BANGOR, Mich. (WOOD) — As Wednesday marked the first day of regular firearm hunting season, hunters across the state were able to dust off their guns and head out to the field, including a couple who landed a prized buck while also promoting their unique business.
Karina Bowen’s first deer on opening day is a special one, since it’s also her first buck ever.
“I’m totally going to get it mounted. It’s going to be my birthday present, so I’m totally happy about that,” she said. “(I’m) going to do venison, meat sticks, definitely.”
Getting the deer processed to make the meat sticks is not easy, but Bowen’s boyfriend Brian Feenstra had an idea.
“It’s a couple of old concepts that have been well-proven: the DoorDash concept bringing food to people’s doors, but then also the butchering concept,” he explained.
Bowen added, “I thought it was a crazy idea. But honestly, he’s talented and smart, and I was like, ‘You know what? Let’s do it.'”
Enter DeerDash, Feenstra and Bowen’s Holland-based business that picks up the deer at hunters’ homes, butchers the meat to order and returns it in vacuum-sealed packages.
“Not everybody’s a 20-year-old guy with a pickup truck that’s strong and can lift his deer into the back of his pickup,” Feenstra explained. “Quite frankly, in the world that we live in, it’s so busy out there. Everybody’s got a busy work schedule now and families to be taken care of. They don’t want to spend the extra time driving half an hour to their local processor.”
Over the last year, the couple has developed a few customers and garnered interest from others.
“They’re making our job a lot easier if they’re just loading them up right here and taking them in,” hunter Dan Hostetler, who also successfully shot a buck on opening day, said. “This is going to make a lot of hunters happy.”
To Feenstra, being busy is a good problem to have.
“Overload is a real thing. We’re going to have a few sleepless days coming up, for sure,” he laughed.
OPENING DAY BY THE NUMBERS
As hunters are on the move, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources says the deer are, too, so drivers need to pay attention.
“We are at the tail end of the breeding season, so biologically deer are moving,” said Rachel Lincoln, a wildlife outreach coordinator for the DNR. “They are also being moved around because hunters are changing their movements in the woods. Loud noises, such as firearms going off, can be enough to disrupt animals, so they are moving.”
According to the DNR, opening day comes as the number of hunters buying licenses this year is 1.7% lower than last year, despite 180,000 licenses being issued statewide Tuesday alone. Lincoln thinks it is due to many hunters no longer participating and not as many new ones joining in.
Returning in 2023 to some Michigan counties — including Kent, Calhoun, Barry and Montcalm — are restored changes to the DNR’s antler-point restrictions on deer licenses.
“You have to have four or more points on one side if you’re using your restricted tag. It’s new in 19 counties,” Lincoln explained. “That’s how it’s been previously. Last year, that four-point antler point restriction was removed, but it is reinstated this year.”
Firearm season runs through Nov. 30.