Police & You: With Michigan's hunting season upon us - bow starts October 1st - it is important to review the rules, regulations, and laws that govern our quest for the illusive wall-hanger. Even the most trivial violations can result in criminal charges.
We all know and appreciate that blinding "hunter's orange" that we all wear when patiently waiting for the next good shot. But did you know that not only are we required to wear it, but failing to do so, or wearing it improperly, is actually a misdemeanor.
In fact, I have a personal Police & You story to illustrate. A couple of years ago a buddy (I'll call him Jimmy) and I were gun-hunting separate parts of a farm in southern Michigan. About 20 minutes from last light - prime big buck time - I saw a pickup barreling down a field road toward the tree line in the general vicinity of Jimmy's tree stand. It turned out that the DNR officer didn't much care that he had just blown Jimmy's hunt. His mission was to correct the injustice that was Jimmy's failure to have his reversible orange hat completely visible from all sides. The officer's solution: a misdemeanor ticket. Yes, a criminal charge just as serious as possessing marijuana, destroying property, shoplifting, and any myriad of more traditional criminal offenses.
Fortunately for Jimmy, who then became "client Jimmy", reasonableness prevailed after I spoke with a real decision maker in the county. Turns out that the person I spoke with agreed with me that it was absurd to label someone a criminal because of a crooked hat. That's not exactly how hunters, who spend considerable sums in the local economy during hunting season, should be treated for such a trivial violation.
In another county, however, Jimmy may not have been so lucky. Instead, he could have gone to trial (at considerable expense) and run the risk of gaining a criminal record. All over a hat!
Not all trouble spots are as trivial as a hat, however. One of the most important aspect of hunting to be familiar with is how to legally transport weapons. Regardless of whether the vehicle is parked, stopped, or moving all firearms must be unloaded in both the barrel and magazine and be locked up in a case or carrier in the trunk. If you do not have a trunk, the firearm should be placed as far away from you and your occupants as possible so as to render it inaccessible. If you are using an off road vehicle, the firearm must also be made inoperative by a key locked trigger mechanism. For good measure, store the ammunition separately from the gun.
But what if I'm a crossbow hunter? Doesn't matter. If you don't want to be guilty of a crime, you still have restrictions to transporting your bow and bolts. According to Michigan Department of Natural Resources website and state law, bows must also be carried in a case or unstrung and carried in the trunk of the car, again regardless of whether the vehicle is parked, stopped, or moving.
Most ethical hunters know that you have to transport your weapons a certain way, or that you have to wear hunter's orange. And many also know that you cannot take game out of season or the specified hunting hours. But, do you really know what the penalties are?
Here are some examples - if a person violates a permit, season, bag limit, shooting hours, or method of taking game, fines can be anywhere from $50 - $500 and up to 90 days in jail.
Also, illegally taking or possessing a deer can land you in jail for 90 days, up to a $1000.00 fine, and $1000 in restitution plus revocation of your hunting licenses not only for the rest of this hunting season, but for the next three years as well.
Know your rights, but know the laws too! It can save you a lot of money, time, and aggravation. Hunt ethically, shoot straight, and have a safe and wonderful hunting season!
In the event you or a loved one runs into trouble, contact a Michigan Hunting Lawyer today.