HAVE YOU ever wondered why the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) doesn’t treat our native sons and daughters a little better when they leave Wisconsin for a career, but still want to hunt and fish here?

When it comes to fishing and hunting licenses, the only categories are resident and nonresident. The system leaves no room for recognizing that some nonresidents are Badger State natives.

There are reasons for discussing the possibility of a third licensing category for the “native nonresident,” because they grew up hunting and fishing here and have experienced a conservation ethic unlike any other in the country.

I’m having a hard time with the thought of treating our native hunters and anglers exactly the same as someone who grew up in the concrete jungles of Chicago or the Twin Cities.

Many of our sons and daughters might have moved to one of those cities for a job, yet their knowledge and appreciation of our natural resources is far different than someone who’s not a native.

The scribbler is no expert on anything, but in this age of automated licensing it should be relatively easy to register this special class of nonresident sportspeople.

All we would need is a birth certificate and maybe proof that they purchased resident hunting and fishing licenses in their youth, which means they have already supported conservation here.

Just what discounts or special considerations these natives deserve isn’t the subject today, for it might take some time to flesh out those details.

But I’m thinking they deserve some kind of a break because of their heritage, including their past support of our management system through payment of licenses and fees.

At a point in time when the DNR is extremely worried about dwindling numbers of hunters, it might be a good idea to give the native nonresident some added incentive to return.

And if we can keep our sons and daughters coming back to keep the traditions alive, then they may someday return with their kids to hunt with mom and dad, uncles and aunts, grandpa and grandma.

These are family sports and right now, the cost of nonresident licenses could be a deterrent for many of our native youth who’ve enjoyed these sports while growing up here. Why not give them a break?

While we’re on the subject of licensing, it could be time with these automated services to offer more options. Right now there is a five-day small game license offered to nonresidents for $55 and an annual for $85, but we probably could do better than that.

Son Steve wanted to come this way from Minnesota for a quick grouse/pheasant hunt last week, but a half-day of grouse hunting is hardly worth the $55 cost for a five-day license — even in a great bird year.

Why not just offer a flexible small game license and allow them to pick the number of days they are going to hunt with an easy to calculate per-day charge?

Whether it’s $10 per day or whatever is deemed appropriate for a fee, at least they can purchase a license for the exact number of days they are going to hunt. They could simply pick the days for authorization, either at a license outlet, service center or using the Go Wild online system.

Wisconsin needs to get more consistent. We offer a one-day nonresident fishing license but not a one-day nonresident small game hunting license. Why not?

The more we accommodate the plans of those nonresidents who want to hunt and fish here, the more likely they will come. I think we need to err on the side of convenience to ensure we aren’t turning potential hunting, fishing and trapping participants away.

The scribbler is pretty darn conservative but my liberal tendencies sneak out on some environmental issues, including conservation of our precious natural resources in Wisconsin.

As an example, I’m willing to support strict shoreland zoning laws to protect water quality, shoreline habitat and fish reproduction. I want the state to err on the side of conservation and resource protection so that future generations can enjoy what we do today.

On the subject of license fees, I’ve been the rebel who usually supports whatever the DNR proposes. My theory is that we hunters and anglers are the true conservationists in this state, and we need to ensure we foot the bills for essential management, law enforcement and habitat work.

The hunters who balk at a $4 increase in their deer hunting license aren’t thinking about what it takes to fund conservation. They are also ignoring the fact that they spend a ton more on nonessentials — that this increase is equivalent to a mug of good beer.

Fortunately for the masses, we haven’t seen a proposal for a license fee increase in years. But when it comes, and it surely will, you know where I’m likely to stand.

I’d like to encourage native nonresidents to speak out on the idea of a new licensing category, via email or letter, so we can send them along to DNR Secretary Dan Meyer or the appropriate committee of the Wisconsin Conservation Congress.

We’ve never considered or voted on such a plan on the spring fish and game questionnaire, but it’s time that we consider treating our native sons and daughters differently than other nonresidents.

I believe native nonresidents who fished or hunted here in the past deserve special recognition. We should give them a registration system and some breaks on license fees.