2016-11-24 / Outdoors

Trail users also gear up for firearms season; few (but some) complaints

Orange attire suggested
By Alan Campbell
Of The Enterprise staff

GEORGE KUHN of Traverse City suggests bright attire when biking in Leelanau County, especially during deer season. GEORGE KUHN of Traverse City suggests bright attire when biking in Leelanau County, especially during deer season. You may want to wear blaze orange, but don’t worry about keeping your head down.

Users of the Leelanau Trail and Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, located on opposite sides of the Leelanau Peninsula, appear to be walking and peddling through firearms deer season without worry about hunters.

At least one hunter, however, has dealt with flack from trail users.

“I’ve been harassed three times already,” reported Steve Rozanski of Traverse City, who hunts within Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. “I know they weren’t local. They were yelling at me, ‘You can’t hunt at a national park.’ And, ‘You can’t have a high-powered rifle.’”

Hunting is a recreational use written into federal law authorizing the Lakeshore. Rozanski said he tries to explain to Trail users that hunting is an allowed activity, and has suggested that users put orange on their dogs.

“I’m surprised they don’t say something about hunters and wearing orange. Last year they were jogging with white t-shirts,” Rozanski said.

Actually, signs are posted along the Heritage Trail explaining that hunting is allowed. And folks who look over the Heritage Trail say they have heard about few negative encounters between Trail users and hunters.

“We don’t get many complaints,” said Phil Akers, chief ranger of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. In fact, Akers said, the only complaint he could recall came about two years ago from hunters who said volunteers were blowing leaves off the trail during prime hunting periods in early morning and early evening.

“We adjusted our schedule,” Akers recalled.

He suggested that walkers, runners and bikers wear bright colors. “I’ve been down the Heritage Trail during hunting season, and a good portion of our folks are wearing blaze orange vests or bright yellow jackets,” Akers said.

Leonard Marszalek is manager of the Heritage Trail for the nonprofit Friends of Sleeping Bear organization, which maintains the Trail on behalf of the Lakeshore.

He, too, reported no known conflicts.

“Hunters have been good. We haven’t had any confrontations reported. Most of our use doesn’t occur this time of year until 10 or 11, and this time of year most people are off the trail by 4 p.m., when we look at our counter,” Marszalek said.

He added that trail maintenance for fall was finished up last week, which should reduce the chances for interaction between Trail workers and hunters.

“Now we’re hoping for snow to start building up a base for ski season,” Marszalek said.

On the other side of the Leelanau Peninsula, Brian Beauchamp has been outreach and program director for TART Trails since 2014. He said that the privately owned Leelanau Trail itself is closed to hunting, and he has not received a complaint of people hunting within the 100-foot former railroad right-of-way that connects Traverse City and Suttons Bay.

“We haven’t gotten any calls. The trails do go through some private property where hunting does occur ... I think for the most part our neighbors are mindful that there’s a trail there. I haven’t heard anything,” Beauchamp said.

He, too, suggested Trail users wear bright colors and be cautious.

That’s been the tact taken by George Kuhn of Traverse City, who nearly every day before snowfall confines outdoor activity takes a miles-long bike ride through the Leelanau countryside. When reached last week, he was headed down Bohemian Road toward the Leelanau Trail on his recumbent bike with fluorescent yellow and orange flags waving.

“Wearing the bright colors is the key,” said Kuhn, who is retired from the Traverse Bay Intermediate School District.

Kuhn, whose journey started in Cedar, said he was unconcerned about firearms deer season.

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