On the Ground: Hunting Improved Habitat Areas

One of many benefits of volunteering to improve wildlife habitat with MUCC’s On the Ground program is making connections with new areas to hunt along with new people to hunt them with! Volunteers spend a few hours on a weekend building brush piles, planting trees, clearing timber from a wildlife opening or any other work that will benefit habitat targeted towards game species in the area. They earn a free meal, opportunities to connect with like minded hunter-conservationists and the privilege of knowing exactly where to hunt an improved habitat area. As the coordinator of the OTG program, I’ve been very fortunate to have several opportunities for new hunting experiences with volunteers I meet at projects throughout the state. Other volunteers have also shared their success after returning to an improved habitat site to hunt cottontail rabbits, deer, grouse, turkey or other game species.

Volunteer Tyler Sands dedicated several Saturdays to the OTG program by building brush piles for rabbitat in the Fulton, Gourdneck and Allegan State Game Areas throughout the past 5 years. Tyler’s whole family got involved as he completed his Eagle Scout project in the Gourdneck State Game Area. Tyler and his dad, Mike Sands, returned the project site to hunt rabbits where volunteers had built close to 50 small and large brush piles around the edges of a large wildlife opening. They were successful just a few weeks after the pile were built int he area! I’ve kicked rabbits out of brush piles on a few occasions in project areas as well.

Also a very dedicated volunteer, Larry Dame, has spent many Saturdays building brush piles and planting trees in the Allegan, Fulton, Gourdneck, and Crane Pond State Game Areas as well as helps to host the annual Crane Pond SGA Youth Hunt. This youth hunt introduces kids to hunting small game and utilizes areas where volunteers have built brush piles through the OTG program. Larry is very involved with the West Michigan Beagle Club and has been generous in offering to take me rabbit hunting with him and his beagles. I was able to see them work in the field in the Fulton SGA in an improved habitat area last year. I have plans to attend another hunt with Larry and his well trained beagles very soon!

Another great volunteer I met through this program, Brent Chambers, has become a very good friend, mentor, and bird hunting partner of mine. Brent was leading the Midland-Dow High Conservation Club during my first two years as MUCC’s Wildlife Volunteer Coordinator. I met him two years ago at the annual event we host with the club in the Gratiot-Saginaw State Game Area. We talked about public lands, mountain biking the Upper Peninsula, firearms, and hunting, of course. Brent had observed that I like to test my luck hunting in areas before or after I host a habitat project and offered to take me grouse hunting with his bird dog, Kima. We were able to meet up for three weekend hunts this Fall and Winter grouse season. The odd weather patterns made it challenging in the Early season, but we did find and flush a lot of birds. This was very exciting for me, as I rarely flush any birds on my own and end up enjoying a leisurely walk through the woods instead. We also have plans for future hunts!

This program offers the same opportunities to all the volunteers that take the time to improve wildlife habitat on our public lands here in Michigan. Whether it’s just one event, or several throughout the year, the rewards are immeasurable. Feel free to send your success stories to stopp@mucc.org from hunting improved habitat areas fromOTG project sites. There are several events in the works for this winter, see the updated list and RSVP here, including a special event that will offer a clay shoot and rabbit hunt after the habitat work. This event will be on February 17th at the Tuttle Marsh Wildlife Area, see details and RSVP here!

MUCC’s On The Ground Program is supported by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division

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