MT Licensing System - Burn it down? How to Improve it?

Big Fin

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In response to all the recent comments about the MT draw system, I’m putting this in the Montana specific forum, hoping folks who have ideas for their state will do the same.

A few things we know for sure:

- Montana’s licensing system is a dilapidated and outdated system from the 1970s.

- Montana FWP has shown struggles in administering this system, many years having drawing problems that results in more tags being issued.

- Montana has become the “handout” state when it comes to way to circumvent the statutory 17,000/4,600 elk/deer tag limit most refer to.

- “Institutional Inertia” prevents the Department from making necessary changes or advocating to the legislature the benefits of change.

- Huge risk comes with asking the Legislature to tweak or change anything.


With that, I’m, interested in ideas that would help Montana get into the current millennium as it relates to licensing systems. I’ll throw out ideas that have been bouncing in my mind for a long time, some of which I have shared with the Director and Commissioners over the last six months.

Since I know I’d be lucky to convince anyone of major reform, here are small tweaks I would make:
1. Conduct the Landowner Draw as the first part of the process. Any non-resident LE tags awarded in this draw apply toward the 10% NR quota limit and come out of the 17,000/4,600 combo tag allocation. (I have some pretty strong feelings about what a terrible deal we are getting from these tags, but that is for a different discussion).​
2. After the Landowner Draw, do the Limited Entry draw. That eliminates this crazy hurdle that NRs must draw a General Combo license in order to be in the LE draw. And it eliminates the “released” combo tags when NRs return their general license when not drawn in the LE draw. If a non-resident draws an LE tag, it comes out of the 17,000/4,600. After all the NRs that drew LE tags are awarded their combo tag, do a draw for the remaining NR General licenses.​
3. Decouple the deer portion of the Elk/Deer combo tags. If people want a deer tag, apply for that, also. The give away of deer tags as part of a combo is a relic of the 70's and Montana is the only state still doing it. Maybe it would require increasing the NR deer tags some, but let's stop the "add-on" discount for a commodity that is getting hammered.​
4. With regard to the Come Home To Hunt, the Montana Native, or the College Student programs that let NRs get tags without being in the General NR draw, I would eliminate all of those programs. If that was not palatable, then those tags need to come out of the 17,000/4,600 that is always pitched to us a hard cap on NR tags.​
5. Eliminate the 454 Program and the abuse that program has demonstrated to foster.​
6. Require anyone buying a General Tag for deer or elk, whether resident or non-resident, to pick their unit. If that is too restrictive, then at least force them to pick their Region. Whatever area you pick, that is your hunt for the year, for all weapons/seasons.​
7. Eliminate the Preference Point system for NR combo tags and make it a bonus point system. Convert PP to BPs and put no cap on how many BPs someone can accumulate, at the rate of one per year without any BS that outfitted clients can accumulate more than one BP per year.​
8. If #7 above can't be done, allow the remaining 25% of NR combo tags not issued to highest point holders to be allocated in a draw to all who did not draw in the 75% portion of the draw. Starting at the bottom of the PP pile for this 25% pool of the tags makes no sense; it makes 1-point holders have lower draw odds than 0-point holders. The current manner was not the intent when it was discussed in the legislature.​
9. Get rid of the Landowner Sponsored NR Deer Tag. Add that to the NR General Deer pool.​

Those are some ideas for changing the basic season structures. I am sure I failed to consider some complications in my short scribble above. I reserve the right to change my mind on any of those when presented with better ideas and additional perspective ;).

I have heard a lot of ideas when it comes to season types and season dates. Rather than post my ideas, I would be more inclined to let the people in those Regions set the season types/dates they want for their local area. I remember going to Region 7 in 1997 and meeting with the Big Game Manager at the time. Our hope was to get mule deer doe tags cut after the terrible winter of 1996-97. They tweaked doe tags a bit, but one message was loud and clear from the Department and Commission – The Region 7 folks didn’t want Region 3 hunters sticking their nose in Region 7 affairs. OK, I get it. I’d support what hunters in the other Regions would come up with, assuming what those FWP Regions propose actually reflects local hunter input.

This thread is not about season dates/types, rather the foundational structure of our licensing system; one of the most ancient in all the west. If someone wants to start a thread about season lengths/dates/types, please do that. I’m sure it will get a ton of input.

And if you want to do the same for your state, please do that, also.

So, what improvement ideas do we have?
 

mtmuley

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I'm not familiar with all if the NR regulations, but I think number 6 is a great idea. Mist hunters will balk, so pick a region might work best to start. Not really a draw issue but just a complaint here but eliminate the party apps for LE deer and elk permits. mtmuley
 

JLS

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I agree with most everything, with one exception. I would break the deer and elk tags up into zones, or districts, just like a antelope. Conduct the drawings in their entirety with applications for specific areas. Landowner first and pull those from the quota, and then everyone else.
 

ccc23454

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There are a ton of lessons to learn from other states if Montana is willing to listen! Keep up the fight but this process needs to start with a leadership change, cant allow the mess hes created to go unchecked because part of the problem is culture in FWP.
 

huntin24/7

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I agree with basically all of this. Probably the only change that I can think of is eliminating all non resident landowner permits/tags and requiring any non resident to apply in the same draw. I have no problem with a % of resident landowner permits and tags.
 

