Late Season Deer Hunting Worth the Effort

By Glen Wunderlich
Outdoor Columnist
Member Professional Outdoor Media Association

It sure looks like the snow and cold weather have arrived in time to change what’s remains of deer season. The beans and corn are long gone and the legume plots are difficult to uncover under the snow layer. This is when the attraction of brassica food plots become magnets to not only the deer, but me, as well.

Forage rape and purple top turnips provide balanced protein and energy that will carry deer into spring. Winter stress can be minimized by the accessibility of the green vegetation and turnip meat, which is easily consumed under a foot of snow. One of my sites has subtle low areas that make viewing whitetails impossible; however, light, fluffy snow unnaturally being thrown into the wind is a dead giveaway that a hungry deer is working beneath for a turnip. And, if ever a stalk could be made easy, it’s when deer are throwing snow like a 2-cycle snowblower.

According to food plot expert, Ed Spinazzola, deer need more phosphorus than any other animal. Large-antlered, healthy deer need high levels of calcium and phosphorus and New Zealand forage rapes are where these essential minerals can be found in abundance. Turnips, also in the brassica family, provide energy by targeting potash. By planting destination fields that are large enough, so as not to be devoured before spring, deer are able to get a healthy jump start before things green up and food is readily available.

Deer management is the name of the game. We feed them; they feed us. And, for this reason, I save an antlerless tag for mid- to late-December hunting.

Tree stands are out. So too is the ghille suit that I used to perfection earlier in the season, as I lay prone behind my bipod-steadied crossbow among dozens of unsuspecting whitetails. Way beyond cool! But, the frigid weather is beyond cool, and lying still on the frozen ground is a good way to remain frozen to the ground.

Quiet propane heaters are now my close companions within the walls of strategically located shacks. They are positioned where they are for one reason: late season, game getting. Situated over 100 yards from the food sources, the blinds are ignored by deer on nutrition missions.

It takes a lot of hard work from spring to fall preparing for December hunts. And, when the cost of seed, fuel, lime, fertilizer, and labor is counted, it’s not cheap. But the payoff comes when a day like Saturday, December 11th arrives.

My friend, Joe and I spent several hours sighting in his new CVA muzzleloader. After we got it on target, we worked as a two-man team overlooking a 2-acre brassica plot in the blind nicknamed “The Chalet.” The first snow storm of the season was still one day away but we knew the local deer population had already made themselves routine visitors to the tender smörgåsbord of veggies before us.

At 4:55 pm, a button buck began feeding some 200 yards from our lookout. Within minutes, the field became occupied with a half dozen hungry mouths. An uncommonly small spike buck joined the foray and it was good to see a buck had made it through the regular firearms season. Then, the attention of the does centered on a trail leading to the brassicas, and sure enough, another buck came into view. He was a basket-racked six pointer, and once again, I could only imagine how he might develop next season. Another six-point buck joined the feeding frenzy, making 3 bucks in plain view!

I thought how few bucks are actually taken in muzzleloader season – only a scant 6 percent of the total – but, it made no difference to Joe and me to add to the statistics. These were clearly adolescents – no trophies by any stretch of braggadocio.

We turned our collective focus to a large, adult doe that had ranged to 143 yards from the new muzzleloader’s crown. Joe couldn’t get settled in on her, however, before she began moving farther away – far enough for us to wait for another opportunity and another day.

For some, success is defined by a kill; our success on the other hand had been sowed in preceding months, but on this day it was reaped with our eyes.

“Eddie Eagle” Legislation Awaiting Action by Governor Granholm

On Wednesday, December 15, the Michigan House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 1402 by a 72-24 vote. This legislation has also been adopted by the Senate and is currently awaiting consideration by Governor Jennifer Granholm (D). Authored by State Senator John Gleason (D-27), SB 1402 would make gun safety programs available to school districts for inclusion in curriculums in Michigan.

The purpose of NRA’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program isn’t to teach whether guns are good or bad, but to promote the protection and safety of children if they come across firearms in unsupervised situations.

Please contact Governor Granholm and urge her to sign SB 1402.

She can be reached by phone at (517) 335-7858.

Grand Scheme: Detroit Gun Buy Back

DETROIT (WJBK) and commentary by Glen Wunderlich – Many Detroiters like the idea of turning in their guns for cash at the Second Ebenezer church, while others like me know it’s a feel-good publicity stunt that has no positive effect on crime.

