Hunting-tag change zooming through Legislature

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 Two weeks ago I wrote about the apparently unjust Fish, Wildlife and Parks citation issued to a Minnesota hunter for not affixing his tag to his bull elk until 26 minutes after arriving at the kill site. 

The issue centered around wording on the elk tag that required the tag to be attached to the animal “immediately.” Immediately has no precise numerical definition, giving game wardens broad latitude for interpreting if “immediately” was met or not met. 

This questionable citation resulted in the introduction in the Legislature of House Bill 279, which deletes the word “immediately” from the game tagging requirement. 

HB 279 is sailing through the legislative process with unbelievable speed and support. Even the chief game warden for Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks testified in favor of the new tagging definition. 

HB 279 passed the House Fish and Game committee by 19-0 vote and the second reading in the House with a 100-0 vote. It must still pass a third reading in the House, then wind its way through the Senate. HB 279 requires that game animals must be tagged prior to the animal or hunter leaving the kill site. That seems very definable and not subject to interpretation.


Separate legislation, House Bill 212, adds “trapping” to the definition of the constitutional right to hunt in Montana. That is passing the legislative process on a party-line vote. Republicans generally support this change while Democrats generally oppose it. I think all hunters should support the companion right to trap. 

As I mentioned two weeks ago, a talk with Warden Captain Lee Anderson led me to believe that I and probably 99 percent of other hunters are violating of proper procedures for tagging game animals. I, like most hunters, always keep the tag attached to the antlers, ear or leg of the animal until we get home and have the animal hanging in the garage or delivered to the local butcher. Then the tag and meat usually get separated during butchering.

But the statute states, “…the license or tag must be kept attached to the carcass as long as any considerable portion of the carcass remains unconsumed.” I asked Anderson why the word “consumed” was used instead of word “butchered.”

He told me that a validated deer or elk tag must be kept with the major portion of the meat — even after it is butchered and in your freezer. So I checked my freezer, even thought I knew the answer. 

My freezer has deer meat from 2013 and 2014 and even a package or two of elk meat from a prior year. As I thought, not a deer tag or elk tag was to be seen. I hustled to dig out my 2014 deer tag and attached it to a package of meat. So I am now at least partially in compliance. 

So what’s in your freezer? I’ll bet there is wild meat but no tags. Foretold is forewarned!


The 2015 permitting process is now underway for special deer and elk permits. Application packages that include all the background information and application forms are now available online, at license vendors and at Fish, Wildlife and Parks headquarters on Meridian Road in Kalispell.

They must be submitted by March 15. You must purchase your conservation license as a prerequisite to apply. You will also need your new fishing license after March 1.


If you are a senior, 62 or older, enjoy your last year of a free fishing license and upland bird hunting license that comes with the purchase of your $8 conservation license. House Bill 140 is winding its way through the legislative process. What seniors get for $8 in 2015 will increase to $32.25 in 2016 for the same hunting and fishing privileges.


A final note is a reminder that the Ryan Wagner Memorial ice derby on Murphy Lake has been canceled due to the lack of good ice. Hopefully, the recent cool mornings will extend our ice fishing season a little longer.

If you venture out on the ice, be super-cautious. Carry ice picks and a life jacket.


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