I was honored to be one of the speakers at the recent 100th anniversary event at the Gladwin Field Trail Area (GFTA) in Meredith, Michigan. The GFTA is one of the premier if not THE premier field trial area in the nation. While all RGS members are not Field Trialers and all Field Trialers are not RGS members we all share the common bond of loving bird dogs and appreciating young forest habitat and the wildlife that need it.
From the Michigan Department of Natural Resources press release on the event:
Located in the northwest corner of Gladwin County on more than 4,900 acres, the Gladwin Field Trial Area brings people from all over the country for premier dog field trials, which are competitions for hunting dogs to test their levels of skill and training in locating and pointing. Trials are held in the early spring and again in the late summer and early fall, avoiding the quiet period when birds are nesting. The uniqueness of these field trials comes from the dogs working wild native birds, ruffed grouse and woodcock. Birds are not placed in the Gladwin Field Trial Area. With an intense timber management program, this area – which includes 14 different field trial courses – can hold birds with its young forest habitat.
The event included a commemoration of the site with a plaque highlighting the special character of this location.
Gladwin is special for many reasons. From a strict scientific perspective this area is as good of a demonstration site for what sound scientific forest management can do for wildlife populations as there is. The plans laid out in late 70’s have shown that clearcutting is not a dirty word and does not “destroy” the forest. On the contrary, it, and other similar techniques, support an entire suite of species dependent on the thick woody and herbaceous cover that a cutting creates by letting sunlight reach the forest floor. Grouse and woodcock thrive in the area as well as many other species including Whip-poor-wills, which were nearly deafening at the campground at the site the night of the event.
Gladwin is also special for the unique research opportunities it offers. Just last year woodcock were captured there and fitted with GPS transmitters as part of a nationwide project that is exponentially increasing our knowledge about woodcock. The management guidelines in place, specifically the ban on hunting grouse and woodcock, made this the perfect site for this work as birds outfitted with $3,000 transmitters were not under threat to be shot while at the site.
Finally, the GFTA provides a unique spot for getting the next generation of upland hunters and field trailers involved in the sport. It is an exceptional place for a new hunter or young person to develop a passion for bird dogs, grouse and woodcock. I hope that the GFTA is a key site during our implementation of our New Hunter Mentoring Program in Michigan and helps a new generation embrace what we have here.
BUT, everyone who loves this area needs to remain vigilant against the persistent calls to change what has been so successful for the past century and open the area to activities that would degrade the area. The GFTA has weathered these calls for a century, let’s hope the people who love this area, bird dogs, and young forests can continue to do so and have our descendants meet there again another 100 years down the road at the next anniversary.