First, the weapons are carefully checked making sure they’re not loaded. Being offered is $25 for unusable guns up to $100 for a Mac 10 semiautomatic weapon. Reporters like this one love the word weapon; it sounds much more menacing or ominous than firearm, which is the correct term. Heck, weapon can describe a prize fighters fists or a hammer swung by a scorned woman.

Some people came to make sure they could be eligible for guns for cash. And, why not? Times are tough in Detroit and junk for cash is a good deal for them. How many gangbangers turned in their guns and gave up crime? Why isn’t there any reporting on this? Simple: It doesn’t happen!

“I just happened to (have) heard. I said I had two of them just (lying) around the house. I said I’m going to come see if they (will) give me some money for them,” said Paul Hicks. Another genius.

“Those guns will not be used to perpetrate armed robberies, and those guns will not be picked up by a young person by accident and we have another tragedy with a child killing themselves accidentally,” said Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee. Well, chief, that may be true, but they probably won’t be saving any lives, either. Anyway, just what what will happen to these guns? Are they going to be destroyed at taxpayers’ expense? More genius. Why don’t you sell them to a legitimate firearms dealer and use the money to pay the legal bill to fight ex-mayor, Kilpatrick in court? Someone has to pay the legal bill and everyone knows the city’s broke.

Continental Management is handing out the cash. A few months ago they ran out of money, so they gave out vouchers to be used later. However, despite the response, there are some skeptics out there. yeah, I’m one of them.

“It’s not going to change anything, and no criminals are turning in their firearms. Bad guys are still armed, and it’s going to make everyone else less safe because they’re not going to have any,” said Rick Ector of Rick’s Firearm Academy of Detroit.

“We understand the value of this program, and we’re glad to help provide some of the resources that make this a winning opportunity. Hopefully, some people will come away with a little bit of cash for the holiday,” said Gary Offenbacher with Continental Management. I also understand the value, or lack thereof, of this meaningless program. Send me a list of the guns you took in and I’ll see if they are worth more than you paid for them. Maybe we can make a deal on the decent guns and then you’ll have more money for your next valuable scheme.

“We need guns off the street. Everybody’s carrying guns now. It’s too easy to get a CCW. If we can get guns off the street, guns kill people,” said Shawn Davis. yeah, yeah, yeah. And, spoons made Rosie O’Donnell fat.

Some of the weapons are in good shape, while others are in bad shape. People say some have just been lying around the house not serving any purpose, why not turn them in and get some money for them. That’s right. Kind of like insurance: it serves no purpose, either – until you need it.

BATFE Wants to Track Semi-Auto Rifles

This from the NRA ILA…

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has proposed that it be given emergency authority for six months, beginning January 5, to require about 8,500 firearms dealers along the border with Mexico “to alert authorities when they sell within five consecutive business days two or more semiautomatic rifles greater than .22 caliber with detachable magazines.” A Washington Post story reporting on the BATFE proposal described that definition as being applicable to “so-called assault weapons,” but it would also apply to many rifles that have never been labeled with that term.

The reporting requirement will apparently be imposed under the “authority” the BATFE has used in the past to demand reporting of other types of transactions from certain limited groups of dealers over the past 10 years, but the new proposal is far broader than any previous use of this authority. Of course, there’s no law today that prevents dealers from reporting suspicious transactions (or attempted transactions) to the BATFE, and dealers often do so. The BATFE is also free to inspect dealers’ sales records—either for annual compliance inspections or during a criminal investigation.

Michigan Changes Lake Trout Regulations; Hoosiers Could Nenefit

The state of Michigan’s lake trout regulations will change in 2011, and again in 2012. According to Indiana DNR fisheries biologist Brian Breidert for the Hoosier portion of Lake Michigan, Indiana anglers could benefit by both changes.

In 2011, the state of Michigan’s lake trout season will open April 1 and end Oct. 31. In recent previous years, it opened May 1 and ended Sept. 30.

In 2012 Michigan’s lake trout season will open Jan. 1 and close Oct. 31.

Indiana does not have a closed season on lake trout.

According to Breidert, as water temperatures warm each spring in Lake Michigan, Hoosier anglers have fantastic fishing opportunities for trout and salmon.

