A bill that would allow qualifying landowners to hunt deer before the regular firearm deer hunting season advanced to the final round of debate Feb. 13 after lawmakers amended it to include a small permit fee.
LB126, as introduced last session by Venango Sen. Dan Hughes, would require the state Game and Parks Commission to issue up to four free firearm deer hunting permits to qualifying landowners and their designated immediate family members.
Senators amended the bill on general file to shorten the period during which the permits would be valid to the Saturday through Wednesday immediately preceding the opening day of the firearm deer hunting season.
Hughes introduced an amendment on select file that would impose a $5 fee on each permit and further shorten the valid period to the Saturday through Monday immediately preceding the opening day of firearm deer hunting season.
It also would specify that no more than one permit would be issued per person for the qualifying landowner or any designated member of their immediate family. No more than two could be issued to individuals younger than 19, and no more than two could be issued to those who are 19 or older.
Hughes said the new provision is meant to promote hunting by the state’s youth. He said the fee would help offset the commission’s costs to implement the bill and allow it to qualify for a federal program under which the commission receives federal funds for each hunting permit it sells.
Hughes said the proposal could result in more private land being opened to hunters during the regular firearm deer hunting season.
“If the landowner has had the chance to harvest his deer,” he said, “they’re going to open up their land for other hunters, especially if they have a deer problem.”
Sen. Rob Clements of Elmwood supported the amendment and the bill, saying he appreciates that landowners lose money feeding the state’s deer.
“Although I’d probably rather have them get paid for the dollar amount that they suffer,” he said, “I am glad to recognize that the state does want to give them somewhat of an allowance and a thank you.”
Sen. Bruce Bostelman of Brainard opposed LB126, saying it would not address the state’s depredation problem.
“I think the majority of sportsmen … across the state oppose the bill,” he said, “and a great number of landowners oppose the bill as well.”
Also in opposition was North Platte Sen. Mike Groene. He said the early deer hunting season would conflict with the start of pheasant hunting season.
“That’s a big weekend,” Groene said. “And now we’re going to have rifles out there—the two don’t mix.”
After voting 27-3 to adopt the Hughes amendment, senators voted 25-6 to advance LB126 to final reading.