State officials want to start a novice turkey-hunting weekend and introduce an electronic reporting system for big game, changes that could help combat a decline in the number of hunters — and in the state’s revenue from hunting licenses — and make reporting game easier during COVID-19.
Hunting license sales have plummeted since the mid-1970s, when the state sold about 150,000 licenses a year. The number had dropped below 70,000 by 2016. Hunting and fishing license sales comprised about a third of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s revenues in 2017; for the current fiscal year, the sales were budgeted at $6.8 million, or 26 percent of the agency’s revenue.
The new programs, two of several proposals discussed in recent months by the state Fish and Wildlife Board, are open for public comment until September.
Under current policy, hunters must bring big game they’ve bagged to a Fish and Wildlife station or a designated reporting station — often a general store or sporting goods shop — so the size, weight and other details about the animal can be collected.
With the proposed revision, hunters could use an online form to submit information about turkeys and deer. And, in an emergency, the fish and wildlife commissioner could let hunters report bear and moose carcasses electronically, too.