Breidert said that although Indiana has no closed season on lake trout, Hoosier anglers do not typically catch them in large numbers in Indiana waters. The reason is that lake trout are a long-lived species usually found in depths greater than 60 feet. Those waters are primarily outside of Indiana’s boundaries of Lake Michigan.

Michigan’s regulation change should increase the harvest of lake trout coming back to Indiana ports in the spring.

Michigan’s change also will simplify regulations for Hoosiers on one front but possibly create confusion on another. Indiana has a daily bag limit of five trout and salmon of which no more than two can be lake trout greater than 14 inches; Michigan has the same five-trout-and-salmon catch aggregate while no more than three may be lake trout, brown trout or steelhead trout with a size limit of 20 inches for lake trout.

“Increasing the fishing season could certainly show some increase in lake trout harvest, especially in the spring,” Breidert said. “For anglers fishing in April, I am sure many will see this as a positive move.”

Indiana anglers often fish within Michigan waters. In previous years they were required to release any lake trout they caught. Now they will be able to be included as part of the catch.

“As a result, we may see fewer salmon brought back to Indiana during the spring fishing season,” Breidert said. “The spring catch will be monitored during our annual creel program through which we analyze the long-term catch and harvest coming back to Indiana ports on southern Lake Michigan.

“Undoubtedly, we will see changes in our spring catch composition as a result of this change by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the Environment.
Contact:
Brian Breidert, Indian DNR Lake Michigan fisheries biologist, (219) 874-6824.

Utah Officers Bust Major Poaching Ring

A tip on the state’s poaching hotline has allowed wildlife officers to break a major poaching ring in Utah.

“We’re happy that our officers caught these individuals before they killed any more deer,” says Captain Tony Wood with the Division of Wildlife Resources.

Even though officers are happy with the arrest, they say there’s still a lot of work to do to curtail poaching in Utah. With only 48 patrol officers in the state, Wood says the DWR doesn’t have the resources needed to catch everyone on its own.

“We need the public’s help,” he says.

More charges possible

Jarod Birrell and Balenda Gutierrez are the latest Utahns to find themselves behind bars because of poaching violations. Birrell of Magna and Gutierrez of Pleasant Grove are being held in the Salt Lake County Jail. Each of them face potential third-degree felonies for poaching, and aiding and assisting in the poaching of at least 20deer. The animals were killed at various locations throughout Utah.

As the investigation continues, officers say additional charges might be filed. “And more suspects might be identified and arrested,” Wood says. “This case is bigger than these two individuals.”

A tip and five days of investigative work put DWR officers outside a business in Murray during the late night hours of Dec. 12. Other officers were waiting outside a home in Magna.

When Birrell and Gutierrez arrived at the business, the officers found a trophy buck deer that was allegedly poached just a few hours before. Birrell and Gutierrez were then arrested.

The deer was a trophy buck taken on a general-season hunting unit near Hurricane in southern Utah. Its antlers were massive, measuring nearly 30 inches wide. One antler beam had five points on it. The other beam had four points. “A legal hunter would have been thrilled to take this deer next fall,” Wood says.

The investigative work that resulted in officers arresting the pair started when someone called Utah’s Turn-in-a-Poacher hotline.

Wood says many people who know about poaching activity in Utah are sickened by it. “People are becoming less tolerant of poaching,” Wood says. “The state’s deer are a public resource, and poachers are stealing that resource from you.

Wood says he’s extremely proud of the work his officers did with the case. “Some of our officers worked 40 hours without sleeping or taking a break,” he says. “The excellent police work they did saved a lot of deer.”

MUCC Applauds Wolf De-Listing

Endangered Species Act successful in revitalizing wolves in the Great Lakes, but science, not politics should now guide management as wolf numbers far exceed population goals

Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) applauds the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) recently announced push to begin de-listing of gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes from the list of threatened and endangered species of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) starting in April, 2011.

USFWS last attempted to remove the Western Great Lakes gray wolf population from the list in 2009 in favor of approved state-run management plans after determining that the population far exceeded ESA goals. However, an animal rights lawsuit thwarted the science-based rule on a procedural technicality. USFWS officials stated they are working to address the Court’s concerns and will provide a full public comment period after the April proposed rule in its quest to publish a final rule by the end of 2011.

