By Howard Meyerson
GRAND RAPIDS, MI – After eight years working for the state of Indiana as a deer research biologist, Chad Stewart is looking forward to working with Michigan deer hunters. The 36-year-old Pennsylvania native began his new duties with the Michigan DNR just as the 2014 firearm deer hunting season wound down.
“I had a couple of exciting weeks,” Stewart, the agency’s new deer specialist, said of the clamor from disgruntled hunters after the season during which many saw and killed fewer deer than in 2013.
“Hunters are hunters and they have certain expectations. When they are not met, it doesn’t matter whether it’s Indiana or Michigan,” Stewart said. “If people are upset, it’s something we need to be responsive to, and have open and honest discussions about what is happening.”
Stewart plans to do just that. A statewide deer symposium is among the ways he will reach out to hunters in 2015. He now works out of the DNR’s Rose Lake Field Office and takes over for long-time deer specialist Brent Rudolph, who will be working on social science and economic issues within the DNR’s wildlife division.
“I am not looking to change anything preliminarily,” said Stewart who lives in the East Lansing area with his wife and two children. “My objectives are to determine what is best for hunters and what is best for habitat, and then marry what hunters want with what is good for the deer herd.”
Stewart comes to the job having been directly involved with deer management and research in Indiana. He earned a bachelor’s degree in wildlife and fisheries sciences from Penn State University and a master degree in natural resources and environmental science from the University of Illinois. He spent three years in Virginia working for the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute before taking the Indiana DNR position.
The Michigan program, he says, is larger than Indiana’s; it has more staff to accomplish the work that is needed.
“We were fortunate to get Chad,” said Russ Mason, chief of the DNR’s wildlife division. “We plan to expand our deer program. We will have three people working on deer. Chad has the whole state, but we put him at Rose Lake because most of our hunters are in southern Michigan. That’s where the majority of folks say ‘we are seeing fewer deer’ and wonder if EHD killed them, or if we issue too many antlerless tags”
Mason anticipates that Stewart will face some challenges similar to those experienced by most wildlife specialists who regularly interact with hunters, conservation groups, and private land owners.
“The biggest challenge he will face is how we have good dialogues with hunters, conversations that are deliberate, and (developing) regulations we can evaluate. Chad is perfect for that,” Mason said. “He’s spent years doing it and is familiar with how to work with people, how to reach out to private land owners and get more cooperation.”
Stewart can be reached by email at: StewartC6@michigan.gov, or by phone at: 517-641-4903.
© 2015 Howard Meyerson
This appears in Michigan Outdoor News.