Hunters angered by Fish & Game certificate to out-of-state store

Posted: Thursday, July 11, 2002

NAMPA, Idaho (AP) -- An effort by the Department of Fish and Game to lure previously licensed hunters and anglers back to Idaho's fields and streams has backfired for the agency.

The department recently sent letters to about 23,000 people who had bought Idaho licenses in past years but do not currently hold one. The letter was packaged with a $10 gift certificate to Bass Pro Shops, a national outdoor outfitter based in Springfield, Mo.

It was intended to be a positive enticement for sportsman, said Michael Brown, license vendor coordinator for the department. But many seem to have taken offense to the offer, in part because the gift certificate was for an out-of-state business.

''It was a real negative reaction by the public,'' Brown said, adding that the department is not likely to repeat the offer.

Robert M. Mike Bradford of Nampa was one former Idaho resident who reacted negatively after receiving the offer.

''If the Idaho Department of Fish and Game is going to send out gift certificates, shouldn't the gift certificates at least be for a store located in Idaho?'' Bradford asked in a June e-mail to Gov. Dirk Kempthorne.

Brown said Bass Pro Shops has provided toll-free phone ordering for Idaho hunting and fishing licenses for several years. The company does not get paid out of state coffers but earns a profit from service fees on license sales. Those fees run $3.50 plus 3 percent of the cost of the sale.

In a letter to Bradford, Fish and Game Director Steve Huffaker of Caldwell said Bass Pro also paid for the gift certificates and for the envelopes they came in.

Huffaker said the campaign was an effort to increase license sales in order to stave off further fee increases or reductions of operations. Other states have had great success with similar efforts, Huffaker wrote.

Bradford, who has not bought hunting or fishing licenses in Idaho for several years in protest of fee increases, said the letter and gift certificate are examples of what he feels is mismanagement at the highest levels of Fish and Game.

''Until things change drastically for the better, I can go to Oregon to go fishing,'' Bradford said.

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