In the United States, hunting laws are governed by the state. On average, there are approximately 36 million active hunting licenses in the country each year.
How much do hunters pay to hunt?
The simple answer is that it varies from state to state, but there are also several other factors that affect the balance due for each individual. Where the money from licensing goes is decided in part by the federal government.
In general, hunters pay up to $100 per year to hunt in their state of residence. They pay additional fees for tags or special permits that allow them to hunt game animals such as deer or elk. Hunters from out-of-state may pay as much as 10 times the fee for resident permits.
Let’s take a look at some examples.
What Fees Do Hunters Pay?
The state laws governing hunting also mandate the costs associated with licensing and tags. The factors that affect the total cost for a hunter to operate legally include what permits are needed and how long the license will be active.
Hunters who want to hunt both in and out of state have to pay licensing fees for every state they plan to hunt. Non-resident hunting fees are often significantly higher.
Hunting License and Tags
A general hunting license typically allows the holder to hunt for permissible animals not categorized as a big game during the allotted season. This would include small animals, such as rabbits, game birds, and squirrels.
You can sometimes purchase a combined hunting and fishing license for an additional nominal fee.
Outside of the general hunting license, common hunting licensing categories include:
- Big game permits allow hunters to kill state-designated big game animals.
- Private land permits are required by some states to hunt on private land. Once you receive this permit, you can hunt on any private land provided you have the landowner’s permission.
- Specific animal permits are especially prevalent in states with highly popular indigenous game. For example, Minnesota issues permits that allows the hunting of turkeys, bears, and moose.
- Waterfowl permits, commonly known as duck stamps, are required to hunt migratory waterfowl such as ducks and geese. A duck stamp typically costs around $25 per year and these funds go to the federal government, namely, the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Because these game birds migrate over the entire country, it makes sense that they are co-managed at the federal and state levels.
- Non-residential permits are a separate pricing division of every available permit in each state.
- Variations in the length of hunting time affect the cost of licensing. Hunters can access licensing for lengths of time ranging from one day to a whole season. The longer the active period, the greater the cost of the permit.
- Trapper’s permits are a separate fee for trapping. Some states do not even allow non-residents to obtain a trapper’s permit. Others have specific stipulations. For example, Wisconsin will distribute a trapping license to non-residents from states that allow Wisconsin residents to obtain a trapping license in that state.
Figuring out how much hunters pay to hunt can also mean calculating special licenses. Some states allow hunters to purchase extended licenses at a discounted price.
Certain groups, including seniors, farmers, youths within an age range, disabled veterans, apprentice hunters, and active-duty military, can receive a specialty license at a discounted price.
Other Related Fees
In addition to the necessary hunting licensing fees, there could be other fees. Additional related fees include purchasing tags for a specific animal and taking a required safety course as part of the license qualifications. Some states offer free courses, while others may charge a small fee, such as $15.
A tag allows a hunter the right to kill one specific animal under certain stipulations.
For example, if someone applies for a deer tag and receives it, that hunter is permitted to kill one deer that meets all the requirements. This could mean only one buck with a specific number of antler points, or only using a bow for the kill.
The tag is a physical card or piece of weatherproof paper that is placed on the harvested animal for documentation. Tag prices vary by animal and state.
For example, in California, a resident pays $3 for a bobcat tag, and a non-resident pays $1,300 for an elk tag.
Resident vs. Non-Resident Pricing
How much hunters pay to hunt is drastically affected by residency. The specific costs are different in every state, but overall, many states charge at least double the amount for non-residents to obtain the same licensing as residents.
Here are a few examples of disparities between the two categories:
- Montana residents pay $85 for an annual sportsman’s license. Non-residents pay $1,041 for the right to hunt just deer and elk.
- Kansas residents pay $500 for a lifetime hunting license, which is the amount non-residents pay for a deer permit.
- Nebraska charges residents $30 and non-residents $109 for each spring gobbler tag.
Some states, such as New Mexico, limit how many non-resident tags and licenses are permitted each year. In Maine, residents have first priority in moose hunting. The same is true for whitetail deer in Iowa.
However, not all states charge astronomical fees. For example, Pennsylvania sells an annual hunting license to non-residents for $100.
Where Does the Money From Hunting Licenses and Fees Go?
Every state has a department that handles the wildlife licensing system.
In Ohio, it is the Department of Natural Resources. Texas has Texas Parks and Wildlife. California has the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and New York’s is the Department of Environmental Conservation.
Hunters apply for licensing and make payments through those departments.
The conservation plan established by the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation operates by understanding that every American has the right to hunt and fish on the land.
To be eligible for specific federal grants, states must direct all funds collected through fishing and hunting licenses laws to conservation efforts.
The largest portion of sportsmen’s contributions comes from hunting and fishing license sales, and all of it is used to fund state conservation programs and resources. The Department of Natural Resource’s law enforcement agencies is funded through this effort.
Many states currently struggle with a decline in hunting and fishing license sales. As a result, their wildlife conservation programs are in danger.
Even the highest-ranking states for percentage of licensed hunters, including South Dakota and Montana, are facing diminishing sales. Some blame a rise in pricing. Others say that excessive pricing for non-residents is detrimental to the bottom line.
Either way, if you are asking, “how much do hunters pay to hunt?” The real answer is that they pay the price for conserving all of the country’s wildlife.
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