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Locked and loaded

Alex Doty • Jul 21, 2015 at 11:49 AM

The second hunt at the county park is Dec. 8-9.

“We’re very excited to say we have 17 hunters for the first hunt and 17 hunters for the second,” said Melanie Manion, Ottawa County's natural resources management supervisor.

Manion said 270 hunters applied for permits for the two-weekend hunt. Because of the overwhelming response, only 15 slots were given away through the county’s lottery process.

“Most of them are different, but there are some repeaters,” Manion said.

Manion said county officials have performed a litany of safety checks to make sure things go off without a hitch.

“For safety reasons, we have a check-in policy, so everyone has to check in at North Beach Park (in Ferrysburg),” she said.

Each hunter will be assigned a specific zone where they can hunt deer. This allows hunters to have their own area without crossing paths with each other.

“Zones range from 11 to 26 acres, with the average being about 17 acres,” Manion said.

Hunter registration will begin at 5 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Checkout from the park is at 8 p.m. both days.

“During that time, we’ll always have people at the North Beach Park,” Manion said.

To read the county parks officials' reasons for the hunt and the rules, click the Related Files below this story.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources allows hunting up to 15 minutes after sunset. Manion said the 8 p.m. checkout time allows hunters the opportunity to get back to the staging area with any deer they may have taken.

“We’re hoping for good weather and for hunters to have a good time, and for neighbors to understand and feel comfortable,” Manion said.

Residents who live near the park have mixed feelings about the two-weekend hunt.

Beverly Cooper, who lives next to the park, said she's seen vegetation have difficulties growing and erosion issues within the past few years.

“We have been dealing with a deer over-population for decades,” she said. “To have some of the deer taken out is a good idea.”

Cooper said she's also concerned about the deer population having an effect on the health of the herd.

“I have seen several deer that looked like a greyhound, it was so thin,” she said.

Ferrysburg City Councilwoman Regina Sjoberg said the hunt is not a good idea, mainly for safety concerns.

“Much of North Ottawa Dunes abuts Coast Guard Park and private home property," she explained. "I feel this hunt is risky, and am disappointed that other public officials have not really checked into the safety concerns that many residents have voiced.”

Sjoberg lives in Ferrysburg's Parkwood Village, which is near the hunting area. She is expecting to see the consequences of the hunt firsthand.

“During this hunt, I am going to see herds of fleeing deer in the forest that backs my home,” she said. “I hope people realize that they have no right to pursue those deer outside of the designated hunt area, and I also hope this is not a tragedy waiting to happen.”

Manion said “a lot of time and thought and sleepless nights” went into making the hunt possible. She said county parks and recreation officials have been looking at feedback from neighbors and the community, and promised that it hasn’t fallen on deaf ears.

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