8andcounting

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I agree with all but 4 & 9 . 3 of the tags in our group this year are of #9 variety
 

Trap

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Good ideas for the most part. I don’t agree with getting rid of the 25 percent pool or the pp. Switching to pure bonus points would create the point creep everyone complains about in every other state. Montana is the only state ,I know , that gives you the choice of playing the points game and being assured a tag at some point or just going into a pure random draw. I hear complaints all the time the point systems need to be done away with. Why take away that option and get into point creep just for general tags? It’s better to have choices and not be forced to buy points. I also like that pp are capped at 3. Montana is actually avoiding point creep for general tags and point creep is the number 1 gripe I hear about.
I also like the big game draw before le and people paying to play with only an 80 percent refund. Again if there was no cost to only applying in le point creep would come in bigger and faster. If you only want to hunt trophy units in Montana you should pay extra if only to limit the “apply for everything “ mentality and the resulting point creep.
I feel Montana took the right approach with come home to hunt and native non residents. I am eligible but my son is not so I pay extra to apply as a party with him in the regular draw. It’s our favorite hunt together and I wouldn’t go without him. In the big industry hunting has become this is an effort to keep families hunting together. Tag services and sm influencers have hunters from all 50 states trying to cram into just a few western states. That’s why western draw systems are broke. No state was designed to host every hunter in the country. It’s broken up family hunting traditions for someone trying to get their next “ grip and grin” post. It’s funny how pissed someone who just moved to Montana gets when the state allows a long time resident who moved away buy a guaranteed tag.
Parts of my family go back 4 generations in Montana but the guy who just moved to Montana thinks it’s wrong I can buy a guaranteed tag for way more than a resident tag. Maybe the new resident is right ? but it just seems odd to me. I think it’s a good effort to maintain what a lot of us still value most about hunting. Time in the woods with family. Traditions and long time hunting camps.
I like landowner deer tags because that’s what my son and I will be using in the future 😂 nowadays with draw odds going way down. You helped me apply for my first one a long time ago 😎
I like all of your other ideas and have nothing original lol.
Thanks for starting this thread
 

runningmt

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I do like the move FWP made by requiring a first and only choice for some hunting districts in the special draw, I would like to see this expanded to more units that are currently general. This would likely affect the resident such as myself more than a NR, but I think FWP should get ahead of the curve on this.

Also in support of all 9 above
 

bigsky2

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Good ideas for the most part. I don’t agree with getting rid of the 25 percent pool or the pp. Switching to pure bonus points would create the point creep everyone complains about in every other state. Montana is the only state ,I know , that gives you the choice of playing the points game and being assured a tag at some point or just going into a pure random draw. I hear complaints all the time the point systems need to be done away with. Why take away that option and get into point creep just for general tags? It’s better to have choices and not be forced to buy points. I also like that pp are capped at 3. Montana is actually avoiding point creep for general tags and point creep is the number 1 gripe I hear about.
I also like the big game draw before le and people paying to play with only an 80 percent refund. Again if there was no cost to only applying in le point creep would come in bigger and faster. If you only want to hunt trophy units in Montana you should pay extra if only to limit the “apply for everything “ mentality and the resulting point creep.
I feel Montana took the right approach with come home to hunt and native non residents. I am eligible but my son is not so I pay extra to apply as a party with him in the regular draw. It’s our favorite hunt together and I wouldn’t go without him. In the big industry hunting has become this is an effort to keep families hunting together. Tag services and sm influencers have hunters from all 50 states trying to cram into just a few western states. That’s why western draw systems are broke. No state was designed to host every hunter in the country. It’s broken up family hunting traditions for someone trying to get their next “ grip and grin” post. It’s funny how pissed someone who just moved to Montana gets when the state allows a long time resident who moved away buy a guaranteed tag.
Parts of my family go back 4 generations in Montana but the guy who just moved to Montana thinks it’s wrong I can buy a guaranteed tag for way more than a resident tag. Maybe the new resident is right ? but it just seems odd to me. I think it’s a good effort to maintain what a lot of us still value most about hunting. Time in the woods with family. Traditions and long time hunting camps.
I like landowner deer tags because that’s what my son and I will be using in the future 😂 nowadays with draw odds going way down. You helped me apply for my first one a long time ago 😎
I like all of your other ideas and have nothing original lol.
Thanks for starting this thread
I think you’ve got bonus points and preference points mixed up. Preference points create point creep, bonus points don’t.
 

