Michigan hunters are a step closer to having the option to use crossbows much more extensively under a plan under consideration by the rules-making Natural Resource Commission.
Commissioner John Madigan, of Munising, has proposed a series of changes to loosen crossbow restrictions after discussions with hunters and other parties during the last six months.
The changes, Madigan said, are not "written in stone" and should be regarded as a starting point. "We don't want to impact the resources in a negative manner," he stated.
Crossbow use has been a sore point in the Michigan bowhunting community for years, and change has come slowly and grudgingly because of a strong anti-crossbow lobby to maintain the seasons as the exclusive domain of users of traditional bows and compound bows only.
The situation stands in stark contrast to Ohio, where crossbows are part and parcel of the hunting culture and where virtually no negative impact on game populations has been discerned from their use. In fact, more Ohio archery season hunters use crossbows now than traditional bows or compound bows.
In any case, crossbows when used properly are just as effective as longbows and compounds - when the latter are used properly as well. Any such equipment can be misused, especially when the user thinks modern technical advancements have stretched the effective range of a tricked-out bow or crossbow into that of a firearm.
The pending crossbow rules are expected to be on the agenda for initial discussion for the NRC's February meeting in Lansing. They include:
•Use during any season in which a firearm may be used, big game or small game.
•From Dec. 1 to Jan. 1 in southern Michigan.
•By anyone 65 years of age or older during any deer season.
It already is legal to use a crossbow during the firearms deer season, and hunters with special physical challenges can apply for a crossbow permit for any hunting season.
Any changes the NRC would implement, Madigan said, would be conditional at first, subject to evaluation by game managers.
The Northwestern Ohio Fur Traders held only one auction this winter, in part because furbearer harvests this year were down because of dry summer weather.
"The muskrat count was way down, along with lower counts on all the others," said Craig Spoores, an NWOFT spokesman.
In the recent auction, 40 lots of fur were bid on by six buyers, the sale overall realizing $22,900. Heavy snow and severe weather on sale day also reduced the turnout, Spoores said.
Following are the numbers of pelts of each species offered for bid, along with the high and average prices paid:
Muskrat, large, 1,612, $4, $3.38; large, damaged, 123, $3.25, $2.40; medium, 254, $3.30, $2.19; flat, damaged, 67, $2, $1.40.
Raccoon, large, 171, $7 and $4.21; extra-large, 503, $10, $7.34; XX-large, 369, $14 and $11.67; XXX-large, 335, $17.50, $15.74; rubbed, damaged, 168, $11.50, $4.40.
Mink, male, 46, $12.50, $9.17; female, 18, $8, $6.13. Opossum, medium, 13, $4 , $1.75; large, 14, $4.75, $2.20; extra-large, 3, $3, $2.67.
Fox, red, 33, $25, $14.14; gray, 3, $17, $13.30. Coyote, 49, $20, $12.61.
An educational workshop sponsored by the International Wildfowl Carvers Association, Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge Association and Maumee Bay Carvers is set for Saturday, 9 a.m., at the Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge/Visitor Center, 14000 West State Rt. 2, Oak Harbor.
International champion carver Gary Joe Bryan is set to be visiting artist and is to assist local carvers in fashioning and painting ruddy duck decoys in cork and wood. Children also are encouraged to attend with their parents. Lily Spang, of Toledo, the 2008 winner of the Ohio Junior Duck Stamp art contest, also is scheduled to be on hand.
Among other activities will be an invitation for visitors to paint ruddy duck silhouettes under instruction by Charlie Hall and the Maumee Bay Carvers. Participants will be allowed to keep their painted silhouettes.
For other details call the refuge, 419-898-0014, or Bob Lund, 419-874-3671.