By BOB GWIZDZ, MDNR Report
Anyone who has spent much time in Michigan knows that hunting and fishing have always played major roles in the states heritage. Michigan is, and has long been, known nationally for the quality of its outdoor recreation.
But one natural resources-based recreation coterie, which garners very little attention, is quick to point out that its members pastime is at least equally as important if not more so as anyone else's in Michigan history: trappers.
Trappers are the invisible men and women of outdoor recreation. You don't see them in blaze orange or towing metal flake-finished boats to the lake. But they are out there; often daily, participating in a pastime that brought a lot of folks to this part of the country in the first place.
The city of Sault Ste. Marie was founded as a fur-trading post, the first in Michigan, said Dale Hendershot, a 67-year-old retired diesel mechanic and past president of the Michigan Trappers and Predator Callers Association. Michigan trappers settled our state - they were the first ones in here, paving the way for others to come.
Trappers have certainly played a big role in Michigan history.
Ring-necked pheasants are beautiful birds, with their rainbow of feather colors and impossibly long tails. Since their introduction to Michigan in 1895, they have offered delightful views to those lucky enough to spot them.
Pheasants are omnivores, feeding on insects, seeds, grains, corn kernels and buds. They nest on the ground among low grasses, and females lay 10-12 olive-buff-colored eggs per year. After about three to four weeks, the eggs hatch and the speckled young pheasants can follow their mother around shortly after hatching.
Pheasants use grassland habitat in just about every season of the year. Optimal pheasant habitat must include a combination of grasslands, idle fields, wetlands, croplands, haylands and shrublands. Undisturbed low- to medium-high grasses and legumes are vital for nesting and brood-rearing habitat. Wetlands, windbreaks and dense covers of cattails or switchgrass protect the birds from heavy snow and cold winds in the winter. Fields of grain and weeds provide a consistent winter food supply.
By BOB GWIZDZ - Michigan DNR
Mention grouse to most Michiganders and they immediately assume you're talking about ruffed grouse, game birds that thrive in early successional forests - think aspen - and provide much of the romance in upland bird-hunting lore.
But there's another grouse in Michigan that is far less numerous and widespread and is pursued by far fewer hunters. Sharp-tailed grouse are prairie birds, inhabiting grasslands and the neighboring brush, found only in the Upper Peninsula, and mostly on the east end.
While only a relative handful of sportsmen hunt them, they offer a unique upland opportunity to Michigan bird hunters. Michigan also has spruce grouse, which are not hunted.
Sharp-tailed grouse (commonly called sharptails, sharpies or sharps) are mottled brown, tan and white birds that get their name from the shape of their primary tail feathers.
They average about 20 inches in length and weigh in at around 2 pounds when mature. They are common in the western United States and Canada, but are much less so here in Michigan.
"Michigan is the furthest east state where you can hunt sharptails, said Al Stewart," the upland game bird specialist with the Michigan DNR. "We work with a variety of partners - soil conservation districts, private landowners, and the Michigan Sharp-tailed Grouse Association - to maintain sharptail habitat and sharptails so we can maintain a hunting season in this state."