The situation is a tad iffy at this point, but it appears that there
are changes in the offing for the structure of licenses to hunt, trap,
Getting the situation into perspective is not an easy matter, but from
this catbird seat it appears that changes could come in the next few months
in prices of all hunting, trapping, fishing licenses, the sale of lifetime
licenses; even earlier in the free fishing licenses senior citizens have
enjoyed for several years.
You probably will recall that in 2002 the schedule of hunting/trapping/fishing
licenses fees were hiked to what some observes called exorbitant levels.
In reality, those hikes in fees were only a stopgap to fiscal problems
that were sure to come for the Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) in the
As you may have noticed in politicized Indiana such unpopular things
as hikes in fees for anything (including fishing and hunting licenses)
must please the governor. That aspect of state government can be blamed
for getting the DFW into the fiscal bind that led to that recent round
of hunt/trap/fish license hikes.
To shorten an otherwise long story, the late Governor Frank O’Bannon
in the summer of 2003 exercised his “lame duck” situation by giving the
Department of Natural Resources the green light to seek increases in the
license fee structure. The DFW recruited support for license fee increases
among the outdoor press of the state and all was merry as the proverbial
marriage bell. However, Gov. O’Bannon did not live to finish his second
term and when his replacement took over (and declared himself a candidate
for election--he was not an elected governor--in the fall of 2004),
the situation took a 180-degree turn.
Suddenly--like flipping a noiseless light switch--DFW personnel busied
themselves with pointing out that they had re-looked the fiscal situation
and that extra funding for fish and wildlife programs was not really needed
at that time. The plans for license-fee hikes had been going 40 miles per
hour and had hit a sand bar.
There is reason to believe that the license fee hike program has been
revived and soon will be taken to the Natural Resources Commission. That
panel has the authority to set license fees.
There are, of course no details on how much or when the fee hikes can
be expected, but a ballpark guess is that it could happen this year, and
that we will be well forewarned of the proceedings.
Now, about the lifetime licenses and the establishment of an inexpensive
license for seniors who fish.
Both of these issues were addressed in Senate Bill (SB) 447.
The bill, as passed by the Senate, now awaits action in the House of
Representatives. It provides for the abolition of the lifetime license,
but that lifetime licenses now held by Hoosiers will be honored.
Originally, SB 447 also called for the establishment of a $3 annual
fishing license for those 60 years old (and older). This concept has been
kicking around for several years because the lack of issuing such licenses
has been costing the DFW roughly $600,000 per year in federal matching
This federal funding is derived from excise taxes collected on a wide
variety of outdoor paraphernalia. It is doled out to state fish/wildlife
agencies by the US Fish and Wildlife Service on a pro rata basis, depending
upon how many licenses are sold. The sale of more licenses would bring
more federal funding to the DFW.
Unfortunately, because legislative matters involving fiscal concerns
must originate in the House of Representatives, and gain the approval of
the House Ways and Means Committee, SB 447 was stripped of the seniors
fishing license language before passage.
Conservationists, an supporters of the FW are hoping the seniors fishing
license language will be amended back into SB 447 in the House Natural
Resources Committee, and that the plan will gain the nod of the House Ways
and Means Committee. But as legislative wheels turn slowly, we will have
to wait and see about that.
ON DEER-PEN HUNTING--Although House Bill (HB) 1780, the highly
controversial bill on “deer pen hunting,” died in the legislative shuffle
last week, there now are fears among conservationists and the scientific
community that its concept could, by some ‘friendly” hook or crook, be
amended into a Senate bill now in the House.