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? (



Go ask the USDA how many growth hormones and steroids are in the beef you eat from captive raised cattle VS free range raised cattle once. You may never eat beef again, since your such a smartie wheres all the farms bordering the purposed hunting area subjecting them to pesticides & herbacides to warrant inspections of venison?


I’m all for the hunt but it should begin in the GH city limits before going on to the parks. A deer on our city streets and in our front yards should have the priority over the deer in the parks.


Sure. Good idea. Lets just have snipers patrol GH and shoot anything that looks like a deer.
Start on Washington Street.


hahaha, go join PETA. Need a deer costume?


I would like to begin by letting everyone know that the comment section of this particular article has become a main topic of discussion in several of my classes at a nearby University. Many of us that are educated in the field of wildlife biology and wildlife management, have gotten many laughs from reading your thoughts and concerns. This is largely in part to the majority of people commenting on this article having NO FACTUAL SUPPORT for any of their statements. I would normally refer to these comments as opinions, but during the time I have spent studying at a University, I have discovered that in order to make a viable opinion on any subject, you must first research the subject matter and understand it. A little food for thought for ALL of you to consider (because I don't have enough time to list all of the individuals that are presenting false information as "facts"), please do your research before you post a comment for the public to see. I would now like to cover a few incorrect "facts" that people have presented: 1) The primary carrier of lime disease is not mice, it's ticks; and the frequency of lime disease in white-tailed deer is not high enough to worry about. 2) The notion that deer taken from this harvest may be turned into mystery meat and served to the public or at soup kitchens is just ridiculous!! 3) A restricted hunt lasting just a few days on a large portion of land, will NOT pose a threat to you, your children, or your pet; especially if you know where and when the hunt is taking place. 4) I am getting tired of replying to these idiotic comments even though there are SO MANY MORE that I would love to tear apart in much more detail than I have used previously in my comment. The bottom line that I am trying to get at is this: There needs to be some sort of harvest of white tailed deer in your area in order to control the population, whether that be a public harvest or a team of experts that can lower the population much quicker and quieter with similar methods. With that said, individuals on both sides of this argument are making outlandish and ungrounded arguments. So please educate yourself with actual facts before you form an opinion. And as a side note, using big words does not make you an educated individual, anyone can use a thesaurus. Good day.


Agreed 100%. Thank you for your post!


Dear CollegeEducated -

Lime is spelled Lyme.


I just finished laughing myself to tears. (Lime -Lyme) great catch on that Lakota. Perhaps that was a spell checker oops. Either way it's good to see common sense coming to the discussion.


Come on guys, misspelling doesn't count off anymore, not even in the college where you are 'educated'. Not even if it is the field in which you are educated, apparently!! lime disease = lyme disease.

A man once told me he had the best job in the world. A college educator. It was great, only 3 days in the classroom a week, got to teach to his opinion, full tenure (untouchables), pay was way over the top, and he got to screw with those he didn't like. Heck, half the time he used video conferencing for his class! Even though I believe this is your first posting, you are already tired. Maybe a nap is in order. Have a student teacher take over for you while you slip away...maybe put a 'lyme' in that drink of yours...


Maybe we should have a thinning of the human race in the Tri-Cities so that there would be less human interaction with deers and oh those poor flowers and plants that are being killed daily by the big bad deer. Personally I do not support the hunting of wild deer in any of our public parks and I am surely not supportive of the DNR telling local politicians or local residents what they can or will do.
Local issues and/or local concerns must be decided by the local units of government, not representatives or officials who do not live in the area. If this hunting is locally overall supported and is managed locally then it should be permitted in the best interest of the public, but not on the order or directions of the DNR. But then again, are they not basically in principle the same as MDOT when it comes to power or authority over certain local issues. We must hold on to the rights and authority of local municipalities or local governments because it is where your voice is heard and usually does count.
Good luck and Peace.

Mr. Conservative

too many ignorant liberals and PETA idiots here.


Will we be able to pick up the venison meat after the hunt? I have a great recipe for venison jerky


