LEGISLATIVE ROUNDUP: New Legislation Favors Wyoming Hunters, Drivers (Part 3)
Residents get head start on horn hunting, allowed to idle vehicles
- Published In: Politics
- Last Updated: Mar 10, 2023
By CJ Baker, Shen Wu Tan and Jacob Gardenswartz
Special to the Wyoming Truth
Hunting is a staple of Wyoming life — being enshrined in the state constitution — and, unsurprisingly, it was the subject of several bills taken up by the Wyoming Legislature.
Lawmakers passed legislation that favors Wyoming hunters — giving them a head start on antler collecting while hiking some license fees for nonresidents. Additionally, more residents could soon head into the field under a bill that would restore the gun rights of nonviolent felons.
A wrap up of key legislation related to hunting and driving follows below. Check out part one of the Wyoming Truth’s legislative roundup, which covered property taxes and election security, and part two, which focused on social issues and public health issues.
Residents given priority for antler and horn collecting
If you’re a Wyoming resident, you now get dibs on collecting shed antlers and horns. Under House Bill 123, you can gather big game animal antlers and horns seven days before nonresidents.
“It couldn’t be a better bill for southwest Wyoming, and those residents that live in communities that get overrun by a lot of people,” said Rep. Ryan Berger (R-Evanston), who sponsored the bill. “It’s a very popular sport. So, we thought we would just give a competitive advantage for our sportsmen in our state.”
Sen. John Kolb (R-Rock Springs), who co-sponsored the legislation, described it as a “no brainer.”
“I was adamantly opposed to out-of-state people coming in here and rigging the system by what’s called geocaching, where they would go out, mark sheds and then sometimes collect sheds, stash them in an area and then on opening day would miraculously go out there and literally drive out of the collection area with a pickup truck full of sheds,” Kolb said. “That was an abuse in my mind of what was going on.”
The law also tasks the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission with regulating the collection of shed antlers and horns to minimize the “harassment or disturbance of big game populations on public lands west of Interstate 90 from the Wyoming-Montana state line to Buffalo and west of Interstate 25 from Buffalo to the Wyoming-Colorado state line.”
Out-of-state hunters to pay steeper fees
Another reason for Wyomingites to be thankful: the Legislature isn’t hiking fees on their hunting licenses. Instead, out-of-staters who want better odds of drawing an elk, deer or antelope tag will now pay substantially higher fees, and rates are also going up for bighorn sheep, mountain goat, moose, wild bison and (theoretically) grizzly bear licenses.
For instance, House Bill 200 hikes the application fee for the special draw — a pool with higher odds that contains 40% of the nonresident licenses for elk, deer and antelope — from $288 to $874 for antelope.
While the hikes may sound dramatic, Sen. Larry Hicks (R-Baggs) said it really only brings Wyoming in-line with other states and helps the Wyoming Game and Fish Department sustain itself.
“… That price is to make Wyoming’s [prices] comparable to the top of the market, because we’ve got world-class wildlife,” he said.
Detractors found the hikes too steep, but backers said it won’t dissuade out-of-state hunters.
“People want to come to Wyoming, they want to hunt Wyoming and they’re still going to have ample opportunity to do so,” said Park County outfitter Lee Livingston.
Shedding some light on nighttime hunts
If you’ve ever wanted to hunt a coyote in the dead of night, a new law will make it a little easier — and potentially safer. House Bill 104 allows hunters to use artificial light, night vision and technology like thermal imaging to hunt predatory animals on public lands. To date, hunters have been limited to natural light, such as moonlight, on public lands.
“Part of me kind of is terrified over the fact that we are, at night in the dark, hunting and not able to see what’s downrange,” said sponsor Rep. Jeremy Haroldson (R-Wheatland), noting the bill would free hunters to use the proper tools and technology.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission is tasked with developing rules for the use of artificial light, including possible zones, valid dates and methods for harvesting predatory animals.
Felons can get their guns back
If you made a one-time mistake and committed a serious crime years ago, you may soon be able to hunt with a firearm. Senate File 120 restores gun rights to Wyomingites who’ve committed a nonviolent felony after they’ve completed their sentence and waited five years.
In 2017, the legislature offered the restoration of voting rights and found 3,400 takers. Sponsor Sen. Eric Barlow (R-Gillette) predicted gun rights — along with the right to serve on a jury and hold public office — will prompt even more people to seek restoration. Data indicates those who get their rights back are less likely to reoffend.
“I think it’s a great first step, and I think it will demonstrate to us the benefits of people being treated as if they are citizens of this country and not less than,” said Rep. Karlee Provenza (D-Laramie).
However, the bill also creates a new misdemeanor crime for nonviolent felons who possess firearms before their rights are restored. As for those convicted of violent felonies like murder or rape, they’ll continue to face serious trouble if they pick up a gun. Gov. Mark Gordon has not yet acted on the bill.
Wyoming now OK with idling
Meanwhile, the Legislature is offering absolute absolution for those who have ever left their vehicle running unattended on a Wyoming street. Until the passage of House Bill 239, idling a vehicle was a criminal act punishable by an up-to-$200 fine. But not anymore.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Daniel Singh (R-Cheyenne), said he considered the law obsolete and found just one person cited for the offense in its nearly 70 years on the books. Gordon signed the bill Feb. 21, as “he really warmed up to it,” Singh quipped.
But watch out: Your town can still outlaw idling — and you might just be inviting someone to steal your car.
No, Wyoming is not banning EVs
One measure that didn’t become law was among the most-discussed nationally: Senate Joint Resolution 4. Introduced by Sen. Jim Anderson (R-Casper), the resolution called for the sale of electric vehicles to be phased out in Wyoming, encouraging businesses and citizens to instead purchase gas-powered cars.
As a nonbinding resolution, even if the measure had passed, it wouldn’t have had much effect beyond sending a strong message to liberal states such as California and New York — both of which have pursued policies requiring new cars to be emission-free in the coming decades. Yet the resolution still faced strong pushback from those in the EV industry in Wyoming. The executive vice president of the Wyoming Automobile Dealers Association described it as “extremely harmful to us and unreasonable.”
Ultimately, even some lawmakers who initially signed on to support the resolution agreed it was a “ludicrous” idea. It didn’t even come up for a vote.
Get ready for your (black-and-white) closeup
Regardless of what you drive, expect some changes to your driver’s license.
After it proved too difficult to reproduce color photos on the state’s current licenses, Senate File 20 allows the Wyoming Department of Transportation to switch to black and white photos. The monochrome pics should be sharper … but they won’t fix any double-chins or bad hair days.