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Farmington Hills

December 7, 2011

City Council investigates ways to halt deer hunting

By David Wallace
C & G Staff Writer

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FARMINGTON HILLS —The City Council asked the city attorney Nov. 28 to look at language that might ban projectiles within the city, making any deer hunting illegal.

During a well-attended study session at City Hall, council members indicated their apparently unanimous opposition to hunting in Farmington Hills, then listened to residents by turns condemn and endorse hunting in the city, and ask city leaders to somehow reduce the local deer population.

“This isn’t an anti-hunting bent. This isn’t an anti-gun or weapon argument. It’s strictly the fact that us being a very densely populated city, if you shoot an animal with a bow and arrow, the chances that you’re going to kill that animal immediately are probably pretty low,” said Councilman Randy Bruce.

“It’s just not practical to try to do any kind of hunting within the city limits,” said Bruce.

The Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act regulates hunting, and the city cannot simply pass an ordinance to ban it outright.

“It does prohibit (a hunting ban) unless the ordinances have been approved by the (Department of Natural Resources). They have to review the areas that are being restricted in hunting, and there is a process for that. It’s many, many months to go through,” said City Attorney Steve Joppich.

He said Auburn Hills went through the process and received some approved restrictions; however, the restrictions do not apply to bow hunting in some areas.

Joppich confirmed that the current ordinance prohibits the discharge of guns throughout the city. The city ordinance also regulates any firearm, and while one might not consider a bow a firearm, the ordinance’s language classifies the weapon as such. It describes a firearm as something that uses “springs, levers or mechanical devices” to discharge.

“I think that based upon the wording of that definition, that … an arrow being shot from the bow would be considered a discharge of a firearm,” said Joppich.

City ordinance prohibits discharging a firearm in platted subdivisions, parks, across a road or within 100 yards of any structure. Police Chief Chuck Nebus said in the past that the current regulations make bow hunting illegal in approximately 95 percent of the city.

The issue arose after several residents, particularly in the Eight Mile and Orchard Lake Road area, reported seeing deer in their yards with arrows sticking out of them in October.

City naturalist Joe Derek said that hunting is nothing new in Farmington Hills. Before he retired, he heard many complaints in past years, and he’s found blinds and bait piles in city parks.

“It’s been going on all around town. Some people have confronted neighbors doing it, but they’re afraid to do anything about it, because if this person is willing to walk down the middle of a suburban street with his bow and hop into a tree, he might take his aggression out on someone that’s going to turn him in. It’s been going on for a long time, and there’s no place for it here,” said Derek.

Joppich said the city can regulate the discharge of firearms and not conflict with the state law allowing hunting or need DNR approval. The matter already has been tested in the state Supreme Court, he said.

“As long as we’re not banning hunting and we’re regulating the discharge of firearms, we’re going to be OK as the law currently stands in Michigan,” said Joppich. “One avenue or one thought would be to consider expanding the regulations on discharging firearms in the city to maybe make it citywide on discharge of any type of firearm, including bows and arrows, instead of just guns.”

At least some council members favor that route.

“If we’re going to do this, I like the idea of just saying, look, we’re not going to fire projectiles, because whilst you think you’re shooting at a deer or something else, this projectile can go through woods; it can enter other people’s property — it’s a matter of time before you have an accidental shooting with one of these weapons,” said Councilman Kenneth Massey.

“If we can just expand our ordinance with the discharge of firearms, I would think that would take care of it,” said Councilwoman Cheryl Oliverio.

Bruce noted that the city could apply for a hunting ban, and if it were not approved for it, then the city could ban the discharge of firearms.

“I think, overall, hunting belongs in Farmington Hills like a bowling alley belongs in a library,” said Bruce.

“I would like for the city to pursue the most restrictive policy as possible to disallow it,” said Councilman Michael Bridges.

Mayor Barry Brickner said his only concern involved unintended consequences; however, Joppich assured the council that it could exempt archery ranges from whatever council might decide. They are exempt now.

“Right now, you do have one for approved archery ranges,” said Joppich. “We’ll just maintain that.”

You can reach C & G Staff Writer David Wallace at dwallace@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1053.