One-time outfitter hunting licenses, changes to preference points, signed into law
Tom Kuglin 10 hrs ago
Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has signed a wide ranging Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks bill that was amended late in the session to provide provisions for outfitters.
House Bill 637 from Joliet Republican Seth Berglee changes multiple areas of fish and wildlife law. Many of the changes are “cleanup” language clarifying statutes and making minor legal updates. Other changes drew considerable debate including spending $1 million on pheasant releases on wildlife management areas, and eliminating waiting requirements for purchasing black bear and mountain lion licenses.
The day before the session adjourned, Berglee made a significant amendment to the bill.
The amendment, which came during a free conference committee, allows a one-time allowance for outfitted nonresidents who did not draw a lottery license to purchases hunting licenses over-the-counter.
The bill also makes changes to the nonresident preference point system favoring outfitted nonresidents over do-it-yourself nonresident hunters. Outfitted nonresidents may purchase an additional preference point to gain an advantage in a future lottery license. Proceeds for the changes, which includes a bump in preference point fees, go to multiple access and habitat programs.
Berglee said he brought the amendment due to a 30% surge in nonresident applications. Nearly 32,000 hunters applied for 17,000 nonresident big game licenses. The uptick has harmed outfitters by creating uncertainty with how many outfitted nonresidents may draw licenses in a particular year. Industry groups said client success in the drawing was down about 40% over prior years.
The amendment and process that brought it late in the session and without public comment drew significant criticism from some hunter advocacy groups. The bill favored nonresidents who could afford to hire an outfitter and went against the spirit of a 2010 ballot initiative that did away with guaranteed outfitter licenses.
In announcing Gianforte had signed the bill, the governor’s office released a companion letter in response to “misinformation spread about HB 637.” The letter clarifies the changes do not directly affect resident hunters in terms of licenses or bonus points.
A spokesperson for the governor’s office said the bonus/preference point misconception is one they have heard from Montanans, but did not name any organizations it believed was making the claims.
The letter also notes a “one-time emergency allocation of 3,000 nonresident tags,” or about 1% of total licenses sold to residents and nonresidents. A spokesperson for the governor’s office said the figure is based on the best estimate from the governor’s office and FWP about how many additional outfitted nonresidents could be eligible to purchase a license this year.
Industry representatives have said an additional 3,000 licenses would need to be sold to make up for this year’s drop in drawing success, but outfitters had not calculated an exact number that could be eligible under the one-time allowance.
In order to be eligible, a nonresident would need to have booked with or made a deposit with an outfitter for this year before April 1. The additional licenses must be purchased by Aug. 30.
The letter concludes by noting that the concept of allocating one-time licenses was floated by the Bullock Administration during the pandemic – such a proposal was never brought forward.
I also feel for the non resident DIY guys that will draw fewer permits in MT than was already the case.
Congratulations wealthy landowners and outfitters you stole your guaranteed permits back, that MT residents voted away from you years ago to keep this very thing from happening.
More money. Lower odds. Greater point creep. Great.
How much are Preference Points going to go up?
There were already 17000 eligible nonresidents and thousands more residents for them to guide! This is a terrible bill, and directly goes against what we the voters passed resoundingly!
Why would you stop putting in for sheep?
I was also thinking along the lines of what hda says above...if they stay at the outfitter's camp or lodge, I'm thinking that often means they won't need to buy food or need a motel in the area they're hunting. That will stiff the locals who depend on that portion of the NR dollars being spent in MT.
I was also thinking if many of the Cali folks moving to Montana (or WY) are anti-hunting....that will not bode well for the res's and NR's who hunt there.
Smarter to gather the correct info with your biases interfering
FYI if you are a serious DIY hunter you will most likely know nothing about outfitted hunts and visa versa if you are a outfitter type guy you know nothing about DIY hunts
That's why facts are important
Seth Berglee = Just another special interest group bought & paid for clown.
