If you've ever put in for a coveted tag, you’re used to horrible draw odds. But you still throw your name in the hat. Why? Because you still have a chance.
This year, Montana Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) has taken the statewide mule deer tag, which has been auctioned off to the single highest bidder in the past, and opted to try and raise similar funds for Montana mule deer through a raffle. Why? So everyone feels like they at least had a chance at an awesome tag.
In order for this experiment on behalf of the average hunter on a budget to work, we need you, to spend a couple of bucks on raffle tickets. Read Jake Schwaller's article below for more information, or just click here for a chance at a killer western mule deer adventure.
The opportunity to hunt shouldn’t just be for the wealthy.
At least, that’s how Montana BHA feels about it, and that’s what the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation says, too.
Montana currently offers five highly prized statewide tags: bighorn sheep, elk, mountain goat, mule deer, and Shiras moose. They’re valid for any open season, any weapon (archery, rifle, and muzzleloader), and anywhere in the state, including limited-entry districts.
Since Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) can’t legally host auctions for opportunities to hunt publicly held wildlife, they administer these opportunities through conservation organizations. These organizations use the tag to fill seats at annual banquets, where the tags go to the highest single bidder.
Even for people who despise wildlife going to the wealthy, we can’t argue that the funds raised are substantial and are earmarked specifically for the benefit of that species. Whereas license revenues—the primary funding source for FWP—can be used for any number of items FWP-related, including ink cartridges and printer paper. Super Tag program revenue—another set of statewide tags that are raffled—is used for enforcement and hunting access. In other words, regular revenue from deer licenses or even the mule deer Super Tag doesn’t need to be used to benefit mule deer. But the money from this statewide mule deer tag does.
Any money raised from the sale of the statewide mule deer tag must, by law, be used for the “substantial benefit” of mule deer and must be in addition to current funding. Previous tag funds have been used on things like disease research and mitigation, targeted land acquisitions, conservation easements, and more.
From a conservation funding standpoint, the idea of the statewide tags isn’t a bad one, but Montana BHA wants to try a more equitable way to raise this money—a way that is inclusive of the average hunter—not exclusively for the super-rich. For example, in 2021, Montana’s statewide sheep tag went to the former Sultan of Malaysia, Muhammad V, for $440,000 dollars. Not many hunters can play that game.
Which is why Montana’s Fish and Wildlife Commission agreed to allow Montana BHA to raffle this year's mule deer tag. When there’s a unique and highly coveted chance to hunt our public wildlife, we should all be able to throw our name in the hat.
We encourage you to buy a raffle ticket—not just for the chance to win, but to send a message that wildlife is owned by the public, and the opportunities to hunt them—even the most premier ones—should be available to anyone.
Click here to learn more and get your name in the hat. The deadline to purchase entries is April 30, 2024.
Let’s raise a pile of money for mule deer conservation, and let’s give these opportunities back to the people.
Article via Jake Schwaller, a native Montanan who lives in Billings and spends much of his free time chasing turkeys, antelope, and mule deer on public lands across the state. He’s a board member for the Montana Chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers.
Feature image via Tony Bynum.