Fishing guides are permitted back to work May 7 per Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s most recent executive order, but gun clubs will still not be open to the general public.

Last week, Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC) sent two letters to Gov. Whitmer. The first provided language that would allow fishing guides to safely return to work in a limited capacity. The second letter outlined measures that would permit gun ranges, many of which are owned by MUCC clubs, to open to the public.

On May 1, Gov. Whitmer signed EO 2020-70. Section 10 states, “For purposes of this order, workers who perform resumed activities are defined as follows: 

Section 10 (f):  Effective at 12:01 am on May 7, 2020, and subject to the enhanced social-distancing rules described in section 11(h) of this order, workers who perform work that is traditionally and primarily performed outdoors, including but not limited to forestry workers, outdoor power equipment technicians, parking enforcement workers, and similar workers.”

MUCC Executive Director Amy Trotter commended Gov. Whitmer for allowing outdoor industries, including fishing guides, to return to work, but said the organization will continue to work with the governor’s office to safely and practically open shooting ranges to the public.

“Fishing guides and charter captains depend on income that oftentimes comes in one- or two-month slots,” Trotter said. “Guides who are MUCC members have let us know they are hurting. We know this isn’t going to fix the income lost, but it might help them make it through until next season.”

Executive Order 2020-70, Section 11 (h) does provide “enhanced social distancing rules” that guides will have to follow:

    • Prohibit gatherings of any size in which people cannot maintain six feet of distance from one another.
    • Limit in-person interaction with clients and patrons to the maximum extent possible, and barring any such interaction in which people cannot maintain six feet of distance from one another.
    • Provide personal protective equipment such as gloves, goggles, face shields, and face masks as appropriate for the activity being performed.
    • Adopt protocols to limit the sharing of tools and equipment to the maximum extent possible and to ensure frequent and thorough cleaning of tools, equipment, and frequently touched surfaces.

MUCC encourages guides to:

  1. Remind clients who don’t live in the same household that they must travel to the access site in different vehicles. 
  2. Let clients know to bring a fishing buff or other mask to cover their face when practical.
  3. Try to book same-household trips where only the guide will need to maintain social distancing.
  4. Use a long-handled net and the length of a fishing rod to keep a six-foot distance when netting a fish.
  5. Keep clients who are not from the same household from congregating at the launch, in the boat or for pictures.
  6. Create a plan with clients ahead of time that will allow them to know when and how to leave their vehicles and when it is safe to board the guide’s vessel.
  7. To forgo lunches or other prepared meals for clients. 
  8. Consider separate car-spotting practices where clients can’t safely distance from the guide in a vehicle.

MUCC understands that socially distancing will not be an option for some guides and will not fit every kind of vessel. These are interim measures that, we hope, will lead to more relaxed rules for guides in the weeks to follow. 

Shooting Ranges 

Currently, it is MUCC’s understanding that shooting ranges are allowed to be open to members of the club only and only where in-person contact can be avoided, but they are not allowed to be open to the public.

While some MUCC clubs rely on membership dues, there are clubs that depend on range fees from the public and corporate event revenues to operate. Without these amenities allowed, MUCC clubs are losing significant portions of their yearly income and there is no federal or state safety net for them, Trotter said. 

“We fully expect that rod and gun clubs across the state will be forced to close their doors permanently if this EO or a subsequent version does not allow some level of safe use,” Trotter said. “This would further diminish the outdoor heritage Michigan was founded upon.”

MUCC affiliates have asked about legal action to allow clubs to open. A lawsuit regarding the closures of shooting ranges to the public would likely not succeed in providing an immediate injunction based on our limited review with legal counsel.

Under the exceptions provided for in EO 2020-70, MUCC believes that members should be able to access club property for hiking, walking or other outdoor physical activities (including shooting) under the order if they are able to access the property without assistance and maintain social distancing of 6 feet. All indoor facilities should remain locked and unavailable. 

Most MUCC affiliate facilities are accessed by key/card/gate code by members, and no human interaction is required for a member to fish or shoot their bow or firearm on club property. Dropboxes, phone or online transactions can be used for member fees or dues in the meantime to discourage face to face interaction. 

If this is applicable to your facility, then consider contacting your local law enforcement or county prosecutor’s office to determine rules and procedures for safe outdoor recreation based on your individual facility’s operations and their perspective on procedures you are putting in place to safely open.

MUCC is committed to working with the governor’s office towards a solution for our affiliates and clubs that have outdoor shooting ranges. We have sent a letter to the governor which you can view here.

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