This past weekend was a great weekend to get outside. I spent the weekend outdoors in the heart of the NE region as well as the SW region of the state. Over 130 volunteers took advantage of the pleasant weather in the Pigeon River Country State Forest on Friday by attending the Northern Michigan’s Russ Mawby Signature Service Project at the Pigeon River Country Discovery Center. For the remainder of the weekend, I joined participants in the Learn to Hunt Turkey program to set up camp at the Barry State Game Area. Each of the 16 participants had the opportunity to attend three mentored hunts for the final phase of the program that began with a hunter safety education course in April. Although these events were not exactly close to each other, I was glad to have attended both!
Northern Michigan’s Russ Mawby Signature Service Project was hosted by Huron Pines AmeriCorps, Michigan DNR, and the Pigeon River Country Association at the Pigeon River Country Discovery Center on Friday, May 20th, 2016. As alumni of both Huron Pines AmeriCorps and the PRCA Internship program, I was honored to take the opportunity to represent MUCC and lead part of the trail building project. It was great to see so many people from the community- and from as far as Ontonagon in the UP- participate in this project in one of my favorite places. When it is completed, the trail that volunteers began to build will be a 3 mile hiking pathway that leads to a few historic sites of the PRCSF; the P.S. Lovejoy monument, the Witness tree, and a very old beaver pond that has some old cement foundations to what may have been water loading stations for the trains that used to pass through there.
The statement below summarizes the purpose of the project followed by the accomplishments made by the combined efforts of 130 volunteers:
“Led by the Pigeon River Country Association, the Discovery Center is being developed with elements of an educational center, an interpretive center, and a museum, all contained within and around its walls. Its purpose is to convey the values and uniqueness of the Pigeon River State Forest area. The main idea behind the exhibits will be that conservation efforts, which have been in constant practice in the forest since the early part of the 20th century, are not rooted solely in past practices or in perpetuating current ones. Conservation often grew from the passionate vision of what the forest could look like in the future. Visitors to the Discovery Center will be inspired to believe that their individual actions are part of that stewardship and tradition of conservation that has given us the diverse and exceptional land, flora and fauna that is the PRC today.”
- Over 300 feet of ADA accessible pathway created with 85 yards of gravel
- Over 325 native plants planted along pathway and around the Discovery Center
- Two miles of trail cleared of brush
- Discovery Center rooms painted, outside of building power washed and entire building cleaned
- Two acres of brush cleared from the area
After a day of hard work clearing and building trail, surely with a few ticks as passengers, I hopped in my jeep and started the four hour drive to Barry State Game Area to join the final phase of the Learn to Hunt Turkey program. I arrived just in time as the last participants were patterning the shotguns they would take into the field with them for their first turkey hunt in the early morning. We were all gathered around a campfire while Steve Sharp with NWTF and Al Stewart with the DNR talked about turkey biology; how to distinguish between a gobbler and a hen, their variety of calls and what they’ll respond to, and their tracks and markings to look for. We had a early bedtime of 9:30 since breakfast was to be ready at 4am to get everyone out to their hunting spots with their mentors by 5:30am. One lucky group arrived back to the base camp by 8:30am with a gobbler and a proud smile along with it!
Every group at least saw or heard turkeys on their morning hunt and some groups learned the challenges of hunting public land as the private landowners nearby started plowing the adjacent field’s mid-hunt. Another participant harvested a turkey on the Saturday evening hunt and one got the chance to shoot on Sunday morning but just missed it. Between hunts, wild game meals were provided along with a great demonstration and practice on turkey processing for both field dressing and scalding. Participants also had the opportunity to practice more shotgun patterning, learn about the different types of chokes, and take a crack at hunting scenarios with the Laser Shot simulator. I had a great time observing this program and hope to see another one in the future-I highly recommend it to anyone that wants to try hunting for their first time or try hunting a new species/season!