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