01-04-2018 Outdoors

Virginia, the Nature Center’s great-horned owl, has a new cage mate. Pops, a rehabbed, but non-releasable male great-horned owl joined Virginia a few weeks ago and the two seem to be enjoying each other’s company. This pairing is happening just around the same time wild great-horned owls are courting, mating and entering nesting season.

Owls, and particularly the great-horned owl are early nesters and their courtship calls can often be heard from the fall into winter. Early nesting can be risky out in the wild due to freezing temperatures, but owls do this so their young have enough time to grow and learn hunting skills necessary to become a top predator.

Great-horned owls typically mate for life, and after spending spring, summer and the beginning of fall in separate parts of their territory, the male and female will come together to nest and raise their young. Great-horned owl typically makes their nest in a nest used in previous years by other large birds or squirrels, but may also use tree cavities, man-made structures or dead snags.

After a month or so of constant incubation, one to four owlets hatch and both parents work together to feed the young for a few months until they are ready to hunt on their own.

Adults can sign up for cross-country ski beginner lessons on Saturday, Jan. 13 held from 2 to 4 p.m. Cost is $10 for the lesson and $5 for rentals. Interested adults can register at 269-927-4832.

Fishing

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) did not have a fishing report update for the past week, but has listed the current fishing seasons for those braving the ice. (Note: use extreme caution on the fresh ice.) The DNR also suggests you check the Michigan Fishing Guide for exceptions and specifics.

The Catch-and-Immediate-Release season for Largemouth and Smallmouth Bass is open all year in all waters. Muskellunge season in the Lower Peninsula Great Lakes is open all year. However, Muskellunge in the Lower Peninsula inland waters, Upper Peninsula inland waters, Upper Peninsula Great Lakes, and St. Mary’s River; closes on March 15, 2018.

The Northern Pike and Muskellunge spearing season (through the ice), in various waters will close on March 15, 2018. The Northern Pike and Muskellunge season in the Lower Peninsula Great Lakes, Lake St. Clair, St. Clair River, and Detroit River is open all year. Northern Pike and Walleye fishing in the Lower Peninsula inland waters, Upper Peninsula inland waters, Upper Peninsula Great Lakes, and St. Mary’s River closes March 15, 2018.

Fishing season is open all year for Catfish, Cisco, Lake Whitefish, Smelt, Sunfishes, White Bass and Yellow Perch. Yellow Perch, spearing season in Lake St. Clair runs from January 1-February 28, 2018.

Ellinee Bait & Tackle on Paw Paw Lake by Coloma reports ice fishermen are busy. Paw Paw Lake channels have iced up, but remember that early ice is not safe and to take a spud along to make sure your next step doesn’t take you for an unwanted swim. All the lakes in the area have some ice; but all are not safe to be on yet. Anglers have been catching some nice Crappie and Bluegills and Pike anglers are working the water as well, with some success.

Captain Kenny Bard of Rampage Fishing Charters out of South Haven reported ice fishing was picking up as the cold is making safer ice. Right now, in the Bloomingdale and Gobles area they have too much snow on the ice to fish safely. There is good ice and fishing on the shallower lakes, like Lake of the Woods. Gravel Lake has some good ice, but a couple of anglers have gone through the early ice there. Pine Creek by Otsego has some good ice and good fishing.

Hunting

Hunters, remember the January deer hunts. Ionia and Montcalm Firearm Hunt will be January 4-7 and January 11-14. There will be a mandatory deer check for hunters participating in this hunt and will be required to turn in heads of harvested deer within 72 hours of harvest. This is a firearm-only hunt.

As a reminder bait cannot be used after January 1.

Urban Deer Management Zone extended Archery Season will be held January 1-31. This is an archery only hunt. Alpena County Antlerless Firearm Hunt will be held January 4-7 and January 11-14. Hunters participating in this hunt are encouraged to turn in heads of harvested deer for bovine TB testing.

Visit www.michigan.gov/deercheck for a list of available check stations. For questions, phone 519-284-9453.

Spring Wild Turkey season is just around the corner and the application for Wild Turkey is January 1 – February 1. The drawing results will be posted online on March 5. Leftover licenses will be on sale at 10:00 a.m. on March 12 for applicants only and on March 19 for over-the-counter sales.

Cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare season will close March 31, 2018. Squirrel – Fox and Gray (black phase included) will close on March 1. Crow season will re-open February 1 to March 31, 2018.

Opossum, porcupine, weasel, red squirrel, skunk, ground squirrel, woodchuck, feral swine, feral pigeons, starling and house sparrows may be taken year-round with a valid Michigan hunting license.

Twenty-two men and women graduated from the DNR Conservation Officer Recruit School, completing a rigorous, 23-week journey that challenged them every step of the way. The unique role of DNR conservation officers requires candidates to undergo some of the longest, most comprehensive law enforcement training in the nation. Upon graduation these men and women achieve certification as law enforcement officers through the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards.

The new officers will report for duty in their assigned counties and serve in a probationary capacity under the supervision of experienced conservation officers for one year, which includes more than 20 weeks of additional specialized training. In addition to general law enforcement training, recruits must learn skills unique to a conservation officer’s duties, such as fish and game identification.

They also were trained in areas including precision driving, self-defense tactics, water safety, legal training, outdoor survival, firearms, handling child abuse and neglect cases, securing crime scenes, first aid and executing search warrants, to name a few.

The DNR law Enforcement Division is Michigan’s oldest statewide law enforcement agency, created in 1887. It currently has 209 sworn conservation officers. If all 22 graduates complete their probationary periods, that total will stand at 231 officers.

Coloma Rod & Gun Club

The Coloma Rod & Gun Club will hold their monthly CCW Class on Saturday, January 13, 2018. Class registration is held on Sunday, January 7 from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. The class is taught by a certified NRA and RSO instructor and the cost of the class is $100. For more information or to be put on the list, please call (269) 621-3370

Watervliet Rod & Gun Club

The Watervliet Rod and Gun Club will hold their monthly CCW classes on Thursday, January 11 and Saturday, January 13, 2018. Registration is on Tuesday, January 9, between 6:00 and 7:00 p.m. and cost of the class is $100. They will have a lawyer explaining the law pertaining to concealed carry during class. Please call (269) 468-3837 or (269) 470-9191 for more information.