deer
sampled there show elevated PFAS levels.
Due to PFAS's ability to be transferred via
inhalation of contaminated air or consumption of
a food source, experts with the DNR and Michigan
Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS)
do not advise the ingestion of wildlife known to have
heightened PFAS accumulations.
According to the DNR, deer from the Clark’s
Marsh area will continue to be tested to determine the
persistence of PFAS contaminants in the white-tailed
deer population in the Clark’s Marsh area and if the
advisory needs to remain or can be lifted.
Tammy Newcomb, Michigan Department of
Natural Resources (DNR) senior water policy advisor,
lead coordinator for DNR PFAS research and chair
of the PFAS Wildlife Workgroup, is working to make
sense of the research taking place in Michigan.
The goal is to help the DNR better understand how
the emerging contaminants move through and accu-
mulate in terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. This
may also impact human exposure to the compounds.
“We understand that in the case of deer and most
other wild animals, the liver and kidneys will have
the highest concentrations [of PFAS], so our advice
to everyone statewide is to not eat the liver or the
kidneys, as those are the filtering organs of the body,"
Newcomb said. "So, if the deer has been exposed [to
PFAS], those are the organs that will have the highest
MPART has also been collecting samples from
Michigan’s watersheds. Individual reports have been
generated for sample sites within the Clinton River,
Lake St. Clair, the Flint River, Grand River, Huron
River, Kalamazoo River and River Raisin watersheds.
In each of these watersheds, including the rivers

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 31

Spring 2020.indd 33 2/12/2020 1:19:28 PM

and communities that are connected to them, elevated research efforts, as it is not yet known how fish uptake
PFAS concentrations exist. It is found in either PFAS.
discharge water entering the water bodies, fish, resi- Newcomb said that another key difference between
dential wells or the water bodies themselves. PFAS and other chemical aquatic contaminants is
In areas where fish tested high in PFAS concentra- where organisms store them in their body.
tions, the MDHHS issues a consumption advisory — in For example, PCB accumulates in the fat of fish,
some instances, recommending that fish caught from and anglers can follow guidelines on how to avoid
the entirety of a contaminated river, not just select consumption of the stored chemical. We do not yet
portions, not be ingested. understand how fish store PFAS contaminants and
The persistence of these chemicals in the environ- more research is required.
ment places PFAS alongside several other concerns for This emerging group of contaminants also has
Michigan anglers that include the bioaccumulation of implications on the state’s waterfowl populations.
mercury, PCBs and dioxins in fish. With many of the largest watersheds in Michigan
However, research is beginning to show that PFAS containing confirmed PFAS accumulations, it is likely
is unique in how it accumulates in aquatic ecosystems. waterfowl inhabiting these areas have also developed
According to Newcomb, the dissimilar behavior accumulations of the contaminants.
of PFAS contaminants are what makes them so chal- Concerns have already been raised by those who
lenging to understand and respond to. have seen waterfowl swimming through foam. Bright
Unlike common aquatic contaminants, PFAS white, sticky foam can be one of the signs of PFAS
concentrations have been greater in small fish like contamination in aquatic ecosystems.
bluegill and lower in predator fish like bass. Instead of However, not all foam contains PFAS. Foam also
concentrations of PFAS increasing as you go higher up occurs naturally in water bodies as a result of the
the aquatic food chain, the concentrations decrease. biological degradation of vegetation and other natural
Additionally, the high solubility of PFAS chemicals occurrences. PFAS foam is distinct from its natural
in water may indicate that fish are exposed to the counterpart in its vibrant white and sudsy appearance.
chemicals through the filtration of water through their Currently, the PFAS Wildlife Workgroup is
gills and not through direct ingestion. working with the DNR to develop a sampling technique
This hypothesis will likely be tested through future on waterfowl, like ducks.

Clark's Marsh
For more information go to:


Advisory Area
ADVISORY Advisory Area
76.8 Square Miles


US 23

F 41



Do not eat deer from



Pine River


2 6 5 4

the advisory area. High

Coppler Creek





amounts of PFAS may be




11 8

10 12 7 9



found in deer and could


T24N,R09E 10

D F41


be harmful to your health.



15 14 13 18 17 Van 16 15 14
Etten Lake



T24N,R08E ET
20 21 22 23 24 19 20 21

Map Legend
BIS 22

RE 29



29 28 27 26 8TH ST
25 30 28

Clark’s Marsh Town Range

Foote Dam


Pond LO D

Au Sable Duell
Advisory Area
D ER Allen Lake

FO 32 33 34 35 36 River Lake 33 34
RE 31 32

State Land









3 1 6 5 4


OL 3

For more information, call MDHHS


at 800-648-6942 or visit
10 11 7 8 9 11
12 10

15 14 13 18 17 16 15

Dead Au
T23N,R08E River


RO 23 24 19 20 21
Silver Creek FE
D UnNamed # Legend
3 Iosco Co v. 9/18/2019
Clark's Marsh
Advisory Area

32 |
Town Range
USFS Lands
Spencer State Land
1 0.5 0 1 Lake
Spring 2020.indd 34 2 3 4 Miles 2/12/2020 1:19:29 PM
The method will take into account specific species Like most emerging threats to Michigan’s citi-
behavior and migratory patterns in order to provide zens and natural resources, PFAS is shrouded in an
useful information to hunters about how PFAS is unnerving uncertainty that will only be overcome
impacting this popular game species. through diligent investigations and efficient response
“The very first question that’s of the highest efforts.
priority when it comes to contamination issues is Luckily, Michigan has risen to the challenge
public health,” said Newcomb. “Our initial work [with and is now considered a national leader in PFAS
waterfowl] will try to characterize potential PFAS research and response efforts. According to Scott
contamination in waterfowl populations and how it Dean, spokesperson for EGLE, Michigan is currently
pertains to human health.” renowned throughout the U.S. for responding to these
Michigan: A National Leader in PFAS EGLE began its research into PFAS in 2017. For the
department to develop effective testing, it brought in
Response a panel of leading epidemiologists and toxicologists.
This includes reviewing all known scientific literature
Moving forward, it is critical Michigan continues on PFAS.
to monitor and address PFAS concerns to both humans Dean expresses that EGLE knows Michigan resi-
and the environment in affected areas. More research dents are impacted by the presence of these contami-
must be done on the impacts of these chemicals as nants, whether or not they spend significant time
they pertain to fish and wildlife management. outdoors, and no matter how they enjoy Michigan’s
The information stemming from past and current abundant water supply. Human and wildlife health
lab studies, current human exposure and affected fish remains the priority for all entities involved in PFAS
and wildlife indicate that the way we interact with research.
and harvest our natural resources in Michigan may
be altered in the future. The persistence of man-made
chemicals that fall under the classification of PFAS is
causing this.

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 33

Spring 2020.indd 35 2/12/2020 1:19:31 PM

More than a Fish By Calvin McShane

rive fast, drink socks, a hood drawn over his head, wanted to tell him that I couldn't be
lots, take chances!" shielding his rain-covered glasses lost because I'd been looking for a
Randy shouted as I and a welcoming smile. camp like this my entire life.
walked away from his He complimented me on my Randy and I bonded over a
camp, my head low, the top of my slippers and asked if I was lost. I similar sense of humor and a fond-
ball cap collecting large droplets wasn't lost, but I admit in the confu- ness for riverside peanut butter and
of water from the spruce limbs sion of finding his camp, I played jelly sandwiches. Randy showed
combing the top of my head, my dumb. me the Blowhole, Mary's Run,
hands clenching a worn book from Rods, of all prices and styles, the remnants of an old, colossal
Randy's collection, tucked on the leaned against his truck camper. beaver dam, the best spots to take a
inside of my jacket. Two pairs of waders hung in the midday nap and countless ripples,
The morning brought a few white pine just off to the side. The runs and holes the weekend crowd
inches of heavy and wet snow. rest of his kitchenware hung on cut walks by.
Temperatures hovering just above limbs above the waders, limbs that A retired postal worker, Randy
freezing before an afternoon sun looked like they'd been cut before I lectured on his work ethic as it
brought subtle warming to melt was born. It was like I walked into relates to steelhead; rain, sleet or
away the footprints along the river. a permanent dwelling rather than a snow, you can always count on
I won't see Randy until next year makeshift steelhead camp. Cases of your mail. Besides the boredom
when I meet him to set up his camp beer, mostly half-empty, were scat- of stamps and their surprising
along on a small Lake Michigan tered in all the right places — next fluctuation in price, most of what
tributary hiding in the vast forests to the outhouse, alongside the steps Randy has to say is pretty valuable.
of the Upper Peninsula. to the camper, underneath a small Shorten your leader. Lighten up
I met Randy almost a decade chair by a fire pit and underneath your weight. Fish every bit of water
ago when I stumbled into his camp. the arm of the large man who that looks fishy. And don't come
He had his sweatpants tucked into asked if I was lost. back to camp until you have to
layers of stained and ripped wool I never told Randy this, but I navigate using the stars.

34 |

Spring 2020.indd 36 2/12/2020 1:19:32 PM

This little, anonymous, nearly- of. The back eddy with the large seemed to be stuck at the post
nameless creek I found Randy on is boulder that ate up spawn sacs for offices in his working years and
far from the radiant spring flowing a living, Randy would effortlessly have never made their way onto the
in your rainbow trout daydreams. cast behind, rod tip high, walking sacred places of steelhead water.
It's a paradise for different and his bait into the downstream seam, Mid-April of this year, after we
better reasons than bushels full of regularly hooking fish in spots compared our recent Christmas
fish. It's life-giving in a unifying I thought were too small to hold gifts of new waterproofed slippers,
way. Sturdy runs of Lake Michigan anything worthwhile. Randy climbed into his truck
rainbow trout swim alongside He never gave much direction camper and came out promptly
broad-shouldered browns, nothing those first days. Instead, he'd with a few steelhead season gifts
ginormous but fish that bring a ask questions about my life, my of his own — a long-necked jug of
smile to your face and bend to your writing, my home to the north, cheap, blackberry brandy and a
rod. his thoughts on modern politics handful of retired steelhead rods he
Occasionally, deeper and and interjections of Haig-Brown thought I might fancy.
slower pools hold brook trout with ideas he was particularly partial The rods were hand-tied by the
a mouth full of steelhead eggs. It's to, like "if you have taken blind Postman himself, old and crusty
cedar swamp edges are wintering chance on such things as the state with wearing guides and worn
ground for whitetail deer, and every of the water and the weather ferrels. "With a little love, they
spring either Randy or myself cut and the arrival or nonarrival of could be serviceable again, all good
a fresh set of bear tracks, aimlessly migratory fish, you really deserve a blanks, or you can just hang on to
directed without them, I don't need
a pattern, from a them anymore."
recently-awoken I told him I might
boar or sow on the fix up one or two,
prowl for food. but the others will
It wasn't in go on the rod rack
the first year we to the right of my
knew each other woodstove, a spot I
that I was able to enjoy staring at in
fish with Randy. the winter when I
Instead, we went daydream about the
our separate ways upcoming spring.
for the few days I I think he liked
slept in my truck my thinking. This
in the site next to year's fishing wasn't
his, me wandering anything spectacular,
all over hell and at least the few days
Randy fishing I spent in Randy's
a few stretches camp.
patiently in the We fished a lot
mornings and late of the deeper water
afternoons. to combat the lack
I made sure to visit Randy disappointment." of rain and talked a lot about
the next year, and after a night of This creek was much like the the secrets in a really good batch
drinking, I weaseled my way into streams Haig-Brown was fond of, of blueberry wine and pickled
fishing with him the next morning. Randy too. Over the years, I've had peppers.
He told me stories of his youth, bar as many fishless days as good days. The few fish that were hooked
fights and late-night arrests as we Even in the worst of conditions, played out as they usually do. I
worked ripple, run and pool twenty deep snow, cold water and no signs frantically chased fish all over the
yards apart. of spring's arrival, Randy seems to stream, throwing caution to the
He fished calmly and intently. enjoy the disappointment. Like the wind, wading in water well over
His casts were short and almost steelhead brought him there, but he the brim of my waders, my feet in
intimate, his fingers gently pulsing decided to stay for reasons entirely panic in search of stable ground.
on line above the reel, subtly unrelated. Randy played his fish with little
sensing any information the river Maybe it was the solitude, his fervor as if he would rather them
would part with. orderly campy or even the random break his leader on a zealous leap
Snags were a mystery to Randy. company of kids in their mid-twen- or ferocious tear downstream than
The log I caught up on two casts in ties still blind with steelhead lust. tire a bright fish out for no other
a row, he gently drifted over the top Whatever it is, Randy's frustrations reason than the odd satisfaction of

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 35

Spring 2020.indd 37 2/12/2020 1:19:32 PM

of holding them in your hands.
Steelhead fishing is as much about
heartbreak as it is about unadulterated
The lows make the highs so much
sweeter, and the relationship between
our worst and best moments is a
reality with which every human being
must come to terms.
I, a young and idyllic millennial,
have a tough time remembering
the opposing manifestation of life
in the grips of either depression or
jubilation. But often, after a winter of
vitamin D deficiency and the shack
nasties, I am reminded of the lessons
of disappointment and the dangers of
unrealistic expectations.
Oftentimes, I am first struck by
these realizations sitting around
Randy's camp, conversing about Haig-
Brown, the tedious measures of the
US Postal Service and what the night's
rain might mean for the little creek on
the other side of the ridge.
If I owe anything to steelhead, it's
not the relentless desire to dominate
them as a subservient creature but to
appreciate and adore them as a living
thing with transcendent value — the
value of friendship, euphoria and,
more times than not, disappointment.

"Shorten your leader. Lighten

up your weight. Fish every bit
of water that looks fishy. And
don't come back to camp until
you have to navigate using the

36 |

Spring 2020.indd 38 2/12/2020 1:19:35 PM

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Spring 2020.indd 39 2/12/2020 1:19:35 PM

Chasing Michigan
MONSTERSg By Duke Lebaron

a s i n
C h

38 |

Spring 2020.indd 40 2/12/2020 1:19:36 PM

s sportsmen and women
in this great country, we
are extremely fortunate
to be able to pursue a
multitude of game species, in all
kinds of habitats, using many
different methods.
We can thank our preceding
generations of conservationists
for this wonderful fortune — and
ourselves for continuing to carry
on this legacy.
All these opportunities allow
us to sample continuously from the
smorgasbord or to hone in on a niche
that really fits our personal prefer-
ences. When it comes to angling
opportunities, few states have it
better than we do in Michigan.
Of all the renowned fisheries
we have, one species that tends to
get overlooked — and sometimes the subject and leave it at that, but I Even with that restriction, most
even criticized — is the mighty hope you'll stick around for the true lakes and rivers depend on voluntary
muskellunge. fishing tale to follow. catch-and-release of muskies to
Often reaching sizes surpassed First, look at any of the places maintain their population.
only by the lake sturgeon, it seems with good muskie fishing — those It's easy to understand the desire
like muskies would be difficult to with relatively high populations — to keep a big muskie or to enjoy the
overlook. then take an honest assessment of sport of dark house spearing in the
Add to that the fact that Lake the other gamefish there, too. winter (Michigan is the only place
St. Clair boasts probably the most Do a little homework, check feel- in the world that allows non-tribal
productive muskie fishery in the ings with actual scientific facts and spearing of muskies).
world, and you might think that don't rely on, potentially, uninformed Still, many of our muskie fish-
statement is downright absurd. opinions. eries suffer under limited harvest. In
But outside of Lake St. Clair, You'll find muskies are not many places, their populations are
which is in a category all its own that villains at all and that other cohabi- that small.
seems like a different world, muskies tant fish do very well, but don't take With a big, old fish, we literally
get less love in Michigan than they my word for it either. Check the real hold our conservation legacy in our
do in the other places they also call facts out for yourself. hands, and we can choose to carry
home. Second, the biggest reason it on or choose to carry that big fish
It's become clear to me after muskie fishing isn't more popular out.
having traveled all over the muskie's is that it's difficult, and the biggest Even at its best potential, most
range and studying their history reason it's difficult is there aren't anglers, quite understandably, aren't
extensively, in general, more many of them. History has shown going to take up muskie fishing.
Michiganders tend to have a different that harvest rates have a dramatic However, almost everyone is inter-
attitude towards muskies (again, impact on muskie populations, so ested in big fish, through curiosity at
outside of Lake St. Clair) than other with higher harvest rates, we shoot the least, and likely appreciate that
states and Canada. ourselves in the foot. they exist.
One notable difference here is Harvest regulations have reacted But as for me and a relatively
that muskies are often villainized to our high harvest rates, and now, small number of die-hard Michigan
for over-eating other fish species. regulations restrict anglers to muskie anglers, their pursuit
Another is that a higher propor- keeping just one muskie per year on is unmatched in intrigue and
tion of muskies are harvested in their fishing license, with reporting excitement.
Michigan. of kept fish to the DNR a mandatory I thoroughly enjoy fishing for
I'll share two quick thoughts on requirement. every other species, but there's
something special about muskies.
"But as for me and a relatively small number of die-hard Michigan Their ways are mysterious, often
muskie anglers, their pursuit is unmatched in intrigue and
Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 39

