DNR News: small game hunting, Nature at School and forest shooting tips

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News Digest - Week of Sept. 14, 2020

hartwick log cabin

Use cozy fall scenes like this for your next virtual meeting background.

Some of the items in this week's news digest reflect the impact of COVID-19 and how the Michigan Department of Natural Resources is adapting to meet customers' needs. Public health and safety are our biggest priorities, and we will continue to share news and information about the safest, and sometimes new, ways to enjoy our state's natural and cultural resources.

Follow our COVID-19 response page for FAQs and updates on facilities and reopening dates. For the latest public health guidelines and news, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

Here's a look at some of this week's stories from the Department of Natural Resources:

See other news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at Michigan.gov/DNRPressRoom.

PHOTO FOLDER: Larger, higher-res versions of the images used below, and additional ones, are available in this folder.

Get a jump on hunting with small game seasons

fox squirrel

Cooler weather, crisp color and abundant small game hunting opportunities – and all you need to get started is a DNR base hunting license!

Enjoy time in the woods while searching for gray and fox squirrels and maybe scouting out spots for deer hunting later this fall. Squirrel (fox and gray), rabbit, hare and ruffed grouse hunting all open today, Sept. 15.

Woodcock hunters can join the hunt when the season opens Sept. 19. In addition to a small game license, make sure you have your free woodcock stamp, which includes a federal migratory bird hunter HIP endorsement

Get more information at Michigan.gov/Hunting under Small Game. Check the 2020 Hunting Digest, available at Michigan.gov/DNRDigests, for season dates, bag limits and other regulations.

Fall turkey hunting also starts today. Even if you didn't enter the drawing for a limited-quota license, you still could snag a turkey tag from leftover licenses. Hunters can purchase one leftover license per day until all license quotas are met. Check leftover turkey license availability and get other season information at Michigan.gov/Turkey.

If you're looking for a place to hunt, check out Michigan.gov/MIHunt, an interactive map that shows public lands open to hunting. Michigan's grouse enhanced management sites are great places for grouse and other small game hunting. Learn about these premier bird hunting locations at Michigan.gov/GEMS

Still need to get your 2020 base license? Buy it online at Michigan.gov/DNRLicenses or anywhere DNR licenses are sold.

Tips for target shooting on state forest lands

state forest

Whether you’re sighting in your rifle in hopes of bagging a deer or just target shooting for fun, state forest lands provide a gorgeous backdrop. Before you go, just remember a few things to ensure you're shooting safely and legally on these lands. 

“Target shooting is allowed year-round on most state forest land,” said Matt Fry, the Land Use Program lead in the DNR's Forest Resources Division. “It’s your responsibility to check for posted signage that may prohibit shooting in specific areas.” 

If you use a target, make sure it's made of paper, cardboard or clay, or designed and manufactured for the specific purpose of target shooting. Incendiary or explosive targets are never allowed. Be kind to trees, too; don't use a tree as a target or to hold a target.

“Before heading out, familiarize yourself with your firearm, the ammunition you’re using and the distance rounds can travel,” said DNR shooting range specialist Lori Burford. "And always be aware of what's around you, too, including roads, trails and homes."

Burford offered additional guidance:

  • Pick a site with a backstop, like a hill, and be respectful of neighbors and other forest users.
  • Don’t shoot early in the morning or late in the evening.
  • Pick up all trash when you leave; that includes targets and spent shell casings.  
  • Never shoot a firearm while under the influence of a controlled substance or alcohol. 

In addition to target shooting opportunities on state forest land, the DNR operates seven staffed shooting ranges and several unstaffed ranges.

Questions? Ask Matt Fry about state forest lands and Lori Burford about shooting ranges. 

Bringing the DNR to classrooms around Michigan

nature @ school

COVID-19 has created many new work, home and life scenarios, and that's especially true with K-12 education. With many schools moving online, the DNR has launched Nature at School, an opportunity for educators to schedule free, virtual education sessions presented by DNR professionals. Teachers can book 11 different programs, each 30 minutes long, with additional time for questions. 

