Last weekend, a group of 13 volunteers built new brush piles in the Fulton State Game Area. In previous years, volunteers have built brush piles for rabbitat at four separate events with MUCC’s Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program, making this the fifth event in the Fulton SGA. This weekend’s event was hosted in the north end of the state game area, whereas the previous four were completed in the south and central areas. Thanks to these volunteers that dedicated a Saturday to wildlife, the Fulton SGA is among many areas that have improved cottontail rabbit habitat. In fact, volunteer building brush piles for rabbits and small game is written in the DNR’s Wildlife Management Plan for the area.
Most of the volunteers were local to the area or within 30-45 minutes away from the project site. Volunteers Tom Shook and Jim Smith- both active hunters and members of several supporting organizations- were happy to find out about this program and participate in the wildlife habitat improvement event. From the Vicksburg and Portage area, volunteers Joe Coulter, Joe Coulter, James Kienbaum, and Trina Stephenson were thrilled about the opportunity to give back to the area that they hunt. From the Kalamazoo Area, Heather Bradshaw and her daughter, Danica Fox, as well as Alexys Nolan wanted to get involved with the project and spend the day outdoors. Danica volunteered to complete service hours for her current Girl Scout award. A few volunteers, including frequent volunteer Larry Dame, traveled up to 1 ½ hours to help build brush piles for rabbitat!
As the Secretary/Treasurer of the West Michigan Beagle Club, Larry is a pretty busy guy! He still makes time to volunteer with MUCC’s Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program as well as Youth Hunt events and, of course, the many field trials he organizes or competes in throughout the year. After four hours of building brush piles in the Fulton SGA, Larry generously took the time to take me rabbit hunting in the area with three of his beagles: Big Red, Maximillion, and Boots. This was the first experience I’ve had hunting with dogs and it was a blast! The area we ran was an enhanced habitat site from one of MUCC’s projects in 2015 for Tyler Borden’s Eagle Scout Project. This was a perfect location with brush piles along the perimeter of a corn field and a hidden bramble field just beyond the tree line.
It was really neat seeing the beagles work together, checking each brush pile for rabbits and tracking where they moved to by scent alone; Big Red would occasionally let out his excitement with a yelp or two when he thought he was onto something. After seeing the beagles search what seemed like every inch of the bramble-field we had come to, Big Red howled to let us all know that he had found a rabbit and was on the chase. Max and Boots were quick to take their positions alongside him and help with the chase. Larry directed me to an opening to stand and be ready for the rabbit to run back through, as they often make a circle back to where they ran from. It was so exciting to hear the little pack of beagles go to the far edge of the field and begin circling back. They fell silent just for a moment when they had lost sight of the rabbit but had quickly picked back up the chase within seconds. They fell silent once more and this time, the rabbit had run across the ice of a flooded lowland spot and got away.
Thank you, Larry, for taking the time to share your beagling experience with me! The wildlife habitat improvement projects are not only essential for conservation of wildlife on public lands, but also a great way to connect with like-minded hunter-conservationists, naturalists, and environmentalists and learn new skills from one another. I look forward to each and every project that I coordinate and cannot express my gratitude enough to all of the volunteers that dedicate their time to make this program possible. The wildlife habitat improvements made on public lands through this program benefit the local wildlife as well as any and all public land users, whether that may be through hunting, running field trials with your dogs, or sharing your knowledge of nature with a friend, student, or family member! See more opportunities to volunteer for wildlife in your region below.
UPCOMING OTG EVENTS:
We will be partnering with Huron Pines AmeriCorps member Jason LaPointe on a large-scale service project that consists of removing concentrated areas of Scotch Pine from a Jack Pine Plantation near Tomahawk Floodwaters.
Partnering with Brandon Thomas from Boy Scout Troop 253 out of Vicksburg, MI to complete his Eagle Scout project, we will be planting trees to provide thermal cover for deer and small game in a wildlife opening.
April 21, 2017 Tuscola State Game Area
We will be teaming up with the Reese High School Out-of-Doors Club complete a wildlife habitat project in the area.
MUCC’s On The Ground Program is supported by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division