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

Statistically, hunting is safer than riding in a car.


There you go again....why is such a totally invalid comprison always made?
A car is a daily necessity, as I posted previously, to get people from point A to pont B - such as a job, grocery shopping, school, doctor - you know, anytime you live too far away to walk, you've gotta drive, right?
Hunting is a daily necessity?
Hunting is recreational to a tiny percentage of the population!

Tri-cities realist

I made a valid comparison because I thought it might make you actually THINK instead of just re-post your comments. So please read my post on the next page. Hunting is a necessity to some families to feed themselves. Why would you deny them this right and force their children to go hungry? I'm sure you care about children, right? And please don't reply with any nonsense about venison not being inspected. Wild deer are not injected with antibiotics or any other chemicals, as opposed to many livestock. So they will naturally have lower levels of pollutants. And venison is a much leaner alternative to beef.


better go eat your slaughterhouse hamburger, that is so much more humane & safe for your kids...boy, this brought out the newbies!


Better to eat hamburgers? NO, especially if factory farmed. Poultry? Watch out for antibiotics. Notice the demonstrated uptick in neurological compromise in school children as of 1998 entry classes? Resistance to antibiotics? No, you are right. Stay away from those as well. And there is that back, back burner issue of CWD in deer and brain disease which resembles dementia and sometimes takes a decade or more to surface. Only becomes noticeable when the very young venison eater (age 20-30-40) shows signs of dementia. Can only be diagnosed after death by a brain autopsy which requires specialized equipment which few autopsy rooms have because of the cost and danger of exposure. Crazy stuff like that. So you are so right - best to avoid those meats. Maybe all meat - just to be safe.


when I am grinding my own venison for burger through my hand-crank meat grinder, I cut the large strips into smaller pieces and add a small amount of pork fat to it. mmmm...tastes great when grilled!


Interesting that you would be concerned with the safety/health issues of hamburgers but not with venison!
However, don't be so smug about venison! Toxins are stored in their flesh from pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, etc.
By eating hamburgers AND venison, you get a double whammy!


Harassed by hunters! Safety issues? You sure are stretching there. Most hunters I know are more concerned about safety then non hunters. For over 40 years every hunter that purchases a license has had safety training. It's fine that you do not want to hunt but why infringe on my RIGHTS to hunt a controlled managed hunt. Your lack of understanding of how nature works is stunning. Have you ever read or seen how nature takes care of overpopulation? Hunting is far more humane then nature in culling the herd back to its carrying capacity. So your solution is to do what? Let them continue to overpopulated!


The second amendment does not guarantee the right to kill urban wildlife. In fact, it does not even mention hunting. Wildlife is held in the public trust. You are a minority of the public. The rest of the public has "rights" as well - the "right" to enjoy LIVE wildlife not attached to the back of a pick me up with its tongue hanging out. (State agencies suggest you always remember to COVER your kills so as not to offend the public.)
Hunting is a "privilege." Let's not confuse the two. However, in fear of losing the last bastion of socially accepted sociopathy, some states have inserted constitutional rights as city hunters became afraid of being outed and marginalized. And - what other "sport" requires a constitutional amendment to "protect" their "sport?" How about a constitutional amendment to protect the right of horseback riding on public roads, or playing golf, or lawn croquet - which is in serious danger of being endangered. People who do white water rafting, or mountain climbing or even strenuos hiking, do not beg for constitutional rights to protect their "fun," or have the public not view their activities, or photograph them or make "noise" - there is no golfer harassment law or badminton or volleyball harassment law. Wonder why? Why the need for secrecy, no observation or interference from noise, presence, visuals, etc. ---- you know why. It ain't pretty. Just sayin -


I did not say constitutional rights, you inserted that into the conversation to change the issue and pick a fight! I have the right to take part in a legal, managed hunt. Just as anyone else has the right to enjoy their activity as long as its legal. So your solution to overpopulation is to what?
In addition, if a dead animal with its tongue sticking out is offensive you must feel the same way about all of those bad vehicles out there killing animals on the road and leaving their entrails exposed for all of us to see, and smell!!!


Seems to me that you're the one lacking in basic Wildlife 101, Wingmaster!
Infringe on your rights? Are you aware that ALL wildlife is held in public trust for ALL? Hunters are a tiny percentage nationwide and in states, so the majority rule doesn't apply? Non-hunters feel that hunters are infringing on their rights, and when one considers the ratio of hunters v non -hunterts, the answer should be quite obvious!
Yes, I do believe that most people are quite aware of how Nature works, and that's precisely the reason why state wildlife agencies have made it a priority to exterminate natural predators, becoming Lord and Master of game management, under the ruse of wildlife management!


Now there you go too, trying to steer away from the overpopulation issue and make it against a hunter. So your solution is to what? Have the animals practice safe sex! If you have such a vast understanding of how to managing wildlife lets hear it. I'm sure many of us would enjoy the logic in your ideas.

Tri-cities realist


Tri-cities realist

(not so) Smartie, ALL would also include hunters, please remember that. And as for "state wildlife agencies have made it a priority to exterminate natural predators", this couldn't be further from the truth. The almost extinct grey wolf has rebounded, such that some states are now allowing them to be hunted. Black bear and cougar populations are also on the rise, so how can you make this claim?