Overwhelmingly, the majority of post(102 so far...impressive) support the culling of the deer heard and without question, it is the right thing to do to manage this park area. Melanie Manion and John Scholtz should be commended for a job very well done. A true test of leadership is the ability to remain steadfast in your decision making while under fire from obstructionist with agenda's that do not allign to the discussion at hand. The people of Ottawa Co. appreciate your efforts to apply commonsense thinking and experience to do the right thing, at a time in this country where leaders in local, county, state, and federal govt. constantly get it wrong or cave to political correctness. Media bias in this country still runs amok and continues to be found at local levels, including the Tribune and this article heading by Alex Doty. When I read the caption for this article "Hunting Triggers Outrage" it became immediately clear Mr Doty is creating decisiveness between citizens of our community and showing a deliberate attempt to fan the flames even when none existed. The reason newspapers across this country are failing is precisely due to this undue influence and opinion by journalist and news media alike. I too have laughed at many of these comments and disagree with the likes of College Educated, Kathy P, Smartie Pants, and GN. There indeed, is a wealth of knowledge and experience found in these postings including, the love of family, country, and wildlife. Close your text book and open your mind. I find it ironic that citizens sighting safety concerns for children, families, and domestic pets during this hunt are precisely the individuals whom have been and will be, taking part in hunts like this and others for generations. The notion that hunters are in the minority of the population so, they should have less say as to the use of our parks & public land is duly noted. We should all remember this the next time gay marriage activist demand their hunt proceeds, occupy wall street protestor's request the use(or destruction) our city parks, and when global warming believers demand we switch to curly light bulbs and cap our oil rigs. We always have to listen to these minority groups. I'm assuming your message of "tolerance" and "inclusiveness" applys to hunters, as well? I find it staggering at the level of pure hatred towards hunters by anti hunting activsts and concern citizens when hearing from them about the inhumane, cruelty, or killing for pleasure of wild game, but not a word about another legal "slaughter" of life found in the 3,700 abortions performed everyday in this country. Not a word about the stoppage of these beating hearts or the pain inflicted on these truly defenseless humans beings. Councilwoman Sjober, the impact studies have been completed for this hunt by the Parks Office and many other studies across our great State. To request a delay to study further impact on subject deer herd is a page taken right out of the PETA hand book to muddy the water and create doubt within a community. This is an effort to stop the proposed hunt and deny the rights of it's citizens to engage in a completely legal and controlled event. Where was your manufactured defense of these deer when new construction home permits were issued to home owners surrounding this 500 acre dunes? Please provide us your impact & extensive ecodamage study completed prior to issuing these building permits with emphasis on these animal's loss of natural habitat and its contributing factor to overpopulation based on size of area remaining whereby, creating the future need of culling said deer heard as to a future date somewhere around the fall of 2012.


AMEN, dyankee. So much said and articulated in your words. Hunting occurred in this area up to a few years back with the same neighborhoods bordering the tract with the exception of the addition to Swiss Village. No incidence occurred with bullets flying through neighborhoods and it was not a controlled hunt! It lasted the entire season. The proposed hunt is with a controlled amount of hunters during 2 days in November and 2 days in December. These hunters will be required to attend a meeting outlining the hunt, the area, the rules. So all of the hype and insults on these post are designed to divide the community. I find it so very telling that not a single one of the opposing voices to this hunt can offer any solution to the issue, only attacks and twisted logic against the hunt. So now that all of the safety concerns regarding guns has been flushed out, I say we have archery hunting only! Seems that would take out the crazy concerns of bullets whizzing every. Unless of course someone can cut and paste ballistics showing where an arrow is far more dangerous than bullets. Somehow I believe that an archery hunt will not make much difference as this against hunting pure and simple.

kathy p.

Not only does hunting in the North Ottawa Dunes pose a serious safety threat to residents who live adjacent to the park, it also poses a serious safety threat to everyone in the community from increased car-deer accidents. There is indisputable evidence that hunting actually increases car-deer collisions. According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, most car-deer collisions happen during hunting season. The Eric Insurance Group studied the effect that hunting has on car-deer collisions. They discovered that not only did accidents increase during hunting season, but in a 1997 study, that they increased nearly five-fold on the first day of buck and doe hunting seasons respectively, and remained high throughout hunting season. This increase is caused by hunters pushing deer out of their habitat and into the roads, and panicked wounded deer running into the roads.


Do you think there going to fill up the 500 acre parcel to full capacity with hunters? No it will be a limited number of hunters.


If you think deer in a 500 acre area deer are going to run out onto the roads to get away from a handful of hunters, wounded none the less, I'm not sure I can explain the increase deer car accidents during the fall AND other times of the year. How about this: I propose you look up what makes deer active in the fall. This activity also coincides with the gun season. I dare you to come back here and report what you learn! Also, I challenge you to come up with a cost effective, realistic plan to address the over browse issue that is happening in this area. After all THAT is the issue that should be discussed here.


Kathy P, You have no grounds or examples to your claim that hunting in the these dunes poses a "serious threat" to residence safety..none! It is the hunters that take the lead responsibility for safety during the hunting season and will do so during this managed hunt, as well. Most hunters will tell you of examples of hikers and/or horseback riders whom venture off into the woods with white hats on and brown deer colored jackets during the hunting season! Legal...yes smart...not so much. It is the "Erie" Insurance Group Study not Eric and by way of correction, this study does NOT refrence the "deer hunting season" as a reason for increase car-deer collisions. This is an embelishment of the facts on your behalf. In fact, hunting season is NEVER referenced as a reason for incremental deer movement. Here is one of their reports. Any avid hunter or your beloved Erie Group Study will tell you the most active months for deer movement is Oct. & Nov.(Spring Time too) NOT because of hunting, but because of the mating season which is referred to in the hunting ranks as the "rut". In addition, within 5-6 hours of opening firearm season most deer will bed-down in thick cover and remain dormant until nightime when daily hunting hours end. During these months the peak hours for deer movement are at dawn and from sunset to midnight, half of which are not legal hunting hours.


