By Bob Abbott •
Sightmark Pro Staff member, Bob Abbott was pivotal in getting Michigan’s night hunting laws changed. Read his story here…
I have been predator hunting for quite a few years—most of it at night with a red light over a good day scope. I live in Michigan, where we were only allowed to use rimfire rifles or a shotgun when night hunting. It didn’t take long to realize rimfire rifles and shotguns were not an effective humane way to dispatch an animal as tough as the coyote. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of kills that happened quickly, but there were also far too many for me that ran off only to suffer.
The coyote population and issues they were causing became a hot topic in Michigan in 2015. The Michigan Natural Resource Commission (NRC) had asked Adam Bump, bear and furbearer specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resource (DNR) to do a study and present his recommendations for addressing the issue at the 2015 September NRC meeting in Lansing.
I had been following the NRC meetings and subscribed to their newsletter and noticed that this meeting was set to discuss Adam’s findings, so I went. Adam presented 4 possibilities to the NRC that morning—a year-round season on coyotes, as well as hiring sharpshooters at the cost of $200,000.00 to cover an area in the Upper Peninsula for 2 months. I don’t recall the other two.
Not really knowing how to go about introducing a centerfire at night proposal, I asked a few people I knew during the break. Adam Bump being one of them. He indicated he thought it was a good idea, but the major roadblock would be from DNR law enforcement. Apparently, it had been talked about before and the Chief and Assistant Chief were adamantly against it stating safety reasons.
I had previous connections with the Chief and Assistant Chief for them to clear up other muddled predator hunting laws, so they were familiar with me. During lunch, I approached them and started a conversation about the coyote issues, introducing my idea. It was not received well.
They both said it was not safe and they would never allow it in Michigan. I explained that many of our surrounding states allowed it and asked if they had any safety statistics to go by. They both responded, “no.” I asked them why they thought it would be unsafe when during the day we weren’t restricted by caliper.
The chief raised his arms as if holding a rifle and fired it into the air and said because some yahoo would do this and the bullet would come down, go through a roof and kill a baby in its crib. I was shocked at his obvious emotional reaction and his words about sportsmen.
I then asked why he thought that wouldn’t happen during the day. The discussion pretty much ended then, but I then knew what I had to do to. I told them they would see me later with a proposal.
I got home that evening knowing I needed to get safety stats from our surrounding states. If the stats showed no concern for safety for both personal injury and property damage, then there was a good chance of getting this through.
I contacted Indiana and Ohio with a request to find out how many personal injury and property damage incidents had happened from predator hunters using a centerfire during the nighttime hours. This proved to be time-consuming as it wasn’t readily known by the main DNR contact numbers for those states who would have that info. I have to say both states were very cooperative and eventually got me to the right people.
I ended up talking to a Major of the Indiana DNR and once I explained what stats I wanted and why I wanted them, he was very happy to help. We spent nearly an hour and a half on the phone gathering all the info I needed, and I was sent an email containing the results.
Next up was Ohio.
It took about eight weeks, but once connected with the person that would be able to get the info to me, things went smoothly. They were very helpful but had requirements and steps that needed to be followed before they could release the info to me. I had to submit a letter with the exact information I needed and why I needed it. Eight weeks later, I received an email with a searchable spreadsheet and an apology for it taking so long.
Now for the results:
Indiana went back to 2011 and had zero incidents of personal injury or property damage caused by a predator hunter using a centerfire at night. Ohio’s spreadsheet went back to 2003 and showed the same statistics.
This was great news! It was exactly what I needed to get the ball rolling. I knew full well there would be other concerns to address and that recruiting the right people to help was going to be very important as they would need to help address some of the rest of the concerns.
Knowing we would need to have a restricted caliber proposal to even get our proposal looked at, I recruited a friend of mine that was a retired marine and retired DNR officer. He was also a ballistics expert and he helped me form the proposal. He and another retired DNR officer came to testify at the May 2016 NRC meeting in support of the law change. This was a major step forward for the movement. Before this, we had the support of 3 out of the 7 NRC committee members. Afterward, we got the support of the two more we needed.
In 2015, night hunting was not that popular and finding other dedicated night hunters was not that easy. My teammates from “Dog Tired TV” and a few others were the only ones I really knew.
I created the Facebook page “Michigan Predator Hunters for Centerfire at Night” and began to have meetings with the other core supporters that would make up the team. We gathered petition signatures at outdoor expo events around Michigan totaling over 4,000.
From this point on, it was a matter of being present at the meetings to address further concerns and provide expert testimony from others in the sport. Many, many obstacles were thrown up by the opposing side but all of them were answered and in June of 2016, the Michigan United Conservation Club adopted the centerfire proposal (a 42,000 plus membership strong). On December 8th, 2016 the Michigan Natural Resource Commission voted to pass amendment #11.
There are many people who helped along the way, but most notably are the following:
- Tony Demboski (President Upper Peninsula Sportsman Alliance
- Merle Jones (Member of Michigan Predator Hunters for Centerfire at Night)
- Kevin Rought (Member of Overdrive Outdoors)
- Robert Shultz (Member of Michigan Predator Hunters for Centerfire at Night and Dog Tired TV)
- Fred Gadsby (Member of Michigan Predator Hunters for Centerfire at Night and Dog Tired TV)
- Paul Cianciolo (Member of Michigan Predator Hunters for Centerfire, owner of Predator Hunter Outdoors) Order #11 was written to exclude thermal and lights. Paul provided expert testimony on the day of the vote and was able to convince the NRC to amend the order to allow the use of these before the vote.
- Dale Hendershot (President of Michigan Trappers and Callers Association)
- NRA for the support
About Bob Abbott
Bob Abbott is the founder of the “Michigan Predator Hunters for Centerfire at Night” grassroots movement that got Michigan legal to use centerfire rifles at night. Bob is also a member of the Dog Tired TV group. Bob has many years of hunting experience. He particularly enjoys hunting the elusive predators at night. Bob starting out with red lights, then moved to Gen1 NV, then to digital NV and now enjoys thermal.