DNR News: Liberty Hunt opener, fall raptor migration, walleye stocking

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News Digest - Week of Sept. 6, 2021


Join the Michigan Trails Week Challenge, Sept. 19-26, and get out to your favorite motorized or non-motorized trail.

This week's stories may reflect how the Department of Natural Resources has adapted to meet customer needs and protect public health and safety. Follow our COVID-19 response page for updates on access to facilities and programs.  

We'll continue to share news and information about the best ways to discover and enjoy Michigan's natural and heritage resources! Here's a look at some of this week's stories:

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 others, are available in this folder.

Photo ambassador snapshot: Ocqueoc Falls overhead

ocqueoc falls

Want to see more pictures like this, taken by Michigan state parks photo ambassador Heather Rasmussen at Ocqueoc Falls State Forest Campground in Presque Isle County? Visit Instagram.com/MiStateParks to explore photos and learn more about the photo ambassadors! For more on the photo ambassador program, call Stephanie Yancer at 989-274-6182.

First deer hunt of the 2021 season this weekend

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Michigan’s Liberty Hunt, a firearm deer hunt on private or public lands for youth and hunters with disabilities, is back statewide Sept. 11-12. Hunters 16 or younger and eligible hunters with disabilities can participate. A list of qualifying criteria is available in the 2021 Hunting Digest or at Michigan.gov/DNRAccessibility

Like last year, the hunt now is open to those deaf or hard of hearing, a qualification that was added at the request of the DNR Accessibility Advisory Council

“People with disabilities can experience difficulty with mobility, climbing into a tree stand, sighting in game, hearing game approaching or holding a firearm,” said Hannah Schauer, DNR Wildlife Division communications coordinator. “The Liberty Hunt provides opportunities for people with disabilities to get outdoors and try a new sport or continue to enjoy one they love.” 

To give people opportunities to hunt on DNR-managed public lands, some accessible hunting locations offer track chairs, elevated hunting blinds or hunting blinds equipped with adaptive gear. Learn about accessible outdoor recreation opportunities at Michigan.gov/DNRAccessibility

Valid licenses for this hunt include a deer, deer combo or antlerless deer license, deer management assistance permit, or mentored youth license. Antler point restrictions do not apply. This hunt’s bag limit is one deer. 

For those participating in the Liberty Hunt: 

  • Hunters with disabilities may bait Sept. 6-13. 
  • Youth hunters may bait now through Sept. 13 in areas of the Upper Peninsula where baiting is legal. Youth hunters may not use bait in the remainder of the state. 

Additional regulations for all seasons can be found in the 2021 Hunting Digest or at Michigan.gov/Deer

All hunters taking part in this season must wear hunter orange. Hunters of all ages and experience levels are urged to put safety first. Find hunting safety tips and resources at Michigan.gov/HuntingSafety

Michigan Operation Freedom Outdoors is a proud sponsor and partner of the Liberty Hunt. Learn more about the organization at MiOFO.org or by calling 734-612-6677. 

Questions? Contact the DNR Wildlife Divsion at DNR-Wildlife@Michigan.gov. 

Sink your talons into raptor migration in Michigan

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There is nothing quite like observing fall raptor migration in Michigan. Each autumn, hundreds of thousands of hawks, falcons and eagles pass through the Metro Detroit area, making it a migratory hot spot.

Raptors often follow geographic features like Great Lakes coastlines, which help guide them south. Many birds fly through the St. Clair-Detroit River system before they round the western shores of Lake Erie and continue their journey south.

Unlike many songbirds, raptors migrate exclusively during the day, providing opportunities to see their great flocks, also known as “kettles.” Kettles can include up to tens of thousands of individual raptors, which is an incredible sight! Imagine watching an invisible trail system in the sky come to life as these birds of prey take flight.

In September, broad-winged hawks and sharp-shinned hawks will be the first to migrate through the state each day. In October, hawk diversity will increase as Cooper’s hawks, turkey vultures and more start to move through. By November, some northern owls, such as great gray owl, snowy owl, northern hawk-owl and boreal owl, make their way into the Upper Peninsula. Rough-legged hawks and golden eagles will move through the state in decent numbers in November, bringing the tail end of raptor migration in Michigan. 

Want to see the wonders of raptor migration in action, but not sure where to start? Learn more about Detroit River Hawk Watch and Mackinac Straits Raptor Watch, and plan your visit today! Take a trip to one of Michigan’s Important Bird Areas, most of which are on public lands, or tour one of Michigan’s birding trails, and submit an eBird checklist this fall.

MI Birds is a public outreach and engagement program created by Audubon Great Lakes and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, which aims to increase all Michiganders’ engagement with public lands that are important for birds and local communities. Follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter or sign up for email updates.

DNR stocked nearly 2.9 million walleye this year

walleye fingerling

The DNR stocked just under 2.9 million walleye fingerlings in more than 75 bodies of water located throughout Michigan this spring and so far this summer. 

Walleye ponds are a critical component of the DNR’s coolwater fisheries management and have been used extensively since the mid-1970s. Almost 20 walleye ponds located throughout Michigan were used this year, and some rely heavily on the support of local sportsmen organizations. These organizations assist with the ponds’ finances and supply volunteers to help with fertilization, pond maintenance and fish harvest. 

Eggs were taken from adult walleye from the Muskegon River and Little Bay de Noc and hatched at Thompson, Wolf Lake and Platte River state fish hatcheries. A few days after hatching, the walleye were moved from the state fish hatcheries to local walleye ponds and reared for 50 to 60 days feeding on tiny aquatic animals called zooplankton. The fingerlings were then stocked in public waters when they reached 1.5 - 2 inches long. These fish will grow to legal size in three to five years. 

“The many local angling groups that join us in rearing and stocking walleye are extremely valuable,” said Ed Eisch, the DNR’s fish production manager. “These annual efforts allow us to greatly enhance the world-class fishing opportunities available in Michigan.” 

This year’s pond harvest was especially important due to the cancelation of the 2020 harvest because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

To find out if walleye were stocked in your favorite fishing spot, visit the DNR’s fish stocking database at MichiganDNR.com/FishStock

Learn more about how the DNR manages fisheries for current and future generations by visiting Michigan.gov/Fishing.

ICYMI: Invasive mud snails found in Antrim County

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Invasive New Zealand mudsnails have have been detected at the mouth of Shanty Creek, a tributary of the Grass River in Antrim County.

In case you missed it, New Zealand mudsnails were first discovered in the United States in Idaho's Snake River in 1987. Since then, the snails have spread throughout the western states and into areas of the Great Lakes by attaching themselves to boats, waders and equipment. It's up to anglers to step up prevention efforts and remember to practice good recreational hygiene.

For more information and prevention tips, read the full release.


Looking for a unique wildlife viewing opportunity? Check out Michigan's 13 designated elk viewing areas, accessible by roads throughout the Pigeon River Country State Forest near Gaylord.


The Michigan Trails Week Challenge is fast approaching! It's the perfect time to hit your favorite trail or a new one. Best of all, it's free – register today and help us travel a collective 100,000 miles Sept. 19-26. 


While you're out enjoying your favorite state parks, trails and waterways, keep an eye out for invasive species. Help defend against invasives by reporting your observations.