By JOSH GARVEY
Capital News Service
LANSING – Joel Bauer cultivates information about where he’s going to hunt to better understand how to use the terrain to his advantage.
Bauer, the president of the Northeast Michigan chapter of the Ruffed Grouse Society, said hunters develop a network of information to keep them up to speed on the conditions around the state.
“I’ve got a buddy of mine who works at the U.S. Department of Agriculture here in Alpena and he’s pretty connected to some Internet resources through his job,” he said.
A new online service from the Department of Natural Resources and Environment (DNRE) may help hunters streamline that information-gathering process.
The DNRE’s new Mi-Hunt program provides information such as the location of public land open to hunting.
“One of the big complaints we hear is that it’s tough to find out where the public land is and find these places to hunt,” said Michigan United Conservation Clubs deputy director Tony Hansen. “The DNRE’s Web site hasn’t been the most friendly for that.
“Anything it can do to make it easier is a good thing,” Hansen said.
Bauer said that if he doesn’t know the area he thoroughly researches where he’ll hunt before going out.
“When you’re hunting in a new area, you check it out pretty good,” he said. “You’ll call the local DNRE or someone else if you know people in the area to find out what you can.”
David Forstat, a geographic information services manager for the DNRE, said Mi-Hunt helps users organize that type information.
“When people hunt grouse here, they look for aspen trees, and with this application you can identify where these aspen stands of certain size are throughout the state,” he said. “I’m not saying it’s like finding gold, but it can point you to where the conditions might exist to find grouse.”
Forstat said the Web site can do the same with other types of game.
He said the program began with a grant from the National Sports Shooting Foundation and combines information that DNRE already has with linked points on a map. The Web site can show different hunting areas, the trees there, street maps, aerial photography, and the topography of the land.
The MUCC’s Hansen said that out-of-state hunters can benefit from a centralized information source.
“Most of the nonresident hunters are going to be bird hunters or, to a lesser degree, deer hunters,” he said.
“I hunt out of state a bunch, and that’s exactly what I do,” he said. “I’m getting on every online source I can find and using satellite photos and Google Maps with topography overlays to figure out what the terrain is like and any forest cover or crop cover.”
The DNRE’s Forstat said the DNRE is developing similar online tools for other outdoor activities.
“Now that we’ve got a Mi-Hunt, we’re looking to add Mi-Fish and Mi-Hike, things that can be tied into the same system to get people in to use our natural resources,” he said.
© 2010, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.