Monday, February 25, 2013

Maple sugaring means spring is near

   Huron-Clinton Metroparks is gearing up for the annual run on sap from maple trees that is made into maple syrup. It takes approximately 50 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup.
   You can see "maple sugaring" at Kensington Metropark and Indian Springs Metropark. It's an interesting visit.
   You'll see how trees are tapped and sap is collected. Make the trip to the nearby shed where all of the boiling of raw sap takes place.
   On your way out be sure and pick up a bottle of syrup. You can't beat it on pancakes, French toast or waffles. There are probably other foods to use it with as well.
   If you visit one of these sugar bushes; the place where several maples grow near to each other, you'll find knowledgeable staff willing to explain the process of collection to the end product, the syrup you pour from the bottle.
   It's a worthwhile trip, doesn't take much time and about the only expense to you would be a permit to enter either of these parks. A daily permit is $5 and a yearly costs $15.
   For more information call Indian Springs Metropark at (248) 625-7280 or Kensington Metropark, (810) 494-6035.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Snow isn't going away

   Just when you may think the spring thaw is right around the corner, bam, we get hit with another covering of the white stuff.
   The ski resorts and cross country ski set are no doubt enjoying it. A good friend, Bill Semion, is making the most of the winter's decent snowfall by hitting the trails in the Mason Tract just outside of Roscommon.
   This is an in and out trail. There is no loop and back to the car. In fact, you part in a small lot next to the south branch of the AuSable River, then carry your skis along the road, over the bridge to the beginning of the trails.
   I've skied it once or twice. It's not difficult going. It probably would land on the low side of intermediate skiing.
   You're in the woods most of the way, skiing along a trail with the AuSable River visible for much of the way.
   But with options for cross country close by, you may want to stay here with those soaring gas prices.
If so give Independence Oaks or Kensington Metropark a try.
   This may be your last chance for the season.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Campground hosts-great way to camp; help beginning campers

    Camping opportunities are many and varied throughout the state of Michigan. From very rustic; pit toilets, hand pumps and no hook ups to more modern camping with showers, running water and electrical connections.
   If you enjoy camping and helping others, the DNR has a place for you. Each year they look for campers to participate in the Campground Host program.
   Hosts camp free in exchange for helping campers coming into the park find their site, answer  questions pertaining to activities and programs available and generally, be available to answer questions and to help in any way.
   People new to camping rely on hosts to help them set up camp, get organized and enjoy their trip enough so to make it a more regular outing after experiencing a good first-time in a tent.
   This year the DNR is looking for volunteer hosts for its Lime Island State Recreation Area. The 980-acre island, one of the newest recreation areas in Michigan’s state park system, is situated in the St. Mary’s River Navigation Channel some three miles offshore of the eastern end of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
   The island offers rental cabins, platform tent sites, a small harbor of refuge, historical structures and boating access. Hosts for Lime Island must use their own boat to travel to and from the island.

Contacts: Miguel Rodriguez, 517-241-4129 or Ed Golder, 517-335-3014
   Hosts are expected to provide 30 hours of service per week (including weekends and holidays) and are required to live on the island a minimum of four consecutive weeks at a time during the summer season, running from the end of May to early September. During their weeks of service, hosts can choose to live in the island’s host cabin or have their camping fees waived.
   Lime Island hosts greet arriving visitors and answer questions about the island that once housed a small settlement. In addition, they are required to arrange campground activities and possibly perform some light maintenance.
   For more information about serving as a host at Lime Island State Recreation Area, contact Straits State Park, 906-643-8620, or Miguel Rodriguez, 517-241-4129.
   Information for other campground hosts opportunities should be made to the park or recreation area potential hosts are interested in.
   Happy camping!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Predator hunting-targeting coyotes

