This past Sunday, we teamed up with the Jackson College Jets Baseball Team to improve wildlife habitat in the Sharonville State Game Area. The Jets just finished up a great fall season with only two losses and followed up with this event as their annual community service project. This is the second year I’ve had the opportunity to work with this team in the Sharonville SGA and they’ve proven to be incredible volunteers, no matter what the task is. Last year, the team removed old, barbed-wire fencing and posts that had been secured in the ground with rail road ties without a complaint. This year, they built a natural, 3-sided hunting blind accessible for tracker-chairs and also built 5 large brush piles for rabbitat using black locust trees in the area.
The group including the team and MUCC volunteers totaled 37 volunteers. Coach Rick Smith and Assistant Coach Gary Goodwin organized the team into two separate project groups. Half of the group worked with Coach Smith, MUCC volunteer Bethy Williams, and me to build 5 large brush piles and hand seeded buckwheat where soil was exposed from tractor work on a 1 acre plot. The areas DNR Wildlife Technician, Dennis Tison, prepped the sites for the work day by felling black locust trees, sectioning the trunks, and leaving them in piles for the crew to move and stack in various locations. The team worked well in designating crews to carry the trunk sections to the brush pile locations and another crew to gather smaller limbs and brush to stack on top of the base piles. These 5 brush piles will provide cover for cottontail rabbits and other small game in the area.
The other half of the group worked with Assistant Coach Gary Goodwin along with MUCC volunteers Bill Dawson and Paul Rice. This crew was in charge of building the three-sided, tracker-chair accessible hunting blind. The location for it to be constructed was under a large white pine tree in long, narrow food plot flourishing with beets; a great hunting spot with fresh deer tracks crossing directly in front of the location. Logs from black locust trees were provided at the location along with detailed instructions and blueprints from Dennis Tison. The team worked together to dig holes for the upright posts in the structure, carefully select the right size and length logs to stack for each wall, and measured the height for Paul to cut the shooting windows out using a chainsaw. Bill Dawson generously offered to provide a large grill for the occasion and cooked up burgers after the work was completed to refuel after all of that heavy lifting!
It was a great day to be outside with temperatures reaching the high fifties and plenty of sunshine; the perfect project weather. There were a few team members that had attended last years project, but many were new this year. Coach Smith likes to utilize this type of community service opportunity to introduce the team to the outdoors, as many of them haven't had much experience in the outdoors. While hauling tree trunks and digging holes might not be the most enjoyable way to experience Michigan's public lands, this crew did a wonderful job and now knows exactly where to go if they acquire a curiosity in hunting rabbits or other game species. Thank you and best of luck in the Spring to the Jackson College Jets Baseball Team!
This project was the first of twenty to be completed this year from October 2016 through September 2017 with MUCC’s Wildlife Habitat Improvement Program. Building the natural hunting blind was a one of a kind opportunity for this program in collaboration Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors (MiOFO). The Sharonville State Game Area hosts many events and has blinds like this one that is accessible for Tracker chairs in the area to provide hunting opportunities for wounded veterans. See more information about these and the MiOFO events here. This was a great way to start out this habitat improvement season and I look forward to the next year! See upcoming events as they are scheduled and RSVP to volunteer for wildlife here.