LANSING, Mich. (Nov. 14, 2023) — Senate Democrats are wishing Michigan hunters luck on the opening day of Michigan’s firearm deer hunting season tomorrow, and taking the opportunity to remind residents of some important, positive policy changes and investments to support them this year.

Senate Bill 52, sponsored by Sen. John Cherry (D-Flint) and signed into law in July of this year, reduces the penalties on deer harvest reporting. Last year, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) implemented new rules requiring hunters to report their deer harvest to get better data on deer populations and make more informed resource management decisions. SB 52 reduces penalties, from a misdemeanor to a civil infraction with a maximum of $150 in fines, for violations of the new mandatory deer harvest reporting requirement. 

“I am a hunter myself and I heard from many of our hunters about their problems with these new requirements and agreed that the penalty was not appropriate for the offense, especially since no resources are directly harmed as a result of not reporting,” said Sen. Cherry.

The DNR is working hard to manage Michigan’s skyrocketing deer population, with the herd estimated at around two million deer, up 300,000 from a decade ago. Hunting is a key part of that equation. According to information from 2022, Michigan is the second-leading state for car-deer accidents in the U.S., trailing only Pennsylvania, and car-deer accidents have increased 6.6% in Michigan since 2012, with 115 of them causing human fatalities. Farmers and orchard growers are seeing rising problems as well. The number of special, out-of-season deer permits granted by the DNR to address significant crop damage increased 60% from 2014 to 2020.

“My daughter is going out hunting for the first time with her grandpa this year, and I wish her and all Michigan hunters luck,” said Senate Majority Leader Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids). “Hunting and outdoor recreation are a critical part of Michigan’s heritage and economy, and in recognition of that, we have made a number of investments and policy changes to support our woods, waters, and the people who depend on them.” 

Earlier this year, Senate Democrats also secured $10 million in funding for wetland restoration, enhancement and acquisitions in the Lake Erie and Saginaw Bay watersheds.  These efforts will aid in the reduction of phosphorus, nitrogen, or sediment entering those waters, improving water quality and wildlife habitat. 

The need for investment and improvement in wetlands in areas that drain into Lake Erie and the Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron has had bipartisan support in the Legislature and been backed by the Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Ducks Unlimited and Audubon-Great Lakes. These efforts will benefit conservationists, outdoor enthusiasts, sportsmen and women, and the many local businesses and industries they support.

Finally, as part of the 2024 state budget, Senate Democrats funded a number of important priorities for the Department of Natural Resources to support hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts and protect Michigan’s land and water. These investments will help maintain our precious state parks by hiring additional park rangers, investing in wildlife protection technology and equipment, and expanding invasive species prevention and control. The budget also included $64 million to complete construction of a dam project to keep invasive Asian carp out of the Great Lakes.