The gray fox is a peppery gray on top, reddish-brown on its sides, chest and the back of its head. Its legs and feet are also a reddish color. It has a long bushy tail with a black stripe on top. The gray fox has pointed ears, a pointed muzzle and long hooked claws. The gray fox lives in a wide variety of habitats but prefers areas with lots of brush or woods.
By John Dallas
A portion of Headwaters Land Conservancy’s service area is the Au Sable Rivershed, which stretches from southwest of Gaylord to Oscoda. The area is known for its fishing, hunting and recreational opportunities. However, it also has a number of unique features and historic attributes. For birdwatchers there is the Kirtland’s Warbler – a small yellow-breasted guy (there are only about 1500 pairs in the world), who summers primarily in Crawford County, and winters in the Caribbean. The ubiquitous Jack Pine barrens are also endemic to this area (and in fact, also provide nesting opportunities for the Kirtland Warbler)
One other unique feature of the Au Sable Valley is the Au Sable Riverboat, or Longboat. These boats are typically only found within about 25 miles of Grayling. They are distinctive – basically a long, flat bottomed canoe which is suited for the tranquil waters of the Au Sable.
The earliest description of a riverboat came from Thaddeus Norris in Scribner’s Magazine -1897: “It was built of pine: bottom 1 inch thick; sides 5/8; 16 feet long; 2 feet 10 inches wide on the tip; 2 feet 4 inches wide at the bottom and with a sheer of 3inches on each side. The bottom was nearly level for 8 feet in the center, with a sheer of 5 inches to the bow, and 7 inches to the stern. The live box was 6 feet from the bow, extending back 2 feet. The sides were nailed to the bottom. It’s weight was 80 pounds (note – I believe this weight is badly underestimated – my boat, which is made with thinner materials weighs well in excess of 200 pounds) and it carried two men, the angler and the pusher – with 200 pounds of luggage. With two coats of paint it cost about $15. The angler sits on the movable cover of the live-box, which is water tight from other parts of the boat and has holes drilled into sides and bottom to admit the circulation of water to keep fish alive.”
Originally, these boats were used to support the loggers, moving materials up and down the river. The current took the boats downstream, and then the pusher would pole the boat back up stream – sometimes as far as 15 miles!
Today, there are not many of the original “plank boats” still around. Most of the boats today are made of high-grade marine plywood, with a few deluxe boats made using cedar strips. Typically, today’s craft are about 24 feet long and can accommodate two fishers, in addition to the guide, who sits in the back, steering the boat using a long pole.
Today’s craft are often works of art – far removed from their workboat predecessors. They may include woodburned scenes, maps or pictures of flies, and may have inlays and exquisite woodworking details.
Estimates vary, but there are probably no more than 200 of these craft in the area (and probably not more than about two dozen which are used on a regular basis)
The Longboat is perfectly suited for its modern mission of providing river access to fly fishers. The guide sits in back and has a drag chain which slows the boat down beyond the 3 MPH pace of the mainstream of the Au Sable, providing ample time to make the perfect cast to the Brown, Brook and Rainbow trout which call the river home.
By Larry Cory
I truly enjoyed spending the afternoon with you. You and I are a lot alike I fear. Both find peace and tranquility in nature. We don’t have to fire a shot or catch a trout to enjoy what to others might seem a waste of time and energy. I can sit alone in a deer blind and enjoy the Ermine running around my blind or listen to a Pileated Woodpecker calling and tapping on a dead tree trunk. A Ruby Crowned Kinglet landed on my gun barrel one day. I watched as a bobcat sneaked past my blind one morning, warned by the sudden silence around me as all the squirrels hid in fear. I watched as a Fisher did the same, and it was some time before the normal activity around my blind resumed. Listening to the mincing steps of a whitetail as it approached through the frozen, fallen leaves… and listening to the popping of the sap in the trees as the morning sun began to warm them always makes me happy. Riding back to camp from a long and fruitless Elk hunt, we listened to all the Elk we didn’t see during the day as they bugled their hearts out all the way home to our tents. I duck hunted with two good friends and two guides one day on a farm at the tip of the thumb. Without saying a word ALL of us failed to fire a single shot as thousands of ducks came in and started to land in our decoys. We were mesmerized by the magnificent sight of so many Mallards and Black Ducks coming right at our faces. It was awesome! When they finally figured out what was up they all left in a hurry, and we stood up and hooted and hollered like a bunch of kids. No shots fired. One of so many sights that I have been privileged to witness over the years. Your poem reminds me of why we are outdoorsmen… not killers, not hunting or fishing just to bring something home in our pickup truck, or doing it for bragging rights… but hunting for the sights, sounds and experiences that those who do not partake will never know. They are poor beyond words.
Larry Cory has been one of Michigan’s most prominent wildlife, sporting and commercial artists for almost 50 years. Cory, of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, is also an avid outdoorsman whose close contact with nature is reflected in his art. His original art and limited edition prints hang in collections throughout North America. Larry is recognized as a top painter of Conservation Stamp Prints. He has won Michigan’s Trout and Salmon Stamp competitions in 1980, 1983, 1990 and 1996.
Au Sable River Winter Sunset Photo By: GARY GEE
As I sit on the high bank and watch the log,
Yesteryear floods my mind’s eye.
A tall broad shouldered oak guards the run,
Where the amber clear water of a classic trout stream,
Slides over water soaked remnants of the logging era,
Of six score years ago.
The brilliant brook trout found cover and food in its shade.
The mink burrowed a home for its little ones in its massive roots.
The wood duck nested in hollows high in its ancient stately trunk.
The white tail deer fattened for winter on its mast.
Songbirds and squirrels darted amongst its many branches.
And the regal bald eagle surveyed its domain from its topmost branches.
What mighty tempest brought this lofty giant to rest in the stream?
Reaching out into the flow, as if to regain its life,
From the very waters it guarded for well over a century.
We see no other evidence of that ancient storm,
All signs have faded into history and returned to earth.
The log remains as witness to nature’s slow but steady march.
A section of trunk, the length of a birch bark canoe, angles into the river.
Only the bottom is submerged, the top is home to nature’s rebirth.
Small aspen, tag alder, ferns, and streamside grasses dress its topside.
A perfect blind for the duck hunter to become one with the woods.
Many an early fall morning finds the hunters setting their decoys,
And dissolving into the cover of this ancient log.
Sometimes there is shooting, with and without success.
The calling, the flurry of wings, and the shifting descent of decoying ducks,
Are all etched in the duck hunter’s memory, for recall in the down days of winter,
Or, as they later feast upon the succulent trophies of the hunt.
Other mornings offer only the gift to marvel at the beauty of an Up North sunrise,
Watch the world wake up and God’s creatures busy themselves with life’s demands.
How the hunters enjoy these fading years of the log.
How grand to have a wonderful wild place, to be one with nature.
Will future generations have such magic places?
Where grandfathers, fathers, daughters, sons and all kindred spirits, who love and respect the hunt,
Can find their own logs and make memories for a lifetime.
‘Tis this old hunters simple hope for the future.