   Hunters around Custer and the Fountain area in Northwest Michigan are finding a new hunting experience once deer season is over.
   A group and probably others, chases coyotes. From all reports, it's a fun time outdoors whether they take anything or not.
   Weapon of choice is a 12-gauge shotgun, at least for JW McCormick. "I used to use a rifle but couldn't hit anything," he said. "Then I changed to a shotgun with buckshot and have had more success."
   This coming from a hunter who annually takes nice bucks with a bow and in the firearms season, with rifle.
   It sounds like there isn't a lot of scouting involved. Snow is a good thing to look for sign such as footprints.
   Then it's a matter of figuring out where the elusive critters are crossing roads, get an idea of the surrounding area, and get hunters in position when the animal shows itself.
   That's one way of hunting. Others prefer to take a stand but not longer than 30 minutes. These hunters will "call in" coyotes using a wounded game call.
   One thing for certain is knowing the direction of the wind. Coyotes will stay upwind to get a sent then circle around to find what's giving it off.
JW McCormick with coyote taken a few weeks ago.
   There's even a group that baits with expired meat products along with calling. Whichever method you try be ready for some fast action once a coyote is sighted. They aren't going to stand still to offer much of a target.JW McCormick with recently taken coyote.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Outdoorama begins this week

   Maybe the longest running sports show in the Detroit area, Outdoorama kicks off this week at the Suburban Collection in Novi, Feb., 21-24.
   What is attractive for this show is it has something for everyone. Families, dads, moms and kids can all find something to interest them.
   There are many seminars, booths loaded with the gadgets and trinkets we Canada and other states. You get a chance to compare outfitters before booking.
   Some exhibits you'll want to see are the DNR booth full of information about Michigan's wildlife with professionals available to answer questions.
   Likewise for MUCC's exhibit featuring information on pending legislation, and programs for kids like their summer camp.
   A trout pond, antique tackle and boat display and the new Gourmet Gone Wild program are all interesting features.
   See and meet Jenny Olson and Jimmy Gretzinger from televisions Michigan-out-of-Doors and be there for Big Buck night.
   By the way, be sure and take in Mark Martin's walleye seminars. You'll be glad you did! Have a great time at Outdoorama.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Last ice school-successful

   For students at Mark Martin's final ice fishing school of the season, the event was a success. Reached by phone yesterday (where else but on Saginaw Bay's ice) Martin said he was in a spot he knew would produce.
   "We're about three miles out," he said. "We're all alone. Since the media said the ice was just about gone, we've got the bay to ourselves."
   Granted, they had to be careful as to where they went, but along with experience, Martin said you have to pay attention to what you are doing and where you are going especially on large bodies of water like the Bay.
   Class members caught fish, learned how to set up their tackle to put them on the road to success and probably most important but often overlooked, a chance to exchange tactics and experiences with others in the group along with the excellent pro staff.
   I have two suggestions. If you are headed for Saginaw Bay anytime but especially this time of the year don't venture out without getting some excellent, reliable, local information.
   Finally, if you want to hang with the big guys and learn more about ice fishing, be sure and attend one of Martin's schools next year. Stay safe!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Wet at Ice Slam

   The 18th annual ice slam is over. I mentioned it  a week r so back as being an event that touring walleye professional Mark Sak hosts each February at his cabin near Imlay City.
   "We're not going to embarrass ourselves," Waterford resident and longtime angler Glenn Uhl asked me?
  I had invited Uhl along knowing he likes good company along with some ice fishing thrown in. And, according to Sak the fish would be there.
   "Nobody fished last year because of the bad ice," he said. "Those gills should be decent size," he added.
   That was another concern of Uhl's."Are we going to catch any fish," he asked? I assured him we would but that assurance is rather hollow because no one can accurately predict catching fish.
   The day proved perfect. There was no wind, we had plenty of sunshine and the fish were biting. You had to sort through a few until you collected a keeper but that's the way fishing goes.
   By mid-morning I decided to take a short walk to see how the others were doing. I had walked maybe 50 feet away when the ice gave way and I was up to my waist it ice cold water.
   The good thing about it was just my left leg went in. I had stepped in an old hole that had been covered over with a little skin ice and snow. It was darn near invisible.
   When I went through the first thought I had was that this was going to get cold and it could get really exciting in a hurry.
   Finally, after flopping around for a minute or so, I was able to extricate myself. I was back in the cabin about a half hour later trying to dry and thaw out.
   I have no words of wisdom. Paying attention to where you walk is obvious. Still, if it's going to happen, it probably will.
   Just remember to throw in some extra socks, another pair of boots and some dry trousers. You never know when they'll come in handy!
   You can't be too careful on the ice either.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Bird enthusiasts-Get ready for annual backyard bird count

click.jpgclick.jpg   Whether you are and experienced bird watcher or just interested in watching birds the annual Great Backyard Bird Count is from Feb. 15-18.
   It's as easy as looking out your window at the bird feeder. Just watch for 15 minutes, add the numbers of the different species you see and send the results to

