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Michigan House OKs bill to stop new rule on deer harvest reporting

A WHITE-TAILED BUCK stays close to a doe in the Upper Peninsula. (Michigan Department of Natural Resources photo)

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 aims to prohibit the NRC from requiring hunters to report harvested deer.

“I’ve been in staunch opposition to the NRC’s mandate since the moment I heard about it,” Rep. Andrew Fink, R-Adams Township, 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 do all it can to encourage participation in the sport, rather than creating more obstacles for our hunters.”

The bill advanced to the Senate after being approved Wednesday in the House by a vote of 70 yes to 38 no.

The measure was supported by Republican representatives Beau LaFave of Iron Mountain and Greg Markkanen of Hancock.

“The state’s emphasis on getting more information for population management purposes shouldn’t lead them to enacting criminal penalties,” Markkanen said in a statement. “I will continue to work toward delivering solutions on this issue, so hunters in the U.P. aren’t delivered summons.”

LaFave predicted the mandate will only worsen a recent decline in hunting in Michigan. “We need more hunters, and less hounding,” he said in statement.

The DNR said that when mandatory deer harvest reporting was implemented, the only penalty available under statute was a criminal one. The agency said it would like to see a proposal to decriminalize the mandate moved to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer “as soon as possible,” but it does not support wholesale elimination of the rule.

“We think a civil infraction is more proper for failure to report a deer harvest,” DNR spokesman Ed Golder told The Detroit News. “Regardless of 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 during the Michigan archery deer season, which opens Oct. 1. Successful harvests can be reported through the Michigan.gov website or an app that’s available in the Apple or Google Play stores on mobile devices.

Those who neglect to report a kill within 72 hours could be subject to fines and penalties, including jail, although the DNR has said for the first year it will “emphasize an educational approach to hunters rather than enforcement in most circumstances.”

Hunters who can’t report a harvest due to a lack of internet access or smart device can get help from a family member or friend with access, by providing them with their kill tag license number, date of birth and harvest location to report on the hunter’s behalf.

“Each online harvest report takes just a few minutes but provides critical information about hunting experiences and deer abundance all over the state,” Chad Stewart, the DNR’s deer, elk and moose management specialist, said when the requirement was announced in August.

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