Michigan Rendezvous: Elk Viewing, Campfires and Elbow Grease
By Suzanne Downing
In true RMEF fashion, the 2017 Michigan Rendezvous stared with some good old elk viewing. And the Pigeon River Country State Forest area near Vanderbilt did not disappoint.
“The first bull we encountered was a small 6x6 with two cows,” says Dan Johnson, Michigan volunteer state chair. When the group hiked less than a mile through the forest to a meadow, they spotted three bulls along with 20 cows and calves. Not a bad first day for a volunteer rendezvous weekend.
Following an evening of stories by the campfire and a lot of laughter, the volunteers geared up for the next day’s habitat project.
On Saturday morning, volunteers enjoyed traditional Michigan Rendezvous breakfast burritos before heading out for a habitat project in an area known as Green Meadows. With work gloves and smiles, the crew planted 40 white oak trees. While each is only about six feet tall now, they’ll eventually provide shade and shelter. After mulch and protective wire fencing were placed around each tree, volunteers cleaned up the area and the habitat project was complete.
Before returning to camp, the group hiked to check on past RMEF habitat projects in another part of Green Meadows.
“The apple and oak trees we planted a few years ago are looking very healthy surrounded by an 8-foot-tall fence,” says Johnson.
That evening, even more elk were seen in a nearby area. “One was the largest bull we’ve seen in some time,” Johnson says.
Michigan’s native elk disappeared around 1875. Today’s elk herd dates back to 1918—almost 100 years ago—when seven Rocky Mountain elk were released near Wolverine in the northern Lower Peninsula. Now the herd is over 1,000 strong.
RMEF volunteers have helped to improve essential forage, cover and space components of wildlife habitat, helping the population thrive.
On Sunday morning, the group shared one last breakfast and made plans to meet at the next volunteer rendezvous.
“All left with smiles on their faces, knowing they had made some new friends and knowing a small group of volunteers working hand-in-hand can make a difference,” added Johnson.
“As we enter into the 100th year since the reintroduction of elk in our great elk state, I look forward to the 2018 Michigan Rendezvous. I see it bigger and better than ever.”