By Marquita Mullen, CLMCD
The Hunting Access Program (HAP) in the Eastern Upper Peninsula (EUP) has gained recognition and popularity over the years as evidenced by the increase in hunters since the program started in the EUP. The Hunting Access Program provides nearly 5,600 acres of private land open to small game and sharp-tail grouse hunting in Chippewa and Mackinac counties. HAP has seen nearly a 27% per year growth in both hunters and number of site accesses in the last nine years of the Chippewa Luce Mackinac Conservation District hosting the local program.
The Hunting Access Program began in southern Michigan in 1977 to increase public hunting opportunities where around 97% of the land base is privately owned. The program has expanded greatly in the past 45 years to include Northeast Lower Michigan as well as the Eastern Upper Peninsula. Michigan HAP is known as one of the oldest dedicated private land public access programs in the nation. HAP has attracted hunters from all around the United States and several other countries. These visitors contribute to local economies by staying and hunting for multiple days and share a real passion for Michigan’s hunting traditions.
In the Eastern Upper Peninsula, HAP lands are open to both small game species and sharp-tail grouse. The EUP is the only location in Michigan with a sharp-tail grouse hunting season and hosts the largest population east of the Mississippi River due to its large area of open grassland habitat. This gives hunters the opportunity to explore sharp-tail grouse hunting without traveling to popular locations such as South Dakota and Montana.
The sharp-tail grouse is a medium-sized prairie grouse that are colored brown, gold, white, and black with white undertail coverts. They are usually found on grasslands and prairies; or bog edges and shrubby openings in boreal forest. The sharp-tail grouse can be found on the ground or up in trees forging for seeds, grains, insects, tree buds, flowers and berries.
Some HAP lands in the EUP open to small game hunting on September 15 and close on November 10. Additionally, all HAP lands are open to sharp-tail grouse hunting with additional land opening to only sharp-tail hunting from October 10 – October 31.
The Michigan DNR has an interactive website called MIHunt that can be used to learn where these hunting lands are located and how to access them. Hunters should always use the Michigan DNR Hunting guidebook rules and regulations and hunters should always respect the rights of the participating landowner and its neighbors.
The Chippewa Luce Mackinac Conservation District maintains and facilitates the HAP program alongside the DNR in the EUP.
To learn more about the Hunting Access Program go to www.michigan.gov/dnr/things-to-do/hunting/where/hap or contact Mike McCarthy at the Chippewa Luce Mackinac Conservation District for general information by emailing email@example.com or calling 906-635-1278