2017-12-07 / Letters to the Editor

Writer questions why deer check station was closed

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources requests that all successful deer hunters come to the local deer check station to have their deer checked for chronic wasting disease (CWD) or Bovine Tuberculosis (TB) by their whitetail biologists. In return, you are given a successful deer hunter patch for your jacket as a memento. Back in the day, there were deer check lanes at the Mackinac Bridge and at many roadside rest stops throughout Michigan during and at the end of the regular rifle season, which runs from Nov. 15-30, or 16 days of hunting.

A few years ago, the price of all resident and non-resident hunting and fishing licenses in Michigan were raised to double, or more in some cases, for all hunters and fishermen, including senior citizens.

Based on that alone, the DNR budget that pays for the salaries of all DNR employees should be in the black and then some, you would think. Also you would think that there would be DNR deer check stations open every day of the season, if they really wanted to get a real-time idea of the health of our deer herd in regard to CWD and TB throughout the state.

But this was not so. The DNR check stations were closed on the first weekend plus the four-day Thanksgiving weekend, for a total of six days closed during a 16-day rifle season.

I did not expect the check stations to be open on Thanksgiving Day, but was surprised to see them closed on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, after we drove a 45- mile round trip to Roscommon to have our two deer checked, and found the gate locked and the office closed.

There was a line of trucks pulling in and out of the DNR parking lot. They were not happy hunters. Some had driven from other counties and stopped at the Roscommon DNR as it is close to the I-75 exit. Some had young hunters who were looking forward to getting their “deer patch.”

When I called the following Monday, I was told by the person who answered, “that if I had checked the DNR website, I would have seen that they were closed for a four-day holiday break.”

I kind of figured that out by myself by then.

I do not know for a fact, but I do believe that the DNR wildlife officers are out in the field the entire rifle season, both in upper and lower Michigan to watch for violators.

So it seems that with the new DNR budget that the department could afford to pay to keep the deer check stations open throughout the state for the entire rifle season, except Thanksgiving.

I am sure that there are many whitetail deer biologists that would be happy for the overtime, if needed, to get a real picture of the health of our Michigan whitetail deer herd during our annual rifle deer season.

Tom Harmon

St. Helen

Editor’s note: Mr. Harmon provided this response from Russ Mason, Ph.D., chief of the DNR Wildlife Division, “This year we focused our efforts in the band of counties where CWD exists and opened a number of additional stations, staffed by folks from across the state. These stations were open seven days a week and most into the evening. Unfortunately, but as we feared, we identified a much larger disease problem.

Elsewhere, check stations’ hours were as they have been, and as you discovered, the hours were posted on the internet as they were last year. Quite literally, every division employee, including myself, was working either in the field or at the lab. As well, numerous seasonal employees were put to work.

I understand that the check hours statewide aren’t always convenient for everyone but we do the best we can with the available resources.…”

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