Spring 2020.indd 41 2/12/2020 1:19:37 PM

and that pursuing muskies was
"Before my heart could even start beating again, the river had foolishness.
returned to perfect silence. It took several more seconds for the Not entirely without success,
for a few small muskies had been
surface to settle back into an unblemished sheet of glass, but landed and a few more had shown
themselves trailing behind baits,
while it did, I still hadn't moved a muscle." but the big fish I dreamt of were just
maddening, and pursuing them But, oh, that strike… When they
It was an idyllic summer
is far more like big game hunting finally do strike, I live for it.
morning on a quiet river in the U.P.,
than fishing. Many years ago, still wet
where every fishing day dawns with
Part of their draw is certainly behind the ears in my muskie life
great hope and with great gratitude
the extreme challenge: the long but showing symptoms of being
just for being there. But, thoughts of
hours between encounters, the under their spell, I had one of those
another long drive back home and
physical toll of casting large baits on ah-ha moments that would end up
to work, defeated in my quest, were
heavy tackle or the agony of a long- changing me forever.
already creeping in.
awaited encounter that ends with a The day before had been a grind:
At first light, I motored upstream
fish so tantalizingly close, ultimately 11 hours of casting and hoping for a
from camp for about eight miles,
unwilling to accept your generous muskie with a couple of small pike to
then started drifting with the slow
offering. Muskies love to follow baits show for it.
current and pitching short casts
and typically do this to tease more It was a near carbon-copy of the
toward the bank.
often than they strike. day before and typical of the many
This is a remote stretch of river,
Apparently, I enjoy this form of days fished in my new, developing
no cabins or any sign of human
punishment because it comes with interest. But I was waning and
disturbance, and wide enough that
the territory, yet I keep coming back. started to think people were right
two anglers can just reach each bank
with long casts from a boat in the
But on this morning, I was alone
taking in the sweet solitude while
methodically placing casts into the
shoreline cover with the hopes of
luring a muskie out to play — or,
better yet, to fight.
Under the right lighting, such
as this morning, the tannic river
appeared virtually black, like a
bottomless swath cut through the
forest — verdant green in its early
summer stage.
It was perfect stillness, making
the water appear even less like that
which typically invites children and
adults alike to splash in and more
like an ominous ink that makes you
stiffen up and want to keep your safe
Using a hand-carved, homemade
bait of my brother's serendipitous
creation called "The Snake" because
it swam seductively like a water
moccasin across the surface, the
9-inch jointed wakebait silently
returned to the boat over and over.
By the time the Snake was finally
retired years later, it had
accounted for many fish, including
my very first muskie. That momen-
tous occasion two years before
crossed my mind on this day and

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Spring 2020.indd 42 2/12/2020 1:19:37 PM

every time I snapped The Snake to
my line.
But right now, my thoughts
were getting increasingly antsy and
fixated, wondering if I would ever
see one of those mythical fish of
monstrous proportions. I craved the
experience of catching one beyond
what words can describe. So many
hours had been invested.
I was only an hour in on this day,
though, with no sign of life anywhere
on the river. Perfect silence physi-
cally presses in on your senses from
all sides in times like these if you
let it, gradually increasing until it
becomes a presence — a party to
your hypnosis.
The Snake was carving its way
back to the boat yet again; its bright
orange-painted back standing out
against the coffee-no-cream.
Staring it down intently, now 6
feet from the boat as I was readying jaws just below my eye level, and Upon re-entry, its head never went
to transition this cast into the seam- its tail clear of the now-shattered back under as it thrashed, open-
less placement of the next, the river's surface. mouthed, back and forth two times
silence was finally broken. Seemingly frozen in mid-air for at half-speed until the bait floated
Like a Polaris missile launched what felt like minutes — you know harmlessly away from it.
from a submarine, the huge muskie that cliche that isn't cliche — but The beast gave a menacing pause
erupted from beneath the Snake with actually without nearly enough time in apparent smug satisfaction at its
absolutely no warning and no chance or the wherewithal to do anything work, and giving one last glimpse
to see it coming. but clench my body and bug my eyes of it, then left me, disappearing into
Instantly, I had a full-length view out at the spectacle. the blackness with one smooth slow
of the fish: the bait crossways in its The fish crashed back down tail turn.
first into a frothing whitewater swirl. Before my heart could even start
beating again, the river had
returned to perfect silence. It took
several more seconds for the
surface to settle back into an
unblemished sheet of glass, but
while it did, I still hadn't moved a
In shock, gripping the rod and
reel, a few feet of line trailing to
The Snake, I just stared at it until it
stopped bobbing, then lay still.
My brain, slowly beginning
to function again, unscrambling
thoughts so that I could separate the
one rational one that mattered. And
it flickered into focus: it's gone. It's
not coming back.
Now resigned to this realization,
motor functions gradually
resumed in my body, too. My first
action was to mutter out loud
for all of the river and Hiawatha
and nothing else to hear,
"O-o-o... K-a-a-y..."

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 41

Spring 2020.indd 43 2/12/2020 1:19:38 PM

Michigan Wildlife Council campaign generating
greater appreciation for hunting and fishing
s hunters and anglers take Pedigo, chair of the council. wildlife conservation work that
to the woods and waters Funded through $1 from takes place statewide.
this spring, they’ll have an every hunting and fishing license, The message is clearly reso-
ever-growing number of fellow the council’s public education nating. The 2019 MWC survey
Michiganders cheering them on. campaign is steadily building found that 73% of state residents
Well, maybe not literally. But the case that scientifically correctly identify hunting and
new research commissioned by based conservation and wildlife fishing licenses as the largest
the Michigan Wildlife Council management practices – including sources of funding for wildlife
(MWC) shows growing appreciation regulated hunting and fishing – are management work in Michigan.
among the general public for the essential to preserving the state’s The campaign also notes that
conservation and economic benefits cherished outdoor resources. outdoors enthusiasts of all types
sportsmen and women generate for – not just hunters and anglers but
the state. Messaging received also birdwatchers, hikers, canoe-
“We’re finding increasing ists, etc. – benefit from that funding
recognition of the positive impact In a range of outlets including through the conservation of our
that hunting and fishing have on social media, TV commercials and woods, waters and other natural
Michigan – which is exactly what billboards, the MWC continues to resources.
the Michigan Wildlife Council stress that it is hunting and fishing “Many nonhunters love the
was charged with accomplishing license sales – not general state outdoors every bit as much as those
when it was created by the state taxes – that fund the bulk of the of us who do hunt or fish,” Pedigo
Legislature in 2013,” said Matt said. “What we’re aiming to do is
capitalize on those shared values.
We’re helping people realize that
what we do as hunters and anglers
helps make possible what they
enjoy doing outdoors.”
The approach is proving
successful, as three-quarters of
Michiganders agree that hunting
and fishing license fees have a
Photo Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

major or moderate benefit to

Michigan, the survey found.
In addition, the council
routinely cites Michigan United
Conservation Clubs research that
found that hunting and fishing
activity generates more than $11.2
billion annually for the state’s
That information is also
gaining traction, with the survey
finding that 76% of people believe
that the hunting and fishing
industry contributes significantly
to Michigan’s economic well-being.

42 |

Spring 2020.indd 44 2/12/2020 1:19:39 PM

Michigan’s hunting and fishing
heritage runs deep. Across the state,
everyone benefits from these activities.

Every year, Michigan’s 2 million

hunters and anglers generate over
$11 billion for the economy and
$61 million for wildlife conservation
through the sale of licenses. The
Michigan Wildlife Council’s mission is
to promote the tremendous importance
of hunting and fishing to the great
state of Michigan. Created in 2013 by
the Michigan Legislature, the council
seeks to build understanding among
the state’s non-hunting and non-fishing
residents through a statewide public
education effort – so that our outdoor
heritage will continue to be here
for generations.

Learn more at HereForMiOutdoors.orgg

Team effort in 2015, it shows that the need is room for improvement in getting
remains to continue educating the general public to recognize the
Other key survey findings Michiganders about the impor- unique role hunters and anglers
include the fact that approval tance of wildlife management and play in wildlife management.
of hunting and fishing remains conservation, Pedigo said. The campaign also encourages
high across all geographic and Through its first four years, participation from hunters and
demographic groups, with 86% of the public education campaign has anglers in helping spread the word
Michiganders approving of recre- primarily targeted individuals in about the good they perform for
ational fishing and 83% approving the state’s population centers of the state, which beyond funding
of legal, regulated hunting. Southeast Michigan and Greater wildlife management projects and
“We’re continuing to build Grand Rapids who don’t hunt or boosting the economy, includes
on the goodwill that hunting and fish but at least moderately approve food donations and volunteer
fishing already generally enjoy,” of the activities. conservation work, Pedigo said.
Pedigo said. “And while it’s clear While that demographic will “Serving as ambassadors for
that wildlife conservation activities remain the primary focus, the Michigan’s outdoor heritage and
are important to people, there is council plans to broaden the traditions will not only help ensure
still work to be done in educating campaign’s geographic reach to that our state’s forests, waters
select audiences on their necessity other high-population areas to and wildlife will be here for future
for ensuring Michigan’s wildlife build an even greater foundation of generations to enjoy, but also that
remains abundant and healthy.” support for wildlife conservation we will continue to have the right
For example, he notes, only 50% practices. to hunt and fish on them,” Pedigo
of survey respondents disagreed Great strides in knowledge said.
with the statement that “Wildlife and appreciation have been made, To learn more about the
does not require management by but confusion regarding funding Michigan Wildlife Council’s efforts
humans to thrive.” remains high. For example, 71% to educate the public about how
While that’s a notable improve- of Michiganders believe their hunting and fishing benefit the
ment from the 39% of people who tax dollars are funding wildlife state, visit
disagreed with the statement management. This shows that there

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 43

Spring 2020.indd 45 2/12/2020 1:19:39 PM

By Blake Sherburne

44 |

Spring 2020.indd 46 2/12/2020 1:19:42 PM

very winter, the same thing happens.
My life-long fishing buddy, Kenny, and I spend just about every possible moment on our local rivers
chasing steelhead. As all steelheaders know, sometimes the bites are few and far between.
During the long bouts of fishing, in between the quick bursts of catching and after we have
exhausted every possible excuse of why we are not catching steelhead, where they might be and how we
might get into them in the next hole or during the next trip, we turn to making plans.
These flights of fancy take us from streamer fishing for giant Browns in Arkansas to catching out-sized
brook trout in Ontario. We plan trips to Colorado to fish sippers on the South Fork of the South Platte and
Wyoming to fish the upper Green near Pinedale, where I once had what was maybe the best day of fly fishing
I have ever had. We talk about Utah to fish the Green River in Flaming Gorge, Montana for cutthroat,
Louisiana for redfish, Florida for tarpon, bonefish and permit, and Alaska for egg-eating rainbows.
Sometimes, we plan trips that would require a passport: Seychelles for giant trevally, Patagonia for
familiar species in an unfamiliar place and New Zealand to sight-fish wary, pressured brown trout. But
mostly, we make plans for short trips around Northern Michigan; trips we can make after work or on the
Every winter, we make plans for more fishing trips than we have nights or weekends to fulfill them.
We talk about a trip we once took from Hole in the Fence Access, which we mistakenly thought was
Yellow Tree, on the upper Manistee to the CCC Bridge.
It made for a long float in our raft, but we had the best day of streamer fishing we have ever had in
Michigan. We plan quick jaunts around the tip of the mitt for smallmouth, evening trips to the Tippy Dam
section of the Manistee, after most steelheaders have gone home, to look for late-season steelhead and
We promise ourselves more afternoons and weekend mornings to catch enough bluegills to have
a fish fry, and every year we swear we are going to find a good place to fish the Hendrickson or
Mother’s Day Caddis hatch. This does not even include the excursions we arrange for our
other past times like skiing and hunting.
Most years, most of these plans go unfulfilled. I have two small children at home and
a wife who likes to see me occasionally. Nights and weekends can be hard to come by.
We laugh at our extravagant daydreams, knowing that we are probably going to spend
all of our time in our same old haunts doing the same old things.
But finally, last season, we made ourselves live out
one of our steelhead-fishing-doldrum
fantasies. It was still technically

"We laugh at our extravagant daydreams, knowing that

we are probably going to spend all of our time in our
same old haunts doing the same old things."
Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 45

Spring 2020.indd 47 2/12/2020 1:19:44 PM

steelhead season when we loaded
up Kenny’s Stealthcraft Power
"Our day was done and done on a high note. Finally, one of our
Drifter with all of our streamer
gear and hit a local Manistee River
steelhead conversations had come to fruition and successfully, at
bayou for post-spawn, post-ice-out that."
Spring 2018 was a bitterly- In preparation for this trip, I and some that I had purchased.
cold spring, and this day was no had looked up all the different ways Our first couple passes up and
exception. The wind was blowing to attach a bite leader to a tapered back on the south bank produced
out of the north at about 25 miles leader. To avoid the headache nary a strike, and we were just
per hour, which would make fly of Albright knots and haywire about to call the day on account of
casting a struggle, but we would be twists, I decided that the technique the wind and lack of success when I
throwing heavy sink tip lines that that made the most sense, both decided to try one last streamer.
eze." would cut the wind well. We put for my pocketbook and ease of The last streamer in my box
on all of our heavy winter fishing use, was just to make my own was a Drunk and Disorderly,
clothing and launched the boat. leader. I started with thirty-pound developed by Michigan’s-own
We eased the boat into the tippet and tapered down to 10- or Tommy Lynch, but it came into my
bayou dead into that gnarly north 12-pound. possession in a curiously round-
wind. The only area of this partic- To that, I tied on a normal- about way. I accidentally stole it
ular small body of water that was production steel leader. The steel from a guide in Cotter, Arkansas
really fishable was the south bank. leader had a swivel to help with line (Brad Smith, I apologize). I fished
The rest of the bayou is shallow twist and a snap to make switching with Brad the last day of my second
and weedy and full of expensive, streamers much easier than cutting trip to Arkansas last spring.
streamer-eating snags. The setup wire and banging my head against I had my clothing and gear
worked perfectly. Kenny rowed the another haywire twist. packed up in my truck for the first
boat into the wind like it was the I tried several different leg of the 14-hour drive home after
current of the main stem of the streamers. I had a couple dedicated fishing all day. A few hours north
river, and I worked the south bank, pike streamers and two boxes full of Cotter, I pulled into a McDonald's
wind at my back. of trout streamers that I had tied for dinner on the road. My wallet
was still in my fishing jacket in the
back seat. Reaching behind me, I
grabbed the jacket and flopped it
into my lap, sending the D&D, that
I had somehow swept off the boat at
the end of the day with my sleeve,
onto the dash of my truck.
Not one to look a gift horse in
the mouth, the streamer went into
one of my boxes where I knew it
would come in handy at some point.
Just a few weeks later, back
in Michigan where that streamer
originated and apparently truly
belonged, I snapped that Drunk &
Disorderly with freshly-sharpened
hooks onto my fancy new steel
I do not get to say this often, but
the first retrieve with my new-to-me
streamer came to a soft stop about
halfway back to the boat. It was
not the rod-wrenching strike I was
hoping for, but in all my previous
casts, I had felt no resistance at all,
so I strip-set hard and was into a
small pike for the first time that
Kenny questioned my honesty
when I said it was a pike, and

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Spring 2020.indd 48 2/12/2020 1:19:44 PM

quickly a small hammer-handle winter storms and wondered who promised to fillet it for the dinner
was in the net and ready for his would be dumb enough to fly fish in table and to bring the y-bone cuts to
close-up. A few casts later, my that heavy north wind. me for the pickling jar.
line stopped again. The next pike Several streamer changes later, Within sight of the truck,
proved to be only slightly larger, and Kenny had so far failed to fool a Kenny flopped the streamer around
but it got its picture taken, too, and pike. I talked him into snapping on a few more times without success.
was quickly returned. I worked the Drunk and Disorderly for the Our day was done and done
the bank a bit more before finally final row back to the launch. on a high note. Finally, one of our
feeling guilty about my success and I swung us back towards the cut steelhead conversations had come
taking over at the sticks for Kenny. that led back to the boat ramp and to fruition and successfully, at that
Kenny started his shift at the warm hands, and Kenny fished the We loaded the boat and stowed
back of the boat the same way I whole way. our gear just in time to have our
did. He poured through his boxes, Just when I had given up friendly, local DNR officer wheel
thinking out loud about which hope on any more fish for the day, into the launch. A cold spring
streamer was going to be the Kenny’s retrieve came tight, and he rain started to fall to join the
magic bullet. He selected a double was into a good fish. bitter north wind while the officer
deceiver that he had tied. It had been lying just off the checked Kenny’s rig and fish and
I raised anchor and pointed the brushy bank where the current our licenses.
boat into the wind. The boat slid started to pick up through the little Mostly, we stood around,
sideways, nose into the wind, and slough that led back to the truck. It shooting the cold north breeze.
Kenny worked the south bank. His hit harder and bent his eight weight Luckily, we had left Kenny’s truck
deceiver failed to deceive, and soon more than either of my fish had running after towing his boat out,
he was switching flies. flexed mine. so it was good and warm when we
I rowed him back and forth We soon had a beautiful, got in, ready to warm wind-chilled
along the bank while homeowners 30-inch pike in the net. This fish bodies and pike-slimed fingers.
nearby burned the brush that was not so lucky as the first two. It
had fallen into their yards during was quickly on a stringer. Kenny

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 47

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Bill Earl
Youth Fishing Program
By Jim Bedford
Lansing. Annually, 150-200 children they started their youth fishing

his May, the Bill Earl are exposed/introduced to the sport program to honor the late Dr. Bill
Youth Fishing Program of fishing. Earl, an active member who was
is being held for the tenth As most of us are aware, the very interested in getting young-
consecutive year in Lansing. number of anglers (and hunters) sters on the water with a fishing
The fun happens on the first has been decreasing, and the rod in their hands.
three Saturdays in May at the recruitment of young people to John Hesse is the club's
Hawk Island County Park in south our sport has become a goal youth education chairperson and
of many angling organiza- director of the program. He has
tions. Fishin' Michigan is a been a fishing buddy of mine for
Lansing-based fishing club, over 50 years and really works
and hard to make sure the program is
successful. The program has many
partners, but Project F.I.S.H. and
its director, Mark Stephens, are
likely the most important.
Participants are given a rod
and reel and a tackle box filled with
basic gear. When they arrive for
the program, they are kept busy
checking out aquatic macroinver-
tebrates and a display of live sea
lampreys until the program
The volunteers have
already been there for an
hour getting things set up
and they arouse the kids'
curiosity and answer ques-
tions from them about the
critters they are observing.
After the introduction,
the kids are divided into
three groups. Each group
is sent to one of the learning
stations and then they rotate
through them.
At the tackle/rigging station,
they learn about what is in their
tackle box they were given at
registration. They are taught the
improved clinch knot, how to rig
a slip bobber onto their line, add
a split shot of the appropriate size
and practice tying on a hook with
the knot they just learned.
At the casting station, they
learn how their push-button reel

