Extra deer hunt days set to gather disease data

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There will be extra firearm deer hunting days in parts of Ionia and Montcalm counties in January so the state can gather more information about chronic wasting disease, a deadly neurological disorder affecting West Michigan herds.

Firearm deer hunting will be allowed from Jan. 4 to Jan. 7 and Jan. 11 to Jan. 14.

Map: The hunts will be held in Easton, Ionia, Keene, Lyons, North Plains, Orleans, Otsico and Ronald townships in northern Ionia County and in Bloomer, Bushnell, Crystal, Day, Evergreen and Ferris townships in eastern Montcalm County.

Details from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on licensing, tagging and other rules for the January hunts:

  • “Licenses, including a deer license, combination deer license, private-land antlerless deer license for DMU 354 or DMU 419, or a public-land antlerless deer license for DMU 354 or DMU 419, are valid.
  • “Antlerless deer may be tagged using the deer license or combination deer license. All other license restrictions apply.
  • “All rules and regulations for the firearm deer season apply.
  • “As a reminder, baiting is not allowed after Jan. 1. Bait cannot be used during this extended season.”

The DNR says the January hunts were scheduled so hunters could help the state gather more data about chronic wasting disease, a contagious illness that causes neurological degeneration and then death in deer.

“Increased harvest (of deer) and subsequent testing will help inform our decisions on CWD management next year,” DNR deer specialist Chad Stewart said in a Wednesday statement.

At least one deer killed earlier this year in Montcalm County tested positive for CWD.

“Unfortunately, we continue to detect chronic wasting disease throughout the nine-township core area in parts of Montcalm and Kent counties,” Stewart said. “Because it is likely that CWD exists outside of this core area, we are counting on hunters and their willingness to harvest deer to support our surveillance efforts. Better, broader surveillance of deer herd health is critical to better understanding this wildlife disease.”

Anyone who takes a deer during the extra hunting days will have to turn in the animal’s head to the DNR within 72 hours to be tested for CWD.

The Flat River State Game Area Office at 6640 Long Lake Road near Belding will be open to check deer from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 4 through Jan. 17. Hunters can also drop off heads for testing through Jan. 17 at:

Anyone with questions about checking deer or the drop boxes can call 616.794.2658.

After you turn over the deer’s head, you should get the rest of the animal processed as usual, but don’t eat the meat until test results come back. CWD has never been found in humans, but federal health officials advise against eating the meat of infected animals as a precaution.

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Online:

State of Michigan on chronic wasting disease