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

Hunting is neither of those words you use. It is the most natural way for humans to obtain meat, as our ancestors have done for thousands of years. I find it amazing that some think we are so advanced, that we no longer need to hunt. Thankfully there are still those that endure the ridicule and continue to hunt. However there is a practice that is still used in the 21st century that is described well by both of the words you use.

Vast Right Wing...

GN where did you get your facts that "maximum range of shotgun and muzzleloader slugs are 5,205 feet (about one mile), and 4,498 feet respectively?" I have yet to see a shotgun or muzzle loader shoot anywhere near that range.

HansGruber How can the DNR change the ratio of deer without culling the herd? I have the right to not have my property destroyed by animals. I should not have to put up with deer living on my property and destroying the property that the state is holding in trust for the people by allowing too many animals to live in a protected area.

There are so many deer in the area, that I have even seen them walking in the travel lanes of US31 in the city of Grand Haven in the middle of the night. Car/deer accidents are on the rise and very costly. Is the deer that gets hit by a car better than one that either starves to death or gets hunted? What about the damage done to people's property by the overabundance of deer?


Right on!!!!!!!


County Park officials John Scholtz and Melanie Manion repeadedly claim that there is a deer over population in North Ottawa Dunes, and that the deer have done extensive ecodamage. Yet there has not be one deer population survey or independent ecosystem impact study. Their claims are totally anecdotal and are not based on any hard data or scientific fact. The only thing they refer to is one deer exclosure study. Deer exclosure studies are total junk science and prove absolutely nothing. "The 'professional' scientific community does not recognize deer exclosures as a valid method of measuring deer impacts." ("The truth and nothing but the truth about deer exclosures", Jim Slinsky, the host and producer of the "Sportsman's Connection", a nationally syndicated, outdoor-talk radio program, The Steuben Courier, 2009.)


Dear Vast Right Wing,

FYI, this maximum range figure was taken from a Pennsylvania Budget and Finance Committee commissioned report. This report was commissioned in response to the Casey Burns' hunting accident and law suit back in 2004 in Allentown, PA. Casey Burns, who was 18 years old and pregnant, was struck in the head while sitting in a car in her driveway. The shot was traced to a hunter who was hunting on a farm a half-mile away when he fired at a deer. The study's purpose was to try to find alternative firearms that could be used more safely in densely populated communities. What they found was that the shotgun slug is less safe and more dangerous in the field than a 150 grain .30-06 high powered deer rifle. One of the biggest surprises of this study was that at 0-degrees of elevation which would be a typical shot at a deer on level terrain, the rifle, shotgun and muzzleloader projectiles travel 1,408 feet, 840 feet, and 686 feet respectfully, plus ricochet distances of 3,427 feet, 4,365 feet, and 3,812 feet respectfully. As a result, the total distances traveled by the projectiles are 4,835 feet for the rifle, 5,205 feet for the shotgun, and 4,498 feet for the muzzleloader.

Tri-cities realist

If a bullet travels 1,408 feet, what exactly is a ricochet distance of 3,427 feet? If a bullet has stopped moving, it has zero energy, what causes it to travel an additional 3,427 feet? This appears to defy the laws of physics. I certainly would like to see this "study". Sounds more like creative arithmetic to me.


but...he read it on the internet, it must be true! What a bunch of BS, GN!!


Gee, I eonder where you got your info!


Probably by actually shooting a rifle, shotgun, or muzzleloader!

Tri-cities realist

High school physics class is where I got my info.


Unless you're trying to be overly polite I think you mean to say, "respectively", not "respectfully".

Vast Right Wing...

Yea right. Junk science from a ambulance chaser in a tort case. Are you aware that more people are injured/killed in car/deer accidents than hunting accidents!!

Just keep drinking your koolaid


Junk science, really?
If you truly cared about statistics, you would use them.
How many drivers are there?
How many hunters are there?
Statsitically, there are more hunting accidents than driving accidents.
Once, I read an outdoor column claiming that there were more accident in bathtubs and showers than during hunting....that really was the most imaginative one ever! One would hope that the entire US population bathes/showers more often than the small percentage of hunters were involved in hunting accidents.
It's the percentage!
As Mark Twain said, there are lies, damned lies, and statsitics!


