A voter-approved price increase for some Montana nonresident hunting licenses is being blamed for about 1,200 big game combination licenses remaining for sale after the March 15 application deadline.
Yet 7,500 nonresidents applied for licenses to hunt deer. Only 4,600 such licenses are available.
“Obviously the price is an issue,” said Ron Aasheim, Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ bureau chief. “Last year we had about 8,000 people who didn’t draw. This year we’re under by about 1,200.”
About 15,800 nonresidents applied for the 17,000 big game or elk combination licenses for the upcoming season. That means that every hunter who applied for either the $912 nonresident big game combination license, or the $812 elk combo license will receive one. Last year, more than 19,000 nonresidents applied for similar tags.
The remaining 1,200 nonresident big game combination licenses will be sold online only on a first-come, first-serve basis beginning April 18. The big-game combo includes licenses to hunt elk, deer and upland game birds and a season fishing license. The elk combo includes all of the same licenses except for deer.
“We’re confident that we’ll sell out again this year,” said Hank Worsech, license bureau chief for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, in a statement. “People are already sending in applications trying to get a jump on things, but in the interest of fairness, we’ll return them and ask those folks to reapply because they essentially missed the original deadline.”
Meanwhile, more than 7,550 nonresidents applied for 4,600 combination deer licenses, which also saw a bump in price to $542 for the upcoming season. Because only 4,600 deer combo licenses are available by Montana law, those licenses will be awarded via a drawing on April 11. Last year, more than 11,500 nonresidents applied for the same license.
Last November, voters approved an initiative that moved 7,800 outfitter-sponsored big game and deer combination licenses to the general nonresident license category and increased the associated license fees. The fee increases bumped the nonresident big-game combination license fee from $643 up to $912; a nonresident deer combination license fee rose from $343 to $542; and a nonresident elk combination license fee went from $593 to $812.
The outfitter-sponsored licenses had not sold out in the previous two years by the deadline, either, Aasheim said, although most were sold prior to the season beginning.
Nonresident hunters who wish to apply for one of the remaining big game combo or elk licenses must apply via the FWP website at fwp.mt.gov beginning April 18.
The revenue generated by the increased license fees is earmarked for wildlife habitat conservation and public hunting access programs.
The fee increases only apply to nonresident combination licenses. Other nonresident licenses are not affected.