Michigan state Parks are not only great places to camp when hunting and fishing across the state, but many of these parks also offer rustic cabins or bunkhouses for rent to families and/or groups who prefer this form of accommodations while enjoying the outdoors. Some of these cabins put anglers and hunters closer to the fish and game they're after and can increase their chances of success. If nothing else, these cabins provide a comfortable and secure refuge from biting insects and rain during the summer as well as the cold and snow in winter.
A Recreation Passport, which can be obtained when renewing vehicle license plates each year, is required for entry to all state parks. Those who do not have a recreation passport must pay the entry fee for the park they plan on staying at, besides cabin or campsite rental fees.
Three of the state parks with cabins for rent are Porcupine Mountains Wilderness in the west U.P. between Silver City on the east and Wakefield to the southwest, Craig Lake in the northcentral U.P. north of Michigamme in Baraga County, and Wilderness State Park in the northwestern-most corner of the Lower Peninsula in Emmet County.
Here's what you need to know about the cabins and the types of hunting and fishing in the area that you can enjoy from the rental cabins in these parks.
Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park encompasses 59,020 acres in parts of Gogebic and Ontonagon counties and most of the public land is open to hunting and fishing. There are 19 cabins and five yurts available for rent in the Porkies that are scattered throughout the park. Yurts are circular in shape and have canvas walls instead of wood. As a wilderness park, it's necessary to hike a minimum of a mile from the nearest trailhead, and up to four miles in some cases, to reach cabins and yurts, and so all food, drinks and other supplies must be backpacked in.
None of the cabins have plumbing or electricity. Outhouses are present, but renters are required to bring toilet paper and lighting for the interior of cabins after dark. Only mattresses are provided on beds in cabins, and so renters need to bring bedding as well. Pots and pans for cooking; plates and silverware for eating are in the cabins. All cabins and yurts have wood stoves for heat. A bow saw and axe are provided at both cabins and yurts for renters to use to cut firewood from dead trees and limbs that have fallen to the ground.
Water buckets are provided to collect water from lakes and streams. Water must be boiled or filtered to make it safe to drink.The cabins/yurts are popular among both deer and bear hunters. An annual drawing is held to determine who gets a bear license. The application period for bear tags is May 1 through June 1 and the Porkies are in the Bergland Bear Management Unit (BMU), with bear hunting during September and October. Bow deer and bear seasons overlap from Oct. 1-26. Bear hunters can hunt with either archery equipment or the firearm of their choice. Firearms deer season dates are Nov. 15-30.
The Porkies are part of a winter deeryard so hunting can be better after snow starts accumulating. Late-season muzzleloader and archery deer hunts during December can offer some of the best whitetail hunting.
Excellent fishing is also available from park cabins. There are three cabins around Mirror Lake, which is stocked with splake. Splake must be at least 15 inches long to be kept. Lily Pond, where there's one cabin, contains brook trout. Catch-and-release fishing for smallmouth bass is available on Lake of the Clouds, where again there's one cabin. Anglers are limited to artificial lures only on Lake of the Clouds. Yellow perch that also inhabit Lake of the Clouds can be kept for a meal. Don't overlook that option!
Either a rowboat or canoe to fish from goes with the rental of cabins on Mirror Lake, Lily Pond, and Lake of the Clouds.
Four cabins are clustered near the mouths of the Big and Little Carp rivers, along the shore of Lake Superior where steelhead and salmon runs occur during spring and fall. Stream trout fishing is also available during the summer. Casting spoons such as Little Cleos along the Superior shore, especially at river mouths, can produce mixed catches of trout and salmon. Bait-fishing with spawn bags and worms can also be productive both at river mouths and rivers. Spinners can produce action on rivers, too.
14 miles north of Wakefield and one mile west of Silver City - 906-885-5275
LODGING: 19 cabins and 5 yurts, $65/night
Campgrounds: Presque Isle Unit (west end), 49 sites ($15); Union Bay (east end) has a boat launch, 98 sites ($27); 63 backcountry campsites ($15).
On-Site: Visitor's Center near Silver City with a gift shop and a convenience store nearby (May 15 to Oct. 15); many hiking trails and no-hunting safety zones are present.
CRAIG LAKE STATE PARK
Craig Lake State Park is one of the most remote parks in the system. It encompasses 8,459 acres of state land in eastern Baraga County. There are two cabins and two yurts available for rent in Craig Lake State Park, but are only available to the public from May 15 through Oct. 15. That rules out their use during firearms deer season, but there are many bears in the area and small game hunting for ruffed grouse is also possible. Small game season opens on Sept. 15. Fishing is the main attraction for this park and users of its cabins and yurts.
The two cabins are located on Craig Lake and they are a two-mile hike from the parking area. A large cabin sleeps up to 14 people and the smaller one can handle six. Yurts that sleep four people are located on Teddy and Keewaydin lakes. Bedding is not provided, but pots and pans for cooking, plates and silverware for eating are. There's no electricity or plumbing in cabins/yurts. Outhouses are provided. Don't forget to bring toilet paper, though.
