The Natural Resources Commission (NRC) tabled 2020 deer regulations and is seeking a revision to proposed hunter orange requirements before their July meeting.
While following the standard three-year deer regulation cycle, NRC members sought to receive more feedback on the proposed wildlife conservation order before making a decision – especially a revision removing the proposed hunter orange requirements for ground blinds.
We are glad to see the NRC take sufficient time to consider regulations that will impact so many Michigan hunters, said Michigan United Conservation Clubs Executive Director Amy Trotter.
“I believe that this additional time will give the commissioners a chance to consider the relevant regulations before them,” Trotter said. “MUCC staff will continue advocating on behalf of our member-passed resolutions in preparation for the final rule.”
NRC members heard from DNR Deer Management Specialist Chad Stewart on a number of these regulations, as well as DNR Law Enforcement staff on potential hunter orange requirements.
This briefing included a review of the history of hunter safety requirements, especially highlighting the large decreases in hunting accidents after the implementation of hunter orange requirements and hunter safety programs. DNR staff believes that requiring hunter orange on ground blinds is a proactive approach to avoid future potential tragedies.
Some of the proposed modifications align with MUCC member-passed resolutions, including requiring hunter orange on ground blinds and clarifying rules for harvest. Currently, proposed deer regulations would require hunters to have at least 144 square inches of hunter orange on the outside of their blinds visible from 360 degrees. The NRC has requested a revised version of this rule for their consideration in July, without the revised hunter orange requirements. A motion to do so passed unanimously.
Commissioners also requested a number of additional regulations, including proposals to:
- Clarify combination license rules statewide to allow any legal buck to be harvested with the first tag and a consistent antler point restriction (APR) on the second tag (Tracy);
- Allow baiting before the start of the Independence Hunt, consistent with the rules for the Liberty Hunt (Tracy)
- (if 1 doesn’t pass) Remove the APR on the first tag of the combination license in the Upper Peninsula (Tracy);
- Allow the use of crossbows in December in the UP (Tracy)
- Address carcass movement restrictions per recommendations from Erik Schnelle of QDMA (Tracy);
- (if 1 doesn’t pass) remove the four-point antler point restriction on the second tag of the combination license in the CWD management zone (Tracy);
- Suspend changes to APRs until the current APR study is complete (resolution; Tracy)
- Clarify muzzleloader season restrictions to have a season in all areas of the state where hunters may exclusively use muzzleloaders (Creagh)
Recommendations for changed rules going into this meeting may be found in full from the DNR here, or in brief from MUCC here. DNR staff will provide a revised order with language pursuant to the requests above prior to the July NRC meeting.
DNR Director Dan Eichinger also provided NRC members with a brief overview of DNR budget concerns for the remainder of this fiscal year and the next budget cycle.
DNR Survey Specialist Brian Frawley updated NRC members on 2019 deer harvest data. According to Frawley’s report, Michigan has lost around 300,000 hunters since 2000 and the data suggest that another 100,000 hunters could be lost over the next decade.
Commissioners heard from DNR Deer Management Specialist Chad Stewart on a change to the mandatory elk hunt orientation. This change would give DNR staff the option to offer virtual training this year, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and possibly in the future. According to the wildlife conservation order, “this change provides a safeguard that allows hunters to pursue elk if social distancing is required at the time leading up to the elk season without violating WCO language.” Decisions on orientations beyond the 2020 season will be brought before the NRC at a later date.
For Information – Director
Eichinger and DNR Parks & Recreation Division staff presented an order to regulate camping on state forest lands in Benzie County under the authority of a Land Use Order of the Director Amendment No. 04 of 2020. This order will limit the extent to which campers may utilize this piece of land, as DNR staff notes that “associated camping [in the area] results in enormous amounts of garbage and accumulations of human waste being left onsite.” The history of abuse on this particular parcel spurred this new management action. Eichinger will likely approve this order at the July NRC Meeting.
For Action – Director
Eichinger signed a letter of authorization eliminating discounted private land antlerless deer licenses expiring the first Sunday in November in the CWD Management Zone. This change is intended to clarify rules for hunters in relevant regions of the state. As the letter notes: “there was a lot of confusion from hunters and retailers about where and when the license was valid.” Commissioners agreed that this revocation would help to clarify rules for hunters.
There were also a number of land transactions before the director this month, including sales in Allegan, Chippewa and Delta counties. A full list of transactions can be found on the agenda here. The director approved all transactions listed on the agenda.
Of the seven possible NRC members, only commissioners Keith Creagh, Louise Klarr, Chris Tracy and Dave Nyberg were present. Three seats on the NRC remain vacant.
The next NRC meeting is currently scheduled for July 16, 2020 and will likely take place virtually.