48 |

Spring 2020.indd 50 2/12/2020 1:19:47 PM

Volunteers teach kids and parents the fundamentals of casting using fish-shaped targets on the ground. The first cast
taught was an underhand, pendulum cast.

works and to make underhand, only steps away. the initial and follow-up events.
pendulum casts. While this cast is Kids claim bait boxes with red These are matched up with partici-
a safe one when fishing in a group, worms and wax worms on their pants, and prints are made. These
it is also emphasized that this is a way to the water. The shrieks of I are then sent to the children's
very accurate cast and they get to caught one begin to echo around families to remind them of the fun
practice catching plastic fish on the pond. If you have ever experi- they had and lure them back to the
the lawn with it. Some get so good enced hearing these happy sounds water for more fishing.
at it that volunteers have to keep and seeing the joy on a kid's face Youth that have been through
moving the plastic fish further when he or she catches that first the program are invited back each
away from them for an extra fish, you will know why we never year. They are reminded to bring
challenge. have a problem getting enough the rod and reel and the tackle that
Michigan conservation officers volunteers. Often the volunteer to they were given. While the new
lead the regulations and ethics child ratio is one to one. kids are rotating through the three
station where the kids learn how to To reinforce this activity, or stations, volunteers will be avail-
identify fish species, measure those keep them "hooked," follow-up able to troubleshoot the gear of the
species with minimum size regula- fishing outings are scheduled returning youth.
tions correctly, why conservation on Tuesday evenings in June at An often-repeated phrase that
is important and the proper ethics different sites. I am guilty of overusing is that we
to be a good angler. A tape measure In addition to the fishing, the are now in, at least, our second
is given to the kids to put in their kids learn how to fillet and cook generation of indoor kids. In my
tackle boxes. the fish. And, of course, someone opinion, most likely a minority one
After the kids have been has to eat those delicious bluegills among the general population, elec-
through all the stations, the real and other panfish. A map showing tronic gadgets are a poor substitute
fun begins. It's time to go fishing. A fishing sites that are close by is also for the entertainment the natural
large pond/small lake with a good given to each participant. world provides.
population of warm water fish is Many photos are taken at both The Bill Earl Program requires

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 49

Spring 2020.indd 51 2/12/2020 1:19:47 PM

a parent or guardian to accompany
the child to its events. Often both the
kid and the parent are learning how
to fish, hooray!
This helps ensure the possibility
that fishing will become a regular
family activity. We have definitely
had events when the whole family
participated. Hooray for that, too.
Another phrase that I am guilty
of overusing is the "fishing gene."
I strongly believe that many folks
would like fishing if they were just
exposed to the activity.
I taught "beginning angling" at
Lansing Community College for over
25 years and got to watch a number
of adults discover that they had the
fishing gene. It just needed to be
While more and more women
Above: A child and parent share a moment of excitement from catching a fish are getting into fishing, I strongly
at Hawk Island park where the event is held. Below: Participants get a closeup believe that they continue to be
look at sea lamprey in a tank. The invasive species is a major concern to underrepresented and that there
anglers in Michigan and understanding invasive species is an important part of are lots of women that would enjoy
combatting their spread. fishing if they were given a chance to

50 |

Spring 2020.indd 52 2/12/2020 1:19:49 PM

Participants and volunteers take full advantage of the docks at Hawk Island
Park. The park offers plenty of space for new anglers to cast a line and enjoy a
favorite pasttime of many Michiganders.

try it.
I am sure glad that little girls
are very well-represented at our
youth fishing events.

Fish for Stocking

For anyone interested in
starting a fishing program for
kids, John Hesse has written a
very detailed guidance document
on developing a youth fishing
program. You can obtain a copy
by emailing Hesse at hessej@msu. • Most varieties for ponds or lakes
MUCC has long been at the • Laggis' Fish Farm
forefront of getting our youth
outdoors with their Michigan
Out-of-Doors Youth Camp and
• Days: (269) 628 2056
their Tracks magazine.
It behooves us all to instill
• Nights: (269) 624 6215
the love of the outdoors in our
children and grandchildren.
Take a kid fishing or hunting
every chance you get.

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 51

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Lost but not forgotten: The
Legendary Michigan Grayling
By Brianne Turczynski
the grayling a brightly-colored fish
and a dream of an artist’s palette.
Like rainbows shimmering in the
water, their large dorsal fins had
an iridescence reminiscent of the
ocellus in a peacock’s feather. “The
grayling laid like cordwood in the
Au Sable,” Babbitt said, “and it was
no trick to catch them on a fly tied
with the feathers of a blue jay or
high-holder, or a squirrel tail.”
He mentions that from
1875-1881, he and his father sold
and shipped them to a Chicago
restaurant for a generous sum of
Then the world got wind of
it—the river’s secret abundance.
Executives vacationing from big

cities came to the northern region
t would be difficult to find a fish in the Au Sable,” he said,
of Michigan for a bit of sport and
person these days who had “and wondered what they were.
went home filled with pride after
firsthand experience with the Whenever we needed provisions,
catching hundreds in one weekend.
Michigan grayling. father would walk to Bay City for
They saw the voracity at which
Old fishing tales passed down them, and one time he took along
these fish ate and began fishing for
through generations eulogize a a couple of the fish to satisfy his
financial gain, brought the train
fish sought after for its magnificent curiosity. Nobody in Bay City knew
lines in and fished thousands of the
beauty, delicious meat and ravenous what they were, so father gave
grayling out of the water.
hunger. them to [a friend], who said he
With no season or size
In Hazen L. Miller’s book, would send them to Washington for
regulation to mark the end of the
The Old Au Sable, he writes of a identification.”
slaughter, the innocent grayling,
fish with an almost unquenchable When they found out the
whose flesh smelled of thyme and
appetite. It’d try anything you’d beautiful fish that swam in
tasted sweet, was nearly done for.
put on your fishing line, “bits of abundance in the Au Sable was
In his book, Miller retells
cloth from a hooked rug, cherry none other than the coveted
the fishing tale of Ansell Judd
blossoms, pieces of its cousins”—it grayling, they changed the name of
Northrup, a lawyer from Syracuse,
didn’t discriminate. the town from Crawford to Grayling
New York, who came to the
The grayling swam freely in the in honor of it.
Au Sable in 1879 to fish for the
Au Sable River before 1900 and were At that time, the grayling
renowned grayling.
correctly identified around 1870. population was immense. “We
Northrup writes, “I made my
Rube Babbitt, whose family were very much pleased with the
first cast. In a flash, with a leap
was one of the early settlers discovery and resolved to benefit
out of water a fish seized the fly
of an area near a railroad stop from it commercially,” Babbitt
before it touched the surface, and
named Crawford, recounts fishing reminisced in an interview with the
was fairly hooked, with scarcely
with his father and catching the Detroit News on December 15th,
an effort of mine. I hastily drew
mystical fish for the first time, “My 1929.
him in—he weighed only four
father and I caught a few strange The old fishing tales render

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ounces—and, for the first time,
beheld the marvelous colors of the
large dorsal fin and the pectoral
fins, the silvery sides, the olive-
brown back, the “V” shaped black
specks…and the graceful, taper
form of the grayling. If I had not
taken another fish, I should have
felt repaid for my journey.”
Northrup’s second grayling
gave more of a fight, “Casting
again, I struck a fine fellow that
showed great vigor and activity
for two or three minutes…I gave
him full play and studied his form,
colors and spirited movements in
the clear water, as he passed up
and down, within twenty feet of the
boat. The magnificent dorsal fin,
erect like a warrior’s plume, waved
like a battle standard, and glowed
like a rainbow, and his shining sides
lashed in the sunlight like silver.” When fishing enthusiast and unburied in camp tainted the air, as
The anglers, however, writer Thaddeus Norris visited the dead fish poisoned the water.”
complained that although they Michigan to try for grayling, he He goes on to simply urge fellow
would bite ravenously, their little caught 120 pounds in a day. fishermen, “Gentlemen, save the
mouths were so delicate that He wrote in an article published grayling.”
anglers had to be careful landing in Scribner’s Monthly Magazine The grayling population
the fish. in November of 1879, “I took at eventually dwindled until
William B. Mershon writes in five casts fifteen fish, averaging vacationers and natives alike no
this Recollections of Fifty Years of three-quarters of a pound each. longer caught any at all.
Hunting and Fishing, that “If you The following day we fished “He is a “free biter”, Northrup
get one on your line in the swift along leisurely until we had our writes, “and is bound to disappear
waters of the Au Sable, you will be live-boxes, containing each sixty before the multitude of rods avowed
fortunate as well as skillful if you pounds, so full that the fish began over his devoted head. The sport
land your fish, for the grayling is a to die.” he affords in his capture, this taste
tender-mouthed fish and you must The gluttonous nature of the he gratifies in the frying-pan, and
exercise your greatest care and skill grayling coupled with the ambitious the allurements of the charming
in handling him.” attitude of anglers without limits streams he inhabits, all conspire
After years of successful hastened the slaughter and made with his simplicity to destroy him."
fishing, the lumberjacks came and it impossible for nature to make up These predictions came true
used the Au Sable to transport the difference. unfortunately and before the 1920s
lumber. The absence of trees on Mershon states his premonition the grayling was considered by
the shore of the river not only in Fifty Years of Hunting and anglers completely extinct from
increased the temperature of the Fishing, “…the grayling probably the Au Sable River. It’s last sighting
water for lack of shade but gave way could not withstand the excessive unknown.
to erosion. fishing which its native waters As a result of commerce and
The lumberjacks had their sport have undergone, because of its industry—the chopping of trees,
on the surface of the water, but greediness.” which take fifty years or more to
beneath the surface, the spawning He also recounts a time he rejuvenate—Miller argues that the
beds of this coveted fish were witnessed excessive waste by nature of the river is so changed
disturbed, and the particles drudged visitors to the region, “…two that the grayling will never swim its
up from the bottom suffocated large camps, all non-residents and quiet waters again. “No,” he writes,
and killed many of them as bark strangers, killed five-thousand “the grayling is gone forever.”
particles got lodged in their gills. fish…They salted and carried
But Mershon argues that he away at least half of them. Many
did not suspect this to be the cause were eaten, more were wasted. For
of the extinction but rather the two miles below from their camps
grayling’s own greediness. decaying fish whitened the stream
and the offal and fish entrails left

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 53

Spring 2020.indd 55 2/12/2020 1:19:55 PM

Sharpening your

Steely Skills By Jim Bedford

hen we fish streams for steelhead in the ferocity. That being said, I don’t walk around spawning
spring, we often encounter spawning fish when I spot them as I make my way upstream.
fish. My usual plan is to ease my way off to the side of
It is a similar scenario to when we the active redd and make a quartering upstream casts
fish for salmon in the fall. While fishing for spawning above the spawning fish. I carefully watch my lure as it
salmonids is usually taboo in the Pacific Northwest, travels by the fish and see how they react to it.
it is commonly accepted and practiced on Michigan’s Sometimes they are on it on the first cast, but more
Great Lakes tributaries. often, I need to inch my way upstream to give them a
I think this goes back to the early days of fishing for longer look on a directly across stream presentation.
lake-run rainbows when often the season was only open Finally, if they tolerate my presence, I will get above
during the regular trout season. In addition, our much the fish so that I can almost hang it just in front of
colder climate often didn’t allow for winter fishing them. I always watch for signs of interest, a head turn
much of the time. toward the lure, a short follow or an opening of their
Thus, the prime time for steelhead fishing was mouths.
spring, which coincided with when these big rainbows I only use two lures, a spinner and a minnow plug.
were spawning. And we were already fishing for other Changing plugs or blade finishes is rarely successful,
species of fish during their spawning. A prime example but this tactic might be given a try if the fish have
is the fishing for spawning bluegills with flies and shown interest.
spiders; one of the most popular ways to catch these While many anglers will camp on an active redd,
fish. I give the fish a good chance to hit my offering and
I much prefer hooking unseen steelhead in holes then move on upstream, hoping to find a taker in a run
and runs: the dark water. I love solving the mystery of or a hole. Covering water is the best plan during any
where these great fish are holding through reading the season when casting lures for steelhead on their river
water by sight and feel. Ecstasy happens when my lure migration.
enters the territory of a big rainbow, and it attacks with When a redd is found that has an additional male

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steelhead behind the spawning
pair, it is always a good idea to try
and catch these subordinate males
before casting to the spawning
pair. Often these fish seem
somewhat frustrated about being
chased away by the dominant buck
and will readily attack something
Try to steer a hooked fish
downstream away from the
spawning pair. With some skill and
luck, you might be able to catch
several without disturbing the
dominant male and the female.
Catching and releasing more than
one fish off of a redd should and
will give you a lot of satisfaction.
When only the spawning pair
remains, you should try to catch
male first, but often the female is
more intent about protecting her
redd and territory and will beat
the buck to your offering.
Just watching the spawning steelhead is not letting them know of your presence.
ritual, nature in action, enhances spring fishing for Once these big rainbows bust you, they become much
steelhead. The male suitors establish a definite pecking harder to catch. This is especially true when fishing
order. Many times when there were multiple males with artificial lures and flies.
present and I have spooked or caught and released the Moving in an upstream direction is probably the
hen, the dominant male will come back to the redd and number one key to sneaking up on and catching more
chase subordinate males away while he waits for the spring steelhead. Many anglers, especially some fly
female to return. anglers and those drifting live bait, traditionally move
Stealth is always important when stream fishing downstream. Doing an about-face will instantly make
for steelhead and it becomes even more critical when you more successful.
fishing spawning riffles and the shallows of any size Because of eyes on both sides of their heads,
stream where spring steelhead are likely to hold when steelhead have a wide range of vision. However, they
the time to procreate arrives. do have a blind area directly behind them. Since they
Whether you are fishing the dark water or the are almost always facing into the current, you can best
gravel, the steelhead will approach them by wading upstream.
be on edge and spooky in Even though they are looking
these shallow areas of upstream in the opposite
the stream. It should direction, a
also be noted that the quick
dark water can be
deep runs with a good
gravel substrate where
the steelhead are also
In general, all fish are
not very intelligent, but
they are innately wary. This
is especially true for older, larger
members of stream-resident
species, but don’t forget that
steelhead have left the depths
of a very large lake and now
feel vulnerable in a much smaller
A real key to catching a spring-running

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 55

Spring 2020.indd 57 2/12/2020 1:19:58 PM

movement by a large, predatory angler behind them speed slightly faster than the current so they will have
will still likely send them scurrying for cover. action.
Moving slowly and keeping a low profile are Beads, eggs, nymphs, jigs and drift lures can also
important. Wearing clothing that blends in with the sky be easily fished straight upstream. You just need to
and bank vegetation will also help keep you undetected. take in line as it drifts back to you as opposed to the
Moving upstream prevents the sand and silt that traditional letting line out as it drifts downstream from
you stir up when wading from betraying your presence your position.
— the sounds you make when wading are also carried A float will help you make good presentations
away by the current when you move upstream. But without hanging up on the bottom a lot. It is much
sounds do readily better to position
travel through water, your offering a foot
so it is important to or so above the
wade as quietly as stream substrate than
possible. Making long snagging up all the
slow strides is better time.
than short, splashy To get alongside
steps. or above the holding
Pay attention and water or redd, slowly
try not to dislodge move up the side of
rocks or cause them the stream opposite a
to grind against suspected steelhead
each other. A wading lair. Utilize the
staff can help your cover that is hiding
stability and avoid the fish as that
missteps that might also helps conceal
alert the steelhead. you. Examples
One made out of wood are overhanging
is better than a metal vegetation, logs in
or metal-tipped model the water, undercut
because it will be banks and large
quieter. boulders. Turbidity,
The ripples or water depth and a
wake in the water broken surface can
surface you send also help you sneak
ahead when wading alongside or above
are also not likely to the water or redd.
reach and alarm the Looking upstream
steelhead upstream and anticipating the
unless the current holding water and
is very slow. This how you will make
surface disturbance your presentation
will still be diminished when moving against the is important. To do this, you must be able to read the
current, and slow strides will further negate them. water and see well.
One irony of the cautious upstream approach is Polarized sunglasses are an absolute must, and they
many lures and flies are best fished across the current should be paired with a hat that has a substantial bill
and down. or visor to keep atmospheric glare off the lenses. The
My favorite stream lure is the weighted spinner, glasses should be 100% polarized. Those with amber
and its most effective presentation is a quartering tints are usually best because they heighten contrast
downstream cast and then allowing it to sweep and and let through more light while still cutting the
hang in the likely fish-holding water. surface glare.
The fly angler using streamers wants to do likewise, Even though you might be fishing relatively shallow
and the plug fisherman, especially, wants to be above water when chasing spring steelhead, waders are your
the fish and sweep or hold the diving lure against the best choice as opposed to hip boots. The extra freeboard
current. gives you more options when approaching your quarry.
So, how do we accomplish this? Well, we still They allow you to stay in the stream in deeper water,
cautiously work our way upstream and plan ahead which helps keep you out of sight. They also allow you
on how we will cast to each fish-holding area as we to kneel in shallow water if necessary to stay out of
come to it. We can still cast spinners, spoons, plugs and sight and get into the best position to cast.
streamers upstream and retrieve them downstream at a Paying attention to where you are wading can help

