USE OF PUBLIC RECORDS COULD COST YOU A LICENSE IN MICHIGAN – Michigan’s Legislature introduced a bill that could take your license away if you practice document hunting. Document hunting is the use of public records under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) to find where the animals are living.
Although document hunting is a rare form of hunting, one hunter in Michigan has not been so quiet about using it. He was almost too smart for his own good. The hunter would request Department of Natural Resource (“DNR”) surveys to find the total distribution of male ruffed grouse in Michigan. The hunter would then see where the largest populations were and get his limit.
The DNR wasn’t impressed. Instead of not sending the hunter the information, they just stopped conducting the surveys in 2015. This temporary pause in the surveys will ultimately lead to no one knowing just how many grouse are in Michigan.
To prevent the DNR from stopping its surveys, the Michigan Legislature stepped in with House Bill 4735. HB 4735 changes the way people can use FOIA information in their hunts. Because of this hunter’s blatant honesty about his use of the records, hunters will no longer be allowed to use this information to guide their hunts if the bill passes.
HB 4735 isn’t just for grouse either. The bill will require a signed form under section 5(1)(e) of the freedom of information act, 1976 PA 442, MCL 15.235, “indicating that the individual will not use the information of game location to take game.” You can read the complete version of HB 4725 here. Use of the information for hunting purposes varies in punishment. Taking a moose or elk with this information can cost you your license for life. Other animals are 2 to 7-year bans on licenses, 90 days in jail, or fines.
If you’re planning to hunt with FOIA surveys, check your state regulations. You can still do it in Michigan for this year since the bill hasn’t passed but avoid it next year.
Ever used FOIA documents? How was the hunt and which state were you in? Let us know any tips you may have in the comments below!