Michigan deer hunters enjoy mild opening day

The deer check station in Belding. (Nov. 15, 2015)

WARNING: If you continue to scroll down, you will see images of dead deer, which some readers may find disturbing.

BELDING, Mich. (WOOD) — It’s an unofficial holiday for the hunters across West Michigan — opening day of firearm deer season.

Deer hunting is big business for the state. More than 500,000 people are expected to join the annual hunt, generating more than $2 billion in spending.

Opening day was mild this year. While that is more comfortable for hunters, many say it can be more difficult to spot and track the deer without snow.

At the DNR check station in Belding Sunday morning, successful hunters stopped by with their prize bucks.

The DNR is reminding all hunters to be safe during the season. That means making sure everyone wears their hunter orange, which is required by law. DNR officers are also stressing that people be aware of their surroundings.

“People get fired up when they see a deer, and things are happening fast. They might not be thinking safety first. They’re thinking about their target and how to get a shot off and not necessarily thinking about what’s behind their target,” DNR Wildlife Biologist John Niewoonder told 24 Hour News 8.

>>Online: DNR tips on where to hunt, other information

A big concern for the DNR this year is the emergence of chronic wasting disease in Michigan deer. There are three confirmed cases and a possible fourth in the state. Niewoonder said the DNR will use firearm season to closely monitor the disease.

Additionally, Michigan State Police are warning drivers to be cautious as deer are on the move. MSP provided these tips to avoid a crash:

  • Stay aware, awake, and sober.
  • Vehicle-deer crashes occur year-round, but be especially alert in spring and fall.
  • Signs are placed at known deer crossing areas to alert you of the possible presence of deer.
  • Deer are herd animals and frequently travel in single file. If you see one deer cross the road, chances are there are more waiting.
  • Be alert for deer, especially at dawn and dusk. If you see one, slow down.
  • Don’t rely on gimmicks, flashing your high-beam headlights or honking your horn to deter deer.

MSP also had these tips for if a crash is unavoidable:

  • Don’t swerve. Brake firmly, hold onto the steering wheel, and bring your vehicle to a controlled stop.
  • Pull off the road, turn on your emergency flashers, and be cautious of other traffic if you exit your vehicle.
  • Report the crash to the nearest police agency and your insurance company.

And, MSP said, as always, wear your seat belt.

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