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Spring 2020.indd 58 2/12/2020 1:19:58 PM

you approach the fish. Try to avoid areas with loose Final thoughts: Whether you are okay with fishing
rocks and gravel that will shift and make noise when for visible spawning steelhead or not, it is important
you walk on them. to remember these fish are not actively feeding and,
Often, the best and easiest path is the deeper route usually are not feeding at all. That includes the fish
because there will be less current and, of course, you resting in the dark water near the spawning gravel and,
are less visible to the fish when you are waist-deep in of course, the fish that are spawning unseen in deeper
the water. water.
When fishing a stream where the steelhead are One of the problems with fishing for steelhead
successfully reproducing, I believe it is important to on their redds is the accidental foul hooking of them.
release most or all of your catch, especially the females. Irritating them with a gaudy fly or lure is better than
These wild fish have survived a rigorous life cycle trying to get them to eat an egg or dark nymph. If the
and have made it back to their spawning grounds fish are not interested in your bright offering, they can
to start a new one. Keep in mind that the males can see it and avoid it.
fertilize the eggs of several females, but when you Make sure you can see your lure in the water and
harvest a hen before she spawns, you’re removing some follow it with your eyes. If you have misjudged the
future steelhead. current speed or made an errant cast and the lure
If you desire a steelhead for the table or smoker, swings into the fish instead of in front and hangs up on
keeping a small male is the best plan. This will not the back of fish, you can immediately give slack and
impact natural reproduction, and you will allow the avoid hooking them.
genes of the large or trophy males to remain in the By watching the lure, you can also give slack
system. All Lake Michigan hatchery steelhead will soon in advance after a misjudged cast and miss the fish
be marked by having their adipose fin clipped. completely.
This spring, only the smaller (up to 7 pounds or so) These maneuvers to avoid foul hooking are not
hatchery steelhead will be clipped, but virtually all of possible when you drift a dark fly or spawn bag that you
these fish will be clipped by 2022. can’t see through the fish.

| Michigan
| Michigan Out-of-Doors 5755

Spring 2020.indd 59 2/12/2020 1:19:59 PM

A Morning
in Muskegon
By Shaun McKeon

omp, Womp, Womp, State Park to try our luck fishing boat full of gas and a cooler full of
Womp! The alarm for salmon thanks to a generous snacks, we headed to the ramp.
on my phone went invite from Charter Boat Captain Upon arriving at the ramp, we
off and I immedi- and fishing/duck guide Stephen were joined by another friend of
ately leapt out of bed to turn it off. Schnautz. Stephen's who slept in his truck
It was 2:25 a.m. on a weekday Captain Schnautz is a U.S. to make sure he was on time. We
morning in early June. My girl- Coast Guard licensed Charter Boat got the boat off the trailer in the
friend is supportive of my outdoor Captain who travels the state fishing pitch black and were heading
endeavors, but I knew better than to for walleye and salmon during across Muskegon Lake towards the
let the alarm go off any longer. the spring and summer and then channel in less than 15 minutes.
I grabbed my phone and snuck switches to guided duck hunts in the As we motored out through the
out of the bedroom, then dressed fall. channel, my excitement to get lines
quickly and was soon on the road to Nick and I have had the pleasure in the water grew. The chinook
meet Editor Nick Green at his house of joining Captain Stephen, the "king" salmon is in my top three
about 40 minutes from my place. Owner of R and D Guide Service, on favorite animals on the planet.
I arrived at Nick's house a little a few excursions on his infamous The simple beauty of the silver-
after 3:00 AM and eased the car boat, Peaches. colored fish, coupled with the raw
into his driveway. He was already Captain Stephen's orders the power they possess, has always
loading a cooler into his truck and night before were to be at the dock resonated with me.
was anxious to hit the road. We were by 5:00 a.m., so Nick and I made the Trolling Lake Michigan for
careful not to slam any car doors two-hour trek from mid-Michigan, salmon was something I grew up
and wake up his three dogs, thus and, as luck would have it, met doing with my family, and the
waking up his wife. We snuck out of Captain Stephen at the gas station memories of those times spent on
the driveway and were on the road a few miles from the park while he the water with my mom, dad and
to our next adventure. was gassing up the boat. younger brother are some of my
We were off to Muskegon After a quick pit stop, with a favorite outdoor memories.

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Spring 2020.indd 60 2/12/2020 1:20:00 PM

As a family from 1990 until off to the side and away from the Nick was a bit disappointed
around 2014, when my dad sold his boat. after reeling in an empty line, but
big water boat, we would spend two Finally, he ran a few more Captain Stephen promised there
weeks each summer chasing kings lines straight back from the boat would be others throughout the
out of Manistee. I had not been on using a copper line. The copper day, and there would be a chance at
the big water since my dad, who was line is heavy, and the farther out redemption.
my outdoor mentor, passed away in you let the line, the deeper the bait As the sun began to come up
2017. will travel in the water. We had one over the dunes, Captain Stephen
As we cruised out past the pier copper line out 450 feet. Nick and I was right—about 15 minutes after
head onto the big water, my dad both joked about letting the other Nick's fish, another drag screamed
was on my mind, and I was excited person reel that one in if a fish were and Nick was back in the game.
for what the day might bring and to strike. This time, with a few helpful
grateful to be back in one of my Before the lines were all set, the tips from the captain, Nick was able
happy places. drag on a reel broke the morning to boat a beautiful king, and we
Captain Stephen is a true silence with its distinct scream. happily got rid of the skunk from
professional, and Muskegon is one Nick was first up and began his the boat.
of his homeports. He plugged his battle with one of Lake Michigan's The next fish was mine, and
secret numbers into the GPS, and many silver monsters. New to the a rod went wild after about 30
we headed south. big water fishing game, it took Nick minutes. I jumped up to set the
It was still dark as the captain a couple of minutes to settle into hook and settled in for what I hoped
began setting the lines. He started fighting this fish. would be a big fish.
setting poles running them off After finding his rhythm in the My great battle was not meant
downriggers. After a few rods were pump and reel game, Nick fought to be, however. I quickly realized
set down deep, he set a few more the fish for about 5 minutes when the fish on the other end was going
lines with Dipsy Divers running off his line got a little slack in it, and to be small. I quickly hauled in a
planer boards to help take the line just like that, the fish was gone. 3-pound lake trout and skated him

Spring 2020| Michigan Out-of-Doors 59

Spring 2020.indd 61 2/12/2020 1:20:01 PM

across the surface into the net another rod went off,
and the box. and Nick was on it.
I enjoy cooking lake trout on the The controlled
grill in the summer, so I was happy chaos that occurs on
to have a fish of my own in the box, a salmon boat while
but it was not the king I was looking two fish are being
for. fought is somewhere
Over the next hour, we had four between a cow on ice
more rods go off, but as luck would and a choreographed
have it, a couple of fish escaped dance routine. There
before we got the hook set, and one is some slipping and
decided he wanted to take a lure sliding, while people
with him and broke the line during who are not fighting
the fight. the fish try to clear
After that flurry of action, a lines and bring up
mid-morning lull settled in. We downriggers.
passed the time by sharing duck There is bobbing
hunting stories, ate some of our gas and weaving as the
station snacks and soaked up some people fighting the
fishing knowledge from the captain fish try to make sure
and his friend. their lines don't cross
We changed some of the baits and get tangled while A little later, we wrapped up the
and spoons, and Captain Stephen also pacing one fish to the boat at a day with one more fish and decided
altered our trolling course to see time. four kings and a laker would be
if we could find a few more fish. There may even be some plenty for our freezers, so we headed
Captain Stephen continued to dig twirling and spinning as the person back to the dock.
into his bag of tricks. with the net tries to scoop one fish At the launch, we took a few
His persistence paid off, and out, get the fish out of the net and pictures, and Captain Stephen was
soon a rod was screaming and the hurry over to be ready to net the even kind enough to clean and bag
line was peeling out. As I grabbed second fish. our fish for us. We had a conversa-
the rod, I knew this was the fish I After about 30 minutes of all tion with the local DNR creel clerk
had been waiting for. of this scrambling around, some as he took a few samples of our fish.
I settled in and got comfortable choice words and two sets of sore That kind of day is what being
on the rod as the king peeled about arms, both fish were in the boat, outdoors is all about for me — trav-
100 feet of line off. As my battle with smiles and high fives all eling to scenic destinations around
was beginning, around. the state, spending time with
friends and sharing memo-
ries of good times past.
A day on the water
is hard to beat, and
filling a cooler full
of fresh fish keeps
my girlfriend
and R and D
Guide Service
are currently
booking trips for
walleye, salmon
and Ducks for the
2020 season. If you
are looking for a great
time on the water with
a professional and fun
captain, give him a call
at (616) 466-2982.

Spring 2020.indd 62 2/12/2020 1:20:03 PM

Game on!
Are you looking to take your outdoor experience to
the next level? We can help! GreenStone offers a
variety of loan options for recreational land of any
size. Contact your local branch office to learn more!


Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 61

Spring 2020.indd 63 2/12/2020 1:20:04 PM

Creek Tactics By Andy Duffy

couldn’t see the trout, but I recognize where a trout is likely a river’s deep pools to ambush a
knew I had one on. to be hiding. Fly anglers who fish trout. They often can in creeks,
I felt my line tighten rivers call that reading the water. though.
and run between my Creek anglers need to read the So, when fishing a creek,
fingers. Then I set the hook. water, too. anglers should look for deeper
Mayhem broke out in the creek Prerequisite number one for water with overhead protection. If
as vibrations coursed through my trout is water depth. Trout don’t the water moves slowly enough or
monofilament. The trout ran and always need a lot of water above has something to work as a current
thrashed about. them, but they need some. They can buffer, so much the better. Trout
I saw firsthand what a tempest get by with less depth if they have don’t want to expend a lot of energy
in a teapot looks like. That’s the overhead cover. fighting the current.
thrill that comes with fishing a Don’t look for a trout, then, in Often, an angler might miss
small stream. A person finds big the middle of a creek in a shallow ideal trout cover. Undercut banks
action in tiny spaces. riffle. A fish might dart out in the are famous trout lairs. They easily
Creek fishing for trout is simple riffle to grab some food, but an escape notice, though.
enough. An angler merely needs angler can make better use of his I often wade into a creek after
to find a stream and work quietly time and effort by fishing deeper I’ve fished a section of it. I kick
along it. Then, wherever a trout water. the banks trying to see where the
might be lurking, the fisherman What trout really need is a current has gouged them out. I’m
can just drop in his bait. protective canopy of some sort often amazed by what I find. Some
A lot of folks will dramatically above them. This is especially true places that look as if they haven’t
increase their catch rates, though, in creeks. been undercut have lots of room to
by paying attention to some things In rivers, water depth can serve hide a trout.
I’ve learned through the years. as protection. Birds of prey can’t So, besides being able to read
First, a person needs to dive deep enough fast enough in water, it helps if an angler knows

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Spring 2020.indd 64 2/12/2020 1:20:05 PM

the water. That familiarity doesn’t across public land. And, of course,
come with the first trip to a stream.
"Every place where a trout they can fish streams that cross
It requires lots of excursions.
Once an angler understands
might be lurking, he drops his private property that are open to
the public.
where trout hide, he needs to figure worm. Some people use crickets Anglers should make certain of
out how to approach them. That’s a stream’s status before assuming it
where stealth becomes a factor. or minnows. I’ve tried them is public water. Some streams that
Heavy steps send vibrations are considered navigable water,
into the water and send trout and don’t see that they offer though, are hardly more than
fleeing. Just by remembering to creeks. Anglers can fish them if
tread lightly, anglers will find more
any advantages over good old they stay in the water.
Being stealthy, though, includes
garden worms." By staying in the water instead
of slipping stealthily along the
some other elements. I know a guy no matter if a stream or a drain is banks, they might scare some fish.
who wears camouflage on streams. flowing there. But scaring a few fish is better than
That’s not overkill. At a Trout anglers will fish the not fishing at all.
minimum, a person should wear plunge pools below the culvert, but So, this is how to fish a creek.
subdued colors. that is as far as they go. They don’t A person slips along the water – on
Another advanced tactic is to move from the road. the bank, if possible – looking
use a long rod. I have a friend who And that is partly because the for places where a trout might be
has mastered this technique. streams, whether natural or man- hiding.
He stands well back from the made, are flowing across private Every place where a trout
edge of the streams he fishes. He property. Some property owners might be lurking, he drops his
pokes the tip of his rod through the won’t permit anglers to fish their worm. Some people use crickets or
brush and drops in his bait. property. Often, the anglers don’t minnows. I’ve tried them and don’t
I call it the “walk-softly-and- bother seeking permission. see that they offer any advantages
carry-a-big-stick technique, and it But serious trout anglers will over good old garden worms.
works like a charm. want to leave the road and work Anglers should leave the bails
Anglers should also be mindful along a creek. Instead of waiting on their reels open. First, they will
of the sun and shouldn’t let their for a trout to come to them, they be dapping as much as casting.
shadows fall on the water. will go to the trout. With a reel’s bail open, the
People need to remember that And anglers can go trout current can carry the bait to the
they’re not really trout fishing; hunting easily enough if they want cover that an angler might not be
they’re trout hunting. That means to. They can knock on doors and able to reach with a cast.
they shouldn’t stay in one place. ask for permission to fish a stream. As Charles Cotton advised, we
They should remember to keep They can fish creeks that flow should fish fine and far off. Things
moving. Drift a worm through a are compressed on a creek; we are
likely spot a couple of times. If
nothing hits, move on. Probably
no trout is there. The anglers that
cover the most water will probably
catch the most fish – at least if their
approach is stealthy enough.
I live in a water-rich environ-
ment. A major river flows through
my area. Numerous small creeks
feed the river. Many of the creeks
are good trout streams.
Besides the natural streams,
though, the area has lots of
drainage ditches.
Years ago, farmers dug some of
the ditches to drain fields. County
road commissions maintain some
drains to protect roads. Some of the
drains hold trout.
Every spring, starting the last
Saturday of April, I’ll see cars
parked by almost every culvert,

Winter 2019 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 61

Winter 2018 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 57

Spring 2020.indd 65 2/12/2020 1:20:05 PM

fishing less far off than we getting tangled up in the top of
would on a river. a log jam before our bait gets
Rather than always drop- carried under it.
ping bait into a hole right at For day-in-and-day-out
our feet, we should allow the angling, though, I prefer to use
current to carry our bait to no weight.
the fish when we can. That The most natural presen-
is the only way to fish some tation possible seems to work
places without scaring the the best. That means making a
trout away. dead-drift presentation.
Anglers should hold the That is the technique fly
line loosely between their anglers use when they’re
thumb and index finger – if nymphing or using dry flies.
they have one. (I know an That’s the way trout are accus-
expert trout fisherman who tomed to seeing their food
is missing an index finger.) come to them. That method
That way, a striking trout works best for many trout lies.
can pick up the worm and For the lies where conditions
run with it rather than preclude that option, a person
having it ripped out of its might want to carry a few split
mouth. shot with him.
Also, the angler will feel Experienced trout anglers
the line go and will know keep the present conditions
that either the current is in mind. Cloudy skies and
taking his line, or he has rain will bring trout out from
a hit. With experience, under cover to feed in the
mortality on sub-legal fish. I prefer
a person can usually tell the stream’s main current.
to set the hook quickly, even if it
difference. We can be a little more relaxed
means losing a few fish.
Anglers should also watch the with our presentations and with
We can’t discuss advanced
business end of their lines. They’ll our stealth when skies are cloudy
creek fishing tactics without
often see the line change direction and rain is dimpling the stream’s
mentioning the use of split shot.
in the water or see the flash of a surface. During a storm, catching
When streams are high, a person
trout. trout usually becomes much easier.
might want to use some weight to
After the trout hits, it is up to Anglers eventually become
get his bait down.
the angler to decide when to set aware of what they can get away
Trout aren’t likely to come to
the hook. Some people let the trout with on a stream, too.
the top of a stream to grab a worm
swallow the bait. Hooking percent- Last summer I was fishing a
getting swept by in a torrent. And
ages go up that way. creek when I came to an undercut
we won’t catch a trout if our line is
It also leads to hooking bank. Because of the brush along
the stream, I couldn’t effectively
present my worm without getting
in the stream very near the
I waded in as stealthily as I
could. The current wasn’t going to
carry my worm under the bank, so
I let it drift along the edge of it. A
trout came out and struck. I think
it was my largest trout of the day.
Trout are notorious for disap-
pearing during the dog days of
summer. Some have been caught
and kept. Some have just migrated
to cooler waters.
Whatever the reason for the
disappearance of the trout, it is the
dog days that really test an angler’s
The smaller the brook, of

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Spring 2020.indd 66 2/12/2020 1:20:06 PM

summer. gets low in the summer, and a
We would stand on the bank person is lucky to catch a few tiny
above the creek and drift worms brookies.
through the little channels. We Other streams, though, still
would watch as the trout darted fill up with weeds, and anglers can
out from the vegetation, seized our remember that trout hang out in
worms, and disappeared again. them.
Sometimes, the trout wouldn’t A lot of anglers don’t bother
even make an appearance. Our fishing creeks. They would rather
worm would simply disappear as a fish lakes or rivers where casting
trout right at the edge of the weeds is easy, hordes of branches aren’t
sucked it in. waiting to snag a person up and
Then, a couple of summers ago, they don’t need to bother with the
the road commission came through nitty-gritty aspects of fishing small
and stripped out all the watercress. streams.
I suppose it was routine Those who enjoy stalking
maintenance. It ruined the stream, unseen fish in tight cover, though,
though. The watercress still hasn’t can find success by observing the
made a comeback. The water level principles listed here.

