Bill to hunt wolves with silencers passes crucial House vote

Courtesy Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks

Courtesy Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks

The Montana House of Representatives has passed second reading on a bill to allow hunters to use rifle silencers when hunting wolves. House Bill 27 would only allow silencers to be used after the general big game hunting season.

The sponsor, Representative Ted Washburn (R-Bozeman)  told the Helena Independent Record silencers help protect the hearing of hunters. He also says a company in his district makes rifles and silencers.

Washburn says about 600 Montanans already legally hunt with silencers when hunting coyote, fox, prairie dogs and gopher. He says those using silencers have to pass a 6-month federal background check and pay $250.

The House approved the bill 68 to 32. It has one more vote on third reading before moving the Senate.

Supporters say the bullets still make a loud noise when breaking the sound barrier and therefore don’t sound like silencers on TV shows. Rather, they make it much quieter just in the immediate vicinity of the gun. Representative Virginia Court (D-Billings) still voted against the bill. She worries about the impact on landowners not being able to hear where the shots are coming from. She says she hikes on her cabin property in the Tobacco Root Mountains and is “often comforted when I hear the sound of a rifle shot because at least I know that they’re in the area.”

Great Falls Democratic Representative Tom Jacobson voted against the bill while it was in the House Fish Wildlife and Parks Committee. But he changed his mind and voted for it, citing some amendments: “It’s outside of the normal season, so we don’t have to worry about that if we hunt deer or elk, it will help take down more wolves and I think it’s not an unfair advantage.”

The wolf hunting season lasts through the end of this month.

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