This quarter we will look at how one small group of sportsmen have successfully worked with our state government and the Michigan DNR to put in place a change that could ultimately greatly increase hunting opportunities for small game hunters in our state. Our story starts with one man named Ken Dalton a retired GM auto worker living in Attica Michigan. A life long hunter, Ken saw the number of ring neck pheasants steadily decline from the 1970’s until now. With that he saw that the number of people hunting pheasants on public lands drop as well. Our pheasant hunters were going to game farms or out to South Dakota when they could not find enough birds here, even on private land. Many groups including Pheasants Forever had programs to create or improve pheasant habitat and though these efforts were somewhat successful the downward trend for pheasant hunters seemed to continue. To counteract this Ken decided to do something. He could not stand the thought of young people today not being able to chase rooster pheasants as he did when he was a boy. This led to his forming the Michigan Pheasant Hunting Initiative (MPHI) with a goal of establishing a state sponsored pheasant release program so that experienced or beginning small game hunters of average means could successfully bag pheasants on state land in Southern Michigan. Ken reasoned that if 20 other states from Washington to Rhode Island, including California, released pheasants for their hunters Michigan could as well. Making this a reality became Ken Dalton’s mission in life. He started a grass roots movement of hunters who agreed with him and went on to get the endorsement of many local sportsmen’s organizations and the Michigan United Conservation Clubs (MUCC). Ken faced many obstacles and was told countless times that he would never succeed but with the help of individual members of organizations like Pheasants Forever, The Michigan Hunting Dog Federation, and Safari Club International he forged on. He worked hard to convince state representatives and senators that his ideas made sense. Working with MUCC, wording was drafted that found it’s way to the state legislature where, as part of an appropriations bill, it passed both houses. When Governor Snyder signed SB 601 it contained $260,000 for a two year pilot to release pheasants on public land for Michigan hunters to pursue. These special hunts could start as early as 2019 but there is more to the story. When the pilot program proves to be successful it can grow to include more pheasants planted on additional state game areas. This will require additional funding and Ken is already working on getting it. In 2017 the Unites States Fish and Wildlife Service authorized using Pittman-Robertson money for the stocking of pen raised game birds as long as doing that enhances hunter recruitment, retention or reactivation (3 R’s). It is classed as Basic and Enhanced Hunter Education funding and Michigan currently receives around $4 Million of these dollars from the federal government yearly. Ken is also working with the state legislature on a plan for a Michigan Pheasant Stamp. His vision is a program in Michigan that is like Pennsylvania’s where 50,000 pheasant hunters buy a $26 stamp for the right to hunt 220,000 pheasants that are released on 90 state game areas every year! The benefits will be tremendous and include more new hunters, older hunters going out again, increased business for suppliers and more money staying in Michigan. The list can go on and on. The lesson we should take away from the MPHI success story is that we, as hunters, can control our own destiny when we work together toward a goal and never give up. Our state legislature, the DNR and the NRC are not isolated unapproachable bodies that we have no control over. Ken Dalton proved that. Be it wolf hunts, dove hunts or sand hill crane hunts, longer seasons, shorter seasons, or antler point restrictions, if an idea is sound and has enough support it can become a reality.
(The complete wording of the spending bill as it relates to the pheasant release program follows)
23 Pheasant hunting initiative …………………….. 260,000
1 From the funds 1 appropriated in part 1 for the
2 pheasant hunting initiative, not less than $180,000.00 shall be
3 distributed by the department of natural resources to a Michigan
4 based, nonprofit organization for the purchase of pheasants to
5 release on state game areas for hunting.
6 (2) The purpose of the initiative is to release pheasants on
7 state game areas to improve hunting opportunity and to recruit,
8 retain, and reactivate small game hunters within this state. The
9 department of natural resources shall evaluate the program for
10 possible renewal in future years, including, but not limited to,
11 the following metrics: participation in small game hunting on
12 participating state game areas, hunter satisfaction with the
13 program, expansion of the number of hunters pursuing small game,
14 and limited hunter conflicts resulting from the release of
16 (3) The project will be accomplished by utilizing state
17 employees or contracts with service providers, or both.
18 (4) Any unexpended money shall not lapse to the general fund
19 and shall be carried forward as a work project appropriation under the management and budget act, 1984 PA 431, MCL 18.1101 to 18.1594.
For a complete written bill, visit https://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2017-2018/billconcurred/Senate/pdf/2017-SCB-0601.pdf
or are asked to support a political candidate that attacks hunting, fishing or agriculture they should understand that there is probably an Animal Rights group paying for this effort. The money is from out of state and obtained by deceptive practices. The people providing it are radical vegans and their long term goal is not just to stop some form of hunting but to end all human use and consumption of animals and animal products. Their plan is to use money and influence to create a world where no domestic animals are raised and wild ones are totally protected. Ultimately their goal is to make it illegal for you to own a puppy, see a horse race, eat a hamburger or buy milk for your children. As Americans we value our freedom to live the way we want above all else. The very idea that an extremely small group of people, no matter how much money they have, can change our nation’s practices and traditions is just not tolerable. We have federal and state farm, fish and game agencies to manage our resources and we don’t need or want radical groups imposing their will on us through deception, lawsuits and political maneuvering. Getting this message out will stop the radical vegans and it is our responsibility to fight them everywhere we can with our voices, our votes and our contributions to organizations like Safari Club International.