- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 8, 2007

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican, is quickly becoming one of my favorite people. Hunter has introduced legislation that would reduce the sky-high nonresident hunting license fees charged by Western states, where so much of our federal lands are found.

The bill — called the Teddy Roosevelt Bring Back Our Public Lands Act — suggests American hunters who want to shoot an elk, bear or other big game not normally found in Eastern or Southern states should be able to do so on federally owned Western lands without having to go to a bank to borrow money to buy the hunting license.

“In 1909, when President Theodore Roosevelt signed the last piece of legislation successfully creating over 42 million acres of national forest, the American outdoorsman came into his own,” Hunter said last week. “Our great ‘Outdoor President,’ with a stroke of his pen, dedicated more land to American citizens for hunting and fishing than all the royal estates of Europe combined.

“From the Adirondacks and the Blue Ridge of the East to the Sierra Nevada of California, every outdoorsman could now be the master of enormous sporting opportunities. The only price was a stretch of the legs and an investment of time and a modicum of woodsmanship.”

Actually, there is a little more to it now as far as the price is concerned.

The congressman says bureaucracies in certain state governments are limiting hunting activities by charging outlandish fees to out-of-staters — even when the hunting land is owned by the federal government. Roosevelt wanted to make available that acreage available to the average American. Fat chance of that happening in recent years or this one.

For example, what is the likelihood of a filling station attendant or a stock clerk in a department store in Wyoming being able to pay $281 for a nonresident deer license or $481 for an elk permit? In Colorado it costs $301 for an out-of-state deer license, $501 to go after elk. In New Mexico, a deer and elk license costs $355 and $766, respectively. Montana charges $643 for a combination deer/elk permit.

These fees apply even when hunting on federal lands, which comprise large sections of the states mentioned above.

Teddy Roosevelt wanted federal hunting and fishing lands, which now include 190 million national forest acres and 258 million acres run by the federal Bureau of Land Management, reserved for Americans as a birthright, not the exclusive domain of state legislatures who increasingly want to reach into the pockets of visitors to such federal lands.

Hunter says no one can quarrel with a state implementing fees for state lands but that federal properties need to be looked at a little differently. He said if New Mexico suddenly decided to raise a nonresident license to hunt a bull elk to $2,000, nothing could be done about it and the average American would be frozen out of hunting national lands.

Hunter wants no state to charge more than $200 for a big-game hunting license for use on national forest or BLM property. The $200 fee would help recoup the few dollars states spend to help manage certain federal lands.

The legislation has been referred to the House Committee on Resources. Let’s hope it doesn’t die there.

A deer with seven legs? — From Fon Du Lac, Wis., the Associated Press reports that hunter Rick Lisko killed a buck deer that had seven legs and also male and female organs — a hermaphrodite. Seven legs? It sounds outrageous, but game warden Doug Bilgo confirmed it and the fact that Lisko killed the deer when it ran under his truck on his Osceola, Wis., property.

“It’s a pretty weird deer,” said Lisko, describing the extra legs as looking like 3- to 4-inch-long crab pincers. They were attached to the sides of three of the deer’s normal legs. Lisko admitted that seeing them gave him the creeps.

c Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.

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