Mississippi sportsmen wanting to save a few bucks on their next annual hunting/fishing license fees are running out of time.
Beginning on Friday (July 1), combination hunting and fishing licenses will be higher thanks to legislation passed earlier this year. People will see only slight to moderate increases.
* The combination small-game hunting (all but deer and turkey) and fishing license rises from $8 to $10.
* The combination all-game hunting and fishing license increases from $17 to $25.
* The popular Sportsman’s License will be $45, up from $31.
At the higher prices, Rep. Scott Bounds, the chairman of the House Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Committee who wrote the legislation that generated the increase, Mississippi’s hunting and fishing licenses are among the best bargains anyone will find anywhere.
“When you divide out over a year what the increase in the Sportsman’s License will be, it comes to 12 cents a day,” said Bounds, R-Philadelphia. “That’s pretty cheap to have the tools to protect our resources. Because, without the resource, we don’t have anything.”
The impact of the increase will boost the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks by an estimated $2 million a year, which will go a long way to fill gaps in the enforcement division.
House Bill 1151, which created the increase, dictates that all revenues raised by the changes must be used to either train new officers, or improve equipment for existing personnel. That came via an amendment by the Senate, with which Bounds agrees.
“To better recruit, equip and retain law enforcement personnel within the MDWFP, the economics simply reached a point to where an increase had to be considered,” Bounds said. “The last increase was in 1993.”
The MDWFP is supposed to have two conservation officers in every county. According to the agency and to Bounds, the current staff is nowhere close to that number. One MDWFP commissioner, Bill Deviney of Jackson, said seven counties are currently without any assigned officers, while many others have just one.
MDWFP Commission chairman Charles Rigdon, who by coincidence ends his second five-year term June 30 and will leave the commission, said the increased revenues should help in both recruiting, and, just as importantly, retaining officers.
“Certainly, I hope that the agency will be able to make the positions more attractive in future years (as it continues to receive the increased fee benefits),” he said.
Mississippi licenses will still be sold on an annual basis, remaining valid for one year from date of purchase.
Cost up for non-residents, too
Mississippians will not be the only sportsmen paying higher fees. Some non-resident licenses are also increasing July 1.
Before passing H.B. 1151, the House amended the bill to require the MDWFP Commission to first increase license fees for non-residents. On May 12, the Commission approved increases to four non-resident license types:
* The annual small-game hunting license increased from $75 to $95.
* The five-day small game-hunting license changed to seven days and increased from $30 to $38.
* The annual freshwater fishing license from $50 to $60.
* The duck stamp (electronic version) increased from $15 to $19.
Non-resident fees are of extreme importance to the MDWFP. The agency currently receives far more revenue from non-resident license sales than from resident sales. In fiscal year 2015, the MDWFP reported an income of $6.3 million from the sale of 338,890 resident licenses while taking in $9.3 million from 135,069 non-resident licenses.