Bill would give disabled bird hunters new rights

Lansing — Disabled hunters may soon be able to hunt from a vehicle on state-licensed game bird hunting preserves for the first time under legislation that’s expected to be signed by the governor.

Both the state Senate and House approved legislation to allow any person who qualifies for a handicap placard from the Secretary of State to carry a firearm in a vehicle, except a car or truck, to hunt upland game birds at state-licensed facilities.

Jim Trinklein, president of the Michigan Association of Game Bird Breeders and Hunting Preserves, told Michigan Outdoor News the group has pushed for the loosened restrictions, and worked with Sen. John Gleason, D-Flushing, to develop Senate Bill 1045. Current state law prohibits uncased firearms in a moving vehicle, which requires a guide to carry a weapon alongside vehicles transporting disabled hunters until it’s time to shoot. It’s a labor-intensive practice that makes it difficult to quickly take aim at fleeing birds, he said.

SB 1045 would allow disabled hunters to carry their own gun, without a round in the chamber, on licensed game bird ranches when the vehicle is moving less than 10 miles per hour. The bill also allows the hunters to shoot from the vehicle once it’s stopped.

The changes eliminate the need for a second guide, and could potentially retain or recruit bird hunters by making it easier for them to participate in the sport, Trinklein said.

“The most important thing is people with a disability that requires a wheelchair to move around never had an opportunity to hunt upland game birds before,” without special assistance, Trinklein said. “This is something that has never been allowed in Michigan before. This isn’t just for permanently disabled people, it’s for anyone who is disabled to the point that they can get a Secretary of State handicap placard.”

State DNR officials said the legislation has no known opposition. It passed the Senate on a vote of 34-2. Representatives in the state House approved the measure 109-0.

“I think it’s good because it encourages disabled individuals to hunt game birds in a preserve, which is kind of a controlled environment,” said Trevor VanDyke, the DNR’s legislative liaison. “It expands opportunities for disabled individuals who are not able to enjoy bird hunting … to ride on a vehicle and hunt in the field.

“We’re pretty pleased with how the bill is drafted and its safety measures.”

SB 1045 would allow disabled hunters to carry a weapon in moving vehicles like a golf cart or ORV, as long as the vehicle is traveling less than 10 mph. Participating hunters would have to carry a handicap placard from the Secretary of State and keep shells from behind the firing pin until the vehicle is stopped. The bill also would exempt the operator and passenger of the vehicle from wearing helmets and protective eyewear while hunting on a state-licensed game bird hunting preserve.

Michigan United Conservation Clubs Legislative Affairs Manager Kent Wood said MUCC also supports SB 1045 because “we think it fits into the categories of improving access to the outdoors and the retention of hunters.”
Trinklein said he expects Gov. Rick Snyder to sign the legislation soon, the last step for the bill to become law.

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