HomeOutdoorsNew Montana Law Encourages More Mountain Lion Hunting Opportunities, Discourages ‘Chasing’

New Montana Law Encourages More Mountain Lion Hunting Opportunities, Discourages ‘Chasing’

by Amy Myers
(Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Last Tuesday, the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) adopted a couple of significant changes to its mountain lion hunting regulations. This includes a new system of limited and unlimited permits. Officials believe this will help open up more opportunities for hunters while also curtailing the “chasing” mentality for open units.

Initially, Montana residents and visitors could hunt mountain lions with a special permit or on a general license. Tuesday’s vote got rid of general licenses and instead introduced a new system of special permits. These permits will allow hunters access to a particular hunting district called a “lion management unit.”

Alternatively, unlimited permits give hunters access to a single unit, group of units or an entire region.

Ultimately, the Montana FWC hopes that the new system will give hunters greater opportunities for mountain lion hunting while also eliminating the need to chase open units. The “chasing” mentality that has been so common in the past is the source of a major riff between resident hunters and visitors. According to Commissioner Pat Tabor of Whitefish, who first proposed the new changes, this system will find a solution for both parties.

“This is a social management,” he said.

And the changes don’t just help the hunters. Tabor also noted that the state’s FWC believes it can biologically manage mountain lions under the new system.

New Montana Law May Simplify Mountain Lion Hunting Regulations

Prior to the new regulation, Montana’s system for mountain lion hunting was pretty hard to follow. In Region 1, there is a strict special permit system. Meanwhile, in Region 2, for the first portion of the season, there’s a combination of limited permits. Then, later in the season, it opens up to general license holders. The remaining regions have general licenses with quotas or sub-quotas for a particular sex.

On top of the already convoluted system, hunters struggled with quotas for different units and regions closing too quickly. Supporters of the new regulations believe that the new system simplifies Montana’s mountain lion hunting. But others, like Commissioner Patrick Byorth of Bozeman, aren’t so sure.

“To throw a new quirk or twist at it, and another more complicated (system), I’m concerned we’re fixing something that ain’t broke,” he said.

However, Tabor is strong in his beliefs.

“It’s really not that complicated,” Tabor argued. “… It brings uniformity across the state of Montana, it doesn’t favor one group, it’s not an outfitter bill or other crap I’ve seen in the (public comment) letters.”

Not to mention, Tabor clarified that the only real changes that occur with the new system have to do with where hunters can kill mountain lions. Hound hunters can still chase mountain lions in open units and release them.

“They only get to kill one lion but they get to chase anywhere in the state, and I want to make sure that’s really, really clear,” he said.