Schuette proposes legal changes to enhance hunting rights

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette on Thursday announced that he will be working with the legislature to continue to protect Michigan’s hunting and fishing heritage through a series of legal changes that will enhance the outdoor experience and make Michigan more attractive as a hunting destination.

“Michigan was carved out of the wilderness by men and women who provided for their families with bows and rifles,” said Schuette. “While times have changed, hunting is still a vital part of Michigan’s tourism economy, and a way for family and friends to spend time together and provide for each other. These changes will protect the rights of Michigan outdoorsmen and women and preserve the state’s great sporting legacy.”

Currently, not all Michigan laws and regulations match up with the intended goal of promoting these cherished recreational activities.

The following are Schuette’s recommendations to the legislature and state agencies to enhance and protect hunting and property rights:

—Legislative resolution in support of Michigan hunting rights

The right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife is a valued part of Michigan’s heritage and a preferred means of managing wildlife for generations to come.

Schuette is proposing:

• The legislature affirm this with a resolution in support of Michiganian’s hunting and fishing rights.

—Allow easier transport of hunting weapons on private property

Currently, Michigan hunters using both bows and long guns are required to case their weapons when using a motor vehicle – even when moving from cabin to tree stand on private property. Michigan’s hunters can be trusted to transport their weapons responsibly, out of a case, and unloaded.

Schuette is proposing: 

• Removing the prohibition on transporting an uncased hunting weapon in a vehicle on private property.

• This change will not alter the current ban on using or possessing a loaded or strung hunting weapon in a vehicle.

—Clarify hunting is allowed from unpowered motorboat

Hunting waterfowl is a popular sport across Michigan, but unfortunately it can be a challenge to successfully hunt while following the law. The Department of Natural Resources currently permits hunting of waterfowl from a motorboat if “the motor has been completely shut off ... and its progress therefrom has ceased.” But MCL 324.40111 prohibits having a loaded weapon in a motorized boat, which would prevent such lawful hunting.

Schuette is proposing:

• Making statute consistent with the DNR conservation order.

—Turkey licensure

Michigan’s turkey licensing program was set when wild turkeys were endangered, to keep the population in check and prevent animals from starving during winter months. The population of wild turkeys in Michigan has since rebounded, and each year, tens of thousands of licenses are left over from the lotteries for the spring and fall hunts. Turkey hunters who spontaneously want to go out for the weekend should be able to buy a license without the hassle of a lottery application process.

Schuette is proposing:

• Encourage the Natural Resources Commission to review turkey licensure process and lottery program.

—Property rights: strengthen trespass law

Verbal permission is hard to enforce and can create conflict between hunters, fishers, trappers and property owners. Many property owners complain the current penalties are not a deterrent and are ignored. Currently, hunting or fishing on private land without permission is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail or a fine of $100-500; subsequent fines are $250-1000 and loss of license. Fifteen other states, including Illinois, Indiana and Ohio, require written permission to hunt or fish on private land.

Schuette is proposing:

• Requiring written permission and increasing fines.

• Including a pre-written form in the hunting guide that is sent with the hunting or fishing license, and provide forms at public offices.

Since being elected as attorney general in 2010, Schuette has been an advocate for sportsmen’s rights, protecting the 2nd Amendment and making Michigan a destination for tourism. Schuette is working to stop the Asian Carp from ruining the sport fishing industry, and has taken stands against Great Lakes water being withdrawn from outside the basin.

Michigan’s hunting and fishing economy is a major contributor to the state’s overall economy, with the Department of Natural Resources selling about 600,000 hunters approximately 630,000 licenses of all types. 

Michigan’s hunter participation ranks third in the nation — 795,535 licensed hunters in 2011 — contributing nearly $28 million in federal funds to wildlife management and wildlife habitat restoration. Michigan hunters boost the state’s economy, spending $2.3 billion on trip-related expenses and equipment in 2011. Wildlife-watching activities bring in $1.2 billion in trip-related expenses and equipment annually.

Michigan’s angler participation rated fifth in the nation — 1.1 million licensed anglers in 2011 — drawing over $11.2 million in federal funds to fish and aquatic habitat conservation. Anglers boost the state’s economy, spending $2.4 billion in trip-related expenses and equipment in 2011.