I-161 Passed – What does this mean for Non-Resident Hunters?

Non-residents must enter the lottery to draw their hunting license.  Initiative 161 made it to the ballot November 2nd this year.  After active opposition by Supporters for Preserving Montana’s Outfitting Tradition, a coalition of individuals & organizations that believe outfitting is an important partner in the cause to protect and extend the Montana Outdoor heritage, the initiative passed at almost 54%, a narrow margin.

Since the mid-1990’s Elk Hunting Outfitters in Montana could guarantee non-resident hunters Montana Hunting Licenses as long as the License Holder was accompanied by a licensed outfitter or guide.  Since this legislation has passed, 5500 Outfitter Sponsored Licenses will be abolished and non-resident hunters will have to enter a draw, like in other western states, taking away Montana’s competitive and inviting edge for loyal out-of-staters.

There is much speculation that the language used in I-161 was misleading in its 5000 word, 16 page prose, and especially when condensed to fit the ballot, voters were confused.  We have spoken to voters who thought that by voting FOR I-161, they were voting in opposition.  This was not the case.

One point that I-161 claims is that outfitters are taking up all the privately owned ranch land through leases and using it solely for thier out-of-state License Holders, displacing resident hunters and leaving them with nowhere to hunt.  In contrast, it is Sage Peak Outfitters’ goal on the Private Ranch Hunts to create prime Deer, Antelope and Elk Habitat with managed pressure so that residents and nonresident hunters will benefit from good management practices.

Furthermore, the initiative does not prohibit outfitters from leasing Montana Private Land Elk Hunting property, nor will it force land owners to relinquish thier rights and allow any hunter that wishes to step foot on their property to hunt.  It merely makes non-residents enter the draw system and  pay more for it.  Even so, this is less than what the outfitter sponsored license used to cost. 

And I must say, the odds of drawing aren’t looking too bad during this recession.  In the last 2 years, the deadline for the Outfitter Sponsored Licenses were extended from March 15 through hunting season due to an undersell of non-resident outfitter sponsored tags at $1500.

New tag prices according to I-161 and FWP:
Nonresident Big Game Combination License Fee (draw)   $897
Nonresident Deer Combination License Fee (draw)   $527

So, if you are a non-resident looking into Elk Hunting Montana, don’t be shy, you’re sure welcome here!

For more information on this issue, visit these websites, read these articles and watch these videos:
Vote “No” on I-161 – Fairfield Sun Times Article
I-161: MT outfitter sponsored nonresident hunting licenses – Video
Vote No on 161  – Clark Fork Chronicle Article
Hunters and Outfitters Fear I-161 Will Hurt Montana Tourism – KFBB News
Non-Resident Response
www.stop161.org – Supporters for Preserving Montana’s Outfitting Tradition.  Lists organisations who oppose I-161.

Posted in Latest News.