The new Upper Peninsula Habitat Work Group is hard at work improving U.P. winter deer habitat, and Safari Club International Foundation is a critical partner in this endeavor.
Recently, SCIF donated $40,000 to ensure the work group’s deer winter range initiative moves forward.
“The partnership and commitment on the part of the SCIF to move this project forward are remarkable,” said Michigan Department of Natural Resources U.P. Regional Wildlife Supervisor Terry Minzey. “It is exciting to see the dedication groups have to the resource and to Michigan.”
The U.P. Habitat Work Group was reconvened this year to focus on improving and conserving critical U.P. winter deer habitat. The work group, comprised of natural resource professionals, private landowners and sportsmen's groups, is led by Natural Resources Commission member J.R. Richardson of Ontonagon and Jim Hammill of Crystal Falls, a wildlife management consultant who also is a retired DNR biologist.
“SCIF has already invested more than $350,000 in the U.P. predator-prey study over the last five years,” Hammill said. “The study has shown the quality of winter habitat is a critical factor, and this is a natural extension of the investment already made.”
The $40,000 gift will be used to help fund a wildlife biologist position specifically assigned to develop comprehensive habitat strategies for 57 U.P. deer winter habitat complexes. The focus primarily will be on lands not managed by the DNR, including U.S. Forest Service, commercial forest and nonindustrial private forest lands. Private landowners will be offered technical assistance and other incentives to encourage maintenance and enhancement of winter deer habitat on their property.
Learn more about the progress of the U.P. Habitat Work Group and sign up to receive email updates from the DNR.
The Black Lake Chapter of Sturgeon for Tomorrow in Cheboygan County is seeking volunteers to join in its effort, in partnership with the Department of Natural Resources, to help protect lake sturgeon from illegal harvest during the annual spawning run.
Every spring mature lake sturgeon, a fish species that is threatened in Michigan and rare throughout the U.S., become vulnerable to poaching as they briefly leave Black Lake for spawning sites in the Black River. Hundreds of volunteers are needed to stand guard along the Black River during the spawning season, from mid-April through early June, to report any suspicious activity and deter the unlawful take of this iconic fish.
“Lake sturgeon are a unique species in Michigan, as they can live up to 100 years and weigh more than 200 pounds,” said Dave Borgeson, Northern Lake Huron Management Unit supervisor with the DNR. “Their journey through the Black River is critical to their long-term success, and volunteers are necessary to ensure it’s a safe trip.”
When spawning begins, sturgeon guards are assigned in shifts to sites along the river. The volunteers stand watch and, if suspicious activity occurs, use cellular phones provided by Sturgeon for Tomorrow to contact DNR conservation officers who are actively patrolling the area in support of the guarding effort. Aerial surveillance is also deployed to help secure the area.
“For more than 15 years, the annual Sturgeon Guarding Program has proven that people serving as sturgeon guards watching over the river have greatly reduced poaching while helping to ensure the protection and reproductive success of the species,” said Ann Feldhauser, a DNR retiree and the guarding program’s volunteer coordinator.
Many opportunities over the approximately six-week-long spawning season are available for those who wish to help. Coordinators will be on-site at the river to assist and answer questions. In addition to guarding the sturgeon, volunteers can also play a key role by recording the number and activity of fish they see. This has become a popular activity for families, scouting and church groups, as well as students interested in natural resource management.
Individuals or groups interested in volunteering should contact Mark and Ann Feldhauser at 906-201-2484 or 906-346-9511.
Volunteers can also register online at SturgeonForTomorrow.org. Those interested can also find the Sturgeon for Tomorrow Black Lake Chapter online via its website or Facebook page.
For those traveling from outside the local area, several hotels, restaurants and Onaway State Park (located on Black Lake, with improved camping and cabin rentals) are very close to the key guarding locations.
Volunteers also are encouraged to set up their rustic camps along the banks of the Black River. Several good camping sites are available, and there is no charge for camping on the state land adjacent to the Black River.
