UPDATE: 4/9/2020 Governor Gretchen Whitmer extended the “Stay Home Stay Safe Order” today. New rules prohibit Michigan residents who own multiple homes/properties from travelling back and forth between them until April 30th.
As Spring continues and summer approaches many Michiganders are preparing for a season of outdoor recreation including fishing, spring turkey hunting, boating, and driving their Off-Road Vehicles. This year, however, the global pandemic known as COVID-19 has led to some changes in the way these activities must take place.
The good news is that, for now, Michigan Outdoor Recreation remains largely open. Citizens may still hunt, fish, boat, hike, and drive ORVs. There have been some significant changes though.
First of all, the DNR is reminding everyone to:
“stay local and not travel far distances for any activity, including ORV riding, fishing, boating, hiking, or other outdoor recreation activities.”
Specific definitions are not given for the terms “far” and “local” so we should use our best judgment here keeping in mind that the police will be using there best judgment of whether or not to issue a ticket (which could be a fine of up to $1000).
They are also reminding everyone to not share equipment with people outside of your household and they specifically make mention that “persons not of a single household may not boat together.” I think it is safe to extrapolate this logic to hiking, fishing, hunting, and ORV riding as well. As much of a bummer as it is we will have to wait to fish with our fathers and turkey hunt with our hunting buddies until after the state lifts the shutdown orders.
The bad news is that if your idea of fun outdoor recreation includes camping (as mine often does) you will find that the State has shut down all state-owned campgrounds and overnight lodging on state lands until “at least May 15th.”
If you decide to head to your local Michigan public lands (as this author will certainly be doing) to alleviate the stir-crazy inducing quarantine we’re all under, keep in mind that all toilets and bathrooms, state headquarters buildings and offices are closed. Also, trash pickup has been limited to a small number of designated dumpsters, so before you throw that Clif bar wrapper in the wire basket near the bench miles back on your favorite trail, consider bringing it out with you. The state even recommends bringing a trash bag along with you to get your trash out of the park/woods/etc.
To sum this all up: Go outside and have fun. For those of us who are furloughed or temporarily unemployed, there is little else we can do right now and taking advantage of the opportunity to hunt and fish all day is a great way to pass the time and maintain social distance. But, don’t do it with people outside your household, make sure you are comfortable relieving yourself behind a tree and keep in mind that the state will keep the public lands open to us as long as it doesn’t become a problem. Several state sites have already shut down because of overcrowding (Tippy Dam Rec Area and others). Use your best judgment, have fun, and be safe. I know I am eagerly awaiting the start of Spring Turkey Season and possession season for fishing, which are both rapidly approaching. Stay tuned to Outdoor Sports Nation for future updates on how the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to affect our outdoor recreation.
For more information from the State of Michigan Department of Natural Resources about the government’s Coronavirus orders head to https://www.michigan.gov/dnr/