ERIC SHARP: Hunting event is a team affair

Competitive hunting and fishing tournaments are not my cup of tea. I think that hunting and fishing should be means to escape the pressures of daily lives that are already more than competitive enough.

Though I occasionally write about major bass and walleye tournaments, it's because they are a good place to learn about the latest and greatest techniques. There's no question that the promise of prizes ranging up to $1 million spurs ingenuity and innovation among the pros.

Yet when I'm standing in a trout stream or a bass boat, walking through the bracken in a grouse woods or sitting in a tree stand with a bow, I'm much more interested in being able to take time out to look at an unusual bird or enjoy a beautiful sunrise than in derricking a fish into the boat five seconds after it's hooked, or fretting about killing the heaviest wild hog.

That said, I do like the idea of the Travis Thunderbird Invitational _ perhaps the only event of its kind in Michigan _ scheduled in Lewiston, Mich., on Oct. 13. It's relatively cheap to enter, there are no money prizes and the concept is to get people into the woods and encourage camaraderie among hunters.

The event, sponsored by the Travis Restaurants from the eastern suburbs of Detroit, allows teams of three hunters each and their dogs to hunt anywhere they like as long as they get back to the check-in by 6 p.m.

The teams get two points for each grouse and one point for each woodcock, with a maximum of 39 points possible under the Michigan bag limits. Ken Saroli, the owner of the Falcon Cove Resort on Long Lake near Alpena and one of the Thunderbird organizers, said that "getting the maximum points isn't very likely. The best we've ever seen is 31, and most teams don't even come close to that. If teams tie on points, the first to check in gets preference."

Saroli said the $150 entry fee for each team includes breakfast at the Iron Kettle in Lewiston, lunch at a cabin in the woods and a prime rib dinner at the Rustic Inn. The meals alone are worth more than the entry fee.

The top prize is a grouse print by wildlife artist Dan Heuer for each member of the winning team. There are also door prizes donated by Michi-Gun in St. Clair Shores, Bob's Gun Shop in Alpena and G5 archery equipment of Memphis.

The nominal deadline to enter was Monday, but Saroli said: "I'm flexible on that. We set the deadline so we have a rough idea of how many people we'll serve at dinner. If they give me a call and tell me they're going to enter, we'll let them get in after Oct. 1."

For information or an entry form, call Saroli at 989-595-2638.