Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Ohio likely to seek hunting fee increases, but for non-residents only

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife is poised to request increases to the license and tag fees charged to non-resident hunters.

Non-resident hunters last faced a hunting license increase 10 years ago, says the Wildlife Division.

However, not on the to-do list is a similar request to up the same fees on resident hunters, particularly deer hunters, says the Wildlife Division’s chief, Scott Zody.

Though the idea for requesting such fee increases almost certainly has the blessing of the John Kasich Administration the matter also will need the approval of the Republican-led Ohio House and Ohio State Senate.

By way of numbers, the current to-date sales of non-resident general hunting licenses stands at 37,894 documents (a 0.09 percent decrease from the to-date sales of 2012-2013 non-resident general hunting licenses).

Similarly, the to-date sales of either-sex deer tags to non-residents is 44,545 documents, or a 0.85 percent drop.

By comparison, the to-date sales of general hunting licenses to Ohio residents is 278,880 for a 1.08 percent decline from the to-date 2012-2013 figures.

Also, to-date ales of either-sex deer tags to Ohio residents total 284,611 permits, a drop of 4.74 percent from the 2012-2013 to-date sales.

"Ohio has become a destination for non-resident hunters to pursue whitetails.  When you look at our non-resident fee structure, we are very underpriced, especially when you look at other popular whitetail states like Illinois, Kansas, and Iowa,” says Zody.

“Most of our non-resident deer hunters come from Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan, but we are seeing greater numbers coming from the Carolinas, Tennessee, New York, and other Eastern states.” 

In fact, Zody says, Ohio ranks about 35th out of the 50 states when it comes to non-resident fee prices.

“Our goal is to bring our non-residents fees more in line with other states, but still be on the lower end of the scale so we continue to be competitively priced,” Zody says.

To illustrate, Zody says the non-resident who ventures into Ohio to hunt deer pays $149; or $125 for a general hunting license and $24 for an either sex tag.

What we have been discussing would be a modest increase to the base license (of maybe) $20 to 30, and creating a non-resident either-sex deer tag and charging non-residents a higher amount for that tag, for arguments sake, let’s say $100,” Zody says.

Thus, instead of paying $149 a non-resident deer hunter could wind up paying as much as $255, or more than a 90-percent increase.

Zody does admit that any fee increase would prove a delicate balancing act. The simple reason being the Wildlife Division cannot afford to think only of its own bottom line, Zody says.

“We also want to be sensitive to non-resident waterfowl, turkey or small game hunters and not ‘chase them away’,” Zody says.

Then too the Wildlife Division both wants and needs to be “sensitive to the multitude of small business owners out there that cater to non-resident hunters and count on their business each year.”

All this being said, the fact remains increased license fees are mandated in order for the Wildlife Division to continue to move forward with its wildlife management and law-enforcement activities, Zody says.

We are facing unprecedented increases in our Federal Pittman-Robertson allocations due to the huge increases in the sale of guns and ammunition the past 4-5 years,” Zody says.

With the increases to P-R, it is becoming a struggle to match down those funds, not just for Ohio, but in several other states as well,” Zody says.

“We have also been trying to reduce costs where we can – combining field work units, reducing staff or combining positions when vacancies occur, but it becomes a double-edged sword with the P-R dollars - if we don’t match down the funds in any given year, the dollars revert back to Washington and are spent elsewhere.”

Still, any such additional revenue will come from the wallets of non-residents as tapping the purses and the bank accounts of resident hunters are off limits, says Zody also.

“Increasing the fee on non-residents now will help us defer asking our resident hunters, anglers and trappers to pay more,” Zody says.

However, at the same time the Wildlife Division will fight tooth and nail any legislative effort designed to amend a proposal by allowing the issuance of free licenses and tags to active-duty military personnel on leave.

“We are funded almost entirely by license and permit sales and Federal Aid.  When you dilute the pool of paying customers and have the remainder subsidize those who receive a free benefit, it puts greater strain on the system,” Zody says.

“Therefore, we are not in favor of expanding free licenses and permits, and every statewide conservation organization as well as many individual sportsmen and women have expressed their concerns over such proposals.”

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn


  1. Hmmmm more money less Deer. That's bureaucratic logic.

    Maybe they could hire some Wildlife Officers who follow the law and can remain working in the field to save money

  2. New york-hunter fine with increase great hunting nice people


  4. Putting more money in the DNR fund by charging out of state hunters more works for them. They figure that there would be 20% of non residents who would not pay the larger increase but, those would be overshadowed by the large increase. That, along with those who believe deer numbers have decreased and went elsewhere, is around 9,000 less hunters who always spend money in the state when they hunt there. That will show up in the lost revenue for the local businesses when those hunters do not show up anymore. A gradual increase which should have started 10 years ago would have been less obvious in the hunters budget. Apparently, someone did not put that in the equation. The DNR talked about the state being behind other states in what non residents pay to hunt. Raising the fees to those levels overnight does not seem to be a logical answer.

  5. I believe active duty armed forces personnel should get a free license in any state, they are less than 1% of our countries population so what kind of impact can they have on any states wildlife mgmt. programs and it would be a nice gesture for people defending all of us and allowing us the opportunity to hunt in a civil country.

  6. As a lifelong resident deer hunter in Ohio, it is high time non residents dish out more money to hunt Ohio as compared to other states. Ohio charges no where near neighboring states. I also have lost three farms over the past couple years to out of state hunters offering big lease money to farmers, forcing me to find food for my family somewhere else. If they got the money for big leases, they can dish it out to the DNR. Just try to buy a non res licence in Kansas, Pike county Illinois, etc...good luck and bring the gold.