In 2010, Montana voters decided to eliminate outfitter set-aside licenses, but the issue has resurfaced again at the Montana legislature with Sen. Bill 143.
On Wednesday, Senators heard debate on the bill, which was introduced by State Sen. Jason Ellsworth of Hamilton. The senator has said in various media reports that his bill would increase the total number of tags by 10 percent overall, but would also guarantee 60 percent of all non-resident deer and elk tags to hunters sponsored by an outfitter. The bill has caught the attention of many in the hunting community, who fear the measure will lead to reduced unpaid private hunting opportunities, along with reduced access to Block Management acres, by incentivizing outfitters to lease more land. Landowners, meanwhile, would also be able to sell landowner tags, which those opposing the bill say will ultimately lead to increased crowding on public lands. Proponents of the bill, however, say the downsides of the bill are being exaggerated, and that the bill will help fix frustrating, systemic problems in what is a major tourism sector for the state. Harmon Wagner, Baineville, is among outfitters in eastern Montana who support the bill, and who say that it is not what it’s being made out to be by some hunting organizations. “How many businesses can run a business on the lottery?” he asked the Sidney Herald. “How many can be successful?” [full article]