Montana Initiative 161 Targets Nonresident Hunters

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Next week, Montana residents will vote on Initiative 161 which will have a significant impact on non-resident Montana hunters. Specifically I-161 will abolish all 5,500 guaranteed outfitter-sponsored tags directing them to the general lottery for nonresident big game licenses.

Furthermore, perhaps more importantly for most nonresident Montana hunters, the initiative will also raise nonresident big game combo license fees from $628 to $897 and nonresident combination licenses fees from $328 to $527.

An opinion piece at the Helena Independent Record notes that:’s very difficult for voters or anybody else to predict what the actual outcome of the initiative will be. There is no guarantee that scrapping the outfitter-sponsored licenses will increase hunter access to private land. And it’s fair to point out that outfitters are not the only people who lease land in Montana for hunting. Individuals, both from Montana and other states, pay for exclusive hunting privileges and will continue to do so, regardless of the initiative vote.


jaybe's picture

That's a pretty hefty

That's a pretty hefty increase in the price of a non resident tag, but I would say that if it comes down to not having enough tags for residents to go around, any state should increase the price of non resident tags.

I'm guessing that it's a pretty tough job to try to determine how many more tags to issue as compared to how many animals a state wants to see taken out of the herd. If they give out unlimited tags and a large percentage of hunters don't get an animal, you've got hunter dissatisfaction on your hands - big time. If you restrict the number of tags so that you have a high percentage of applicants that don't draw, you've got the same problem for a different reason.

As hunters, we usually feel that our fish and game people (at the administrative level) don't know what they're doing. But in the final analysis, they are probably doing their best to make their state a great place for hunters, while trying to manage the herds that are under their charge.


hunter25's picture

The biggest impact for most

The biggest impact for most of us here will be the fee increases. I have not yet hunted in Montana but am very interested in doing so soon, probably in 2012. Iwas planning an antelope hunt and am not sure if that is in the increase but it would be likely. Montana has one of the best priced antelope tags so an increase is no surprise. I would like for it to be a combo hunt so I will have to check the deer price to determine if it is still worth it. Montana's website was a bit confusing for me anyway so I will have to start over to figure this out.

The loss of outfitter licenses does not affect me as I can not afford the services anyway and feel some states give them more than they should. But at the same time I hate to see a guys business hurt if he's an honest hard working one.

Time will tell how this affects any future hunts of mine.

CVC's picture


Apparently it passed. Here is a blurb on the news from it.  I am not sure if it will actually increase revenue, but might deter out of state hunters and thus hurt revenue.

CI-161 would revise the laws related to non-resident big game and deer hunting licenses. It would abolish outfitter-sponsored non-resident big game and deer combination licenses, replacing the 5,500 outfitter-sponsored big game licenses with 5,500 additional general non-resident big game licenses. It also increases the license fees. Proponents say it would increase the state revenues over the next four years by an estimated $700,000 annually for hunting access, but opponents say that if the initiative passes, then 400 small businesses across Montana will suffer, affecting state and local economies through loss of jobs and tax base revenue. Initial results show Montanans approving the measure, 54% to 46%.



A boost to self guided hunting...maybe

I'm in full support of any legislation that promotes out-of-state self guided hunting.  Anyone obtaining one of those permits can still hire a guide if they choose, but they can also hunt on the millions of acres of huntable public land in Montana on their own effort.

I am disappointed, however, to see the price of the license increase to such a large number.  Many of us are unable to afford guided hunts as this form of hunting is quickly becoming an activity reserved for the very well off or the person willing to hunt only when he can save the money to purchase the trip.  A large number of us are content, in fact in many cases prefer, to hunt game on our own efforts on the public land that we pay to keep and maintain, free of any service provided by a guide or outfitter.

It seems that the price of the tags alone will soon keep hunters bound within their home state boundries, unable to even afford the tag that will allow them to take advantage of the public access in other states.  I understand that the state fish and game departments need more money, I get it.  But pricing the average hunter out of the market will backfire badly, leaving them not only with no money, but with no need for their services.

ecubackpacker's picture

The question is whether this

The question is whether this will increase the opportunities for self guided hunting in Montana. There will be an additional 5,500 licenses in the general draw but there were 5,500 tag holders last year so they'll be in for the draw this year.

Also, there might be more interest in the Montana draw with these "additional" licenses...people think there are more licenses to draw therefore the number of applications will increase, at least the first year or two.

As far as the price going up, you had to expect that was coming. Every new turn of events has it's own downfall.

gatorfan's picture

I'll be watching this one closely!

I'm very interested in this one.  I was just asked a couple of weeks ago by a friend of mine if I would be interested in starting an annual tradition of going to Montana to hunt near his brother's property.  He is supposed to be finding out the zone and region so we can start looking into the feasibility of even getting tags.  If this passes, our chances might just go up (along with the price of the tag)!