November 16, 2012

What Missouri Could Learn From Its Deer Hunters

Hunting season is in full swing, and for many Missourians it’s a family affair. As one hunter put it in the Kansas City Star on Sunday, “For me, it’s a lot more than just the hunting….I get to see people that I only see a couple times a year. Deer season is always a big deal for our family.” From learning how to safely handle rifles and bows to enjoying time with family outdoors, today thousands of young Missourians participate in an enduring — and growing — tradition of hunting in the state.

In fact, the Missouri Department of Conservation announced last week that hunters had eclipsed the mark set in 2011 for deer harvested during the annual youth hunting season — over 19,000 deer, and a more-than three-fold increase above the state’s first youth hunt, instituted in 2001. Growing awareness of the hunt has no doubt increased participation in it over the years, but permit fees imposed by the state could easily have tamped down the season’s growth, if the costs were fixed high enough. Fortunately, Missouri’s hunting permit costs are generally quite low — and that’s a fact the Department of Conservation readily promotes on its website.

Low permit cost is another reason Missouri is a great place to hunt. Missouri’s $17 Resident Firearms Any-Deer Permit is a bargain compared to the average of $46.63 for equivalent privileges in surrounding states. Missouri charges only $8.50 for a resident any-deer permit for kids under age 16. Resident youths pay just $3.50 for antlerless-deer permits.

Missouri has kept the state-imposed costs of joining the hunt relatively minimal, and it’s reasonable to believe that participation in the youth hunt has risen at least partially because the barriers to engaging in it are so low.

Shouldn’t the state apply this lesson to other areas of policy? The lower the fees and taxes, the more likely it is that you’ll get more of an activity — here, hunting, but the idea applies elsewhere, too. Imagine: What would happen to Missouri’s economy from the perspectives of growth and competitiveness if the state got rid of its taxes on corporations and pass-through income?

Kansas opened the season for economic innovations earlier this year by dumping its tax on pass-throughs and reducing its income tax, but there’s no telling which state in the region is going to take down the big, long-term economic prizes in this highly competitive tax environment. Suffice to say, Missouri should join that hunt, and very, very soon.

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