Mind drifts in direction of hunting

It seems a little strange to be thinking about hunting, seeing that many Upper Peninsula residents are still waiting for summer weather to arrive and stay for awhile.

However, the calendar doesn’t lie and with every sunset and sunrise, another day is marked off.

In fact, another page was flipped over this morning on the Norman Rockwell adorned calendar that I get each year from Cram’s Store in Big Bay. There are several years of these calendars hung on top of each other on the camp wall, and I guess they are a sign of just how fast time is rolling along.

So now that it is August it’s appropriate to start thinking about hunting, seeing a limited number of hunters will be able to hit the woods later this month.

This is a very limited number, seeing that the first elk hunting period gets under way Aug. 26. I’m sure those who were lucky enough to draw a tag are already focused on finding an area in the elk hunting region in the northern Lower Peninsula and planning their trip.

For the general hunting population, though, the hunt will kick off as early as Sept. 1 when the early goose season opens in the U.P. Then it quickly picks up with the first bear hunting period opening Sept. 10.

The big date for many hunters arrives soon after the bear season, with the general small game season starting on Sept. 15 when we can pursue ruffed grouse, cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hare.

In regard to the most popular hunting target – whitetail deer – there are several seasons with various dates, including special hunts that begin in late September.

Then archers begin their hunt for deer Oct. 1, with the huge waves of firearm deer hunters squarely fixed on the big day – Nov. 15.

As you can see there is no shortage of hunting opportunities in our great state, and I didn’t even mention all of them.

There are a few things new this year that hunters should be aware of, including the new license structure that took effect march 1.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reworked hunting and fishing licenses to reduce the number of different types being sold and to increase revenues.

The first thing different is you need a base hunting license prior to buying any other hunting licenses. The base license costs $11 and includes small game hunting.

This price is actually a reduction from past years when a small game license cost $15 for hunters 17 through 64 years old. Seniors age 65 and older will see a $1 reduction, from $6 last year for a small game license to $5 this year for te base license.

Of course some hunters did complain about the need for a base license because they don’t hunt small game. However, the DNR’s intention to put the extra funds into enhancing and expanding hunting opportunities justifies the requirement that all hunters must buy a base license.

In regard to deer hunting there is an increase for all hunters in this category.

Basically, the license fee went up 25 percent, from $15 to $20 for a single tag and from $30 to $40 for the combination license that includes two tags. For seniors, the single license went from $6 to $8, but the combo jumped from $12 to $28 – which didn’t make that group of hunters too happy, either.

In addition to the base license, there is another new license package offered this year that replaced the former discount if you bought four or more licenses.

The new one is the hunt/fish combo license, which includes the base, deer combo and all-species fishing licenses and costs $76.

I purchased the hunt/fish combo prior to the trout fishing season and, again, I didn’t mind paying the extra $13 or $14 over the cost of the previous discounted package – as long as the extra funds go to improving hunting and fishing in the state as the DNR said it was going to do.

There are changes in other licenses, too, and hunters should visit the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/dnr to see what licenses they are interested in cost.

The other new item in regard to hunting I wanted to touch on is expansion of a popular program that was previously only offered in the southern portion of the Lower Peninsula.

This is the Hunter Access Program, which involves private landowners opening their property to public hunting under leases with the DNR.

In the southern portion of the LP the program is very popular with deer hunters because of the lack of public lands for hunting.

In the U.P., though, the program is only being offered in a limited area on the east end of the peninsula. In addition, the purpose of the program expansion is to open up more land for sharptail grouse hunting, which is only open in parts of Chippewa and Mackinac counties.

The sharptail season runs from Oct. 10 through 31, although ruffed grouse hunters will be able to hunt the HAP enrolled private property from Sept. 15 through Nov. 10. Deer hunting will not be allowed.

For more information or to apply to enroll your land in the program, contact the Chippewa/Luce/Mackinac Conservation District at 635-1278, or the Sault Ste. Marie DNR field office at 635-6161, extension 56171.

Editor’s note: City Editor Dave Schneider can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 270.