Hunters and anglers are ready to pay more

In addition to my job as the Post-Bulletin's outdoors editor, I also serve on the paper's editorial board and am involved in writing a lot of the editorials that appear on our Opinions page. That means I sometimes have the opportunity to write the "Backtalk" poll questions that appear our web site,

We don't claim that these polls are scientific or statistically valid. We don't let people vote more than once from the same computer, but there's no denying that sometimes, an interested party will find a way around that rule and manage to "stuff the ballot box." That's why it's seldom a good idea to draw any significant conclusions based on the results of an online survey.

But last week we published an editorial about the possibility that the cost of fishing licenses and hunting licenses might go up, as a way to keep the State Game and Fish Fund solvent beyond 2014. I was curious to see how hunters and anglers felt about this possibility, so we asked this question in our online survey: "Would you support an increase in the price of fishing licenses and hunting licenses in Minnesota, as long as every dollar was used to support fishing, hunting and conservation?"

Of the 675 people who voted, 37 percent were non-hunters and non-anglers who said that because the fee increase wouldn't affect them, they didn't care either way.

I'm no statistician, and I realize that I'm about to make a big leap, but for the sake of argument, let's look at the response of those people who actually have some skin in this game. I'd like to think that most of the 423 people who expressed a preference are hunters or anglers.


Of those, 70 percent supported the fee increase.

Think about that for a second. At a time when we're all supposedly pinching our pennies, both at home and at our places of employment, more than two-thirds of respondents said they were ready and willing to spend more of their hard-earned dollars to improve and protect their favorite pastimes.

Perhaps I'm making too much out of this poll, but it does seem to send several clear messages.

First of all, the passage of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment wasn't a fluke. Hunters and anglers were the driving force behind an act that raised their own taxes, and now those same hunters and anglers seem ready and even eager to raise the price of a fishing license and a deer tag.

Secondly, it appears that hunters and anglers have a fairly positive view of the Department of Natural Resources. The Game and Fish Fund goes into the DNR's hands provides the funding that puts conservation officers on the water, in the sloughs and in the woods.

Sure, there are a few unhappy souls out there who say the DNR is mismanaging its money, conspiring to bring mountain lions into Minnesota and creating a false CWD crisis, but most of us view the DNR for what it is: A conservation-friendly agency that's doing everything it can to protect our fish and wildlife and provide opportunities for Minnesotans to enjoy the great outdoors.

And make no mistake: A well-staffed, fully funded DNR benefits every law-abiding hunter and angler. Sure, our hearts thump a bit when a conservation officer approaches us, but that's just because there's that moment of panic when we wonder, "Is my license in my wallet? Did I remember to put the plug back in my gun after I cleaned it?" But we know that CO's are on our side.

I'm not optimistic that a fee increase will become reality anytime soon. The Republicans in the Legislature are averse to any kind of fee increase right now, and although Gov. Dayton's budget proposal includes the fee increase, I'm not convinced he'll go to the mat for something as "minor" as the price of a hunting or fishing license. He has bigger fish to fry.


But I will be letting a few legislators know that as guy who spends about $500 on fishing and hunting licenses each year in Minnesota, Iowa and South Dakota, I believe Minnesota's prices are too low. If we want to keep enjoying our state's  fish and game, we need to be willing to pay to protect them.

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