Columbus — The prospect of a license hike for nonresident hunters is dead in the water for a second time, Ohio’s top wildlife official said.
Scott Zody, chief of the Ohio DNR Division of Wildlife, said the license increase proposal would be pulled out of the state’s biennial budget bill.
The budget legislation is now under consideration by the Ohio General Assembly.
“We ran into some concerns over on the (Ohio) Senate side,” Zody told Ohio Outdoor News last week. “ … Basically, we’re pulling back from it. It was a mutually agreed to decision to back off and try to work with the members of the Senate caucus who had concerns.”
Zody said the proposal would be brought back at another time, but he wasn’t specific about when.
“We got through the House (of Representatives) without any objections or concerns,” he said. “But, that’s why they have two bodies in the legislature because sometimes one will see things a little bit differently.
“It’s a little bit of a setback, but we’re going to keep working to communicate our needs and concerns and obviously we need the sportsmen to speak up,” he said.
The proposal would have raised a nonresident hunting license from $125 to $149, and a nonresident deer permit would have been raised from $24 to $75. The total increase would have been $99.
Concerns were raised in the Senate, Zody said, about how the additional revenue would be spent. There was concern specifically about using the monies for land acquisition. There was also an issue raised about whether or not the Division of Wildlife is meeting the needs of the sporting public.
“I thought in some respects there were some valid points raised and things we need to go back and work on and try to address,” he said. “The unfortunate thing was that these issues were raised late in the process. If we would have had some more time to address those (concerns) we might have still been able to move forward.”
Zody said in particular Sen. Joe Uecker (R-Miami Township) was “very helpful” in the process in trying to be a facilitator between the legislative caucus and the division.
“We could have pushed something through that might have caused some angst or pull back and try it at another time,” Zody said.
The increase that was proposed would have made sense for Ohio, Zody said, but it still wouldn’t have leveled the playing field with other deer hunting states.
“Even with this increase, we would have still been the lowest of what you would consider a Top 10 state for hunting whitetail deer,” the chief said.
The price for a hunter to pursue deer in a Top 10 state averages about $350, Zody said.
The Division of Wildlife, Zody said, has contracted with Southwick Associates to take a look at the state’s licensing structure and offer advice. Southwick Associates is a market research and economics firm specializing in the hunting, shooting, sportfishing, and outdoor recreation market. It is a recognized voice in the outdoor industry when it comes to trends and market research.
“They’re going to be coming back to us hopefully later this year with results of their analysis,” Zody said. “I expect that the things they’ll be looking at is what are we currently offering and what could we or should be offering as ways to incentivize our resident hunters and anglers to purchase more.”
Zody said he expects Southwick will recommend “packages” that Ohio should be offering with some discounts and price breaks, such as a deer hunting package or a sportsmen’s package. It’s something the Division of Wildlife has been considering for several years.
“This time, we pulled the trigger and said we need to have a third party look at this. That’s the main core of Southwick’s business – working with state agencies on these very things.”