LIVIN’ WILD WEDNESDAY: HABITAT AND HUNTING ON THE BOW OPENER
by Drew YoungeDyke, MUCC Grass Roots Manager and On the Ground Director
So this is what it’s all about. All the weekends improving habitat with On the Ground volunteers. All the signatures and phone calls protecting hunting rights with Citizens for Professional Wildlife Management. The membership dues to MUCC and the wildlife club to fight for public land and the conservation infrastructure that allows us to hunt. All the practice, scouting, money spent on gas and gear, anticipation and planning. It’s Opening Day for bowhunting deer in Michigan.
As you read this, I’m camped out in the state forest somewhere on the south half of Beaver Island. Bowhunting. Yesterday, we planted over 150 crabapple trees for deer and wild turkeys all over the island with the help of the Beaver Island Wildlife Club. The trees were provided by the National Wild Turkey Federation and grown at the DNR Wildlife Research facility at Rose Lake. This is the second year in a row that MUCC’s On the Ground (OTG) has teamed up with NWTF to plant crabapple trees for turkey and deer, and it caps the end of the 2014 field season that began in February.
In between, over 400 volunteers showed up to 20 different projects to improve fish and wildlife habitat for the species they pursue: deer, bear, elk, snowshoe hare, cottontails, grouse, pheasant, bass, muskies and bluegill, from southeast Michigan to the western U.P. and everywhere in between. Including Beaver Island, yesterday, in the middle of Lake Michigan, halfway between Charlevoix and Escanaba as the crow flies.
Beaver Island is an amazing place. My grandpa started a deer camp here in 1968. My dad’s been hunting here since then, and I first came to deer camp here when I was 20. This year, we’re setting up a new deer camp on public land in the Pigeon River Country for firearm season, but I couldn’t pass up bowhunting here when NWTF asked us to help set up the tree-planting bee. These are the forests I’ve hunted on and off since college, where I shot my first deer. Where I spooked a buck last November as I was raising my rifle in a pop-up blind.
As you read this, hopefully I’ll be at full draw, crouched behind a juniper, about to trigger the release and loose an arrow at that same buck I spooked last fall. But I might be just as likely to get busted by the wind and spook a dozen deer that I never even see. That’s the chance you take when you’re still-hunting. There is no room for error, but when everything comes together, there’s nothing sweeter. I can only assume this, because I haven’t taken a deer still-hunting with a bow yet. But the close calls I’ve had have been more thrilling than any other hunting method I’ve tried. I’m talking 10 yards from an eight-point on public land, on the ground, taking an hour to get into shooting position only to get busted by a doe as you draw and they all run away.
For me, that’s what hunting’s all about, whether I’m successful or not. I’m hoping that some of that habitat work will pay off for me today,though. Not that hinge-cutting trees for whitetails on the mainland will provide a physical habitat benefit to the deer on Beaver Island, but the wildlife club has been doing projects here for years. Also, I have this unprovable theory that all that habitat work gets stored up with the mysterious forces that affect the hunt. And maybe, just maybe, those small gods will present me with a shot on a deer today.
If not, though, there’s always tomorrow. And every day from now until January: It’s deer season and all is possible.
Thank you to everyone who came out yesterday to plant trees and good luck to all you bowhunters out there today! May the wind never hit your back.
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