Michigan hunters have lots of opportunities

LAPEER COUNTY — September kicks off the small game and waterfowl hunting seasons, and hunters will have an abundance of game to chase, regardless of what they seek. Below are the specific seasons, bag limits and hunters’ prospects.

Canada Geese: The early season is Sept 1- 15 except in the Upper Peninsula and Saginaw, Huron and Tuscola counties, where the season is Sept. 1-10. The daily bag limit is five. The regular goose seasons are Sept. 22 – Dec. 22 in the North Zone; Sept. 29 – Dec. 29 in the Middle Zone; and Sept. 22-23, Oct. 6 – Nov. 30, and Dec. 29 – Jan. 1 in the South Zone, except in designated goose management units (GMUs). The daily bag limit is two.

In the Saginaw County and Tuscola/Huron GMUs, the season is Sept. 22-25 and Oct. 6 – Jan. 1 with a daily bag limit of two. In the Allegan County GMU, the season is Oct. 6 – Nov. 25, Dec. 8-23 and Dec. 29 – Jan. 22 with a bag limit of two. In the Muskegon Wastewater GMU, the season is Oct. 9 – Nov. 13 and Dec. 1- 23. The bag limit is two.

The late goose season, in the South Zone excluding the GMUs, is Jan. 12 – Feb. 10 with a daily bag limit of five.

Hunters may take 20 snow, blue or Ross geese daily and one white-fronted goose and one brant during the regular and late seasons.

State wildlife officials report that resident Canada goose populations, which account for more than 70 percent of the state’s total harvest, are above population goals. Roughly 35,000 hunters pursue geese in Michigan.

Rabbits: Cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hare can be hunted from Sept. 15 – March 31, statewide. The daily bag limit is five in combination with a possession limit of 10.

Nearly 60,000 hunters reported pursuing rabbits in 2010, based on the most recently completed harvest survey, and about 15,000 hunted hares. Cottontail populations are good throughout their range over much of the state. Snowshoe hare populations, which are cyclical, are down somewhat from historic levels.

Squirrels: Season is Sept. 15 – March 1. The daily bag limit is five per day with 10 in possession.

Fox and gray squirrels are at moderate to high levels across much of the state. Areas that had good acorn or nut production last year are a good bet as are wood lots adjoining corn fields. Post-deer-season hunting, in January and February, is increasingly popular. Nearly 70,000 hunters pursue squirrels each year.

Ruffed Grouse: Sept. 15 – Nov. 14 and Dec. 1 – Jan. 1, statewide. The bag limit is five per day/10 in possession in the northern two-thirds of the state, three per day/six in possession in Zone 3 (southern Michigan).

Wildlife officials say the grouse populations are cyclical, typically rising and falling over a 10-year period, and indications are that we are coming off a peak, though spring drumming surveys indicate populations are still high and a warm, dry spring should help this year’s reproduction. Michigan boasts about 85,000 grouse hunters. Grouse are denizens of early-successional forests. Food sources are important, but berry and wild fruit production is down because of the dry summer this year. Grouse are most numerous in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, but hunters may find local populations in areas with good habitat in southern Michigan as well. Grouse and woodcock hunters are asked to assist the DNR in monitoring populations by reporting their results. Cooperator forms can be found on the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/. Select Upland Game Birds and then Ruffed Grouse.

Woodcock: Sept. 22 – Nov. 5, statewide. The daily bag is three with a possession limit of six.

Although woodcock populations are in long-term decline because of decreasing habitat quality, hunters can expect about the same results they enjoyed last year, when roughly 35,000 hunters, often in conjunction with grouse hunting, said they pursued woodcock. Found in all parts of Michigan, woodcock are migratory, and although their population densities are higher in the northern two-thirds of the state, they often can be found in good numbers in southern Michigan later in the season as the birds head south. The best woodcock habitat is in young cover along streams and on swamp edges; the long-beaked birds feed by probing the earth for worms and other invertebrates that are adapted to moist soils. Peak migration occurs in mid-October in the northern portions of the state. Hunters are reminded that they must have a Harvest Information Program (HIP) endorsement printed on their small game licenses to legally take woodcock. See the 2012 Michigan Hunting and Trapping Digest for details.

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