Hunting and fishing have been a lifelong passion of mine. As a young boy I would often spend hours wandering the woods and field that surrounded my home, searching for secluded honey holes that might hold my next trophy or following game trails to learn the user’s habits. Not unlike many young men, this outdoor knowledge not only led me to join the service but also helped me once I had.
While I was on active duty I made the most of my various duty assignments and aggressively pursued the local game whenever possible, although my attention shifted primarily to fishing as the equipment was easier to transport and store. Be it the reef surrounding the Florida Keys, the rocky coast of New England or the bass lakes of California, I was never without a rod and reel, ready to try my hand with the local species of choice.
But I always faced one hurdle time and again when moving to another base or traveling on TAD – licensing. As soon as possible I would find a local bait shop and shell out the money for a non-resident license – because as a sportsman I would never consider going afield without one. At times it seemed I should carry a second wallet to hold them all (and maybe a second job to pay for them). What I did not know is that I could have saved a great deal of money by taking advantage of discounts many states offer service members seeking a hunting or fishing license.
- Free License – some states offer free license to active duty service members, and the number has only grown as the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts have stretched on. If a free license is available, it may be limited to service members permanently stationed within its borders or to those who are residents of that state and home on leave.
- Reduced Cost Licenses – the most popular discount offered to service members when it comes to hunting and fishing license involves a reduced cost license. In some cases this means allowing a service member to purchase a resident license, which is often a fraction of the non-resident license, while in others it involves a special license especially for veterans.
- Special Seasons – more and more states have recognized the limited opportunity that service members have to participate in hunting or fishing activities, especially when it comes to getting time off to do so. To assist service members in having a more successful experience, they have adopted special seasons for active duty members, usually limited to specific areas or on a weekend prior to the traditional opening day.
- Educational Credit – almost every state requires new hunters to attend a Hunter’s Education Course prior to purchasing a license or a Boater’s Safety Course prior to operating a motorboat. If you are on Active Duty, you can often receive a waiver for these courses or present proof of having attended a similar course in another state rather than spending several days sitting in a classroom rather than a hunting blind or on your favorite lake.
To ensure you are taking advantage of any special discounts or programs, you will need to do a little research. Every state fish and game department maintains a website, and probably a social media presence as well, so you could do this research prior to transfer. However, the best source of the most up-to-date information is a telephone call to the local conservation officer. Not only will he or she be able to explain what is available, but there is a good chance they are a veteran as well and might feel inclined to share a few pointers – maybe even their own favorite spot!