Leroy man fulfills interest in grouse as biologist for local chapter


LEROY — Larry Visser has had an interest in ruffed grouse for a long time. It’s as high now as it ever was.

Visser worked 35 years with the Department of Natural Resources, starting out as a research biologist.

He was involved in black bear research about 20 years and was also a forest planner, which moved him to Cadillac. He later became unit supervisor and covered an area from Big Rapids to Traverse City.

Visser, who currently lives in Leroy, and the Highlands Chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society had its third annual banquet in late September.

Visser retired from the DNR three years ago and now is the regional biologist for the Ruffed Grouse Society in a part-time capacity. He covers Indiana, Michigan and Ohio.

“It used to be all the sportsmen were a part of the local sportsmen’s club,” Visser said. “They were structured under MUCC (Michigan United Conservation Clubs). Then it seemed like everybody went to their specialty groups.”

Grouse hunting was always one of Visser’s favorite fall hunting activities.

“When I got to the point of thinking about retirement and I knew they were trying to fill a biologist position,” Visser said. “I told them I would do the job part-time. They jumped at the opportunity.”

In his capacity, Visser is promoting young forest management throughout the area. In this area, what it means is aspen and alder. We work with the department supporting their timber management activities, which are consistent with promoting young forest and encourage the forest service to do the same.”

Visser estimated that he would have around 70 individuals at the banquet and will see a net profit of $8,000 to $10,000.

The proceeds “are used for a variety of things,” Visser said. “It funds the national organization. It helps fund biologists. We also use the money for local projects.”

The Highlands Chapter started three years ago and its coverage area includes Mecosta and Osceola counties. The society has been going for about 50 years, Visser said.

Visser is also an avid deer hunter, primarily during rifle season.

“Deer is excellent,” he said. “We have lots of deer in Osceola County and surrounding counties. Grouse, it  cycles ... we

had our peak two or three years ago so we’re on the downside. We still have good population, probably because we still have good habitat.

“One of the things the Ruffed Grouse Society is getting into is a private land forest management. We developed a training program for consulting foresters.”

Visser is also a turkey hunter.

“Bears have been increasing in this area for as long as I’ve been working with bears, 25 years,” he said. “We used to think Houghton Lake was the southern extent of the bear range in the Lower Peninsula. We started doing research in the Cadillac area, we started finding bears there and started finding them in Newaygo County. I’m convinced the southern edge of our bear range is 50 miles further south than you think it is.”

Visser enjoys fishing whenever time allows.

“I spend most of my time on bass fishing,” he said. “Living on a lake, I need to get into ice fishing.”

Visser grew up in a farm in Ottawa County and acknowledges that pheasant hunting got him interested in wildlife and hunting.