“Nature at School has been a mammoth undertaking,” said DNR Education Services manager Kevin Frailey. “In a typical year, more than 50,000 school kids would visit our 10 statewide visitor centers, but COVID-19 has influenced that tremendously. Instead of waiting for the big yellow buses to return, we decided to take nature to them instead.”

Michigan educators who teach third through 12th grade can find more information about each program, review the learning outcomes and register for open time slots at Michigan.gov/NatureAtSchool.

Each program comes with optional pre- and post-lesson activities and lets students participate in a fun “Kahoot” – a learning game that tests students’ knowledge of the topic – to monitor the program’s effectiveness.

“We have a fantastic team of park and hatchery interpreters who will bring their expertise to your students, whether they are participating from school or at home," Frailey said. "One of the unique factors of this program is that Michigan’s most amazing places, like the Porcupine Mountains wilderness, Tahquamenon Falls, Hartwick Pines and many others, will be coming into your classroom."

Students in Detroit, for example, can learn about biodiversity in the western Upper Peninsula – nearly 600 miles away – and compare it to nature in their own communities. 

Pre-lesson materials also connect teachers to the Next Generation Science Standards, and all the programs have some STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) components.

Nature at School is a companion effort to Nature at Home, a comprehensive listing of videos, activities and learning resources launched last spring when COVID-19 sent students home and parents scurrying for ways to educate and entertain their children. Both programs focus on connecting people to nature and Michigan’s natural and cultural resources. 

Questions? Contact Kevin Frailey at 517-284-6043.

Now available: virtual backgrounds let you step into fall

fall background

Aspen trees in the orange and gold Pigeon River Country State Forest. A majestic white-tailed buck. A log lodge nestled at Hartwick Pines – next time you're on a video call, consider these scenes to frame your conversation.

With video meetings becoming the new norm, the DNR recently launched a collection of virtual videoconferencing backgrounds. With these new additions, you can enjoy the beauty of fall while remaining cozy indoors – and give your friends, family and colleagues some autumn travel inspiration, too.

The gallery has a bit of everything – starry skies, rushing waterfalls, scenic landscapes and historic sites are yours to “visit.” Browse the gallery, available at Michigan.gov/DNRPressRoom in the Photos and Videos section.

In addition to their visual appeal, virtual backgrounds serve a practical purpose. When you're meeting online with people outside your immediate contacts, security experts recommended using virtual backgrounds to obscure details of your home and surroundings. Steps to enable and upload backgrounds in a Zoom account are available on the Zoom virtual background support page. The high-resolution images should be compatible with other virtual meeting platforms, too, and can be used as computer backgrounds.

ICYMI: join the Michigan Trails Week Challenge

trails logo

In case you missed it, the DNR and the Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance are inviting Michiganders to pay tribute to trails during Michigan Trails Week (Sept. 20-27) and collectively walk, run, ride, hike, bike or paddle 100,000 miles. More than 4,600 people already have registered; don't miss out on the fun!

Report your mileage and earn badges at certain milestones. Read the full story, or visit Michigan.gov/TrailsWeek for more information on Michigan Trails Week and to sign up for the challenge. 


Whether you're looking to hook a Chinook salmon or bag a brown trout, check out our weekly fishing report, compiled by creel clerks and DNR staff, for fishing conditions around the state.


Fall camping season is upon us! Reserve your site and make sure you have a Recreation Passport; it gives you vehicle entry into any state park, state forest campgrounds and more.


When you're out at your favorite hunting or fishing spots, report any invasive species you see. Early detection is key to stopping the spread of these harmful species; learn more at Michigan.gov/InvasiveSpecies

DNR COVID-19 RESPONSE: For details on affected DNR facilities and services, visit this webpage. Follow state actions and guidelines at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.

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