Comprehensive hunting licenses make sense

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If you buy just a resident Maine hunting license, the cost is $25. If you buy all of the other optional licenses to go along with it — archery license, black-powder permit, turkey licenses and so forth — the cost, according to Bill Swan the director of licensing for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIF&W), is $132.

So why not a comprehensive hunting license for the minority of hunters, like me, who wind up buying just about every hunting license and permit going? According to Swan, more than 60 percent of licensed Maine hunters buy just the $25 big game license to hunt deer.

Even if it costs $132, I’d buy the comprehensive hunting license just for the simplicity and convenience of one-stop shopping. According to MDIF&W’s figures, there are a potential 40,000 licensed big game hunters who buy more than one license and who would constitute a potential customer base for the comprehensive hunting license.

Better yet, why not design a comprehensive, one-stop hunting license that costs the hunter less than if he buys most of the other permits and licenses piecemeal? It has been done. At George Smith’s urging, a state legislator recently presented a bill that would have led to a mandatory comprehensive license. This license was slated to cost $38, which is just $13 more than the current big game resident license. The devil was in the details. Those of you who buy just a $25 hunting license and nothing more would be subsidizing sportsmen like myself to the tune of $13.

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This reportedly was a big sticking point for lawmakers on the Fish and Wildlife Legislative Committee and they shot it down. The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) also testified against the bill arguing that, not only was it unfair, it would surely cut back on license sales and negatively impact MDIF&Ws revenue stream.

I am surprised that Swan, in restructuring the license model, was able to come up with one in which the mandatory comprehensive license was only an additional $13.00 and what they call “revenue neutral” at the same time!

Whatever your take on this, I think the Department and the state lawmakers are on the right track. The challenge will be to devise a comprehensive license that is acceptable to the public and marketable at the same time. The existing Superpack License, which costs $200 is in a sense a comprehensive license but it is far too expensive. MDIF&W sells only about 2,000 of these a year.

For my money, give the sportsman a choice with an optional comprehensive, one-stop hunting license that sells for less than $100.00. The Department would not lose a lot of money, nobody is subsidizing anybody, and the benefit is more simplicity and convenience for both the license sellers and the customers.

We’ve not heard the last of this issue, and that’s good! Like any successful business, the Fish and Wildlife folks need to stay on top of their marketing efforts and always be on the lookout for ways to make it easier and faster for consumers to purchase their product — and that includes licenses to hunt and fish in Maine.

The author is editor of the Northwoods Sporting Journal. He is also a Maine Guide, co-host of a weekly radio program “Maine Outdoors” heard Sundays at 7 p.m. on The Voice of Maine News-Talk Network (WVOM-FM 103.9, WQVM-FM 101.3) and former information officer for the Maine Dept. of Fish and Wildlife. His e-mail address is paul@sportingjournal.com . He has two books “A Maine Deer Hunter’s Logbook” and his latest, “Backtrack.”

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