Briefly Noted: Wyoming Increases License Fees for Nonresidents

Nonresidents applying for Wyoming’s 2018 elk licenses found new license fees for standard and special licenses. New license fees went into effect Jan. 1, 2018, and hunters also will see changes in sheep, goat, bison, deer and pronghorn licenses as they work through those applications.

For nonresident licenses, 60% of the permits are placed into the “standard” license fee pool. Standard elk licenses increased from $591 in 2017 to $707 in 2018. Standard deer increased from $326 to $389 and standard pronghorn from $286 to $341. The remaining 40% of nonresident permits are placed into the “special” pool, with higher license fees and, theoretically, better odds of drawing. There is no difference between the “standard” license and the “special” license once you draw the permit. Special elk increased from $1,071 to $1,283—now the highest license fee in the West. Special deer increased from $566 to $677 and special pronghorn from $526 to $629.

Although there’s no “special” category for bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat or bison, the regular license fees for these species increased as well. Nonresident bighorn sheep licenses have increased from $2,266 to $2,335; mountain goat licenses from $2,166 to $2,177; moose from $1,416 to $1,997. Wyoming has two license fees for “wild bison.” An “any bison” license (which allows the harvest of a bull) increased from $2,522 to $4,417 and a “female or calf” bison license increased from $1,022 to $2,767.

Nonresident license fees continue to climb, and it’s easy for state game commissions and legislatures to increase costs on hunters who don’t show up for commission meetings. Statistics on sources of revenue are difficult to obtain, but at least one western state makes more money off nonresident elk hunters than they do from residents, even though nonresidents make up less than 10% of the total hunter numbers. A US Supreme Court case several years ago took up the issue of differential license fees and found that states could justify the different fees, but the difference must be “reasonable.” In that case (Turk v. Gordon), New Mexico’s resident bighorn license fees were 10% of the nonresident license fee, which the court opined seemed reasonable. Today, NM’s resident bighorn permit is only 5% of the cost of a nonresident license. Where this will stop has yet to be seen, but it’s clear that the cost of hunting out of state is increasing annually.

WY deer and pronghorn applications are due May 31, 2018.