Quail hunters might have to back off field trials at Ionia, Highland
by Howard Meyerson
from "The Grand Rapids Press "
Saturday March 28, 2009
Quail hunters may need to find fresh areas to hunt if new regulations go into place for the Ionia and Highland state recreation areas. State park officials are hoping to reduce conflicts between field trial participants and hunters who shoot the pen-raised birds put out for field trial events.
"These areas have been open to hunting during field trial days and we have had a few conflicts and some serious confrontations," said Harold Herta, the resource management chief for Michigan State Parks and Recreation Areas. "It's an issue of great importance to field trialers and it has become a safety concern."
The rule, expected to be acted on by the Natural Resources Commission in April, would prohibit quail hunting on any day a field trial is conducted at the Ionia or Highland field trial grounds. Trials are scheduled at Ionia on 16 days during the 25-day 2009 quail season. They are scheduled for six of those days at the Highland State Recreation Area, north of Milford.
Quail hunting would be allowed any other day during the quail hunting season. It would also be permitted on non-field trial portion of each recreation area on the days that field trials were scheduled.
"We're not asking them to stop hunting," said Chuck Langstaff, the grounds chairman for the Ionia Field Trial Association. "If a guy is bowhunting, we don't have a problem with it. Same with duck hunters on the floodings."
"The straw that broke the camel's back is when one of the hunters put a gun up to a field trialer's chest during an event," he said. "The police came and took the guy away, but it is becoming a safety issue."
Ted Kessler, the Ionia State Recreation manger said he had not been able to identify the quail hunters. He knows of no organized group that represents their interests and cannot say whether they were local or otherwise. The complaints typically filter back to him through the field trial organizations.
"We don't kill the birds. We use starter pistols," Langstaff said.
That means the quail may live to be chased another day, or hunted, which is fine with field trialers.
"What is being proposed makes sense," Niewoonder said. "There are very few quail to be found in southern Michigan. If you go to any farm, you almost won't find any.
"The hunters are following the field trialers as they lay out the birds. When the trialer asks them not to shoot them, they are ignored. The birds are shot and there are cross words. We typically get two to three complaints about confrontations every year."