By Nick Green

Michigan coyote hunting has the outdoor media spotlight as managers, commissioners, trappers, hunters and anti-hunters debate whether a proposed closure should be enacted.

Read the order here.

The proposed closure of the current year-round season, from April 15 to July 15 each year, was borne from the Fur Takers Workgroup, where a majority of stakeholders, including trappers, houndsmen and callers, were in support of the proposal. Michigan United Conservation Clubs voted no and was one of only two organizations to oppose the change.

You’ll have to take our word, though. No record exists there was a furtakers meeting, minutes regarding the topic are absent and we don’t have a voting record. This regulation was brought to the commission because the workgroup supported it, a Michigan Department of Natural Resources memo reads. 

The DNR is neutral on the proposed change.

I have been asked by a multitude of industry professionals, conservationists, biologists and members why this proposal is in front of the commission. I don’t have a good answer for them.

Attempting to placate anti-hunters and, perhaps, the non-hunting public is the ultimate goal of this order. 

While I don’t begrudge the process of analysis — we should be regularly evaluating whether our regulations are having the intended impact — I do have concerns with bringing it forward as a proposed regulation change to limit harvest and opportunity without supporting evidence. It could have been bullet points in a presentation. 

Troubling to me is the infighting this has created between hound groups, trappers, callers, deer hunters and general conservationists. Watching the community eat itself is disheartening.

As this commission continues to tiptoe into actions based on public sentiment rather than biological impact, it might be time to pause and remind conservationists why the Natural Resources Commission exists. For MUCC and our members, Proposal G of 1996 – which vests the NRC with its authorities – is a sacred conservation policy. 

Proposal G requires commissioners to use sound scientific management principles when making wildlife policy decisions. The DNR has been clear that science does not support the proposed regulation closing coyote hunting. Closing the season for the proposed period would not have a biological impact, positive or negative, and is purely social, a DNR memo states.

The NRC voted to change steelhead regulations late last year, primarily based on social pressures from guides and catch-and-release fly anglers. Those two user groups lobbied commissioners, showed up at commission meetings, and presented what they viewed to be the issue and a solution. To their credit, they worked the process.

But, it was one more example of how social attitudes are creeping into our wildlife policy decisions. Hunting and fishing opportunities are being limited because of these opinions – not scientific data.

This troubling precedent and the looming coyote hunting decision have me concerned that too many opinions and not enough data are driving management decisions.

Join MUCC, get engaged and make your voice heard. We are here doing the work.

Nick Green has led Michigan Out-of-Doors Magazine since 2017. Coming from a career in journalism, his passion for blending pertinent news with entertaining features and conservation sets the 100-page quarterly apart from other publications. He lives with his wife and three hunting dogs in the Lansing area.