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THUMB in YOUR EYE!

Wyoming Legislators Attempt To Burn Down Nonresident Hunters!

Some legislators in Wyoming introduced what seemed to be a very controversial bill regarding how Wyoming allocates and prices their big game licenses and tags. Senate bill SF0094 outlined a drastic change in license pricing and allocation for the 2022 hunting season. 

Although this bill did have bipartisan support it was DOA. As a rule of thumb, wildlife bills in Wyoming are not usually expected to be signed by the governor without the approval and recommendation of the Game and Fish Department leadership and Commission. Considering this bill could have created potential financial suicide for an already financially struggling department in a state that is seeing massive budget shortfalls, I think it is fair to say our Governor will not have added insult to injury financially by signing this bill, but it’s a good thing we didn’t have to find out. 

This could however be an ever so slight peek into the direction the state leadership is headed for the future of funding and allocating our wildlife and hunting licenses in the future. If you find yourself somewhat unfamiliar with this bill here is the basic outline of what this could have meant for the future of hunting in Wyoming.

The core of Senate bill SB0094 was to change the nonresident license allocation from roughly 16-25% depending on species to a maximum rate of only 10% of the total available tags for all big game and some trophy game hunts. Although competitive with neighboring states which almost all have a 10% or an up to 10% allocation, this would have had a drastic effect on both draw odds for nonresidents and even more importantly, revenue for the Game and Fish Department, a Department that is 100% funded by hunting and fishing licenses and related fees. 

Two additional “thumbs in the eye” of the nonresident applicants would have been a proposed change that would not allow for any nonresident tags to be available for any hunt garnering ten or less tags in the draw, this includes sheep and moose. This alone would block out nonresident hunters from drawing dozens of the best sheep and moose areas in the state, not to mention nearly all mountain goat tags. This change alone would have taken the total available sheep hunts in Wyoming for nonresident applicants from 16 down to only six available hunt areas. The effects on available moose hunt areas would have been even more drastic.

The last remaining change dealt with an outfitter “set aside” which is obviously a bone thrown to the outfitters of the state to help and compensate them for a giant loss in potential clients due to these changes. This change would have set aside 30% of the nonresident tags for outfitted/guided only hunters. This model is taken right from the pages of New Mexico and Oregon tag allocations which have similar guided set asides. 

To help offset a potential revenue shortfall this bill aimed to increase some of the fees associated with applying for a tag in Wyoming for nonresident applicants by about 13%, which would have increased revenue but not by much. In addition to this change the legislature was proposing a fee increase for many nonresident license fees. These were to include increases to deer (up 48%), elk (up 16%), bighorn sheep (up 29%), Rocky Mountain goat (up 16%), moose (up 26%) and antelope (up 31%). A large increase in cost was also proposed for wild bison. While these price adjustments did seem drastic and extreme, these costs would fall within the realm of reality when compared to other competitive neighboring states. 

The bill summary does state that these changes were to increase total net revenue to the Game and Fish budget of $487,552 in FY’ 2022 and $975,108 in FY’ 2023. I have not taken the time to run these numbers to in fact see if this would be the case but I would have to assume for this to be true, the allocation changes could not have been applied to any general elk or deer license draws. If these changes were only made to the Type-1 and Type-2, limited quota draw tags these numbers could be possible. Interestingly, there was absolutely no mention in this bill of the more expensive “special draw” license costs.

I didn’t think this bill would pass as is. As it stands this bill would have represented a drastic deviation from current allocations and norms with regard to the Wyoming draw system. This bill did however give us a peek into the possible direction the state may in fact be headed when it comes to an ever-failing preference points system. Many of the large application services continue to overwhelm western state draw systems with applicants creating an untenable situation for almost all preference point systems and draw processes region wide. Not to mention the fact that, many legislators are constantly hearing from their constituents, constituents that do vote in state and local elections that they cannot draw a tag in their home state. This continues to put pressure on the Game and Fish Department to allocate more and more hunting opportunities to the residents of their states regardless of the financial repercussions. 

Unfortunately, this problem is not going away any time soon.

About Guy Eastman, Editor-In-Chief

Guy Eastman, Editor-In-Chief
Following in the footsteps of his father, Guy has taken up the reins and is now at the helm of the Eastmans’ Hunting Journal and the Eastmans’ Bowhunting Journal. A fine hunter in his own right, Guy has taken several trophy animals and has become an expert in trophy hunting as well.

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12 comments

  1. Gunna be cashing in my 7 points for elk for 2021. before I get priced out of out of state hunting. Oregon is bad enough with its poor mgmt, Next season is Idaho before they jack that up too.