MUCC Executive Director Erin McDonough said the organization feels cautiously optimistic that science will ultimately prevail over politics and emotion in the wolf saga. “MUCC looks forward to issuing public comment on the proposed rule in favor of Michigan’s highly regarded and science-based Wolf Management Plan,” said McDonough. “Surely we can expect emotionally-driven politics to try and interfere with the process yet again, but Michigan citizens should be celebrating the success of the Endangered Species Act and working toward science-based management. The Western Great Lakes population of gray wolves have succeeded beyond one-thousand percent of the Act’s original population goal, so the ESA has run its course. However, wolf breeding populations continue to grow in the U.P. and are beginning to establish in the Northern Lower Peninsula, which pose a significant threat to human safety, wildlife and farmer’s livestock without the ability to use lethal control where necessary.”

McDonough also thanked Michigan members of Congress for continuing to push the issue of science-based wolf management to the forefront of the Agency. “MUCC has continued to advocate for sound wolf management policies along side Michigan’s Members of Congress and would like to especially thank Congressman Bart Stupak and Senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin for their support in working with USFWS on this critical issue.”

Information from the USFWS about wolves in the Midwest Region has been made available athttp://www.fws.gov/midwest/wolf/. Additionally, Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment’s Michigan Wolf Management Plan can be accessed athttp://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/Draft_Wolf_Management_Plan_030708_227742_7.pdf

Contact:
Erin McDonough (517) 775-9500

Keeping Michigan Hunting Heritage Alive

By Glen Wunderlich
Outdoor Columnist
Member Professional Outdoor Media Association

Much has been made of Michigan’s unemployment rate during the current recession, which has put us at or near the top in the nation for some time now. And, because of it, people are leaving for greener pastures. While there’s plenty of blame to go around, it doesn’t change a thing. Similarly, Michigan ranks dead last in another important category, which on the surface may not seem as important as employment, but has far-reaching effects, nonetheless: Hunter Retention.

Michigan Senate Bill 1589, the “Hunter Heritage” bill aims to address this issue head on. The bill would enable the Michigan Natural Resources Commission to create a Mentored Youth Hunting Safety Program for individuals under the age of 17. Mentors must be 21 years of age, possess a valid hunting license and proof of previous hunting experience or completion of training in a hunter safety course. The bill does not eliminate Hunter’s Safety; it merely gives parents and mentors a chance to teach youngsters about hunting safety and ethics by establishing a program for minor youth to hunt with a mentor. Once a youth reaches age 17, he or she will still have to complete hunter safety to obtain a license.

The big change from the current requirement to be at least 10 years of age to hunt is that there would be no age requirement. Parents, not politicians, would decide when their own children are old enough to hunt.

But, what about safety? The Youth Hunting Report, which was peer reviewed for statistical validity by Trial Research, shows that youth hunters are the safest hunters in the woods when accompanied by adult mentors. Incident rates for hunting are 10% higher in the 19 states where a minimum age is set. States that allow parents to decide when their kids are ready to hunt have better safety records than states with restrictions.

Since this bill is modeled after Pennsylvania’s current law, I thought it would be a good idea to ask fellow outdoor writer extraordinaire, Harry Guyer of Pennsylvania what he thinks of his state’s youth hunter program and he states, “I’ve taken kids both small game and turkey hunting with our mentor program and I have no problem with it…”

The National Shooting Sports Foundation puts it this way: “Mandatory prerequisite coursework and certification processes add more barriers that discourage some youths from hunting. Over time, declining participation will devastate hunting. Current data show only 25 percent of youth from hunting households are active in the sport. Over the past quarter-century, the total number of hunters has dropped 23 percent. New hunters are not being recruited. Moreover, youth restrictions may compound participation problems, as parents who can’t legally go with their youngsters, give up on hunting, too.”

The Hunter Heritage bill will positively affect non-hunters also, because hunting is big business in Michigan. Each year, sportsmen spend $3.4 billion in Michigan, which has an additional $5.9 billion economic ripple effect on the state’s economy. This supports roughly 46,000 jobs, $1.7 billion in salaries, and $378 million in state and local tax revenue. Michigan hunters also pay for wildlife conservation through license fees, which go toward improving wildlife habitat, wildlife management, recreational access, and conservation officers. Michigan also receives about $24.5 million each year from federal excise taxes on hunting and fishing equipment, which go towards funding game and fish conservation in the state.

