by Bill Gaines
SACRAMENTO – In an effort to increase hunting license sales in California and the associated critical revenues hunters generate for wildlife management in our state, on September 30th Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 804 – legislation authored by Assemblywoman Megan Dahle, R-Bieber, which directs the Department of Fish and Wildlife to designate two days each year as “Free Hunting Days” by July 1, 2023.
Regulated hunting plays a central role in funding wildlife management in California. Revenue generated from the annual sale of hunting licenses and associated stamps, tags and permits delivers an overwhelming majority of the annual funding necessary for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to carry out their research, management, and enforcement mandates for both game and non-game species. Moreover, hunters typically generate over $20 million each year in additional revenue to fund CDFW’s wildlife management and related efforts via the federal Pittman-Robertson Act which places an excise tax on the sale of hunting gear, ammunition, sporting arms, archery equipment and handguns.
Unfortunately, since the mid-1970’s, California has suffered a steady decline in hunting license sales and an associated reduction in critically needed funding for wildlife conservation. Aware and concerned, in 2020 CDFW released a Statewide Recruitment, Retention and Reactivation (R3) Implementation Strategy aimed at reversing this trend and putting more hunters back in the field. The R3 Strategy recognizes that a major contributing factor to the decline is that many individuals that complete the mandatory Hunter Safety Course do not purchase their hunting license – typically due to not knowing where to go and what to do to be successful.
AB 804 will take a big step towards addressing this concern by allowing an individual who has completed the Hunter Safety Course to hunt without a license – if accompanied by a licensed hunter 21 years or older. To ensure safety in the field, AB 804 restricts the supervising hunter to only accompanying one unlicensed hunter at a time and requires they remain within close visual and verbal contact so the licensed hunter can provide necessary guidance and assistance.
AB 804 was sponsored by the California Houndsmen for Conservation (CHC), with the assistance of Gaines & Associates Government Relations. “I am excited that newcomers will be able to experience the outdoors with seasoned sportsmen and women,” commented CHC President Lori Jacobs. “Hunting isn’t just about taking an animal, it is much more. Experiencing all the beautiful sights that our state has to offer. A beautiful sunrise and sunset, and the many other wonderful sights, sounds and smells that only one in the outdoors can appreciate.”
“As a Hunter Education Instructor and someone who is familiar with R3 and the importance of hunter generated revenues to California’s wildlife conservation efforts, I am well aware of the positive benefits AB 804 will have upon long-term health of our wildlife species,” stated Bill Gaines, principle of Gaines & Associates. “It was our pleasure to work with Assembly Member Dahle and the CHC on this important legislation.”
For several years, CDFW has annually offered two free fishing days – an effort which has proven to effectively promote fishing license sales. The goal of AB 804 is to generate the same positive impact om hunting license sales and revenues.