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Posted on Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 10:05 a.m.

Emotions run high in the big debate over deer hunting in Barton Hills

By Rick Taylor

Deer.jpg file photo

The recent hiring of sharp shooters by the Village of Barton Hills to kill whitetail deer has certainly stirred up quite a bit of controversy. Of course, it’s not surprising when one thinks of the locale.

Unfortunately, there’s a huge disconnect between those that reside in the Ann Arbor area and the rest of the State of Michigan. Simply stated, many Ann Arbor residents don't like hunting, while the rest of the state does. As a matter of fact, Michigan has more than 700,000 hunters, making it rank as one of the top three hunting states in the country.

Many local residents don’t know this, and I think this is a large part of the disconnect. I’ve read many comments from a recent article that was posted on, and I think its fair to say that many local residents were not in favor of the culling.

Many comments had words like murder, slaughter and innocent victims to describe the killing of these whitetail deer. I used to say the same things before I began hunting at the age of 24 while attending Northern Michigan University.

I hated hunters! I didn’t know any. but I hated all of them no matter what the “excuse” was to killing an animal that did nothing to the hunter. Sadly, the deer that was strapped to the top of a car or thrown in the bed of a pick up truck was simply at the wrong place at the wrong time. Moreover, I’d glare at the hunter while I drove past him and he’d just give me a blank stare back my way. Oh, it pissed me off.

I grew up in a family that didn’t hunt, and I had this visceral hate for hunters. I'd tell anyone who'd listen that hunters didn't have to kill wild animals, that there was plenty of food at the grocery store. I'd say hunters were uneducated and killed for the sport of it. Unfortunately, I had no idea what I was talking about, and I allowed my ignorance to guide my belief system.

One of my roommates at NMU had me try venison, and that’s how I began my introduction into hunting.

I’ve been a hunter for 20 years now, and I’ve learned a great deal about the natural world. I’ve learned the natural world is beautiful and serene, but it’s also unforgiving, unfair, stunning, miserable, and merciless. I’ve seen coyotes attack newborn fawns for breakfast while the mother doe could only watch. I’ve seen bucks fight and mortality wound each other.

Last fall I witnessed the fatal effects of EHD killing thousands of deer in the State of Michigan, a clear number still hasn’t been determined by the DNR.

My point is this; nature in all its beauty is uncaring. Nature does what it does to survive and that’s it. If hunters or sharp shooters don’t kill these deer then your car will, or disease will, or predators will. Some deer will live longer lives without hunters around. But, many more will live a healthier life with us around. Try to wrap your head around that one.

It's all about "carrying capacity." If you don't know what this means then please learn. Carrying Capacity is roughly defined as a maximum number of a given species in a given area.

For example, an acre of land with a food source, water and cover can support a given number of deer. Sooner or later, the population outgrows itself and there isn't enough food, water or cover and problems arise. This isn't hunting propaganda — this is science. Too many deer in an area usually leads to disease like Bovine TB, EHD and Chronic Wasting Disease. All three diseases have killed tens of thousands of deer in Michigan in the last year alone due to over population.

Some of our local residents just can’t come to grips with the fact that “we” are predators too. It is innately in our blood and our genes to hunt; whether it’s a deer, a squirrel or a fish. That primal urge to hunt doesn’t mean we’re ignorant as a species, yet we’re accused of being ignorant all the time.

The truth is, we’re honest about where our food comes from and can deal with the fact that we can kill it ourselves without having to go to the grocery store. I will never understand the mindset of a person who hates a hunter but will gladly purchase meat from the grocery store. I kill my food … you hire someone to kill yours.

I’ve hunted near Barton Hills for years with bow and arrow in hand, and I can tell anyone reading this article that many of the deer are malnourished, emaciated and pretty unhealthy overall. I’m not saying all deer in Barton Hills are unhealthy. But, to deny some deer that inhabit Barton Hills look unhealthy is intellectually dishonest.

My biggest gripe in hiring sharp shooters to kill deer in Barton Hills is the cost to the taxpayers. Some cities, villages and townships throughout the State of Michigan do things differently. Approved hunters are chosen from an “approved” list created by local law enforcement/elected officials, criminal background checks are made, etc.… The cost is free to the town, and the meat is donated to the hungry.