Going rate for leasing land is say $3000 for 1000acres, an outfitter can lease it or a group of residents can lease it but the outfitter marks up to 6k for a “guided” rate which the resident now can’t really afford. With the inability to draw a tag every year nonresidents are not too interested in leasing land so they are not in the fight on their own but use the outfitter as a service every few years.
...in comes outfitter welfare bill. Now high paying nonresidents flock to Montana for a guaranteed tag and end up paying 6k to hunt what a resident could pay 3k for...and they do it in droves because there are fewer states that allow tags guaranteed these days. The outfitter can now lease up a few more parcels he/she couldn’t lease before and might be able to pay 4K or 5k and even charge more to nonresidents who now have added value to a Montana option.
Now do you see how it’s bad for the DIU hunters of Montana?
I'm wondering how the "extra point" will work? If you apply with an outfitter one year and buy the 2nd pref point but don't draw, are you required to apply with an outfitter the next year? Could you gain the extra point and then use it to draw a tag without an outfitter in a different year?
There were lots of outfitters that were down way more than 40%. Just like other businesses outfitters situations vary a lot from state to state
We took no money.
There I said it !!
Outfitter welfare is bullshit and the only reasonable reason I can see to disagree is if you benefit from it. This is a class/money issue as well- those who can afford to use an outfitter are simply gifted a tag after they didn't draw a tag when in the lottery with everyone else. Couldn't afford an outfitter- good luck, maybe you'll draw. You can afford an outfitter-- here ya go, we'll just give you one since you didn't draw with the commoners. If you can't see how that is unfair and a slap in the face of those who didn't draw, then you're both blind and dumb.
Further, for those of us who did draw a general tag, we now have 3000 additional hunters who SHOULD NOT HAVE TAGS who will hunt the same general units lands we are hunting. It is a bait and switch from MT and is total bullshit.
The outfitters and landowners cry foul because they can’t get tags for their customers. Both sides need/want tags. It’s a balancing act.
So, tell me why I should continue to donate to the conservation organizations down the road when I cannot afford to, or cannot get a tag?
Jingalls, 17k tags were awarded. If outfitters were good and there was sufficient demand for them, wouldn't they have plenty of business? If they didn't, there should be fewer of them.
In my hometown of 1700 people there used to be 3 pharmacies. That's too many obviously, and 2 sold out/ closed. The one that stayed open did the best, and therefore the most, business. Maybe some think the mediocre businesses should have been given vouchers so their wealthy customers would be guarented meds that others patiently wait for? Ya know... cuz they were struggling.
The pharmacies that closed didn't hold the balls of the politicians like the outfitters in MT. It's blatant and shameful what they have done in MT. This bill was/is the tip of the iceberg if things don't change significantly.
For the record I love Montana. It's a beautiful state filled with a huge percentage of great people. However, what has been allowed to happen there in the past few months is a great example of what Jaq referred to above and should be illegal. The politicians and outfitters assoc who pushed this through are in bed together and I hope they are all ousted from their positions come election time.
The issue is you have the baby boomer generation that has basically just retired. I’m part of that albeit on the tail end. But that generation has more money than time and they know it. So yes it is going to be tough for the guy on a shoestring budget.
I’ve done both guided and DIY. I prefer DIY but am not a opposed to doing a guided again. I’ve got 2 elk hunts this year both DIY. NM fully public and MT is part public and part private.
You can not hate people for being successful and willing to pay big money for a tag. The states see this and they want the cash. If you continue go down the path of class warfare it will not end well. We live in a country that anyone can be successful. Go earn it and the hunts will come. God Bless America!
Also, I'm not opposed to those who hunt with an outfitter or to outfitters-- but I am fully opposed to those who aren't able to succeed in a free market by doing a great job. Actually not opposed to them, just not in favor of them getting welfare to continue.
Lastly, I'm opposed to the outfitter assoc fluffing the balls of the politicians in MT the way they obviously have. The number of steps they have gone though to finally accomplish this welfare for the outfitters should be humiliating for all hunters in MT. That's not hate for outfitters, the wealthy, or the state of MT-- that's hate for welfare and the association and politicians screwing the system and the people to accomplish their nefarious agenda.
