LANSING — The Michigan House voted this week to eliminate a new rule, effective this year, from the Natural Resources Commission that could result in a misdemeanor charge for deer hunters who fail to report information to the Department of Natural Resources. within 72 hours of harvesting a deer.
House Bill 6354 seeks to prohibit the NRC from requiring hunters to report downed deer.
“I have been firmly opposed to the NRC mandate from the moment I heard about it”, R-Adams Township Representative Andrew Fink said in a statement. “It is not the role of unelected bureaucrats to impose rules and penalties on Michiganders, especially ones as unreasonable as this one. The state should be doing all it can to encourage participation in the sport, rather than creating more barriers for our hunters.
The bill advanced to the Senate after being approved in the House on Wednesday by a vote of 70 yes to 38 no.
The measure was backed by Republican Representatives Beau LaFave of Iron Mountain and Greg Markkanen of Hancock.
“The state’s emphasis on obtaining more information for population management purposes should not lead it to enact criminal sanctions,” Markkanen said in a statement. “I will continue to work to provide solutions to this issue, so that UP hunters do not receive summons.”
LaFave predicted the mandate will only worsen a recent decline in hunting in Michigan. “We need more hunters and less hunting” he said in a statement.
The DNR said that when mandatory deer harvest reporting was implemented, the only penalty provided by law was a criminal penalty. The agency said it would like to see a proposal to decriminalize the mandate transferred to Governor Gretchen Whitmer “as soon as possible,” but he does not support the total elimination of the rule.
“We believe a civil offense is more appropriate for failing to report a deer harvest,” DNR spokesman Ed Golder told the Detroit News. “Regardless of the penalty, our conservation officers will focus their efforts this year on education around this new regulation rather than enforcement.”
Without further action, the mandate will be in effect through the Michigan archery stag season, which opens Oct. 1. Successful harvests can be reported through the Michigan.gov website or an app available from Apple or Google Play stores on mobile devices.
Those who fail to report a murder within 72 hours could face fines and penalties, including jail time, although the DNR has said for the first year it will “Emphasizing an educational approach to hunters rather than law enforcement in most circumstances.”
Hunters who cannot report a harvest due to a lack of internet access or a smart device can get help from a family member or friend with access, by providing their number of killing permit, their date of birth and the place of harvest to report the on behalf of the hunter.
“Each online harvest report takes just a few minutes, but provides vital information about hunting experiences and deer abundance across the state,” MNR deer, elk and moose management specialist Chad Stewart said when the requirement was announced in August.