The Department of Maine Inland Fisheries & Wildlife is facing a huge funding crunch as older hunters phase out and there are fewer and fewer young hunters to take their place. The lack of licenses and license dollars impacts all things outdoors, from management and harvest numbers to the overall hunting culture and growing lack of understanding that more and more people have about the importance of hunting. I am confident that my kids will grow up understanding all things hunting, but the biggest difference is that in my family, this new generation of hunters won’t be pulling out their credit card every year to buy their license. For $500, both kids have their lifetime hunting and fishing licenses.
My husband didn’t believe me when I told him the number and he made me show him my license (he buys a hunting only license and hunts deer.) I pay a lot of money for my hunting licenses. You can do the math; I buy a hunting and fishing license, my trapping license, archery license, turkey permit, bear permit and bear trapping tag and night coyote hunting. It adds up but I don’t mind because it goes back into the work and efforts that are being done by IF&W. My dollars will continue for as long as I am able to hunt, fish and trap or until I can buy my own lifetime license at 65. But the dollars from my five year old and one year old ended the day they got their lifetime licenses and while it’s great for them, it is not great for the Department. Over the course of their lifetime, they will each save more than $10,000 in license costs. If 8 other kids did the same thing, that total would add up to $100,000. I am sure that the Department has lifetime licenses worked into their budget and maybe the number of those licenses is pretty steady and easy to predict so it won’t impact the overall budget very much or at all. I hope that is the case because I know my hunting buddy bought lifetime licenses for her three grandchildren and my niece and nephew both have theirs. Maybe it is just the circles that I run in but more often than not, if a parent or grandparent is an active outdoorsmen, they are buying lifetime licenses to save a lot of money in the years to come.
Back on February 5th, Don Kleiner posted a blog on his website, MaineOutdoors.biz, about the decrease in license sales and asks what the future of the Department and management will look like if that downward trend continues. Unlike Don, I don’t believe it’s the ability to buy a license that is hurting the numbers. My generation and all that follow are used to functioning on our phones, so as long as we have service, it is not a big deal to buy our licenses from a handheld device. It might take a few minutes, but it’s easy to do. We just have to get more people wanting to make those purchases and understanding the value of where those monies go.
And sadly, it all comes down to money; can we sustain the current decline of outdoorsmen and the purchasing of lifetime licenses and still ensure the resources will be available? It’s something that we should all be concerned about; fewer hunters, fishermen and trappers combined with less license dollars (from lifetime license sales and less people) could cause a big issue for our wildlife management. I want to make sure that my kids can still have the opportunity to hunt big bucks and trap bear and fish for native Trout but can sound management still happen if the money is not there?