MORLEY — Ask most Michigan bird hunters about their sport and they’ll have two complaints: Seasons start too late and end too early.
In reality, you wouldn’t want to get going much sooner; mid-September, when ruffed grouse season opens, seems to be about the right time to get afield for the fall, even a little early if you get a warming spell. And most guys don’t really want to go much past the Jan. 1 close, when winter is upon us, either.
Still, there’s only three months — remember, bird seasons close for 16 days when firearms deer season arrives — to run your dogs.
Fortunately, hunters have an alternative: shooting preserves. Preserve season opens Aug. 15 and runs through the end of April. That’s five full months of additional bird hunting for those guys who just can’t get enough.
I opened my bird season in the waning days of August this year at Haymarsh Hunt Club, a facility I’ve frequented on and off for about two decades now. My goal was simple; I wanted to get my dog some work before the official bird season opened and I wanted to do it where I knew he’d find some birds.
I met up with Tim Somerville, who’s been running the operation since his father-in-law — Bud Gummer, who founded the club in 1989 — passed away in 2007. Somerville put three birds out for us and I asked him to tag along (with his shotgun) as I was manning the camera and wanted to concentrate more on shooting pixels than pellets.
Haymarsh is a big club — 1,300 acres — spread over largely unimproved fields in Mecosta County, northeast of Grand Rapids. Unlike many of these shooting facilities, Haymarsh is not interspersed with small grain fields to concentrate birds. It is wild southern Michigan countryside, a mixture of grasses and forbs and wild flowers. Three of Haymarsh’s fields are enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program and another one is a Wetland Reserve Program field.