PARSONS, Kan. —
Max Good comes from a hunting family. His father hunted. His grandfather hunted. His uncles hunted. He grew up hunting, too.
“I tagged along with a BB gun as early as possible,” said Good, now 70. “I guess you could say I’ve done it since I was mobile.”
For years, he bought state-required annual hunting and fishing licenses. But when he turned 65, he became exempt from purchasing those licenses — an exemption that went into effect in 1971. Since then, he has hunted and fished for free.
So he wasn’t exactly thrilled, he said last week, to learn of state legislation that abolished that exemption. Starting in January, Kansas residents between the ages of 65 and 74 will once again have to purchase hunting and fishing licenses.
“We’ve put in hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars and I guess you could say paid our way,” Good said.
Kansas officials estimate that the change could net the state between $900,000 and $1.5 million in the long term, both from fee revenue and from federal aid that is currently lost to Kansas because it is distributed based in part on the number of hunting and fishing licenses sold.
In Kansas, wildlife conservation and management are supported by license sales. No general tax dollars support the programs the way they do in Missouri and Arkansas, which have sales taxes for that purpose. Each state also receives federal aid through the Pittman-Robertson Act of 1937, signed into law by President Franklin Roosevelt.
The act created an excise tax on firearms and ammunition to provide each state with funds for wildlife and habitat management.
The formula that is used to distribute those funds to each state is based on the area of the state and its number of licensed hunters. That money may be used to fund 75 percent of a state’s research, surveys, management of wildlife and habitat, and acquisition of land. The state pays the remaining 25 percent, which it must generate from license sales.
Through 2010, more than $2 billion in federal aid has been generated by the program nationwide.
Mike Miller, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, said the improvement of hunting and fishing experiences in Kansas because of that money has in turn stimulated the economy in many communities.
But each year, Kansas loses out on additional federal aid because an estimated 30,000 hunters are exempted from buying licenses because of age, Miller said. Thus, they aren’t being counted. And that age group, according to the department, is the fastest growing one for outdoor pursuits.
“We believe that number will just continue to increase; more and more baby boomers will reach that 65-plus age group,” Miller said.
State wildlife agencies have long been concerned about recruitment and retention of hunters and anglers, though, because fewer exist in the younger age group at a time when the levels of some wildlife, such as deer and turkey, have returned to pre-settlement levels in some areas. Many states are implementing programs to get younger hunters in the field.
“The only other way to (shore up the budget shortfall) is to raise rates on younger ones, but we are trying to recruit and get them involved,” Miller said.
Urbanization and a decline in families spending time with children pursuing outdoor activities also have hurt those numbers, Miller said. “We have to make sure they get that experience,” he said.
Good said he realizes that the state agency needs funding in order to operate wildlife conservation programs and get federal aid.
“I have mixed feelings on the thing,” he said. “I see it both ways.”
He said that despite the new license requirement, he plans to continue climbing his deer stand each fall and heading to Big Hill Lake three or four times a year.
“I’ll pay it and still hunt,” he said. “And I’ll still fish.”
The Kansas legislation that abolished the exemption provides licenses at a reduced cost for seniors.
The Senior Lifetime Pass, a hunting-fishing combination license that is good for the rest of the holder’s life, costs $42.50, including vendor and issuance fees. Residents 65 and older also may opt for an annual fishing or hunting license at half the regular price, $11.50, or an annual hunting-fishing combination license for $20.50. Residents 75 and older remain exempt from the fees.
The new senior licenses, along with all licenses and permits for 2013, will go on sale this Friday. They are valid for the remainder of 2012 and all of 2013. They may be purchased at more than 600 vendors across the state or online at www.ksoutdoors.com.
Other states, too, grant exemptions or discounts for seniors, and there has been no legislation or departmental action to change the benefit.
In Missouri, any resident 65 or older may hunt wildlife — except deer or turkey — without a permit, but must carry proof of age and residency when hunting. A Missouri Migratory Bird Hunting Permit is required for waterfowl, snipe, doves, woodcock and rails; a federal duck stamp is required for hunting waterfowl; and a Conservation Order Permit is required for light geese. Veterans and honorably discharged service personnel are eligible for exemptions, too. Residents 65 or older and 15 or younger are exempt from a fishing license, as are individuals in wheelchairs, those who served in the military and those who have impaired vision.
In Arkansas, residents 65 or older may purchase a lifetime fishing license for $10.50 and a lifetime hunting license for $25. For those who hunt waterfowl, other permits and waterfowl stamp regulations apply. A lifetime combination hunting-fishing license may be purchased for $33.50.
In Oklahoma, residents 64 or older are exempt from buying a land access permit and from certain other requirements. Residents 65 or older are exempt from the purchase of the Oklahoma waterfowl license. All residents 16 and older must have a fishing license, except those on a detailed exemption list provided by the state.
On the Net
INFORMATION about hunting and fishing regulations is available via these websites:
• MISSOURI Department of Conservation, mdc.mo.gov.
• KANSAS Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism, www.kdwpt.state.ks.us.
• OKLAHOMA Department of Wildlife Conservation, www.wildlifedepartment.com.
• ARKANSAS Game and Fish Commission, www.agfc.com.