Michigan Veterans Can Now Obtain Hunting & Fishing Licenses For Free

It should have happened a long time ago but like they say better late than never.

Beginning March 1, 2013, disabled veterans in Michigan will be able to obtain free hunting and fishing licenses.

Recently, Gov. Rick Snyder signed House Bill 5292 into law (now called Public Act 339 of 2012). By doing so the governor has eliminated all fees for hunting and fishing licenses for disabled veterans.

The new law doesn’t include free lottery-based licenses. Also, the determination of who is and who isn’t a disabled veteran still falls under the purview of the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

Usually, a disabled veteran is a resident that the V.A. has determined to be permanently disabled, totally disabled, or individually unemployable. It goes without saying that oneís disability canít be blindness.

Previously, disabled hunters and fishermen received a 60-percent discount.

In 2010, more than 3,000 disabled veterans received hunting or fishing licenses from the State of Michigan.

The bill was introduced earlier in 2012 by state representative Holly Hughes. One of the billís major advocates was Dave Eling, director of the Muskegon County Veterans Center.

Eling gave the Michigan governor a ìmilitary challenge coinî to thank him for singing the bill, but really all three of the previously mentioned public figures should be recognized for their efforts to get the bill passed and signed.

The new law is not only a small token of our unyielding gratitude, to paraphrase Hughes, but those who sacrificed their health to protect our country should be able to enjoy its natural beauty and resources for free.

On the same day that Gov. Snyder made hunting and fishing licenses free for Michiganís disabled veterans he also signed a law that benefits the stateís gun enthusiasts.

Snyder put his John Hancock on House Bill 5322 which allows Michiganders to carry unloaded firearms at clay ranges even if their gun is out of a case.

It may sound like a difference without a distinction, but clay shooters had to constantly put their shotguns back into their cases while they moved between stations.

Deer Death Toll Now Tops 11,000

Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is now saying more than 11,000 deer have died from epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD). The last time I wrote about the disease and its effect on the Michigan deer population the death toll was assessed at around 8,000.

Of course, the figures are guesstimates. The actual number of dead deer is probably much higher.

Right now, the hardest hit Michigan counties are Barry, Branch, Calhoun, Clinton, Hillsdale, Ionia, Jackson, Kent, Montcalm, and St. Joseph.

To keep their count accurate, the DNR is asking Michigan hunters to help track deer that have died from the disease. The DNR wants hunters to report suspected cases of EHD death to one of their many wildlife offices (below is a list of DNR offices and their contact numbers).

The department will take reports through the end of the year.

EHD is transmitted through the bite of the midge fly. Since the disease gives deer a fever, infected animals are usually found dead near bodies of water.

Humans can not catch the disease through eating venison or through the bite of the midge fly. Furthermore, the edibility of venison is not affected by EHD.

The DNR has not changed any of their hunting rules for 2012 but they might change them for the 2013 season if the deer population is too low.

Not every state is following Michigan’s wait-and-see attitude. South Dakota has pulled all of its unsold deer tags in six counties that have been hit particularly hard by EHD.

Michigan’s deer management has been the target of scorn and ridicule from hunters. They think itís too antiquated and too broad. Some have even charged the DNR with having no clue on the number of deer living in the state.

Regardless of what state officials are doing (or not doing), the EHD epidemic in Michigan is quite severe due to a very warm and dry year.

Contact Information For Michiganís Wildlife Offices
Lansing Main Wildlife Division Office – (517) 373-1263
Wildlife Disease Laboratory – (517) 336-5030
Upper Peninsula Region – (906) 228-6561
Newberry Operations Service Center – (906) 293-5131
Baraga Operations Service Center – (906) 353-6651
Crystal Falls Field Office – (906) 875-6622
Cusino/Shingleton Field Office – (906) 452-6236
Ishpeming Field Office – (906) 485-1031
Escanaba Field Office – (906) 786-2351
Newberry Field Office – (906) 293-5024
Norway Field Office – (906) 563-9077
Sault Ste. Marie Field Office – (906) 635-5281
Lower Peninsula Region, Northern – (989) 732-3541
Cadillac Operations Service Center – (231) 775-9727
Atlanta Field Office – (989) 785-4251
Baldwin Field Office – (231) 745-4651
Gladwin Field Office – (989) 426-9205
Houghton Lake Wildlife Area Field Office – (989) 422-5192
Roscommon Operations Service Center – (989) 275-5151
Traverse City Field Office – (231) 922-5280
Plainwell Operations Service Center – (269) 685-6851
Rose Lake Wildlife Field Office – (517) 641-4903
Allegan State Game Area Field Office – (269) 673-2430
Barry State Game Area – (269) 795-3280
Crane Pond State Game Area Field Office – (269) 244-5928
Flat River State Game Area Field Office – (616) 794-2658
Muskegon State Game Area – (231) 788-5055
Southfield Operations Service Center – (248) 359-9040
Bay City Operations Service Center – (989) 684-9141
Cass City Field Office – (989) 872-5300
Fish Point Wildlife Area – (989) 674-2511
Holly Field Office – (248) 634-0240
Nayanquing Point Wildlife Area – (989) 697-5101
Pointe Mouillee State Game Area – (734) 379-9692
Seven Lakes State Park Field Office – (248) 328-8113
Shiawassee River State Game Area – (989) 865-6211
St. Clair Flats Wildlife Area Field Office – (810) 748-9504
Waterloo Wildlife Office – (517) 522-4097


