The Michigan DNR is highlighting the state’s seven managed public waterfowl hunting areas—and hopefully getting more folks to hunt on them this fall—by offering the Michigan Wetland Wonders Challenge.
It’s basically a drawing for several prize packages (contents to be announced later) that you enter by showing up to hunt at four of the seven areas this season. You get a punch card punched at each of the hunting areas. If you go to only one to three of the areas, you can enter a drawing for consolation prizes. This year you also get a commemorative duck leg band for the particular MWHA you hunt.
The challenge began on those properties that opened for the early Canada goose season on September 1, and begins in earnest on October 6 when the regular season begins in the state’s southern zone, which encompasses all seven. The drawing for prizes takes place in February. The areas include Allegan State Game Area’s Fennville Farm Unit, Fish Point, Harsens Island, Muskegon County Wastewater Management Area, Nayanquing Point, Pointe Mouillee and Shiawassee River.
“Our MWHAs offer hunters access to some of the best waterfowl hunting areas in the state,” says Barb Avers, DNR waterfowl and wetlands specialist. “Hunters who haven’t visited an MWHA before, are invited to come experience these unique hunting areas and see what they’re all about.”
I personally have only hunted waterfowl at the area with the not-so-attractive name of the Muskegon County Wastewater Management Area, and despite the name, it is really a nice place to hunt with lots of birds. Basically, you show up on the days it’s open and enter a drawing for the specific zones on the site. It offers morning hunts on Tuesdays and Thursdays and morning and afternoon hunts on Saturdays and Sundays. The other areas work the same way, with drawings before morning and afternoon hunts. With the exception of the Muskegon WWMA and the Fennville Farm Unit, the other properties are open every day of the season. To hunt any of the seven properties, you must pay a day rate of $4 or buy a season pass for $13 (good at all MWHAs) in addition to your regular waterfowl license and federal duck stamp. Get these permits at the management areas’ check stations when you sign up for the hunts. For more specifics about each area along with the complete set of Michigan waterfowl rules, download the 2012-13 Watefowl Hunting Digest by clicking here: http://www.michigan.gov/documents/dnr/2012-13_Waterfowl_Hunting_Digest_395831_7.pdf
A couple more things you should know about hunting these areas: First, other than for Fennville and Muskegon, you needed to get a reservation back in August to hunt them on opening weekend. Second, each area has its own set of rules about things such as how many shells you can take into the field, shot size and number of hunters in a party, so make sure you know them—they’re outlined on the property map of each area.
The Wetland Wonders Challenge promotion also connects to the new Michigan Waterfowl Legacy (MWL), which kicked off on September 8 and celebrates the “Year of the Duck.” The MWL is a 10-year, cooperative partnership to restore, conserve and celebrate Michigan’s waterfowl, wetlands and waterfowl hunting community. Throughout the year numerous waterfowl- and wetland-related events will take place. For more information about MWL, visit www.michigan.gov/mwl.
Although these waterfowl management areas have lots of ducks and geese on them throughout the season, not every specific hunting zone offers a chance to bag birds on any given day. On most of these properties, it pays to know what specific hunting zones the birds are using before you show up for the draw. My fishing and hunting buddy Kevin Essenburg has hunted the Muskegon and Fennville areas for many years and notes the two properties offer different experiences.
“At Muskegon, the thing is scouting, scouting, scouting,” Essenburg says. “Get the field you want and it’s pretty hard to mess it up. Usually lots of birds there.
“At Fennville, also called the Todd Farm, it’s all about playing the wind,” he adds. “Scouting doesn’t mean as much there; it’s all the luck of the draw to get an area birds are using that particular day.”
These management zones can be the best bet for waterfowlers who don’t have a lease or permission to hunt private property. Check out four of them this season and you just might win a nice prize.
The author’s golden retriever Gabe retrieves a suzy mallard.
Images courtesy Dave Mull and the Michigan DNR