ESCANABA - The Michigan Department of Natural Resources had been soliciting public input regarding how they can improve the annual hunting and trapping digests, as well as the fishing guide. The public input period concluded Feb. 3.
Over the years these publications have grown enormously, covering a myriad of information. Unfortunately, for some, they have become cumbersome. The big question is why did they get this way and how can they be improved?
The Fishing Guidebook is valid from April 1, and expires March 31 each year. There are two publications, with one detailing regulations and the other, a color coded book mapping various streams which highlight where certain lures may or may not be used.
The Hunting and Trapping Digest is valid from Aug. 1, and expires July 31 each year. It has grown in size to a 47 page booklet that contains advertising to help defray the cost of production and distribution.
It is amazing to listen to avid fishermen when they congregate and discuss their craft. Many are tuned to the detailed regulations, especially those who use hook and line on the end of a fly rod to catch trout.
They are keenly aware of the biology related to fishing and know what bugs as well as where and when they usually hatch. Many have acquired the skills to make their own lures, tying feathers, colored threads and bits of fur to mimic the bodies and behaviors of certain bugs.
They also possess incredible patience as they work their skills of whipping the rod while extending line for final placement at a specific point and being very careful to safely return a fish when they want.
Those who fish bigger water most often can better identify the structure under the surface better than they can describe their own address. The science behind fishing has also excelled in the age of technology with fish finding electronics from global positioning all the way to underwater video cameras.
Both entities regularly participate with the MDNR in active clubs or sport fishing organizations that help modify annual regulations, especially those dealing with slot limits and seasons.
Fishing clubs also work with members of the legislature in identifying problems with invasive species and join in efforts to combat them.
Locally, the Bay de Noc Great Lakes Sports Fishermen have teamed up with the US Fish & Wildlife Service as volunteers by using lethal means to control the spread of double-crested cormorants.
The Hunters and Trappers also participate in setting regulations and working problematic situations for the good of our natural resources, and in particular the game species.
The main premise from which changes take place should always first consider the resource (the critters) and if a change will not have a negative impact on them, most often the MDNR has attempted to accommodate the end user who pay for most of the management.
When you look at today's version, the Hunting and Trapping Digest has become so complex that you literally have to refer to various tables and
inserted paragraphs on other pages to clarify general rules.
It gives the impression that no matter how conscientious you might be, there is still a chance you're in violation of some game regulation.
It has been a nightmare for law enforcement too.
New regulations are either confusing or misinterpreted and conservation officers address them on a learning curve. Many times it depends on the attitude of the hunter or trapper whether a ticket is issued.
One example deals with deer hunting and license criteria.
Combination licenses are currently used for both archery and firearm deer hunting seasons. Those utilizing a tag for archery season have the opportunity to utilize the first tag as hunter's choice and even take an antlerless deer where permitted in specific Deer Management Units.
However, when it is applied during the firearm hunting seasons, the first and second tag currently have buck only options with antler restrictions which have created pocket problems.
Areas void of deer populations or at least below goals related to carrying capacity hear hunters expressing disappointment in not getting a chance at any legal buck unless they buy a single tag. If they do that, then they lose out on hunting opportunity obtained with the second tag, even though numbers show that approximately one percent of the hunters actually utilize it and take a second buck.
Other concerns raised by organizations have proposed ending the use of combination licenses all together and permitting only one buck per hunter either per season or per year.
I believe we have gotten to this point not because it is a decision made in the best interest of the resource, but more on the premise that special interest areas requesting optional regulations do not show potential for a negative impact on the games species in that area and are therefore granted to the user.
This is where the nightmare occurs for the transient hunter.
It would almost seem the true fix to reducing the need for complex options in hunting regulations should come from base recommendations from area biologists. The need for advanced age class of deer or the option to take any fundamentally legal buck should still land on the ethics of the hunter.
In fact, what game species and quantity we take afield should depend on knowing current conditions exist.
We also need to be current on recommendations put forward each spring by area biologists and can do so by either personal contact or by participating within the seven established conservation coalitions.
It is also something that can be reported to the membership from the various conservation organizations of which you may be a member.
Tim Kobasic is the outdoors editor for KMB Broadcasting and host/producer for Tails & Trails Outdoor Radio, aired on six radio stations over three networks, Charter Communications cable and the Internet on Saturday mornings.