ESCANABA - My first week of firearm deer hunting season is pretty hectic.
My morning hunt ends promptly at 10 a.m., due to the need to get back to camp for breakfast, get changed and go to set up for the remote broadcast of the Deer Hunter's Report.
The task of set up includes a PA system to play for clientele at the Rusty Rail in Cornell that hosts the show, and the portable broadcast system, now digital compared to the simple analog system we used to use.
After the hour long program that runs from 12-1:30 p.m., I take down the equipment, put it away, announce door prizes for the day, hear a few more stories and then head back to camp (over eight miles away) to do a quick change and head out for the afternoon hunt. I take my 4-wheeler from camp and travel approximately 2.5 miles after which I walk a short distance to a blind on private land.
My first week of life at camp is pretty regimented, a bit far removed from what most consider vacation, but it's worth it.
On Tuesday the 16th, I had the opportunity to sit at a table (our broadcast spot on the dance floor of the Rusty) and participate in discussion with four conservationists who I hold in high regard.
This day I was able to participate in an hour long "round table" with my co-host of the Deer Hunter's Report, Ron Lundberg, District II MDNRE Law Supervisor Darryl Shann, MDNRE Wildlife Chief Russ Mason and retired Wildlife Biologist/Statistician Carl Bennett.
Lundberg is one of the principals who helped organize the Northwoods Chapter of Safari Club International(SCI), the sole chapter of SCI in the UP. He is also a member of the Flint Chapter of SCI and continues to serve the organization on the SCI Michigan Involvement Committee. This committee is responsible for many exclusive conservation projects that take place in the state including the annual UP moose research, UP Predator Prey Habitat Study now underway through Mississippi State University and the MDNRE and the UP Wish-A-Hunt program for ill or disabled youth, just to name a few.
He also co-hosted an SCI radio program for a couple years with former Natural Resources Commissioner Bob Garner.
Shann is a career MDNRE Law Enforcement Officer and current sSupervisor, covering areas within several counties in the central UP. He has been a great help in the continuing programs designated to teach new recreationists the fundamentals of safety and ethics involving hunting, trapping, fishing, ATV/ORV riding, snowmobiling, and watercraft use.
Mason has been at the helm of the division for over a year now and continues to show leadership and innovation in making the system transparent, efficient and innovative given the financial constraints in front of anyone involved with a government fee based operation.
Bennett, a born Yooper who spent 32 years as a wildlife biologist and research statistician in Lansing, carries with him an exclusive amount of intellectual property second to none in his field. He comes from the days when Michigan first initiated the shooting of does during deer hunting season.
This change was so controversial, he had to gauge the amount of daily hate letters by the inches versus individual count. Bennett once told me it was such a big issue that he was, "nearly kicked out of his own camp." He is a man who has pretty much seen it all.
Together we discussed the problems of today and how each felt they should be addressed.
While Ron and I lead discussion, we added excerpts from our involvement as examples of the good being done through volunteer conservationists and the clubs they represent, as well as positions on issues - even those of which we may disagree.
Shann brought us up to speed on the latest regarding hunting regulations and clarified some issues, especially those surrounding the combination license and youth hunting programs.
The detail now provided within the pages of the 2010 Michigan Hunting and Trapping Guidebook are what he calls, "a composite of what the hunters (license buying public) have requested." It is in comparison the same as the detail found in the trout regulations, defining areas of special interest for use and protection from exploitation.
What was most unique about that day was the general consensus of all the problems facing the MDNRE in both fiscal and infrastructure dilemmas is not only tough to resolve to everyone's liking, it is a problem somewhat cyclical given previous history within the state, nation and globe regarding recessions and an uncontrollable environment.
By environment, I don't want to imply things like wildlife habitat, predation or similar concerns that are manageable, I do mean those aligned more in dealing with mother nature.
2011 will meet us head-on, as we see an approximate one third of MDNRE field staff take advantage of retirement. Only one for every two-plus positions are scheduled for replacement. Revenue enhancement will surely come to the table.
Top level administrative changes will also take place as governor-elect Snyder takes over and deals with immediate needs, such as the replacement of current MDNRE Director Becky Humphries who will leave her post after the first of the year, and accepting an eight-state directorship job with Ducks Unlimited.
It is a time when those who utilize innovation for change will rely heavily on citizen partnership, and a newly regionalized MDNRE structure matrix that will be the source of resolve for the future.
What was most enlightening to me was that Bennett cited today's similarity to what occurred back in 1973 when we were also treading the results of a global recession, that time over energy.
Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.