There's a hand pump for well water at the cabins. Those who use yurts will need to boil or filter water for drinking. Picnic tables, fire rings and cooking grills are available at the cabins, too. The park provides some firewood. A bow saw and axe are provided to cut dead and downed trees for additional firewood.
Special fishing regulations are in effect for this park. They limit anglers to the use of artificial lures only on all lakes. Catch-and-release fishing only is available for muskies, northern pike, largemouth and smallmouth bass. Anglers can keep up to two walleyes per day that are at least 15 inches long. There is no size limit for panfish such as perch, bluegills and sunfish. Motors of any kind are prohibited on all lakes, except Thomas and Keewaydin.
A gravel road leads to Lake Keewaydin where there's a boat launch. Light canoes and kayaks are best suited for most lakes in Craig Lake State Park since watercraft will have to be carried to many of the lakes to fish them.
If the cabins and yurts in Craig Lake State Park are full for the time frame you want, consider staying at nearby Van Riper State Park. That park has two mini-cabins, a rustic cabin and a larger camper cabin for rent. This park also has plenty of campsites. Van Riper is located on the shores of large Lake Michigamme where motorboats are allowed and anglers can catch northern pike, muskies, walleyes and bass under normal state fishing regulations and creel limits.
906-339-4461 (Van Riper State Park)
LODGING: Large cabin, $86/night; Small cabin and yurts, $65/night
Campgrounds: Van Riper State Park is about seven miles east of Keewaydin Road on Highway US 41. 147 modern sites with electricity, bathrooms and showers for $22/night; 40 rustic sites for $13/night. Van Riper also has two mini-cabins for $49/night, a rustic cabin for $65/night and a large camper cabin for $86/night.
On-Site: Numerous waterfalls. Moose are common in the area. Mosquitoes and black flies can be bad during summer. Headnets and/or ThermaCell units make them bearable.
WILDERNESS STATE PARK
Emmet County's Wilderness State Park includes 10,512 acres of state land where it's possible to hunt for white-tailed deer, black bears and small game, and to fish for a variety of species in Lake Michigan. There are six rustic cabins that sleep from four to eight people, and three bunkhouses that each sleep up to 24 people. The bunkhouses are accessible by vehicle year 'round. Each cabin has a hand pump for water, fire pit, picnic table and charcoal grill outside. During winter months, cabins are not accessible by car, but can be reached via snowmobiles, skis and/or snowshoes.
Travel distances to rustic cabins are .75 miles to 3.5 miles. Cabins at this park do not have cooking utensils or appliances, plates or silverware like those in the U.P. No electricity or plumbing are present at cabins, but bunkhouses have electricity. Outhouses are available, but toilet paper is not provided. All cabins/bunkhouses must be cleaned and garbage removed at the end of stays. A dumpster for trash is present at park headquarters.
Wilderness State Park is in the Red Oak Bear Management Unit. A minimum of seven preference points is necessary to draw a bear license for that unit. The application period is May 1 through June 1. Hunters get a preference point for each year they buy a point with a $5 nonrefundable application fee or are unsuccessful in the drawing. Bear season is much shorter in the Lower Peninsula than the Upper.
Bear season dates in the Red Oak BMU for 2017 were Sept. 17-25 and Oct. 6-12. Both bows and guns are legal during the September hunt. The first day of the season (Sept. 17) was for bait only and the last two days (Sept. 24 & 25) were for dogs only. The October hunt is for bow and arrow only over bait.
Archery deer season dates are Oct. 1 to Nov. 14 and Dec. 1 to Jan. 1. Firearms season is Nov. 15-30 and muzzleloader season is Dec. 1-10. Mandatory antler point restrictions were in effect in Emmet County through 2016, limiting hunters to shooting bucks with at least 3 points on one antler. Check current regulations to determine if that has changed.
Small game hunting options include ruffed grouse, squirrels and snowshoe hares, which begins on Sept. 15. Grouse can be hunted through Nov. 14 and then again during the month of December. Squirrels and rabbits are legal game through March.
There's a boat launch in the park at Big Stone Bay. Smallmouth bass are common in rocky shallows and reeds along the shore and on reefs. Northern pike can be found in association with weedbeds and dropoffs. Catch salmon and trout while trolling in the deeper waters of Lake Michigan.
903 Wilderness Park Dr, - Carp Lake, MI 49718, 231-436-5381
LODGING: Bunkhouses, $86/night; Large cabin, $70; small cabins, $65/night
Campgrounds: 250 modern sites ($32/night May 12-June 22; $40 or $45/night, if lakeside or not lakeside, June 23 to Oct. 19); 42 rustic sites ($20/night); 2 backcountry sites ($13/night).
On-Site: Park headquarters, playground, hiking trails, no-hunting safety zone at campgrounds and pond.
All park reservations: midnrreservations.com, (1-800-44Parks). For information: michigan.gov/stateparks.
By Richard P. Smith