MARQUETTE—Small-game hunting season begins Sept. 1 with the opening of the early Canada goose season and continues until rabbit and hare season ends on March 31. DNR’s wildlife biologists across the state say hunters should find conditions similar to last year in Michigan’s wood lots, farm fields and wetlands.
Rabbits - season: cottontail rabbits and varying (or snowshoe) hare can be hunted from Sept. 15 - March 31, statewide. The daily bag limit is five in combination with a possession limit of 10.
Outlook: Roughly 60,000 hunters reported pursuing rabbits in 2010 (the most recently completed harvest survey) and about 15,000 hunted hares. Cottontail populations are good throughout their range over much of the state. Concentrate on thick cover, such as briar patches and brush piles, often near agricultural fields.
Snowshoe hare populations are down somewhat from historic levels. Look for early-successional forests (such as aspen stands) and low-lying swamps with blow-downs and brush piles in the northern two-thirds of the state.
Outlook: Grouse populations are cyclical, typically rising and falling over a 10-year period, and indications are that we are coming off a peak and into decline.
The spring drumming survey showed a statewide decline of 13 percent from last year with the highest counts in the Upper Peninsula. Michigan boasts about 85,000 grouse hunters. Grouse typically inhabit early successional forests – young to moderate-aged aspen stands (five to 15 years old). Food sources are important, but berry and wild fruit production is abundant this year. Grouse are most numerous in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, but hunters may find local populations in areas with good habitat in southern Michigan, too. Grouse and woodcock hunters are asked to assist the DNR in monitoring populations by reporting their results. Cooperator forms can be found on the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/hunting – select Upland Game Birds and then Ruffed Grouse.
Woodcock - season: Sept. 21 - Nov. 4, statewide. The daily bag is three with a possession limit of six.
Outlook: Although woodcock populations are in long-term decline because of decreasing habitat quality, hunters can expect about the same results they enjoyed last year, when roughly 35,000 hunters – often in conjunction with grouse hunting – said they pursued woodcock.
Found in all parts of Michigan, woodcock are migratory, and although their population densities are higher in the northern two-thirds of the state, they often can be found in good numbers in southern Michigan later in the season as the birds head south. The best habitat is young cover along streams and on swamp edges; the long-beaked birds feed by probing the earth for worms and other invertebrates in moist soils.
Peak migration occurs in mid-October in the northern portions of the state. Hunters are reminded that they must have a Harvest Information Program endorsement printed on their small game licenses to legally take woodcock.