October 24, 2012 - A managed deer hunt will result in the closure of Addison Oaks County Park in Addison Township on certain dates in November and December.
The 1,140-acre park will be off limits to the public all day long on Nov. 15, 20, 27 and 29 as well as on Dec. 11 and 13 as the county Parks and Recreation Commission, in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), conducts special controlled hunts designed to reduce the deer population.
"It's closed to everybody, except the hunters who get picked," said Brittany Bird, natural resources planner for the county parks system.
Bird explained these managed hunts, which have been conducted at Addison Oaks since 1990, are necessary to maintain "the health and integrity of the natural communities in the park system."
"The purpose of it is to reduce the deer density," she said. "If the deer get above the state recommended densities, that's when we can see heavy browse pressure (i.e. feeding) on the native plant communities."
Excessive deer numbers profoundly impact native plant and animal communities in that heavy browsing does not allow plants to reproduce or grow. This can result in a lack of food for both deer and other wild animals.
Based on data collected in January 2011, the estimated whitetail population at Addison Oaks is 35 deer per square mile. Bird noted that's the most recent data "because we didn't have enough snow last (winter) to do our aerial survey work."
The purpose of the managed hunts is to lower that density to 15 to 20 deer – or fewer – per square mile, "so that we have a good diversity of floral life in the park," according to Bird.
"The end goal is to retain our healthy park ecosystem and a healthy deer herd. We really do this for the good of the ecosystem at the park."
Only volunteer hunters selected through a lottery are allowed to participate in the controlled hunt at Addison Oaks.
"This year's lottery is closed," Bird said.
Hunters can still sign up for next year's hunts or to serve as an alternate for this year's hunts.
"We often have cancellations," she said. "People have things come up. It's not uncommon to be on the list as an alternate for several of those days and to be called. We draw 12 alternates per day."
All volunteer hunters must be at least 18 years old and possess valid driver's and hunting licenses. Kill tags are provided through the DNR's block permit program.
Although hunters can only shoot antlerless deer, they may bag as many as they are able during their time at the park. They may also get lucky enough to have their names drawn for more than one hunt.
"You can get drawn for multiple days," Bird said. "It's actually fairly common that you do."
Hunters must provide their own firearms, ammunition, equipment and clothing. The deer may only be taken using 12-gauge shotguns (slugs only) or muzzleloaders, .50 caliber or higher.
Hunters are assigned to 12 preset blinds, which are baited and have designated shooting lanes. Portable blinds and seats are provided.
"It's very controlled," Bird said. "The hunters are to stay in their blinds and use those designated shooting lanes. They're given radios, so they're in contact with our park staff at all times. They're driven to and from those locations by our park staff. We work in conjunction with our sheriff's department to make sure that we've got extra safety measures in place."
Prior to each day's hunt, all hunters are required to attend an hour-long orientation session at which lunch is provided.
"We review our basic safety protocols before each hunt," Bird said. " A lot of the guys have been hunting with us for many, many years, but it's always good information to go over.
"We tend to have the same protocols from year to year. Sometimes there are slight changes and it just gives us the opportunity to review any small changes. We want to do this in as safe a manner as we can for the hunters and the deer."
All of the venison harvested at Addison Oaks will be donated to Michigan Sportsmen Against Hunger (MSAH).
Managed hunts at Addison Oaks and Independence Oaks county parks – the latter of which have occurred since 2003 – have resulted in more than 36,000 venison meals for the those in need through MSAH.
Overall, Bird said the managed hunt is quite popular with participants.
"It does provide a nice recreational opportunity for volunteer hunters who are good enough to donate their time," she said. "We do have a large return base. Folks that have come out like it enough to come back. We tend to get really good feedback."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.