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Meridian Township Deer Harvest Off to Modest Start

For the first time, Meridian Township residents are sharing public lands with deer hunters. Township officials have enlisted 16 area bow hunters in an effort to reduce the area's growing population of deer. WKAR's Mark Bashore hit the trail--and the cul-de-sacs--to learn more.

During hunting season, Jon Mayes might otherwise be thousands of miles from home, hunting elk or deer in Colorado or Wyoming. But this year is different. He's set up his deer stand only a mile from his home in Okemos' Briarwood subdivision.

"Well, I've got a crossbow and I bring a lantern just in case I need to do a little bit of tracking after the hunt is over," he says. "Wipes for clean-up in case I need em ."

Mayes says today's cooler temperatures mean deer should be more active. On the 10 minute trudge to his stand, he explains how he chose where to set up.

"There's a number of wild apple trees and it seems to be a natural site where the deer have been feeding," he explains "So it makes it a pretty good pass-through location for the deer."

Mayes is here because Meridian property owners have reached a boiling point because deer are destroying more property. Small flocks have become a daily sight in many neighborhoods. Over the past five years, the township has recorded an average of 150 car deer crashes a year. Officials say there's been one reported case of lime disease and that the deer threaten uncommon native plants. They say the situation has led to strong support for the plan. A survey of 900 residents shows more than 75-percent back the harvest. All bow hunters are experienced, licensed and passed equipment and proficiency tests at MSU's Demmer Archery Center.

Leaving Jon Mayes perched on his deer stand in this 60-acre natural area, I walk back to the affluent Heron Creek subdivision. There, I meet resident Erica Butler. She believes organizers have taken the necessary precautions to keep the hunt safe.

"It's just fine, I live right on the property where they're hunting and .they're in my yard daily," she says. " They've eaten up all the plants that I've put out, so it's kind of frustrating."

Local officials say complaints like this took off about two years ago. They've been discussing and planning the harvest since. They've consulted with the DNR, Oakland County and the city of Jackson about similar hunts they've had in the past. Jane Greenway is Meridian Township's Parks Director. She's also coordinating the deer harvest. Greenway says this initial hunt is a modest one. Hunters are targeting just does only two afternoons a week for eight weeks.

"Some people have thrown around the numbers that we have two-thousand deer in the township and that we would need to get rid of one-thousand to make an impact," she says. "I don't think we'll be able to do that because we're a suburban-urban area. But every deer we do take is two or three less next year. We have to start somewhere."

And two weeks in, the kill has been modest--only nine as of yesterday morning. As promising as Jon Mayes' surroundings seemed to be, all he saw was a rabbit.

Resistance to the effort appears to be light. Township officials say they've received between five and ten e-mails or phone messages critical of the program. In an e-mail, the Humane Society's Michigan director Jane Fritz called such efforts "flawed." She advocates non-lethal approaches including fencing and deer-resistant plantings. A spokesman for the Greater Lansing Humane Society says it's officially "neutral" on hunting.

Tactics change next week, when six hunters with firearms will stake out the 109-acre Davis-Foster Preserve on Van Atta Road twice a week for two weeks. Bow hunters will take down their stands on December 22. Greenway says the township already is looking at an expanded effort in 2012

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