“I was pleased with how things went,” County Parks Director John Scholtz said.
A total of 16 deer were harvested during the two-weekend hunting event. Scholtz said 13 were taken during the first weekend, Nov. 17-18. The other three were taken Dec. 8-9.
“Because we are trying to reduce deer numbers, we were a little disappointed in the amount,” Scholtz said. “The weather played a role in that.”
More than 270 hunters applied for permits for the two weekends. Groups of 17 were chosen to hunt each of the two weekends.
Hunters were assigned specific zones inside the 500-acre park to hunt deer. This allowed hunters to have their own area without crossing paths.
“We identified 17 zones, and we had one hunter per zone,” Scholtz said.
Hunters were given safety instructions prior to the hunt, and efforts were made to ensure that the surrounding residential neighborhoods were safe.
The hunt was in response to concerns over deer population in the park area.
In 2007, the Ottawa County Parks Department and Grand Valley State University installed a deer exclosure to monitor the effects of the deer densities at the park. Analysis of the exclosure — along with exclosures placed at P.J. Hoffmaster State Park in Norton Shores — show there are more plants inside the area that deer can’t access when compared to the surrounding landscape.
According to parks officials, eliminating the understory plants threatens the regeneration of the park’s forest. It also threatens all animals needing the food and shelter provided by the growth.
Ottawa County Natural Resources Coordinator Melanie Manion said they plan to host another hunt next fall.
“In all of our education and literature, we’ve said this was a long-term project,” she said.
Manion said the ongoing management effort is in response to concerns about the compensatory rebound effect.
According to the Wildlife Education Coalition, compensatory rebound is a reproductive response of a species by which a sudden increase in food resources, due to a sudden decrease in the population, induces a high reproductive rate. When applied to deer, it means that when large populations are killed, the remaining deer benefit from enhanced food supply and begin to produce more deer.
“That is what happens if you just do a one-time hunt,” Manion said. “If you do another hunt, you don’t have compensatory rebound.”
Manion also noted that they’ve received mostly good feedback from area residents.
“The vast majority of feedback we’ve received was very positive and very supportive,” she said. “The people that have seen the history, they were really comfortable with it.”
Parks officials said they will take what they’ve learned and put it to use in future hunts.
“Learning from (hunts at) Hoffmaster and other organizations, we were able to make adjustments that helped us this year,” Manion said. “We’re putting out a survey today asking for more feedback.”