Last weekend, I attended the Crane Pond State Game Area’s Annual Youth Hunt for the fourth year in a row. This year, there were over 30 participants and enough mentors and dogs for the entire group. The group split up into 5 smaller groups to hunt different sections of the state game area. Many of these areas include brush piles built and trees planted by volunteers with the On the Ground (OTG) program since its start in 2013. This event is a great introduction for youth to get involved in hunting or outdoor recreation on Michigan’s public lands.
The youth started their day with a complimentary breakfast at the Farmhouse Bakery, where they got a chance to meet their mentors and break off into groups. Each group was given two locations to hunt rabbits from 8:30 AM until 11:30 AM. I was able to catch up with two of five the groups to see how their hunts were going and snap a few photos. It wasn’t hard to find them in the area, as I could hear the dogs barking in the distance. This meant the dogs had found a strong scent trail or jumped a rabbit from the brush and were on the chase.
On a perfect hunt, the rabbit will run a full circle, being tracked by the dogs and continuously jumped from its cover. This pattern gives the youth hunters a chance to line up where they think the rabbit may come back to and keep an eye out as they hear the dogs circle back. This is still very challenging and requires both patience and attention. The dogs may lose its trail momentarily and take some time to pick the chase back up. The rabbits are much faster than the dogs, so the lead is typically a good distance from the dogs trailing behind. This gives the hunter the opportunity to spot and take a shot at the running rabbit as it comes back around to the starting point.
I was able to see the youth participants eagerly lined up in their safe positions as they listened to the dogs barking and chasing a rabbit in the distance, all of them keeping their eyes focused on the thick bramble patch ahead of them. When the barking went silent, the group moved in through the bramble to locate the next spot to try again. It was a cool, sunny morning and there was a good sign of rabbits in the area. There were a few sightings, several chases and one youth participant went home with dinner at the end of the hunt.
The group met back at the Crane Pond SGA Field Office for lunch provided by MUCC and a goodie bag and raffle prizes provided by QDMA. Some of the raffle prizes this year included an archery target, fishing poles, and a .20 gauge shotgun. Every participant walked away with a goodie bag as well that included binoculars, multi-tools, memberships with QDMA and NWTF, and other hunting and fishing gear. I hope to see this hunt continue and that some of these kids will continue to utilize the improved wildlife habitat areas that volunteers with OTG make possible.
Next Up with OTG:
On Saturday, March 17th from 9am-2pm, volunteers will be meeting at the Dansville State Game Area Shooting Range to complete and wildlife habitat improvement project in the area. Volunteers will be improving hunter access trails and building brush piles for rabbitat- see more details and RSVP to volunteer here!
On Saturday, March 24th and Sunday, March 25th, 2018, MUCC’s On the Ground program and the Heavy Equipment Response Coalition are offering a Chainsaw Safety Training course for all experience levels from no sawyer experience to advanced. The course will be hosted at the Hal & Jean Glassen building at the Rose Lake Shooting Range and will begin at 9 AM on both Saturday and Sunday. Sessions are expected to go until 4 PM on both days. *Registration is currently FULL*
On Saturday, April 7th from 9am-2pm, volunteers will continue wildlife habitat improvements in the area by building brush piles for rabbitat. This project has been completed in the region each year since the start of the program in 2013!
On Saturday, April 21st from 10am-2pm, volunteers will be planting 300 tree seedlings in 3-gallon pots at the Crane Pond SGA DNR Field Office. These trees will be monitored and cared for until they are large enough to plant in wildlife openings in the area to provide browse and thermal cover for the area’s wildlife-see more details and RSVP to volunteer here!
On Sunday, April 22nd from 9am-3pm, volunteers will be planting mast producing trees in openings and along roads in the Huron-Manistee National Forest near Baldwin, MI. This project is partnered with the National Wild Turkey Federation. See more details and RSVP to volunteer here!