There are lots of great reasons to buy a fishing or hunting license, and some of them go well beyond fishing or hunting.
Last week, for example, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced that Georgia’s share of the federal excise tax from the sale of guns, ammo, fishing gear and other outdoor items will be a whopping $18.5 million this year.
Those funds operate our wildlife management areas, offer safety programs, acquire public land and sustain fish hatcheries and stocking programs, thanks to lawmakers who set up the Pittman-Robertson program in 1937 to collect excise taxes on firearms and ammo; and the Dingell-Johnson sportfishery program in 1957.
The $882.4 million collected nationwide in 2012 is the highest amount ever – jumping 22 percent from the previous year. Most of the increase, predictably, is owed to spitaling sales of firearms and ammunition, which will be even higher next year.
But how do the feds decide how much money goes to each state?
The formula includes land mass and acreage of water, but the primary factor is the number of hunting and fishing licenses sold each year.
That’s something to remember and be proud of each time you renew your licenses here in Georgia.
BAITING BY DEFAULT:
South Carolina’s upstate deer hunters will have the option to hunt over bait this season after an odd sequence of events in the court system and Legislature.
The practice, long accepted in the Lowcountry, has traditionally been banned in Game Zones 1 and 2, which cover most of the Piedmont region.
Then a Greenwood County court case highlighted what turned out to be an awkwardly worded law that state authorities concluded was unenforceable.
“Based on that court case, about a year ago, it was determined that the wording was flawed,” said Charles Ruth, the state’s Deer & Turkey Project Coordinator.
“That court determined the prohibition in law prevented the ‘act of baiting deer’ but it did not prohibit someone from hunting over bait as long as thei weren’t the baiter, so to speak.”
Because of the awkwardly gray area, law enforcement rangers shied away from prosecuting baiting cases, since they would have to prove the person hunting was also the person who placed the bait.
Efforts were made last year to correct the problem with more precise wording in the law, but the bill failed to pass before the 2012 legislative session ended, Ruth said.
“Then, this January, a new bill was filed to correct it – but working the opposite way: to delete the reference to baiting completely.
That bill passed, which means baiting in that region is no longer prohibited.
The Department of Natural Resources, which historically does not support hunting over bait,
has not changed that outlook, Ruth said, but will of course adhere to the law as passed.
An exception to the change, he added, is that baiting will remain prohibited on state Wildlife Management Areas.
AMMO QUEST: Psst! Hey, buddy! Know where I can score a box of .22 shells?
I’ve asked that question repeatedly in recent weeks, with little success.
Shelves are empty, and even with rationing that limits customers to a single box per caliber per visit, no one can keep many bullets in stock.
I dropped in at Academy Sports and Outdoors the other day, having been told they have trucks arriving several mornings a week.
The day’s shipment, I learned, had vanished within the first hour.
Most days, bullet buyers converge at the door and form a line before the store even opens, like music fans vying for limited concert tickets.
So if your ammo cabinet is full, consider yourself lucky.