Trap

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I think you’ve got bonus points and preference points mixed up. Preference points create point creep, bonus points don’t.
I know preference points are preference to the highest points holder. If you get rid of the choice for the zero po points pool you have no option to not participate in preference points. Right now you actually have a choice and that choice has been actually better odds. Currently pp are limited to 3 in Montana which further reduces point creep. Sure with bonus points “there’s always a chance” but I don’t really call my goat odds of .03 percent a chance that’s point creep in bonus points. When you need 20 -30 bonus points for a 5 percent or less chance of drawing I call it point creep. What is the correct term?
 

Big Fin

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I’m a Come Home to Hunt beneficiary, and I agree with all 9 points, @Big Fin
Your changes would be so much better for so many reasons!
My son could take advantage of that program, also. I voiced my opposition to those programs when proposed by the legislature, and that was when Montana was barely gaining in population. Now that we are growing rapidly and we are faced with having to protect a resource by taking pressure off that resource, my preference slants toward those who stay in Montana and contribute to the efforts in the state. I wish there was enough game in Montana for everyone, no matter where they live, but that's just not the case.
 

wpbx2

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I am a resident and fundamentally, they need to do something to address increased hunting pressure. I would be ok with unit specific licenses. I would also be ok with pick your season. Non-residents should definitely go to unit specific and I would cap them at the lesser of (10% of quota for LE) and (10% of resident hunters in that unit in previous year for non LE), with all types of licenses and permits counting against quota (landowner, come home, student, B tags, etc). I know people tend to talk about non-residents as a small number, but in units with significant public land they represent 35-40% of the harvest (look at 410 deer). Their pressure is also concentrated during peak weeks. Last year in the week before Thanksgiving, I counted plates and they were 75% non-resident.

I like the idea of first and only choice, but it needs to be interpreted as only available as a first choice in the draw. F&G is interpreting it as leftovers will go into surplus process, so I don't understand what that is accomplishing vs letting people draw as 2nd or 3rd choice. It is actually a lot worse because non-resident cap doesn't apply to surplus tags and residents are given no preference.
 

Trap

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I’m a Come Home to Hunt beneficiary, and I agree with all 9 points, @Big Fin
Your changes would be so much better for so many reasons!
My son could take advantage of that program, also. I voiced my opposition to those programs when proposed by the legislature, and that was when Montana was barely gaining in population. Now that we are growing rapidly and we are faced with having to protect a resource by taking pressure off that resource, my preference slants toward those who stay in Montana and contribute to the efforts in the state. I wish there was enough game in Montana for everyone, no matter where they live, but that's just not the case.
I could take advantage as well but I don’t. I hunt with my son who was born and raised in Idaho so I pay the higher cost to apply together. It’s a hunt we do together and I don’t want to go without him so I pay full boat and deal with the odds. I still agree with the reasons for having them mainly allowing families to keep hunting traditions alive. Come home to hunt is 500 tags that always have hundreds of leftovers. A few hundred tags for nr is the problem? Or is it the over commercialization of western hunting? Was any western state system set up to have hunters from across the nation applying in just one state? I don’t know somehow I don’t think a few hundred guaranteed nr tags is the problem. Take them out of the total cap if 200 extra tags are creating management problems. I see value in annual family hunting camps. I am eligible but don’t participate in come home to hunt for that exact reason.
 

Trap

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I am a resident and fundamentally, they need to do something to address increased hunting pressure. I would be ok with unit specific licenses. I would also be ok with pick your season. Non-residents should definitely go to unit specific and I would cap them at the lesser of (10% of quota for LE) and (10% of resident hunters in that unit in previous year for non LE), with all types of licenses and permits counting against quota (landowner, come home, student, B tags, etc). I know people tend to talk about non-residents as a small number, but in units with significant public land they represent 35-40% of the harvest (look at 410 deer). Their pressure is also concentrated during peak weeks. Last year in the week before Thanksgiving, I counted plates and they were 75% non-resident.

I like the idea of first and only choice, but it needs to be interpreted as only available as a first choice in the draw. F&G is interpreting it as leftovers will go into surplus process, so I don't understand what that is accomplishing vs letting people draw as 2nd or 3rd choice. It is actually a lot worse because non-resident cap doesn't apply to surplus tags and residents are given no preference.
Unit specific nr tags is a good idea I think. I can’t imagine the confusion lol they get thousands of calls just on preference vs bonus points. Idaho did that last year and it really helped some areas out. Made no difference where I live because our main issue is new resident hunters locally. It Helped a lot in the more remote hunting units of Idaho 👍
 

JLS

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Unit specific nr tags is a good idea I think. I can’t imagine the confusion lol they get thousands of calls just on preference vs bonus points. Idaho did that last year and it really helped some areas out. Made no difference where I live because our main issue is new resident hunters locally. It Helped a lot in the more remote hunting units of Idaho 👍
I’d love to see Idaho go to a full drawing for all NR elk zones.
 
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