Imagine getting all of Maine’s hunting seasons and bag limits for just $38!

It could be a belated Christmas gift from the legislature to Mainers who hunt: a comprehensive hunting license costing just $38 and offering all seasons and bag limits. But this remarkable opportunity will probably be lost if members of the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee don’t hear from you.

This morning Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife emailed a survey on this issue to licensed hunters who shared their email address with the agency. IT IS CRITICALLY IMPORTANT THAT YOU COMPLETE AND RETURN THIS SURVEY IMMEDIATELY!

The results of the survey will be reported to the IF&W Committee when it works on this bill, LD 153, on Thursday, January 9, at 1 pm in Room 206 of the Cross State Office Building. The bill was sponsored at my request by Representative Dennis Keschl and carried over from the last session.

Bill Swan

The original idea came from Bill Swan, Director of Licensing at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. When the IFW Committee voted to carry over the bill to the 2014 session, it directed Swan to inform hunters about the proposal and seek their opinions. Swan is doing that now with the emailed survey which went to more than 100,000 Maine hunters.

The proposal would eliminate nearly all of DIF&W’s more than 60 hunting licenses and permits in favor of a comprehensive license that would cost $38 for residents. That’s right, for just $38, residents would get it all, all game animals, all seasons, all bag limits. Add $17 and you’d also get a full year of fishing. Nonresidents would pay $144 for the comprehensive hunting license. You would be able to designate either firearms or bows when purchasing the comprehensive license.

Swan worked hard on the proposal and assured the IF&W Committee that, at those prices, his agency would raise the same amount of money it now raises from the confusing array of hunting licenses and permits.

For the cost of a pair of jeans or cheap sneakers, residents could hunt and fish all year in Maine! Maybe you’ve set your sights on that Magnum Hunting Stool in Cabela’s for $39.99. Give up a year of hunting in Maine and it’s yours! Give up 10 years of hunting and you could buy the Primos Doublewide Blind – and use it for bird watching.

The simplification will also save DIF&W a lot of money now spent on the complex MOSES system, and make it much easier for hunters to navigate that system.

The Problem

Here’s the problem. In 2012, 69 percent of residents and 66 percent of nonresidents bought only a single hunting license with no additional hunting licenses or permits. Most purchased the big game license and only hunted deer. Residents currently pay $25 for the big game license while nonresidents pay $120. So these hunters will be paying more. And that scared legislators.

Rep. Stan Short’s comments reflected the thoughts of several committee members. Rep. Short said he can’t support the proposal because of his concerns over the $13 increase for hunters and the possibility that some would give up hunting.

There is no question that some hunters will be unhappy, at least initially. Swan projected that 10 percent will give up hunting, and figured that into his price calculation so DIF&W would not lose money. I think 10 percent may be on the high side, but I also know that every time DIF&W license fees increased in the past, sales decreased for a short period of time before rebounding.

But really, isn’t a year of hunting in Maine – even if you only hunt deer – worth $38? I can’t imagine giving up hunting to save $13. My ammo costs a lot more than that!

I noted in a column last spring that if my wife knew how much I spent to bag that wild turkey, I’d be doing my future turkey hunting at the supermarket! The cost of the license or permit is the smallest part of my hunting expenses.

More Benefits

I believe the comprehensive license will also encourage hunters to take new opportunities to hunt. If turkeys, for example, were included in their license, perhaps they’d give turkey hunting a try (especially now that you can hunt all day in the spring season). Maybe they’ll get out for a couple of Saturdays of duck hunting. For sure, they’ll give the muzzleloading season on deer a try. We know that the future of hunting will be defined by a lot more hunting enjoyed by a diminished number of hunters.

And there are other benefits. Aliens (the term used for those outside our country) would be folded into the nonresident category, eliminating that offensive term all through the statues. Fees for junior and armed services personnel will stay the same. Those with lifetime licenses would no longer have to purchase some of the additional permits. Sportsmen will save on agent fees that are now applied to each and every license and permit purchased. If you currently buy three licenses and permits, you will immediately save $10, for example, by purchasing the comprehensive single license.

I believe the simplified system and increased hunting opportunities make this worthwhile for all of us. And after all, $38 to hunt in Maine in all seasons with all bag limits is a bargain!

If you agree, now is the time to let your legislators know. Look for DIF&W’s survey in your email and fill it out today!

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.