Firearm deer hunting season is still a little less than a month away but bow season is well underway in Michigan.
But before the largest crowd of hunters hit the blinds this season, the Department of Natural Resources is clarifying their new reporting rules.
In the past, the DNR would send out a survey after hunting season asking how the season went, where they harvested a deer and just how many. It will give them an idea of how the hunt is going statewide. Response numbers have been plummeting year after year so now the DNR is making it mandatory.
“This is an attempt to get real time data that will help us manage that herd,” said Ed Golder, public information officer for the DNR, “All of our surrounding states, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, all have mandatory harvest reporting.”
Any hunter who harvests a deer, now has 72 hours to report it. So far this season, the state says 43,000 reports have been filed already.
“We found that people had almost no problem doing that,” said Golder, “It takes anywhere from one to five minutes to fill out this online form.”
The reporting can be done on the DNR website or the app. If a hunter does not, for this year, it is much more than a fine or ticket.
“The only available punishment under the law, at the time this was put into place, was a criminal misdemeanor,” said Golder.
Even the DNR thought that was harsh, so this year they pushed for a lesser penalty.
“There was a bill introduced in the House that would have reduced the criminal misdemeanor to a civil infraction,” said Golder, “Fully supported that the DNR and the governor fully supported that.”
As bills often do, it changed in the process and instead tried to make the reporting itself against the rules.
“It ended up not touching those penalties, but rather went after the Natural Resource Commission’s authority,” said Golder, “Which was unfortunate.”
Regardless of the penalty, this first year there has been some grace given as things are ironed out.
“Our conservation officers are taking a very educational approach,” said Golder, “Their attitude is we want to help people to comply.”