Wyoming lawmakers have proposed reducing the number of tags for bighorn sheep hunting to nonresidents and have received opposition.
Nonresidents looking to go bighorn sheep hunting in the Equality State may have have even less of a chance at drawing a tag if a proposal pending in the Wyoming Legislature is approved.
The bighorn sheep hunting tags are notoriously difficult to claim, and are sold for thousands of dollars when auctioned off to raise money, but proposed bill called Senate File 69 could change that.
Larry Hicks, the bill sponsor, wants to bring the number of tags issued for bighorn sheep hunting and other species to similar levels already set in neighboring states.
Hicks told reporters,
It just establishes parity between what we would do in Wyoming if the legislation passed and every other state that has moose, bighorn, mountain goat and bison permits. Right now, Wyoming issues, as a percentage of the permits, more of those permits to nonresidents than any other state in the nation. Period.
The Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association is opposed to the bill and claim that this proposed legislation will financially hurt the tourist industry. Since the law requires hunters to be accompanied by a guide on these hunts, the outfitters stand to lose thousands of dollars per hunt.
Hicks spoke to this aversion to his bill, telling reporters, "These tend to be once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. Most residents are only going to get one chance to do this in their life, especially when it comes to things like bison and mountain goats and bighorn sheep. So it's not an anti-outfitter bill; it's not an anti-local business bill. It's to establish parity for the people of Wyoming for some of the most coveted hunting opportunities that this state can afford."
He went on to say that if other states offered a higher percentage of their tags to nonresidents, he would be inclined to mimic their practices. Hicks cited that Montana and Idaho offer 10 percent of their tags to non-residents, and New Mexico only reserves six percent of its tags for nonresidents. According to Hicks, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department stands to lose about $170,000 in lost revenue under this bill.
Bob Wharff is the executive director of Wyoming Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, a lobbying group concerned with wildlife issues, and says his organization has plans to support the bill.
Wharff told reporters, "The resident hunters here, I think they're tired of giving such a high percentage of quality opportunity to nonresidents. And if some of the nonresidents may not like that, I guess all I can say is if they want to advocate for their states to give up 25 percent of their sheep licenses, then maybe Wyoming would reconsider its position."
Wyoming Outfitters and Guides Association's secretary and treasurer, Sy Gilliland, says his group will lobby against the bill, citing that nonresidents spend anywhere from 150-200 million in Wyoming during the hunting season.
Gilliland spoke of Hicks' actions saying, "What Senator Hicks is asking us to do is to walk back on the promise we made to these nonresidents 20 years ago when they started investing heavily into our way of issuing licenses."
Currently 25 percent of tags are set aside for nonresidents to hunt bighorn sheep and mountain goats, and 20 percent for moose hunting. Hicks' bill will bring the percentage down to 10 percent for all three animals.