Albany – Hunting license sales in New York may take as much as a
double-digit drop this year, just a year after hunter numbers
The decline potentially carries a huge ripple effect through DEC
and in the state’s Conservation Fund, which is fueled largely by
license sales and already facing a massive deficit that could top
$20 million by the end of the fiscal year.
“This is what we’ve seen over time,” DEC big game biologist
Chuck Dente said of the gradual erosion of the state’s hunter
numbers. “How big of a drop we’ll see this year remains to be seen.
It’s definitely something we’re keeping an eye on.”
Statistics from DEC showed that through Nov. 5, just 751,482
hunting licenses had been sold, down from 901,313 the previous
year. Big-game license sales showed a similar plummet, from 721,312
in 2006-07 to 611,207 through Nov. 5 of this license year.
Officials were hopeful a late run of license sales would close
that gap somewhat, but the bulk of the state’s hunting licenses are
made prior to Oct. 1, the deadline for license holders to apply for
Deer Management Permits. Some deer hunters not interested in
antlerless permits may wait until just prior to the season – the
Southern Zone firearms deer season opened Nov. 17 – to buy their
license, and that could boost numbers. But Dente says it’s
virtually assured that license sales will take a sharp decline in
“I would guess probably not more than 10 percent, but we don’t
know at this point,” he said.
With the huge shortfall in the state’s Conservation Fund, the
drop in license sales and accompanying revenues couldn’t come at a
worse time for the DEC. That’s perhaps compounded by the fact that
a license fee increase may be in the not-too-distant future for
hunters, and license sales generally take at least a small dip on
the heels of any fee hike.
New York’s restrictive laws on youth hunting – the state’s
16-year-old minimum age to hunt big game is the highest in the
nation – has long been seen as a major hurdle to growing the sport
in New York. Legislative efforts to reduce that age to 12 or 14
have failed in the past but will be renewed this year.
There’s also concern among the sporting community that the
current administration of Gov. Eliot Spitzer and DEC Commissioner
Pete Grannis doesn’t have the growth of hunting and fishing high on
their list of priorities.
Dente says that since lowering the state’s minimum hunting age
for big game is a legislative matter, DEC is somewhat powerless to
change the license sale picture.
But he said DEC will likely consider taking a survey of past
license buyers and other sportsmen to determine why hunters are
leaving the sport.
“We’ll try to see whether it’s simply time, cost or perhaps
seasons or regulations,” Dente said. “But we know that the bulk of
our hunting license sales have already occurred for this season.
We’ve had some nonresidents and other hunters inquire recently;
hunters who aren’t interested in DMPs and wait until the last
minute to buy their license.”
DEC statistics also showed small-game license sales were down
sharply through Nov. 5, at 197,129 (compared to 281,606 in
Trapping license sales were at 11,617 this season, down from
13,015 last year but still higher than the previous four
New York state fishing license sales have hovered around one
million for the past six years, with a low of 978,8484 in 2005-06
to a high last year of 1,008,697. Sales through Nov. 5 stood at
just under 500,000, but the real barometer for fishing license
sales won’t come until the April 1 opening of trout season.