ESCANABA - The quarterly UP Sportsmen's Alliance (UPSA) meeting was held Saturday at the Sagola Sportmen's Club in Channing. It was a solid four hours of business, some of which will come back for review and resolution in July.
There were various committee reports given.
Al Ettenhofer, chairman of the Wildlife Committee, reported cooperative efforts toward wolf delisting between Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota are increasing.
Rationale contained in the USFWS Notice of Application published April 20 indicates "Both the states of Michigan and Wisconsin have recently made application to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) that, if granted, would permit the continuation of research and management of the Great Lakes gray wolf. They proposed the taking of wolves involving both lethal and non-lethal control for individual wolves in depredating livestock, livestock guard animals, and pets.
"Both States request lethal take authority to abate damage to livestock and pets that result from wolves, demonstrate the efficacy of control techniques through research since the applicants' ability to control them was negated by the recent re-listing of wolves in the great Lakes States."
Under the terms of both permits, wolves captured at depredation sites would be euthanized or released unharmed rather than trans-located elsewhere, because: (a) virtually all suitable wolf habitat in Michigan and Wisconsin is currently occupied by packs; (b) residents do not want problem wolves moved from one area to another; and (c) research has shown some relocated wolves, after being taken out of their element often die, either slowly by starvation, brutally by being killed by another pack, or by being struck on a highway, while others resume depredation at the relocation site.
The UPSA supported joining the efforts of the states and initiated creation of a special fund, seeking contributions from the public, to cover legal costs.
The last time UPSA took on a project of this magnitude was 1996 when $1 million was raised to fight the Humane Society of the United States in their efforts to eliminate bear hunting in Michigan.
HSUS has been the primary combatants against good conservation practices in seeking the re-listing of wolves in the Great Lakes region. Six times they have tied up the re-listing process in courts, negating management and now resulting in over-populations of wolves in some regions.
Along with other business, one specific issue regarding deer management and hunting regulations will return to UPSA at their July meeting.
The UPSA recently completed a series of five UP-wide public forums, seeking input from non-affiliated citizens to establish realistic objectives the organization can pursue on behalf of the broad Upper Peninsula.
Using that consensus, there are two issues regarding deer harvest that are hoped to have a positive impact on dwindling deer populations.
Previous hard winters have taken a toll on deer populations across the UP.
Some area winter deer feeding programs have sustained small pocket herds, and base quotas throughout most U.P. Deer Management Units remain below the goals set by area habitat biologists.
Under current regulations, hunters can take more than one buck on a restricted combination license in both archery and firearm seasons.
What will be up for proposal now is a one buck per hunter per year tag, specific to the UP at a fee of $30.
The plan would also restrict the span of seasons, with all hunting ending by Dec. 10 each year. To do so would require the opening of muzzleloader season to run concurrent with firearm season, halting all harvest before the onset of winter migration and yarding.
It was also suggested to move the starting date hunters can begin baiting of deer forward to one week before archery season. The amount of bait permitted could also increase, from the current two gallons on the ground per hunting location restriction, to a five gallon limit as it was once before.
The annual two day September Youth Hunt also came under scrutiny, given low deer numbers.
Current regulations set aside a weekend in late September for youth hunters, less than 17 years of age, to legally take a buck or doe under the appropriate license. It was originally implemented as a tool to enhance recruitment and retention of hunters.
Given the current reduced deer population evident across the Upper Peninsula, questions are now being raised as to what, if any, impacts are realized not only for deer, but the education of our youth regarding the ethics and tradition of hunting and resource management.
While representatives of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment contend that only a very small segment of hunters utilize the special season, the majority of forum participants stressed it does not do much in teaching fair chase methods, given the deer are less wary that time of year, and the added hunt puts too much pressure on the limited number of bucks available for breeding later on in the fall season.
Recent changes in the law reducing age limits to begin hunting may play a role in influencing the issue.
Tim Kobasic is outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet Saturday.