North Dakota hunters have enjoyed some bountiful years.
Not long ago 80,000 people had licenses to hunt deer in the state.
Last year that number dipped to 65,000.
Fewer hunters means less money for North Dakota Game and Fish.
The reserve fund used to fund the agency is hurting.
The North Dakota Game and Fish Department is asking lawmakers to increase the fees for hunting.
Director of ND Game and Fish, Terry Steinwand says, "Inflationary costs, reduced CRP we were at a peak or 3.3 million not that long ago and projected to be at 100,000 by 2020, 2025. Three hard winters in a row that devastated pheasant and deer population. There's just a number of factors going against us right now."
And when fewer licenses are sold, there's less money going to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.
The agency uses no state general fund dollars. It's primary source of funding comes from hunting and fishing fees.
Fargo Hunter Mark Mazaheri says, "we've enjoyed some phenomenal outdoor opportunities but it's cost a lot to do that."
With North Dakota's budgets flourishing, you may think residents would oppose fee increases. But this bill got no opposition. Instead, sportsmen ask lawmakers to raise the fees even higher. They say they are willing to pay 20% more.
"I'm coming to you saying take my money from me and do something good with it. I have no problem paying the freight to enjoy it. We need to help them keep pace with inflation and to develop the resource to enjoy it," says Mazaheri.
The licenses would increase about 10% across the board.
"If you drew a tag for every season, increase would be $40-$50 a year," says Mazaheri.
Steinwand says the last substantial fee increase was 20 to 30 years ago.
So why now?
Steinwand says the agency if forced to pay more to landowners to be part of a program that makes private land available for hunters.
Buster Hager represents the Cass Co. Wildlife Club. He says non residents should see a larger increase. "We think it should jump up there to about 30%. Because you can hunt pheasants for whole season if you are a non-resident for $7 a day," says Hager.
Even with proposed increases, Steinwand says the cost to hunt or fish in North Dakota is still below the regional average.
A proposed amendment would also raise the fees for boat registrations and fishing licenses.
Together the proposed increases would equal $5.85 million over two years.
The bill is House Bill 1130.