Idaho Fish and Game officials are considering discounting the price of second deer and elk tags, perhaps as early as this summer.
Hunters, both resident and nonresident, have long been able to purchase a second deer or elk tag after Aug. 1 if there are unsold tags in the pool allocated to nonresident hunters.
But they have to pay the full nonresident price - $301 for deer and $416 for elk. For the past several years, nonresident hunters have been allocated 12,815 elk tags and 15,500 deer tags.
The popularity of second deer and elk tags peaked in 2008, with the sale of 539 second elk tags and 1,606 second deer tags. But they fell for three consecutive years starting in 2009, about the time the recession took full effect and the year the Idaho Legislature chose to raise the price of nonresident deer tags by 17 percent and nonresident elk tags by 12 percent.
They bottomed out in 2011, with the sale of 352 second elk tags (270 to residents and 82 to nonresidents) and 762 second deer tags (588 to residents and 174 to nonresidents).
Business for second tags started to recover in 2012 and continued last year, with the sale of 430 second elk tags and 964 second deer tags.
Earlier this year, the Idaho Legislature gave the Idaho Fish and Game Commission the authority to discount tag prices. Department officials believe they might be able to sell more second tags by discounting the price and ultimately bringing in more revenue.
"In the last two years there have been more and more people buying second elk tags at non-resident prices and it's been the same thing for deer," Jeff Gould, chief of F&G's wildlife bureau, told the commission during a recent briefing on the program. "Could we increase this trend by somewhat of a discount to a second tag?"
Commissioners expressed some optimism for the idea, but want more information. They directed the department to further develop the proposal.
The department has contracted with a marketing firm to help it flush out the details and to figure out how much to discount the price of second tags.
Setting the price will be key, Gould said. For example, if the price of second tags were cut in half, the department would have to double the sales just to break even. For now, the department is considering a 25 percent to 50 percent discount on second deer tags and a 19 percent to 36 percent discount of second elk tags.
Its marketing contractor is conducting a survey of 1,000 hunters and will later present the idea to smaller focus groups to get an idea on proper pricing.
"We should have some better information in July," Gould said. "We really only have a month or maybe six weeks until the next commission meeting."
He would like to have discounting authority in place for the fall hunting season. Gould said over-winter survival of mule deer populations has been above average for the past three years and peaked at 80 percent last year. The department expects to have excellent mule deer hunting for at least the next two years.
Gould said discounting the price of second tags might also induce more nonresident hunters to purchase their first tags at full price by the Aug. 1 deadline.
He said if the discounted second tags catch on with resident hunters, they might drive up sales after the deadline and influence future pre-deadline demand.
"We hope to stimulate nonresident tag sales at full price," he said.