Snow brightens dark December days, but can also make roads hazardous. Just as snow can provide us different experiences, wildlife also lives through the good and bad of snow.
While most people can retreat from the cold and the snow, wildlife must deal with it constantly. Some animals, like broad-winged hawks and ruby-throated hummingbirds, migrate south in order to survive. Many species though stay around all winter long, like raccoons, squirrels, and blue jays. Small prey like mice and voles benefits from a layer of snow. They can hide under it and away from the eyes of predators like the great horned owl. Weasels though have a good sense of smell and use the tunnels mice make through the snow to hunt them.
White-tailed deer have trouble walking through deep snow, which makes them easier to hunt. Cottontail rabbits, however, are light and use the deep snow to reach and eat buds of saplings they wouldn’t normally be able to. Ruffed grouse also use the deep snow and grow combs on the side of their toes to increase the surface area on their feet to stabilize themselves. They also dive into powdery deep snow to stay insulated when it’s cold at night. Donate to Sarett’s end of the year fundraiser to support environmental education. Every donation made to the Nature Center by December 31 will be matched by our Board of Directors! Visit www.sarett.org to donate.
The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reported that across the state the wind, rain and even snow kept anglers from venturing out. While many are hunting or getting ready for ice fishing, those brave enough to tackle the elements were rewarded with a few fish, including steelhead, whitefish, pike and panfish.
A few pier anglers at St. Joseph, South Haven and Grand Haven were targeting and catching steelhead and whitefish when using fresh spawn in the early morning when weather allowed them out on the piers. Steelhead movement at the Berrien Springs ladder slowed with the lower water temperatures, but there should still be plenty of fish in the St. Joseph River, based on the numbers that have come through the ladder the last few weeks. Anglers should concentrate on typical steelhead late fall/winter holding waters.
Anglers on the Grand River near Grand Rapids reported decent steelhead fishing, including upstream of the 6th Street Dam. While there are fish around, there do not seem to be as many for mid-November as there usually are. Michigan’s Natural Rivers Program is 50 years old this year! What do the Au Sable, Two Hearted, Kalamazoo and Huron rivers have in common? They are all state-designated Natural Rivers. Select river systems throughout Michigan are afforded protections through zoning regulations that aim to balance the right to reasonable development with preserving, protecting and enhancing the state’s unique rivers.
December is the last month to complete a Pure Michigan Hunt application before the January drawing. Don’t miss a shot at the hunt of a lifetime. Each $5 Pure Michigan Hunt application helps fund Michigan’s wildlife habitat restoration and management. There is no restriction on the number of applications someone can get for them self or as holiday presents and stocking stuffers for their favorite hunters.
Prizes include hunting equipment worth thousands of dollars, licenses for elk, bear, spring and fall turkey, and antlerless deer, also first pick at a managed waterfowl area for a reserved hunt.
There are plenty of opportunities left to put some venison in the freezer for the winter. Deer hunting regulations can be found in the 2020 Hunting Digest, available at Michigan.gov/Deer.
Muzzleloader season is open December 4-13 statewide. In the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula, only muzzleloading firearms may be use. In Zone 3 (southern Michigan – see page 11 in the Hunting Digest) all legal firearms may be used during the Muzzleloader season.
Hunters in the Lower Peninsula may harvest either an antlered or antlerless deer during the muzzleloading season on a deer or deer combo license. Upper Peninsula hunters see pages 48-49 in the 2020 Hunting Digest for more information on what can be harvested in that area. Late antlerless firearm season is open December 14 – January 1 in select Lower Peninsula deer management units. Valid licenses for the season include an antlerless, deer or deer combo license. The late archery deer hunting season is open through January 1. Valid licenses for this season include a deer license, a deer combo license or an antlerless deer license. Hunters in the Upper Peninsula may not use a crossbow during the late archery season unless hunting in the chronic wasting disease core area or possessing a special permit to hunt with modified bow.
Hunters should check local ordinances in the communities where they are interested in hunting to make sure hunting is allowed.