Jim Berry called me last week to remind me that hunting and fishing license fees are increasing on July 1. The legislature passed these increases after having public hearings around the state and getting input from citizens and groups involved with hunting and fishing. There was little opposition to the increase from these sources.
The fees are small for what you get. You can hunt a full year for $15 now as opposed to $10 in the past, an annual increase of only five dollars. For fishing the increase is from $9 to $15, a six-dollar increase.
Other fees increased, also. One, the Hunter Information Permit, required of all hunting migratory birds like ducks and doves, was free in the past. You also had to buy a Waterfowl license if you hunted ducks or geese. That has been changed to a Migratory Bird License with a fee of five dollars, required of waterfowl and dove hunters.
The old Waterfowl license was $5.50 so, for duck hunters, that is a decrease, but it is a new fee for dove hunters. Landowners can get the license free for hunting on their land.
One of the biggest changes was the elimination of the free Senior Hunting and Fishing License. In the past, any Georgia resident 65 years old or older could get the license for free. It will now cost $7 for anyone who does not already have one on July 1. Lifetime license fees are increasing by quite a bit, too.
In addition to these fees you have to pay a service fee for getting the license, whether you do it yourself online or go to a store like Berry’s. By the way, don’t blame the folks at Berry’s or any other license supplier for the increase in fees – they have no control over it.
The increased fees collected are supposed to go to improving hunting and fishing opportunities and management in our state. If it really does go to those needs, it will be great. If the legislature dumps the money into the general fund and spends part of it on other things, they should be held accountable at election time.
One thing I long had a problem with in our system is the fee for hunters and fishermen using Wildlife Management Areas. The fee is not what bothered me. The fact hikers, bird watchers, horse and bike riders and others could use what hunters and fishermen paid for and they were not charged a fee. Everyone using the resource should be charged.
That changed five years ago. Now, anyone using a WMA for anything other than hunting or fishing is required to pay for a Georgia Outdoor Recreational Pass. Hunters and fishermen with a Wildlife Management License can use the areas any time.
Even more irritating, every year some of those non-paying users often complained when hunting season starts. They claimed they could not use those areas during hunting season. As my younger friends say, DUH. Hunters and fishermen paid for those areas from the beginning, not just over the past five years, so shut your mouth.
Hunting is allowed on most areas only during a small part of the year. The great majority of days are open to anyone. But if you want to use the areas during hunting season, take up hunting!
The lakes were wild last weekend. Memorial Day is the traditional start of boating season nationwide. The waters will be very crowded over the next few months. If you don’t remember anything else about driving a boat, remember that you stay to the right of oncoming traffic, just like in a car!