Eastern Michigan University: Fly Fishing Club Holds First Meeting Nov. 2

We all remember those halcyon days of college: the football games, the all night parties, and of course the flying fishing clubs.

Fly fishing clubs!?!

It may sound like a fish tale but Mark Schultz is an Eastern Michigan University graduate who is trying to start a fly fishing club at his alma mater.

Schultz graduated from EMU in 2004 and is now owner of Schultz Outfitters. Obviously, the club ties into his business but for Schultz the club is about more than making a few bucks. He wants to introduce college students to a great sport/hobby that offers both recreation and relaxation.

Schultz’s business partner, Brian Doelle, calls fly fishing the greatest sport heís ever been a part of. He admits that itís challenging but at the same time very peaceful. According to Doelle, itís a great way to alleviate stress and what college student doesnít need to alleviate stress?

Fly fishing differs greatly from regular fishing. Instead of casting a line with a piece of bait on a hook and waiting for a fish to bite, the fly fisherman uses a technique called ìangling.î This involves a fly rod reel, a weighted line, and a near-weightless, artificial fly. Itís quite difficult to master but still very fun for the beginner.

The club’s first official meeting is Nov. 2, from 5pm to 7pm, at Schultz Outfitters in Depot Town. Right now, the club has three official members.

The sport is relatively inexpensive to get into. Schultz said it will cost about $120 to purchase everything one needs to fly fish. Thatís a lot of money for a college kid (think of all the beer and pizza it can buy) but rather cheap when compared to other hobbies.

Also, thereís a river where students can fly fish thatís within walking distance of the EMU campus. That means once a student has all their gear they donít have to spend additional money on transportation.

I was amazed to read that several Michigan universities already have fly fishing clubs including Central Michigan, Michigan State, Northern Michigan, and Western Michigan. These clubs hold fly fishing tournaments in the fall and itís very likely that EMU will participate in them once their numbers grow.

Of course, fly fishing isnít about competition. Itís about being outdoors, communing with nature, and mastering the fine art of angling.

That why Eastern Michiganís fly fishing club is the perfect choice for experts and novices.


Record-Setting Muskie Caught In Lake Bellaire

Just a couple of weeks ago Portage resident Joseph Seeberger caught a 58-pound, 59-inch Great Lakes muskellunge. Needless to say, Seeberger’s catch is a record breaker. His fish is eight pounds heavier and three inches longer than the previous mark set three years ago by Kyle Anderson of Rapid City.

Seeberger caught the mammoth muskie in Lake Bellaire in Antrim County. He was fishing with his brother chuck and his friends Jason Orbeck and Derek Barnes. To ensure that his catch gets into the record books, the fish’s dimensions were certified by a biologist and a conservation officer from the Department of Natural Resources.

They say that a bad day fishing is better than a good day at work, but it took a tremendous amount of effort for Seeberger and his buddies to get the mighty muskie out of the water and into the boat.

Within five minutes of snagging their quarry, Seeberger had the fish to the side of the boat, but it got spooked and swam away. He then fought the ginormous guppy for 90 minutes.

Believing he had a whooper on the line, Seeberger asked one of his buddies to Google the biggest muskie ever caught in Michigan. He found a source that indicated 50-inches. So they marked that length off on the side of their watercraft.

After some struggles, they were able to get the fish alongside their makeshift ruler for a measurement. Thatís when they realized its head began where the 50 inches ended.

The colossal catch fought so hard that it broke two nets. They tried to get it out of the water using lifejackets but Seeberger and company couldnít submerge them enough to get them under the mighty muskie.

As a last ditch effort the fishermen lassoed the muskie with a dock line the fish cooperated by not diving. Once the loop was cinched, Seeberger and his three companions hoisted their catch out of the water and into the record books.

Seeberger has since taken his muskie to a taxidermy shop. He also believes his catch set a world record for a fish caught with an 8-pound test.

Michigan’s Gray Wolves: Will You Hunt Them?