   The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada.
  The GBBC is open to anyone of any skill level and welcomes bird observations from any location, including backyards, national parks, gardens, wetlands, and urban landscapes.
   The four-day count typically receives sightings from tens of thousands of people reporting more than 600 bird species in the United States and Canada alone.
   "This count is so much fun because anyone can take part, whether you are an expert, novice, or feeder watcher," said Gary Langham, Audubon’s Chief Scientist.
"The popularity of the Great Backyard Bird Count grows each year," said Dick Cannings, Senior Projects Officer at Bird Studies Canada, "and with the new features, participation will be even more exciting."

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cooped up? Try identifying animal tracks for a change

   If you've been outside at all this winter no doubt you've seen animal tracks in the snow. Much like bird watching in that watchers identify what they see, animal tracking is a similar activity.
   It's both fun and interesting to figure out and identify what critter is making those tracks in the snow under your bird feeder, or out of the woodpile you have stacked in your yard.
   About all you'll need is a notebook to record the track you see-mainly to identify it later with a guide-a pencil or pen, and a camera to take a picture of what you saw.
   Now it's up to you. Stay in your yard and be content with the tracks you find and your ability to identify them or branch out by going to a local park or nature trail and perhaps see more of a variety of tracks.
   Watch for animal droppings or scat as it is often called. Sometimes you see a tuft of hair or a feather on the ground. These things are all clues to go along with the tracks you find.
   Read more about in the sports section in this Sunday's Oakland Press. Happy tracking!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Ice fishing-still on the agenda

   The 18th annual Ice Jam is taking place this next weekend. Walleye professional Mark Sak and several of his touring walleye buddies began this little outing years ago.
   I've been invited to fish in it for just about as l;one as it's been in existence but due to scheduling and the weather from year to year, I haven't been able to get to many.
   The day starts out with meeting everyone and talking over the past year. Bets are made, pools are formed-biggest fish, most fish, etc.- then we hit the ice.
   Some fish alone but most of us are in pairs or three's and four's. Before we go out Sak takes the time to point of different aspects of the lake like structure, points, weeds and anything else that may prove to be information that will help determine where best to set up and fish.
   Everyone brings something to share for lunch, sort of a potluck affair. By noon or 1p.m., lines are pulled and we head in for something hot to eat and figure out who the winner or winners are for this year.
   Some hang around to fish the later afternoon bite while others call it a day. But what a day it's been. I always look forward to this trip.
   I think it's due to the great company and camaraderie, the relaxed atmosphere and good food. Even if fishing is slow or difficult it's still a great day.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Staying warm ice fishing is a matter of good clothing

   This Sunday's column deals with cold temperatures on Lake Mitchell in Cadillac last week and some of the equipment used to fight the elements.
   I have been talking up my new Ice Armor Extreme ice fishing suit. It's got more insulation than other suits. You can tell it's made different the moment you pick it up and put it on. It's heavier, but still comfortable.
   Outside on the parka are so many zipper pockets that you're going to forget which ones have the smaller equipment you carry stored.
   I like the extra long back panel on the parka. It completely covers your read so no wind blows up around your waist and back. It's also an added bonus when sitting on a bucket because it gives you an added layer of warmth.
   The bib overall bottoms are also heavy and warm. They have reinforced knees which making kneeling on the ice more comfortable while at the same time protecting the suit.
   If you are considering new outerwear for ice fishing you can't beat the Clam Ice Armor line. I tested it in winds around 25mph with actual temperatures at minus 5 degrees and didn't get cold all day.
   Staying warm and comfortable while ice fishing is half the battle. The other half is trying to get the fish to bite!