Declining hunting licenses results in less federal money

By Paul Drewes
Published On: Sep 22 2013 05:38:00 PM HST

Hunting and fishing make up a big part of the nation's $150 billion wildlife-related recreation sports industry. But locally, hunting has been taking some hits.

HONOLULU -

Hunting and fishing make up a big part of the nation's $150 billion wildlife-related recreation sports industry.

But locally, hunting in the islands has been taking some hits.

Ten-percent of Hawaii's residents hunt or fish, but many others gave these wildlife sports a shot on National Hunting and Fishing Day Sunday.

Dozens blasted away clay targets and tested their lure casting abilities at Koko Head Shooting Range.

More interest in the sports, can mean more money for the state wildlife division to maintain forest reserves and habitats.

"We have to really take care of what we have," said Orlando Oxiles of the State Hunter Education Program.  "Because once you lose a hunting area, you don't regain it. It is going to be a golf course of housing development"

After reaching a peak in the 1980's of more than 14,000 hunting licenses each year, Hawaii had missed that mark by a lot recently, chalking up less than 4,000 registrations last year.

Meanwhile the state no longer collects a separate $10 stamp plus a $10 tag fee. Now they only collect $10 for the hunting license.

That reduction is no tiny drop in the financial bucket.

It is critical income because the federal government matches state money 3-1, turning every $100,000 into $400,000.

The matching money came from taxes on ammo, accessory and gun sales.

Hawaii has also seen a rise in gun sales, which have been a blast for shooting sports. But some say hunters have been hurt by it.

When gun sales shot up, many took aim at the hunter education classes as a way to get their firearm certification.

"Some people come to the class to get a pistol," said John Kobayashi of the State Hunter Education Program. "This qualifies them to go to the police department and get a pistol."

Month long waits for the classes have left some would-be hunters out in the cold.

Others say the state is getting less licensing money because getting access to animals is very limited. Even for invasive species like feral pigs.

"There are plenty of feral pigs," said Ollie Lunasco of the Oahu Pig Hunter's Associatuion. "But a lot of properties are private properties and there is no access."

Feral pigs make headlines when they roam through urban areas, but hunters say they do much more damage in places most people never see.

"We always worry about our environment our watershed,' said Lunasco."Feral pigs are very destructive we have to keep them under control."

Not only is loss of habitat a critical concern, so is safety.

Fewer dollars could mean fewer education classes which could lead to more injuries in the sport.

"Because of hunter education we've seen a significant drop in hunting accidents and hunting fatalities," Oxiles said.

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