About a year ago, Outdoor Life launched its Open Country initiative with a simple goal: Bring the issue of public access into the forefront. To start conversations about the issue of access, to report on the efforts and stories that will paint the future of hunting and fishing for those of us who would have far fewer options for outdoor adventure were it not for publicly accessible lands.

But talk, as they say, is cheap. It’s pretty dissatisfying in many instances as well.

Now it’s time to turn the talk into action and that’s what Open Country is really about.

As part of the Open Country initiative, Outdoor Life has partnered with Yamaha and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation to help make a real, tangible difference in the efforts to improve public access through a series of hands-on, get-your-boots-dirty projects throughout the country. And it’s time to unveil one of the first in the series.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs, a non-profit conservation organization based in Michigan, has created a unique public-private partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Dubbed “On The Ground” the program takes advantage of recently-passed legislation that allows volunteers to do play a larger role in resource management. You may recall that we posted about the initiative a few weeks back.

The On The Ground program has solidified its slate of projects for 2013 and those projects will be part of Outdoor Life’s Open Country initiative.

“This is a first-year program and it always takes time to really get things rolling,” said Drew YoungeDyke, MUCC’s Grassroots Manager and organizer of the On The Ground program. “But we’ve had very strong response to this so far and being part of Outdoor Life’s new Open Country program is a great fit. Open Country is about creating places for people to hunt and fish and to make existing places better. And that’s really what our On The Ground program is all about as well. It’s just a great fit.”

Here’s the lineup for the On The Ground projects:
July 27: Wood duck box maintenance in the Allegan State Game Area. Volunteers will check and maintain existing wood duck boxes and install new ones as well.

August 3: Habitat improvement at Somerset State Game Area in Hillsdale County. Volunteers will assist with the creation of several clover plots to create additional hunting opportunities on the state game area in an area of the state known for big whitetails and limited public access.

August 10: Rabbitat at Crane Pond State Game Area. Volunteers will build brush piles to create small game habitat on public land, where a follow-up youth rabbit hunt will be held in the winter.

August 17: Harsen’s Island Access Improvement. Volunteers will help remove invasive species, such as phragmites, that not only choke out native vegetation but also block access to prime waterfowl areas for duck hunters.

Volunteers are needed to assist with all of the projects. Participants receive lunch and snacks and water are also provided. To lend a hand and help improve public hunting and fishing in Michigan, contact YoungeDyke by calling 517-346-3486 or e-mail him at

And be sure to check the Open Country site for additional details and information on these projects.

If your summer schedule is fully booked but you’d still like to help, don’t worry. The On-The-Ground program is working on a number of fall projects as well.