Lake sturgeon rehabilitation in the Cheboygan River watershed is a cooperative effort involving the Black Lake Chapter of Sturgeon for Tomorrow, the Department of Natural Resources, Michigan State University and Tower-Kleber Limited Partnership. In addition to the guarding program, this rehabilitation effort includes activities such as tagging sturgeon adults and raising young fish for stocking in Black, Burt and Mullett lakes.
The Department of Natural Resources is recruiting instructors for its off-road vehicle safety education program. This volunteer opportunity allows ORV enthusiasts to pass along their love and knowledge of the sport to new riders, while teaching them safe and responsible ORV operation that will provide an enjoyable riding experience.
All ORV instructor volunteers are required to attend a three-day instructor academy to learn instructor policy and procedure, classroom management and teaching concepts. Instructors will have the chance to experience various aspects of ORV operation, including basic hands-on operational skills on off-highway motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles, utility-type vehicles and winching recovery equipment.
Current instructors also are encouraged to attend an academy to brush up on knowledge and skills and to experience changes in equipment.
There will be two ORV instructor academies in 2015: May 29-31 and June 5-7. Each class is limited to 24 students. While attendance at the academies is mandatory, there is no charge to the instructor candidates to attend, and meals and lodging are included. Enrollment is first come, first served. The academies both will be held at the Ralph A. MacMullan Conference Center in Roscommon County.
Anyone seeking to become a certified ORV instructor must meet the following criteria:
To receive an application to apply to be a certified volunteer ORV safety education instructor, contact the DNR Law Enforcement Division’s Recreational Safety Education and Enforcement Section at 517-284-6055. After a completed application is submitted, a background check will be conducted. Successful applicants then will be contacted to schedule their attendance at a mandatory ORV instructor academy.
For more information about the ORV safety education program, contact Cpl. John Morey at 989-619-3784. Learn more about recreational safety education opportunities on the DNR website www.michigan.gov/recreationalsafety.
The deadline to remove scaffolds, raised platforms, ladders, steps and any other device to assist in climbing a tree from public land was March 1. The Department of Natural Resources reminds those who have not removed any of the previous listed equipment to please do so.
Public lands are available for the use and enjoyment of everyone. It is imperative that equipment is removed by March 1 to ensure the safety of all visitors. Owners of equipment that is left on public land past the deadline are subject to a 90-day misdemeanor and a fine from $50-$500.
For those who hunt on public land, tree stands must be portable and the hunter’s name and address must be affixed in legible English that can be easily read from the ground. Scaffolds, raised platforms, ladders, steps and any other device to assist in climbing a tree cannot be placed on public lands any earlier than Sept. 1, and must be removed by March 1. A permanent raised platform or tree stand may be used for hunting on private land with the permission of the landowner. See pages 22-24 of the Hunting and Trapping Digest for more details on these equipment regulations.
For the first time, Michigan recorded no fatalities during all hunting seasons in 2014, according to reports compiled by the Department of Natural Resources’ Law Enforcement Division. Ten incidents involving injuries were recorded in the state – nine in the Lower Peninsula and one in the Upper Peninsula.
“We had 10 incidents reported for 2014, which ties with last year for the fewest number of reportable hunting incidents since Michigan started tracking them in the 1940s," said Sgt. Tom Wanless of the DNR's Recreational Safety, Education and Enforcement Section.
"What makes 2014 the safest on record is that for the first time we had no fatalities," Wanless added. "Michigan’s hunter education program, and the dedicated volunteer instructors who are the backbone of it, is a big reason we have been experiencing a low number of hunting incidents.”
With more than 729,000 base licenses sold in 2014, Michigan’s hunting injury/fatality rate per license is .001 percent. The base license is required to purchase any hunting license.
Of the 10 incidents reported in 2014, four involved small game hunters, two involved waterfowl hunters and four involved deer hunters. One of the deer hunting incidents occurred during the early antlerless season in September and one was in December’s late antlerless season. Two incidents were reported during the firearm deer hunting season from Nov. 15-30. One incident took place Nov. 20 in Osceola County, while the other happened Nov. 25 in Oakland County at Bald Mountain Recreation Area.
Information on the hunting incidents recorded in 2014 and so far in 2015 can be found online at www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers under Law Enforcement Reports.