Well, the on-going strategy of gouging nonresidents in this state appears finally to be backfiring. At this writing, it seems that there are nearly 400 guaranteed licenses still left in each of the outfitter pools for elk and deer! If this situation holds after they have finished processing all the applications, this will be the first time that Montana hasn't sold all the allocations since 1995. Although it looks like the 11,500 nonresident general licenses may eventually be sold, it will be due to the applications that came in at the last moment. Remember, valid applications only needed to be postmarked by March 15, so they were still counting them when I wrote this column in mid-April. Still, it should be a wake up call for the Montana Commission and their pricing council. Nonresidents have reached their threshold of pain and are now willing to bypass hunting in Montana rather than pay these exorbitant prices.
As I mentioned in my December column, my fear isn't for the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park's budget, but instead I am worried about the long-term viability of the outfitter industry in this state. They are slowly being pushed out of business, partially by extreme fees charged by the very governmental agency that is supposed to represent all hunters. Recent discussions with a number of outfitters in this state indicate that more than a handful of their peers are on the verge of "throwing in the towel." That would be a loss for all hunters, but especially for nonresidents who rely strongly on their services to hunt Montana.