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Join Date: Jan 2011
Location: Western Montana
Re: Montana Draw Deadline
I don't think I-161 is going to help anybody. From our perspective it is a difficult bill to deal with. Other states have land owner tags, outfitter requirements, and OTC areas, we have none of that now. What I have noticed is that our hunters are mostly putting if for party tags due to the draw. I understand that too, guys are subject to the draw and want to hunt with family and friends, so they are party applying. In Montana, a party is assigned one number, if that number is drawn they all are issued a tag, if not none of them are. Well stop and think about where we are as the outfitter. Most of our booked hunts are under party tag, if a couple of those parties don't get drawn, we will lose not just a hunt, but 7-8 hunts! Makes it impossible to budget. Since we offer a full refund for those who don't draw, all of our down money from booked hunts is being held. That money has to sit until the draw is completed and cannot be used for operating cost etc. I cannot order my certified hay, sign hunt contracts with cook/guides, or report my user days to the USFS until I know who is coming, it's a awfully hard to run a business this way. While we are not dependant on down money to cover operating expenses, I know there are outfits who are, and those guys are really in a bind.
The NR hunter who is a DIYer just got a pretty substancial tag increase, so I see little benefit there except for the tag odds are higher. However, the last two years Montana already had leftover tags from the outfitter sponsored tag that didn't sell out, and those left over tags never did sell out. Montana has a growing reputation of having a wolf problem, and while this is mainly isolated to specific areas, we all know perception is reality and reality is perception.
What I think is Montana will come close to selling all the tags this year, but fall short. With surging gas prices, a slumping economy, percieved wolf issues and increased tag fees, we are not a viable option for alot of people. As an outfitter my competitors are national, is is the market we are in. When we set prices we do so being competitive on the national market. I understand its farther to drive to Montana, and we set our rates thinking about the "total cost" of a hunt. If the total cost is comparable to say Colorado, then many folks will head our way for bigger bulls and considerably less hunting pressure.
At the end of the day I don't see how I-161 benefits anybody. Outfitted clients typically generate about 4.5x the amount of revenue for the local economy as the DIYer. Outfitting is the second largest industry in Montana, and the voters basically attacked the industry. Montana is typically near the bottom in per capita income, we cannot afford to attack any industry anymore.