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New base hunting license highlights FWP fee changes

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Montana State University students

Mikel Newberg, left, and Ryan Kasson, center, along with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologist Jenny Sika, age a mule deer harvested near Helena. All deer and elk that come through the Silver City check station are aged, with teeth collected from browtined bull elk from Hunting District 339, which is a special draw area.

When resident and nonresident hunters and anglers in Montana purchase new licenses for the upcoming season, they will see several changes to fees including a new base hunting license, expanded ages for youth hunters and increases in costs for fishing licenses.

The new fee structures came through the last legislative session in House Bill 140, passing both chambers by wide margins to generate an additional $4.5 million for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. The department originally asked for changes generating $5.7 million, but senate amendments either cut or redirected about $900,000.

The fee changes drew support from a majority of conservation and sportsmen groups concerned about FWP budget shortfalls and program cuts. With the new structures in place, the department anticipates it will remain in the black until 2021 while it settles into a new four-year funding cycle, replacing a 10-year cycle, said FWP administrator Ron Aasheim.

The new base hunting license costs $10 and is required before purchasing any other hunting licenses, however, it includes the existing $2 hunting access enhancement fee. The new license was created rather than raising fees for current species licenses, according to FWP.

The new base license comes as an addition to the conservation license, which will continue to be $8. The conservation license is required for purchase of a fishing license.

Fees for over-the-counter licenses such as those for elk, deer and bear will not increase, although the base license is not included in the sportsman license, Aasheim said.

A resident fishing license will increase from $18 to $21, and fishing licenses will no longer be sold in combination with a conservation license.

Youth hunters who receive discounts will now be defined as between 12 and 18 years old, rather than the old model of 12 to 15. For example, a 12- to 17-year-old can purchase a resident deer license for $8 while those from 18 to 61 years old pay $16. Senior hunters 62 and older return to paying $8.

Seniors who hunt multiple species can actually save money under the new fee structure. Although they no longer receive a free upland bird license they will save a couple of dollars on deer and elk licenses. A senior sportsmen without bear will go down from $55 to $35, plus the $10 base license.

The fees are set based on a new policy under HB140 putting virtually all discounted licenses at 50 percent of full price, with the exception of free military recognition licenses and block management appreciation licenses.

Nonresident hunters will see some fee changes as well.

A seasonlong fishing license will go from $60 to $86. A 10-day license goes from $43.50 to $56.

A nonresident base hunting license is $15 and a prerequisite for all other hunting licenses.

A $30 upland bird license will rise to $55.

The special-draw species of big horn sheep, mountain goat, moose and bison will all increase from $750 to $1,250.

The biggest savings will come for nonresidents who qualify for family-sponsored licenses. A family sponsored big game combination drops from $981 to $490.50, while the deer combo dropped from $577 to $288.50.

Nonresident college students will see the biggest increase with the 50 percent discount standardization. Under last year’s fees, students qualified for a $70 big game combo. They will now have to pay half of full price at $490.50.

Licenses will go on sale Feb. 1. The new license year begins March 1.

Reporter Tom Kuglin can be reached at 447-4076 or


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State Reporter/Outdoors Reporter

Tom Kuglin is the deputy editor for the Lee Newspapers State Bureau. His coverage focuses on outdoors, recreation and natural resources.

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