In addition to hunting for the usual suspects, including deer, bear, waterfowl, and small game, as well as an increasing population of turkeys, the Sault area offers an opportunity that is not found in any other parts of the state: a hunting season for sharp-tailed grouse, open only in the eastern portions of Chippewa and Mackinac counties.
Quite different from ruffed grouse, which are also abundant throughout the area in heavy cover, sharp-tails offer an experience similar to what pheasant hunters enjoy. They are a wary, ground-dwelling bird that keeps moving ahead of your dogs and often flushes well out of range. If the conditions are right, though, a brace of sharp-tails can be had, and their dark meat is all the more delicious knowing that it came to you in the only place hunters can pursue these challenging game birds in Michigan.
Much of the land where sharp-tails are found is privately held farmlands, but some of them are open through the state’s Hunting Access Program and there are public lands to chase sharp-tails in the Munuscong State Forest and in the western edge of the state’s eastern sharp-tailed grouse management area. Consult the Department of Natural Resources’ hunting digest for specific information.
Waterfowl hunters have targeted the Eastern U.P. for many years, as the St. Mary’s River provides an abundance of coastal marshland that attracts good numbers of migrating ducks and geese. Big-water favorites include Munuscong, Potagannissing, and St. Martin’s bays, but since the Eastern U.P. borders three Great Lakes, you can certainly find your own favorite spot along the shores of Lakes Superior, Huron, and Michigan. If you prefer smaller waters for waterfowl, the Eastern U.P. has an abundance of small lakes, rivers and beaver ponds that provide hunting opportunity.
More and more hunters are visiting the Sault area for another game animal that is becoming increasingly difficult to find outside of the U.P. — the snowshoe hare, which was once just as common in the Northern Lower Peninsula as the U.P. Even some U.P. hot spots don’t hold as many hares as they once did, but hunters who seek the right habitat of conifers interspersed with young hardwoods will find plenty of snowshoes to keep them and their hounds busy all day. Hunters can access an abundance of state and federal forests south and west of Sault Ste. Marie that still hold snowshoe hare. Drummond Island, with its extensive state land holdings, is a great place to hunt for not only snowshoe hares but white-tailed deer and bear.
No matter what you’re after, Sault Ste. Marie is the place to be for hunters, but don’t make the mistake some do by thinking you can just drive up, sit under a tree and wait for a deer or bear to find you. Just like anywhere else, successful hunters need to put time in scouting, but that’s all the more reason to make more than one trip to the area.