Fathers and sons – or mothers and daughters – sitting in the woods, enjoying the sights and sounds of nature … Multiple generations reuniting at a northern Michigan hunting camp … A teenager and his beloved hunting dog walking through a field on a crisp fall day …
These common scenes are part of the fabric of life in Michigan, where hunting is a time-honored tradition shared by people of all ages and passed down from generation to generation.
Michigan’s millions of acres of public land are further evidence of our hunting heritage. Conservation of these vast resources, which are enjoyed by all Michiganders, is funded mainly by hunters through license fees and taxes on sporting equipment.
How does conservation benefit hunters?
The scientific management of Michigan’s forests, waters and wildlife helps ensure that current and future generations of hunters can continue to pursue their passion and have access to our great outdoors.
With more than half of Michigan’s land covered by forests, monitoring and tending to the acreage’s long-term health are year-round responsibilities. A component of this effort is focused on providing habitat in which wildlife can thrive. For example, planted trees and shrubs, and brush piles leftover from timber harvests, are ideal living spaces for rabbit, grouse and other small game.
Keeping wildlife healthy
State regulations, including those regarding hunting – such as bag limits – are designed to ensure the long-term health and survival of species. Sometimes, state regulators must put greater restrictions in place to look after the health of an entire animal population. For instance, in parts of the Lower Peninsula, testing is mandatory for deer harvested within the Chronic Wasting Disease Management Zone, part of the effort to keep the always-fatal condition from spreading into other regions of the state.
Restoring wildlife populations
Sometimes, Mother Nature needs an assist. Michigan’s reintroduction of wild turkeys, which were extirpated in the late 1800s, is a conservation success story. In the 1950s, Michigan began importing birds from other states. The native population gradually built until the wild turkey was considered fully restored in Michigan by 2000, providing another sporting opportunity for our state’s hunters.
Of course, healthy populations of game animals are also an economical source of healthy food for many Michiganders.
How do hunters benefit conservation?
Hunting and wildlife conservation go hand in hand in Michigan.
Hunting helps maintain wildlife populations at levels that are compatible with available habitat and food. Without well-regulated hunting, for example, some wildlife species might become too numerous and exceed the capacity of their habitat to sustain them.
Hunters pay for the bulk of wildlife management and conservation – roughly 80 percent, according to Michigan Department of Natural Resources figures – in the state through their purchases of licenses and hunting-related equipment. The money is used to manage wildlife and their habitat for the benefit of us all, whether you’re a bird-watcher, hiker or camper.
In addition to funding wildlife management through their license purchase, many hunters also personally work to improve habitats. For example, hunters have banded together in local sportsmen’s clubs and national organizations to raise funds for conservation, buy and conserve private lands for wildlife habitat, partner with state and federal agencies on large-scale conservation, and lobby for laws and policies that benefit wildlife. Groups such as Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and more support and conduct conservation and restoration efforts across a wide range of habitats.
Beyond directly funding conservation projects, hunters also are important to Michigan’s overall economy. Annually, hunting has a more than $2 billion impact in Michigan, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The figure includes equipment costs and expenses such as food, lodging and transportation.