The other day I asked a friend why he wasn't hunting elk. He crossed his arms, making an "X" and said, "I read your article (on hunting the other day) and realized how upset I was (about the way things are being manged in Utah)."
I have been upset for a long time now but, like most others, I didn't want to invest the time, spend the money, and take the heat involvement requires. However, the likelihood of paying $36 to be unsuccessful in drawing a deer tag got my attention.
Management for money doesn't work for wildlife or hunters. It degenerates conservation to the farming of wilderness, the marketing of wildlife, and the worship of power.
I believe there are more hunter days in the field now than there have ever been. When the whole state was open to deer hunting, hunters spent as much time traveling from place to place as they spent sneaking through the woods. Now they are confined to a specific location and their days in the field have increased.
Furthermore, 10.000 dedicated hunters is not 10,000 hunters. It is closer to 30,000 hunters. There is no other way to count three chances to get your deer in one year. The tilted playing field created by the dedicated hunter program punishes me and others who refuse to participate. Hunters willing to pay $350 per deer are guaranteed a tag. (Now, I'm sure someone is going to question this $350 per deer figure. Well, add up the cost of mileage, time, and the cash contribution and see what you get.)
Those who choose not to "pay for protection" will probably not get to hunt deer while the "dedicated hunter" has an opportunity to hunt deer three times in one year. Under the present fee systems, hunters either pay for favors or get discriminated against.
This latest fee proposal continues the tradition by hammering small game and gouging big game applicants who already have an uneven playing field to deal with.
What can be done? The easiest thing would be for the DWR to protect and manage within the limitations of their legislative appropriation and to level the playing field for all hunters by abandoning their fee schemes.
Will this happen? Probably not. Elected officials almost always want to spend more tax payer money than tax payers want spent. Appointed officials are even worse because we don't vote for them directly.
We will probably have to pressure our legislators to require the DWR to live within an appropriation and return every penny raised from the sale of licences to the general fund. This would be a good place to start.