But, I understand that a city, township or village wouldn’t want to take any chances with a mishap.

Well, that’s my two cents worth on the matter.

Rick Taylor warmly welcomes your comments and story ideas. Feel free to email him at


Rork Kuick

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 8:10 p.m.

"All three diseases have killed tens of thousands of deer in Michigan in the last year alone due to over population." Reference please, to show EHD is density dependent, and that few would have died this year had deer populations been lower. Then say how many died due to CWD or TB. Finally about the locale: I think most similar communities would have some debate about what to do.


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 10:34 p.m.

Rork My mistake! I agree I do not think EHD is related to anything but ponds (mainly) drying up which allows the midge to hatch. I do believe CWD and TB can be connected to high density.

Rork Kuick

Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 9:26 p.m.

No jcj - I am a defender of the DNR. I volunteer for them even. I get insulted for it on occasion. I do think it incumbent on the person telling us numbers where they come from - cause they are hard to find. I ask - and he's got nothing. I'm asking who thinks EHD death rates are density dependent. I think it is possible that it is, but I've not seen that suggested anywhere yet. I don't think EHD is mostly about too many deer, if it is at all. Instead I and many other opinions I've heard think that it is associated with the hot, dry weather. It makes the midge happen. We had lots of deer other years without last years calamity. I have personally seen 15 EHD-deaders this year in Washtnaw and think fully half the population where I hunt is dead of EHD. So I agree there was lots of EHD death in 2012, but who is saying it's due to overpopulation besides Rick? Teach me. For CWD one killed deer from a ranch tested positive in 2008. I know of no other reports of CWD in Michigan, bringing the total CWD deaths in michigan that I have heard of to a astonishing total of zero. Teach me better. Maybe Rick's " referenced cases" actually exist. I hunt sometimes in the TB zone. I have never seen estimates of how many deer have died due to TB in Michigan - and I have access to the scientific journals. Incidence (of disease, not mortality) is currently estimated at 2% in that area. So I think "decimated by Bovine TB" is doubling down on unsubstantiated claims. I do agree high density is bad, but it's hunters that have shot the deer down there, not the TB itself. I'm willing to change my mind - if someone actually has anything.


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 2:02 p.m.

Rork Would you please give us ANY of your facts.


Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 2:01 p.m.

Rork I suspect you are one of those "hunters" that thinks the DNR is all about a conspiracy to fool us real hunters!

Rick Taylor

Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 2 p.m.

I must apologize to you for being persnickety earlier, I should wait 24 hours before responding to comments. Regarding the numbers you bring up; the DNR has brought up these numbers themselves. Whether is 3,000 or 30,000 deer the point being made is that an over population of deer is bad for them. I don't need to inflate the numbers to make the point. Thanks for your post.

Rork Kuick

Tue, Feb 5, 2013 : 1:26 p.m.

Rick, I hunt deer myself, but that doesn't mean I'll give you a license to make up your own facts. I do not object to knocking down the deer with bullets - where did I say any such thing? I object to making stuff up (and not taking responsibility for it).

Rick Taylor

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 8:27 p.m.

DMU unit 182 has been decimated by Bovine TB. So much so that all you have to say is DMU 182 and hunters shudder and those words.! EHD throughout Southern Michigan according to multiple DNR station offices along with referenced cases of CWD. Many farmers confirm that the DNR stopped taking a count on EHD mortality rates which really angered the farmers and local land owners. If you don't agree with hunting thats fine but check yourself on the stats because there isn't a wildlife publication that doesn't have these confirmed cases on hand. Let alone a lot of local farmers and landowners who have volunteered this information. I can already hear you say ..."what does a lot mean?" Well, if you have to ask then its not worth even explaining. Again, its your objection and the objection of others that prove my point that our area differs than the rest of the State.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 7:05 p.m.

People want to think with emotions and not with logic....because of this the level of voluntary ignorance will remain high on this issue.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 5:21 p.m.