This stuff in MT is just the new / old beginning
Totally driven eventually by supply and demand principles
Same theory applies to all recreational activities
These days when I say I went on a DIY hunt what I really should say is I went on a DIW hunt (Did It With google earth, go hunt, toprut, onX, bowsite, rokslide, and youtube). Obviously tech doesn't provide everything that an outfitter would (by a long shot) but it's hard to deny that the value has diminished.
So instead of outfitters adapting or dying, the states are stepping in with welfare to prolong the inevitable.
Just because a guy decides to pay an outfitter or a landowner for a tag and a hunt. Does not equate he’s wealthy or welfare for the wealthy. It describes a person that saved up and decided…”OK, this is how this state plays the game. I want to hunt so I’ll buy that hunt.” The states are doing it because they can. It will be ever changing.
I understand your position. And I understand you not begrudging a guy that is successful. And I understand your frustration with states that help out outfitters and ranchers with tags. But it shouldn’t shock you that it happens. States give incentives to business to attract them to their state. Outfitting is no different. Brings in tons of money. Government doesn’t care about DIY guys that want an even playing field. The government wants the money! The only reason guys like you and me are still doing DIY hunts at all? Is because of hunting organizations and individuals banning together to watch and fight for our rights. It would be easy for the politicians to give tags to the highest bidder. But there’s too many of us watching. So every once in a while they sneak something in. In this case it’s for the outfitters and ranchers. Just stay connected to organizations like RMEF and continue to make your voice heard.
The rancher in MT that I pay a trespass fee to is far from wealthy. I would please ask to refrain from the verbiage “welfare for the wealthy”. All due respect, just my two cents.
I agree with virtually everything you said in your second paragraph. However, because I shouldn't be surprised by it doesn't mean I shouldn't be appalled by it. Preferential treatment to outfitters and their clients means disadvantaged opportunity/prejudice against DIY hunters. If people can't see that efforts like these will be the death of hunting and make it 100% a rich man's game, then they obviously see things very differently than me. Again, BECAUSE SOMETHING BENEFITS YOU DOES NOT MAKE IT RIGHT!
Lastly, I'm sorry if the phrase "welfare for the wealthy" is offensive to you. I also agree with you that it is not perfectly accurate. However, it definitely conveys a message that really captures my problem with this whole screwed up system. This is welfare for outfitters and it's an undeserved freebie for those who had the means to use outfitters.
Agreed. And all the other states that this happens in like NM, WY, AK, etc.
"Berglee said he brought the amendment due to a 30% surge in nonresident applications. Nearly 32,000 hunters applied for 17,000 nonresident big game licenses. The uptick has harmed outfitters by creating uncertainty with how many outfitted nonresidents may draw licenses in a particular year. Industry groups said client success in the drawing was down about 40% over prior years."
First, of course client success was down-- there were tons more applications and success was down, regardless of whether you applied through an outfitter or not. However, if more people applied through outfitters but a smaller percentage drew, there very well may be just as many outfitted clients with tags (before giving the freebie tags). Saying "Industry groups said client success in the drawing was down about 40% over prior years" is pretty worthless- show me some data. I can say "client success in the drawing is up 95%" and it may be every bit as accurate as what the "industry groups" said. They gave them 3000 tags based on what a biased group of folks said about the draw, but apparently provided no data? WTF? Of course the truth is he's somehow in bed with the outfitters assoc and this was going to happen one way or another and data be damned- numbers didn't matter.
The percent success rates of their clients dropping is not meaningful if there were more potential clients applying (and there were). Rather than giving them 3000 tags because of what "industry groups said", they should have looked at how many outfitted clients drew in the last draw and how many they drew this time. But in the end, after getting the actual data instead of what "industry groups said", they should have given them absolutely no tags whatsoever. There are tons and tons of ways to help outfitters out without screwing over DIY guys in the process. I would be more than happy to see outfitters (and many other industries that have suffered through this mess) get some federal and state help. But to do it with a slap in the face of DIY hunters is insulting and idiotic IMO. It's also yet another way to chip away at a great American past time.
