The Upper Peninsula offers hunters a wide variety of game to pursue and we're pretty much in the middle of nearly all those offerings. There are bird hunters beating the bush for ruffed grouse, waterfowl hunters blasting away at ducks and geese, deer hunters slinging arrows and crossbow bolts at deer and squirrel and rabbit hunters getting in on the action.
Then we have the big season drawing near - the firearm deer season - when upwards of 700,000 hunters spread out across the state in hopes of getting a freezer full of venison.
There's another group of hunters that can't be left out, either, and is actually growing in numbers as other hunting participation drops.
Winners in the youth squirrel hunt offered during Skip's Predator Days included Annie Boyer, center, who took first place; Trevor Paris, right, who took second; and Taylor Ehnis, who took third. In the adult predator hunt, a total of 18 hunters took six coyotes while hunting in two-man teams. (Skip VanBuren photo)
Predator hunters make up this group of hunters, and the fact that predator populations are soaring has led to more shooters joining the hunt in recent years.
There's another factor playing into predator hunting this year that should expose even more hunters to the sport - coyotes are no longer protected during the Nov. 15-30 firearm deer season.
Coyotes can be hunted from July 15 through April 15 by hunters with a small game license, but were off limits to hunters during the firearm season for the past several years.
With so many coyotes across the region, it was a good move to reopen Nov. 15-30 for coyote hunting, although hunters should still be careful about what they are aiming at so they don't accidentally shoot a wolf.
There are several predator hunts organized across the Upper Peninsula each year, including some rather large affairs and some small ones.
One that falls on the smaller side of the scale that was held recently is Skip's Predator Days. Organized by local taxidermist Skip VanBuren and some other avid predator hunters, 18 shooters bagged six coyote during the two-day hunt.
This hunt is a challenging one, with the woods still full of leaves and other natural growth that conceals the sneaky predator, but participants have fun calling in coyotes and do bag a few.
There's an interesting twist to Skip's event, as well. He includes a youth squirrel hunt for shooters 15 years old and younger. These young hunters get out and get in on the action, many with parents or grandparents.
There are many bigger predator hunts, including the U.P. Predator Challenge set for Feb. 17-20, as well as one that includes the firearm season in its time frame.
The third annual Predator Pursuit, sponsored by the Big Bay Sportsmen's Club and U.P. Whitetails Association, will kick off with the opening day of the firearm deer season on Nov. 15 and run through Dec. 12.
This hunt covers Marquette County and "fringe" areas. The cost is $20 per person and registration must be made by Nov. 14. Registration forms are available at Wilderness Sports, Dunham's, Gander Mountain and Cram's General Store. For more information, call David Nivens at 345-9242, Vince Bevins at 345-9599 or Stephen Childers at 345-9500.
Editor's note: City Editor Dave Schneider can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 270. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.