2017-09-21 / Columns

Outdoors This Week in the Eastern U.P.

By Stephen King

We are right in the middle of some of the best times of the year to be an outdoor enthusiast in the Eastern U.P. Small game season has just started. Goose season is going strong. Bear season has started. Plus, fishing is just off the charts. People are still reporting good catches of pan fish and other warm water fish, and the salmon are in. And, if that is not enough, with all of the recent rain, the ATV riding is awesome, with lots of mud out there to play in.

On state land, trails are open unless posted closed, and on federal land, trails are closed unless posted open, according to a concise explanation provided by Mackinac County Sheriff Scott Strait at last week’s county commission meeting.

But there are also other considerations. One is that on state land, there are state trails, and some of those are for certain sized vehicles. There are trails that are 24 inches wide for motorbikes, and there are some that are a bit larger for ATVs. There are even wider ones for things like Jeeps and four-wheel-drive trucks. Snowmobile trails are about 10 feet wide.

On private land, owners can do pretty much as they please. They can allow trails or not. Also, they can allow one type of vehicle but not others.

This is primarily in regard to snowmobiles. A lot of people have the idea that because they can ride snowmobiles down a certain trail in the winter, they can ride ORVs down them now. Not always true. You see, each year, snowmobile clubs, like the ones around our area that do the grooming, which are called “sponsor clubs,” negotiate easements with property owners to allow trails to cross their property. This is only for snowmobiles. For example, if a property owner allows snowmobiles and does not like dogs, the dogsled people cannot cross. Same thing with ORVs.

Snowmobile trails are usually specified to be open from December 1 to March 31, which is snowmobile season. Yes, there really is such a thing. And, no you cannot shoot them.

Before riding any trails, check into this with a good source. Some maps, including some available locally, show only some of the trails, which can be confusing. This, too, adds to the problem. One was presented last week, and I will not say the map was wrong, just not completely right. The map writer might have just been talking about either state or federal land. As mentioned, there are different rules.

Sheriff Strait also pointed out that on state land, which also includes most county roads, they ask you to ride as far to the right as possible and stay off the main surface, if possible. On federal land, they do not want you crunching the plants and flowers and ask you to stay on the roads.

If all of this sounds about as clear as the muddy water on the trails, it is. There are a couple of things you can do. First, chat with our legislators when they pop round for pop and coffee. This is a problem that they really can address. Also, check with people before you ride. Don’t expect to get a crystal clear answer. But the people either with the state or federal programs also know this is a problem and will honestly do their best to help you. Finally, try and figure out where you are.

On this, I have talked to Sheriff Strait a few times and his deputies know this is a problem. And they also know how confusing it is. They will give you some leeway, but on the other hand, they may also give you a ticket. You see, as an operator, you really do have a responsibility to know where you are riding.

One good result I see about this is that as the sport of ORV riding grows, it will get better. With more and more people out on the Trails, and getting involved, the situation will be more clear.

Now, for the war on bears. It is going well. That is, if you are not a bear. McNeils Bar in Gould City is a state sanctioned bear check-in station. Under the law, if you should successfully harvest a bear, you have 72 hours to register it. This means bringing it in to a legitimate place. Not just the corner café. George Trembley, over at McNeils, told me that in the last week, he has checked in about 20 bears. There were only a couple of small ones, and a couple of really big ones, with at least one 400 pounder. There was even one that tipped the scales at least at 600 pounds. Critter was so big they could not get the head completely off the floor. They are sure it was at least 600, and probably a few pounds more that that.

I will not reveal which tree the bear was standing under when he met his demise. But George did say that most of the bears he has checked in have come from just west of Gould City, between there, Gulliver, and Germfask.

Oh, I figured this would happen: I’m out of space. One more thought: Yes, there are still berries out there. And, yes, they are still tasty. That first frost usually sweetens up the blackberries.

Until next week, get off that couch and Outdoors This Week in the EUP.

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