March 24, 2023

Update on Progress of Proposed Montana Legislation on Guns and Right to Hunt

Press Release from the Montana Shooting Sports Association:
Dear MSSA Friends,
Well, not exactly.  I’m home now.
Tuesday morning at 8 AM I attended a public hearing before the House Judiciary Committee to support MSSA’s School Safety Act, HB 385, to allow for armed teachers.  Garrett Bacon of Helena also came to support the bill (thanks Garrett), but he was the only other proponent.  There were about 30 Moms Demand Action there.  Each side was allowed 20 minutes.  One of the MDA bill opponents took up over 10 minutes of that time with unpersuasive testimony.  Others of the 30 were frustrated when their side ran out of time and they were only allowed to state their name for the record.  I must admit that it is frustrating when some clueless dolt burns most or all of your side’s time with wasted talk, but I admit to not being so disturbed when it happened to the other side.  The committee has not yet taken action on the bill, but I think it likely the Committee will approve the bill.  It’s not too late to send messages to Committee members asking them to support HB 385.  Do it.
Tuesday afternoon, the Senate passed Permitless Carry (HB 262) and Post Office Carry (HB 246) on Second Reading.  Both of those were passed by the Senate today on Third Reading.  Since neither was amended by the Senate, both will now go to the Governor.  In a different email to you (maybe tomorrow) I’ll offer information and suggestions for messages to the Governor about these two bills.  Neither one passed with a veto-proof majority, which would be 34 votes in the Senate and 67 in the House.
Later on Tuesday afternoon I attended a public hearing before the House Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Committee to support HB 151, a bill to prevent FWP from using for other purposes the money the Legislature appropriates for the Shooting Range Development Program.  There were several opponents, including FWP and their reliable sidekick the National Wildlife Federation.  I told how FWP had diverted the SRDP funding from two previous legislative sessions.  I think the Committee was sympathetic because legislators don’t like executive branch agencies and personnel ignoring legislative intent.  Please contact the House FWP Committee and ask that committee members support HB 151.
BTW, HB 151 and HB 262 (Permitless Carry) were MSSA bills (bills for which we overtly asked for introduction) last session.  They were not on the final MSSA legislative agenda this session, but we couldn’t hardly not support them when sponsors reintroduced them this session since they were introduced last session at MSSA’s request.
This morning at 9 AM I attended a public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in support of SB 99 and SJR 11.  Garrett Bacon was there again in support (thanks again Garrett), but nobody else showed up to support these two MSSA bills.
Senate Joint Resolution 11 is the measure to provide the first authoritative definition for the critical phrase in the Montana Constitution “shall not be called in question.”  Surprisingly, there were no opponents.  I guess the Moms Demand Action wore themselves out on Tuesday.
SB 99 is the bill to prohibit state and local public employees (cops) from enforcing any new federal restrictions on firearms or magazines.  SB 99 was opposed by county attorneys and the Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, although the opposition was not as spirited as it has sometimes been in the past.
NEW BILL.  A bill has been introduced for a referendum to upgrade the right to hunt, fish, and trap in the Montana Constitution, SB 236, sponsored by Sen. Jennifer Fielder.  It will have a public hearing tomorrow (2/16) before the Senate Fish and Game Committee.  I emailed a letter of support for SB 236 from MSSA.  Please send messages to the Committee in support of SB 236.
Every change to the Montana Constitution must be voted on by the people.  To put SB 236 on the ballot requires 100 votes combined out of the 150 possible votes in the Senate and House.  That’s a pretty heavy lift, so your ongoing support for SB 236 will be needed.
That’s enough for now.
Best wishes,

The Dust Settles Over Maine’s Bear Hunting Referendum

Three strikes and you’re out! Maine has now endured two onslaughts by radical animal rights groups and I don’t need a crystal ball to predict for me that “it ain’t over ’til it’s over.” There will be a third….at least of some sort.

Already we are beginning to hear the threats and promises of making another stab at ending the so-called “cruelty” to bears. Was the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) too greedy in going after a virtual end to bear hunting? Will they return, only this time attacking trapping and hounding? Incrementally destroying American Heritage is a popular thing. For whatever the reasons, HSUS thought they could win this time. They were wrong…..this time.

It will not end here. No more than it did the last time, 10 years ago. Outdoor sportsmen, writers, wildlife managers and politicians ran scared AND sat on their hands. This cannot happen again. We must show the radicals that we mean business and that referendums aimed at destroying normal and real scientific game management is a waste of time in Maine. How can we do this?

Let’s first look at what we did or didn’t do after the first round of radical, anti-hunting citizen’s initiative. We did nothing to discourage another referendum. We did everything we could to look scared of them. Those are the two biggest issues, and there are more.

When I say we did nothing, I mean there was no real attempts to write or rewrite laws to better protect the ability of the state to manage wildlife for the good of all and not the whims of radical minorities. I’m again suggesting a constitutional amendment to guarantee the right to hunt, trap and fish.

