Hunting triggers outrage

A controversial deer hunt is coming to the North Ottawa Dunes area this fall, aimed at thinning the herd in the area.
Alex Doty
Sep 11, 2012


“We have been discussing it since we bought the property,” Ottawa County Parks Director John Scholtz said.

The Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission bought the property in 2005. They recently voted to allow a managed hunt to help control the deer population on Nov. 17-18 during firearms season and Dec. 8-9 during muzzleloader season.

North Ottawa Dunes is a 500-acre dune property located adjacent to P.J. Hoffmaster State Park. The hunts are planned to support the state’s efforts to reduce habitat degradation caused by the deer overpopulation.

“There’s places along the lakeshore and in Grand Haven where our plants are being impacted negatively by the deer herd,” Scholtz said. “What we’re striving for is a balance.”

The hunts coincide with hunts that will take place at Hoffmaster State Park.

Deer population too high

According to parks officials, parks staff and researchers from Grand Valley State University installed a deer exclosure to monitor the effects of the high deer densities at the park in 2007.

Scholtz said an analysis of the exclosures showed there are more plants inside the area that deer cannot access when compared to the surrounding landscape.

Melanie Manion, Natural Resources Management Supervisor at Ottawa County Parks, said that deer are an important part of the natural features within the parks, but said their numbers have outgrown resources.

“The current number of deer is too high to sustain a healthy ecosystem,” she said. “Once kept in check by large predators like wolves and cougars, these large herbivores, when numbers get too high, are able to decimate native plants and the animals dependent on the plants.”

Manion also noted that deer in excessive numbers also are known to spread invasive species, which the county parks system works to control.

Hunt under fire

The planned hunt has come under fire from some community leaders and groups.

“I am concerned about the hunt,” Ferrysburg City Councilwoman Regina Sjoberg said. “I am not anti-hunting, but do feel that the proposed hunt in North Ottawa Dunes is dangerous to surrounding residents. It has been pushed forward by DNR and conservation officials, and is not based on scientific facts.”

Sjoberg was Ferrysburg's representative to a collaborative municipal government meeting regarding the deer issue in March. DNR and park personnel also attended.

“I was under the impression that there would be further discussions, but that never happened,” she said.

Sjoberg was also a representative on Ferrysburg's Deer Advisory Board, which conducted research on deer, invasive species and other environmental matters.

“The fact is, even experts do not agree on deer as an invasive species. I believe county conservation staff has made some very vague statements about deer and their impact on residents,” Sjoberg said. “We need to do a true count of numbers and further research before we jump the gun.”

The local Tri-Cities Safety Coalition also spoke out against the proposed hunt.

In a statement, the group noted, among other things, that the Ottawa County Parks and Recreation Commission's policy statement for deer management in the county parks system was “misguided, biased and deeply flawed.”

The group said that they “argue that without an independent ecosystem impact study and a deer population survey in North Ottawa Dunes to substantiate the need for a hunt using solid data, and without baseline data to provide a starting point, how can the county even know that a hunt is necessary or what it will achieve? In addition, this proposed hunt will pose a serious safety threat to families, children and companion animals that live in the area, and recreational users of North Ottawa Dunes.”

Surveys, safety and support

Manion said there was a lot of time that went into determining what safety measures to take.

A 2010 survey of county residents found that 66 percent of respondents agreed with the need to reduce deer numbers to protect vegetation in high quality natural areas.

Officials also studied the efforts of park managers around the Midwest who recognized the necessity of managing deer populations to protect native ecosystems.

Manion noted that for safety, they will keep hunter levels as low as possible, and they’ll hold a mandatory pre-hunt meeting with hunters to review safety issues and mark a 450-foot buffer zone from inhabited structures.

“Safety is of our utmost concern,” she said.

County Parks will also provide on-site staff support before and during the hunt, and all trails will be closed during the hunt days, she said.

Even with the opposition, there are deer hunters supportive of the plan.

Local hunter Ken Melvin said he didn’t think the planned hunt was a bad idea.

