Is it fall yet?

ESCANABA — Let’s see, the kids are in school, football season is underway, geese are flying, color is appearing on trees, nights are cool for sleeping and it’s only 54 days to the firearm deer hunting season.

Yup, it’s fall!

Although it may not seem so, it is also one week since Michigan’s small game season opened. There has been a significant change with the dates of fall this year and it does have to do with hunting.

The weekend of the annual youth hunt has historically taken place on the same Saturday we celebrate National Hunting and Fishing Day (NHFD).

The youth hunt is a special weekend period allowing youth 16 years and younger an opportunity to hunt whitetailed deer. It is part of recruiting efforts started through the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. The specific hunt has not been without some criticism, especially in the last several years since we’ve seen one of the lowest base populations of deer across the region that is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Some have referred to this hunt as being the equivalent of shooting ducks on a pond or fish in a barrel; an unfair advantage for the hunter. Deer at this point in time are not into the fall mode of full segregation (bucks away from does) as the shortened days of sunlight (photo-period) begin the process of the mating season (rut). An added complaint from those in opposition is that deer taken now are a grave deduction from what hunters would have an opportunity to see during the regular season. Yet again, there have been declarations that the kids don’t even shoot the deer. Instead, the adult with them does it for the purpose of bragging rights.

I used to visit various processors this same weekend and found for the most part that there was true pride and excitement between the kids and adults. I did hear a couple fathers admit they pulled the trigger and addressed them with a question of, “So what did you teach your kid by your action? Is it now okay for them to break other rules? Is it fair to the deer and other sportsmen?”

The reality is that so few deer are actually taken during this hunt that one could assume that just as many will die from being hit by a car, predation or other natural catastrophe which is not significant to the overall balance of the general population. Many hunters don’t agree. One deer carried over is still significant to them.

With regards to the date, one negative to the youth hunt is that it conflicted with National Hunting and Fishing Day and was cause for some to chose between the hunt or celebration that’s been ongoing for 45 years.

On May 2, 1972, President Nixon signed the first proclamation of National Hunting and Fishing Day, writing, “I urge all citizens to join with outdoor sportsmen in the wise use of our natural resources and in insuring their proper management for the benefit of future generations.”

By late summer, all 50 governors and over 600 mayors had joined in by proclaiming state and local versions of National Hunting and Fishing Day. The response was dramatic.

Here in the U.P., sportsmen’s clubs have built upon the interest of the variety of outdoors activities available and combined them into a local celebrations of NHFD. Years ago there were two such events that have since merged into one, centering at the Great Lakes Sports and Recreation Club (GLSRC) off Danforth Road in Escanaba.

Here, kids will have a chance to experience a little of everything outdoors to include hunting, fishing, trapping, the shooting sports covering archery and firearm, and ATV/ORV riding. Members of the MDNR Law enforcement Division are also expected to attend.

Fishing will include catch and keep from the Bays de Noc Great Lakes Sport Fishermen pond, the shooting sports with members of the GLSRC, U.P. Whitetails, the New Page Sportsmen’s Club and the Bay de Noc Gobblers Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, furs from the U.P. Trappers Association and static display of the trainer ATVs used by the Sportsmen’s Off Road Vehicle Association (SORVA) of Delta County. Each station is a check-off for those in attending. Upon completion the youth’s name will be entered for a prize drawing at the end of the event. It is a great hands-on experience for the novice outdoors person but more importantly, it is a true day of outdoors fellowship, bringing adults and youth together as one.

Registration is mandatory and runs from 8 to 9 a.m. Adults must accompany youth. A free lunch will be provided prior to the prize drawing. The event will conclude around 2 p.m. All times are Eastern.

Sponsors include Ducks Unlimited, Bark River Knives, the Community Foundation of Delta County U.P. Sustainable Forestry Program, the Dagenais Foundation, Bosk Corporation and many more.

If you do not plan on attending with a youngster, but do have interest, the committee could always use more help in all areas of display and service. You can call Joe Verbrigghe at (906) 280-5449, Mary and Russ Nelson at (906) 786-4742, Gerry Peterson at (906) 786-4525 or just show up. Those new to the program can also tour the Great Lakes Sports and Recreation facility to appreciate all they have to offer and consider joining as a member.

The event is a great celebration of our outdoors heritage and sees an average attendance of 250. It once a gain promises to be a great day for all.

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Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Trails & Tales Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.