Many of you might recall that just over one year ago, Rep. Kenneth Fredette sponsored an amendment posed as a “right to hunt” bill. I wrote about this back then explaining the amendment was incomplete. A right to hunt, trap and fish has no validity when it is not mandated by the same law that fish and game managers are required to manage game populations for surplus harvest. I’ve seen this in other states. With no legislative mandate to provide surplus harvest, wildlife agencies simply are managing their wildlife in numbers too low that any kind of harvest would be detrimental to the species. Because fish and game departments are often operating under “Post-Normal” management practices, they don’t want to see hunting, trapping and fishing.

Maine needs an amendment with teeth aimed at guaranteeing the PEOPLE not the special interest groups.

An amendment is not a sure way to stop referendums and lawsuits but it certainly does a lot to limit and discourage those who hate the rest of us.

Maine cannot afford to continue the same approach as before by always running scared fearing another lawsuit or another referendum. We have seen there has been no end to the lawsuits and no end to referendums. The approach has to be positive and with strength, presenting a management plan that sends the message that Maine will manage wildlife for all and that surplus harvest is the proven and desired method of population control, i.e. the North American Model. We have to let everyone know we are proud of our history in wildlife management and that we will do what we know is right. Lawsuits and referendums will continue but if Maine can show strength and strength in numbers perhaps outsiders will be a bit more discouraged to waste money trying to stop us.

This show of strength must begin in the governor’s office, as it did when Governor LePage got out front on the latest referendum opposing it. This must be done by the Inland Fisheries and Wildlife commissioner following the lead of the governor.

To continue on with business as usual will not get the job done. Yes, Maine won another round, but when you consider the costs and resources to fight this effort, doesn’t it make sense to thwart it with strength and a strong message before any more lawsuits and referendums appear?

Congratulations to everyone who fought the fight against the radicals at HSUS, et. al. Let’s not get comfortable in our victory just yet. There is more work to be done; work that will make life in Maine the way it should be and provide all of us with more and better time to spend in the outdoors and not debating the rights and wrongs of outdoor sports. Now is the time while all this is fresh in our minds.


Government Program

Bait is a bottle of water.

Government Program


An Initiative to Ban Trapping on Public Lands in Montana

HeritageVanceIt has been brought to my attention that an organization named Footloose Montana, is attempting to gather enough signatures for a citizens’ initiative to ban trapping on public lands. Among many others, the Montana Trappers Association opposes such a restriction.

I was recently sent a copy of an email from Gary Marbut at the Montana Shooting Sports Association. That email was a copy of information, i.e. history, etc. of the current Montana constitutional amendment that was passed in Montana, through citizen initiative in 2004. Below is a copy of the comments submitted to Jon Bennion from the Montana Department of Justice.

As you read through the comments, observe the transformation of language through the movement of an amendment whose intent was to forever protect hunting, fishing and trapping. Forget about what was intended in the original language, the change of language was a direct rewriting of the bill, watered down to mostly a worthless piece of undefined nonsense.

I have written about other state’s attempts at crafting some kind of constitutional amendment to protect hunting, fishing and trapping and by and large, they all end up with basically the same language. One might suspect a conspiracy or perhaps ignorance begets more ignorance as with each attempt at a bill to preserve hunting, fishing and trapping, it’s only a matter of copying the language of other bills that have come before.

I’m not a lawyer and have never played one on television. But, I’m not stupid. I’ve hunted and fished my entire life, so far, and I want to be able to do that until I die and I want to be able to do that with the freedoms and of the same time capacity as I always have. Such nonsensical jumbled up destruction of legal mumbo jumbo only serves to insure “opportunity”. Why not language that requires fish and game departments to manage wildlife for MAXIMUM surplus harvest?

According to the email, the author of the original language of Montana’s proposal for a constitutional amendment, wrote that the state of Montana will manage fish and wildlife to “preserve opportunities for the harvest.” Nothing here actually offers maximums, only minimums. The request is for the state to manage wildlife for opportunity to hunt, fish and trap. In its worst form if the state auctioned off one elk tag per year, under this amendment the state has preserved an opportunity. I suppose some might argue that the wording is plural, therefore at least two tags must be issued to two people.

Once the political crooks got done with the language, very little ended up changing, in my opinion. Perhaps now that some environmentalist totalitarians want to ban trapping on public lands, Montana citizens and their hunting heritage protection constitutional amendment will be tested.

As you can see from the email, the person who crafted the original language, states what the intent was. And we can see what the crooks in the state capital did to intent.

Preservation of harvest heritage. The opportunity to harvest wild fish and wild game animals is a heritage that shall forever be preserved to the individual citizens of the state and does not create a right to trespass on private property or diminution of other private rights.

