KEVIN KNAPEK/Montana State News

Are hunters losing their edge when it comes to precision shooting? State legislators are working on passing two bills that would allow the use of silencers when hunting in Montana.

The two bills are being pushed through the Senate back-to-back to make it legal for hunters to use sound suppressors when hunting throughout the state. House Bill 27 introduced by Rep. Ted Washburn of Bozeman, will authorize use of sound suppressors while hunting certain large predators. House Bill 205, introduced by Rep. Krayton Kerns of Laurel, would make it legal for hunters to use suppressors while hunting any animal.

It is not the first time a bill of this kind has seen introduced. A similar bill was proposed in 2011 by Kerns. The purpose of that bill was to repeal a law in Montana that prohibits the use of silencers.

Washburn noted that silencers are allowed (with a permit) to hunt coyotes, foxes, gophers and prairie dogs. HB27 would expand the use of silencers in the hunting of wolves during the portion of the wolf season following the closing of general rifle season. Other supporters of these bills claim that the use of suppressors while hunting will prevent hearing loss, by reducing the noise from the guns. Another reason for Washburn to sponsor this bill is a company in his district produces rifles and silencers.

George Golie, of the Montana Wildlife Federation, questioned the safety of others when they can’t hear the gunshot when hunters are around. He believes it is important for landowners to be able to hear a shot in case someone is poaching on their property.

Michael Korn, assistant chief of the law enforcement bureau of FWP stated in an email, “Keep in mind that people who lawfully have silencers are looking down the barrel, so to speak, of $200 [or more] federal tax on a silencer, and extensive background check by Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives. The cost of the suppressor can be anywhere from $300-$600 or more, and the cost of the rifle ($500 and up). I suspect that with that kind of investment of time and money, a person would not be inclined to use the firearm to break the law. By the same token, we have, in the past, seized some very expensive firearms from people who used them to commit wildlife crimes.”

-Edited by Melinda Peirce

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