The fact that I can’t remember whether I’ve ever forgotten to report a deer or turkey in my nearly 40 years of hunting should tell you that it’s at least possible. (Which reminds me of the Elvis song I Forgot to Remember to Forget? But that’s neither here nor there.) I was in high school and college during part of that stretch, after all, and large swaths of those years are a blur.
In any case, one thing I can say for sure is that I have called in to report a deer or turkey in recent years, only to find out that the DNR’s automated number wasn’t working—and continued not to work for multiple tries. It begs the question, How many times is a hunter supposed to try before giving up? And, given this, What should the punishment be for the hunter who gives up, or innocently forgets, or otherwise doesn’t report?
Well, in Michigan, it’s 90 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. But according to an article in Bridge Michigan News, a group of Wolverine State lawmakers are looking to change that. For years, the Michigan DNR used optional mail-in surveys to gather deer hunting data. But when too many hunters decided to forgo that option, the agency changed its policy just in time for last year’s deer season. For the first time ever, they made failing to report a deer within 72 hours a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
I’ve got no problem with agencies calling for mandatory reporting or imposing a reasonable penalty to encourage compliance. DNRs need accurate data if we’re going to expect them to manage wildlife wisely. In my home state of New York, you can get pinched for up to $250 for failure to report, and that’s okay by me. But jail time? For what could easily be an honest mistake? Seems very heavy-handed. As do empty threats. The Michigan DNR estimates that 75 percent of hunters reported their kill last season, yet none of the 25 percent who didn’t went to jail, or were even issued a ticket. That should tell you something.
Michigan Senate Bill 52, which passed on Tuesday and is now headed to the state House of Representatives, looks to reduce the punishment to a fine of no more than $150. Its chief sponsor is a Democrat, and it has support from Republicans, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, and sportsman’s groups. I think all Michiganders should be rooting for this bill to pass. I mean, the last thing you want is New York hunters pointing out how draconian your game laws are.