“I don’t see where it would do any harm,” Melvin said. “It is harder and harder to find a place to go.”

He said that these days people requiring a place to hunt are forced to either go on hunts such as the one being planned for this fall, or go on a longer trip.

To obtain a hunting permit for North Ottawa Dunes:

Contact the Ottawa County Parks Office at 616-738-4810 or e-mail A lottery system will be used to select successful hunters if more applications are received than spaces available.

Vote in the Tribune online poll: What do you think of the North Ottawa Dunes deer hunt? (


Tri-cities realist

I don't think it takes a "scientific" study to know that there are too many deer when you can almost pet these wild creatures. I'm sure some people won't want to hear this, but this hunt will "remind" the deer that they still have natural predators... Humans. Survival of the fittest, right?


Survival of the fittest would mean some wildlife would actually rate higher in right to life
than some humans ... just sayin'




I suspected that would be confusing to some. Sorry to make you come out with that wtf statement. I should have been more thoughtful in my comment. I should have realized it would hit close to home with some and cause consternation. Sorry. Really.

Tri-cities realist

Haha at least you have a sense of humor. I understood your comment, although it did not pertain to me.


not confusing, plain stupidity period


Blowing off science, even when it comes to "only" deer, isn't such a good idea! Of course, science matters versus just knowing whether there are too many deer! Unless you apply scirence, and unless you know some wildlife biology, just seeing deer and deciding that there are too many is not very scientific! Do you actually know what the biological carrying capacity is in any given area? You may be simply reacting to a social carrying capacity in which even one deer may be too many for some people! No, man is NOT a natural predator - have you known deer to rip apart and devour human beings? Deer's natural predators have been eliminated by man; predators are in direct competition with hunters. State wildlife agencies "manage" deer, not to attain a low number in keeping with resident's desires, NO, they "manage" for maximum sustained yield (MSY), not giving a hoot about what most people want: Their only allegiance is to their clients, hunters, keeping them happy with a large number of deer, at the same time being altruistic by filling their coffers to pay their salaries. Killing deer will not reduce their population, except immediately after a hunt. Deer will rebound to the same, if not higher population. Has killing deer ever reduced their populations permanently? Yes, but only if they are completely or almost eliminated, as was done at the turn of the last Century by commercial hunting. Around 1970, wildlife agencies across the US made it their job managing bringing back deer populations at a vengenance, all to create a lucrative deer hunting business that it is today! That's science which you cannot ignore.
Too many deer? Kill them, but make sure that you don't lower deer numbers too much, after all, boo hoo, hunters will be unhappy!
Leave deer alone and they will eventually "manage" themselves without interference from "managers" and hunters....will this ever happen? I doubt it, too much at stake for wildlife agencies, deer hunters, business, and just plain deer haters!

Tri-cities realist

Smartie, you state "No, man is NOT a natural predator - have you known deer to rip apart and devour human beings". I probably don't need to say anything else. But just an FYI, deer are not predators (except to plants), they are prey, but I hope you know that!


I have a right to enjoy our parks without fear of hunters. I have a right to enjoy wildlife held in public trust. The state and local agencies promoting hunters for the sake of big box weapons stores and sales of licenses, is becoming tiresome - it is a national game supported by the need to keep money flowing to state "natural resource" agencies. They need to discover a new means to create funding for their agencies - not just creating more deer for annual kills. They very well know that hunting kicks in the rebound effect and presto! Now the parks are open for hunting every year for lazy shooters who do not want to travel to some remote region. It takes no skill to slaughter park animals. Shame on those who sign up for hunting and shame on the agencies rubber stamping these requests for local hunt sites. My family has a right to enjoy our parks - free of knowing that the wildlife will soon be stalked, wounded, orphaned or dead. As soon as the first person is injured, let the lawsuits begin. It would be far more effective for state agencies to "manage" deer by changing the ratio of bucks and does allowed to be killed - they know just how to manipulate these numbers to bring the deer numbers down - down as far as they want to go. But - that is not their goal. They MUST get "hunter satisfaction" rates. At one time, areas had NO deer due to overkill in the early part of last century but the agencies changed that with manipulation of kill sex ratios. Time to out these agencies and their agendas - over and over - they increase deer availability to increase license sales while telling the public they have to kill them all to save the plants and motorists. Can't have it both ways. The 94% of the population that does not hunt and the 98% of the population that would NOT hunt semi tame deer, have the right to safe and pleasant parks. The parks are not owned by the hunting industry. They are owned by the citizens.


