NEW HAMPSHIRE has the image and culture of being kind to small businesses and supporting local interests, but what the Dickster views as downright anti-American has happened with Fish and Game license agents being forced to put up quite a handsome sum of money to provide the equipment for them to sell those hunting, fishing and other licenses online. This has caused several of them hardship, because these license agents felt that the paltry amount of money that they made from the sale of the licenses couldn't support the kind of investment that was made mandatory to keep their license agency.
Two agents in particular, with a very long history of serving both resident and non-resident anglers and hunters, have told me that they've been put under quite a severe income restriction because those people that would be ordinarily purchasing licenses from them also were buying bait, tackle and hunting equipment as well as the licenses.
One in particular, George Taylor at Taylor's Trading Post, told us that his business has gone down almost in half because of this. And Taylor's has been the place that has supported the huge fishery at the nearby Bellamy Reservoir for several decades!
Another small business owner, Pete Tilton at Defiance Lobster Company in Hampton, also couldn't come up with the cash to invest in the equipment for online license sales and has seen his walk-in bait business just about collapse. He's the only one we know of that caters especially to the shell fishing (clam digging) in the Hampton/Seabrook Harbor area and in fact he's the only one statewide that we know of that will rent you a clam digger and clam bucket that will hold your daily limit of clams.
He's been known to actually demonstrate how to use a clam digger and advise you on how to cleanse your bucket of clams of sand.
So you have to know that most of the smaller license agents who didn't feel that they could justify the cost of setting up the online Fish and Game licenses have also felt a tremendous amount of financial loss as well as the frustration of not being able to really cater to their customer's needs.
Several non-resident groups of ice fishermen so far this year have showed up at George Taylor's Trading Post to get their licenses and bait for ice fishing on the Bellamy reservoir. And he has had to try to explain to them why he can't sell them licenses. Some of these people were very understanding of his problem and still bought their bait from him, while others were visibly upset and walked out without purchasing bait. Other groups of non-residents purchased bait and equipment and told George that they were going fishing without the license purchase. "We're gonna just go and fish without them!"
Although the good old Granite State isn't exactly "backwoods" today and the use of computers has spread throughout the state, there's still plenty of people, including yours truly, that often balk at the use of the Internet to do all their financial business. And we don't think that Fish and Game gave enough thought to the move of making the license agents go online, given the fact that many of them are not computer oriented and that not having the licenses to sell would cut way down on the foot traffic into their businesses!Is this the New Hampshire way of life? We really don't think so. We're hoping that the sensible people that are in charge at New Hampshire Fish and Game come up with some kind of a plan to alleviate this problem. Some kind of a hybrid plan that would make license purchases available using the good old-fashioned pen and paper routine as well as moving forward with their online program for those agents that can well afford it.To point out the fallacies of going all the way with an online plan, we'll give you an example of what happened to us on a late season goose hunt in New Jersey. There was only one license agency within miles of where we were staying and we were lucky to arrive there just before closing time. The owner of the sporting goods store was very kind and closed up with us still inside so we could get our licenses.
The online service was supposed to be available 24 hours, seven days a week. But on this particular late afternoon, as hard as this man tried, he couldn't complete a purchase of a hunting license for me on the computer! So he phoned in to some official that allowed him to write a note explaining what had happened so I could hunt the next day and asked me to return and hopefully he'd be able to get me a real license!
That's my story and we're sticking to it! Drop us an email at DoDuckInn@aol.com and get out there and get you some but make sure you have a license when doing it!
Dick Pinney's column appears weekly in the New Hampshire Sunday News. Email him at DoDuckInn@aol.com.