As a state and nation, the winds of change are mounting across our land. Our citizens want fiercely honest leaders who recognize that Michigan’s outdoor hope for her future lies in it is a return to its conservationist roots. Sportsmen see through dishonest outdoor decisions continually being made that camouflage political hack’s content with complacency substituted for courage and tokenism i.e.: “no more chocolate for baiting bear” instead of fundamental principled change that shields unworthy individuals and laws.
Editor’s Note: This is the fifth article by John Gunnell that has appeared in Michigan Turkey Tracks. John is a retired school educator who has served as Superintendent of Schools for the Mattawan, Detour-Drummond Island, Crystal Falls, Hale and Banger school districts. Many other who have been outdoorsmen and hunters over the past eight decades have witnessed declining game populations, declining hunters within our ranks and questionable management practices in the name of “Hunter Opportunity”, “Recruitment And Retention” and Impact On The Economy”, among others.
Disappearing hunter and deer numbers in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has been attempted to be propped up through expanded deer seasons, frighteningly lower hunting age for youth, man food sources for deer, years and tons of “mesmerizing deer” through baiting, compromised deer instincts reducing their wild ways to survive on their own, etc. and other despicably practiced tragedies have all but destroyed the once prolific Upper Peninsula deer herd.
Lately, the conversation has shifted to disappearing winter yarding areas lacking cover and browse for deer with our so called leaders and the favored timber industry lobbyist going silent on the subject. Upper Peninsula resident Jim Hammill, unashamedly possessing a conservationist mentality and now retired, tells the truth about a long-term (15 year) corrective period to restore yarding areas lacking cedar, poplar, hemlock, etc. to sustain deer in winter. Jim’s focus understandably is not to get entangled in the political “dodge ball” behind the demise of our U.P. habitat but mine is and I will continue to point the finger toward the sources. Tragically, few of those familiar with the Upper Peninsula’s failures are willing to speak up for fear of the potential for reprisal.
With no quick fix apparent it should not be considered a stretch to raise a plausible question identifying other changes for the 15 years required to re-establish yarding areas for deer. There should be little doubt that if “Pure Michigan” has any traction left after Flint that its greatest potential reincarnation lies in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Beginning efforts understandably would include defining the U.P. as the place where conservation rules. Where a return to her wild roots would be celebrated by prohibiting her further exploitation and hasten her return to nature’s way.
Beginning efforts must include accepting the reality that the Upper Peninsula alone is uniquely prideful for re-igniting its still remaining “Upper charm” for bringing her back. She could yet become the center piece for the State of Michigan to return to credible conservation principles once practiced in the U.P. and throughout Michigan. Necessary would be ceasing the practice of political acquiescence to special interests and the reintroduction of the once proud stance of “just saying no” where conservationists rule in Lansing. Any man-made laws that currently result in disrupting or destruction of nature would go the way of the dinosaur if “Pure Michigan” becomes anything more than a catchy “play on words”. A return of the present day DNR to a “conservation focus” with an emphasis on strict rules, honest in-your-face leadership, and the harvest of resources commensurate only with the real excesses of nature will ultimately achieve a reputation for Michigan that perpetuates the courage currently being demonstrated by the governor to correct the Flint boondoggle.
If we could bring back a few of our leaders from years gone by they would never believe what greed, power, and money have befallen their state. If the door opens for a new DNR director in 2016, heaven forbid that we inherit still another in-house political dealmaker who would prolong the return to conservation and credibility that real outdoorsmen expect.
I will conclude my writing at this juncture by bringing to the reader’s attention the March 25, 2016, edition of Michigan Outdoor News. Included was an article by Russ Mason pertaining to “conspiracy theories” perpetrated by hunters from within our state. While amusing, Mr. Mason might have also demonstrated his “security to be insecure” by casting equally poignant barbs back at the DNR he so ably serves. I have subscribed to Michigan Outdoor News these past four years without ever recalling in that time and article that hints that the DNR has ever been about the business of revealing an ongoing examination of its own ethics for making its decisions.