Many hunters these days are finding that their hobby is becoming increasingly expensive. Between the cost of the firearm, ammunition, backpack, equipment bag, compass, cooler, first-aid kit, binoculars, and appropriate clothing, that little weekend in the country could end up costing you a couple thousand dollars.
On top of all that, it is usually necessary for hunters to buy licenses. Are these licenses just another way for the government to extort undeserved money from consumers or do they serve a legitimate purpose?
License requirements vary from state to state. In general, hunters 16 years of age and above are required to have a license unless they are hunting on land owned by the family or relative living in the same household.
There are many different kinds of licenses that a hunter may be required to purchase. These include a general hunting or fishing license, a combination of these two, a sportsman’s license, an apprentice hunting license, a trout license, or a big game license. Fees vary based on the term of the license, and whether or not the person is a resident of the area.
How is the Money Used?
The US Fish & Wildlife Service reported in 2014 that various state agencies received nearly $200 million raised through hunter’s federal excise taxes. Wildlife management programs get some of the money, while other portions finance the purchase of lands for hunting as well as education and safety classes for hunters.
Annual financial support of this type raised through hunting licenses and related fees like the Federal Duck Stamp also allowed for the acquisition of five million acres. These areas are usually open to hunters and dedicated towards supporting various types of wildlife.
To their credit, a number of states have tried to make the process easier by reducing the number of hunting licenses. It is also now possible in some locales to purchase a license using your smartphone.
Even so, a few hunters decided they would rather leave their gun in its case last year than pay the higher fees some states have been demanding. There has also been grumbling over some municipalities requiring people to buy an additional small game licenses, even if they have no plans to do that sort of hunting.
Controversy has also arisen in another key area. Under federal law, a state may not spend any money raised from hunting and fishing license charges for anything other than the funding of related programs. In order to balance their annual budgets, some states have taken money allocated for these causes and simply let it accumulate.
This allows them to show a balanced budget for the year and they are not breaking the law in doing so. However, hunters who have done their part and paid the mandatory license fees have reason to be annoyed that this money is merely sitting in dormant accounts.
No one likes paying for a driver’s license and its associated costs, but we do it because it is deemed a necessary expense in order to maintain the nation’s roads. The various state governments perform a similar function, devoting funding they receive from hunters to wilderness related causes they deem necessary in their area.
By paying for hunting licenses, hunters play an important part in protecting a number of species and their habitats. These costs are a form of tax, but also represent an investment in the future, which helps ensure the preservation of animal habitats. Doing so will allow hunting to remain the challenging and rewarding sport hunters have always enjoyed.