March 1 will see license adjustments

It would be difficult to find anyone who didn’t welcome the mild weather we experienced this week, although it was short lived. After enduring a record-setting streak of 75 days of sub-freezing temperatures, with many of those days in the low teens or colder, we saw the mercury rise way up to 41 degrees, as measured at the National Weather Service station in Negaunee Township.

This pleasant development offers us hope for a smooth and swift transition to spring next month, which would not only be welcomed by the human residents of the Upper Peninsula but the animal world, as well.

In addition to the arrival of spring in March, the month marks another transition in the outdoor world – time to purchase new fishing and hunting licenses. Although the 2013 licenses are valid through March 31, the 2014 ones go on sale March 1 and there are some major changes that anglers and hunters need to be aware of.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources did a major overhaul of its licensing system that takes effect this year. This marks the first major change in the license fee structure since 1997.

While the cost of many licenses was increased, the first license many of us will use has actually gone down in price. The one with a reduced price is the all-species fishing license, which has been reduced from $28 for residents to $26.

However, for anglers who don’t pursue trout or salmon, they might be a little disappointed that the former restricted license that cost $15 was eliminated. This change will undoubtedly increase revenues from fishing license sales, as will the increase of the non-resident all-species license from $42 to $76.

There are a couple other increases in fishing fees, including an increase from $7 to $10 for a 24-hour license and from $21 to $30 for a 72-hour license. These fees apply to both resident and non-resident anglers.

As for senior anglers, those 65 years old and older, the license fee dropped a modest 20 cents, from $11.20 to $11.

Then we get to hunting licenses, which gets a little more complicated.

For one thing, all hunters will need to buy a “base” hunting license, which enables a hunter to pursue small game. For small game hunters the base license will be a real deal, dropping the cost to hunt small game from $15 to $11.

However, for hunters who don’t hunt small game, they will still need to buy the base license as everyone will be required to have one to purchase any other licenses.

What has increased in hunting fees is the deer license, which for residents increases from $15 per tag to $20 per tag, or a 25 percent hike.

There’s one license on the DNR’s fees chart that jumps out at you – the $20 cost for a single non-resident deer tag. I, as well as others who looked at it, thought is was a mistake, but a closer look reveals that it makes sense.

Remember that everyone must have a base license to buy other licenses? Well, that base license costs a non-resident $151, so they will actually be paying $171 to hunt with a single deer tag, with a small game license thrown in. Previously, non-residents paid $138 for a single deer tag, as well as $69 if they wanted a small game license.

Another change of note is there is no longer separate firearm and archery deer licenses, just the single or the combo. Archers can still take an antlerless deer during the archery season, but they can’t buy another license for firearm season if they only purchased a single one.

There’s another change in hunting licenses that impact a lot of hunters, including myself. For several years I have purchased four licenses at once – the all-species fish, small game and the combo deer license – and received a 15 percent discount for doing so.

The multi-license discount was eliminated in favor of a new hunt/fish combo license, which will give me the same licenses I used to buy, at a cost of $76 for residents. In the past, I paid about $62 for the same licenses. the Non-resident hunt/fish combo license will cost $266.

There are some other shifts in certain licenses, although the ones that most anglers and hunters will see have been explained here. One of the major changes being touted by the DNR is a reduction from more than 200 different licenses available to just 42, although many of the eliminated licenses were ones that a very low percentage of people purchased.

There were also changes to the ORV license structure in the bill signed by Gov. Rick Snyder last year. Starting March 1, ORV riders will need to pay $26.25 for a sticker if they ride anywhere except on private property, with another $10 tacked on for driving on state designated trails. The old fee was $16.

In addition to streamlining the licenses available, the new structure was designed to increase license sale revenues significantly, estimated to amount to an increase of about $18.1 million during the first full year of implementation, which will be 2015.

The added revenues will be used to greatly enhance the DNR’s efforts at improving hunting and fishing in our great state, as well as expand ORV riding opportunities.

A closer look at what those efforts will include will be the focus of next week’s column.

Editor’s note: City Editor Dave Schneider can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 270.