The year 2020 has been a rough year for us all, but there have been some positive trends here in Maine worth celebrating. Hunting and fishing license sales through the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife are on the upswing. This probably isn’t surprising given how the pandemic has given many Mainers more time to be at home and outside, but I view it as a fantastic boost for the future protection of our fish and wildlife, as well as the pursuits of hunting, fishing and trapping.

Harrison Cote, 7, shows off his first grouse with his dad, James Cote. During a year marked by a global pandemic, outdoor pursuits became more popular in Maine. Buying a lifetime hunting or fishing license for a young Mainer is one way to help pave the way to a lifetime of adventure. Credit: Courtesy of James Cote

Fish and wildlife agencies across the country have been grappling for years with how to deal with declining license sales, and for good reason. You see, especially here in Maine where our Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is funded largely by the sale of license fees, and recreational vehicle registrations, these dollars are critically needed as they get matched in large part by federal dollars. The bottom line is that this is the money that goes to fund conservation of our fish and wildlife resources, occasionally purchase conservation land, enforce our fish and game laws, and work on other vitally important issues like landowner relations and recreational access.

All Mainers have a stake in the future of these resources, not just sportsmen and women.

Outdoor addicts like me buy our hunting and fishing licenses every year. Others occasionally buy a license when they decide to go afield. But this holiday season, you have the opportunity to give the gift of the outdoors in Maine to someone — forever.

You see, the DIF&W offers a lifetime license program for those under 15 years old, and seniors 65 and older. For a low one-time price, you can buy a qualifying family member or friend a lifetime hunting, fishing, trapping or archery license — or all of the above!

According to the Department, “A lifetime license, purchased for yourself or as a gift, allows the bearer to fish, trap, and/or hunt for their lifetime, regardless of where they live in the future. Revenues generated by these licenses are deposited in a special trust fund that provides long term financial support for Maine’s fish and wildlife.”

Here are some details. For children 5 and under, you can buy any of these individual lifetime licenses for $150. A combination of any two for $250, or any three for $400. For children 6 to 15 years old, individual licenses are $300 each, or two for $500, or three for $800. Licenses for seniors range, but after 65, you can buy individual lifetime licenses for anywhere from $8 to $50. And nonresidents, don’t think Maine doesn’t offer you great deals either! Check out the DIF&W website for more details.

I’ve certainly taken advantage of this program myself. Both my sons have lifetime licenses, and we have bought them for nephews as well. We know some of those we have given to will eventually move away, or might even lose interest in the sports for a while. But the great thing about a lifetime license, is that it is always there when you come back home to Maine, or are ready to pick up a fly rod or shotgun again.

To complement the lifetime license program, the department is also offering a variety of programs and resources aimed at recruiting new hunters, anglers and trappers to Maine. So don’t think that just because you have never tried these things before means that this program isn’t for you. Use the Department’s resources and programs to dive in and experience these adventures for yourself!

The lifetime license program is an absolute bargain, and a gift that provides benefits to not just the recipient, but our fish and wildlife too. It truly is a gift that will keep giving.

When you are thinking about what to give your loved ones this year, think about sticking a lifetime license in their stocking. For those that are brand new to these sports, or those born with fins and feathers in their blood, you’ll be glad you did.

P.S. If your loved ones already have a license, think about adding some adventure to their outdoor calendar this year with a trip with a professional Maine guide. This is a great way to keep your dollars in Maine and support local businesses. Find out more at maineguides.org.

James Cote, Outdoors contributor

James Cote, Outdoors contributor

James Cote is a government affairs consultant who successfully managed the 2014 bear referendum and has represented numerous hunting, angling, and trapping organizations in Maine and across the country....