Michigan lawmakers are considering the establishment of a hunting season for gray wolves. The animal is now eligible to be hunted because the federal government has removed the gray wolf from the endangered species list for the Great Lakes region.  This means the animal’s management is under the jurisdiction of the state of Michigan.

In order for Michigan hunters to experience a gray wolf hunting season two things have to happen.   First, the state legislature has to classify the gray wolf as a game animal.  After that, the Natural Resources Commission has to establish rules and schedule a hunting season. Since only a few wolves have been reported in the Northern Lower Peninsula any hunt will be small and limited to the Upper Peninsula.

The Department of Natural Resources estimates that there are around 700 gray wolves in the Upper Peninsula.  There were 500 wolves in 2008 and just 200 in 2000.  The reason behind the hunt is to help farmers protect their animals.  It’s currently legal for farmers to shoot wolves attacking their livestock.  However, this is not an effective management tool as wolves generally attack at night and farmers don’t have the resources to provide around-the-clock protection for their animals.

The Michigan Farm Bureau and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs have come out in favor of a hunt. The Humane Society of the United States and The Fund for Animals has come out against.  They believe the animal should be put back on the endangered species list and insist that their population can be managed without hunting.

They also believe the only reason to hunt the gray wolf is for fun as no one eats their meat.  They call it unjustified recreational killing.  Farmers who’ve lost animals to wolves disagree. Some Michigan Indian tribes have also expressed concerns about a possible wolf hunt. If Michigan enacts a wolf hunt they will join Wisconsin and Minnesota.  Wisconsin begins their wolf hunting season in late October while Minnesota’s occurs in November.

The gray wolf is an apex predator that hunts deer, elk, sheep, bison, muskox, and caribou.  They hunt in packs but generally have better luck in pairs or on their own.

Duck Migration & Record Low Water Levels

If it looks like a duck, sounds like a duck, and flies like a duck then it must be a duck migrating south for the winter.

This fall, the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory and one ambitious student are putting that old adage to the test as they study migrating ducks over Lake Michigan.

For the most part, ducks use the Mississippi River to fly south for the winter but some of the feathered creatures use Lake Michigan.  The Mississippi migration route has been well-researched but not the Lake Michigan corridor.

That’s about to change.

Thanks to a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Observatory and their intern, Andrew Limmer, will spend the rest of 2012 surveying and counting migrating ducks.

Limmer, a 23-year-old UW-Milwaukee student and an avid waterfowl hunter, is conducting the survey as part of his senior research project.

Part of Limmer’s job will be to fly over migrating birds so he can get a head count.  He’ll combine his data with a survey that asks hunters about their location, their distance from shore, water deepness, the number of ducks they’ve killed, and their species.

The information will be used for future resource management.

It will be interesting to learn what Limmer finds especially since Lake Michigan is nearing a record low water level (according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers).

Amazingly, Lake Michigan has fallen 70 inches since it reached an all-time high in 1986.   The lake has lost 17 inches since early June and seven inches in the past month.  The body of water is approaching its all-time lowest level which it reached in 1964.

The weather has been a major factor.  This summer was hot and dry and the last couple of winters have been mild resulting in low snowpack.

Some also blame the low water levels on the dredging of the St. Clair River channel, excessive use by municipalities, and water bottlers.

The low water levels are bad news for boaters, fishers, the shipping industries, and anyone who wants to enjoy Lake Michigan.


Michigan Outdoor Enthusiasts Spent $6 Billion+ In 2011

Hunting gets a bum rap.

Of course, most of the sports’ detractors have never trounced through the brush of the Sharonville State Game Area on a crisp foggy morning or witnessed the sunrise slowly illuminate Waterloo State Park.

Those who deride hunting will probably never change their minds.  Thankfully, hunters have a retort that should quiet even their most ardent critics.  All they have to do is remind the naysayers that hunting brings in the bucks.

To be precise, hunters and outdoor enthusiast spent more than $6 billion dollars in Michigan in 2011.  They used their money to buy all sorts of things like equipment, lodging, and transportation.

Tim Becker, owner of Powderhorn Guns and Archery LLC in Holland Township, says Michigan is seeing an increase in the number of residents who hunt.  The reason, claims Becker, is the elimination of a minimum age for hunters.

Regardless of how are you are, as long as you’ve taken a hunter’s safety course you’re eligible to hunt.

Furthermore, the state has made it legal for hunters to use crossbows during archery season.  This means hunters who don’t know how to hunt with a bow and arrow can hunt with a crossbow.  Becker thinks this development has extended the season for more than half of all hunters.

In the Lower Peninsula, archery season runs from Oct. 1 through Nov. 14.  Firearm season runs from Nov. 15 through Nov. 30.

Michigan isn’t the only state seeing an increase in wildlife-related recreation.  According to a 2011 study, more than 38 percent of Americans over the age of 16 experienced the great outdoors through activities like hunting, fishing, hiking, and bird watching.  That’s an increase from the previous survey conducted in 2006.

