As I wrote about in my Sunday column in The Roanoke Times, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries is considering a proposal to remove the bear tag from the big game license, and to create a separate bear license. The cost would be $25 for residents, $150 for non-residents.
Unlike most proposed regs changes, this one didn’t come from the agency’s staff. Bear hunters with the Virginia Bear Hunters Association asked for it, and the agency’s board decided to forward the proposal for public comment. The board will take a final vote on the proposal on June 2, with any rule change being put in place by next fall’s hunting season.
Why would bear hunters ask for an additional license? Well, nearly all VBHA members use hounds to hunt bears, which are their priority. Their basic thinking is that bears shouldn’t be a “bonus” animal for deer hunters. Of course, fewer bears killed by deer hunters equates to more bears available for the houndsmen when their season opens in December.
Odds of a deer hunter seeing a bear during an open bear season are pretty slim. So would hunters who are not specifically targeting bears be willing to part with $25 on the off chance they would get a shot? Complicating the debate is the fact that the DGIF’s biologists are saying the bear kill needs to increase across many parts of the state. Would they be able to achieve those objectives with fewer bear hunters?
Plenty of other states have separate bear licenses. But I’m guessing this isn’t going to be too well received by the general hunting public. Sure, plenty of deer don’t have any desire to shoot a bear. But for many deer hunters, I don’t see them wanting to give up (or pay extra for) those rare chances.
I also would be surprised if DGIF biologists agree to this given their concern about the growth of the bear population.
But maybe if the public is generally supportive, this might fly.
So, are you supportive of the proposed bear license?