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If you haven’t heard, life is expensive.

And it gets more expensive with each passing year. Your cell phone bill keeps going up. Same with your car insurance. And your groceries. It’s a fact of life.

Oddly, though, the price to hunt and fish in Pennsylvania has not kept up with the trend. In the 11 or so years I’ve penned this column, we’ve often discussed potential license increases. But, despite lots of talk from Harrisburg, we haven’t seen the price of a hunting or fishing license rise in more than a decade.

The last fishing license increase was in 2005. For hunters, the last price hike was in 1999.

It’s no wonder then that state lawmakers are once again studying an increase for both license categories. If it happens, most folks will agree it’s about time for the inevitable. They’ll buy their license and move on.

Some folks, though, will get angry and give up the sport – at least for a year or two. Others will simply go the scofflaw route. They’ll hit the water without a license. No doubt, they’ll eventually get caught and pay a hefty fine.

But if that’s not enough of a deterrent, let me remind you of one of my favorite “dumb angler” stories.

It’s about a fisherman from Forrest City, Arkansas. A few years ago, the angler caught a record-breaking 16-pound, 5-ounce largemouth. But, instead of celebrating the huge catch, he ended up barely keeping himself out of jail.

It’s all because he didn’t buy a fishing license and lied about it.

The would-be record holder tried to trick officials by purchasing a license three hours after he landed his whopper. But it was a lame attempt. The authorities hit him with a $1,000 fine and a possible 30-day jail sentence.

The lesson this crook teaches us is simple — buy your license. Open your wallet, shell out the few bucks needed to buy a license (plus any stamps you need) and claim a record if luck is on your side this season.

Really, though, a fishing or hunting license is about a lot more than staying out of trouble. The few bucks every responsible sportsmen spends each year is what ensures our sport survives and thrives.

Most folks don’t know it but the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission and the state’s Game Commission are entirely self-sufficient. They don’t get any taxpayer money from the folks in Harrisburg. Instead, they rely on the state’s sportsmen for the vast majority of their revenues.

And what do the agencies offer in return? There’s plenty. To start, head to any of the county’s trout streams next month. You will see countless smiles as anglers enjoy the thrill of catching the millions of trout the Fish and Boat Commission stock each year.

Or head to one of the county’s game lands next fall. You’ll see slews of hunters taking advantage of fantastic public-land hunting opportunities provided by the Game Commission.

Both agencies also staff an army of biologists, land managers and law enforcement officers that ensure the state’s many wildlife species remain healthy. Our license dollars make their roles possible.

When we boil it down, the few bucks we spend each year to buy a license is one of the best deals around. It buys us clean water, hundreds of thousands of acres to hunt on and quality time outdoors.

But if that’s not good enough for you, maybe the tale of the ill-fated bass angler from Arkansas is enough to convince you to buy a license. If he would have spent a few extra bucks and followed the rules, he would have saved himself a $1,000 fine and would be the proud owner of a fresh state record.

If the force of the law doesn’t do the job… bragging rights can be a powerful motivator.

— Andy Snyder writes about outdoors for The York Dispatch. You can reach him at sports@yorkdispatch.com.

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