The reason is fairly obvious: the sluggish economy.  Families that used to spend their vacation in a place with “Disney” in the name, or some other far off destination, are now realizing they can experience the great outdoors for a fraction of the price.

In 2012, Michigan Hunters Kill Fewer Deer Due To Disease

It’s called epizootic hemorrhagic disease (EHD). Don’t worry, you can’t catch it but the deer you want to hunt this season can.

Due to an EHD outbreak in the deer population, Michigan hunters, especially those in the southern part of the state, will likely kill fewer of the animals in 2012 than they did in 2011.

EHD, which is spread by a biting fly or midge, has already killed thousands of deer. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has announced that more than 8,600 deer have succumbed to the disease in 33 Michigan counties. The number is a low estimate as not every case of EHD gets reported.

Now for the good news: the disease is expected to wane as cold weather sets in. The DNR also stresses that EHD will not affect the “edibility of venison.” There is no evidence that humans can contract EHD either from being bitten by an affected fly, handling an affected deer, or eating venison.

Despite the high number of dead deer, the DNR has not changed their hunting rules or limits for this season but they might do so next year. It all depends on the deer population in 2013.

The effects of EHD are localized. For example, more than 2,000 deer deaths have been reported in Ionia County while just 600 in Montcalm County. Kent County has seen at least 1,000 deceased deer but Calhoun County has announced just 700.

Some Michigan hunters are augmenting their plans. While researching this article I found one hunter who posted that they won’t be shooting any deer this year unless it’s “the biggest buck… we have ever seen.”

The comment agrees with a DNR wildlife expert who has publically said he wouldn’t be surprised if deer killed by Michigan hunters drops five percent this season.

Most of the other comments I found revealed that hunters are taking the news of EHD in stride. Some even view the outbreak as nature’s way of “thinning the herd.”

This is not the first time Michigan deer have fallen victim to EHD (and it probably won’t be the last), but the 2012 epidemic is one of the worst in recent memory. The outbreak was fueled by Michigan’s weather. Conditions were perfect in the spring and summer for the midge to thrive.

Celebrate ‘Michigan Trails Week’

You know your state has a lot of trails if your governor gives them their own week.

Governor Rick Snyder has declared Sept. 23 through Sept. 29 as the first and official “Michigan Trails Week.” The Sunday-through-Saturday event celebrates miles of motorized, non-motorized, and water trails the great state of Michigan has to offer.

These trails are used for a variety of outdoor activities including hiking, biking, kayaking, snowmobiling, riding horses, and operating off-road vehicles (ORV).

Michigan has more 12,000 miles of interconnected trails. That’s more than any other state in the union.

Organizers are hoping to brand Michigan as the “trail state” as well as market it to vacationers looking for places that are heavy on outdoor recreation.

Apart from highlighting the state’s vast network of trails, the week-long celebration is also hoping to educate Michiganders on the trail’s three main benefits:

According to a 2010 study by Michigan State University, ORV users alone spend around $16 million annually. In a year, that accounts for more than 150 jobs and nearly $50 million in labor income.

Michigan’s trails are great destinations for casual recreationists to hardcore weekend warriors. The trails promote a healthy lifestyle and offer users breath-taking places to hike, bike, and boat.

Using the state’s trails, and experiencing Michigan’s scenic beauty first-hand, is the most effective argument for their conservation.

In conjunction with “Michigan Trails Week” several organizations—including the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance and Michigan Recreation and Park Association—are sponsoring events in a variety of communities throughout the state.

The culminating event is a Michigan-wide “work bee” scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 29, which also happens to be “National Public Lands Day.” On that day, cleanup, maintenance, and service projects will be held at trails and parks throughout Michigan. For more information visit here.

Top Trails In Michigan (Listed alphabetically)
1. Cranberry Lake Trail
2. Escarpment Trail
3. Greenstone Ridge Trail
4. High Country Pathway
5. Hoist Lakes Foot Travel Area
6. Island Lake Recreation Area
7. North Country Trail (Michigan section)
8. Paint Creek Trail
9. Potawatomi Trail
10. Waterloo-Pinckney Recreation Hiking Trail

Fish Kills This Summer

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR)  announced a slew of fish kills around Michigan as a result of above average water temperatures and drought factors. This summer, temperatures have been higher than ever, causing problems for many populations of fish. Specific stats and numbers surrounding these fish kills are currently unknown.
While fish populations decline, anglers are more active than ever. If you are looking to fish this summer, please bear in mind that fishing during the hotter days will lead to a lesser catch rate. Additionally, rivers have been hit hardest by this summer’s heat, so pick and choose your bodies of water carefully.