The parks are not owned by the hunting industry. They are owned by the citizens? Time to rethink that one........there owned by the state and local governing bodies,

Tri-cities realist

And I have a right to eat the animals that are held in the public trust. That is the problem with the so called tolerant left. They are tolerant only so long as you agree with them.


Mmmm how much are you contributing to use the states resources? What do you do other than "use" the resource. That small percentage of hunters (your stats) that you look down upon are doing far more to enhance the resource thru their license fees, care of the land thru being good stewards of the resource. I have walked those dunes for the last 35 years and carried out a lot of cans, beer bottles, candy wrappers, bug spray cans you name it, that were left out there. Have you ever walked off or looked off the trails to see the damage that has and is occurring from over-browse? My guess is you would not recognize this it if you saw it! So what's your solution to the problem? Or are you just here to talk against hunting.

Foxy Lady

It seems that the anti-cruelty laws should apply to all animals! Viewed from a distance, wildlife tends to blend together into an undifferentiated mass, like a crowd of spectators at a football game. But, all animals will feel the same pain an injured domestic pet feels and all animals should be respected and treated kindly.

States and towns provide trophy hunting for truly odd people who find a distorted form of “recreation” in killing helpless animals and in order to please gun and archery manufacturers and fur and animal organ dealers

If moral or financial reasons aren't enough, there is the fact that hunting simply does not work as a sustainable solution to reduce or even control the deer population due to the principal of reproductive rebound. According to many documented studies, deer conceive multiple embryos, but the number of fawns born is directly related to nutrition and herd density. When herd density is temporarily reduced through hunting, there is reduced competition for food and the number of twins and triplets born actually increases.

Studies even showed that after a hunt, surviving females produced enough offspring to not only replace those killed, but enough to actually INCREASE the size of the herd. This is reproductive rebound.


We hunt and fish to eat, not to kill. We have hunting laws and limits to take into account. this stops over population and disease.


No, hunting does NOT stop overpopulation, it creates it.
In fact, hunting degrades the gene pool, therefore encouraging disease!


What!! Where are you getting this nonsense from? You are obviously just here to stir the pot, not solve the issue.

black foot

Human life is distinct from all other life forms. Humans are personal, moral beings; animals and plants simply are not. It has been noted that only humans have the ability to compose music, be artistic, design and build things like cars, computers, telephones, airplanes , weapons, televisions etc. humans alone can arrange words in logical order to communicate ideas. We are real thinkers.
Most animal rights activists identify themselves closely with environmental issues, the feminist movement, etc. They are, in short, "new agers," a term that has always made me uncomfortable. "Animal rights" quickly becomes an issue, right along with war, equal rights, abortion, and homosexuality.
As far as ecological benefits, hunting does not damage game populations. Most anti-hunters are far more concerned with stopping hunting altogether than they are about animal welfare. They spend their money fighting hunters and hunting, not for increasing animal welfare.
For non-believers, how about basic human rights? What about the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? Is hunting not a pursuit of happiness? I know it is.

