DNR News: Happy Little 5K, deer season opener, firearm safety and more

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News Digest - Week of Nov. 9, 2020

fire header

How you select and store wood can help maximize your fire's potential. 

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 the most out of your firewood


The crackle and pop of burning logs in a fireplace are comforting winter sounds, but hauling and splitting firewood are no easy tasks. Maximizing this fuel is important. Careful firewood selection and storage can increase efficiency and yield cleaner, longer burning fires.

Seasonal permits to collect downed fuelwood from state forest lands are available from April through December and are valid for 90 days from the date received. Fees were eliminated in the 2020 season due to COVID-19. Learn about harvest locations and collection rules at Michigan.gov/Fuelwood. It’s also a good idea to buy and collect wood close to where you live to help stop the spread of invasive insects and diseases.

“Whether you purchase fuelwood or harvest your own, it is best practice to dry – or season – the wood before use,” said Doug Heym, DNR fuelwood program manager. “Hardwoods may take a year to dry, while softwoods can be ready to burn after about six months.” 

How do you know when firewood is ready to burn? Use your senses! Seasoned wood:

  • Sounds hollow when you tap two pieces together.
  • Feels lighter than fresh wood.
  • Has ends that look cracked or split.
  • Does not have a strong odor. Wet wood can smell strongly of sap.

Moisture meters are useful tools for measuring complete seasoning. Firewood should clock in at below 20% moisture for best results. 

To help ensure complete combustion, split wedges of firewood should be no larger than 6 inches across. Incomplete combustion from thick or wet wood can make smoky fires that create creosote, a tarry buildup that, left unchecked, can cause chimney fires.

Airflow is key to keeping fuelwood dry. To stop seasoned firewood from sucking up moisture, don’t let it rest directly on the ground. Place it on a raised surface like recycled pallets or a concrete pad. Cover wood with a tarp or roof to ward off rain and snow, but leave the sides open for air circulation. It’s also important to store wood away from your living space in a woodshed or against a detached garage. 

“If a store of dry fuel is stacked on a porch or next to a home and is ignited by a grass fire, it can quickly overwhelm the structure with flames,” said Paul Rogers, DNR fire prevention specialist.

Get more information about safe, efficient wood burning on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Burn Wise webpage

Five-day quiet period for hunters begins Tuesday

quiet period

‘Twas days before firearm deer season, and all through the state, hunters are readying stands, blinds and camps, hoping crafty deer will cooperate.

We get it. Hunters are ready to hit the woods! However, it’s important to honor the five-day “quiet period” (Nov. 10-14), giving the woods a chance to calm down before the Sunday opener. During these days, it is unlawful to transport or possess a rifle or shotgun with buckshot, slug load, ball load or cut shell in an area frequented by deer. Unloaded firearms securely encased or carried in the trunk of a vehicle, however, may be transported to or from a hunting camp. Refer to page 21 of the Hunting Digest for more information.

If you're hunting for small game or waterfowl, or fur harvesting, you can still carry the appropriate firearm for your season. Small game and waterfowl hunters may carry a shotgun with shotshells for hunting small game, but cannot possess buckshot, slugs, ball loads or cut shells during this time. Fur harvesters may carry a rimfire firearm .22-caliber or smaller while actively hunting or checking trap lines during the open fur bearing animals season.

No matter what you're hunting, make sure you have the proper license

For current rules and regulations, visit Michigan.gov/Hunting.

Questions? Contact the DNR Law Enforcement Division, 517-284-6000.

Firearm deer season opens statewide Sunday


More than 540,000 hunters participated in Michigan’s 2019 deer hunting season overall, and as many or more hunters are expected to head out for this year’s Nov. 15 firearm opener.

Before the hunt, everyone should review current deer hunting regulations, found in the 2020 Hunting Digest. Changes to antler point restrictions made this year can be found on pages 42-43 and 48-49.

New this year, hunters in the mainland Lower Peninsula have the option to take an antlered or antlerless deer on their deer or deer combo licenses during archery, firearm and muzzleloader seasons.

Deer check station procedures and hours of operation will be different this year for the safety of hunters and staff. At check stations, hunters are required to wear masks and follow social distancing guidelines. At many locations, hunters will be required to stay in their vehicles. 

There are also changes to chronic wasting disease testing this year. Deer heads from southern Jackson, southern Isabella and western Gratiot counties, and the core CWD surveillance area in the Upper Peninsula, will be accepted for CWD testing through Jan. 4. Deer heads from Clinton, Dickinson, Eaton, Gratiot, Ingham, Ionia, Jackson, Kent and Montcalm counties will be accepted for testing Nov. 15-18 only.  

Anyone interested in submitting a deer for CWD testing outside the above listed areas/time frames can submit samples to a U.S. Department of Agriculture-approved lab for testing. Hunters will be charged a fee to have deer heads tested. Visit the “For Hunters” section at Michigan.gov/CWD for information about outside labs offering testing.