Real change has its roots in clear thinking, which is sometimes radically different than that of the status quo. We can’t argue with our last-place thinking and its related results when it comes to hunter retention. It’s time to lift the barriers to hunting and to lift ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

Forest Service to Consider Banning Gun Hunting

(Columbus, OH) – As a result of a recent anti-hunting court ruling, the U.S. Forest Service is starting a formal review of its Management Plan for the Huron-Manistee National Forest to consider banning hunting with firearms in some areas.

In September, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Forest Service’s regulations required that it consider banning hunting with guns on lands designated as “semi-primitive.” The Court found that the noise associated with gun hunting could harm the quality of the recreational experience of hikers, backpackers, and cross county skiers.

Just as troublesome, the Court ruled that the Forest Service was required to consider closing these areas to gun hunting in places where there is other public, non-Forest land nearby that is open to gun hunting. This could require the Forest Service to close lands currently open for gun hunting when other state or federal hunting lands are opened.

The court ruling has prompted the Forest Service to start a formal review of the Huron-Manistee Management Plan. Primarily, the review will focus on whether or not hunting with guns should be banned on the “semi-primitive” areas.

Sportsmen will be given opportunities to submit comments to the Forest Service throughout the review process.

“This court ruling is a major threat to hunting on these lands and across the country,” said Rob Sexton, USSA vice president for government affairs. “Anti-hunters will likely use this ruling to try and force the Forest Service to ban gun hunting on other Forest lands.”

On October 26th, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and a coalition of nineteen other leading conservation groups sent a letter to the Forest Service requesting that it rewrite the regulations the Court used to render the anti-hunting decision.

The USSA will keep sportsmen apprised of when and where they can submit comments on this issue

2010 Firearm Deer Season Preliminary Harvest Estimates Similar to Last Year

GW: It’s hard to take the DNRE seriously when it states “we emphasized the need for hunters to take does…” when it raised antlerless license fees by 50 percent. In fact, it emphasized income over results thereby creating the impetus for failure on both accounts. When it comes to management, it matters not how hard one tries, or in this case, what is “empahsized.” Judgment is determined by results, plain and simple. Now on to the results reporting…

Initial estimates suggest Michigan firearm deer hunters killed about the same number of deer statewide this year as in 2009, according to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE). Reports regarding deer harvest ranged widely, from significant increases in some locations to declines in others, potentially a result of concentration of deer around the excellent mast crops available this fall.

DNRE biologists estimate the harvest compared to 2009 was unchanged to up perhaps as much as 10 percent in both the Upper Peninsula and the Southern Lower Peninsula and down 5 to 15 percent in the Northern Lower Peninsula. Deer from throughout the state were reported to be in good condition, as indicated by improvements in antler development in all regions compared to last year.

As expected, with the mild conditions experienced in the winter of 2009-2010, deer numbers in both northern regions look to be recovering from the effects of prior winters. But hunter numbers appeared down – particularly on public land statewide – likely due to the opening day of the firearm season falling on a Monday this year.

“Most deer hunters support maintaining the traditional season dates of Nov. 15 through 30, but we consistently see a drop in hunter numbers in those years that the season opens on a Monday,” said DNRE Wildlife Division Chief Russ Mason. “This may need to be a topic for discussion as we move to form Regional Deer Advisory Teams and engage our conservation partners to discuss long-range management goals.”

“Antlerless quotas were set the same or lower in the Upper Peninsula and western portion of the Northern Lower Peninsula, but we emphasized the need for hunters to take does in the eastern portion of the Northern Lower Peninsula and much of the Southern Lower Peninsula,” said DNRE Deer Program Leader Brent Rudolph. “Efforts to control bovine tuberculosis in deer continue in the Northeastern Lower Peninsula. Although deer numbers appear stable over the last few years in much of the Southern Lower Peninsula, they’re still higher than we’d like to see in many places.”

Rudolph emphasized that the preliminary estimates will be replaced by final figures of harvest and participation generated by the annual mail survey completed once all deer seasons are concluded. Preliminary estimates last year suggested a decline of 10 to 20 percent from the prior season harvest, and the final mail survey results reflected a drop of 19.8 percent in the firearm kill.

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