I’ve seen several posts in hunting groups on social media lately lamenting the increased presence of people hunting public lands. There are those who feel that youtube channels such as The Hunting Public and shows like Meateater are responsible for the increase in people using our public lands. When people describe public land, they usually cite examples such as Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, or any of the other large wide-open western states. However, our humble home state of Michigan also has an abundance of land open to everyone.
Michigan is approximately 62 million acres as a whole. Of this, over 8 million acres are land owned by the public! State forests make up 3.86 million acres, state game and wildlife areas make up 364,000 acres, and state parks are 357,000 acres. The federal government manages another 3.6 million acres. Counties and municipalities manage the rest of the public land in the state. That astounding number means that 13% of the land in Michigan is public. The vast majority of this land is available to hunters and anglers for use. With 646,000 hunters, that comes out to about 12.5 acres per hunter, assuming all of those hunters use public land (they don’t).
As hunter numbers decrease, the need to recruit new hunters becomes more critical. The great North American conservation experiment relies on money from hunters and anglers to foot the bill. It also counts on them for population control. One of the biggest issues cited by new hunters is finding places to hunt. We should be encouraging everyone to use public land as much as possible. The opportunities in this state to hunt or trap animals such as deer, turkey, waterfowl, small game, game birds, elk, black bear, beaver, bobcat, coyote, fox, and many others are all available on public as well as private land.
Our public lands are truly our greatest resource in the United States. Nowhere else on earth does such a large group of people have access to recreation opportunities on such a large amount of land. Instead of discouraging other hunters from using them, we should embrace our shared legacy.