By Brett Stayton, Mid-Atlantic States Coordinator
On March 7, the Delaware Legislative Sportsmen’s Caucus hosted its second strongly-attended policy meeting for the 2019 legislative session.
All four Caucus Co-Chairs attended to discuss plans for guiding legislative priorities going forward. The meetings, which are open to the public, gathered partner organizations such as the National Wild Turkey Federation, Delaware State Sportsmen’s Society, and the National Rifle Association, which provided input during the open forum portion. Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) Mid-Atlantic States Coordinator Brett Stayton also joined the discussion.
A major focus of the meeting centered on advancing legislation that would allow non-resident, full-time college students to obtain hunting and/or angling licenses at the same price as Delaware residents. The forthcoming bill, sponsored by Sportsmen’s Caucus Member Representative Ruth Briggs-King has been vetted by the state wildlife agency and is in the process of receiving minor administrative amendments.
The idea for running this piece of legislation was initially generated at a Regional Policy Forum hosted by CSF in August 2018, which focused on hunter recruitment, retention, and reactivation. Both Rep. Briggs-King and Caucus Co-Chair Senator Brian Pettyjohn were in attendance and agreed it was something worth exploring in their state. The idea continued to gain momentum at the 2018 National Assembly of Sportsmen’s Caucuses (NASC) Annual Summit, where Rep. Briggs-King joined several presentations that focused specifically on the successes in other states to authorize in-state license fees for college students.
Dave Saveikis, Director of the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, spoke on behalf of his agency and provided an update on the state’s annual deer harvest. Delaware hunters took over 15,000 deer during the 2017-2018 deer season for the first time in state history, and although the harvest fell just short of that threshold for the 2018-2019 season, it was still the second highest annual harvest ever recorded. According to Saveikis, approximately 15% of those deer were taken on Sundays, an opportunity allowed by legislation championed by the Delaware Sportsmen’s Caucus in past legislative sessions.
Director Saveikis also announced that by 2020, Delaware hunters and anglers will have the option to buy and display hunting and fishing licenses electronically through a computer or phone. Electronic fishing licenses are set to go on sale in January 2020 and electronic hunting licenses will be sold starting in July 2020.
Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?