Senate Bill 143 was drafted in an effort to reserve a large percentage of nonresident hunting licenses to outfitters. This received a large amount of blowback from the public and has since been scratched from SB 143. SB is still alive though with the last remaining part still up for consideration.
The verbage states that 40% of the deer and elk combination licenses will be offered up in an early offering with an application period from December 1 – 31. The application fee is $300 and if you apply as a party it is still $300 per person. The bill instructs that the application fee will be used by the department to secure and maintain wildlife habitat. You still have the license fee on top of the application fee.
Here’s the catch. For your application to be valid, you must have a resident sponsor you. You must include an affirmation by the applicant that the applicant intends to hunt with a resident sponsor on land owned by that sponsor. In addition the resident sponsor must produce a certificate that states that they will direct the applicants hunting and advise the applicant of the game and trespass laws of the state. They also must then submit complete records of who hunted with the resident sponsor, where they hunted, and what game was taken. They also must affirm that the sponsor is indeed a landowner and the applicant under the certificate will only hunt on land owned by them. The resident sponsor may not accept monetary compensation or enabling the nonresident applicant to obtain a license.
The department shall issue a license to one applicant sponsored by each resident landowner who owns 640 or more contiguous acres. If there are enough licenses to go around the landowner can sponsor up to 15 individuals. If there aren’t enough licenses to go around, the department shall conduct a drawing.
If you are successful in this drawing, you are only able to hunt deer on deeded land of your sponsoring landowner. If you apply for an elk permit with this drawing and are unsuccessful in the permit application, you will have the choice to keep the elk or deer combination if you are successful in that draw.
If the drawing does take place and you are unsuccessful, you will automatically be applied in the general drawing in April.
I don’t really see this bill as very complete and see a logistical nightmare for FWP to deal with this type of application process let alone enforcing the rules and making sure hunters stay on their sponsor’s deeded land. I do see the intent of what they are wanting to do here with Senate Bill 143 which was to give Outfitters the tags they need for clients and to limit the amount of people hunting on public land.
I personally have worked and hunted with many outfitters and clients over the last 10 years and also have hunted public land in Montana since 1998. Ultimately, I have never seen an Outfitter that has struggled to get hunters with licenses in general areas. There seems to be overbookings if anything and if someone doesn’t draw the general combination license, it’s not hard to find someone that does have the license in their pocket and is ready to hunt.