Missouri Makes Permit Changes for 2009

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The Missouri Conservation Commission has approved hunting and fishing permit changes to simplify the system and entice new hunters while maintaining conservation funding.

The Commission approved the changes at its meeting Sept. 26 in Poplar Bluff. Conservation officials said the changes are aimed at simplifying the permit structure, making age and hunter education requirements more consistent and encouraging greater participation by young outdoors people.

Changes scheduled to go into effect in 2009 include:

  • Eliminating some youth hunting permits in favor of discounts for youth hunters.
  • Phasing out permit exemption for senior citizens and replacing them with one-time purchase "forever" permits.
  • Allowing nonresident college students to buy resident permits.

The Commission also approved the first significant increase in hunting and fishing permit prices in 10 years. Other changes are aimed at bringing in a larger share of federal fish and wildlife funding.

Conservation Department Assistant Director Dave Erickson said each state's share of federal aid is based in part on its number of paid permit holders.

"Over the years we have made some decisions about permits that cut into our eligibility for federal funds by reducing the number of people who must buy permits," said Erickson. "Permit changes that will go into effect next year will go a long way toward fixing those problems. We have tried to approach the solution in ways that pay Missouri hunters and anglers big dividends for small investments. We want to be sure Missouri gets its fair share of federal money for conservation."

Erickson noted that in 2007, for each person who purchased a fishing permit, Missouri received $11 through the Sport Fish Restoration Program (Dingell-Johnson/Wallop-Breau Act). For each person who purchased a hunting permit, the Show-Me State got $17 from the Wildlife Restoration Program (Pittman-Robertson Act).

Landowners, people over age 65 and others who receive no-cost permits or who are exempt from buying permits under the current permit system cannot be counted for federal aid purposes. Consequently, the potential federal revenue these hunters and anglers represent is lost. The new permit system will require more people to buy permits, leveraging their contribution to conservation through federal monies.

The ideas for these and other permit changes came from the Conservation Department's Regulations Committee, chaired by Erickson. They capped a year-long review of the current permit system aimed at simplifying the permit structure, making hunter education requirements for hunting mentors more consistent, encouraging recruitment of young hunters and anglers and ensuring adequate funding for conservation programs.

Erickson said the current permit structure evolved over several decades and reflects a wide range of management needs and user desires the Conservation Department has tried to address over the years. This piecemeal development led to inconsistencies and inequities.

One example is the jumble of different age requirements for purchasing certain permits or serving as a mentor to new hunters. Some hunters currently are required to be hunter-education certified to buy permits or serve as mentors, while others are not. While hunters as young as 17 are allowed to serve as mentors for new hunters in certain seasons and circumstances, others must be 21. In certain circumstance, mentors face no age restrictions.

The current permit system can be confusing, too. For instance, youngsters hunting on a Youth Deer and Turkey Hunting Permit can only take one deer, while those hunting with some other permits can take two. Also, a youngster who buys a Youth Deer and Turkey Hunting Permit in the fall does not get a full year's benefit from the permit’s privileges, since another permit must be purchased to hunt turkeys the following spring.

The current permit system also has inconsistencies concerning the minimum age for certain kinds of hunting. As a result, children as young as 2 years old have received deer hunting permits.

"There were good reasons for each of these provisions when they were put in place," said Erickson, "but today, when viewed as a whole, they remind you of how Topsy grew. We reached a point where we thought it was important to reconcile these inconsistencies to make the rules less confusing."

Those changes include the following.

  • Keeping the current youth privileges that exempt hunters and anglers under age 16 from the requirement to buy permits to fish or hunt small game, including waterfowl. The Regulations Committee noted the importance of this exemption for introducing young people to traditional outdoor activities.
  • Eliminating youth deer- and turkey-hunting permits. Having everyone hunt under the same permits will eliminate inequities and confusion about bag limits and other regulations.
  • Establishing youth pricing for regular deer and turkey hunting permits and setting the price for all deer and turkey permits at 50 percent of the adult price for hunters 15 and younger. This makes hunting more affordable and more accessible for young hunters.
  • Establishing youth pricing for the annual Trout Permit, which is required to catch and keep trout outside Missouri's four trout parks. Setting the price at half the adult rate ($5 instead of $10) encourages youth participation and is consistent with a proposed discount for daily trout tags in trout parks.
  • Allowing nonresident college, university and technical school students to buy resident hunting and fishing permits. The current prices for out-of-state permits make outdoor sports prohibitively expensive for many students. This discourages young adults – some of whom will become Missouri residents – from becoming hunters and anglers.
  • Adopting a consistent hunter-education requirement for all mentors, including landowners. Requiring hunters who are not hunter-education certified to be in the presence of a properly licensed adult will eliminate differences in requirements under regulations on youth seasons, apprentice authorizations and youth exemptions for hunting permits. Mentors born before Jan. 1, 1967, are exempt from the requirement to complete hunter education training.
  • Adopting a consistent minimum-age requirement of 18 for hunting mentors makes the requirement equitable and allows mentoring by peers among young adults.

Non-resident youths will be able to participate in the spring youth turkey season, just as non-resident youths already participate in the youth deer season.

The Conservation Commission also voted to:

  • Raise hunting and fishing permit prices, effective March 1, 2009.
  • Create a new class of "forever" permits.
  • Increase the minimum acreage for no-cost landowner deer and turkey permits from 5 to 80 contiguous acres
  • Create a landowner registry for those qualified for free landowner permits.
  • Continue to allow owners of at least 5 contiguous acres to hunt small game and fish on their land without permits.