course, the greater the effect of

groundwater on it. The tiniest
streams often are trout havens
when the weather is hot. And
streams even a yard wide or less, if
they’re deep enough, hold good fish
during the dog days.
So, when the weather is hot,
think small.
Near my home is a little
drainage ditch that I once fished
regularly. It emerges from a swamp
and runs along a county road for
a couple of miles before changing
directions abruptly and flowing
into a nearby river.
During the early spring, the
ditch never had much cover. As
the season progressed, though,
watercress would grow and fill the
The watercress’s bulk, of
course, had the same effect as
putting pebbles in a glass of water.
Once weeds filled the stream,
the water level normally remained
high enough to harbor trout even in
dry conditions.
Anyone familiar with the story
of Archimedes and the crown will
understand the principle.
The current kept little channels
clear. Brook trout would lurk in the
vegetation and wait for food to drift
by in the channels.
The ditch was my go-to loca-
tion whenever I wanted to take
guests fishing during mid- and late

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 65

Spring 2020.indd 67 2/12/2020 1:20:07 PM

By Phil Meeks

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Spring 2020.indd 68 2/12/2020 1:20:08 PM

t's little surprise to most of oaks are found in
hunters how important oaks Michigan, and these can
are to wildlife. all be divided into the red oak
One pound of acorns in or the white oak group. The latter
the fall can supply as much as 2000 category includes
calories, making this a valuable white oak,
resource for deer, bear and turkeys swamp
as winter looms. white oak,
Approximately 100 vertebrate chinkapin
species are known to depend on oak, chestnut oak
oaks as a food source in the U.S., and bur oak.
and a number of species will The
modify their movement patterns acorns of
based on acorn availability. Bear these
and wild turkey, for example, tend tend to
to have much smaller home ranges be more
during those years when the acorn palatable to wildlife
crop is abundant. in that they have fewer
Approximately ten species tannins than those of the

red oak group and

produce a crop each year.
The red oak group – northern
red oak, pin oak, northern pin oak,
scarlet oak and black oak – bear
acorns that are less desirable than
their white oak kin, but they have
value nonetheless.
Biennially produced red oak
acorns serve as a delayed food
source, only becoming sought by
animals once the white oak acorn
supply is exhausted and the winter
rains and snows have leached out
some of the bitter tannins.
Oaks also display a trait known
as marcescence, meaning they
cling to dead leaves long after
other species have cast those to the
ground. This makes the oaks useful
to several bird and mammal species
for winter cover.
The bottom line is this:
Anything that impacts oaks will
impact wildlife.
Unfortunately, oaks are not
immune to factors that can lead to
their demise. Two in particular –
oak wilt and oak decline – have the
potential to affect acres and acres
of Quercus species.
Any discussion about oak
health in the United States must
first include an appreciation of
how we have influenced American
forests over the centuries.
The chestnut blight was a

Spring 2020.indd 69 2/12/2020 1:20:10 PM

Trees that have been killed
by the fungus will host a sweet-
smelling spore mat just beneath the
bark. Beetles drawn to these spore
mats pick up fungal spores that are
then transmitted to other trees as
the insects move into fresh wounds
in the trunk or branches.
Beneath the surface of the
forest soil, the disease spreads via
a complex network of root grafts.
Red oaks especially are character-
ized by this ability to fuse their
roots and share nutrients, but
unfortunately, that also provides
for transmission of infections.
While all oaks can be infected
by oak wilt, red oaks are much
more susceptible. That's partly
because white oaks' roots are less
likely to fuse with those of other
trees and due to the fact fungal
spore mats don't easily develop
under white oak bark, thereby
limiting both above- and below-
ground spread.

A disease complex
Oak wilt results in tree
mortality relatively quickly, but
oak decline may gradually bring
about the tree's demise over a
period of years or even decades.
It will be noticeable at first in
big one, resulting in the loss of a spot. the form of a slow dieback of the
species that accounted for as much tree crown that progresses down-
as 25 percent of the mature trees in A disease ward and inward.
any given woodland. A forest manager may be able
The introduction of other The aforementioned influences to use an increment borer to note
pests, such as gypsy moth, hemlock on Michigan oaks -- oak wilt and a pronounced decrease in the
woolly adelgid and emerald ash oak decline -- are a disease and a tree's radial growth, but this isn't a
borer has no doubt left a mark disease complex, respectively. symptom detectable by the naked
on Michigan woodlands. Other Oak wilt does its damage eye.
species, including oaks, will end up quickly, often within a single Unlike oak wilt, which has only
in those voids created by the loss growing season, by blocking the been known to be in this country
of chestnuts, ashes and hemlocks. tree's xylem tissue. Leaves in the since World War II, literature
Forest fragmentation has been a upper canopy will begin to wither, suggests that oak decline has been
player, too, as has the control of and entire branches will turn at play in eastern and midwestern
wildfire. reddish-brown. forests for nearly two centuries.
The result is that many oak A close inspection of red As with oak wilt, oak decline
trees are growing in places where oak leaves will often reveal leaf can impact any oak species but
they may never have ended up if margins that are yellowish or tends to be more common in those
left to natural influences. A species brown. species in the red oak group. It also
growing on a site where it's only The oak wilt fungus (Bretziella tends to be more of an issue in trees
going to be marginally successful fagacearum) spreads from tree to that are greater than 70 years in
will be more prone to attack by tree in two ways. Above ground, it's age, once the resistance and vigor
invasive insects and other health carried by any of a number of bark of youth have waned.
pressures than if it's on an ideal beetles or sap-feeding beetles. Oak decline isn't brought about
68 |
Spring 2020.indd 70 2/12/2020 1:20:11 PM
for root-to-root transmission.
This is an expensive endeavor
but can help contain the disease
and eliminate sources of fungal
spore mats.
Since spore-carrying beetles
access new trees via wounds, avoid
the use of tree stands in oaks
in those areas where oak wilt is
known to be active, opting for other
species instead whenever possible.
When it comes to oak decline,
the solution is much more involved
and may include a long-term
strategy to shift species composi-
tion on a site to something more in
tune with the site conditions.
This can be accomplished
through regeneration openings and
timber stand improvement.
Even if red oaks are the goal for
the site, the oak decline risk can be
by a single, detectable pathogen, In addition to oaks, the disease can significantly reduced by favoring
as is the case with the fungal oak impact nearly 100 other trees and more vigorous trees that are
wilt. Multiple factors play into shrubs. younger than 70 years, so a salvage
oak decline: predisposing factors, Sudden oak death has been harvest may be an option.
inciting factors and contributing found in nurseries on the West As with oak wilt management,
factors. Coast but fortunately hasn't made however, these solutions aren't
Predisposing factors would be an appearance in Michigan yet. always economically feasible.
those site conditions that set the However, it pays to be cautious Furthermore, if decline has
oaks up for eventual failure, condi- when ordering landscape plants been active for a number of years,
tions such as the slope and soil from nurseries in California and and trees have lost more than a
characteristics. Oregon and to only deal with third of their canopies, the situ-
The physiological age of the reputable companies. ation is too far gone, and the best
trees and competition are also scenario may be a salvage harvest
counted as predisposing factors. Management options to encourage new growth.
Short-term environmental Hunters can be the first line
conditions such as drought, If you notice areas of oak of defense against forest health
flooding or wildfire are considered dieback in areas where you issues like oak wilt and oak decline,
examples of inciting factors. normally hunt, report those to accessing areas of woodlands in the
Contributing factors would the land manager, be it public fall when early leaf-drop is evident.
include insect and disease pres- or private land. Both issues are Management options are costly
sures such as hypoxylon cankers, difficult to manage, but foresters for both situations, but the expense
armillaria root rot, two-lined have some options for corrective climbs dramatically over time.
chestnut borer or red oak borer. action if economics and location Inform land managers of
These influences wouldn't warrant it. changes you note in the woodlands
necessarily result in tree mortality In the case of oak wilt, where you hunt, especially when
in and of themselves, but once a managers may kill trees those changes involve red oak
group of trees is "set up" with the on the outer perimeter species.
predisposing and inciting factors, of the infected area
these influences can deliver the and then remove
death blow. the dead oaks
from within.
One more worry Efforts will also
focus on the
Another serious fungal severing of
disease that could wreak havoc roots at that
on Michigan forests is sudden oak perimeter to
death (Phytophthora ramorum). lessen chances

Spring 2020.indd 71 2/12/2020 1:20:13 PM

Legends of Conservation:
Good Life. Short Life.
Much done.
By Alan Campbell

om Washington, who died
in 1995 about three weeks
after the opening day of
deer season, used sheer
willpower and unrelenting love for
the outdoors to become a national
force for conservation.
"It was all real," said his
daughter, Heidi, reflecting on her
father's life. "There was nothing
fake, ever, with my dad."
The Michigan Natural
Resources Commission names its
annual lifetime achievement award
after Washington, who it credits
with building the Michigan United
Conservation Clubs into the largest
state conservation organization in
the nation. He was also a president
of the National Rifle Association.

Washington in Lansing
Tom Washington would be
known as an enigma if alive today.
He held no college degree,
yet was revered and respected Republican," said Bill Rustem, who November.
— sometimes both, depending as a policy advisor for Gov. William "He did it with tenacity and
upon the issue of the day — by Milliken and through other profes- hard work. Those were two of his
lawmakers while walking the halls sional pursuits worked closely with traits. He knew what he wanted
of the state capitol. And though he Washington. "He supported people and would get there, both in life
leaned toward Republican doctrine, from both parties. It all depended and in getting things done in the
Washington pushed hard, helping on their conservation ethic. That's Legislature," Rustem said.
win success for then-controversial what mattered to him." Washington's desk was found
environmental issues that crossed Washington didn't shower at MUCC headquarters in Lansing,
party lines such as the returnable lawmakers with big campaign where his door was open. But
bottle act and retention of oil and contributions like the lobbyists of he did his best work across the
gas royalties from state property to today. Instead, he appealed to their state while unifying the voices of
purchase recreational land. conscience to do the right thing for local gun, fishing and trapping
Washington didn't care where the future of Michigan. organizations.
a legislator sat — right or left side If they wavered, he need only Washington understood and
of the aisle — as long as he or she remind them that his voice carried successfully preached that a buck
supported conservation. the backing of 100,000 MUCC chasing a doe on opening day and
"I think he was mostly members who would be voting in a trout rising to a Hendrickson

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Spring 2020.indd 72 2/12/2020 1:20:13 PM

Hunter's Hollow a state Constitution amendment
drive that is still working today.
Washington owned former pheasant farm near Mason that served Final votes determine the
the causes of conservation well when burly Tom Washington needed to win-loss record of lobbyists.
bend the ear of a squishy lawmaker is still in the business of promoting Washington's go-to move to lock in
hunting and fishing. support for a pending bill was to
Washington purchased the 80 acres of the property, called Hunter’s have a legislator follow his German
Hollow, when the business of put-and-take pheasant hunting closed. shorthaired pointers at Hunter's
The property eventually passed through the family to two of Tom’s Hollow, a pheasant farm located
sons, David and Steven, who added neighboring parcels as they became south of Lansing.
available. Rustem believes blunt discus-
Now, the Washingtons join fellow members of the Capital Area sions among opposing legislators
Branch of the Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA) in have become rare these days, a
hosting the children of servicemen and women for a youth deer hunt loss with roots in term limits. The
every September. "us vs. them" reporting carried
The house on Tom Washington’s old stomping grounds serves as throughout a 24-hour news cycle
headquarters. — and highlighted by minute-
“It’s just like a regular deer camp,” David Washington explained. by-minute opinionated tweets—
“Parents bring in the kids, and we sign them up. My dad was big into doesn't help.
introducing kids into the outdoors.” Washington's attributes were
Eleven young people aged 8-11 attended in 2019, spending their first a natural fit for past times. His
day absorbing lessons of deer hunting such as shooting skills, blood engaging personality and willing-
trailing and shot placement. A state conservation officer helps with the ness to know legislators beyond a
presentations. surface relationship paid dividends
Participants also learn about fishing on a pond on the farm. for the conservation movement of
The young hunters are stationed the next morning at various blinds in the 1970s, 80s and 90s that turned
the area, one or two of which are located on the Washington property. environmental science into law.
Eight does and bucks were harvested last fall. "Backroom politics still works.
Parents are welcome and sometimes participate. Washington esti- If you had to reach an agreement
mates that about half would not have an opportunity to hunt if not for under a spotlight with your wife
the QDMA deer camp. or your dog, that would be tough,"
Rustem said.

were results of a myriad of envi- the other. He wanted people to be

ronmental components connected connected and respectful of the role Family man, jokester and
in ways as complicated as life of each." storyteller
itself. DDT kills mosquitoes but When he couldn't drum up
weakens the shells of bald eagle enough votes to pass a bottle return Sundays in autumn were
eggs. Warming the waters of a trout bill, Washington turned to MUCC busy for the Tom and Joanne
stream favors browns over brookies members to gather signatures for Washington family. After attending
— or eliminates both.
So MUCC's mission expanded
far beyond protecting gun rights.
"Wetlands law, banning DDT
and PCP, we were the first state to
do those things, and MUCC was
always there supporting them,"
Rustem said. "He believed abso-
lutely in conservation and that
hunters and fishers had to give
back. It wasn't all about guns. It
was about clean air and water."
Added Heidi Washington, "I
recall him often trying to educate
people (about the connection)
between guns and conservation,
between natural resources and
firearms ownership. Without a
healthy environment, we don't have

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 71

Spring 2020.indd 73 2/12/2020 1:20:14 PM

service at the Greater Lansing libations in hand, Knapp said. with my car and it was in the body
Church of Christ, Tom would take Three memories held by Knapp shop. He picked up the phone and
the kids hunting. help to explain the life of Tom called them, and said I needed my
"We'd go to church, come home Washington, starting with the day car. He had a huge network. People
and then head out to Hunter's he told his boss that his wife had wanted to work with Tom to get
Hollow," said David Washington, been diagnosed with cancer. She things accomplished," Knapp said.
one of six children and now regional eventually died from the disease. Washington took time during
vice president for Jackson National "He let me know that wherever his last trip to the Hiawatha Club in
Life Insurance Company. "If we I needed to be, whenever I needed the eastern Upper Peninsula to call
weren't doing that, we went hunting to be there, to not worry about the Knapp. It was a time when pagers
at one of his buddy's farms. Some time off," Knapp said. ruled over cell phones.
times I was the beagle. It was a great Then there was the time Knapp "When he was driving north
way to grow up." was without transportation. to deer camp, he phoned to let me
By all accounts and memories, "Tom knew everybody. I know that I was welcome to hunt
Thomas Lee Washington was a remember when I had a problem his property in Mason. I'll always
bear of a man, topping 6-foot-1 and
weighing about 280 pounds. He was
born on July 15, 1937, in Detroit, Washington Controversies
and died on December 5, 1995, in a
hospital in Dearborn. Tom Washington's death at the age of 58 was far too early and cut
The son of a railroad man and short the work of a legend of Michigan conservation.
a police dispatcher, he had dark Washington was a man known to speak his mind while promoting
hair, dark eyes and, for most of his environmental issues, especially those that furthered hunting and
life, wore a mustache, which was fishing.
common at the time. He was bound to run into controversy along his journey. And he did.
Washington loved to tell stories Two instances stand out.
and sing songs, sometimes around Washington's name was among fellow plaintiffs and outdoor
campfires. He was often asked to stalwarts Carl Johnson and Fred Bear in a Michigan United
perform "Danny Boy" at funerals. Conservation Club lawsuit filed in 1981 against CBS News. They were
He might be described as a seeking to defend the reputation of all hunters who they claimed were
workaholic in today's terms, but defamed in the television documentaries "The Guns of Autumn" and its
he may not qualify because he was sequel "Echoes of the Guns of Autumn."
always doing what he loved to do. Washington was especially incensed because his voice was dubbed
"On the weekends, we'd pick over techniques termed "questionable hunting practices" shown in
up the mail and go to the office," the filming of a bear hunt at a dump and Colorado hunters handling
David said. "Some times he'd take deer carcasses. The conservation legend was explaining the virtues of
(lawmakers) hunting. That's how hunting during the scenes.
he would schmooze them, take However, the U.S. Court of Appeals rejected their claims, ruling that
them to Hunter's Hollow." Washington's voice was unattributed and that MUCC was not mentioned
The Michigan Natural directly.
Resources Commission recently Tom Washington's son, David, did not recall hearing about the
honored Dennis Knapp for his lawsuit when growing up. But he did notice that his father hired
years of service as chief of staff. someone to independently record an interview when he worked on a
He previously worked for 11 years network project later in life.
for MUCC, the first five under "I thought that was pretty smart," David said.
executive director Washington. Much of Washington's obituary in the New York Times was
"Tom was a blast to work for," unfortunately dedicated to a fund-raising letter sent out by the NRA
Knapp said. "I did wildlife issues while he was president.
and firearms issues with the The letter "created a furor in the wake of the Oklahoma City
Legislature. I met with Tom a lot, bombing by denouncing some Federal agents as 'jackbooted government
and he was passionate about the thugs,'" the obituary stated.
issues I worked on. Whenever I Three of the six paragraphs in the obituary were dedicated to the
needed anything, I had the big guy incident, which caused President George H.W. Bush to resign his NRA
to go to." membership.
After a long day pushing envi- A fourth paragraph stated, "Although he was long outspoken in
ronmental causes, the MUCC crew his belief that the Constitution should and does guarantee a right to
routinely decompressed in the own guns, Mr. Washington, whose unpaid NRA position was largely
lobby of headquarters, reflecting honorary, was not always as outspoken as some NRA members would
upon victories of the day with have liked."

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Spring 2020.indd 74 2/12/2020 1:20:14 PM

cherish that the last time we talked,
he called me to let me know I was
welcome to hunt his farm." Rustem
added, "He liked to go to casinos
a bit, but spent the bulk of his life
hunting and fishing. He loved to
share a drink in the woods; he was
a 'tin cup of bourbon along a trout
stream' kind of guy."

