As I was walking on the icy creek behind my house on Christmas day, I raised my brand new binoculars to the tree line and adjusted them so that everything was brilliantly clear. I focused in on a large white object high up in one of the tall Boxelder trees. With the naked eye, I had hopes of it being a Snowy owl, surveying the landscape for a Christmas feast. But with my binoculars, it appeared to be a plastic shopping bag, tangled up in a bird’s nest, trying to make its sweet escape with thewind so that it could move on to disrupt another organism’s “natural” habitat.
So, to my disappointment, the first thing I identified with my new binoculars was not a Snowy owl or something that’s supposed to be found in nature at all. It was a piece of suffocating and sickening plastic that is sadly found in forests, waterways, and fields far more often than it should be these days. Plastic bags are not alive and therefore cannot reproduce, but they are becoming ever more abundant, multiplying rapidly and inhabiting our great landscapes.
That was last year. However, it is 2018 now, which means most of us are looking to make changes for the better in this new year. A common resolution is to improve our health. To do that though, we need to take care of our environment too. The last time I checked, broken down plastics in our food and water was not part of any health or fitness regimen. By incorporating some simple practices into our daily lives, the natural resources that we depend on and enjoy will greatly benefit; likewise, so will our health.
So, Michiganders, what do you say? I think it would be in our best interest to make some changes this new year ̶ for ourselves and for the great outdoors that we love so well. If we all make small efforts, the resulting change can be quite significant. If you’re in on this resolution with me (and I hope you are), here are some ideas:
- Reuse and/or recycle any plastic shopping bags you currently have. Plastic bags should be brought to a drop off location near you.
- Buy a reusable shopping bag. Keep it in your car so that you always have it with you when you go to the store. These bags can be found near the checkout in almost any store and usually only cost one or two dollars.
- Buy products from businesses who give a portion of the proceeds from your purchase to keeping our natural spaces clean. Some great retailers to support are Keep it Wild, M22, 4ocean, and Patagonia, just to name a few.
- Spread the word! We all have to work together to stop this eruption of plastic in the place that serves as our playground, food supply, and only home. Share with others how they too can make a difference!
Marissa Trombley, YCC member – Saginaw
We have just endured one of Michigan’s famous cold snaps with temperatures that make us all want to close the door and stay snuggle up inside. However we still need to get some fresh air everyday, so put on your snow pants, coat, boots, a hat and gloves because there is A LOT of things to do. State parks are a perfect place for a little adventure, since it has been so cold lately the lakes have frozen over and are ready for ice fishing, and once you put your shanty up your away from the wind and you won’t notice the cold because you will be focusing on the fish, or instead of ice fishing you can bring your ice skates to skate on the ice.
If your not into fishing or skating that’s fine, state parks have something for everyone, some state parks have ORV trails and since we have plenty of snow it’s the perfect time to snowmobile and enjoy the scenery. You can also go cross country skiing on the hiking trails or bring horses to ride on the equestrian trails.
Another great part about these activities is that to put the recreational passport on your license plate it’s only $11 just make sure to ask for it at the secretary of the state or $9 for a yearly state park entrance window sticker pass. Since these passes are year round keep in mind you can come back in the spring, summer, and fall. So don’t forget to come back again to take your boat out, play disc golf, go hiking, geocaching or even camping. We hope to see you soon and don’t let the cold limit you outdoor adventures.
Ryanna Byrnes, YCC member – Laingsburg
Fall is my favorite time of year because there are so many things to do. There is fishing, trapping, bird hunting, camping, and my favorite; deer hunting. I love deer hunting; there is just something about getting up early in the morning, getting all the camo on, and walking out to the blind. Then waiting for the deer to move past you while listening to the birds wake up and watching the sun peek above the horizon. It is a great time sitting in a deer blind with family being able to talk quietly with them and get away from all the business of work or school. And above all its a great feeling to be able to harvest a deer and provide food for your family.
Joseph Duckert, YCC member – St. Johns
It’s been a disappointing deer hunting season so far. I’ve had a couple close calls with some nice sized bucks, but whether it’s been the wrong wind or an unlucky branch, I just haven’t been able to close the deal on a mature buck. I put all of that behind me, however, as I went out to a small patch of woods near my house on Thanksgiving morning with a doe tag in my pocket. I hadn’t hunted this spot very much and, frankly, I wasn’t very optimistic about my chances of success. I’ll sheepishly admit that I was a little more excited about my upcoming Thanksgiving dinner than I was about my hunting prospects. That all changed about an hour into my sit as a group of four does came running out of the cover behind me. Knowing that I only had one good shooting lane, I quickly raised my gun and let out a soft doe bleat as the second doe trotted into the lane. I thumbed off the safety, slowly squeezed the trigger, and listened to the satisfying “bang” that occured as the doe piled up where moments before she had stood. That morning, as I sat looking at the white belly 40 yards away, I realized that even though I hadn’t been having the season I’d hoped for, I still had a lot to be thankful for. The opportunity to spend time in the great outdoors and put meat in my family’s freezer is a gift that should never be taken for granted. My success with does continued following that morning’s hunt. In all, though a buck continues to be elusive, I’ve had the fortune of taking a total of three does this year.
