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Norton Shores P.D. resumes long-running hunter safety program after a year off due to COVID-19

Every August and April current and retired members of Norton Shores P.D. volunteer time to teach first time hunters how to be safe.

NORTON SHORES, Mich. — The Norton Shores Police Department has resumed its hunter safety program after taking a year off due to COVID-19.

Friday and Saturday nearly 100 new hunters are expected to complete the certification process and be ready to hunt in Michigan. The free class that's offered every August and April in Norton Shores is taught by retired and current members of the city's police department and other volunteers from the community.

The group of instructors volunteer their time to pass on valuable safety tips to the students at several stations including first aid, tree stand safety and animal tracking. The field day also includes firearms and archery instruction. 

There was high demand for the department's August class due to it being canceled in 2020. The class is full. Anyone interest in the April class should be watching the department's Facebook page for detail in the spring.  

"It's going to be a fun day for the kids," said Norton Shores Police Lieutenant Brandon Poel. "Safety is 100-percent what we're going for. We're not looking for accuracy or marksmanship that will be taught later. 10 and older is usually a good age to take the class."

In order to purchase a hunting license in Michigan, an individual born on or after January 1, 1960, is required to successfully complete an approved hunter education course. There are two options a traditional course or an online course. Both options require attendance at a field day for completion of the education course. 

"It's a long day but a good day," said Poel. 

The hunter safety course is available online at hunter-ed.com/Michigan.

After completing the online course, students have 12 months to complete the field day requirement which is offered at locations all around the state.

Students who successfully complete the field day with Norton Shores Police must also pass a written test that follows and then will be able to participate in Michigan's Grouse, squirrel and Turkey seasons with begin in September.

"We want safety above all in the woods but in the home as well," said Poel.

Avid hunter and retired Norton Shores Police Chief Roger Doctor has been helping teach the hunter safety program since it started more than 20-years ago. Doctor's passion for hunting runs deep, and the walls of his Norton Shores home are covered with shoulder mounts of deer he's taken over the years.

"I just love being in the outdoors," said Doctor. "

Doctor participation is to reinforce the programs emphasis on safety. In October of 2001 Doctor fell backwards from a tree stand, 20-feet to the ground.

"How quickly life can change," said Doctor. "And from 20-feet you actually have time to have a thought process." 

Doctor says he was wearing a safety belt at the time but unclipped from a safety rope briefly to begin climbing down from the tree stand. That's when a branch he was grabbing broke causing him to loose his balance and fall.

He spent the next 13 days in intensive care and many more weeks at home in bed recovering from the fall.

During the class Doctor will show students how to use a prussic knot which allows hunters to remain clipped into a safety rope while climbing into and out of a tree stand.

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