Some Montana hunters are faking handicaps to get special privileges

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials say rules on PTHV permits must be tightened up-

I’ve seen it most of my adult life — perfectly healthy folks competing with one another to claim a handicap so they won’t have to walk. Whether it is access to a good parking place, or using a vehicle on a path or trail where others have to walk, they seem to have no shame doing it.

I first encountered this at a hearing about off-road vehicle routes on the Targhee National Forest in eastern Idaho.  I was 30 years old, and I wanted more trails for horses and hiking (mountain bikes were not around then). I wanted fewer for those who rode dirt bikes and 3-wheelers (3-wheelers, clearly back in the day).  One man I knew told the audience that I was unnaturally fit, but that he “was over the hill.”  He needed motorized help because he was aged. I knew he was 29.

That was 36 years ago. Things haven’t changed. Some Montana hunters appear to be faking not being able to walk so that can legally “drive along roadways normally gated and closed to all other vehicles.” Of course other hunters and Montana FWP commission are not happy about this. Read the story. FWP officials say able-bodied hunters faking disabilities for perks..  By Matt Volz. Associated Press.

What about me? Am I motorized now?

I am not. In fact I walk more and more often cross country (don’t use a trail at all).  That way I get away from vehicles and see wildlife.  Isn’t this terribly hard? No!! You go more slowly, but the raising of your legs in different directions and at differing angles helps keep you strong and it chases away the wear and tear arthritis most folks eventually get.  Put me on an ATV to bounce up and down . . . It is a terrible pain in the back!

In a related matter, I wonder if there is a positive correlation between those who cheat for PTHV permits and those who complain there are no elk because the wolves killed them all? I really don’t know.  It’s just a hypothesis waiting to be tested.





  1. Mike Avatar

    Can’t say I’m surprised. I see this when I go to the store and some jerk is parked in a reserved handicapped space.

    There’s also the people who get dropped off right in the middle of the store entrance, and their pals or family members just sit in the cars and idle because they’re too lazy to park and walk.

    1. Paul Avatar

      I took a complaint a year or so ago about an able bodied guy who pulled his big ass pickup truck into a handicapped spot at our local Walmart. He had no handicapped tag or placard. When the complainant told him the he could not park there he told her her to “f-off” and that “he could park anywhere that he wanted because he had a long day hunting.” It just broke my heart when the cop who responded slapped a $50 ticket on his truck for parking in a disabled spot. Then he had the nerve to come in to our PD and loudly complain about getting the ticket. The officer responded by politely telling him that he could “f-off” (without using those words) and fight it in court. He paid it the next day. Not that I am saying that this is the norm, but I have witnessed this more than once. This was the only one with a “hunter” that I was aware of. Another thing that I wonder is how you can drive a giant jacked up pickup truck and get a handicapped placard? I also see this frequently.

      1. WM Avatar

        Sorry to hear in your state the fine is only $50. In WA it is $250.

        Some communities have gone to using retired folks as spotters, often belonging to a police auxillary, who take photos of the infraction (all certified date stamped) and build a case against violators. They have radios and if a meter or traffic cop is immediately available up a ticket is written. It may even be some have gone to cross referencing the vehicle license registration and sending a violation to the registered owner along with the photo. Pretty tough to deny if your car is in a disabled stall and you have no displayed permit on the rear view mirror or dash, or no permit was issued to that vehicle.

        If one contests the citation – you either did it or not – the judge has no discretion to reduce the fine, as I recall.

        So, there is some very good enforcement here.

        1. IDhiker Avatar

          In Montana, it’s $100. Perhaps far less than it should be.

          1. Savebears Avatar

            Yes, it is $100 for each stall blocked, I pulled into a store the other day and went to pull into the handicapped parking place to find it blocked by a Lincoln across both parking places, the owner was wrote two tickets, one for each spot.

        2. Paul Avatar


          Unfortunately, Wisconsin is known for having pretty lenient traffic laws and fines. For example a first offense DUI/OWI is considered a traffic offense on par with a speeding ticket. It does not become a felony until the fifth offense unless there are children in the car at the time of stop. Another example is that the fine for not wearing a seatbelt is only $10. It actually costs more to write and process the citation through the courts than the amount the fine takes in.

          We used to have volunteers monitoring parking lots in our city for handicapped violations a few years ago. We ended up having to discontinue the program because we received so many complaints about people being harassed by the monitors. The guy in charge of the program was disabled himself and he made life miserable for anyone who parked in a handicapped spot. We were getting so many reports each day from him and his group that were so frivolous we had to suspend the program. People were getting hounded for having their placard on their dash rather than hanging from their mirror. Our chief finally had enough of the citizen complaints against the volunteers that he stopped the program.