-Gene Wensel (Come November- The Whitetail Experience-Fifty Years of Paying Attention to Deer)


You put animals (sentient beings) in the same category as plants? Ugh. I guess I have to sign off. We must have gone to different schools, or our interpretations skills are at great variance. In fact, your entire piece is more religious than civic. Pursuit of happiness is killing?? Those who kill for food, are "normal" if they do not take "pleasure" in the act. When one takes pleasure in the act of killing (pursuit of happiness) - that is a sign of psychopathy. A surgeon who salivates at the prospect of slicing a body open and moving organs around for the pleasure of seeing blood, is not "normal." The point of the surgery is to cure. If you take pleasure in killing - well, that is a personal issue. I don't really think God would like that --- but, you will just have to wait and find out for yourself.

black foot

Hunting is not about killing. It is not a privilege or a sport, it is a instinct. I, as a hunter let go many deer every season as a choice, only to take the one that suits me. And as for this comment. "I don't really think God would like that --- but, you will just have to wait and find out for yourself." I look forward to that day. Also 1st offense hunter harassment stars with a $500 fine. Like it or not , the hunt will go on. Sorry your a hater.


Blackfoot is a wise hunter and is the majority opinion you will find if you talk with a group of hunters. While there will be slightly different opinions to what is a good hunting experience, most all have a great deal of respect for the land and the game they pursue. For all the haters on here, I too feel sorry for your misguided judgements of what has been a part of our existence since the beginning of time.


Right on. This group of activist claim they care about the animals and the environment but their action are far more damaging to the animals and environment.

Tri-cities realist

FoxyLady, if "hunting simply does not work as a sustainable solution to reduce or even control", how is it that the grey wolf was virtually extinct in this country, until hunting them was banned? And if you think deer are "helpless" animals, how is it that only about half of the deer hunters are successful each year. Actually deer are equipped with some of the best senses in the animal kingdom. Try to get within 15 yards of them and you will see what I mean. Im talking about deer in the wilderness, not the virtually tame ones in the city. They lack their natural fear of humans since they are not hunted. And for all of you anti's, there are still many people who rely on venison to feed their families, since it is a healthier alternative to beef. But I suppose we shouldn't eat beef either, only brussel sprouts and tofu... Yum


I would like to ask Melanie Manion, Natural Resources Management Supervisor at Ottawa County Parks, and Ottawa County Parks Director John Scholtz how a 450-foot safety buffer zone can protect residents when the maximum range of shotgun and muzzleloader slugs are 5,205 feet (about one mile), and 4,498 feet respectively? They can hold 10 mandatory pre-hunt meetings with hunters to review safety issues and that isn't going to reduce the maximum range of a shotgun or muzzleloader slug to 450 feet.

If there is no serious safety threat to the residents who live around North Ottawa Dunes, then I'd like to see Melanie Manion and John Scholtz sign a waiver of liability protection which they may have from their County positions, and assume all liability from any accidents or worse that happen as a result of this hunt that they have pushed for and are sponsoring.

Tri-cities realist

And you could be hit by a careless driver in a car, should we ban cars?


OK, this is where you lose your credibility!
Cars are a daily necessity for people to get from point A to point B! If you said "car racing", you might have made a tiny bit of sense!
Hunting is nothing but a recreational activity.

Tri-cities realist

Smartie, and that is where you are mistaken... Twice. Some people choose bikes, or to walk or ride a bus, rather than drive a car. I respect their decision and do not ridicule them. As for hunting being a recreational activity, it is for some, but certainly not all. I know several families who depend on wild game to feed their families. It is a relatively inexpensive way to harvest, and certainly more humane than domestic livestock. So please remember, just because you don't believe in hunting, does not make it wrong. You have the right to voice your opinion, but that's about all.

Tri-cities realist

GN, regarding the waiver, why stop there? Why not ask the gun and ammunition manufacturers to accept all liability as well? Oh and the stores that sold the guns and ammo. And the cars and gasoline companies that allowed the hunters to drive there. What an absolutely rediculous idea, I know. It is called personal responsibility, we all should try more of it.


Hunting is barbaric and disgusting. It has no place in the 21st century!!


Do you eat meat? Go to a slaughter house once and see how cows, pigs, chickens & turkeys are slaughtered. it would probably make you puke, think of that the next time you bite into a big ol juicy burger.....


That's why I don't eat that.
If you know that is the case in slaughter houses and factory farms, why does that not bother YOU?



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