Hunters hoping conditions will continue to improve

BIG RAPIDS — Hunting had been at a virtual standstill in recent weeks due to severe weather conditions.

The recent warming trend should bring a smile to hunters’ faces.

Observers, including area Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist Pete Kailing, are expecting conditions to improve somewhat as the weather warms up.

“It’s been cold, with deep snow,” Kailing said. “Squirrel (hunting) ended March 1. What’s left? Rabbit (hunting through March 31). It’s been so cold for everything outdoors.”

Crow hunting stays open until March 31.

“That’s something you don’t hear much about, but there are some diehards,” Kailing said. “There may be diehards who still call in crows, decoy them in. Rabbit are your main source of interest for small game hunters.”

There aren’t many area crow hunters, Kailing said. “A few do, but crows are kind of challenge to call in,” he said. “They’re kind of a wary bird.”

The last weeks of February made winter survival more of a challenge for wildlife, Kailing admitted.

“We’ve had a lot of cold, below normal temperatures,” he said. “Snow depths are moderate, not as much as last winter, but still significant. March will be an important month for wildlife. If it warms up soon, I think we’ll be better off for next year. If it stays cold into April, it will be harder on the deer and turkey. But so far, I haven’t had any reports of mortality from the winter on deer or turkey. Last fall, we had a super acorn crop and a lot of standing corn. So wildlife went into the winter fairly healthy and fat.”

Meanwhile, turkey hunting season will start next month and the DNR reminds hunters to check their spring turkey drawing results and leftover licenses, available online now at michigan.gov/huntdrawings.

“Our spring turkey season in Area K is always popular,” Kailing said. “April 21 is the first hunt, a seven-day season. Area K includes 13 northwest counties including Mecosta Newaygo, Osceola and Lake. A lot of hunters like that early season.”

“Hunters looking for the greatest flexibility may wish to purchase a Hunt 234 license, which will be available March 16 at 10 a.m.,” DNR upland game bird specialist Al Stewart said in a statement. “The Hunt 234 license is valid from May 4-31 and includes all open areas of the state except the public lands of southern Michigan. New this year, hunters may purchase Hunt 234 through May 31.”

Hunting licenses can be purchased online at www.mdnr-elicense.com, the DNR said, adding that hunters may purchase only one spring turkey license in a season.

“So far, the turkeys that I’ve been observing are still mobile and are moving from their roost out to the cornfields and scratching acorns where they can find them,” Kailing said. “The deep snow is bit of a problem for them.You may see them wondering into barnyards or if a bird feeder is near by.”

Information about spring turkey hunting can be found on the DNR website at michigan.gov/turkey.