Addressing Wyoming’s Hunting License changes
The SNS office has been receiving calls and emails from interested hunters that have been hearing rumors about changes being made to how the Wyoming Game & Fish manages licenses sales for non resident hunters. SNS Outfitter, Sy Gilliland, has been actively involved in shaping legislation pertaining to these issues. As an appointed member of the Wildlife Task Force, he has the inside scoop. So, rather than trying to explain these issues one call at a time, we thought it best to sit down with Sy and hear it directly from him to help set the record straight. Please enjoy our conversation in either the video or the text to follow. Should you find yourself with any unanswered questions, please contact our office at 307-266-4229 or email email@example.com Thank you for your interest in this important topic.
Question: I wanted to begin with the possible changes to how Wyoming conducts its license draws in relation to preference points. Can you explain what exactly is going on in regards to preference points in the state of Wyoming?
Wyoming offers non resident hunters the opportunity to buy one preference point per year. The species the WGFD offers points to be bought are Bighorn Sheep, Moose, Elk, Deer and Antelope. Each point sells for a different amount and these amounts are set by the WGFD Commission and the ceiling price is set by the state legislature. The demand to buy these points have been very high and amounts to over twenty-three million dollars each year to the WGFD budget. Wyoming’s Wildlife Task Force (WWTF) studied the issue of preference points in relation to the Bighorn Sheep and Moose draws. During the process, this issue was dissected, vetted and thousands of public comments were reviewed. It became obvious the current system in relation to sheep and moose is broken.
The WWTF put forth to the Wyoming Legislature to change from a preference point system to a weighted bonus point system. The bill that was drafted and put forth to the legislature only affected Bighorn Sheep and Moose.The task force never considered any changes to the preference point system in regards to Elk, Deer and Antelope. This bill was defeated by the state legislature but will likely come back in a future legislative session. At this time no changes to any of Wyoming’s preference point systems for residents or non residents have changed.
Question: Another topic we are receiving plenty of questions about is non resident license fees. Could you clarify how Wyoming’s license system for Elk, Deer and Antelope works and if you would give us some insight on the history of this system?
Wyoming’s two tiered license system for elk, deer and antelope was passed by the state’s legislature in 1988 with the first special licenses sold in 1989. The special license was the idea of the outfitting industry and we supported it and worked hard to lobby our legislators to pass the bill. I was 35 at the time and it was really my first introduction into the workings of the state legislature and how to lobby and pass legislation.
Prior to 1988 all of Wyoming’s non resident licenses were sold in a purely random draw. This type of system was very chaotic and caused wild swings in draw results and was certainly no way to operate a stable outfitting business. Wyoming politics just weren’t going to allow a pure outfitter only drawing so this was our next best option. Charging more for the same license did give much better draw odds for those clients that choose to pay the extra fee. The system worked well but then another license fee increase would be needed to again give those clients using the special license better draw odds.
The system was helped when Wyoming started selling preference points in 2007 for elk, deer and antelope. Preference points in conjunction with the two tiered license system has helped to create certainty in draw odds.
Question: How did the bill raising the special license fees come about?
The Wyoming Legislature, Game & Fish Commission and the Governor created a task force to study and put forth recommendations regarding wildlife and licensing issues. One very important idea studied by the WWTF was to create an outfitter only draw. The idea of an outfitter draw was studied in depth by the WWTF and ultimately it just didn’t have the support as a viable alternative. The WWTF recognized very early in the process the significant financial contribution to Wyoming’s tourism industry by outfitted non residents. We have also seen a huge increase in demand for Wyoming’s limited non resident licenses. The best example is our G & F department has received over 30,000 applications for non resident elk licenses for 7,250 total full price licenses the last two years.
This increase in applications has caused significantly harder draw odds. The difference between the special license fees and the regular license fees just wasn’t enough. The large volume of non resident applicants speaks volumes about the quality of Wyoming hunting and our licenses are under priced. In any business if your are turning away 75% of potential customers its obvious your product is severely under priced.
The bill recently passed by the legislature was put forth and supported by the WWTF by a super majority vote of 16-1-1. The regular license fee which is 60% of the available quota does not go up thus widening the gap between the special and regular license fees. Our logic was a wide gap between the two types of licenses would certainly benefit the outfitted client willing to pay much higher fees for better draw odds.
Question: When is this license fee increase changing?
House Bill 200 which significantly increases the cost of the special license has been signed into law by the Governor. The new fees for the special license will go into affect for the 2024 licensing season.
Question: Sy, what else would you like SNS clients to know about this subject?
I’d like to recognize this increase in license fees is an additional cost to the hunt. We will, of course, work with clients so they fully understand their options in regards to accumulating preference points and using either the special or regular license fees. We want our clients to be informed and have the best possible draw odds they can have.