September 24, 2020

Maybe The Proposed “Comprehensive Hunting License” is Not a Good Idea

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George Smith, political activist and outdoor writer, probably perceived by many as a bad dose of pine pollen, is at it again. It seems that if he’s not hounding somebody about forcing Mainers to take up Sunday hunting, he’s beating their brow over creating what he calls a Comprehensive Hunting License. I’m not so sure that I can agree with a lot of Smith’s reasons why he thinks this is a good idea and I also wonder if he really understands why the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) is fighting him on this proposed bill. And to those with little gray matter, I’m not suggesting in any way that Smith, or anybody else, stop exercising their right to petition the state. Good for him.

George, it’s all about the money, isn’t it? You say it’s a shame that something this good might not happen because of money. I don’t know that your proposal is that good, but it is a shame that decisions are made on whether or not it will add or subtract revenue to pay the salaries and retirement pensions of the growing number of retirees.

I understand your point of view about how simple it is to pay the extra cost for your comprehensive license because it’s no more than 10 or 12 gallons of gasoline, but I don’t agree with you. I also understand what you are saying about how it cost more to get to and come home from a hunt in North Dakota, but the reality is, how many of all the hunters in Maine can afford to do that? In short, they can’t relate to your reasoning.

You speak of how great and beneficial the Superpack License was to you UNTIL the state charged $200 for it. I didn’t think you grew up with a silver spoon but then again I know very little about you or your past. I grew up dirt poor. In the world I live in, facing that increase for a Superpack to $200 might loom as large as someone considering an increase of $13.00. In short, they can’t relate to your reasoning.

You say the increased cost would not only not deter anyone from hunting but that it would increase those who decide to take up hunting species they never tried before. Really? Does all the world think as you do – not that there is anything wrong with how you see things. It’s just I don’t think everyone sees things the same as you. I don’t…and that’s one.

Since giving up my Maine residency 20-some years ago, I have to purchase a nonresident hunting license to hunt deer in Maine. I don’t CHOOSE to hunt other species, accept maybe the few I can collect during deer season. The past 3 years I have really labored in my mind to justify spending $114.00 for a hunting license to walk in the woods and listen to coyotes howl at night. You have addressed that issue, however, seeing this as a future problem is not seeing the problem that stands before us now. The future is here.

From the MDIFW’s perspective, I believe they are, at least to some degree, protecting their income. I would do the same if I were in their positions. I may just choose to do it in different ways. If MDIFW understands they are between a rock and hard place because in many places in Maine the deer hunting sucks and the moose hunting, along with “opportunities,” is shrinking at a rate in which soon hunting of the lanky critter will be another item to read about in Maine’s historical documents, then perhaps they don’t want more people hunting. Instead, they want to advertise what a great place Maine is to hunt and dupe the public as long as they can by selling their “opportunities.” It’s called (stealthily) stroking the Golden Goose.

What I am confused about is that it appears you are coming down on both sides of this issue – or at least straddling the fence. If, as you seem to want to base a good part of your argument on, the increased cost of a “comprehensive license” is no big deal – meaning $13.00 or $30.00 is of no concern – and it would gain hunters rather than drive them away, then by the same reasoning, it’s no big deal to select and pay for only the species you want to hunt, even if it might cost you more money.

The consumer is an odd duck in some ways. My wife recently bought a brand new sewing machine as part of her retirement strategy. We both discussed the issue at length and we both agreed that she should purchase what she WANTED in a sewing machine, but not to buy one loaded with extras because it seemed a better deal. Maybe hunters in Maine don’t want a comprehensive hunting license. In the long run, to the smart shopper, maybe it’s not really a better deal. I’m not convinced it is and if I’m forced to try it, I might not even try it.

I understand how you like to throw out statistics from surveys, the most of which are designed to achieve desired results (I’ve written extensively about that), and report that 68% of those hunters who chose to return a survey (6% return) favored a comprehensive hunting license. That number means little unless we know all the details about the survey, including the wording of the questions and what the respondents believed to be an “all-inclusive” license and it’s cost. Surveys are easy to answer. Reality is always considerably different.

So, if you want to toss out survey results, here’s one that is often avoided because it doesn’t comfortably fit the narrative of those seeking to make changes in laws to satisfy their own ideals. In most of the latest surveys taken for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the number one reason people do not hunt is lack of time/time away from work.

If this is true, then perhaps MDIFW is on top of the ball and they understand this (am I really saying this?). If I had but two days to hunt deer in November, because that’s all the time off I could get, why would I want to spend another $13.00 to do what I can do for $25.00. After all, the sneaky-snake can say it’s only $13.00 but the thinking man sees it’s a better that 50% increase. Not everybody looks at things from the perspective of “gee, it’s only the price of half a tank of gas.” Many people look at this as wasting money. What then are my options? If I feel $13.00 is $13.00 I don’t want to needlessly spend, then my only two options are spend the money or don’t bother to try to get time off work to hunt. How is this increasing the number of hunters?

Maybe it’s also time that Maine got on the bandwagon and modernized it’s fishing license structure to allow fishermen to pay for only what they choose to fish and/or how they would like to fish for their desired species. I have fished in many states that provide a general fishing license and then you purchase a stamp (real or figurative) for each of the species you want to fish. If you never fish any other species but bass, why should I be forced to pay a higher fee to fish what I don’t want.

I guess it might depend on whether the glass is half full or half empty.

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