Martin Chown, YCC member – Traverse City
One of my most cherished family traditions is going hunting every Thanksgiving with my grandpa. For as long as I can remember, I have gone to my grandma and grandpa’s house for Thanksgiving and we have always deer hunted in the evenings . This year I was lucky enough to be able to sit with my grandpa for the first time in a couple years. This just happened to be when he would have a nice little buck walk in front of our blind. I told him that I did not want to shoot it and that I prefeered that htake the shot. This was very special to me, even though it was not a huge buck, it was the first time in several years that my grandpa had taken a buck. Over the years he has always gone out and tended to bait piles for us so we would have a good place to hunt over Thanksgiving. My grandpa took the first good shot the Buck gave him and drop him in his tracks! It sure was cool to see that my grandpa still had the dead-eye accuracy he was known for.
Justin Cobb, YCC member – Bark River
Did you know that Michigan has over 6,500 miles of snowmobile trails? There are many places where you can ride. I’ve been snowmobiling all my life. When I was young I would be strapped to my dad and I would fall asleep riding down the trails. There are specific things that you need to snowmobile. Snowmobiling is like one big community of people of all ages having the same love of this winter sport.
First, there are many places where you can ride snowmobiles. You can ride in state parks, public trails or if you’re lucky, your own land. To be able to ride on public land you must buy a trail permit for each snowmobile that you ride. Each year they cost $48.00 each and help pay for trail maintenance. A part of trail maintenance is grooming. Grooming is where they smooth the trails to make for an easier and safer ride. One mile of trail costs $5.11 to groom. Grooming is also paid for by other organizations.
Next, there is some very important equipment that you need for snowmobiling. First, the most important one is the snowmobile. There are four main brands that you can get: Skidoo, Arctic Cat, Yamaha and Polaris. Then, you need to get a helmet. There are many different brands and colors. Just make sure it is DOT certified. Make sure you wear something that will keep you warm. It is also important that you have a trail map and it is also a good idea to have space blankets and other emergency supplies when out on the trails.
Lastly, snowmobiling is one big community. There are different snowmobile clubs that you can be a part of, or you can go riding with friends from school or your neighborhood. If you walk into any restaurant by a snowmobile trail I bet that there will be snowmobilers in there talking about the riding conditions and sharing their stories. Also, there is always someone who likes to ride, like you. If you want to go on a slow, relaxing ride, you can find someone else who wants to do that. If you want to race like the pros, you can do that too. I can’t wait to take my three year old nephew on his first snowmobile ride.
So, there are many places to ride. There is equipment you need to do it safely. Lastly, snowmobiling is a community of like-minded people of all ages. Hope sometine I will meet you on the trail!
Chris Neuvirth, YCC member – Commerce Township
Over thanksgiving break there was a turn of events. Every year my family goes up to Alpena, MI to celebrate thanksgiving and deer hunt, which gets us outdoors and it’s great. This year we did the same thing, but the hunting this year wasn’t going too well for me, so I did the next best thing and went fishing. I fished this spot once before and didn’t have any success, but I figured I should try it again. Why not right? There had been a lot of rain lately there and the river was running very high. The chutes on the dam were open as well making it very fast. The Thunder Bay river feeds into Lake Huron and the Steelhead, Brown Trout Atlantic Salmon, Whitefish, and much more move in to the river and swim up to the dam. This is an accessible area and doesn’t require getting into the water to catch fish, but I was fly fishing, so I did because it was much easier. I used an 8wt fly rod with a sink tip line, 12lb test leader and tied a big black streamer on.
Within the first five minutes I hooked up and it felt like I snagged bottom, but it wasn’t. This fish took off screaming downstream and out into the fast water, bending my rod down to the handle. This fish wouldn’t give up and I was able to catch a glimpse of him as he came to the surface. It turned out to be a Steelhead. That was the only look I got at him before he came off. This was disappointing, but on the next few casts I hooked up again. It wasn’t as strong as the last one, but this one put up a fight. I was able to get this one in and it was an Atlantic Salmon. Throughout the next 4 hours I was there I caught 14 Atlantic Salmon. Swinging a streamer is a very effective way to cover a lot of water and it proved itself here. I thought this was so cool because I have never caught one before and it was on a streamer that I tied myself. This was one of those experiences that will keep me coming back forever.
Zach Barrette, YCC member – Shelby Township