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This piece has been updated to correct statistics on bear nuisance complaints, the decline in the number of Michigan deer hunters and the title of former Chief of Wildlife Russ Mason.

Nobody loves Michigan more than I do.

I have celebrated the hunting legacy and the great conservation ethic of the Winter-Water Wonderland.

I have not missed a hunting season in the wilds of the Wolverine State since my first October in 1949. I was only 10 months old but the dynamo instinctual spirit of hands-on conservation imprinted on me immediately.

I have always known that nature is a participatory lifestyle, not a spectator sport.

I have fed my family on hard-earned, sacred venison in all its forms. Those of us that hunt, fish and trap know that quality of life begins with clean air, soil and water from the wildlife habitat that we have paid billions and billions of dollars safeguarding, reclaiming and enhancing.

There was a time when Lake Erie would spontaneously combust from runaway, irresponsible abuse. Now we celebrate she has returned as a top fishery, fur-bearer and waterfowl heaven thanks to true environmentalists like the dedicated sporters of Michigan.

What’s not to love!

There was a time when Michigan ranked as the No. 1 hunting state in the nation, where more revenues were generated and more family hours of recreation were enjoyed than in any other state.

The many billions of dollars from the outdoors industry boosted the Michigan economy second, I believe, only to the auto industry.

And then we got stupid.

We have lost roughly 200,000 deer hunters over the years, and people stop me to share their frustration and woes everywhere I go in the state.

Go ahead and read the Gone-With-The-Wind voluminous hunting, fishing and trapping regulations tome, and you tell me what it all means.

I know a kid who got a ticket and a fine for not having his bow case zipped up all the way in his pickup while simply driving north for a hunt.

Maybe someone can tell me what role in wildlife management or safety that a bow case or a gun case performs.

Another young hunter got a fine for moving apples from under an apple tree closer to his tree stand for a better shot.

Really! Apples that fall from the millions of apple trees in the state will somehow cause chronic wasting disease if we relocate them?

In all the states where sandhill cranes are numerous enough to have a season, this federal migratory game bird is known as a ribeye in the sky.

Good old Michigan is special, for the sandhill cranes are so populated here and destroying so much agriculture, that in their jive wisdom, instead of opening a season on this delicious game bird, our brilliant Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Natural Resources Commission simply gives the green light to farmers to kill them on sight. But get this: We are forbidden to eat the ribeye in the sky.

That’s right, where all other ethical game departments have laws against the immoral wanton waste of precious wildlife resources, the goofballs in our state mandate such waste.

Are you still with me?

Does anyone know or care that the #1 game species in North America is the federal migratory game bird, the ubiquitous mourning dove?

Michigan produces more doves than all the pheasant, quail, grouse and woodcock combined (all legal game birds), but we lie and call the dove a songbird.

You can call the dove a songbird all day every day, but it is not and never will be a songbird. Pheasants and quail have better songs.

A whitetail deer is as much a songbird as the mourning dove, and when the many millions of Michigan-born doves fly south across our state line, millions of families in the other states get to kill them and grill them, the whole time pumping billions of dollars into the local economies enjoying our renewable resources.

There were 625 black bear nuisance complaints in Michigan last year. Conditions are dangerous, and residents are fed up with too many bears.

Forensic evidence exists that prove there are way more bears than the DNR claims, yet the state rejects the evidence and continues to grossly under-use this wonderful resource.

The people who live in bear country certainly know more about bear numbers than bureaucrats relying on computer models in their insulated offices.

This is the same DNR that lied and claimed there were 5,000-7,000 Russian boar running wild in Michigan. Since there is no such genus, let's kindly assume they actually meant 5,000-7,000 wild pigs.

If that were true (which it isn't) those pigs on a minimum breeding rate would add up to many millions of wild pigs running everywhere all over the state.

They lied.

I spoke with former Michigan Chief of Wildlife Russ Mason recently, and our conversation was very telling.

He failed repeatedly to provide any sound scientific evidence to support the feed and bait ban, which by Michigan law he is required to provide, and came right out and admitted he simply doesn’t like hunters who feed or bait.

Mason said that hunters who kill deer over bait are not conservationists.

Legendary hunter Fred Bear hunted over feed and bait on occasion, just like the vast majority of Michigan deer hunting families, and Fred Bear and all those Michigan families are indeed true conservationists to the core.

Mason also admitted that the feed and bait ban in Wisconsin is responsible for the tragic attrition in hunter numbers there, along with billions of annual dollars in critical conservation revenues. 

Then he stated rather matter of factly that he can live with such attrition.

I am convinced that Mason doesn’t like or support Michigan hunting families, and that makes him the enemy of Michigan hunters.

I cannot live with such engineered attrition and the inevitable destruction of our proud Michigan hunting heritage.

I represent the majority of Michigan hunting families, the MDNR does not.

And who are these Natural Resource Commissioners? Do they even hunt? Have they ever walked a Michigan swamp or marsh? Do they know anything about real nature and wildlife or hunting?

The gazillion grains of spilled corn and soy beans from combines cannot possibly be any more dangerous to wildlife than spilled grain by a hunter.

That is a glaring scientific reality. It is also a glaring inescapable scientific reality that deer swap spit every day of their lives from birth to death.

With all the hue and cries and lies about how baiting and feeding spread disease, the DNR authorizes so-called sharpshooters to use feed and bait to cull excessive deer populations.

Go figure.

Plain and simple, Bureaucrats cannot be trusted.

Wildlife can only be one of two things — either an asset or a liability.

When mismanaged, these precious natural resources instantly go into the liability column, and that is political correctness at its most offensive.

It would be so damn easy to make Michigan a top hunting destination state and reverse the engineered attrition.

The North American hunting success model envied around the world is simple, sound science.

Population dynamics, habitat carrying capacity and sustaining yield harvests rates without hurting the resource’s productivity, while maximizing family hours of recreation and maximum revenues generated into the economy is a proven win-win-win all around.

Right now, Michigan is way behind the curve, and it is heartbreaking and unforgivable.

I believe my connection with nature and her critters literally saved my life.

Instead of the suicidal sheep-like zombies in the rock 'n' roll world destroying their lives with drugs and alcohol, I had the great outdoors and the mighty Spirit of the Wild to turn me on.

Young people now more than ever desperately need the thrill of the hunting lifestyle and direct connection to nature to cleanse their soul, but with the plethora of arbitrary and punitive, often capricious overregulation, the great outdoors is not so attractive these days.

We can fix this real quick if we truly care.

Fred Bear is looking down at us, and I think we should show him we can do it.

Michigan’s Ted Nugent is an award-winning musician and writer, with numerous best-seller books including “Ted, White and Blue: The Nugent Manifesto,” “God, Guns and Rock ‘n Roll,” and “Kill It and Grill It.”

This is the first article in a series by Nugent that will appear throughout hunting season.

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