With a stagnant revenue stream and waning youth involvement, the Arizona Game and Fish Department is overhauling its hunting and fishing license fee structure.
On Wednesday, department officials held a public meeting at the Payson Public Library and laid out a conceptual plan for a simpler structure that combines privileges and makes it cheaper for youth to get involved.
Most of the area hunters in attendance agreed with the proposed changes to help families and young people.
Under the conceptual plan, a youth license (ages 10-17) would cover hunting, fishing, migratory bird and urban fishing lakes and cost only $5.
Adult residents would pay a single fishing license fee of $37, without needing to purchase a trout stamp, a fee to use two poles or an additional fee to fish urban lakes, like those in Green Valley Park.
The department is also proposing a $160 combo package for residents that combines hunting and fishing licenses.
All of the licenses would last for a year from the day you buy them, instead of expiring at the end of the calendar year.
Many rates will go down, but the department will also boost some rates — like increasing the hunt-only license from $32.25 to $37.
The department has not raised fees since 2007 and just recently got the authority to do so under Senate bill 1223 to adjust the pricing structure to meet customer demand and market conditions.
Tony Guiles, legislative liaison with Game and Fish, said the bill lets the commission operate more like a business, which is important because the department relies almost entirely on license fees, receiving no general tax dollars from the state.
Guiles said the commission is not looking at the plan to enhance revenue, but to simplify a confusing and complex license structure.
On Wednesday, Guiles showed a list of just some of the department’s current fees and tags. It filled the slide from top to bottom.
With so many fees, anglers don’t always understand that they need a separate license to fish an urban lake like Green Valley.
The Tempe Town Lake, however, is not part of the urban fishing program and needs no separate tag.
Area Game and Fish officers struggle to enforce fines on clueless anglers and so often decide on a case-by-case basis.
“We see that people don’t understand the licensing fee,” he said.
Rim Country is a popular area for hunters and anglers and the Payson Walmart is the No. 1 seller of licenses in the state.
Game and Fish wants to see more youth get involved in the sport and remove the barriers for recruitment of new hunters and anglers.
They hope a simpler structure, fee bundles and reduced costs for youth will do that. And more users are needed because the cost of running Game and Fish has gone up significantly since 2006. Fuel costs are up 40 percent, urban stocking of catfish 44 percent, employee insurance benefits 69 percent and helicopter surveys 43 percent.
Area hunters did not welcome all of the changes Wednesday. They criticized the department’s plan for premium packages for deer and elk hunts. Under the conceptual plan, the premium deer fee for residents would increase from $34.75 to $100. The premium deer hunt area includes all hunts north of the Colorado River and all December white-tailed deer and mule deer hunts.
The premium elk structure would increase from $114 to $200, which includes all late September through early October general and muzzleloader bull hunts, all early archery bull hunts and Camp Navajo or Hopi bull hunts in late September and early October.
The hunters said the departments should do away with those premium fees.
Guiles welcomed all comments and promised to take each remark back to the commission who hasn’t decided on the rate structure yet.
Game and Fish is asking residents to give their input on the conceptual plan before the board approves the final fee structure in August.
Before that, the commission will hold a public meeting June 14-15 in Payson.
Comments can be submitted at that meeting, via e-mail to and mail at Arizona Game and Fish Department, License Simplification Comment, Attn: Ben Alteneder, 5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086.
To see the complete plan and proposed rate structure, visit http://www.azgfd.gov/ eservices/licenses_newFees.shtml.