Of course I'm right, and you are wrong! Why are you picking on wolves, when there are other predators that are living in poulated areas and are systematically killed, trapped?
People definitely don't want wolves in their neighborhoods, but coyotes are the next best thing as a natural predator.
Hunters are not natural or even un-natural predators. Hunters don't go out looking for sick or old deer - hey, they want to make sure that they can also get a nice trophy out of the deal. And if, you might claim, they DO kill sick and old ones, do they also donate those sick carcasses to soup kitchens, or eat them - seriously?
Since hunters don't go looking strictly for sik, old deer, as a predators prefer for an easy kill, they kill healthy beautiful trophy specimen....leaving sickly and old ones to continue breeding, thereby degrading the gene pool!

Tri-cities realist

Actually, the more genetically superior deer have adapted to humans, thereby changing their movement patterns during the fall, such that it is rare to see them during daylight hours.


That's an excellent point about deer moving into an area! Thank you for mentioning it, kathy p!

That's where biological carrying capacity comes in: When any given area can sustain a certain number of deer, and deer are killed, deer will automatically move in from outside areas because Nature abhors a vacuum and the area can support them.

According to Richter & Labisky, twin/triple births occur in non-hunted herds at the rate of 14%! However, the percentage rises to a staggering 38% in hunted herds...proof that hunting spurs reproduction, and may be the very reason for the not-too-healthy looking deer! Leave them alone, and Mother Nature will take her course.

The real question is, are dead deer found due to starvation? I bet not!
The age-old and stale mantra of killing deer to save them from starvation, not always specifically mentioned, but implied, and the underlying "reason" for hunting, as usual, IS ridiculous!


....So here is your logic....mmmm so can you explain how the old deer die in this situation. What about the overall health of the animals. You seem to think we as humans are not a part of nature. You probably should quit trying to manage those pesky insects around your home, or quit feeding the birds after all aren't you interrupting natures natural course?


Your so called Richter & Labisky report is from Florida if I'm not mistaken, In the 600 plus acres I hunt in Spring Lake Township, Crockery and Nunica to Coopersville you have to actually hunt to harvest a whitetail. Mind you this is all private land with limited numbers of hunters actually allowed to hunt, we have yet to see an over population compaired to the city of Grand Haven's or Ferrysburg's problem. If your going to throw out facts, then use them from OUR area.


I have lived within 50 yards of the park boundary for the last eight years. I have witnessed the overpopulation and the result it has had on the deer herd. Just looking at the size of some year old deer in the spring shows how bad the problem really is. They are identifiable because they are remarkably smaller and skinnier then deer the same age that live in a healthy heard. Deer are beautiful and majestic creatures, but when the population is stressed, it is anything but beautiful. When looking at the Ottawa County Parks information, they have had hunting at many of their parks without an incident. I applaud their decision to promote a plan of comprehensive resource management.


Overlooked in these comments is the absolute damage the deer are doing to the trails and eating native plants and shrubs to the point of diasappearance. Look at the picture accompanying this story of the exclosure and you can see what the deer are doing to this beautiful space. The same thing is happening at Kitchel Dunes. Hoffmaster has conducted selected hunts the last three years as have many other communities around Michigan and the US. The goal is not to wipe out the deer population but to manage it through selected hunting which IS safe. We kill nearly 500,000 deer during hunting season and another 43,000 on our roads and highways and still have a statewide population of about 1,000,000 deer. Also, you must take a doe before you can take a buck in this hunt. We have an OBLIGATION to effectively manage our parks and open spaces as that was a requirement with the grant from the state that helped acquire this property.


OK, then, if you're so concerned about damages by deer, sue the state - they are ultimately responsible for the increase in deer populations through their "management" for MSY!!


...and where do you think that the money comes from when you sue the state? How about your solution to the problem? We as still are waiting!

Tri-cities realist

Sue the state... A brilliant "solution" which would solve nothing, other than keeping lawyers employed.


It is very simple, round the deer up and kill them. No hunt needed just a great way to get rid of these deer and harvest the meat for human consumption By doing so all of the fear of the hunt by the people in the area is reduced and so is the deer herd. Ready ....Aim ....Fire....... Done


Are you so intent on killing deer that you are willing to also expose human beings to uninspected venison? And who, exactly, would be served this venison? Soup kitchens, I presume? Or any of you? That's really the question to which I and many others on this forum would be curious to learn your reply.


. Are willing to expose human beings to lime disease by letting these deer run wild in the city? Are you and the many others willing to pay for the damage that the deer do to private property? Do you know how many people have be killed or injured in Michigan area during a controlled hunt in other cities? Michigan is number 2 in the country when it comes to deer vs car crashes {there were 53,592 vehicle-deer crashes} In 2011 taking the lives of 8 people. So are you willing to allow the death of a human at the hands of a deer because you and you???? Kill them all sort them later!!!!!!


. Are willing to expose human beings to lime disease by letting these deer run wild in the city? Are you and the many others willing to pay for the damage that the deer do to private property? Do you know how many people have be killed or injured in Michigan area during a controlled hunt in other cities? Michigan is number 2 in the country when it comes to deer vs car crashes {there were 53,592 vehicle-deer crashes} In 2011 taking the lives of 8 people. So are you willing to allow the death of a human at the hands of a deer because you and you???? Kill them all sort them later!!!!!!


Mice are the primary carriers of Lyme Disease.


By your logic so far, hunters are taking only the best, healthier deer from the herd, so I find it amusing that you now care that it should be inspected.
So what we already have is a solution that will work, can be done safely and the hunters willing to spend their time and money..and risk of eating uninspected venison!
The real question Smartie, is why you are intent on making the argument against hunters.



Post a Comment

Log in to your account to post comments here and on other stories, galleries and polls. Share your thoughts and reply to comments posted by others. Don't have an account on Create a new account today to get started.