ESCANABA - It was hoped the UP Sportsmen's Alliance would draw a crowd Tuesday night in Escanaba, and draw a crowd they did.
More than 150 people showed up at Bay College to take part in a public forum centering on a myriad of issues before natural resource users and managers.
The purpose of this meeting, and four others that follow, is to compile a consensus list of issues
Once completed, the Wildlife Committee of the UPSA will prioritize them and begin the process of making appropriate changes in cooperation with the Michigan Natural Resources Commission and perhaps even the legislature.
I have been to and participated in a lot of what is commonly known as a "facilitated" meeting. Here, a leader (facilitator) prompts issues of concern from the gallery. The issues are then broken down into outlines with sub-issues listed. Once completed, the list is broken down and prioritized by a vote of those in attendance.
The top group of priorities are then carried forward.
The UPSA meeting was a quasi-facilitated format.
After an introduction by UPSA Wildlife Committee Chairman Al Ettenhofer, Secretary Rory Mattson read a list of 93 questions, pausing after each to see what the consensus of the crowd was, pro or con. In some cases, the list was back tracked once other aspects were brought up.
What I didn't understand going into the meeting was that part of the list contained questions about old natural resources policy that had been changed years ago to see if the majority of the public outdoors enthusiast was up to speed on current policy.
As an example, one question asked if it would make sense (for the MDNRE) to estimate deer populations based on indicators (or trends) rather than trying to equate how many deer per square mile exist within the Deer Management Units across the UP?
A solid vote for the affirmative was shown.
The reality of fact is the MDNRE converted their census analysis to population trend years ago. It was difficult to substantiate a head count of deer without counting heads.
Once presented to the general public, those areas with an obvious void of a herd any where near the projected MDNRE numbers were dismissed. Moreover, many hunters would inadvertently convert the deer per square mile into deer per 40 acre parcel, again knocking down the credibility of projected numbers.
Under the replacement formula, different indicators are overlapped to obtain a scientific constant, enabling area biologists to project herd sizes as being up or down, without giving a specific number.
Another question presented to attendees was whether or not they as deer hunters could always tell the difference between a fawn (male) and a yearling (female)?
Surprisingly, a very strong majority of those participating said no.
In a follow-up question, Mattson asked if they are in favor or against hunters tagging an incidental kill of a fawn male, it being antlerless with the hunter thinking it was a doe, with what is commonly referred to as a doe tag?
While the vast majority said no, it also creates a dilemma in that the current rule makes it illegal to take a male fawn and tag it as a buck unless it has at least one antler of three inches or more in length. That is why it is permitted under the antlerless rule.
A huge question was given the current deer population dynamics across the UP. To reduce hunting pressure, would hunters be in favor of a one buck per year tag? This would incorporate both bow and firearm seasons.
Much to the surprise of everyone, the vast majority voted in favor of cutting back on the hunting of bucks to one per year, period. There was some follow-up to this question that was related to potential alterations of seasons, including the youth hunt.
Hunters also supported current regulations regarding the use of blinds on public land, hunter orange requirements and laws and regulations regarding the use of ATVs (on public land) during hunting seasons.
The majority of those in attendance also recognized that the gray wolf is under federal control and not that of the MDNRE. They indicated knowledge of the delisting process and further agreed they would support the creation of what was referred to as a C4 (corporation) organization that would develop a "war chest" fund to combat all anti-hunting and anti-gun (shooting sports) organizations that target Michigan.
That same group overwhelmingly supported the creation of a conservation card, sold to non-license buying public land recreational users at a projected cost of $10, with proceeds going towards the cost for currently non-funded natural resources recreational programs.
There are three more meetings scheduled for the western, central and eastern UP. The UPSA will meet in Marquette Thursday at Lake View Arena in the Citizens Forum Room, in Baraga March 9 at Ottawa Sportmen's Club, and March 11 at Newberry Community Building basement in Newberry. All meetings begin at 7 p.m. (EST).
A compilation of all the information gathered at the five forums will be presented at the next UPSA meeting.
Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.