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Taking Advantage of the Hunters…

March 1st, 2007

Minnesota is now trying to increase their hunting license fee by $1.  Most of us have gone through rate increases.  Here in West Virginia, the rates went up pretty significantly just last year.  We often complain about the increases, but end up putting up with it becasue we can see the benefits to us as hunters.  Hunting fees pay for many of the benefits that we get as outdoorsmen.  However, in Minnesota, that isn’t going to be the case.  Why the $1 increase?  To pay for processing deer that have been donated to the less fortunate of the state, through a program such as “Hunters Helping the Hungry”.

This sounds like a great thing…and most of us as hunters and outdoorsmen would not think of this being an extravagent fee.  So, then what is the problem?  The problem is that the state is already going to be relying heavily on hunters for supplying “free meat” to the food pantries as it is!   The current policy of the state of Minnesota is to make the hunter who wishes to donate venison pay for the processing himself.  That  costs anywhere from $60 to $80 per deer.  Not surprisingly, there are not a lot of deer being donated.  It seems that the state believes that if they raise the price of hunting license by $1 and then use that money to pay for the processing of the deer, then hunters will be more likely to dontate more deer.  They also believe that this will be a valuable management tool, because if it is easier for hunters to donate kills that they do not want to consume themselves, they will be more likely to hunt for a few extra deer.

So, what is the problem?  This sounds like a win-win-win situation.  Hunters get to hunt more.  The state gets more deer killed, thus controlling the population better.  Less fortunate people receive free, high quality, venison. 

In my opinion, this is the problem.  Hunters are required to foot the bill for something that is a general social program.  Why should hunters be asked to pay for something that benefits society as a whole?  I am certainly not opposed to donating venison for the benefit of families that could use it.  But, this is a significant amount of money, raised by essentially taxing hunters, to pay for something that should be taken care of by a more general fund.  After all, hunters are already paying a significant fee to be able to donate that deer.  They had to pay for the tags for those deer.  I don’t know how much that fee is in Minnesota, but if it is similar to West Virginia, that would be at least $10.  That in and of itself is a significant sacrifice. 

I am sure that many will wonder why this is such a big deal.  It is only a dollar, they will say.  But, that is not the point.  Hunters and outdoorsmen willingly make sacrifices such as paying for that extra tag for the purpose of donating the deer, or helping a family that they know could use the meat.  We do it because we enjoy being able to hunt, and we like having the opportunity to help others.  What we don’t like is being taken advantage of.  In this case, all Minnesota hunters would be forced to pay for a community service that no one else in the community is willing to pay for. 

There are certainly other alternatives.  One possibility is to sell discounted tags, specifically as “donation” tags.  Any deer taken on such a tag would be designated for donation to the food pantries.  The money collected from those tags could pay for the processing of the deer.  That would keep the burden from being paid for by those who don’t want to participate in the program.  Hunters would still be paying for the fee, but they would actually be paying less, not more over all!  I believe that hunters would gladly buy a discounted tag (50% off perhaps?), so that they could hunt for a little longer.  The state would have the opportunity to have the herd brought under control by having more deer killed in season.  And, the food pantries would benefit by having more venison donated, since the hunters would not be hit with the high cost of processing the game.  Best of all, we as hunters would not feel like we were being taken advantage of!  I am sure, however, that there is some bureaucratic reason why this couldn’t work.

See the Star Tribune for original article.

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