Mississippi took its first step Thursday in 23 years toward a resident hunting and fishing license fee increase, as a bill was passed out of the House Game and Fish Committee.

The committee also passed a tagging bill for deer and turkey hunting, and it includes language that would allow the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks to “charge a fee for the tagging program.”

Both bills face a March 3 deadline for action by the entire House.

H.B. 1151 would raise the annual Sportsman License fee to $50 (from $32) beginning July 1, plus increase the combination all-game/fish license to $25 ($17) and the small game/fish license to $10 ($8). 

The bill does not include any mention of the $14 special archery/primitive weapon license that currently is necessary with the combination all-game/fish license before participating in those activities. It is not necessary for a Sportsman License holder to have the archery/primitive license.

It is the first time any legislative committee has passed a fee increase, and one of the rare times it has even been discussed, since 1992, and it surprised many sportsmen.

“About time they realized that you can’t run a business, a home or even a state wildlife agency on the same income it had 23 years ago,” said Phil Banks of Brandon. “I’m happy to pay more, but I can bet there are thousands out there who think this is outrageous, having to pay more to hunt and fish.”

Banks understands the way the MDWFP is funded, but he says too many have “no clue.”

“For instance, I’ve got friends who think the agency gets tax money from the state general fund,” he said. “They do for parks, but not for its wildlife, fisheries and enforcement programs. All of that is based on license revenue, either directly from sales or in determining how much federal money we get from the hunting and fishing programs.

“I think if everyone understood the way it works, they’d see it from a different light. However, we’re always going to have the hard-headed people who think they pay too much already.”

Those are likely the ones who would oppose a tagging system, too.

House Bill 1164 would allow the MDWFP to begin requiring deer and turkey tags, which could help the agency track harvest data as well as monitoring bag limit compliance. It would be a Class III violation.

Tags would be required to be placed on the animal before it can be transported. That means tagging it immediately upon recovery and before it is moved from the spot of recovery.

A first-time violation would be subject to a fine of between $100 and $500, and subsequent violations would bring a fine of between $500 and $1,000. Each deer or turkey found untagged would be considered a separate violation.