Well there you go Kathy, your research assignment was just done for you by dyankee. Now you have time to work on your plan to address the over browse's a clue, its been done for you by Melanie Manion and John Scholtz.


Below is the exact quote from the Erie Insurance study and press release showing the evidence that hunting increases car-deer collisions, which the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration confirms and agrees with. This only makes logical sense. Deer that are pushed out of their home ranges by hunters, and wounded deer will run into roads without thinking or looking. In addition, when a hunter kills the matriarch doe whose responsibility it is to cross her family safely across the road, her fawns and yearlings will run across the road w/o any caution.

"Last year, Erie Insurance received an average of 34 deer claims a day. That number rose nearly five times on the first day of buck season and doe season for 157 and 160 deer losses, respectively." "Car-Deer Collisions Carry High Price Tag", new release, Erie Insurance Group, October 21, 1998.

The real issue behind car-deer collisions is that the DNR and other state wildlife agencies typically spend millions of dollars on wildlife habitat improvement for game species. The state’s deer are intentionally managed for “maximum sustained yield” to produce more targets for their hunting constituents. More deer equals more hunting licenses sold, directly contributing to the agencies’ financial bottom line. It is this artificial propagation of the deer population that is responsible for the increases in car-deer collisions, farm crop damage, forest damage, dune damage, and landscape damage in suburban communities. If there are any deer population issues, it is being caused by the DNR's artificial propagation of the deer herd. The DNR's priority is not the safety of residents, but to open up more places for their hunter constituents to hunt, and to sell more hunting licenses.


Blah, blah, blah still waiting for your s o l u t i o n. You keep posting the same misleading quote without back ground data. Where was this? Is this urban only? Is it that state wide? What state? YOUR MAKING THE CASE to cull deer if there are so many that they are in the roads. Thanks for the research. When you say it only makes logical sense, I laugh because the "facts" you use to base your logic is flawed! You don't even realize that, that's whats so scary. You don't have to hunt. I have no issue with that, but I do take issue with anyone that wants to stand in the way of a perfectly legal, safe, ethical can believe what you want to believe when it makes no sense at all. Now go stand on the sidelines and allow the solution to take place.


Gun hunting is lame.. I didn't see any dates for bow hunting.. Bummer

Say No To Tourist's

After reading all the responces in three articles, its actually humorous how many have absolutely no clue about deer management and health. The anti's are screaming your going to shoot a semi tame animal and our kids and pets are in danger with this hunt. I see there are quite a few posters here that are indeed hunters who trully care about this sport passed down from our ancestors. The one thing I see failed to mention is the deers health in the Grand Haven & Ferryburg area, the size and body mass is considerably smaller than the deer in surrounding area's. Less food= smaller more disease prone herds. I am also a hunter who supposts the culling, for many years I have volunteered in hunter safety courses at a local gun club. I was actully asked by a DNR officer if I could help because of my safety awareness and ethics with the use of firearms. This has gave me the opportunity to become freinds with over a half dozen CO's in multiple countys surrounding this area who I see still see on a regual basis during the many hunting & fishing seasons I participate in. We are in no way a threat to a persons children, pet or property, in fact we are more educated in the safe use of firearms vs some officers who inadvertently recklessly discharge there firearms. We know our intended target and whats behind it before we use are weapons. One more thing to mention is people using these parks for recreational purposes in a hunted or non hunted area also can push deer to move into the roadways causing accidents. I see many of you are just out to google for your info vs knowing the real facts to make you look like the person your not.

kathy p.

Hunting and culling is not the answer, as more fawns will be born. Hunting simply decreases the competition for food among the animals, that survive the hunt. The animals left behind will be better fed, become stronger and their potential for reproduction will increase. As quite clearly stated in the college textbook "Wildlife Ecology and Management" (Fifth Edition, Pearson Education, Inc. 2003), "{{h}unting mortality is frequently compensatory because it usually increases the life expectancy of individuals surviving the hunt, promotes higher reproductive rates, or does both."


....and your solution is? Wait I know, repeat what PETA tells you. So sad that you are being willingly misled. You should try thinking on your own, really.


Wingmaster, yeah its pretty sad that a few have to continuosly post the exact same same thing in three differant articles. Its to bad how misled they really are about popluations and control. This isnt your standard over popluation, this is severe over population.


I like turtles.


Me too! I like snappers :D


That is a certainly lovely article. this park is definitely awesome. i like that too much. actually some days ago i went there and i stayed there many days. i was too enjoyed that place. but i will go there again. congratulations for your good article.



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