By Gary Miller
We are in uncharted territory. Covid 19 has not only affected my work life, but now my hunting life. Kentucky allowed no non-resident hunters to hunt during turkey season. I know the fish and wildlife agency was not happy either. They could have used the income.
But to be honest, most fish and game agencies have been losing my money for some years now. The affordability to hunt out-of-state has become increasingly out-of-reach. In Kentucky, for example, a bear tag that was once included with your deer tag, is now $250.00. In Missouri, a turkey tag was once included with your deer tag. Today, it will cost another $224.00.
And I’m not picking on Kentucky or Missouri. I could give you the same scenario in Tennessee, Virginia, Alabama, Texas, and the rest of the United States. And therein lies the problem. When an agency is asked why, most will say, “Every state is doing it.” And that is supposed to end the conversation. A wildlife officer once told me; they were making more money now but with less hunters. This ought to make every single organization that is designed to increase the hunter population go bonkers.
Now, let me defend the officers who work in the field. I think most are great. Many of them I consider friends. Most of them do not get to make decisions about the cost of license. They are doing their job, mostly because they love the outdoors, hunting and fishing, and doing things right. What upper management does not understand is they are slowly getting rid of the very outdoor activity they are sending others to propagate. They will send lobbyists to Washington to make sure hunting will survive, while undermining their efforts within their own constituents. Not only are fewer hunters hunting, but fewer new adults are getting into the sport. Why? It is priced out of range. I know, because I am one of those who like to travel to other hunting places but can no longer do that with any consistency. I simply can’t afford it. I am not alone. Some will say license costs have stayed the same. I say that’s not true when you consider the added fees.
So, what do we do? Should I just complain without offering suggestions? Yes and no. My suggestion is for those who make these decisions to do what I’m going to do right now. Say “I don’t have any clue how to add more revenue without adding more cost to the hunter.” And once you say this, hire those who are an expert in these areas and let them do their work. If the goal is to make it through the budget year, then add another cost to the ones who love hunting. If you want to make hunting last for generations, then figure out another way to bring in revenue. If you are concerned about politicians, and anti-hunting organizations getting rid of our opportunity to hunt, you are concerned about the wrong people and groups. We are eliminating our passion from within. More revenue cannot be at the expense of less hunters. Or soon, there will be neither.
Gary Miller can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org