Montana Outfitters License application costs $1,950

The requirement that people must obtain a government license before working in a given profession is often promoted as a public safety device.

But the strongest proponents of licensing rules are often the entrenched good ol’ boys who already occupy the industry. In many licensing schemes, one must apply to ONE’S OWN COMPETITORS who sit on a “board of” licensees.

Such is the case with regard to Montana hunting guides and outfitters. Poor people are mostly locked out of the industry.

In Montana, the most successful guides and outfitters are wealthy operators who happen to own a ranch adjacent to or near important forest trail heads. The licenses are handed down from father to son like royal charters. Over the years many members of the Outfitter board have been Republican legislators, who can be seen at the State Capitol in Helena sporting big cowboy hats and talking about “limited government.”

Under the regulations, in order to guide hunters on public lands, one must obtain an expensive “Outfitters” license and demonstrate that one has sufficient equipment and experience. The application fee alone is $1,800. But one must first have a “guide” license, which costs $150 and must be renewed annually.

And after one is licensed as an outfitter, one must disclose to the government every single hunt, and the names of all participants.

Amazingly, some of Montana’s neighbors (like North Dakota and South Dakota) don’t even require license at all. An outfitter in North Dakota can simply hang up a shingle and pass out business cards.