This blog post is a little different than most. What I’m writing about hasn’t actually happened yet, so let me back it up a little bit and explain. I’m in an agriculture class in my high school and along with being in the class, I am also a member of the Lapeer County FFA. Many people don’t know much about FFA, if anything at all. Members of the Michigan FFA Association participate in anything involving agricultural or animal related, from engineering to vet sciences to biology.
This is where my event that hasn’t quite happened yet comes into explanation. Each year, FFA members have to compete in a Career Development Event (CDE) at Michigan State University. Because I dream of becoming a wildlife biologist, I am competing in the Environmental and Natural Resources category of the competition. In this category of the competition, I am required to know all Michigan wildlife and aquatic species, as well as plants, trees, invasive species, aquatic insects and environmental tools. Along with that, my team and I will have to evaluate and judge a parcel of land and test the quality of a certain body of water.
There are 10 members on my team and we all have been working very hard for the past six weeks to prepare for this upcoming competition date. If our team places top, we move on to the national completion, which involves FFA chapters from around the entire U.S. My team and I only have a few more weeks until we complete and I cannot wait to update all of you on our results, we are all very excited, especially me!
Olivia Walker, YCC Member – Lapeer
The woods are quiet. The smell of pines and ferns drifts to my nostrils as if trying to lull me to sleep. Then, suddenly, I hear it. “Gablgablgabl-gabagabagabl.” The calls begin to increase in proximity in accordance with my heart rate. All of a sudden, I can begin to make out the vibrant red head and outstretched fan. I begin to raise my gun.
The sound of tires on gravel wrenches me out of my fantasy. I jerk the wheel and maneuver the car off the shoulder of the road, at the same time cursing myself for allowing the flock of turkeys I’d caught in my headlights on the way to school to distract me into making such a careless mistake.
My mood is sour the rest of the way to school as I come to the realization that this year will be different and I won’t have too many of those surreal moments this spring. It’s my junior year in high school, and, at least for me, the busiest year I’ve had so far. Throw in the golf team and my school’s participation in the local jazz festival on top of the rigors of the classroom. There just won’t be as much time to pack up the decoys and head out to one of my grandpa’s favorite turkey spots for the weekend.
What I am learning is that sometimes commitments will get in the way of activities I truly enjoy. That’s why, this spring, I’m going to have to make the most of the few times I get out to chase turkeys. More importantly I am learning to cherish the memories I’ve already made – just not while I’m driving to school!
Martin Chown – YCC member, Traverse City
Here in Michigan, we have many outdoor opportunities, from the great lakes to the sand dunes, there are so many things to do! What you may not know is that Michigan also has quite a few National Parks right here in our great state.
Spotted by 35 campgrounds and lined with 165 miles of trails, Isle Royale is very beautiful. Surrounded by Lake Superior, Isle Royale continues to be a hotspot for environmental research and everyday tourists like me. There are boatloads to do there! The National Parks Service suggests backpacking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, hiking, scuba diving and fishing.
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Another popular place to go is Pictured Rocks, which is actually a National Shoreline. Pictured Rocks covers more than 40 miles of Lake Superior Shoreline. As a kid, I remember staring down at the water and hiking the trails with my family. There are over 100 miles of trails throughout the area that are amazing for sightseeing. Also, there are some really nice ranger lead tours.
One place that I love going to is Sleeping Bear Dunes. Sleeping bear dunes is also another national shoreline. Right on the coast of Lake Michigan, the dunes measure up to around 450”. My favorite thing to do there as a kid was slide down the sand dunes with my sister which is something that I have always remembered. In the summer it’s also fun to go swimming in the water and relax on the beach. Walking and biking the heritage trail are pretty popular activities too.
All of these magnificent places are just calling for adventure, and should be widely enjoyed for people of all ages. So take a couple of busy days off and enjoy the nature that Michigan has to offer!
Carolyn Hagler – YCC member, Grand Blanc
It can be hard to find outdoor activities this time of year for me. Ice fishing can be unsafe and there is no open water fishing because there is still ice. There is also no hunting that I participate in, so I usually enjoy hiking and taking pictures. It is a great time of year for hiking after the cold, snowy winter and it feels great to get some fresh air.
I have hiked multiple times these past few weeks. There are many trail systems close to my house that I can take advantage of even in the winter months. I always have my camera on my phone ready for pictures because there are many stunning sights in early spring. I have taken a number of quality pictures while I am on my hikes. The forest is returning back to life and it is not uncommon to see raccoons, porcupines, rabbits, and a variety of birds. The backdrop of snow and the growing amount of sunlight can make for some beautiful pictures.
It is usually this time or earlier when the bucks in northern Michigan shed their antlers. I always keep my eye out for sheds when I am in the woods because they are exciting to find. Also, by finding sheds you can find out what kind of bucks are in the area for future hunting spots. By hiking in the early spring, it gets you outdoors, you can enjoy the sights and sounds of nature returning to life, and take some great pictures.
Owen Boyce, Bellaire – YCC Member
Nice Grand River Smallmouth
This winter was one to remember. Not because of the mounds of snow we got in mid-Michigan (I wish), but the very opposite. With limited snow and warmer spurts of heat, it gave great opportunity for quality winter fishing. Prior to the warm weather, coyote hunting was an every weekend ordeal.