GN, I dont know your facts are even close on shotgun ranges? Being a deer hunter (shotgun) Those ranges arent even close to being correct, Muzzleloader possibly, shotgun no. When sighting in shotguns you typicaly sight in at 50yds and sight to 100 after that (with scope elavation changes) The best patterns are at 100 yrds or less, I have to make major scope changes at 125 /150 / 175 yrds At 200 yrds a scope requires a 6" change in elavation, meaning at zero elavation to 200yrds the bullet has a 6" drop, now you have to take into account using tree stands. Buckshot on the other hand would not make it past 400' very easily. Now muzzleloaders loaded with 150 grains of power are equivelant to a 30-06 for range and kinetic energy. I wont say a 12ga slug at zero elavation would go the distance you are saying, 1/4 mile, very possible. Do you hunt or just surfing the net for trajectory info? Here are some actual trajectory facts to take into account, Bore axis= elavation, maximum ordinate height with range factored in, angle of fall along with angular & linear drift through the elavation of plane and range. The use of slugs is best confined to single barrel shotguns, either single shot or repeaters.

A smoothbore "slug gun" with rifle sights will usually shoot groups in the 3" (6 MOA) range at 50 yards/meters, making them satisfactory deer hunting weapons at short range. An occasional example will do better, and some do worse. Their effective deer hunting range is limted by their accuracy. Compared to practically any big game rifle bullet, rifled slugs are not very accurate. They are a short range (100 yard or less) proposition at best. The ballistic coefficient (BC) and sectional density of rifled slugs is pretty pitiful.
Some jurisdictions in the U.S. forbid the use of rifles and mandate the use of shotgun slugs for deer hunting, for "safety" in crowded hunting areas.
The 12 gauge 2 3/4" load has a MV of 1550 fps and ME of 2935 ft. lbs. The 100 yard figures are 1145 fps and 1600 ft. lbs. Zeroed at 50 yards, the 1 1/4 ounce slug should hit 3.6" low at 100 yards, so it is still a short range load .


Please make sure you let the lawyers and game management folks know that you have personal experience that negates their legal presentations per court case cited. I am sure they will be pleased to know that their research is invalid.


ghresident, I'm not going to waste time debating you on these ranges. I'm confident in the accuracy of the ranges I posted. The range trajectories I posted were the results reported in an extensive study commissioned by the Pennsylvania Budget and Finance Committee in response to the Casey Burns' hunting accident in 2004 in Allentown, PA. This report states that the maximum effective range of a smooth bore 12 gauge shot gun with rifled slugs is about 225 feet, but the maximum range is 5,205 feet. If you want to debate the results of their report I would suggest that you contact them. FYI, I'm an ex-hunter, and have extensive experience with deer and deer management. That said, I don't consider killing semi-tame deer in a local park or in residents back yards hunting. That's not much different than a canned/captive hunt to me. I find no integrity, honor, or challenge killing a semi-tame deer that walks right up to me. That's just plain killing.


Hunting, killing or culling. Bambi still tastes the same........ I'm thawing out some back straps for tomorrows dinner, mmmmmmmmmmmmm tasty!


Apparently using the term "Bambi" is meant to diminish the credibility of those with other opinions and also very apparent is the delight you take in tormenting folks who have high empathy levels which include sentient beings. This is not a trait that is necessarily something to be proud of. In fact, if your delight is in taunting citizens who are concerned about the stalking, torture and needless killing of wildlife, that is an indicator of something other than ..... shall we say, "recreational sports ability." It just hints at a tendency towards bullying, sociopathic delight in offending, and taking emotional delight in the pain of others - whether human or animal. Just sayin -

black foot

Your fueling the fire. Im not sure if its necessary.


There ARE hunters who have skill, hunt in the wild -
These "weekend" hunters who wound and kill backyard wildlife are a joke. And - they know it. But the big box hunt stores need to keep them excited about the prospect of nailing living wildlife to keep a healthy bottom line. When folks have to travel to remote areas, they don't buy as much equipment, camo clothes or stickers for their pick me ups. It is expensive and takes time away from other forms of recreation or in some cases, jobs. So - there has been an effort to bring hunting to backyards and parks for the less than great white hunter. Why travel to Canada when one can "pop" one in a neighbor,s backyard? The state parks, in truth, breed deer for hunting .... maximum sustainable yield should be removed from the language of wildlife "management" agencies. We should not have tax payer funded agencies increasing game numbers for recreational hunters. There is better use of money and human talent in state agencies.

