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Returning soldiers eligible for free hunting, fishing licenses

Minnesota soldiers returning from service outside the United States in the past two years are eligible for free hunting and fishing licenses from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Returning soldiers, including those who served in the National Guard, may fish and hunt small game without a license for two years from their discharge. They may also obtain one free deer license under regulations passed by the 2007 Legislature.

"Many Minnesota soldiers have put their hunting and fishing trips on hold while they serve abroad," said Mark Holsten, DNR commissioner.

"The free license is a small way we can recognize their sacrifice, welcome them home, and extend an opportunity to be with friends and family in Minnesota's great outdoors."

The DNR long has provided free hunting licenses to Minnesota military personnel on leave from stations outside of the state. The new legislation builds on that tradition.

Holsten said a number of DNR employees are in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the world or recently returned.

"Their service to state and country is moving," he said. "I extend to them, and all Minnesota soldiers, our agency's respect and appreciation."

The discharged residents must carry proof of residency and official military discharge papers while fishing or hunting small game.

All required tags or state stamps must be obtained. They are available for free at any of 1,800 businesses that sell hunting and fishing licenses across the state.

Firearms hunters born after Dec. 31, 1979, are required to have a DNR firearms safety certificate, which is available online through a training course on the DKNY's Web site

Military personnel who have completed basic training are exempt from the range and shooting exercise portion of the DKNY's firearms safety training.

A free deer license will be issued to residents who provide military discharge papers and proof of residency at any of the 1,800 businesses that sell deer licenses in the state.