That’s the entire amendment. When you trust your own government officials to protect your interests, you end up hanging yourself, going to your grave with “good intentions.” Politicians will never hogtie themselves to responsibility. That is why all bills are crafted in such as way so that when lawyers get done with the language, it may as well have been written in German to begin with.

Here is a copy of the email I received:

Jon Bennion
Montana Department of Justice

Dear Mr. Bennion,

The purpose of this communication is to provide comment concerning the proposed initiative to ban trapping on public lands.

Specifically, we believe that major parts of this proposed initiative are in conflict with the Montana Constitution. We urge that this proposal be returned to proponents with instructions from your office to correct those conflicts.


In 1992, the Montana Shooting Sports Association (MSSA) proposed a constitutional initiative, specifically CI-62, to put protection for hunting into the Montana Constitution. I, personally, wrote the language of CI-62. The operative language of CI-62 was, “The people of the state retain the right to hunt game animals. This right is vested in the individual citizen and shall forever remain inviolate.” CI-62 failed to gain sufficient signatures to gain ballot status, largely because of the organized opposition to signature-gathering by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

In 2003, MSSA sought to achieve the same result via a legislative referendum. I solicited Rep. Joe Balyeat to submit a bill draft request to the Legislative Services Division for this purpose. I provided Rep. Balyeat with language revised from CI-62, which he submitted to the LSD for bill drafting. The language I provided to Rep. Balyeat was:

” NEW SECTION. Section 1. Article II of The Constitution of the State of Montana is amended by adding a new section 36 that reads:

” Section 36. Preservation of harvest heritage. (1) The harvest of wild fish and wild game animals is a heritage that shall forever be preserved to the individual citizens of the state. The heritage does not create a right of trespass on private property and is subject to regulation by law.

” (2) The state shall manage fish and wildlife to preserve opportunities for the harvest of wild fish and wild game animals by the citizens of the state.”

There are two important issues about the language submitted in 2003. First, I intended that this constitutional protection be included in Article II of the Montana Constitution, the Declaration of Rights. Mr. Greg Petesch, the chief legal officer for the LSD preferred placing this new language into Article IX, but assured us that the language would have the same effect there as if it had been incorporated into Article II.

Second, I very deliberately changed the language from CI-62 to “harvest of wild fish and wild game animals” specifically to include fishing and trapping. One of the complaints MSSA had received about the language of CI-62 was from the Montana Trappers Association that the language of CI-62 did not protect trapping. I thought that to be a valid criticism and revised the language submitted to the LSD in 2003, again specifically to sweep trapping into the proposed constitutional protection.

This bill draft was introduced into the 2003 legislative session by Rep. Balyeat as House Bill 306. The introduced language read as:

” NEW SECTION. Section 1. Article IX of The Constitution of the State of Montana is amended by adding a new section 6 that reads:

” Section 6. Preservation of harvest heritage. (1) The harvest of wild fish and wild game animals is a heritage that shall forever be preserved to the individual citizens of the state, does not create a right to unauthorized trespass on private property or diminution of other private rights, and, for state residents, may be abridged only by general regulation necessary to further a compelling state interest.

” (2) The state shall manage publicly owned fish and wildlife to preserve opportunities for the harvest of wild fish and wild game animals by the citizens of the state.”

HB 306 passed the House by a vote of 81-17 and the Senate by a vote of 49-1, sufficient majorities for it to be referred to the ballot as a constitutional referendum in the general election of 2004, C-41. The intent for the language of HB 306 to also protect trapping was definitely a part of the discussion of HB 306 in legislative committee and floor sessions.

I recall that C-41 was approved at the ballot in 2004 by the highest percentage of the Montana electorate of any constitutional change ever made in Montana’s history. As MSSA campaigned among the public for the passage of C-41, we certainly portrayed part of the intent for this constitutional change as needed to protect trapping. I believe that to protect trapping is one of the reasons such a substantial majority of the electors voting on the measure voted for C-41.

The language finally passed in HB 306, subsequently approved at the 2004 General Election ballot by the people of Montana, and now in the Montana Constitution at Article IX, Section 7, is: ” Preservation of harvest heritage. The opportunity to harvest wild fish and wild game animals is a heritage that shall forever be preserved to the individual citizens of the state and does not create a right to trespass on private property or diminution of other private rights.”


As demonstrated above, it was very clearly my intent in drafting the language submitted to the LSD that trapping be included within the protection of C-41. It was the intent of the Legislature to protect trapping with HB 306. And, it was the intent of the people of Montana to give trapping constitutional protection with C-41.

Because Article IX, Section 7 of the Montana Constitution clearly protects trapping of game animals, the proposed initiative must be revised substantially in order to pass constitutional muster, if that can be done at all, before it is allowed to proceed.



Destroying the Myth: Information About the Foot Hold Live Trap

I can’t say I agree with everything the narrator said in this video as it pertains to the environment, habitat encroachment and the “disaster” that is impending, but the information on the use of the foot hold trap is pretty good.