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‘Things are very different’ for upcoming deer hunting season

Posted at 9:42 PM, Sep 22, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-22 21:42:51-04

MUSKEGON COUNTY, Mich. — Deer hunting season begins next week on Thursday October 1. The Department of Natural Resources said it’s going to look a lot different than years past due to COVID-19.

“We have restrictions on how many individuals we can hire to operate those check stations,” said Chad Stewart, deer specialist with the DNR. “Furthermore, with the current pandemic going on we have limitations in terms of what we feel is comfortable or safe for not only our staff but for our hunters as well.”

The DNR had to make the changes due to the pandemic and a lack of funding. he said. A reduced staff meant fewer check stations.

“We’ve had anywhere typically between 100-150 [stations],” Stewart said during a Zoom interview. “This year when archery season opens we’ll probably be only looking at about somewhere between 10-15 to stations.”

Stewart added that by the end of the season there could be 80 stations. The DNR may leave a few open in the northeast part of the state where they check for Chronic Wasting Disease.

“We collect a lot of biological information. We collect tissues for disease surveillance,” Stewart said. “It’s really beneficial to help monitor the health and the status of the deer herd and how it changed year after year. This year obviously things are very different.”

Stewart said hunters will have to remain in their cars when at the check stations. It’s for social distancing purposes and they’ll also be required to wear masks.

The staff won’t be able to interact as much as they’d like, he said. It’s what they’ll miss the most.

“The people that bring their deer in are generally pretty happy,” Stewart said. “The fact that you can talk to them about their experience. We always give them like a little patch. That’s free and it sort of shows that they were willing contributor to some of the biological information. That always makes people’s day.”