Heydays for conservation

It's difficult to quantify the list

of Tom Washington's accomplish-
ments for Michigan conservation.
Starting from humble beginnings
— his career with MUCC started as
an ad salesman for Michigan Out-of-
Doors magazine in 1973 — he rose
to become the leading voice of his
time for conservation movements in
Michigan. was getting the bottle bill passed said.
As director from 1982-95, he through the slogan, "Four words It's difficult to predict how
shepherded MUCC through a time that make me burn are no deposit, much more he would have accom-
of strong growth thanks in part no return." plished if not for a heart attack that
to his creation of an independent Wayne LaPierre, NRA execu- struck the day before opening day
membership option. tive vice president, was a fan of of deer season more than 24 years
Heidi Washington, who is Washington's work. ago.
now director of the Michigan "Tom was the true essence of Heidi believes her father
Department of Corrections and a Mr. Conservation," LaPierre said." would have changed with the
member of the Board of Directors He was tireless in his pursuit of times, finding new ways to reach
for the NRA, recalls recruiting new truth and in his efforts to preserve and recruit Michigan residents
MUCC members while attending America's hunting lands and and lawmakers to the causes of
Michigan State University. heritage. Tom stood steadfast to conservation.
"We'd all come in (to MUCC safeguard our Second Amendment "It's a different world, and he
headquarters) at 3 p.m. and pile into freedom for future generations. I would have had to adapt. He would
vans to get a wetlands bill passed or was honored to know him and work always say, 'We already have term
to get new members. with him, but more importantly, to limits, and it's called a ballot box,
We'd go to metro Detroit or call him my friend." so people need to get out and vote.'
Sterling Heights or wherever. Every Heidi Washington believes her He would have had to change his
night when I came home, he would father's most notable accomplish- approach, but there was no sign of
ask me, 'How many members did ments came while campaigning to him slowing," she said.
you get? How many life members expand public lands. Normally, Washington would
did you get?'… it was very successful He was instrumental in getting call into the popular J.P. McCarthy
at getting new members, educating a constitutional amendment passed radio show at WJR on November 15
people and raising money." that annually makes millions of to provide the state with an opening
Washington purchased the name dollars in revenue from oil and gas day report.
"Michigan Outdoors" from former leases available to purchase land Instead, it was David, then 27,
TV host Fred Trost, whose company through the Michigan Trust Fund. who made the call and provided
had gone bankrupt and brought in "When you think of all the listeners with the mournful news
Bob Garner to continue the iconic thousands of people who love and that a conservation legend was
hunting and fishing television show use public land, whether through deathly ill.
started by Mort Neff. the Trust Fund or some other "It was unfortunate. He was the
His work to push approval of mechanism, it was because of his voice of state conservation, and
restrictions to highway billboard effort that people can enjoy that there's been nobody like him since,"
signs was certainly notable. As land for generations to come," she David said.

This piece is part of an ongoing series that will cover Michigan conservationists spanning all walks of life.
Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 73

Spring 2020.indd 75 2/12/2020 1:20:14 PM

The Heart undoubtedly the most challenging

I've ever experienced. Time
restrictions, weather conditions,
equipment issues and diminishing
confidence were hills I just couldn't

of the
seem to climb. Yet, the multiple
opportunities presented to me were
As always, I am content and
proud to harvest does even in the
early season, and that was my
In seven years, I have never
harvested a buck. They have been
By Morgan Warda there, in my crosshairs, but I easily
lowered my gun and marveled at

from deer camp.
their remarkable beauty instead.
have been an outdoor enthu- I would throw on my coat and
Most times because I knew they
siast my entire life but only a whatever boots were within reach
had years left to mature and once,
hunter for seven years. to meet my dad and stare in wonder
in my early years, an old buck
My lack of participa- at whatever rested in the trailer.
with battle scars and broken tines
tion wasn't due to limited family Wildlife had always seemed like an
evaded my shot out of respect
involvement. unreachable idea to me.
My dad, grandpa, brother and Later in life, I would come to
Everything in me told me no,
uncles have hunted for as long as realize that hunting intertwines
even though he easily met our age
I have memory. I have fond recol- humanity and wild, respect and
standards. It doesn't even make
lections of pressing my nose to pursuit, life and death. It is for that
sense to me, and I'm okay with that.
our glass door and watching for reason I share this story of emotion
October 16, 2019, was the first
headlights to pull in the driveway and question openly, without fear.
opportunity I had to bow hunt. My
on a Sunday night—the return The 2019 deer season was
main stands didn't offer a safe entry
point with the wind direction. My
husband, who has been a faithful
and dedicated guide, and I decided
to go behind our house, which is 200
acres of corn, soybeans and a small
Our goal was to get half a mile
back along the corn to the blind
that sits there.
We jumped two does that had
bedded in the beans. Their quick
appearance had me scanning the
rest of the field.
That's when we saw the antlers
above the beans about 120 yards in.
The blind was no longer an
option, and we crawled into the
standing corn. After using a grunt
call, the buck stood and came
straight towards us. About 50 yards
from where we sat, he turned to the
He had two options: go into the
corn or follow the edge down to my
Arrow nocked, release in place
and admittedly shaking, I waited
to see antlers to my right before
drawing back. I was so focused on

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Spring 2020.indd 76 2/12/2020 1:20:15 PM

that timing that I failed to notice kind of finality as a hunter before. heard from our neighbors, who
that the buck was sneaking through From then on, I hunted hard, have reported sightings, if they had
the corn just three rows behind us. consistently and alone (harvest shot him.
The buck got directly downwind, called my farmer away). This buck was community
spun, fell and ran. I used the remaining crops to buzz, making me eternally grateful
My mind was reeling with my advantage even though they for hunters that share stories and
shock and emotion. Whitetails seemed a burden before. I had to information.
never fail to impress me with their answer my own questions and I was okay with someone else
instinct. make my own mistakes. finding success with this buck. His
The buck knew our approxi- The buck showed himself a story just kept growing in depth
mate location and was able to total of three more times, giving me and purpose.
get behind us, secure his ability two in-range opportunities during The last personal encounter
to smell us and react before we gun season. with this buck was at 50 yards. He
noticed he was there. How a mature The first was a clean miss due aggressively followed a yearling
buck can sneak silently through to a ballistics issue with a hollow- buck across the harvested head-
dried corn stalks will always be a point bullet sighted in at 100 yards. lands of the cornfield, directly to
mystery to me. The bullet drop wasn't where my husband and I sat in the
We watched the buck make his accounted for past 150, making my blind.
way back into the bean field and 166 yard shot on the buck nearly He was there, shoulder
across to a group of does. As dark impossible. We learned our lesson perfectly in the crosshairs, and as I
approached, a second buck made and fixed the problem. Strike one. pulled the trigger, my eyes watched
his way out of the corn. The very next night, the buck him do a complete 180-degree turn
He was bigger, older and quite stepped from the corn about three on his haunches.
obviously intimidated the first minutes post shooting time. I The decision had already
buck. This deer would become the watched him closely with immense been made before he turned; he
bane of my existence for the next respect, knowing that he probably was faster than my ability to stop
several months. He was the one. I waited because of the previous the motion that sent a .450 bullet
was sure of it. night. I knew it was lucky to see directly into the dirt where his
I felt the truth of it settle in me him again at all—Strike two. body should have been.
immediately like I'd been handed Then the inevitable happened; Strike three brought all of the
a pen and was directed to keep a couple of weeks went by with no frustration of time and energy to
writing the story. I've never felt that sign of him. We surely would have life.

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 75

72 |
Spring 2020.indd 77 2/12/2020 1:20:15 PM
There were tears as I watched with one pull of the trigger. I hope Embrace who you are as a
him run and then resettle before that I never lose the ability to feel hunter to fulfill your role as a
disappearing into the woods, but the gratitude these animals deliver. conservationist. We all have a place
thankful he was uninjured. They bring me joy and excite- and a journey.
We hunted November 27, ment to observe, the ability to grow This season was difficult, but
Thanksgiving day, with no sight of as a person, fill my freezer and I can say with confidence that
him and had the same result on the donate to others in need. I'm not I learned more than I thought
morning of November 28. The route afraid of my emotions in the field, possible about myself, equipment
out to the four-wheeler was through and I don't want anyone else to be and wildlife. I shared the field with
the remaining rows of corn that still either. family and friends.
stood. Posting this story on social Having been a new hunter not
We slowed as we approached media was intimidating, but I had long ago, facing intense emotion
the last few rows and saw two recently heard a story from a hunter also made me more aware of how
does within range in the field. The who was told that they shouldn't one should act as a mentor. Your
thought, 'No, that's too easy,' passed feel anything. I know, as do all other why is your truth, and sometimes
quickly through my mind. conservation-minded hunters, that that's all someone needs to hear.
After all of the emotion the this is not how ethics work. Truth leads to understanding
season had brought thus far, I Remorse is as real as the respect and understanding to acceptance of
hesitated to raise my gun. hunters have for animals. The what we do as hunters.
Why her? online response to the raw truth Finding that path was an
Why now? of hunting was overwhelming. important step for me. I also learned
Why? Hunters, men and women alike, that it's okay to share your story,
Let me be clear about two began sharing similar moments even the unfortunate parts, and I
things: I do this for a living. I talk they have experienced. encourage you all to do the same.
to people every day about wildlife For a moment, it didn't matter As for the buck, he was seen
management. I learn something the species hunted, who you were, in a neighboring field three days
new each day by reading, talking where you were from or what your before late doe season began.
to professionals and hunters and background was. It was just about He lives…
by experiencing animal behavior being a hunter that felt wrenching
in-field. emotions.
I know why I do this and
welcome the emotions that come
with it. Sometimes, even after years
of hunting, those emotions are still
strong enough to surprise me.
I have so much respect for this
animal that I sometimes find myself
hoping they won't slip up even
though we have worked for multiple
years to put ourselves in a position
of opportunity.
That is an absolutely insane and
contradictory statement to make—I
know that.
I also know that the health
of our game species' depends on
knowledgeable hunters that make
sound management decisions, and I
am proud to be a part of that group
Hesitation didn't get the best of
me that day. The shot was true and
Within moments, I had a deer
on the ground, and that's when I
slumped to the mud myself.
It was relief, remorse and, again,
finality that flooded my brain. It
was overwhelming to process what
felt like months of emotion released

76 |

Spring 2020.indd 78 2/12/2020 1:20:15 PM


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Spring 2020.indd 79 2/12/2020 1:20:15 PM
Conservationists in your backyard
for young people who may have Olympic instructor, and volunteer
By Alan Campbell never previously left the confines with the state Academy of Natural

of metro Detroit. They bend necks Science.
f you’re looking for living to view behemoth white pine at Perhaps the Di Cresces’ most
inspiration to take a first step
Hartwick Pines State Park, hike to aggressive venture was purchasing
toward furthering the cause of
Tahquamenon Falls and tour the nearly 150 acres near Gladwin to
conservation, follow the path
scenic Pictured Rocks. provide mostly inner-city kids with
left by Nick Di Cresce.
“These kids cry when they go their first opportunity to ply their
You may struggle to keep up,
across the Mackinac Bridge. They outdoor skills on a hunt.
but Di Cresce is leaving an easy
would have never had the opportu- With help from like-minded
path to follow.
nity to go to these places — or the outdoorsmen and women, they built
A retired firefighter from
will to go — if it wasn’t for Nick,” five small cabins and host up to 20
Detroit, Di Cresce fills his life by Shaw said. young people and family members
teaching young people the fun of Di Cresce teaches what has for weekends of deer hunting.
drawing back on a whitetail buck or become a secret among urban kids: The deer camp is busy during
growing monarch butterflies from Outdoor time is quality time, far bow season. Di Cresce coaches
eggs. more so than more typical after- archery teams at 30 schools in the
“He’s almost too big-hearted,” school activities. Detroit area. His coaching culmi-
said Ed Shaw, a Michigan “Parents have gotten lazy,” nates with more than 1,000 kids
Department of Natural Resources
Di Cresce warns. “It’s not just the competing in an archery shoot in
interpreter who manages the Carl
inner city; it’s all over now. A lot of mid-May.
T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing
kids are hooked to their TVs and Some want to take their skills
Center in Cadillac. “Everybody
phones.” to the ultimate level — harvesting a
sits around and talks about getting
Drawing from a network of whitetail.
young people into the outdoors …
former players — Di Cresce at one “A lot of these kids never saw
Nick connects the dots. He gives
time coached high school basketball anyone in full camouflage who
them a taste.”
and football teams in Detroit — he wasn’t an actor in a movie. Their
Di Cresce goes where the need
is able to reach out and find young idea of hunting was someone
is greatest, recruiting inner-city
people who would take to outdoor shooting Bambi,” Di Cresce said.
kids for an annual trip to northern
recreation if only given a chance. He’s been helping people most
Michigan. His titles are many. Drawing of his adult life, sometimes by
Through the nonprofit Our from his college teachings, Di keeping them alive through trauma
Global Kids formed by him and Cresce has been or continues to as a paramedic. But his last day
his wife, Dellashon, the Di Cresces be an interpreter for Metro parks, in an ambulance came on May 10,
lead an annual bus trip adventure professional archer and USA 2010, when a drunk driver caused
an accident resulting in broken ribs
and bones.
Di Cresce was told to switch
gears, so he became a park inter-
preter, but he never slowed, and
eventually recovered.
A typical day for him begins
at 4 a.m. with an hour of prayer
— he’s a member of St. Joan of
Arc Catholic Church in St. Clair
Shores — followed by two hours in
the gym. Then it’s off to volunteer
where ever he’s needed.
Often that includes giving a
youngster his or her first taste of
life beyond city streets.
“I love being in the outdoors
and teaching people about it,” Di
Cresce said.

78 |

Spring 2020.indd 80 2/12/2020 1:20:17 PM




This project was funded by the Michigan Invasive Species

Grant Program (

Spring 2020.indd 81 2/12/2020 1:20:18 PM

Muter Outdoor Fund Engages
New Audiences own love of the outdoors,” said Muter. “My dad loved
John Muter, whom the fund to share his outdoor experiences with family, friends
is named after, was an and even complete strangers. He was always taking
avid outdoorsman and his new hunters and new anglers under his wing, passing
passion to share his love of on his knowledge and enthusiasm as he introduced
the outdoors inspired his them to his favorite pastimes around the Great
friends and family to start the Lakes State. This was the stimulus behind the Muter
scholarship. Outdoor Fund.”
To carry out its mission, the Fund has been
providing scholarships and supporting programs that
promote outdoor recreation and celebrate Michigan's
natural resources and rich outdoor heritage.
Its first program, the John A. Muter Memorial
Scholarship, recognizes college students who, like
John, have demonstrated a commitment to intro-
ducing new audiences to fishing, hunting and other
forms of outdoor recreation in Michigan.
Last fall, the Fund announced its second annual
cohort of John A. Muter Memorial Scholarship

o you remember the first time you went Three winners were selected from a highly-qual-
hunting, fishing or camping in Michigan? ified pool of 21 applicants, representing 10 Michigan
More than likely, you can easily and colleges and universities. The winners received $1,000
fondly recall those memories and family and scholarships to support their 2019-2020 academic
friends who were with you for those special moments. expenses.
You can also probably point to one or more impor- “We have been completely blown away by the
tant people in your life who introduced you to the quality and quantity of applications we have received
incredible outdoor opportunities Michigan has to offer. over the past two years. Our 2019 winners are doing
Unfortunately, there are many kids and adults in incredible work on their campuses and in their
our state without an experienced and enthusiastic communities to engage youth, families and others with
outdoor mentor in their lives. As a result, they haven’t the outdoors as well as increase public appreciation for
had many, or even any, of these formative experiences. Michigan’s natural resources and places,” said Johns.
As fewer people take to the outdoors, it is becoming “It’s incredibly inspiring to learn about what these
increasingly important to introduce new audiences to up-and-coming conservation leaders are doing in our
Michigan’s outdoor opportunities and to help foster state, and it makes us optimistic for the future. We’re
a new generation of leaders and mentors who are pleased to recognize their efforts through this scholar-
equally passionate about this mission. ship and play a small role in supporting the financial
The Muter Outdoor Fund, a new not-for-profit costs of their education,” said Ruthig.
organization, is attempting to do just that. The fund anticipates awarding at least three
Established in 2017, the Muter Outdoor Fund is dedi- additional scholarships to deserving undergraduate
cated to engaging new audiences and new generations students in 2020. Applications for the 2020 scholarships
with Michigan's rich outdoor heritage. are now available on the Muter Outdoor Fund website,
The organization was inspired by the late John
Muter, an avid Michigan sportsman from Saginaw, Beyond scholarships, the fund also provided
who passed away in 2016 after a long and courageous financial support to the 2019 Saginaw Bay Nature
battle with cancer. Festival spearheaded by the Rotary Club of Standish
After John passed away, his son, Bret, reconnected and Pinconning.
with two of his father’s friends from grade school – Joe The festival highlights the diverse natural
Ruthig and Robert Johns – to work together to find an resources and recreational opportunities available
appropriate way to honor his father’s memory. in the Saginaw Bay Region through public outreach
“For the three of us as well as many others, John events, classroom presentations, fishing clinics, school
was the father, friend and mentor who sparked our field trips, the arts and other activities.

