Deer License Sales: Over-the-Counter vs. Lottery

Over the past several weeks, I've been super busy chasing gobblers, shed hunting and growing food plots while trying to stay focused at work. Things have been so chaotic and crazy that I completely forgot to apply for the draw to receive my non-resident deer tags and hunting license. As luck would have it, I just missed the April 30th deadline by a few days. Unfortunately, this little mishap will cost me a much anticipated fall trip to a Midwestern paradise that is covered up with tall-tined bruisers.

Without question, missing the draw was definitely my fault, but it does make me wonder about the practice and benefits of hunting license lotteries. My home state of Kentucky currently allows both resident and non-resident hunters to purchase hunting licenses and tags directly over-the-counter. Hunters can also log on to the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife's website to buy licenses and tags online. This really helps keep things simple and hassle free for the average hunter.

Advocates of over-the-counter license sales feel that purchasing procedures with minimal red-tape are needed to encourage more participation. They strongly believe that too many regulations and bureaucratic restrictions are to blame for the recent nation-wide drop in hunting license sales.

At the other end of the spectrum, a lot of residential hunters are strongly against the notion of wildlife agencies selling big game hunting licenses and tags over-the-counter. On this side of the argument, these hunters feel that high-profile states that consistently produce trophy bucks are already too crowded. A flood of non-resident hunters have made it very difficult for residents to access prime public and private land areas. As a result, most private tracts of land in these legendary states have already been leased by outfitters, guides, or out-of-state hunters. It's almost like hunting has lost its traditional roots and turned into a commercialized business that is fueled by rack measurements and hefty dollar signs.

With that being said, I am interested to see how hunters on the BBZ feel about this controversial issue. On one hand, simple over-the-counter license sales can help increase both hunter participation and in-state revenue. Funds generated from non-resident hunting licenses and tags can be pumped back into wildlife resource agencies. This can lead to more habitat enhancement projects, extensive wildlife studies, and hiring additional conservation officers, biologists, and wardens. Non-residential hunters can also provide a major boost for local economies that desperately need it right now.

However, forcing out-of-state hunters to apply for lotteries and draws can potentially help wildlife biologists regulate hunter participation while maintaining trophy status and healthy deer herds. Consequently, both sides have some valid points, but which system is actually better for whitetails and hunting in general?

Photo: Kansas Parks and Wildlife