This past weekend, a group of 13 volunteers along with the DNR Wildlife Biologist, Brian Piccolo, and Wildlife Technician, Tim Riley continued efforts of restoring snowshoe hare habitat in the Grayling State Forest. The group covered close to 60 acres of lowland conifer type forest and hinge-cut over 350 trees to provide horizontal cover for the hares. Piccolo explained “the trees that are still attached to the stump 3 to 4 feet off the ground provide an area where the snow depth isn’t so deep and the hares will use this space to loaf around under as they move to and from food sources.” The types of trees targeted for this event were balsam fir and black spruce trees to provide optimal habitat along the stands edges and gap areas.
Horizontal cover being restored along the outer edges of the stand and in any gap areas will benefit the hares most since that is where they are likely traveling to adjacent aspen stands to browse on any buds or foliage. The interior of the stand is already providing fairly dense cover with the canopy alone. Volunteers started the day at the Grayling State Forest Field Office at which Brian Piccolo went over the project location, hinge-cutting technique, safety, and split volunteers into six groups appointed to specific locations. The group then met at the project site near Lewiston, MI to see a hinge-cut demonstration given by Piccolo and Riley. The hinge-cut were completed by groups of two or three with one person first setting the extended habitat hook in a secure location on the trunk, the sawyer then made a back cut two thirds through the tree or enough so that the tree could be slowly pushed to the ground, but remain attached by the cambium layer at the stump.
A few of the volunteers had attended this event before, among several other OTG events. Sam Hudnutt traveled over 170 miles from Onondaga to attend this event again. Walter Gumtow has attended several events and may have the highest volunteer recruitment number. He attended the event with his sister and brother in law, Debbie and Sijtze, from Grand Haven. Wayne Hanson attended the event for his second year in a row. Tim Riley was joined by his dad, Ralph Riley, who also volunteered two years ago. Gordon Smith and his son, Isaac Smith, made a great team pushing trees with the habitat hook. Dirk Bennink with his son and daughter, Grant and Megan, hinge-cut an astounding 130 trees! Denny Sanborn volunteered to spend any opportunity in the woods he can. Denny learned a lot from the project and also got some great habitat advice from DNR Wildlife Biologist Brian Piccolo over lunch talk; making it well worth the 300 mile round trip for him.
Although this was the first time Bethy Williams attended the snowshoe hare habitat event, this was her 22nd volunteer event with MUCC’s Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program! Through this program, Bethy has learned a lot about specific habitat types for game species and has met many other volunteers that are happy to share their hunting knowledge and experiences with others. With no prior hunting experience, she has utilized the apprentice license for the past two seasons and has become more interested in the challenges and rewards that hunting offers. This month, she will be taking an adult-focused hunter education safety course with the Learn To Hunt program that I will be one of three instructors at. MUCC’s Education Director, Shaun McKeon, will also be helping at the field day where participants will be taking the exam, learning about laws and ethics with a local Conservation Officer, and spending time on the shotgun and archery ranges.
ALSO COMING UP THIS MONTH:
February 25, 2017 Crane Pond Youth Rabbit Hunt
RSVP by calling 269-244-5928. The hunt is limited to 30 youth participants. MUCC will be providing lunch for the group!
MUCC’s On The Ground Program is supported by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division