80 |

Spring 2020.indd 82 2/12/2020 1:20:19 PM

“My father spent most of his free time fishing,
duck hunting and wildlife watching on and around the
Saginaw Bay. So, it seemed especially fitting to support
the Rotary with this incredible public outreach
effort,” said Muter. “We played a small role in the
2019 Saginaw Bay Nature Festival activities and have
committed to helping sponsor the 2020 Festival and
deepening our partnership with the Rotary Club in the
years to come.”
The fund is also exploring other ways to fulfill its
mission and build its base of supporters for the future.
“Even if you did not know John, you likely knew
someone like him – someone who inspired your own
love and appreciation of Michigan’s outdoors. The
mission of the Muter Outdoor Fund is one that we
think a lot of people can get behind,” said Johns.
“We’re excited by what we’ve done in the last two years
and are looking forward to building a grassroots effort Jacklyn Lenten
to continue engaging new audiences and new genera-
tions with Michigan’s rich outdoor heritage.”
Negaunee, Michigan • Northern Michigan University
As a senior at Northern Michigan University,
The 2020 scholarship application deadline is 5 p.m.
Jacklyn has a “special pride” for the natural beauty
on April 30.
of northern Michigan. She is actively involved with
To learn more about the Muter Outdoor Fund and
the NMU Conservation Crew as well as the school’s
its work, visit or send an
Environmental Science Camp, which engages high
e-mail to
school students with scientists to explore how
technology and field experiences are used to study

2019 Winners the environment. She was also recently accepted into
MSU Extension’s prestigious Lake & Stream Leaders
Institute. Jacklyn plans to attend graduate school
to pursue her interests in wetlands and amphibian

Jacob Zona
Albion, Michigan • Saginaw Valley State University Magkena Szemak
Jacob is entering his final year at Saginaw Valley Ann Arbor, Michigan • Central Michigan University
State University, where he is studying both biology Magkena is a third-year honors student at Central
and chemistry. He currently serves as the president Michigan University, majoring in environmental
of the Biology Club at SVSU and, in his tenure, has science and minoring in community health. By
helped the organization become more engaged with bringing these two fields of study together, she hopes
the local community. In addition to outreach, Jacob to address environmental health concerns impacting
is passionate about research. He has conducted marginalized communities in Michigan and else-
research projects on topics ranging from animal where. At Central, Magkena conducts research
behavior to the environmental health of the and outreach with the Institute for Great Lakes
Saginaw Bay watershed. After finishing his degree, Research. She volunteers as a counselor for the 4-H
he plans to attend graduate school and pursue a Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp and serves
career in conservation research. as the Vice President of Scouting & Youth Services
for the Alpha Phi Omega Service Fraternity.

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 81

Spring 2020.indd 83 2/12/2020 1:20:20 PM

Full Draw: Taking Notes
By Tom Nelson
I had never cleared a shooting lane behind my
As New Year's festivities finally come to an end, I position as I had never had a buck approach through
begin to stow away my bowhunting gear. the swamp from that direction. There was not just an
My camo clothing is washed after months of use absence of bucks but not even a doe.
and placed in scent-free containers until needed again. However, on a frosty, early November morning, I
My bowstring is waxed up, and the bow itself is had perhaps the largest buck I had seen in several years
gone over with a rag to wipe away any mud or other come wading through the knee-deep water pushing his
debris that may have attached itself in some way to the way through the cattails that blocked his path. Why
limbs and riser. It is a bittersweet time for me, but also he was traveling this difficult route, I had no idea, but
a time for recalling the past season. This is when my there he was at 15 yards and I had no opening to sneak
bowhunting journal becomes so important. an arrow through. I had to stand there and watch him
I have kept a daily journal of my bowhunting disappear without ever drawing my bow.
outings for almost three decades. After each morning When spring came around, I was reading through
or afternoon hunt, I grab a pen and scribble the hunt's my journal and noticed my entry regarding trimming
events, both good and bad, in my hunt journal. out a shooting lane to the swamp. I had completely
I log items such as, wind direction, temperature, forgotten about it and likely would not remember to do
what stand or blind I was sitting in, etc. I also log the so.
number of deer seen, whether they were bucks or does Fast forward two years to November first, sitting
and what direction they came from and where they in this stand in the late afternoon. With the sun now
went. barely visible above the western horizon, the sound
Over the years, I have found the information I have of splashing water drew my attention. A doe and fawn
gathered, to be extremely important in future decision came trotting through the swamp behind me. They
making. Important as far as where to hunt during hastily moved on, as they disappeared, I heard the
different wind directions. unmistakable grunting of an approaching buck.
My journal tells me what wind is good and or bad As I hooked my release on my bowstring, a wide
for each stand. Information gathered from past hunts. eight-point came splashing through. I drew and voice
There is a boldly written entry in my journal from late grunted at the same time. As the buck stopped a mere 5
October of this past fall. DO NOT HUNT THE NEW or 6 yards below me, I picked a spot behind his shoulder
SHADOW HUNTER BLIND WITH ANY WIND FROM and sent a Vortex broadhead through his vitals.
THE EAST! Had I not taken notice in my journal and cleared a
I remember the frustration while sitting in the shooting lane to the swamp that wide eight would likely
blind as deer blew and stomped, causing me to vacate still be haunting me in my dreams.
the blind early rather than educate more deer. All the This was not the first-time reminders reread
deer approached the food plot that the blind was set up from my journal had me making an adjustment that
on from the west. Entirely the opposite of what I had benefited me at a later date. One does not even have
expected. to journal daily. A good friend and fellow bowhunter
Three days later, a buddy of mine arrowed a big doe takes a bit of time after the season ends when it is
from the same blind on an evening with a northwest still fresh in his mind and writes down all the changes
wind — something to remember. Perhaps, however, the he wants to
most important notes to heed from my daily journaling, make come the
are the small items, small items such as those listed in following year.
my journal from this past fall. Remember
Turn the ladder stand in the Big Oak to the south a few minutes
a bit. Replace or fix the chair in the tower blind as it of jotting
squeaks. Move 007 (name of my favorite rut stand) 40 down notes
yards or so to the south. could mean
Although these three changes are minor they all, the difference
when attended to, could likely spell the difference between
between punching out a tag or not. success and
After the end of the 2017 Michigan bow season, failure.
I had written in my journal to be sure and create
a shooting lane behind my ladder stand west of
the swamp. This was a long-time proven stand that
produced perhaps as many as a dozen good bucks over
the last decade and a half.

82 |

Spring 2020.indd 84 2/12/2020 1:20:21 PM

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Spring 2020.indd 85 2/12/2020 1:20:21 PM

How Behavioral Factors Can
Influence Newborn Fawn Sex
Ratios By John Ozoga

84 |

Spring 2020.indd 86 2/12/2020 1:20:23 PM

e expect animal
populations to produce
approximately equal
numbers of male and
female offspring.
And, in the long run, that is
generally true. However, there is
abundant evidence that certain
animals, including white-tailed
deer, can manipulate the sex ratio
of their offspring in response to
various environmental factors.
Even a doe’s age, reproductive
experience, dominance status,
response to prospective mates
(mate selection), as well as buck
availability and other social factors,
during the autumn breeding
season, could directly influence
fetal sex-ratios – even when nutri-
tion is favorable. During the 1970s, we carefully The interval between the start
monitored the activity levels for 67 of estrus behavior and final mating
Timing does during the breeding season. ranged from 15 to 95 hours, aver-
We partitioned each pen, so that aging about 40 hours.
While monitoring activity does passed through narrow gate- These records showed that few
rhythms of penned deer, I acciden- ways while pacing. Each gateway male fawns were conceived early
tally discovered does become very had a probe-type switch connected in the estrus cycle, whereas more
restless and began pacing in their to an event recorder. Whenever a male fawns were conceived late in
pen shortly before they mated. doe tripped the switch, the time was the cycle.
From a series of experiments, we marked on the recorder tape. When does mated within the
learned that average nighttime Each morning we tallied each first 24 hours of estrus activity,
activity rose 28 fold one or two doe’s nighttime activity. A sharp they, on average, conceived only
nights before estrus. rise in a doe’s movements signaled 14.3 percent male fawns. However,
In fact, we calculated one the start of estrus. We then intro- the proportion of male fawns
doe walked more than 20 miles duced a buck periodically until the progressively increases with
the night before she bred. Hence, doe bred, carefully determining the greater elapsed time until they
this information proved useful in number of hours that had elapsed comprised 80.8 percent of the
conducting controlled breeding from the start of estrus activity progeny of does mating more than
trials. until the first and final mating. 48 hours after the beginning of
Viewed another way, males
constituted 27.1 percent of the
fawns produced in matings occur-
ring within 36 hours of estrus
onset, compared to 69.7 percent
male young resulting from delayed
Although our research was
conducted years ago, Doctor
Art Reuck, a veterinarian from
Minnesota, sent an abstract of a
comparable study recently with
According to the abstract,
researchers obtained data from
716 cows that had been artificially
inseminated at different times
between 8 and 44 hours from visual
signs of estrus.

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 85

Spring 2020.indd 87 2/12/2020 1:20:25 PM

As with whitetails, the doe, compared to 1.78 fawns per doe expected to lead to more frequent
percentage of male calves was among late breeders. delayed mating (or possibly estrus
lowest (26.5 percent) during early Clearly, the timing of mating recycling) and more male progeny
estrus (8-18 hours). Conversely, within a doe’s estrus cycle is an than expected.
inseminations delayed more than important factor determining
30 hours from start estrus produced the sex of her progeny: delayed Mate Selection
72.1 percent males. matings result in more male
With cattle, the percentage progeny. There is mounting evidence
of successful pregnancies also Why a doe mates early or late that whitetail does are mate selec-
declined from early to late estrus in her estrus cycle could be due to tive. That is, young does (yearlings)
inseminations (66.2 to 45.4 percent, many factors, including her level respond more favorably to yearling
respectively). Although not statisti- of nutrition. However, herd sex-age suitors, whereas mature does tend
cally significant, we saw a similar composition and density, as well as to prefer the courtship style of
pattern with whitetails. Does that other social factors, can be equally rut-experienced mature bucks.
bred within the first 36 hours important. If so, the age composition of the
of estrus produced an buck population – and availability
average of 1.97 Buck Availability of preferred suitors – could impact
fawns per doe breeding schedules and resul-
Natural deer populations tant fawn ratios.
normally have a ratio of about one Young does (fawns and year-
adult buck to fewer than two adult lings) breeding for their first time
does in the autumn herd. Given appear to be particularly apprehen-
such a ration and favorable nutri- sive when being courted by large,
tion, bucks normally detect and mature bucks. As a result, they
mate with does as soon as tend to mate late in their estrus
they come into estrus. cycle and produce preponderance
Hence, on average, a (better than 60 percent) of male
one to one progeny offspring.
sex ration On the other hand, since
is expected these young does seem to be more
for such a tolerant of yearling bucks, they
population. probably mate earlier in their cycle
A ration of when serviced by yearling bucks,
one buck per resulting in a more even progeny
three does is sex ration, as occurred in our
more common Cusino studies.
in well-fed deer Conversely, older does tend to
populations if be more responsive to the courtship
bucks are heavily finesse demonstrated by rut-experi-
exploited, providing enced sires but shun the advances
good recruitment of less experienced yearling bucks.
rates are maintained. Theoretically, progeny sex-
However, when ratios produced by mature does
herd productivity and should vary accordingly – more
recruitment are poor, female progeny with mature bucks
for whatever reason, and more male progeny when bred
heavy buck harvesting to yearling bucks – but we could
can contribute to a pre- not demonstrate this relationship
hunting season population relative to sire and doe age.
of about one buck per five
does. Maternal Domination
If heavy buck exploita-
tion precedes the breeding Female whitetails have a
season, as it commonly complex matriarchal social system;
does in the south, the adult wherein prime-age females are the
sex ration may be heavily most dominant and control supe-
skewed to females during rior food and cover resources.
the breeding season. Such As a result, these dominant
an imbalance would be

86 |

Spring 2020.indd 88 2/12/2020 1:20:26 PM

individuals tend to breed first, progeny sex-rations. likely to conceive female or male
conceive multiple litters and Since the unsuccessful 2-year- progeny.
produce a disproportionate number old doe retains close contact with Stress of any kind, or a
of female offspring. her mother, delayed birth of her shortage of preferred suitors, will
In contrast, subordination has second litter and tendency to likely contribute to delayed mating
a strong suppressor effect upon the conceive males (which disperse) and a better chance of conceiving
behavior and reproductive perfor- would minimize mother-daughter males.
mance of young females. competition for food and cover Normally, well-fed adult
Typically, a yearling doe resources. does, in socially balanced deer
breeding for her first time main- Likewise, because the populations, produce more female
tains close, but subordinate, social successful 2-year-old more likely than male progeny. This allows
contact with her mother. In our disperses to new range to rear her individual matriarchies to develop
Cusino enclosure studies, these second litter, it is to her advantage rapidly and to spread into newly
young does conceived about 63 to give birth early in the season so available habitat. Hence, such a
percent male progeny. as to claim a favorable fawn-rearing population grows at its maximum
Likewise, progeny sex ratios territory. The conception of female rate.
for does breeding their second time progeny would also enable her The opposite is true for popula-
hinges heavily upon whether or to form her own family group (of tions that have inadequate food and
not they successfully raised their daughters) independent of the cover, have too few males to service
first litter. Those does that fail matriarch. estrous does on schedule or are
to rear their first litter resume a In short, the differing repro- socially stressed for any reason.
subordinate social role with their ductive performance of young If bucks are in short supply or
mothers. The successful mothers does that either succeed or fail to deer are stressed, resultant female
start their own family and become raise their first litter represents hormonal imbalances and delayed
more independent. an adaptive strategy that is in the mating will lead to the production
In our enclosure studies, individual’s best self-interest in of more male progeny.
when 2-ear-old does raised fawns, terms of genetic fitness. This can be expected to occur
they bred earlier the next rut (17 in herds with high buck mortality
November) compared to unsuc- Conclusions and low buck-to-doe ratios, and
cessful 2-year-olds (25 November). wherever deer are malnourished.
The successful does also Although nutrition is undoubt- These changes in newborn
conceived a lower proportion of edly the most important factor fawn sex ratios allow whitetail
male progeny (38.9 percent versus determining whitetail reproductive populations to adapt to constantly
64.7 percent). performance, it’s the physiological changing environmental conditions
These findings demonstrate status of the female during estrus and fluctuating mortality factors
the inherent role behavioral traits that determines whether she is that may impact one sex more or
and social stress play in governing less than the other.

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 87

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By Max Bass director’s cabin so that I will stay dry this summer!
MUCC Camp Director Last summer was my first summer in Michigan,
and my goodness was it incredible. The long, gorgeous
The summer of 2020 is looking like it is going to be summer days, the clear, cool nights, the white pine
one for the books! forest and the gorgeous views of Cedar Lake made the
Here at MUCC, we are in full-swing getting ready summer of 2019 extra special. This summer we are
for this camp season. We have been traveling all across planning on keeping the focus at camp pretty similar
the state visiting career fairs at various universities, to last year; safety, fun and learning.
to find the best staff possible, and spreading the word Our goal is for each camper in our program to have
about our unique and wonderful camp program at the a safe and positive experience in the outdoors. Then we
various sport and fishing shows. want them to have fun. We want them to enjoy every
When we are not traveling, we are geared up and moment and not even realize they are learning all
getting ready in the office. We are making sure regis- sorts of different things about our natural world.
tration is running smoothly, interviewing potential Thinking back to last summer, I cannot help but
staff and preparing schedules and curriculum. On top smile. So many campers came to camp, all with such
of that, we have been working hard with a variety of different personalities. It was as if the entire property
volunteers to make sure that the Cedar Lake Outdoor was filled with laughter for five weeks straight.
Center is ready for over 400 campers to have the Sometimes it is hard to tell the impact that we
experience of a lifetime. will have on our campers. This past summer, we had
Chelsea Rod and Gun Club has put in some serious a camper very new to the outdoors who had never
time and manpower to help make some new wooden experienced anything like our camp. Throughout
bunk beds, all made from lumber from downed trees the week, I kept an eye out on him to see how he was
on the property. They also put a new roof on the doing. He did not seem unhappy nor did he seem

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amazed, bewildered or excited by camp. They will learn to set up tents, cook their food over the
He left the week with a smile on his face and said fire and enjoy a night truly sleeping out-of-doors.
he had a good time but to me it did not seem like we Our Counselor in Training (CIT) program will also
had an impact on him. Months later, I received a letter be changing for this upcoming summer. In the past, we
from an adult close to this camper. Apparently, a lot would run a small CIT program where our CITs would
had changed since the summer ended. He had more spend the week together learning about what it takes
confidence in himself, his grades had drastically to be a counselor and a conservation educator. This
improved and his fitness habits were beginning to year we are trying something new.
change. They were attributing it to his time at camp We are offering our CIT a FREE week of camp
and getting to experience so many new activities. during the summer where they will get to help our
These are the type of impacts that we, as camp counselors with all aspects of camp. From games and
staff, rarely get to see; however, they warm my heart lessons to campfires and the flag pole, our CITs will
and are why I have chosen this career path. really get a hands-on opportunity to see what being a
We will be making some new changes to this counselor is like! We are looking for previous campers
upcoming summer. We are extremely excited to that absolutely loved camp, are a good role model
announce that we are adding a whole extra week of and leader and are at least 14. Any former camper
programming for our older campers (12-14 years old). interested in applying to be a CIT should reach out to
This means our season will be six weeks instead of me, Camp Director, Max Bass, at for
five, and we are so thrilled to be able to offer even more more information!
young conservationists an opportunity to come to Online registration is open for this summer and
camp! filling up fast! Please go to to see
We are also adding a new camp theme called what weeks still have room, view our camp brochure
“Young Naturalists.” This new theme is for our and register your camper. Do not delay on signing
campers ages 12-14 and is based on our existing your child up, because once we are full, we are full.
program “Conservation Connection.” This new If you have any questions about registration,
program will be a sampler camp for those older please reach out to me at 517-346-6462.
campers who are new to the outdoors. They will get If you or someone you know might be interested in
to learn a little bit about forest ecology, water ecology, joining us this summer as a part of our summer camp
wilderness survival, fishing, archery, riflery, boating staff, send a resume over to
and hiking. It will be an opportunity for campers new We are currently looking to fill all of our posi-
to the outdoors to see a little bit of everything and find tions. We are looking for an; Assistant Director, Above:
what sparks their interests. Health Director, Waterfront Director, Range Officers, helping
On top of the extra week and new program, we are Conservation Educators/Camp Counselors, Camp situatio
going to be reintroducing overnight campouts for all of Cook, Kitchen Assistant and Facilities Manager! the cam
our programs! All of our residential campers will now We offer room, board, a weekly stipend and a
get to do an onsite overnight during their time at camp. summer job like no other!

