Curious about the game species in Michigan? Watch for our #WildWednesday blog posts, which will highlight common game species, hunting tips or tricks, and information on how to prepare them once harvested! Our most recent Learn to Hunt program focused on learning to hunt small game, so this segment will focus on habitat requirements and biology of two popular small game species: the Eastern Grey Squirrel and the Fox Squirrel. Currently, both Fox and Eastern Grey Squirrels can be hunted in the state of Michigan until March 1, 2018.
The Eastern Grey Squirrel is a common species across the United States east of the Mississippi river. Grey Squirrels are roughly 10 inches long (not including tail length), and are typically grey with a white to buff belly; they also exhibit a black color morph, also known as melanistic coloring, where the squirrel is completely black. As a forest dwelling animal, Grey Squirrels prefer mature continuous woodlands of deciduous or mixed tree species that can provide plenty of food. They rely heavily on the production of mast such as acorns or hickory nuts, but will eat a variety of things including, but not limited to: the flowers and buds of many trees, seeds, fungi, agricultural crops, insects, bird eggs, and amphibians. Grey Squirrels typically den in tree hollows or build leaf nests, and females typically bear two litters of young per year.
Fox Squirrels are found throughout central and eastern United States, and share the same varied diet as Grey Squirrels. Fox squirrels tend to be slightly larger than Grey Squirrels, at about 10-15 inches long. They typically are a grey/brown color with an orange-rust belly. Although they also exhibit a black color morph, it is rarely seen outside of the southeastern part of their range. Although they still utilize trees to escape predators, nest, and for food sources, Fox Squirrels prefer more open areas and spend much more time foraging on the ground than Grey Squirrels do. Like Grey Squirrels, they can have two litters per year, but one litter is more common.
Featured species of the Gratiot-Saginaw State Game Area, as outlined in the Master Plan for the area, include: American Woodcock, Ruffed Grouse, Eastern Wild Turkey, Wood Ducks, Ring-necked Pheasants, Cotton-tailed Rabbits, and White-tailed Deer. This array of wildlife species requires a diverse network of cover types to provide the resources they need. Although predominantly forested, the DNR maintains a variety of cover types as well including marsh, Lowland shrub, and cropland. Management actions to maintain these cover types are carefully planned and selected to support the featured species. For example, developing wetland infrastructure and maintaining condition of water control structures, and manipulating water level to influence the growth of emergent wetland plants are crucial efforts in maintaining marsh and open water for Wood Ducks. Similarly, timber harvest, namely scheduled harvest of aspen, is important to creating ideal cover for American Woodcock and Ruffed Grouse for roosting and breeding; this action also benefits White-tailed Deer. Although managing for such a diversity of species in this area requires such a varied approach, this opens up a multitude of hunting opportunities for the Michigan sportsmen and women. To learn more about details of the management actions for this area, check out the Gratiot- Saginaw Master Plan at the link below.
We thought we would highlight an area a bit closer to Lansing with this month’s #stategamesaturday. If you have ever taken U.S. 127 North to get to the northern Lower Peninsula, or to the Upper Peninsula, you’ve probably seen part of the Maple River State Game Area. Roughly 27 miles north of Lansing, the Maple River State Game Area encompasses 9,578 acres of land that crosses into Gratiot, Clinton, and Ionia counties. Being so easily accessible, it is a well known area for many forms of recreation, including hunting, trapping, hiking, and bird watching.
According to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the long-term goal for the Maple River State Game Area is to “improve the quality of habitat for numerous wildlife species while improving waterfowl and pheasant hunting opportunities for mid-Michigan hunters”. Similar to the Barry State Game Area, Maple River also qualifies for a Master Plan to outline goals of the area and what actions will be taken to achieve those goals. This master plan divides the area into two units that are managed for different species. The west (main) unit is largely forested with management focused on white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, wood ducks, cotton-tail rabbits, and squirrels.
Management of the east unit focuses on species such as waterfowl and pheasants; between the two units, the east unit has a far higher percentage of wetland and open grassland habitats, ideal for managing locally abundant waterfowl and ring-necked pheasant populations. The east unit has been divided into subsequent smaller units to be more easily managed (units A, B, C, D, E, X, and Y). In fact, major repairs and construction was done in to improve water control structures in the east unit from 2010-2013, including the installation of several new pump stations, and the repair and construction of several dikes and spillways.
Maple River State Game area also has accommodations for those with limited mobility. A PAMD/wheelchair accessible trail is in main unit at north end (section 33) starting in parking off Jerome Rd. There is also a barrier-free accessible trail and hunting/photography blind are in the East Unit, along the north side of Unit B. These are open for use by anyone, but please give consideration to those who need them.
This State Game Area is overseen by the Rose Lake State Wildlife Area office at 8903 E. Stoll Road, East Lansing, MI 48823; phone (517) 641- 4092.
To view the master plan for this area, please visit:
To view a larger map of the Maple River State Game Area, please visit: