Tweaking TIP MONT, offering bonus points for reward

Montana has a great system for reporting game violations, but one small change could make it even better and encourage more participation.

Currently people who see game violations can call 1-800 TIPMONT (847-6668) to file a report. Callers can remain anonymous. However, information leading to a conviction can earn a caller a reward of up to $1,000.

However, why not reward TIP MONT callers who have good information on game violations with the choice of bonus points as a reward rather than cash.

Bonus points in Montana give hunters a better chance at drawing special tags. Hunters earn one bonus point each year they fail to draw a tag. For instance, I have three bonus points for deer because I’ve yet to draw a tag for hunting district 270.

“This bonus point will basically place the applicant’s name in the drawing an additional time the next year that the applicant applies for a license and participates in the system, thus giving them two chances at drawing that particular license,” reads the FWP’s website.

Other states, like Washington, do this with some success. In Washington, people turning poachers in have a choice of receiving up to $500 in reward or up to 10 bonus points.

Under Montana’s bonus point structure, one extra point could give a hunter a much better chance of drawing that hard-to-get tag. Rewarding a hunter 10 bonus points for information on poachers or illegal hunting activity could, in some cases, nearly ensure his or her success in drawing a special tag.

Additionally, these bonus points wouldn’t cost the state any money and could be given out for good information even if it doesn’t lead to a conviction, which is the current requirement for a monetary reward. This would also reward hunters who are responsible and turn in poachers, by providing them more hunting opportunities.

In Montana, game wardens have to cover vast areas of land and when things get crazy, like this past week in the Madison Valley, sportsmen have to police their own ranks and turn in the slob hunters they encounter breaking the law.

The good news is that Montana Fish, Wildlife and Park’s TIP MONT program is more popular than ever, said coordinator Brian Shinn.

This year TIP MONT is on pace to receive about 2,100 calls, Shinn said. Three years ago the program had about 1,300 calls annually.

But most hunters don’t call in to receive a reward, he said.

“They’re doing it for the reason of protecting the resources and they feel it’s their civic duty,” Shinn said. “If everybody that was eligible for a reward accepted a reward, we would have a lot more money going out.”

Last year, FWP paid more than $16,000 in rewards. Reward money comes from donations and department funding, he said.

Sure, we shouldn’t need a reward to turn in poachers, but a little incentive, like bonus points, could actually reward people who provide the information with something meaningful, like increased odds at their dream hunt.

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