Thursday, February 9, 2023

Hunters fire up for opening day

November 15, 2000

It’s not just the thrill of the hunt that lures Luke Gabbard into the fields every November.

“Just being outdoors, being out in the woods, seeing animals, that’s half the enjoyment of it,” said Gabbard, an agriculture business management junior. “If you get to harvest an animal, that’s just an added bonus.”

Gabbard is looking forward to joining an estimated 780,000 of his fellow Michiganians headed to the woods for firearm deer hunting season, which begins today and ends Nov. 30.

“Usually a lot of people take off on opening day and if it’s near a weekend a lot of classes will be empty,” Gabbard said. “Professors move tests because of deer season, but firearm deer season is probably the most celebrated of hunting seasons.”

Gabbard is a member of the MSU Fisheries and Wildlife Club. He said some members are hunters, but the club focuses on management of wildlife, not hunting for sport.

“A lot of people are for hunting, (they) think it should be a national holiday,” Gabbard said. “But people are usually only against it until they hit one with their vehicle.”

He has always felt safe while hunting because laws require hunters to wear blaze orange.

“Safety is always the big thing when you have people running around the woods with guns,” he said. “You just have to be smart.”

That’s why the Michigan Department of Natural Resources requires people born after Jan. 1, 1960 to attend hunting safety education programs before they can purchase a hunting license.

“We train 30,000 students annually in safe, responsible hunting,” said Lt. Suzanne Koppelo of the DNR law enforcement division. “The program has been in existence for 50 years.

“It’s taught by 3,000 instructors at sportsmen clubs, schools and other places and offered at little or no charge.”

Koppelo said the efforts Michigan takes to maintain a safe season have paid off.

“Of the (750,000) licensed deer hunters in Michigan last year, there were only two fatalities and 11 injuries,” she said. “Compare that to Wisconsin’s 30 injuries and three fatalities in a shorter nine-day season.

“Michigan has one of the safest deer hunting seasons.”

Not only is Michigan safer than many states, but it’s experiencing a healthy boost in the number of hunters, according to local gun shop workers.

“An awful lot of new hunters are coming in this year,” said Dave Nickols, a purchaser for Classic Arms Company, 1600 Lake Lansing Road in Lansing. “I really don’t know why.

“I think people are finally realizing that shooting is fun. A lot of women are coming in to try shooting and think hunting might be fun as well.”

Nickols said the new hunters are good to work with.

“There have been quite a few students this year,” he said. “They find there’s other things to do besides drink all the time. I tease them about that but it really does keep them off the streets.”

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