Making Michigan Memories: Part 2

(Editor's Note: RheaReview.com Outdoors Editor Richard Simms (and his retriever, Britney) recently returned from a hunting road trip to the State of Michigan. He shared a preview of his trip previously, as well as Part 1 of his Michigan Memories. We hope you enjoy Part 2, and especially the extensive Photo Gallery included.)

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When hunting the marshes of Saginaw Bay, setting up for the wind direction is key. Sean Kelly is a master, but no matter where you set up, you are likely to be greeted by an incredible sunrise. (Photo: Richard Simms)

I am back in Chattanooga after an 11-day road trip to Michigan, my first time ever to the Wolverine State.

Tom Martin shows of some green taken during a hunt on Saginaw Bay. (Photo: Richard Simms)
Tom Martin shows of some green taken during a hunt on Saginaw Bay. (Photo: Richard Simms)

In summary the duck hunting was poor overall. Michigan has been experiencing the same surprisingly warm weather as Tennessee (without the brush fires). I was, however, incredibly impressed by the opportunities provided for waterfowlers by the Michigan DNR. On seven intensively-managed waterfowl hunting areas, the Michigan DNR conducts daily lottery-style drawings, usually every morning and every afternoon. Michiganders affectionately refer to them as “Bingo” hunts. Hunters choose their assigned areas to hunt based on the order of the draw.

While I was there, perhaps due to slow hunting and subsequent poor turnouts, it was relatively easy to get “a good draw.”

A collection of ducks and geese on the Fish Point Waterfowl Refuge, located right next door to Fish Point Lodge. (Photo: Richard Simms)
A collection of ducks and geese on the Fish Point Waterfowl Refuge, located right next door to Fish Point Lodge. (Photo: Richard Simms)

There were thousands of ducks on every refuge I saw, and the Michigan state game area staffers provide incredible plantings and opportunities for hunters. And all were extremely helpful to a newcomer. Michigan wildlife managers have clearly set the table for the ducks extremely well, but in the end, it’s always up to Mother Nature to ring the dinner bell. The weather was such that the majority of ducks were fat & happy on refuges, with little or no need to move off. It’s frustrating, especially after traveling hundreds of miles. But that’s what refuges are for and Michigan hunters are fortunate to have them.

Barry Baker takes a break during our grouse hunting foray. Michigan provides hundreds of thousands of acres, maybe millions, of state-owned forest land that is wide open for hunting. (Photo: Richard Simms)
Barry Baker takes a break during our grouse hunting foray. Michigan provides hundreds of thousands of acres, maybe millions, of state-owned forest land that is wide open for hunting. (Photo: Richard Simms)

There is also great opportunity off of the state game areas for those who are geared up, and dedicated enough to take advantage of it. On my one grouse hunting excursion, I was absolutely astounded to learn of the immense amount of state land wide open to all hunters, no holds barred. Tennessee hunters would sell their souls to have such amazing, unfettered access to public lands.

For those who like to keep score, in eight duck hunting trips, we averaged three ducks per trip – me hunting solo sometimes, or sometimes with others. And that brings up the best part of this northern adventure — the people I met. I was fortunate to come across the MichiganSportsman.com Internet Forum. I now consider it Match.com for hunters.

Sean Kelly is all smiles as we head back across Saginaw Bay after an excellent morning hunt. (Photo: Richard Simms)
Sean Kelly is all smiles as we head back across Saginaw Bay after an excellent morning hunt. (Photo: Richard Simms)

Shooting ducks is actually a small part of the reason for making these road trips. The primary goal is to see and experience new places never seen before, and meet new people. In that respect, my visit to Michigan was an incredible success!

Multiple people on the forum reached out with other offers to hunt, or great information. I only had the chance to hunt with four, although many more offered but it didn’t happen due to timing and itinerary. However, without the forum, and the people on it, my trip to Michigan would have had a far lesser positive outcome.

(Story continued beneath Photo Gallery)

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Will I return?

I don’t know. I figured out that, while the state game area opportunities have great potential to be excellent… with the right weather and the right draw… the best overall hunting opportunities (and without the crazy competition) are in the open hunting areas. Hunting them successfully, however, requires that you be well-equipped — usually with a boat outfitted to access the extensive Michigan marshes — and the local knowledge of knowing which parts of the marsh to hunt. I am not thusly equipped on road trips. While I enjoyed experiencing the state-sponsored “bingo” hunts, I’m not sure I would return solely for that opportunity.

However, I have a favorite saying — “Never say ‘never!” — So who knows, my waders (or boots) may trod in Michigan waters (or woods) again someday.

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Richard Simms is a professional journalist and fishing guide in Chattanooga. (See www.ScenicCityFishing.com) He is also a former wildlife officer for TWRA, a book author and a self-proclaimed "River Rat" with a sincere desire for spreading the message about our bountiful natural resources and the people charged with using, or protecting them.

1 COMMENT

  1. Really nice article! I used to hunt…and ducks were my favorite brand of hunting. Didn’t need to travel to Michigan though as we had plenty of ducks in that “swamp” like waterhole on the farm. Truth is, we could have made some real money on those ducks but we chose to make nothing on corn and soy beans ! 🙂 The last shot I fired among ducks was a rather warm day in December and I decided to walk to the Sequatchie river…just short of a mile from the house. I heard the noise of Mallards as I approached the river bank and I readied the shotgun and crept to where I could see. Truthfully, I’ve never seen that many ducks, up close and personal, in my 67 years on this planet. Additionally, I could only see a fraction of them. The river was simply covered with ducks for I don’t know how far both ways….a bazillion Mallards. I watched them for a few minutes to soak up the beauty and then fired a single shot in the air. The ducks remained quiet and motionless for a good 2 seconds before they headed for the sky….and head for the sky they did! It was a great noise, and somewhat of a struggle, but they made it out of there. I ran to where I could see and that’s when I realized that I had seen something that most east Tennesseans have not seen…a bazillion ducks all in one wad!! I can say I’ve seen more ducks at once one other time but my wife and I were traveling through Arkansas and passed through Stuttgart just before dark. Whew! That’s a lot of ducks…..

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