Overall, DNR officials say conditions are looking excellent for the 2020 deer seasons, and hunters can expect conditions that meet or exceed 2019. See the 2020 deer hunting preview for regional forecasts, an overview of regulation changes, tips on preparing for the season and other useful information at Michigan.gov/Deer.

The DNR wishes all hunters a safe, successful and enjoyable deer season!

Questions? Contact the DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.

Safety is key to every successful hunt


With Michigan’s firearm deer season starting this weekend, the DNR reminds new and veteran hunters to always put safety first.

Lt. Tom Wanless, who heads the DNR’s recreational safety programs, said although some safety tips seem like common sense, it’s critical for anyone hunting with firearms to understand safety basics.

“You’re not successful unless you’re safe,” Lt. Wanless said. “We want everyone to return home to their families and friends. While many safety recommendations may seem obvious, hunters shouldn’t take them for granted.”

All hunters should:

  • Treat every firearm as if it is loaded.
  • Be aware of their surroundings – know the target and what is beyond it.
  • Unload firearms when crossing obstacles and/or getting in or out of a tree stand.
  • Obey “no trespassing” signs; they are there for a reason.
  • Obtain landowner permission to retrieve game if it wandered onto private property.
  • Wear as much hunter orange as possible to increase visibility to other hunters.

Get more hunting safety tips and resources at Michigan.gov/HuntingSafety. For season and regulation details, see the 2020 Hunting Digest.

Questions? Contact Lt. Tom Wanless at 517-284-6026.

Get ready to run! The Happy Little 5K is back in 2021

Bob Ross

The second annual Run for the Trees / Happy Little 5K is set for spring! No matter how participants reach the finish line of this virtual race – walk, run or hike – they pick the pace and the place, anywhere outdoors. It just needs to be completed over nine days (April 22-30).

Fittingly, Earth Day and Arbor Day will bookend this state parks-supporting race that builds on Bob Ross’ passion for natural landscapes and "happy little trees."

Last year, the DNR and Bob Ross Inc. created an innovative partnership and renamed the DNR’s state park tree-planting program as Happy Little Trees. The program, which originated with help from the Michigan Department of Corrections and funding from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, helps restore the tree canopy and protect trees and ecosystems threatened by invasive forest pests. With the aid of volunteers, hundreds of trees have been planted in state parks. The Happy Little 5K is an extension of this longstanding stewardship program in state parks.

“The 2020 Happy Little 5K was huge for Michigan! We raised significant funds to support the planting, protection and preservation of locally sourced trees and brought together 20,000 registered virtual racers,” said Michelle Coss, volunteer and donor coordinator for the DNR Parks and Recreation Division, who coordinated the race. “Nearly 75% of racers hailed from Michigan, but all 50 states were represented. Neighboring states Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin brought the next highest participation.”

Coss said all proceeds for this year’s event will support tree-planting and preservation efforts in state parks, including locations that have been hard-hit by tree pests and diseases like emerald ash borer and oak wilt.

The cost is $34 per person, and all participants receive a newly designed commemorative bib number, a keepsake race Happy Little T-shirt and a finisher's medal featuring a real Bob Ross painting.

Registration opens at 9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 1. Interested racers are encouraged to sign up for preregistration notifications – friendly reminders about a week before registration opens. Strong early signups will help the DNR predict race participation caps.

Questions? Contact Michelle Coss at 517-881-5884 or visit Michigan.gov/DNRHappyLittleTrees.

ICYMI: New invasive plant found in Calhoun County

mile a minute weed

Although it doesn’t spread as fast as its name suggests, mile-a-minute weed has made its way to Michigan. In case you missed it, this fast-growing, invasive vine recently was verified at the Whitehouse Nature Center at Albion College in Calhoun County. The plant is native to India, Asia and the Philippine Islands, and can cause harm to Christmas tree farms, reforestation projects and restoration areas by smothering young plants and trees under its dense growth.

Mile-a-minute weed can be identified by its triangular leaves, spikes of pea-sized blue fruits and recurved barbs lining the stems and leaf margins. Unusual circular leaves called ocreae clasp the stem beneath each fruit spike. 

Anyone encountering a vine that could be mile-a-minute weed should visit Michigan.gov/Invasives to review identification information and learn about the best ways to report sightings.


NotMISpecies, a monthly webinar series exploring Michigan's Invasive
Species Program, features red swamp crayfish at 9 a.m. Nov. 17. Register for free at the EGLE events website


Winter is coming up soon, so don't wait to get your snowmobile safety certificate. Take the class online, review the safety tips and get ready for some winter fun out on the trails!


Want to help Michigan's nongame and endangered species? When you purchase a wildlife habitat license plate, $25 goes toward the Nongame Wildlife Fund.

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