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9/23/2004, 2:53 p.m. ET
The Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A bill that would lower the legal age to hunt deer, elk and bear with firearms in Michigan has stalled while sponsors seek a version that could win support from Gov. Jennifer Granholm's administration.

The bill would lower the age requirement from 14 to 12. The state Department of Natural Resources, which originally supported the bill, now is opposed because of safety concerns.

Granholm sees "no compelling reason to change" the age requirement, spokeswoman Mary Dettloff said Thursday.

That has sponsors seeking an option that could win Granholm's support.

The bill would allow 11-year-olds to get a license if they turn 12 during the calendar year when the license is issued. Applicants must complete a 10-hour course that includes hands-on firearm instruction. Children still would be required to have adults accompany them while hunting.

The DNR originally supported the bill, but has changed its position.

"We are among the leading deer hunting states in the nation, and we are also one of the safest places in the nation to hunt," DNR spokesman Brad Wurfel said. "...(But) deer season, because of the number of hunters afield and the caliber of weapons employed, is the most dangerous time of year. We can't see exposing young people of that age."

Wurfel said the DNR supports hunting opportunities for young people. A youth deer hunt, for example, is scheduled for this weekend.

Twelve- and 13-year-olds now are restricted to archery when hunting deer, but they are allowed to use firearms while hunting small game such as squirrels and birds.

State Rep. Susan Tabor, a Republican from Eaton County's Delta Township and the bill's sponsor, has met with DNR officials to discuss the bill. She said a compromise is possible, but it's unclear what that would be. Tabor's original plan would have eliminated age restrictions altogether for some types of hunting licenses, but she backed off to gain broader support for the legislation.

Tabor said she is prepared to continue pushing the bill without the DNR's support if necessary.

Tabor said that if a child is capable of passing a hunter safety course, parents should be able to decide whether he or she is ready for a firearm season deer hunt.

"That is a parental responsibility issue," she said.

The Senate Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee heard testimony on the legislation last week. But Tabor asked the committee not to vote on the proposal until she has a chance a chance to reach a compromise with the DNR.

Sen. Patricia Birkholz, a Republican from Allegan County's Saugatuck Township and the committee's chairwoman, supports the legislation.

"I thought it made sense to go down to (age) 12," she said. "I think we should do all we can to encourage our hunter heritage."


The bill to lower the minimum hunting age is House Bill 4225.


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