Initiative 161 sets a dangerous precedent to decide hunting issues at the ballot box. Montanans are getting farther away from the land and hunting, and next could be making changes in our own resident licenses by the general public in the voting process.
The heart of this initiative is to take away the outfitter sponsored elk and deer licenses. These are not special tag permits that residents have to apply to receive, they are simply a high-priced general Montana elk or deer license that folks who hunt with an outfitter can buy to help support our 9 million acres of block management hunting. Outfitters are not guaranteed hunters, only that if they are able to book a hunter that person will be able to buy a license to hunt in our state.
Outfitters have been regulated for many years by net client hunting use and forest service day and overnight use, and cannot take more hunters without buying an existing business or use days. Nonresident hunters are an important part of tourism that boosts the economy of every small town in Montana.
This is not an access issue; we surely cannot force a private landowner to let someone on their land they do not choose. This is an attempt to destabilize the outfitting industry that contributes so much in jobs and income at so many levels during hard economic times for every Montanan. I live, work, and hunt in Montana and I know the ballot box is not the place to discipline an industry or decide hunting issues. That’s why so many sportsmen’s groups oppose this bill, too. Vote “No” on I-161!