‘Conservation Mike’ wins instructor award
By Dale Bowman Post-Tribune correspondent December 6, 2012 11:22PM
Updated: January 8, 2013 6:31AM
Hunter education comes naturally to Mike Echterling.
“I have had students as old as 73 — he wanted to hunt in another state — and as young as 5,’’ Echterling said. “He couldn’t read, so somebody had to read the test to him. He scored a 96 and his 7-year-old brother scored a 98. The parents, mom and dad, both scored a 96.’’
The Highland man received the 2012 Hunter Education Volunteer Instructor of the Year for District 10 from the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
Echterling is commonly known as “Conservation Mike’’ on Region Bass Buzz on Saturday mornings on WJOB-AM (1230) because of his time as conservation chair for Lake County Fish and Game.
“I like to be involved,’’ Echterling said. “I started helping out with classes. Even though all volunteer, it is very rewarding to have the parents and kids come up and thank you after the class. The kids really want to be there. There is never any acting up or goofing around.
“I try to keep it fun and keep it light. Parts of the class is deadly serious. And I try to impress that upon them. But the entire class doesn’t need to be that.’’
He mixes fun and the serious points of hunter education.
“The world is a little safer after the class,’’ he said.
Now, he does classes at Cabela’s in Hammond.
“It was kind of a mutual thing,’’ Echterling said. “Basically all I have to do is show up. They have all the stuff.
“Kids get more hands on experience. They get to see more than seeing it in the book. They get to hear the noises and feel the weight (of hunting equipment). They will handle the guns and check out other things. They know what they are getting into.’’
Deer hunting: With the changes in reporting this year, it’s hard to get a sense of the firearms season, which ended Sunday.
“Not sure yet how it will shape up,’’ deer biologist Chad Stewart emailed. “With having multiple ways to report deer, it’s hard to get a feel for how the season is going. We clearly saw fewer deer at the check stations we were at on opening weekend, but it’s too early to say if that’s a function of the online check-in system or a lower harvest.’’
At LaSalle Fish and Wildlife Area, 2012 has been good for deer. Last year, there were 17 shot with gun, there were 22 this year. Archery season is already at 30 deer, closing in on the record 38 deer in 2001.
Muzzleloader deer season opens Saturday and runs through Dec. 23.
Waterfowling: The first duck season in the north zone ends Sunday. Staff at LaSalle FWA said blinds will be hunted all day the last three days. Could be fun, birds are flying afternoons. After this weekend, goose hunters will be self-service through Dec. 21, but they may not hunt the corn blinds at LaSalle. ... At Willow Slough FWA, the one change is double filling (a.m. and p.m.) the rookery blinds on Sunday.
Fishing notes: Weather on Wednesday finally slowed the late fall perch fishing on southern Lake Michigan.
“It was awesome up until Tuesday,’’ said Capt. Rich Sleziak from Slez’s Bait in Lake Station.
A few were out trying again Thursday. Key has been perch flies with extra-large fatheads or baby roaches. Best was out of the Ditch, but even there it took sorting for keepers.
Sleziak said crappie continue good around most bridges on Deep River.
Winter steelhead in the streams slowed because of the lack of water, though fisherman are trying.
Ice fishing: Cabela’s (cabelas.com/retail-stores-hammond.shtml) holds an ice fishing event this weekend.