It was in 1960 when I purchased my first hunting license. I bought the Class AB license (hunting and fishing combined). The cost was about $3.00, plus the fee for the licensing agent, which was no more than 50 cents.
Well now, things have changed, and believe it or not, it is for the better. At that time, governmental services from what was called the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources was very little to practically nothing.
It is very true that the cost of hunting and fishing licenses have greatly increased like everything else from what it was in 1960. Today, the popular sportsman package (Class X) costs $35.00. This includes the privileges of hunting, fishing, and trapping along with the required conservation stamp (Class CS). At the same time, governmental services have vastly improved over the years.
In 1960, there were very few DNR police officers (game wardens is what they were called back then) throughout the state. Many of the individual counties had only one. The larger ones like Randolph, Pocahontas, and Greenbrier may have had a few more. Their salaries were also something to be desired.
I remember the late Arthur Hamrick (game warden in Randolph County) telling me that during the six-day buck gun season he considered himself lucky if he could get ten hours of sleep for that entire week.
Today, the state has more natural resources police officers, and I would like to see more. They also make a decent wage as they should for the amount of work they do. Not only do they enforce the laws of fish and game, but they also provide other services such as help conduct hunter safety classes, enforce laws related to littering and stream pollution, enforce motor boat laws, and help out in natural disasters. They also assist the state police during times of strife, like during a large-scale coal mine strike.
If we did not have these law enforcement officers, there would be very little game and fish for us, because there are too many people who don't pay any attention to bag limits or any of the laws of fish and game.
Acquisition of land is another service the DNR is providing that is not getting enough attention by the nimrods throughout the state. This is a critical component of the Wildlife Resources Section's effort to fulfill its mission to the citizens of West Virginia.
Like all years, I am hearing the same excuses for older people not wanting to go hunting.
They seem to think that all private land is posted, and all public land (Wildlife Management Areas) are hunted out. It is true, more private land is being posted everyday, but to say that all public land has been hunted out is simply a lot of bull.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Some of the best hunting in the state is on the newly acquired public lands and is improving.
At the present time, there are approximately 1.4 million acres of public land open for public hunting. This represents about 8 percent of the states total land area. Some of my readers may thing that I am being overly optimistic, but I think this will improve in the next few years.
Providing hunting access for those who are physically challenged is another priority of the DNR.District biologists are working with local and national advocacy organizations to modify public use facilities that address the needs of physically challenged hunters. In the next ten years, the Wildlife Resources Section plans to develop an additional 20 trails on WMAs for use and enjoyment by the state's nimrods who are physically challenged.
When my two daughters were growing up, I tried to tell them that governmental services were not free. Someone would have to pay for these programs in some way or another. The increased DNR services are definitely being paid for by the increased costs of the various hunting and fishing licenses.
Many outdoors men and women are calling for additional services from the DNR. If and when we do get any of these additional services, it cannot help but result in increased license fees.