Hunting license sales decline by 5 percent

Staff report Albany – Hunting license sales in
New York dipped by about 5 percent last season, affected more by a
sharp decline in available Deer Management Permits than the
discovery of Chronic Wasting Disease in the state’s whitetail
herd.

The DEC’s chief source of revenue – sales of hunting, fishing
and trapping licenses – is pushing $30 million right now. That’s
well below the $41,124,460 in revenues generated from 2004-05
license sales, but DEC Big Game Section Leader John O’Pezio said
fishing license sales will cover most of that difference.

“We get a heavy shot of fishing license sales in the
springtime,” O’Pezio said. The hunting license sales generally top
out prior to deer season.

The overall decline in hunting licenses was anticipated, he
added, a product of fewer available DMPs, which may have prompted
some hunters to stay home this season; the discovery of Chronic
Wasting Disease last spring in two wild deer in Oneida County; and
the general trend toward a decline in hunter numbers as fewer young
people enter the sport to replace those retiring from the
field.

While Wisconsin saw a 10 percent drop in hunting license sales
on the heels of its CWD discovery several years ago, that hunter
reaction didn’t occur in New York. And Wisconsin has seen license
sales climb back to pre-CWD levels.

“My feeling right along has been that there’s been no real
impact from the discovery of CWD here,” said DEC Chief Wildlife
Biologist John Major, who attributed the drop in license sales
almost exclusively to fewer available DMPs and the ongoing slide in
hunter numbers, which is a national trend.

“Back in March and April (when CWD was discovered), we were
looking at a worst-case scenario similar to Wisconsin,” he said.
“But it didn’t happen.”

Still, the trend toward losing thousands of hunters each season
is disturbing. “We would always like to see some additional
recruitment,” Major said. “It would be nice to bring some new
people into the game.”

One of the best ways, in the eyes of most sportsmen and DEC
officials, would be passage of a bill that would reduce the minimum
big game hunting age from the current 16 – the highest in the
nation – to 14.

“It would probably best the biggest contribution that could be
made in terms of keeping the hunting tradition strong and
introducing more young people before they lose interest and go on
to other things,” Major said.

The bill, shot down in the state Assembly in past years, remains
again a long-shot possibility in the Democratic-dominated
Assembly.

License sales figures from DEC showed about 518,000 resident
hunters, about 288,000 of which purchased Sportsmen licenses, which
include big and small game hunting and fishing privileges. Over
122,000 bought Super Sportsman (big and small game, fishing,
bowhunting, muzzleloading and a turkey permit) and just over
100,000 purchased Small and Big Game licenses. Another 16,491
bought Small Game licenses; 2,375 Conservation Legacy licenses; 844
Lifetime Sportsman licenses and 84 Lifetime Big and Small Game
licenses.

There were also over 65,000 Archery stamps sold, as well as more
than 82,000 Muzzleloader stamps; over 100 Lifetime Archery stamps;
119 Lifetime Muzzleloader stamps; and just short of 130,000 turkey
permits.

DMP sales were over 326,000 last season.

On the non-resident side, there were about 6,600 Non-resident
Super Sportsman licenses sold, along with 26,112 Non-resident Big
Game, 5,936 Non-resident Hunting (Small Game) and 433 Non-resident
Junior Small Game licenses sold.

In addition, 2,123 Non-resident Archery; 1,427 Non-resident
Muzzleloader; 2,141 Non-resident Bear; and 1,917 Non-resident
Turkey Permits were sold.

Trapping licenses numbered over 10,000, including juniors and
non-residents.

New York’s license revenue has declined from $42,988,431 in
2003, to $41,598,690 in 2004 and $41,124,460 last year.

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