In Montana, I recently received a press release from this state on their variable-priced deer combination licenses. It justifies my warning of several years ago that this program was a sham and was simply a way to yet again shaft non-residents who use the services of Montana outfitters. If you will remember, back in 1995 the Montana Legislature approved a law that set a goal of selling an average of 2,300 "guaranteed" outfitter-sponsored deer combination licenses annually over a five-year period. That same law authorized Game and Fish to set prices as it saw fit to manipulate market demand to meet that goal. Due to the historically high demand for these licenses, I predicted that it was only a matter of time before prices soared. You will also remember that I felt this was the real goal, since the number of applicants prior to 1995 always exceeded 2,300. The recent press release indicates the price for the non-resident license in 1998 is $720 as compared to $515 only two years earlier. It also indicates that only 1,994 licenses were sold as of this year's March deadline. That's 36 percent fewer than the 3,114 licenses sold that first year. I can only imagine that Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park Director, Patrick Graham, is really miffed because of that state's disastrous deer die-off in the last few years. If that hadn't occurred, the department could have really stuck it to the non-resident!
As it was, Graham does say in the press release that he believes his department "...can limit non-resident license sales through pricing of these guaranteed licenses." He goes on to note that "...there will be fewer deer hunters hunting with outfitters this year than there have been for quite awhile." I'm not sure whether or not this was a boast to gather support from residents, but this sort of attitude really bothers me. Sounds to me like the Director has a real lack of respect for the people who provide most of the funds for his department - namely, non-residents. And I am of the opinion that the director should simply wake up! If........(continued)