A week after Montanans approved a constitutional initiative to get rid of outfitter-sponsored hunting licenses, newly elected Rep. Bill Harris, R-Mosby, has requested the drafting of a bill to rescind the measure.
“You could start with the word 'liberty,'” said Harris in response to why he requested the bill. “Here's a movement I believe is financed and sponsored by out-of-state interests and misrepresented to the point that people really don't know what they're voting for. The motives aren't represented truthfully.”
According to documents filed with the state political practices commissioner, most of the funding behind the initiative was from sponsor Kurt Kephart, of Billings, with smaller contributions from Montanans. Kephart had told The Gazette that he took out a second mortgage on his home to push the initiative.
Opponents to the measure included the National Rifle Association and Safari Club International, along with the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association and the Chamber of Commerce.
Harris, 61, has an interest in the initiative. He is the owner of Fort Musselshell Outfitters, a deer and elk hunting business he has run for more than 30 years in the southern Missouri River Breaks. Most of his hunts are conducted on his own cattle ranch, he said. Harris estimated that 80 to 90 percent of his clients are from out of state and 50 percent of his business is based on return clients. So the passage of I-161 would directly affect his business, although he downplayed the effect, saying it would make it “more cumbersome” for him to find clients.
The measure passed with 54 percent of the more than 348,000 voters supporting the initiative.
Harris said his bill would rescind the measure to allow for a more thorough debate.
“It seems to me like the debate wasn't nearly enough,” Harris said. “They don't understand how it affects private enterprise or the law.”
The passage of I-161 means the state will no longer set aside 5,500 nonresident big game and deer licenses for outfitters' clients. Instead, all of the nonresident licenses will be awarded in a lottery.
Contact Brett French, Gazette Outdoors editor, at email@example.com or at 657-1387.