  2. Where does one begin? As residents of Mn we used to hunt Montana every elk season until they raised their no-res tags to a ridiculous level that made it unaffordable. Now, having hunted Wyoming for 15+ years I see the same things happening there. The attitude of the people in the Big House that tries pushing for these higher and higher fees have no idea how it changes the boots on the ground. They assume that we had XXXXX number of hunters last year and therefore if we raise the fees it will be multiplied by XXXXX but that logic is inherently flawed thinking because many of those XXXXX people will not bother coming back to hunt with the higher fee structures. Non-resident success rate was somewhere from 6-11% the last time that I spoke to WGF about it. Face it…..non residents don’t have the time allotted each year to scouting and learning the countryside, that is why most of us try for the same zones each year because we get to know them intimately from years of non success and hiking! I think my harvest rate is higher than most non residents but I am still way under 50% fill rate. I do a lot of glassing but we also put on a LOT of miles on the boots each hunt. We hunt because it is in our nature and we hunt for the meat to feed our family. I chose to hunt the leftover tags as I am primarily a meat hunter and the leftover cow/calf tags are about the only thing left that I can fund. If legislators have their way the WGF will be broke. Instead of talk of raising the fees and percentages of tags sold to non residents how about trying something that would work like LOWERING the fees? Think about it….if you raise the fees and XXXX out of XXXXX people don’t come back and buy your tags then you are losing even more money. Now if you lower the tags fees maybe you gain XXXX number of applicants/hunters and you just made a lot more income to keep WGF running. I have met and chatted with a number of Game and Fish officers and they are some of the hardest working people that you have in that state(for wildlife)! As long as you are not trying to cheat the system….you will find none more helpful to your success than you local WGF warden! People with a passion for the outdoors and the wildlife entrusted to them. Keep the rich traditions of hunting alive by keeping it affordable for all!

  3. Well makes me wonder what amount of the Pittman Robertson Act funds are going to WY Game n Fish ?
    Not sure why Hunting Organizations and State Game Depts are not pressing Legislative leaders for a similar revised Act?

    Also, nearly every State I apply in for points requires me to buy their Hunt/Fish license even if I don’t intend to hunt there. It sucks but it’s a way to raise funds.

    How about non- resident only areas/units, that would really get residents up in arms! Or resident only draw areas? How about excluding persons from drawing a tag for 2-3 years after they draw except allow drawing leftovers.

    Why not more auction tags, if a guy is willing to pay more they will, duh supply and demand model, that a guaranteed cash cow ! Too much in the box thinking across all States trying to solve the same issues.

  4. I’ve hunted WY for 20+ yrs when I can get a tag and as we all know that is getting harder every yr. The non resident hunter is dumed in WY with higher tag prices and lower draw odds.
    I recently asked Game and Fish if they were going to move the application deadline for elk to keep the application period the same and they responded that would reduce applicants. . The email exchange continued and what they are really after is the interest $ for keeping our money longer but draw odds will also be reduced further if there are more applicants in the extended application period. FRUSTRATING!!!!

  5. Cashing in all points and will start putting my money elsewhere.

  6. I’m old enough I could just sell my Elk rifle and tell all those western states to go screw themselves. I’m glad I’ve hunted 8 yrs with my son. Maybe just start poaching. They don’t seem to do much to those people once they catch them.

  7. It gets tiresome to every non resident when we hear costs increases coming and mostly on the backs of non residents….yep, seems fair! Then, to add insult to injury, they reduce the amount of tags available to non residents…yes that seems real fair! Now, western hunt states are starting to implement that you have to buy a state hunting license first to even apply regardless if it’s even for points….yep, seems fair! Oh, I forgot, lets increase the costs of said bonus/preference points for non residents….yep, that’s fair! A 30% bone toss to outfitters, who charge an outlandish cost with a decrease in NR percentage…certainly seems fair! I have given up hunting in WY back in 2004 when they increase those fees and Montana irked me in 2018. We all live in the United States of America but once we try to hunt as non residents, we are treated as 3rd rate citizens with deep pockets and that the NRs will sustain the states and residents the hardships of paying for their own failing system! Now, I am retired, so it’s going to be even tougher for me to scratch up funds to hunt out west, which, undoubtedly, will be coming down the pike and I will be relegated to hunt less and less western states. The western hunting states future seems bright to me!

  8. Have been on both sides of this fence. In the end, the wildlife belongs to the state and its residents who live there year-round, pay their taxes, support their local economy, infrastructure, vote and live with the wildlife and its impacts –good or bad. So when out-of-staters begin the whine-fest over high fees, I say too bad so sad. If you live for hunting, move where the hunting is. No state –you are not a resident of– owes you a damn thing. This entitlement mentality of “oh, poor me” is for snowflakes. You want to hunt here? Good. Pay for that privilege. And it is, a PRIVILEGE, not a right.

    • True Jake, however your state would
      Miss our non resident $$

    • The only thing is that when you live in a state that only has a population of 577,737 (as of 2018) then you depend on out of state hunters money to fund your wildlife department. I can see where you’re coming from as far as living in the state and the wildlife management belonging to the state, but you’re also talking about federally designated wilderness areas, national parks, and national forests. All of which receive federal funding and protection. If states continue to give NR hunters the middle finger and the majority of the financial burden to fund their state wildlife agencies then the end result could be bad for everyone. In Wyoming a resident deer license is $42 and a non resident pays $374 and a resident elk license is $57 and a non resident is $692. It gets kind of hard to stomach all the residents getting angry any time a NR gripes about the increasing cost and lack of opportunity. Maybe a resident hunter could pay a little more than $57 dollars to hunt elk and a little more than $42 to hunt a mule deer. Those prices seem antiquated to me. I have a wife and two sons, we can’t hardly go eat a nice dinner for what you pay to hunt elk. Depending on which source you trust NR hunters account for somewhere in the neighborhood of 85% of the guiding business and millions of dollars in revenue annually.

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