Looking over the license report from last Wednesday’s meeting of the Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks in Jackson, a red flag was spotted immediately.
For fiscal year 2015, the current numbers of combination licenses, which are required for fishing, appear woefully low.
With only 3½ months left before FY 2015, the total number of Sportsman Licenses (down about 10,000), all-game hunting and fishing (down about 4,000) and small-game hunting and fishing (down about 55,000) sold are about 71,000 down from FY 2014.
That’s scary when you think about revenue loss, which is compounded when you add in the federal contributions from the Wallop-Breaux and Pittman-Robertson funds, both of which are distributed to states based primarily on number of licenses sold.
The obvious question: Can that difference be made up before the June 30 end of FY 2015?
“Yes,” said Jason Thompson of the license bureau of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks, and he provided the numbers from FY 2014 to prove it.
That year, at the end of February, the numbers read about equal to the current numbers for FY 2015.
But, between March 1 and June 30, the agency sold over 11,000 Sportsman Licenses, 5,500 All-Game Hunting and Fishing Licenses and — here’s the kicker — 59,200 Small-Game Hunting and Fishing Licenses.
A repeat of those sales would bring FY 2015 into line with previous years.
It appears that fishermen, who generally start their years in the spring with the crappie spawn and bream bedding periods, buy their licenses in the spring.
Two years ago, the basic resident annual $8 fishing license was eliminated by legislative action. Fishermen were forced to buy a combination hunting and fishing license, but it came at no additional expense. The $8 (plus agent and processing fees) Small Game Hunting and Fishing fee is the same price.
“Look at it this way,” said Larry Pugh, chief of fisheries for the MDWFP, “for the same price, you can fish and you can hunt small game if you want to. You may not plan on going squirrel or rabbit hunting, but if the opportunity arises, then, hey, you can go.
“The same is true for the All-Game Hunting and Fishing License ($17 plus agent and processing fees), you may be a deer hunter who doesn’t fish, but if a buddy calls you up and says he’s slaughtering the crappie and invites you, then you are covered.”
The $32 Sportsman License fee allows all of the above, plus archery and primitive weapon deer hunting.
“It is good for simplicity,” Pugh said. “We reduced the number of licenses from the menu, and that is a good thing for everybody.”
Does it affect the state’s share of the federal funding?
“Not one bit,” Pugh said. “They count combination licenses as hunting licenses for Pittman-Robertson funds and they count as fishing licenses for Wallop-Breaux. If anything, I think it helps us.”