I don't typically get this fired up over things, but damn I'm sick of DIY hunting getting F'd! MT has made a mockery of it this year and the BS they have tried to push through, and finally successfully pushed through, is shameful.
For the record. The fact that have been an outfitter for 4 decades does not mean I agree with what Montana has done.
In fact, I believe not a single non resident license should be issued until every resident has a license for whatever they want to hunt, based of course on the science
Of course that won’t work, Kansas tried the no non-resident hunting for years until other states reciprocated and decided Kansas residents were not welcome in their states to hunt and fish
The world to me is a very simple thing to understand. Being a black and white pragmatic guy nothing that is going on in Montana is a shock nor unexpected. And yes it is as simple as supply and demand. And with populations rising it does not take a genius to figure out what the future will bring. And my opinion on anything will change nothing.
But I agree strongly with Jingalls , everybody needs to continue the fight and stay involved with organizations that are fighting for our causes!
If you think it won’t effect the DIY resident or nonresident in access and competition.....you are sorely mistaken! This provides outfitters with guarantees to provide the extra income to lease up more land and block more access for the public hunter who doesn’t need or want the hand holding the outfitter provides!
Help me understand how guided hunters bring in more money to the giverment.
The givernment would get more money from DIY hunters IMO, unless there is a service tax paid by guided hunters in MT I am not aware of. Guided hunters buy the same tags DIY hunters do, so no loss of money there. Guided hunters typically don't need to spend money on hotels, gas, food, etc., so this to me would be a loss in tax revenue.
In general, Montanans do not want guaranteed outfitter tags to kill public owned wildlife. That was made very clear 10 years ago. MOGA used the current legislature to go behind the citizen's backs to get their increased guaranteed income. I get the feeling that this will come back to haunt MOGA as they may have poked the bear. I for one sure hope so.
Forgive me for being jaded. I just got done dodging drift boats on the Missouri and hope I never see another guided hunting or fishing trip again. The quality of our hunting and fishing experiences are declining due to overcrowding, and outfitters with rich clients are a big contributing factor. Now we'll have an 18% increase in nonresident tags this year, along with the increase in leased lands, to further degrade the residents' quality of hunting experiences.
SmokedTrout I’m with you that this was a sleezy move by the MOGA to completely disregard what MT voters said loud and clear, we DONT WANT, 10 years ago, and thats outfitter set aside permits!
The nonresident DIY should be pissed too, because the guys that pay for the outfitters will be a year ahead of you, every year, from here on out, when applying for Elk and Deer combos.
Let me explain the $ question you asked. Whether you DIY or go guided, which group spends more money?
Both groups spend money on motels and food. And having done both, I know I have spent more money on guided hunts on those categories. The outfitters that I have been with, have spent big money on lodges that they charge clients for. So just like hotels they pay taxes on those facilities. So no advantage in either group.
What I have observed is that the clients with outfitters have the ability to drop $ in the state. A lot of extra spending goes on in the guided category. I watched a guy blow up his bow on the practice range when he came to the lodge the afternoon before his hunt began. He spent his first day at the local shop buying an all new bow set up. Not that that doesn’t happen with DIY guys.
The “government” that was mostly referring to was the states and DNR’s. If the states can get more money out of one group or the other they will. In this case it’s the guided hunter. If they can get two times the amount for points out of guided hunters they will. And that is what they are planning to do. Again…not fair! But life ain’t fair!
Having been involved in western hunting for only a short period compared to many on this site. This is only my opinion. But guided hunters “WAY” outspend DIY guys. And that’s what the states see too. That’s why they do what they do.
If we all don’t pay close attention we will loose DIY options faster than what is already happening. So make sure your voices are heard in a loud but respectful manner. Shoot straight and have fun this season!
