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11-05-2020 Outdoors

VELVET SPIKE FROM 22 YARDS… Ava Thomas and her dad, Dennis Thomas Jr., display Ava’s successful hunt from Oct. 15, 2020. The velvet spike deer was shot from 22 yeards with Ava’s crossbow on family property in Covert.

Tale of the Hunt … young hunt enthusiast bags second deer

Ava Thomas, 11 and her dad, Dennis Thomas Jr. have been hunting together as long as Ava has been old enough and quiet enough. Born into a hunting family, Ava quickly developed a love for hunting and the quality time with her dad. Ava and her dad went hunting on October 15; they were sitting in their double man tree stand when about six deer came into view. Thinking they were all doe, Ava quickly put her site on one. When she was ready her dad did a deer call, stopping them in their tracks; giving Ava the perfect opportunity to make her shot. After tracking the blood trail, they discovered Ava shot a velvet spike from 22 yards with her crossbow on family property in Covert. An excited Ava and even more excited and proud dad took the deer to Clearwater meats in Eau Claire to get burger, steak, roast and meat sticks. Ava’s mom, Kassie said, “It’s always an exciting time to put meat in the freezer. It’s even more exciting when our 11-year-old daughter can do it.” Ava is a 5th grade, straight-A student at Watervliet North elementary school. Aside from hunting, she loves basketball, softball, her doggies and her friends and family. She is the daughter of Dennis and Kassie Thomas, Benton Harbor. This was Ava’s second deer she’s gotten in her short hunting career. She shot her first deer, a doe, back in December

of 2018.

Fishing The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported that with the salmon runs done for the most part steelhead fishing should be picking up, especially with any increase in water levels due to rain. Pier anglers and those surfcasting are getting a few steelheads. Fishing should continue until it gets too cold. South Haven pier fishing for whitefish was decent. The action was still spotty, but anglers have taken some nice catches on spawn. Very few boats have been able to get out, so no perch or salmon reports. Ellinee Bait & Tackle on Paw Paw Lake by Coloma reports fishing has been slow on the local inland lakes, but some nice catches have still been taken. Some crappies have been taken on Sherwood Bay on Paw Paw Lake, using minnows and wax worms for bait in 20 feet of water. Some steelheads have been taken in the Paw Paw River. One local angler brought his catch in to show, 10 pike, one perch and a limit of crappie, all taken from Silver Lake by Saugatuck. He commented that it did not take that long to catch them either. No boat activity out of St. Joseph, therefore no perch or salmon reports. Pier anglers are targeting whitefish when using spawn. In the St. Joseph River, boat anglers are trolling for steelhead and walleye in the lower river. Steelhead anglers are also fishing up at the Berrien Springs Dam. The DNR fishing tip this week is for steelhead and salmon: When bottom bouncing and drift fishing for steelhead or salmon anglers don’t always have to reel in their bait at the end of their drift. Allowing bait to swing across the current and rise up occasionally will trigger strikes from salmon and trout as the bait moves away from the fish, much like a swung fly. For more information and tips on salmon and steelhead, look at their pages on the DNR website. Hunting Deer hunters can enter prize drawings while helping feed hungry families. For a third year, the DNR is cooperating with the Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger and Jay’s Sporting Goods in Clare to accept deer for donation to local food banks. Hunters in northeast Michigan will have a new opportunity to participate by donating at Northwoods Wholesale Outlet in Pinconning. Hunters donating a legally taken deer at either location will have their name entered for a chance to win a $500 gift certificate from the store where they donated. A donation truck will be at Jay’s – located at 8800 S. Clare Avenue in Clare – from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Nov. 16; Friday, Nov. 20; and Saturday, Nov. 21. A donation truck will be at Northwoods Wholesale Outlet located at 229 W. 5th Street in Pinconning, Sunday, Nov. 15 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 16. Hunters who can’t make these events can donate to one of the many participating processors throughout the state – for a chance to win a wild boar hunt or one of several other prizes. The organization processed over 82,000 pounds of ground venison last year, providing more than 400,000 meals for families in need. To learn more or find a participating processor, visit or contact Ray Rustem at 517-420-0005. Hunters still have time to get that turkey for Thanksgiving. The fall turkey hunting season is open through Nov. 14. Check for hunting information and the 2020 Fall Turkey Digest. Hunters that are planning to buy their hunting licenses online should do it soon. When license purchases are made online, all kill tags (the tags required to attach to the deer) are sent in the mail and generally will take between seven and 14 days to arrive. Hunters can buy licenses online at or in person at any licensing agent. For more information call 517-284-6057.

Watervliet Rod & Gun Club The Watervliet Rod and Gun Club will not hold CPL (Concealed Pistol License) classes for the month of November. The next class will be in December.

Coloma Rod & Gun Club The Coloma Rod and Gun Club do not have regular times for CPL classes. Interested people have to contact the instructors through the Coloma Rod and Gun Club web page so the instructors can set up times when they have enough students.

Tired of raking leaves? Leave the leaves this year to help protect wildlife, the environment and your lawn! Leaves are part of a healthy ecosystem and help provide habitat for many different animals. Many insect species overwinter in leaves, especially moth and butterfly caterpillars. These insects also provide food for other wildlife when they emerge, like birds, bats, and frogs. Even frogs will burrow into thick leaf litter to survive the cold months. This spring I found five different grey tree frogs overwintering in my garden beds! Turtles, like the eastern box turtle, a species of special concern in Michigan, use piles of leaves and debris to burrow into for brumation during the winter as well. When they emerge in late spring, they can also find food from the insects, mushrooms, and plants nearby. Leaves contain nutrients important to the health of soil, thus it is superb mulch that suppresses weeds and fertilizes. Piling the leaves around your garden beds or simply mowing them in place can do wonders for your lawn or flowers. Leaving the leaves also helps reduce the greenhouse gas methane, which is created when the waste breakdowns in landfills. Go to to view our new Feeding Winter Birds video and check out our birdseed, feeders, and birdhouses available on our online store! Purchase online and pickup at the Nature Center.


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