Hike, boat to Muskegon SGA whitetails

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MUSKEGON, Mich. — Minutes northeast of Muskegon, Mich., are the rough-and-tumble 10,500 acres of Muskegon State Game Area.

Much of this forested and river bottom wetlands area is walk-in or boat-in only. There is some road access, but generally speaking, hunting here is not for the faint of heart.

Good hunting

"Overall, the deer hunting has been very good," said Nick Kalejs, Michigan DNR wildlife biologist.

"Most whitetail deer spend their lives on a 1 to 3-square-mile area if their needs can be met there, with the exception of a move to river bottoms or an over-wintering area. The deer in the Muskegon State Game Area are not out in the cornfields like they are in other parts of Michigan. But they're still healthy and their growth rates are good."

According to Kalejs, the early archery season opener brings out lots of hopeful hunters, but their numbers taper down after that.

The gun opener brings deer hunters out again, but after the first few days are over, a shooter can again find some solitude.

Boat hunting

The main thoroughfare through the game area is the Muskegon River. Lots of hunters use a boat to access the river bottom areas, which are totally inaccessible on foot.

The bucks buried in the tangle and wetlands have a chance to put on a few years' growth, and impressive racks show up every year to prove it.


Muskegon is divided into east and west sections, with a couple miles' distance between them. According to Kalejs, the East Unit covers about 4,500 acres and is the most popular section with hunters.

This unit offers typical upland Michigan woods with oak trees and is more accessible by trails and border roads than the other unit. It also has second-growth timber from old forest cuttings that create excellent whitetail habitat.

The West Unit has more river bottom country, with denser cover and less accessibility. Flooded conditions can easily occur. Most deer hunters either canoe or hike in.

Hunting pressure often pushes West Unit deer deep into the thick river bottom woods and brush. Finding these deer depends on how much effort a hunter wants to make to get off the beaten path.


The area is in Deer Zone Three. The muzzle-loading season runs Dec. 1-17. Archery season is Oct. 1-Nov. 14 and Dec. 1-Jan. 1.

The regular firearm season starts Nov. 15 and ends on Nov. 30. Harvest numbers are specific to the license and permits a hunter holds.

History lesson

This way: To reach the area from Muskegon, turn east on M-46 from the intersection of U.S. 31 and M-46.

Go 7 miles to Maple Island Road and then another 4 miles. Follow the signs to the area headquarters.


For more information contact the Muskegon State Game Area field office at (231) 788-5055 or the Twin Lake Field Office at (231) 788-5055.

Tourism information is available by calling the Muskegon County Convention & Visitors Bureau (800-250-9283).

Material from Fishing & Hunting News
published 24 times a year.

Visit them at www.fishingandhuntingnews.com.