Many state legislatures have enacted legislation to afford senior citizens, veterans, and active duty military members special hunting and fishing opportunities and discounted fees as a means of maintaining hunter numbers, as well as to reward them for their service to the country and commitment to conservation. However, states should be cautioned to work with their respective state fish and wildlife agency when considering such legislation, as license revenue is a key component of the agencies’ yearly operating budget.
In many state legislatures across the country, legislation has been enacted to create opportunities for our nation’s senior citizens, veterans and active-duty military members, to hunt and/or fish at a discounted cost. The purpose of creating senior privileges is to maintain senior hunter and angler participation and reward these senior sportsmen and women for their years of commitment to conservation. In addition, many states allow those who are currently active-duty military or are on leave from active-duty to obtain hunting and fishing licenses for free. Other states give active-duty military members the ability to purchase licenses as residents of the state in which they are stationed in or traveling to, even when they claim residency elsewhere. Because of the time constraints associated with employment in our nation’s armed forces, some states remove the hunter’s education certificate requirement for active-duty military members, allowing them to participate in the time-honored traditions of hunting and fishing without having to pass a course. Nearly every state with an active hunting and fishing community entitles disabled veterans to heavily discounted licenses for both fishing and hunting. Contact your state’s respective department of natural resources or department of fish and wildlife to determine if you are eligible for a discounted, senior, veteran, or active-duty military license.
Points of Interest
- 49 states currently offer discounted fishing licenses to seniors.
- States that do not require or provide free licenses for senior citizens: AL, AK, CT, FL, GA, IA, MS, OH, RI.
- States that share reciprocal hunting for senior citizens: AK, AR, SC. In January 2023, Texas and Louisiana proposed shared reciprocal hunting licenses for minors and senior citizens.
- States that provide access to special lands, trails, or waters for senior citizens: AR, CT, FL, OK, LA, PA, SC, WA.
- Additionally, 34 states offer discounted hunting or fishing licenses fees to active-duty military and/or veteran residents, while 23 states offer free licenses to at least one of these populations.
- When a state offers a free license, it affects their eligibility to receive matching funds through the American System of Conservation Funding. In order to report a hunter/angler as a certified license holder, the state must receive a net revenue of at least $2.00 for said license. For each certified license holder the state reports, they receive approximately $36.00 in federal aid ($26 for every hunting license and $10 for every fishing license) through the American System of Conservation Funding. Kansas took a unique approach to this issue in 2012 by passing SB 314, which eliminated free hunting and fishing privileges for seniors under 75 years of age, while simultaneously creating an annual senior hunting and fishing licenses priced significantly below those offered to non-seniors.
The following states have introduced/enacted bills related to seniors, veterans, and active duty military hunting and angling privileges using the language below:
- Arizona HB 2468: “The Commission may issue a general fishing license or a general hunting license for a reduced fee to an honorably discharged veteran who has served active duty in the armed forces of the United States, including any national guard or reserve component, and who has been a resident of this state for one year or more immediately preceding application for the license. The Commission may reduce the license fee by ten percent for every four years of the veteran’s service.”
- Kentucky Title 12, chapter 150, § 150.175: Authorizes “a senior combination hunting and fishing license, which authorizes the holder to perform all acts valid under a sport fishing license, a sport hunting license, or a state permit to take deer, turkey, trout, waterfowl, or migratory shore or upland game birds, and which shall be available to a Kentucky resident who is sixty-five (65) years of age or older. The senior combination license shall not be valid unless the holder carries proof of residency and proof of age, as the department may require by administrative regulation, on his or her person while performing an act authorized by the license.”
- Maine Title 12, chapter 139, § 11105: “A member of the Armed Forces of the United States on active duty who is permanently stationed outside of the United States and home on leave is exempt from hunter safety course requirements under subsection 1 if that member shows proof at the time of application for the license that that member’s home state of record, as recorded in that person’s military service records, is Maine.
It is in the best interest and spirit of the sporting community to ensure that the use of our nation’s natural resources comes at a reduced cost to our veterans, senior citizens, and active-duty military personnel. The sportsmen’s community has a long tradition of finding ways to honor those who have served our nation through the great outdoors. Legislators are encouraged to explore their state’s regulations and support legislation that makes participation in sporting activities more accessible. However, license revenue is a key component of fish and wildlife management agencies’ budgets, so any changes should be vetted by these agencies. Caucus leaders should encourage collaboration between these entities in order to find solutions that are mutually beneficial for all members of the sportsmen’s community.
Contact your state department of natural resources or department of fish and wildlife to determine if you are eligible for a discounted, senior, veteran, or active-duty military license.