Mississippi’s House has passed a bill raising hunting and fishing fees for residents, but it comes with a caveat that was necessary to get support from legislators for the first increase in 23 years.

“The resident fee increase would not go into effect until the (Commission on Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks) increases non-resident fees,” said Scott Bounds, chairman of the House Game and Fish Committee who authored the bill and the amendment. He added that the non-resident caveat was added because it was “the only way I could get the votes to pass it.”

House Bill 1151 now goes to the Senate for action.

The fees paid by hunters from other states have seen several increases since the last resident increase. Non-residents, like Louisianans, now pay $300 to hunt all game including deer and fish, and $425 if they plan to hunt during archery and primitive weapon deer seasons.

Mississippians can do the same for a $32 Sportsman License, or $17 all-game hunt and fish plus $14 for an archery/primitive permit. (All licences must include $2.29 in handling and agent fees for residents; $4.29 for non-residents).

The legislation does not specify how much the non-resident fee must increase, or when the resident fees would increase after the Commission raised non-resident fees.

“But, I would predict the resident increase would following shortly after their action; probably at a first day of the month after,” Bounds said. “It would not require action by the 2017 Legislature.”

Bounds said nothing could happen before July 1, 2016.

The bill does include language setting what the new resident fees would be.

* The small game hunt and fish license would increase from the current $8 to $10.

* The all-game hunt and fish license would increase from $17 to $25. (There is no increase mentioned for the $14 archery and primitive weapon permit needed for the all-game hunt and fish.)

* The Sportsman License would go from $32 to $45.

“Bear in mind that there has not been a license fee increase in 23 years,” Bounds said. “The facts are that these dollars would be used to train and equip badly needed conservation officers. There are currently six counties that have no conservation officer and 32 counties which only have one. Including field supervisors, MDWFP is 50 officers short of where they need to be to enforce our game and fish laws. Plus, parity in pay for these officers compared to other law enforcement officers across the state must be addressed to recruit, but most importantly retain these officers with the agency.

“In addition, these monies would provide much needed resources for WMA improvements (52 WMAs in the state) boat ramp improvements and fishing pier additions at state lakes.”

Bounds said the proposed increases represent only three of the 15 license categories within the MDWFP license fee categories. They are user fees, not taxes. 

“As sportsmen and sportswomen, we have an obligation to protect the resource,” Bounds said. “Without the resource, we have nothing.”  

Earlier this week, the House killed a bill that would have created a tagging system for deer and turkey. The legislation was returned to committee for further study, which, because the deadline for committee action had long since expired, killed the bill.