Over the last year and a half, coyotes have increased their population in the local area. After multiple deer and chickens were killed near my house, my neighbor and I began decided to do a little hunting. I took advantage of this with my Savage .223. I began to stalk the predators and learn their habits. After successful hunts, I began to get offers from farmers to help control their coyote problems. Coyote hunting has became one of my favorite pass-time activities. These opportunities allowed me to grow closer to nature and to see the wilderness from a new perspective.
Along with great hunting came quality fishing. I live near the Grand River, a well-known waterway in Michigan. As all fisherman know, the spring is the best time to consistently catch big fish. In my area, this includes walleye, small and largemouth bass, pike and catfish. Although it is just peeping into the spring season, the weather seems as if we are supposed to be rolling into the summertime soon. The fishing this year has been an above average year. After multiple 19 and 20+ inch bass, I have begun able to lower my long lasted fishing-fever.
With turkey season on the door step, it’s time to buy new decoys, a license, and some shells. One of the best outdoor sensations is hearing the thunder birds gobbling back to your call in search of that hen. Harvesting a turkey is a wonderful experience, one that you will always remember. But the most beautiful part of it all is being able to sit in the woods and see Mother Nature in action.
Graham Smith, Portland – YCC member
I’m not the type of person to sit inside and watch the snow fall from the window. I’m the type of person to bundle up, go outside, and seize all that the great outdoors has to offer, regardless of how brutally cold it may be. Distance running in the snow, ice fishing, and snowmobiling are some of my favorite winter outdoor activities, but since I have been laid up with a stress fracture in my foot and hobbling around on crutches since early December, I have been stuck inside resting, all the while itching to go outside.
After sitting still inside and resting for a little over a month, I just couldn’t take it any longer. I missed fresh air and going on adventures. So, when my high school out-of-doors club was organizing an ice fishing trip for the beginning of February, I signed up right away without even thinking about how walking on the ice with crutches would work out. Luckily, we were just fishing on a pond, so I didn’t have to walk very far. I took it slow, slipped a little, laughed about it, and managed not to wipe out. I was quite a comical sight, but that’s okay. It was a beautiful, sunny day – the kind of day that allowed me to sit on a five-gallon bucket and fish out in the open rather than be bundled up in a shanty. I caught eight fish and had a great time with the group that went out.
An outdoor fix was just what I needed after being stuck inside for so long. Although I don’t recommend trying to walk on ice with a broken foot and crutches, it was a risk well worth taking to enjoy the great outdoors. I never knew how much I would miss simple things like the smell of fresh-fallen snow or sunlight filtering through the trees until I was stuck inside with a cast and crutches. My lesson learned: never take the joy of being outside for granted and take advantage of every opportunity there is to be out in the fresh air.
Marissa Trombley, Saginaw – YCC Member
Once found on wetlands and other water bodies across southern Michigan, the osprey population sharply declined during the mid-20th Century. The primary culprit in this crash was the overuse of harmful pesticides. Over the last 30 years, The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and many other organizations have worked to re-establish the osprey population in Michigan. The number has risen from 81 pairs in 1975 to 166 by 1988 and has been on the rise ever since (Source:Huron River Watershed Council). In several places where Ospreys nest they provide a popular wildlife viewing opportunity.
My interest in ospreys was piqued when looking for an Eagle Scout project. To achieve the highest rank in Boy Scouts of Eagle Scout, scouts need to lead a project that benefits an organization in their community. My Eagle Scout project beneficiary was the Huron River Watershed Council (HRWC). HRWC was interested in building an observation deck in a local park. The observation area was to compliment a recently installed osprey nesting platform–which would hopefully attract, an osprey. The HRWC revitalizes and monitors the Huron River watershed which covers seven counties and 900 miles in the Detroit Metropolitan area. I have been a proud macroinvertebrate data collection team leader and volunteer for this organization since the eighth grade.
Since the nesting platform is far from the shore, I suggested we include commercial binoculars (with a child step) and a child-friendly educational sign. This project involved raising over $7660, developing and managing a budget, obtaining permits from the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality and the Ann Arbor Building Department, making several presentations to stakeholder groups, and organizing a team of volunteers to build the deck. The project involved 176.6 volunteer hours.
Thinking I would have to design the educational sign myself, I completed a fair amount of research on the Ospreys I was somewhat relieved when many local bird experts offered to be part of the sign design team. I quickly realized the sign had become the unifying element for our community. The sign was symbolic of the passion so many people have for our rivers and the Ospreys. In the end, the sign will help to create awareness of HRWC and their revitalization initiatives. It will also inform the public how conservation efforts can impact the return and survival of interesting birds like the ospreys. It is a very inspiring message. The project went well and the platform installed with the help of volunteers from my scout troop and other volunteers.
Last month it was great to watch 30 school kids line up to take a turn looking through the new binoculars. I have already seen several wildlife photographers use the deck to take pictures of the waterfowl in the area. It has been rewarding to see our community so vested in being part of HRWC’s vision for our rivers. I am looking for the day when a pair of ospreys decides that our nesting platform is perfect for their nesting site. Maybe it will be this spring. I will be waiting and watching.
If you are an Eagle Scout candidate or Boy Scout troop looking for a small or large project, please consider a conservation project. Many opportunities exist for service projects like this. Contact any one of your local outdoor or conservation groups or organizations.
Dale (Trip) J. Apley, III, YCC Member, Ann Arbor