GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With archery hunting season beginning Saturday, lawmakers and groups have growing concerns about a new mandate by the Department of Natural Resources.
“I believe it’s a large government step too far,” state House Rep. Luke Meerman, R-Coopersville, said.
He voted last Wednesday to eliminate the mandate, which could result in criminal penalties for deer hunters who don’t comply. If a person does not report their harvest within 72 hours, they could be charged with a 90-day misdemeanor and have to pay up to $500 in fines.
“The idea that the government can mandate this kind of data from the hunters has a tremendous chilling effect on the hunting community,” Meerman said. “And probably has the opposite effect of what we’re hoping for as far as gathering data that could prevent disease.”
Dustin Isenhoff, public outreach and engagement unit manager with the DNR, said agents will focus on education this season. He said the mandate is necessary for biologists to study the herd and common diseases that affect deer.
“In order to get good data, we’re going to need mandatory reporting of it,” Isenhoff said.
Isenhoff said there are nearly 650,000 deer hunting licenses processed each year. In the past, about 10% of that group was pulled to collect data.
“That information helps influence the deer regulations and deer management for the upcoming year,” he said.
While Meerman said he understands the need for more data of the deer population, he argued a mandate is an overreach. He said he is happy to work with the Natural Resources Commission to find a way to incentivize people to self-report. If the mandate stays in place, Meerman said he fears hunting might decrease.
“Hunting isn’t just a sport,” he said. “It’s what we all need to manage our deer population.”
House Bill 6354, which would strike down the mandate, has advanced to the Michigan Senate.