Michael Pearce

The Eagle's outdoor reporter highlights the latest hunting, fishing and wildlife news.

Michael Pearce: One-time hunting-fishing fee makes sense for seniors

03/10/2012 11:23 PM

03/10/2012 11:23 PM

Nobody likes paying extra, especially when it’s for something they’ve had for free.

But I don’t agree with those who oppose a plan to charge a few dollars to Kansas senior citizens for hunting and fishing licenses

Since 1971, Kansans 65 and older have received free hunting and fishing licenses. The Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism says it can’t afford such freebies, especially several years down the road.

So there’s a bill in the senate to allow seniors to buy a one-time license to hunt and fish in Kansas the rest of their years for $40. For comparison, standard rates are $18 for each annual hunting or fishing license.

The proposal, authored by Sen. Allen Schmidt, D-Hays, could add up to about $2 million for the department since about 55,000 non-paying seniors are projected to buy passes.

The cool part, though, is that each $40 license could lead to more than $400 in federal matching money. That could total more than $20 million.

The federal money comes from excise taxes paid on fishing, hunting and shooting gear. States get their share based on their number of paid licenses. The system says the feds will pay Wildlife and Parks about $25 annually for 18 years per license.

The federal funds can only go directly towards approved hunting, fishing or shooting projects, and not things like state parks or new administrative facilities.

When the exemption law was written about 40 years ago, the Baby Boomer generation was hitting its stride, with lots of young hunters and anglers coming on to fund the sports.

Now, that same major chunk of our population is cresting 65, and more and more are afield for free. According to Wildlife and Parks, the number of deer hunters 65 and older has gone up 25 percent in the past five years.

Numbers of new, young hunters and anglers buying licenses isn’t keeping pace.

I don’t understand the stink raised by some seniors who may be asked to pay at least part of their way.

It’s nothing to pay $10 for a box of shotgun shells or $5 for fishing lure you might lose on a snag on your first cast.

Still, I see and hear comments from senior citizens insinuating they can’t afford the sweet, one-time deal of $40. I love the ones that say they’ll drive to other states to fish rather than pay to fish in Kansas — like that’s going to save them any money?

Many complain they deserve a total freebie because they paid full amount for so many years. That was never promised by the state and is no longer financially feasible.

And you know, this change really is more about providing opportunities for future generations than those 65 and older. Let’s make sure our hunting and fishing opportunities expand for our kids and grandkids.

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