Conservation Officers Begin Busy Season With Opening Day

For many it is like Christmas morning but instead of presents and good cheer, it’s rifles and big deer.

Opening Day of rifle season is an unofficial holiday in Northern Michigan.

Thousands of hunters took to their blinds this morning for the first crack at a white tail.

It’s an ongoing debate whether they move it from November 15 to a weekend, or keep it here for tradition. For the Department of Natural Resources it doesn’t matter what day it falls on, it’s going to be the kick off to their busy season.

“The first two or three days of firearm dear season are normally days I start early in the morning,” says Conservation Officer Mike Wells, “And I’m usually not home until late that night.”

If the hunters are out in Newaygo County, so too will be Wells. He and just one other officer are tasked with covering the county, keeping an eye on hunters.

“Invalidated deer tags, we get improperly used antlerless permits, we get subjects who actually go out hunting without a license shoot a deer and then buy the license after they’ve already shot the deer,” says Wells.

But as Wells cross crosses the county, he is already seeing hunters struggle following a newer rule.

“Baiting has been a big issue,” says Wells, “Baiting is now illegal in Newaygo County.”

As it now is in every county within the chronic wasting disease zone. The DNR is focused on stopping the spread and this new rules need to be added.

“It is a hunter’s responsibility to pick up that guide and read it every year because when it comes to the laws, they are always revolving,” says Wells, “They change every year.

The last few years the number of hunters has been dwindling but the number of deer harvested has actually increased so the ones that are getting out there are being more successful.