ESCANABA - Each year the Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) schedules a meeting in the Great North, and for the last two years meeting in each of the home towns of our two commissioners, John Madigan (Munising) and JR Richardson (Ontonagon).
Next month the commission will be coming to the UP and this time meeting in Escanaba.
Area clubs have committed to provide a welcome by action taken during the quarterly meeting of the Upper Peninsula Sportsmen's Alliance. The idea is to provide a social event that gives local representatives not only a chance to casually discuss issues, but also feature some of our successes.
The formal meeting will take placeAug. 12 at Escanaba Middle School. During the session there will be a period of public testimony.
The fall hunting regulations were acted upon during the July meeting so the NRC would remain compliant with the statutory requirement to have them adopted and published for the public by Aug. 1 However, there are some items that, in relation to hunting, still need to be resolved.
One topic which has gained attention and popularity over the last couple years is the cross bow.
Prior to 2009, only hunters who first qualified and then obtained a special needs document from their physician, could use a cross bow outside of the firearm hunting season for taking deer.
A special task force convened and found that in the case of the general public, those who move away from a particular mode of hunting do so around age 50. It happens because some of the methods of hunting are becoming too strenuous. Archery hunters have to draw and hold a bow to gain a shot at game. Some with varying disabilities who have a difficult time in holding the draw, yet did not qualify for the special permit, simply gave up the sport.
Based on that information, the NRC last year decided to allow the use of cross bows by any hunter 50 and older. It was set as a three year pilot program to be reviewed at the end of the term. All other ages would still have to rely on meeting the criteria permitting use under a disability.
This year, Madigan asked the Upper Peninsula Sportmen's Alliance for input on whether or not there should be some amendments to current policy. According to Rory Mattson, who presented the question at the UPSA meeting, we are being asked to choose one of three options:
1) Inclusion statewide - open use in both Upper and Lower Peninsulas regardless of age.
2) Inclusion in Lower Peninsula only - leaving the 50 year old hunter regulation in effect for the UP but allowing open use on the Lower Peninsula. The option would also include a new provision for temporary disability use.
3) Status-quo statewide - keeping current regulations for cross bow use in both the UP and LP, however now adding the option for use with temporary disability.
MDNRE Wildlife Chief Russ Mason mentioned that included with this discussion at the August meeting, he will be adding consideration for the NRC to allow the use of a mechanical "cocking" mechanism, primarily to be allowed for youth bow hunters.
Mason is also asking the NRC to consider dropping the current rule that limits cross bows to 350 foot-per-second bolt velocity. He contends it is an unenforceable rule and will not make a major difference for users.
State Representative Joel Sheltrown (103rd District), also present at the meeting, noted he is getting a lot of pressure for the legislature to change the definition of archery equipment statewide.
There was a ruling that came out of the Attorney General's office last year that determined the cross bow was to be classified as a firearm and not common archery equipment. Once decided, this conversion may change everything currently in place that regulates the sport.
UPSA president Dale McNamee of Escanaba noted the original plan was to run three years before seeing amendment. Mattson added concern that there was to be a usage report summary that would lay out numbers from hunters to help in making changes at the end of the period.
Mason noted there has already been a problem with compliance in that only 60 percent of the hunters utilizing the special "no charge" permit reported back as expected. He felt the best they could do now is utilize all data collected after the third year to compile the report.
It's not known what feedback was received from hunters in the LP. The UPSA decided to stick to the original plan (except for perhaps the inclusion of the temporary disability clause).
Whether or not we'll see any other changes will be decided in Escanaba come August.
Tim Kobasic is outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet Saturday mornings.