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CO Training Academy: Week 17 - Nov. 4-9

Michigan Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Academy recruits returned to Camp Grayling for off-road vehicle training during week 17. It was the third and final trip the recruits would take to Camp Grayling before graduation Dec. 21.


Monday morning the recruits met their ORV instructors. Conservation Officer Chuck McPherson taught the class about the different parts of an ORV and ORV laws. COs patrol ORV use year-round. The recruits learned the basic ORV laws that are consistent throughout Michigan. Once the recruits are in the field, they will learn local ORV laws, which vary by county and region.

After the morning classroom lesson, the recruits learned how to properly mount and dismount ORVs. While this instruction may seem basic, it’s important that recruits understand how to safely handle these machines. COs travel varied terrain on ORVs and usually are not on a level, sturdy surface – they need to be able to safely and quickly mount and dismount ORVs. After reviewing how to check the gasoline and oil levels, the recruits rode through a variety of cone courses, including serpentine, sharp turns, obstacles and hill traversing.

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Monday photo 1: Recruits learn about ORVs.

Monday photo 2: Recruits practice basic ORV safety skills before moving on to advanced riding.

Monday photo 3: A recruit takes a sharp turn through an ORV obstacle course.

Monday photo 4: A recruit drives an ORV over downed tree branches in an obstacle course.


Tuesday morning the recruits were instructed on how to load and unload ORVs from a patrol truck and how to properly strap the them into the bed of the truck or on a trailer. Most COs drive with their ORV in the back of their truck. Recruits practiced loading, strapping down and unloading the ORVs multiple times.

Later in the day, the recruits were able to apply their training on a trail ride through state ORV trails. Conservation officers patrol ORV trails to check that riders are complying with regulations and to ensure the safety of all trail users.


Tuesday photo: Recruits gain experience riding ORVs on state trails.


Wednesday morning the recruits practiced ORV traffic stops. ORV stops can be dangerous, considering trails are not very wide and may be hilly. Additionally, ORVs are loud, a driver’s vision may be obstructed by a helmet, and it can be difficult for a CO to get a driver’s attention. COs need to judge where a stop can be conducted safely.

Wednesday afternoon the recruits reviewed machine maintenance. COs are required to maintain the equipment they are issued, including checking the oil, grease, air filters and tire pressure.

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Wednesday photo 1: A recruit practices ORV traffic stops.

Wednesday photo 2: Recruits learn about the aspects of ORV maintenance.


Thursday morning the recruits concluded their ORV education by passing a written test. Following the test, the recruits cleaned and loaded the ORVs to be returned to the specific districts that loaned them.

Thursday afternoon the recruits were taken to an orienteering course instructed by Cpl. Brad Dohm. The recruits used the search and rescue skills they learned from their previous trip to Grayling and were given various navigation points they had to locate using only a compass. It’s important that recruits know how to navigate through the woods using a compass if their technology fails.

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Thursday photo 1: Cpl. Brad Dohm teaches a recruit the proper way to hold a compass.

Thursday photo 2: Recruits pace their steps in preparation to navigate to various points throughout the orienteering course.


Friday afternoon the recruits were in the classroom learning about tribal cultural training. Aaron Payment, chairman of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, instructed the class in tribal history, culture, and laws and regulations. Representatives also were present from the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, Bay Mills Indian Community and Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

This is important training because various Indian treaties touch every part of Michigan. The DNR works closely with tribes to regulate fish and wildlife. Conservation officers work even more closely with tribal conservation officers to ensure laws are being followed in all jurisdictions.