Mr. Taylor, I do not eat meat. Just so YOU can wrap your head around the following (whether or not you will, or are capable of it, is another matter) without your usual retort of hunting vs. eating meat from a grocery store. Nature is amoral, granted. Humans, however (with the exception of psychopaths and those too mentally deficient to have an ethical system), are not amoral. Even though we are part of nature, we don't have to give in to basic drives to kill, however tempting it might be for some. The fact is that we don't need to eat meat to survive; we have the choice to survive, and do so quite nicely, without the killing of animals for their meat. Your argument for hunting deer, framing it as a kindness to those that are left to survive, is specious. It ignores the fact that most hunters seek to kill the biggest and healthiest of the deer, not the weakest and those near death. Some of those deer will live a lifespan normal for its species and die of old age. It also ignores the possibility of putting yourself in the mindset of the deer (an exercise which I grant you may be incapable of accomplishing). Do you think that, given the option of being killed because some of their kind are suffering from EHD or malnutrition or whatever other excuse you might want to use, or being given the option of doing the best they can under the circumstances and taking their chances, you would actually imagine that any of the deer would step forward and want to choose the former option? Your imagined kindness toward the deer, I think, is just that – imagined. If that's too abstract for you, use a parallel argument for a human community, a state, or a nation suffering malnutrition or other wasting disease. If you think it's humane to cull deer, why wouldn't it be humane to do the same for a human community facing a similar situation? It wouldn't., of course. But your logic would lead one to believe it would be a kindness nonetheless.

Rick Taylor

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 8:14 p.m.

DBH, your points are well made but you're making assumptions on a few things. First, you say that EHD doesn't harm humans according to the DNR. That statement is correct; humans can't contract EHD. But, biologically speaking...a deer which contracts EHD begins to hemorrhage (or bleed internally) and have organs shut down like its kidneys, liver, stomach, etc... Many bad things happen internally but not limited to gangrene poisoning, blood poisoning, pus infection that has a smell thats so disgusting that it can't be defined. Simply stated, the meat is rotten and making the deer inedible. No... EHD won't hurt humans but the subsequent infections caused certainly will. By the way, It is illegal for a hunter to shoot a sick or wounded deer and leave it lay dead in the wild. So, as much as I hate to see a suffering animal in the woods I'm bound by law NOT to shoot it unless I plan to consume it. Skinning out a pus infected deer is not an option because the meat is spoiled. Just thought you'd like to know the biological facts of the matter.


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 7:25 p.m.

"Separate the human being from the hunter?" So, what, you're saying that when you're hunting you have a dissociative personality? And no need to feel sad for me, Mr. Taylor. I think you had it right as a child and lost your way as you aged. If anyone needs to feel sorry for someone, it is I for you and, particularly, for the animals you kill with such affection and needlessness. "No sense in killing something if you can't utilize it." This statement pretty much contradicts most of your argument for culling the herd. If you want to reduce the population because of the emaciated animals, you want to leave the emaciated, suffering animals to become more emaciated and suffer more? And the DNR itself states that EHD poses no health risks to humans, so why would you reject a deer on that basis? Not only is your whole argument in favor of hunting flawed, you defend it with counterarguments that contradict your original premises! Well done, sir, well done!!


Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 7:07 p.m.

You completely missed his point about sustainability...I mean completely and utterly. Your appeal to emotion is vulgar...

Rick Taylor

Mon, Feb 4, 2013 : 5:57 p.m.

As always, Thank you for your replies to my stories. I look at deer the same way I look at a cow, chicken or salmon. It's not that I don't appreciate nature but I enjoy eating meat, its just that simple. Some people raise chickens in their yard, eat their eggs while others raise cattle for eventual slaughter. There's nothing "abstract" about it. I won't shoot an emaciated deer because the meat is typically tainted with infection, every hunter knows that. No sense in killing something if you can't utilize it. No reasonable hunter wants to see an animal suffer of EHD, malnutrition or anything else for that matter. I feel sad for you in that you can't separate the human being from the hunter. Hopefully, I'll write a story you may actually like. I did do a story on Lake Sturgeon that you may find interesting...