I suppose at the end of the day, NR DIY folks can stop contributing to Montana's coffers every year and just stay local or go to another state. Or....write letters to the state reps and other national organizations that are supposed to be looking out for the folks. How many NR DIY folks out there are members of B&C, P&Y, RMEF, MDF, DU, NRA, etc. Those are your platforms to voice your opinion about this and other issues of importance (like high tag fees).
Another thought is this extra revenue that is supposedly coming could be used to increase payouts to BMA folks to incentivize them to join into and/or keep their places out of leases and open to the public.
It wasn't too long ago there was usually leftover NR BG combo tags left over after the draw. I think that was mostly during the Prez Bamster years when the economy and employment was in the tank. IMO....if the economy continues to slide downward....we might see those leftover tag days again.
Outfitted nonresident hunters buy 350 one-time licenses so far
Tom Kuglin Jun 7, 2021
A one-time allowance for outfitted nonresident hunters to purchase a big game license has seen about 350 purchased in the program’s first few weeks.
House Bill 637 from Joliet Republican Seth Berglee saw a major amendment in the waning days of this year’s Legislature. The amendment offered out-of-state hunters booked with an outfitter prior to April 1, but who had not drawn one of the 17,000 big game licenses offered, to purchase one.
In order to purchase one of the licenses, proof of booking with an outfitter prior to April 1, such as a signed contract, must be provided to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. The agency then makes the license available for purchase.
After the bill’s mid-May signing into law, FWP began notifying the 15,000 nonresidents who were unsuccessful in the draw about the opportunity offered under HB 637, according to spokesman Greg Lemon. So far, 613 have submitted the required documentation with 353 purchased, he said. The cost of licenses is the same as ones obtained through the draw, which is $1,046 for a deer/elk combo.
FWP has been able to accommodate the additional verification and license issuances without additional staff, Lemon said Friday.
“They’ve got until Aug. 30 to take us up on that, so really we don’t know what that final number will be,” he said.
The late amendment to HB 637 was a controversial one. The amendment also changes nonresident preference points to favor those hunting with outfitters over do-it-yourself hunters.
Supporters point to a 30% surge in nonresident applications for this year’s drawing that diluted outfitter client pools and resulted in a dip in bookings. Without relief, some outfitting businesses risked going under. For the long term, outfitters say they need stability in the drawings in order to know year-to-year how many clients will be successful.
Opponents have blasted the changes as coming too late in the session and unfairly favoring those who can afford an outfitter over do-it-yourself hunters. The amendment also goes against a citizen ballot initiative that did away with guaranteed licenses for outfitters, opponents say.
Mac Minard with the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association agreed that it will be difficult to predict how many hunters ultimately purchase licenses. The organization estimated about 3,000 additional licenses would be necessary to make up for the slump in clients' drawings, but he would not be surprised if the number was closer to 1,500.
“The system seems to be working,” he said. “Our commitment to the department is that those criteria in the bill are locked in stone. We haven’t asked for any adjustments or changes, so they have been rejecting some of them.”
The main criteria in question are proof of booking with an outfitter prior to April 1. Not all outfitters, particularly those with a lot of repeat clientele, may formalize bookings by that date, but the parameters of the one-time program are clear, Minard said. For the most part, MOGA members are “ecstatic” about the ability to book more clients this year, which he said will bring a measurable economic benefit to Montana.
Whether the lag of time between the drawing and passage of the bill meant prospective clients already moved on is difficult to say, although response so far has been mostly positive.
“I have not heard that we missed the window, that some (clients) came and went,” Minard said. “Some outfitters sought to fill those open slots and some may not be in a position to take advantage of this, and maybe pushed (clients) to 2022. What I’m hearing is that they’re glad it happened.”
While the one-time outfitted nonresident licenses went into effect this season, the change in preference points does not start until next year.
The cost of preference points will double from $50 to $100. Outfitted nonresidents may purchase an additional preference point to gain an advantage in a future lottery license. Proceeds go to multiple public access and habitat improvement programs. Montana State News Bureau