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Discussion Starter #1
Hey Buzzards, wondering if anybody can confirm that Montana residents get preferential points or something in the Smith River lottery? I've heard this from a friend, but the Montana FWP webpage on Smith lottery doesn't say anything about it. Thanks!
 

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I would venture to say no, but I could be wrong. I know plenty of MT residents who apply every year and miss out. I think it's a true lottery system, no preferential treatment to resident over non-resident. On a side note I know many Montanan's that believe the system is rigged for out of staters to pull before in staters. (more tourism d$$$)

edited to add:
I have never gotten any "points" when I don't pull a Smith permit like I might with a game (deer, elk, sheep) tag.
 

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Everything I've read, heard, experienced, and been told first/second/third hand from official and nonofficial sources points to no preference based on residency.
 

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Just asked a friend at FWP and it's a true lottery. No preference for residents. I've pulled one once and been skunked every other year
 

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I know of a guy who just shows up and waits for cancellations and has never NOT gotten on in 40+ tries...FWIW. I wouldn't hang my hat on that method personally and I am less than 3 hours from the put in
 

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I recall the stats being 6% of permits over time have been awarded to non-residents, on the first time I floated it in 2012. The permit holder was a life-long MT resident who had a high number of ALS points. It would be interesting to get the actual data from FWP, and given that my daughter is a Game Warden, I'll look into it. Might not want to hear the truth though, right?

I applied for an "off-peak" permit for 10/2 this year and got it, and when I arrived at Camp Baker it was self-reservations, no Ranger there. I could have saved the $10 but it goes to Parks year-round so it's worth it whether I get a permit or not IMHO.

In 2019, the number of total applications was down about 4.4% from previous years.

https://billingsgazette.com/outdoor...cle_49e87524-277c-5f78-9a68-b1bae78f48e7.html
 

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I have been down Smith 5 years out of the last 8. Never won a permit just lucky to have friends that invite me. That said, one of the guys in line with me to sign up for camp sites was going on his 24th trip, all on his own permit, all picked up as a cancelation. He was a local and could show up in 3 hours. Being a local sure has its advantages for cancelations.
 

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That is surprisingly low from what I would have guessed. Had you asked me without knowing, I would say 85% of applicants would be from out of state just because of the population of MT compared to surrounding states and the country as a whole.

I grew up in western MT and never did float the Smith. I'm starting to consider circling back and doing it with my dad. Just so many places to go when I was younger, I never wanted to deal with someone telling me when I could or couldn't go. Everyone raves about the trip, maybe this is the year...
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Interesting stuff, thanks everybody for sharing. I'm going to try a call to Montana FWP to see if I can get a clear answer. Wish me luck, that call could be interesting!
 

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I did find some data on success rate, for 2014. 8000 +/- permit applications, 24% went to non-residents.
I would love to know what % of applications were from out of state compared to what % were from in state. If it is not proportional, IE if more than 24% of applications were non-residents, it is rigged IMHO.
 

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This is what's I've learned from the 2019 Smith River Annual Report (available online on the smith river page)

"2019 was another record setting season in terms of floater use. However, permit applications did decline for the first time since 2010. There were 10,070 private permit applications in 2019, a 4.40% decline from 2018. Despite this decline, total floater use set a record in 2019. There were 6,232 floaters in 2019, 42 more than the next highest year (2018) and 39% higher than the 20-year average. Both private and outfitted floaters set new records with 5,162 private and 808 outfitted floaters. There were 708 private float groups, 30% higher than the 20-year average and 65 outfitted groups, 38% higher than the 20-year average. No single month set a record for use in 2019, but June and July were the second and third highest on record respectively. There were 28,617 user days and 22,124 user nights in 2019, both 43% above the 20-year average. Use in April was well below recent years due to the river being closed through April 14."

And this graft while it doesn't give percentages it gives a visual for "in state" vs. "out of state" I couldn't find actual numbers, but I may have missed it.
 

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I grew up in western MT and never did float the Smith. I'm starting to consider circling back and doing it with my dad. Just so many places to go when I was younger, I never wanted to deal with someone telling me when I could or couldn't go. Everyone raves about the trip, maybe this is the year...
Haha, I grew up in Great Falls and never floated the Smith. Wasn't into rivers growing up, and got into whitewater and not fishing when I got older. Now that I'm nearing my mid-40's, a mild water scenic trip sounds more like fun!
 

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After hearing from the powers that be, be assured that there's no preference for MT residents, in allocating permits. It all comes down to the total number of applications and which dates are most favorable. The dependencies on flow, weather, interest, and good ol' luck of the draw are in play.

That being said, living three hours away versus 30, would certainly increase your odds of procuring a cancellation.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
I contacted Montana FWP and was impressed with how quickly they replied:

Hello Dave,

The Smith River lottery drawing is completely random and no preference is given to residents.

Thank you for your interest in Montana State Parks, Smith River State Park.

Colin J. Maas
Park Manager, Region 4
Smith River and Sluice Boxes State Parks
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks
 
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