COLUMBUS – A bill offering multiple changes to Ohio hunting and fishing laws recently passed through the Ohio Senate.
State Sen. Joe Uecker of District 14 and State Sen. Sean O’Brien wrote the bill, which according to Uecker, is aimed to better serve sportsmen and sportswomen by improving access and affordability of Ohio’s fishing and hunting licenses.
The bill seeks to simplify licensing for hunting and fishing by allowing multi-year and lifetime hunting and fishing licenses to be offered to Ohio residents. The bill would also allow combination packages to be sold which would combine various hunting and fishing licenses and permits.
“Over 900,000 fishing licenses and over 385,000 hunting licenses were purchased in Ohio in 2016,” said Uecker. “By providing better customer services and more convenient licensing options to these Ohioans, our sportsmen and women will continue to enjoy the activities they love for generations to come.”
According to Senate Bill 257 text, the bill would decrease annual hunting license fees for nonresident youths to be equal to the fee for a resident youth. Applicants for specified hunting and fishing licenses and permits would be required to pay the issuing agent a fee equal to $1 or 4 percent of the cost of the license or permit, whichever is greater. Currently the fee is only flat $1.
The bill also takes measures to promote additional family participation by expanding the apprentice hunting license, granting the Chief of Wildlife the ability to create license packages such as a husband and wife package, and allowing those with disabilities to hunt with an all-purpose vehicle on both private and public land.
Under the bill, a lifetime hunting or fishing license would be $450, a 10-year license would be $173.50, five year would be $86.75 and three-year would be $52. Rates are reduced for applicants 66 or older and 17 or younger.
As a result of creating multi-year and lifetime licenses, a deer or wild turkey permit and a fur taker permit is valid during the hunting license year in which the permit is purchased instead of running concurrently with the hunting license.
The bill also creates the Lake Erie Sport Fishing District permit, which would be required for nonresidents who wish to fish in Lake Erie and the surrounding areas.
“When talking about hunting and fishing, the Ohio Division of Wildlife is focused on the “three R’s” – recruitment, retention and reactivation,” Uecker said. “We have worked with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and various sportsmen’s organizations on this bill in order to help the division achieve their mission.”
Uecker said that eliminating the requirement to renew a license annually is a key component of the legislation.
“Under S.B. 257, fishing licenses will be valid for one year from the date of purchase, and purchasing options will be expanded to include three year, five year and discounted lifetime hunting and fishing licenses,” Uecker said. “This bill also gives the Chief of the Division of Wildlife discretion regarding who is required to have fishing licenses, with the goal of better accommodating veterans and those with disabilities.”
According to Uecker, hunting, fishing and trapping were much more popular when he was young. He said it is his generation’s fault that the number of young people participating in hunting has declined.
“S.B. 257 takes great strides to encourage youth to participate in some form of outdoor recreation, while bringing back those who have fallen away,” Uecker said.
Senate Bill 257 will now come before the Ohio House of Representatives for vote.