Tri-cities realist

As with any activity, there is a wide range in the tactics and methods used by hunters. The purest may believe they should only hunt with traditional weapons, like a recurve bow. Others use crossbows, or firearms. Some use dogs, depending on the game. Whatever their choices are, as long as it is legal, should be protected. That is why I try not to judge another hunter or ridicule his/her methods, to each their own. It is a tactic of the anti's to turn one hunter against the other based on their hunting methods. It's the traditional divide and conquer strategy. Hopefully all hunters will remember this.

kathy p.

Hunting is a safety issue for children, families, and domesticated pets. We have the right to enjoy our land and parks without being harassed by those hunting. We need to do further study and research into this issue as there are many alternatives available.

As numerous published studies have shown killing deer doesn't work and will not solve the problem. After the killings, more deer will move into the area and reproduce. More fawns will be born because now there is more food available, and this cycle of killing will continue yet another year.


Kathy, I (we) as hunters are not a threat to you, your children and surey not your pets. Nor are we out to harrass you, like it or not hunting is a way of life for many of us out there. Sure there are some reckless hunters out there who could careless about your thoughts and just want to kill for the heck of it. Over population is more of a threat than you really know, proper culling an over populated heard does not mean more animals will move into the area or more being born as a result. In the wild, populations and species are controled by preditors. Without control, disease and famine take over causing more pain and suffering, starvation than in a controled enviroment like the wild.


What you say is probably statistically valid - seems you "brethren of hunting" actually kill more of each other as you mistake each other for deer, turkeys and other wildlife. Can't quite understand why - but a google search will show you the number of hunters killing each other as they mistake them for four legged creatures. (In the case of spouses accidentally killing their partner in a hunting accident where they thought the partner was four legged, well, I always had my doubts about those particular cases - probably cheaper than divorce.) And, then, there are the cases of just randomly shooting themselves as they travel with their weapons. Or, the danger of falling out of tree stands. Read about those all the time. Especially sad when folks under 15 or so kill each other while hunting, or handling their weapons, or mistaking their hunting mentor for a turkey. Sad. Very sad. However, the more the general public is near this group of wildlife killers in a wooded area, the more likely, we, too will be mistaken for a small fawn (if a child) or some other species of wildlife. So - the more you put the general public near hunters, the more the likelihood that civilians and not just brethren hunters will be the targets. Just sayin'


As long as I can legally hunt Bambi, Thumper, Daffy Duck and Miss piggy I will. They sure taste alot better than drug induced farm raised meats. Oh my gawg I'm a savage cold blooded!


Sometimes one reveals more of their personality development in their public writing than they should. LOL? Those humans who enjoy, laugh, etc. at the empathy of others may have a clinical definition when they get this obvious. It used to be legal to burn witches and put virgins on pikes and use cocaine as medicine and in some countries, it is still ok to beat women and children, stone and behead men for adultery and all that other stuff. It's that whole "evolution" thing - evolution of society. Of course, not everyone evolves at the same rate. Just sayin -


Yup, just because I used fictional characters in refferance to wildlife sure brought out the best in ya didnt it?.......just sayin'


Using "Bambi" is the last stage of arguments in this arena. You will note that when recreational killers resort to referring to "Bambi" - they have run out of arguments. It is similar to when politicians use the "Hitler" analogy - all other points of debate have evaded them. So - in my case, I look for the use of that word (Bambi) because it is the last tool in the language toolkit of defenders of urban wildlife killing. What brought me out? It is Sunday and I have time - I am not working with clients or tending to my family or working in my garden or other community activities. In fact, I have house chores coming up soon - so, I will not be posting for awhile - or maybe never if the same tired arguments are drug out. Please don't pat yourself on the back too hard - "Bambi" is something I am used to hearing - however, time off to be free to read and post - well, that is scarce. But - thanks for the observation. Conversation is always good. It keeps the brain fresh.


I find it extremely humorous how you’re so quick to reply to my purposely off tactic comments on this article. Just maybe you’re trying to better your life by downplaying my comments. Fact is you fell right into my intentional trap. While you’re furiously pecking away at your keyboard with your responses it’s getting you and all the other responders absolutely nowhere. The wildlife I harvest, kill or slaughter, no matter how you look at it does not even come close to filling my freezer. 90% of my yearly take goes to feed the less fortunate family’s in this area. The majority of them depend on churches, food banks to substantiate there existence in this community. In case you haven’t noticed how many needy there are, my moral values and ethics contribute to their survival. So in short, carry on with your worthless responces because again you fell into my trap, thanks for trying tho.


Yup, I have to say I agree with you here about what one reveals about themselves and their personal development thru their public back to the subject!!



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