Fall 20
Spring 2020
19 ||Michigan Out-of-Doors 89
MichiganOut-of-Doors 91

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Conservation Through Education

R3 for All
involved. For scale, a typical learn to hunt
By Shaun McKeon One of the programs I worked event meets full registration at 15
MUCC Education Director closely with this fall was the participants. Typically, the smaller
Michigan Pheasant Hunting class size is a result of the difficulty
In the winter 2019 issue, I high- Initiative (MPHI). This program is of finding mentors for the new
lighted R3 and the importance of a two-year pilot project with a focus hunters.
recruitment, retention and reactiva- on getting more people involved in Knowing the MPHI hunts would
tion to slowing the tide of hunting small game hunting on public land be the largest events our group had
and fishing participation loss. throughout the southern portion of pulled off in our three years of learn
We talked about connecting Michigan. The Michigan Game Bird to hunt, we began working on the
youth to their natural resources Breeder Association, in conjunction planning in April. Starting with site
and the importance of creating a with the Michigan DNR and MPHI, visits to Allegan and Shiawassee,
community that provides people planted 5,800 male pheasants over our team met with the local biolo-
with multiple opportunities to try 11 different state game areas every gists and field staff for the DNR. We
hunting and fishing. This pathway, week during the fall and winter walked fields, looked at aerial maps
with multiple contacts and oppor- when and where pheasant season and planned out the hunting zones
tunities to engage in the field, is was open. There were also two learn for each area. The field staff was a
likened to participants creating to hunt events held in conjunction little leery of the program, but they
a string of pearls. Each new with this program. One event did their best to provide everything
connection is a pearl strung along took place at the Allegan State we asked for and helped our group
a necklace until they identify as a Game Area and the other at the become more familiar with each
hunter/angler and become a mentor Shiawassee River State Game Area. area.
for someone new, thus completing These two special hunts were Over the next several months
the circle. facilitated in cooperation with as logistics and planning continued,
I am fortunate to have the learn to hunt programs put on our team spent countless hours
opportunity to work on R3 projects by the DNR, MUCC, Pheasants working the phones looking for
with partners throughout the state Forever and National Wild Turkey volunteers, dog handlers and guides
on a year-round basis. Whether I Federation. for each of the hunts. The goal was
am acting as a hunter education All four organizations put on to have one dog handler and one
instructor, teaching a wing shooting learn to hunt events throughout the mentor guide for each group of
101 class for adults or helping with year, but the scope of the two MPHI hunters.
a youth pheasant hunt, I get to see a hunts was larger than anything At Allegan, we had 12 hunter
variety of approaches and programs attempted before. For the Allegan groups and at Shiawassee, we had
that try to get new hunters involved. hunt, 60 new hunters were regis- eight hunter groups. As November
Each project has its own goals tered and for the Shiawassee hunt, drew near, we opened registration
and strategies for getting people 40 new hunters were registered. and interested hunters who were

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new to pheasant hunting in less
than 48 hours filled both hunts.
That's right, we had 100 people
register to either begin hunting for
the first time or sign up to learn how
to hunt a new species in less than a
Each day had nearly 100 people
turn out. Besides the hunters, we
had volunteers lending a hand as
mentors, dog guides and helpers
with other logistics. The Saginaw
Field and Stream Club provided
a range and instructors to teach
firearm safety for the Shiawassee
hunt, and the DNR had ample staff
on hand to teach bird biology and
answer questions about each area.
Based on survey results and the
participants' feedback, both hunts
were successful. Many of the new
hunters were able to get their first The MPHI program has touched connecting with new hunters and
bird, and many other birds escaped all three pillars of the R3 model. passing on their passion to a new
to provide opportunities for other It has recruited new hunters, group of people. I even met two
hunters during the rest of the whether they be brand new to happy dogs in a field at the Rose
pheasant season. hunting or new to hunting pheas- Lake State Game Area who, at one
With the pheasant season ants in Michigan. It has retained point, were retired from pheasant
behind us and by taking an anec- current pheasant hunters. By hunting. They were doing what they
dotal look back, the first year of providing the excitement and the loved and enthusiastically searching
the MPHI roll-out has had a few perception that there are more birds for an elusive rooster in the tall
bumps. While there is a need for available on the landscape, hunters grass.
more education on ethical pheasant have a reason to continue to partici- Doing the work of R3 takes
hunting and highlighting field pate in the activity they enjoy doing. an enormous amount of time and
etiquette is something to focus Finally, it has reactivated lapsed resources, dedication to preserving
on for year two, the program has hunters. hunting and angling for future
achieved something that many other Several of the volunteers at generations and passion by people
R3 programs have been unable to the MPHI events were re-engaging and groups who are doing their best.
do. because they see the importance of

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Throwback: This article was originally published in May 1988

Top Timberdoodle Tagger By Henry F. Zeman

“Come on guys; let’s go find and banded. I came pretty close last year with
some birds.” Ms. Downer, who is 38, is an 93.”
With a flip of her landing net attractive mother of two sons who The spring of 1987 was a good
and a command to her two English has been smitten by the banding year with warm, dry conditions
setters, Ticker and Ike, Sally bug. For the past five years, she has that allowed Ms. Downer to be
Downer of Traverse City header taken several weeks of vacation afield almost every day, and
for the spring woods to do what she during the crucial brooding period nesting conditions were considered
had done so many times before — to band timberdoodles. Last year excellent.
band woodcock chicks while they she reserved three weeks of vaca- Each morning during the
are flightless shortly after leaving tion time for banding. banding season, Ms. Downer packs
the nest. “I dearly love to be out in the lunches, gets her children off for
Ms. Downer, for the past three woods at this time of the year, to school or to the babysitter and then
years, has been Michigan’s leading observe and listen to the spring gathers up her setters and heads
woodcock bander, with 93 chicks sounds, and to follow the woodcock for some woodlot, searching for
last year. Closest was Don Schultze hen and her broods as they grow woodcock.
of Kent City, with 83 chicks. Ms. into the flight stage,” she said. “I have a number of nearby
Downer may be the only woman She begins her spring activity covers that I return to year after
woodcock bander in the country. by locating and watching nesting year and often day after day,” she
This woodcock flightless period hens long before they bring off explained. “I could find a brood
takes place each spring shortly their broods. Last year she spotted or two in one choice habitat and
after the hen woodcock brings off three nests before the first of May. several days later find still another
her brood of three or four chicks, At this time, she checks the nests different brood in that identical
which she had been incubating for every other day and continues until cover.”
about 21 days. Woodcock are one of the eggs are hatched. Since woodcock begin nesting
the state’s earliest ground nesters Ms. Downer grew up in a and incubating eggs at different
and at times, incubate eggs through hunting family. Her father, Bill times, this stretches the banding
early spring snowfalls. Wicksall, developed a line of season into several weeks, with
Woodcock banding began in English setters that now carry his staggered age broods sometimes
Michigan many years ago when name. Naturally, his daughter also available. In southern Michigan,
G.A. (Andy) Ammann of Haslett, hunts and bands with those setters. those broods hatch early, a week or
former grouse/woodcock specialist Ms. Downer caught the banding two before those in the north.
with the Department of Natural bug early and tagged along and Ms. Downer’s best day has been
Resources, was looking for an learned when Ammann, then with 19 birds, although any day when
efficient and speedy technique of the DNR, came up to the Traverse she can find two broods or more
capturing and marking the chicks. City area to show her father how to is a good one. She figures that she
Formerly the only technique used band woodcock. spends about five hours daily in the
involved mist nets, a time-con- Everyone in her family hunts, field.
suming and inefficient method of including her husband David, who The weather was perfect that
capturing woodcock. Further, it helps on weekends or whenever spring day when she pulled into
sometimes resulted in injury to the he has the time. Sometimes her a trail road in a typical northern
birds. son Jud also assists with the Michigan bird habitat. Buds were
Ammann found that with close- banding. Several years ago, when just breaking in the aspens, and
working, staunch pointing dogs he her youngest was an infant, Ms. tent caterpillars were showing as
could find the chicks in the early Downer carried him on a papoose she opened the door of her station
spring shortly after they left the board while she banded. wagon and the setter pair dashed
nest and while they were still flight- “That first year, I only banded out to find game.
less. Trick was to locate a brooding one brood of four birds,” she “It takes a close-working dog to
hen that would stick to her chicks recalled, “but in 1984, I increased find and hold the brooding hens,”
when danger threatened. Once the that total to 48. In 1985 it was 80, she said. “Without a good dog, you
hen was pinpointed by the dogs, the and in 1986 it was 67 birds. My goal are beat before you start.”
chicks could be spotted, picked up is to someday band 100 birds, and She keeps close tabs of the

Spring 2020.indd 94 2/12/2020 1:20:36 PM

and if they get out of
sight, she whistles and they quickly chicks
cast back, looking for her. She talks pinpointed, she
slowly tries to net the mother hen, more
constantly to the dogs, who are
although this is more of a plus time ‘exploring’
always within sight or sound of her
than a must. More often than not, looking for new territory, although
the hen escapes, as this one did, what I am looking for is similar
The two setters work in
but remains near as Ms. Downer to the covers in which we hunt
concert, and once one makes a
picks up the chicks and places grouse or woodcock in the fall,” Ms.
staunch point, the other comes in
them in a bag. She measures Downer explained. “Mostly, this
to honor it. Apparently, there’s a
their beaks, which is a method to means looking for stands of aspen.
lot of scent coming from a brooding
determine age (beaks grow two mm “After a while, you get to know
hen and her chicks, especially in
a day), and then releases the birds what to look for in the way of
the early morning hours.
after banding. All of the data are habitat, and finding broods
It wasn’t long before the two dogs
recorded as Ms. Downer bands the becomes second nature.”
went on point and Ms. Downer
chicks. Another method she often
went over to them, walking slowly
On one occasion, the hen uses to find woodcock is to check
to find the brood. First thing is
circled, going into a classic broken- the ground. If it looks as though it
to find the brooding hen, which
wing trick, trying to lure danger would hold worms, it’s a good place
usually is not difficult, and if the
away from her peeping brood. to start looking for broods. You can
dogs are too close, to make them
Many dogs would have broken also search for the tell-tale white-
lie down. After that, Ms. Downer
at this point and either snapped at wash droppings most woodcock
searches diligently for each of
or grabbed the hen. However, this hunters are familiar with.
the fuzzy chicks. I had been along
hen put up a beautiful display of Once, while looking for wood-
on this day with half a dozen
caring for the peeping chicks as Ms. cock nests, Ms. Downer almost
other volunteers, including Tom
Downer banded and released them. caught a nesting hen by hand.
Prawdzik of Clare, a DNR biologist,
If a hen is caught, it is the first to be “I wanted to see how close I could
and none seemed to have the “eye”
banded and quickly released after get before she would fly and I had
for spotting chicks that Ms. Downer
banding, giving her a reason to be my hands on the bird before she
had. Try as I might, I never found
in the area hear her chicks. took wing,” Ms. Downer said.
the chicks before she did.
“Every year, I spend more and On her second find that day,
When Ms. Downer has all the

Spring 2020 | Michigan Out-of-Doors 95

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both dogs pointed the same hen, a friendly ‘gentleman’s’ rivalry several Gulf Coast states.
and Ms. Downer tried to stretch among the banders over how many Most state game agencies
the landing net over the hen. But birds they will band that year. would like more hunters with
she missed, and the bird flew just That competition is not cutthroat good dogs to get into the woodcock
out of reach. At times the hen will or anything like that, because we banding game since they don’t have
return searching for the peeping often get together to compare notes the time to do the job themselves.
chicks, but this hen would have and to help each other.” Biologists are always looking
none of this, and after banding, For the past two years, the for new ways to manage this
we left. Ms. Downer carefully Grand Traverse Area Chapter of important resource and to monitor
placed the chicks on the forest the Ruffed Grouse Society has been trends in population fluctuations
duff together. The birds promptly holding a woodcock banding work- each season.
froze, and Ms. Downer called the shop showing how to find and band Each bander is given a report
dogs away from the site so the hen woodcock and to interest other when the bird he or she banded is
would reclaim them. They would bird hunters with good dogs in this returned. Experience shows that
be together in minutes, none the demanding activity. Ms. Downer only three or four such reports
worse for wear. has been active in this group and come from each 100 birds banded.
“I have never found more is one of the principal instructors. “I feel that by banding wood-
than four chicks in any one brood, Last year 75 people came to the cock I’m doing my part for conser-
although other searchers have seminar and 14 licensed banders vation by putting something back
found five,” Ms. Downer said. came to help. into the resource to offset what I
“You always look for four chicks, Nationwide, and especially take away,” Ms. Downer said. “And
although today both broods we on the east coast, woodcock spring hunting helps the dogs in
found had three.” numbers are decreasing. Many training to hunt close and point
Later that morning, Ms. experts contend that the reason staunch.”
Downer almost caught a male is diminishing habitat and not Ms. Downer has been learning
woodcock in her net, a rare occur- overhunting, as some suspect. a lot about woodcock by banding,
rence. Most males flush wild at this Information gleaned from banding and she’s having fun at the same
time of year. Experienced banders is crucial to the well-being of the time. “And that’s what counts the
get to know a brooding hen from a species. Woodcock are migratory most,” she said.
male in the way they fly. Brooding species that nest in many northern
hens fly close to the ground with states and Canadian provinces
feet dragging and alight close by, and migrate starting in
while males flush high up and November to
straight, just as they do in the fall.
Most of the banding takes place
in May, with much of
it tapering off
by the end of
the month.
“I can
tell how the
hatch is going
by the number
of chicks I band
and at the end of
many broods, I
continue to search
for that late hatch,”
Ms. Downer said.
“Sometimes a
hen that loses its
brood will renest,
and that’s what I’m
looking for. I don’t
set a number goal
anymore. At the begin-
ning of the year, I just go
out and have some fun,
although I admit there’s

Spring 2020.indd 96 2/12/2020 1:20:37 PM

Subscribe, become a member and get MUCC and
Michigan Out-of-Doors gear at

Get Michigan Out-of-Doors

by becoming a member of
Michigan United
Conservation Clubs
Call Sue Pride at 517.371.1041

Affiliate Club members: Ask the person at your club who handles
membership about subscribing to the print edition
for a discounted rate.

Spring 2020.indd 97 2/12/2020 1:20:40 PM

One Last Cast
By Nick Green

In today’s conservation world, there are an

unprecedented number of organizations vying for a
historically-low number of supporters. How do you
sort through what is important, what gives you the
most bang for your buck and who truly has your needs
in mind? These are the questions often asked when
I am at outreach events or giving a presentation on
21st-century conservation.
With today’s digital age, these organizations with
the best marketing strategies and graphic designers
seem to be raking in the lion’s share of young, impres-
sionable conservationists. Main stays like Michigan
United Conservation Clubs have fell to the wayside of
these new, hip conservation groups.
Herein lies the problem: MUCC is a known conser-
vation commodity, both statewide and nationally. We
are the organization other state’s look to when they
are trying to start a conservation organization to be
the watchdog of whatever governmental entity over- importantly, we do it all without tooting our horn.
sees their natural resources. If there is no longer an You ask what has MUCC done for you today?
MUCC, there is no longer a fire keeper of conservation We have ensured that your rights to hunt, fish and
in Michigan. trap are safe. We have helped to secure and protect
Our membership is bigger than some of those many of the public lands that Michiganders utilize
larger, nationwide conservation organizations, too. each and every day. We have educated the next gener-
And MUCC is a true grassroots organization: our ation of conservation stewards through Michigan
membership sets the organization’s policy. We have Out-of-Doors Youth Camp and TRACKS magazine, and
existed since 1937, through the best and worst of times. we have empowered youth to become the conserva-
With 12 full-time, dedicated staff members, MUCC tion-minded voters of tomorrow.
operates a youth camp that engages and introduces We have helped to keep politicking out of the deci-
almost 400 kids each year to the outdoors. MUCC sions that directly impact our natural resources. We
tracks hundreds of bills and testifies at dozens of have gathered together outdoor enthusiasts from all
hearings during each legislative session. We are at walks of life to rally around one cause: conservation.
every single Natural Resources Commission Meeting MUCC doesn’t host social pint nights at bars
and testify at most of them. throughout Michigan. But, we have On the Ground,
Through coordination of volunteer efforts, public-land improvement events where you can come
the organization has improved more than 3,000 dirty your hands and toast some water around a
acres of public land and enlisted more than 1,000 planted tree. We have bill-signing parties where you
volunteers. We have brought together private land- can touch a pen the governor used to sign legislation
owners to improve habitat in southern Michigan protecting our rights as hunters, anglers and conser-
through a robust cooperatives program. Most vationists. And we rally around the next generation of
conservation stewards each spring and summer when
we bring together volunteers to work at our youth
"We are the organization other state’s camp. Will you join us?
MUCC does these things because it is who we are
look to when they are trying to start — Michigan United Conservation Clubs — not because
it is the cool thing to do.
a conservation organization to be the
Yours in Conservation,
watchdog of whatever governmental entity
oversees their natural resources."
96 |

Spring 2020.indd 98 2/12/2020 1:20:41 PM

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Spring 2020.indd 100 2/12/2020 1:20:41 PM