          Daniel Berg,

          I love that site. I always get a good laugh or bout of nausea after looking at those pictures 🙂

        3. Daniel Berg Avatar
          Daniel Berg

          The fine is $450 in Seattle.

    2. Daniel Berg Avatar
      Daniel Berg

      That’s one of the unintended consequences of any type of special privelege. If you don’t have tight controls in place, the privelege will absolutely be abused. The key is to have tight enough controls to ensure that most folks won’t be able to/or don’t want to take the risk of cheating. A few will always slip through the cracks, and you’ll only blow resources trying to get them all.

      I saw a guy with a handicap parking pass the other day that looked like he could have passed for an iron-man participant.

      1. Savebears Avatar


        Please explain to me as well as others what a real disabled person looks like, I would be interested to know the answer, as I am disabled(never taken special hunting privileges) But to see me in person, you would be hard pressed to say I am handicapped.

        1. Savebears Avatar

          To add, I agree with this move by FWP, there are some that are taking advantage and need to be shut down, but it is not just hunters taking advantage of the system, it is all segments that have some that take advantage..

        2. Daniel Berg Avatar
          Daniel Berg


          You don’t need to defend the honor of hunters with me, my statement above was inclusive of all. I’ve always been cynical when it comes to human nature in general.

          The dude with the handicap parking pass at the store walked up and down the aisles at a brisk pace and just like me, obviously couldn’t find half the stuff he needed because he didn’t know where the hell it was. If the guy could walk a half mile through a grocery store, I’m sure he could have walked the extra 50 yards through a parking lot.

          1. Savebears Avatar

            What is it, with some of you? I am not defending anybody and do agree that some are taking advantage of the system in place. After reading this website for many years, I have started to become cynical of some! But again, some people given the chance are going to take advantage, it happens in all walks of life, I know people who driver Mercedes SUV’s and receive food assistance benefits!

          2. Daniel Berg Avatar
            Daniel Berg


            I’ve read your posts for a long time and don’t mean to offend.

            By the way, if my memory serves me right, you were interested in a job in Washington State a while back. Any luck with that?

          3. Savebears Avatar


            I am not offended.

            The job in WA state looks good, that is if they can get their darn budget problems back inline and start funding programs will probably be next year before I hear much.

          4. Salle Avatar


            In case you don’t know, perhaps you do, that the State of Washing is on a bi-annual budget cycle. I only learned that when I worked for the state several years ago.

          5. Savebears Avatar


            Thanks, I am well aware of it.

  2. John Avatar

    The article mentioned that the proposed ban is now out for public comment but I can’t find it on the FWP site. Can anyone provide a link?

  3. Bob Avatar

    After a disc operation, I was disabled for 6 months or so with a very weak leg and walked with a cane. The disabled parking made grocery shopping possible. Now I keep an eye on disabled spots and have made comments to offenders and/or call the cops to ticket. The fine is $250 and should be $1000. Any hunter who obtains a false disabled tag should be heavily fined, hunting license revoked (for a decade), and their name and town listed in a local paper.

  4. Pronghorn Avatar

    “As of Monday, 9,188 lifetime PTHV permits have been issued, according to FWP. The result has been a reduction in the number of cow elk in some areas, such as the Bitterroot Mountains in southwestern Montana, said FWP commission chairman Bob Ream.”

    Just a few bad apples, no doubt.

  5. Wolfy Avatar

    Until recently, Michigan liberally gave out “Disabled Hunter” tags. These allowed a “disabled” hunter to shoot game from a motorized vehicle. It got pretty rediculous; hunting in some parts of the state equated to drive by shooting. Thankfully, now hunters have to show the same level of disability in driving for a handicap tag as the they do for the “disabled” hunter tags.

  6. David Avatar

    There are plenty of people who think it is there American right to drive anywhere, no matter what damage they do. This same attitude of “laziness” is why the Chinese are kicking our butts in a way, the idea of experiencing some effort in an endeavor is foriegn to many. Of course the positive is that ya can get out on your own without seeing the multitude, if only you walk a bit. Thank God for our National Parks and Wilderness areas – and why we have to constently fight “them” to protect them.

    Ranting a bit…


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

Subscribe to get new posts right in your Inbox

Ralph Maughan