Montana voters have approved a measure that would abolish the practice of outfitter tags for non-resident hunters.

From this story on KULR8 TV in Billings:
Montana voters approved Initiative 161 changing the way hunters access wildlife. The law will abolish non-resident hunting licenses that have been in place for 18 years. More than 5,500 outfitter-sponsored big game licenses will be replaced with more expensive licenses offered through a lottery system. Montana Outfitters Executive Director Mac Minard said that would ultimately hurt Montana’s economy. “Montana has spoken,” he said. “We believe that the results is not going to be good for tourism and small business in Montana, primarily small business in rural Montana.”

And another perspective on the vote in the Great Falls Tribune:

_When Montanans voted Tuesday to abolish the outfitter set- aside big game licenses, they declared for all to see how seriously they take their hunting privileges. The fact that Initiative 161 passed by about 54 percent, which is no landslide, indicates how torn voters were over the measure. I-161 abolishes 7,800 nonresident outfitter sponsored licenses and puts them into the pool with other nonresident hunting licenses. Now everybody has to draw for those elk and deer tags ˜ it’s not a matter of just writing a check and being certain of getting one.

I find that hunters are a thoughtful bunch and from the comments I heard before the election, not many of them took this vote lightly. Most of us have friends and acquaintances in the outfitting business. In a state that is one big community, you cannot help but know and like people on both sides of the issue. I doubt there are very many who voted for the initiative without agonizing over the impact on those outfitters who guide the flatlanders to successful hunts on public land. Montanans know and appreciate the importance of the businessmen and women who take those less well equipped into the wilderness for a chance at an elk and a deer.

All of us romantics imagine an outfitted hunt deep in the backcountry: In our dreams, we fall out in the morning to a good breakfast; we hunt all day and live the good life in the evening while somebody else does the chores. We shoot the deer and elk of our dreams and then mosey out to the trailhead. Out before us stretches the pack string carrying the manties, binding our success through the wonderful calendar pages of a Montana autumn. This also was not a fight over private property rights, which most Montanans hold dear. This was another chapter in the continuing struggle over commercialization of a public resource. It was a public repudiation of the landowner who locks the gate across a public road and blocks access to public land and public wildlife. It was Montanans turning on the outfitter who leases the hunting rights on thousands of acres of private land, at the same time blocking access to public land and wildlife along the way. They voted against the idea that if you have the money you can buy a shot at an elk without having to take your chances in the draw._

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