If you are wanting to get a crack at some of the best Montana big game hunts, we have all the information you need to know.
NOTE: THIS INFORMATION IS TO HELP WITH YOUR MONTANA BIG GAME HUNTS AND IS NOT INTENDED TO REPLACE MONTANA’S OFFICIAL HUNTING REGULATIONS. USE IT ONLY AS A GUIDE. REFER TO THE STATE REGULATIONS WHEN APPLYING.
1420 East 6th Avenue • PO Box 200701 • Helena, MT 59620-0701 | 406-444-2535 www.fwp.mt.gov
If you are wanting to hunt big game in Montana, there are three different application periods. In 2015, the deadlines to apply were March 15th for deer and elk, May 1st for sheep, goat, bison, and moose, and June 1st for antelope.
Applicants may apply online or with paper applications. Montana has one of the lowest tag fees in the West for goat, sheep, and moose. However, they have one of the highest tag fees for deer and elk.
For sheep, moose, goat, and bison, non-residents are required to pay a non-refundable $50 application fee per species. Also, except for bison, nonresidents must pay a $20 point fee per species if they want to build points. For deer, elk, and antelope, the entire tag fee is required at the time of application.
For Montana big game hunts, the state uses a preference point system for the general deer and elk tags where the applicants with the most points get the tags. The special draw areas for deer, elk, sheep, goat, moose, bison, and antelope are on a bonus point system where your points are squared to increase your odds the longer you apply in Montana.
Non-residents are allowed up to, but are not guaranteed, 10% of the draw tags per region for sheep, goat, and moose. For elk and deer draw tags, there is a 10% non-resident cap per unit instead of region.
Montana is the land of giant rams. Each year, 190-200 class rams are taken there. The biggest rams almost always come from the Missouri River Breaks. The Breaks terrain is a lot easier to hunt than western Montana. With so many sheep, a lot of tags given, and the trophy quality of the rams, every sheep hunter should be applying in Montana. It is also the only state that has over-the-counter Bighorn sheep tags. The unlimited sheep areas are extremely difficult to hunt and have very low sheep populations, but you are still hunting sheep. Every year, some lucky hunters harvest rams from the unlimited areas.
Moose hunting is really good in Montana with 40″ plus bulls harvested every year. With Montana’s limited population of moose, plan on many days afield to find a trophy bull.
The Mountain goat hunting is good with plenty of animals and good success rates. Montana gives out more non-resident goat tags than all the western states (minus Alaska) combined. Montana also offers some of the best draw odds for a non-resident looking to hunt Montana goats.
With a deer tag, you may hunt either Whitetail or Mule deer. Due to the die-offs in recent years, neither species has offered the big bucks as in years gone by where 180″ Mule deer and 150″ Whitetails were fairly common. Montana has taken steps to limit tags so that the populations can have a chance to rebuild. It may take a few years to return to the quality and quantity of trophies that Montana once produced.
Elk hunters can expect good trophy potential in a few of the units, and normally the archery hunts are the best for trophy hunting. Most of the units in western Montana are opportunity type hunts where small to medium sized bulls are common. The eastern units and the Missouri River Breaks country produce some of the best bulls. The Missouri River Breaks country has plenty of public land for a self-guided hunter. Unfortunately, most of the big game hunting in eastern Montana outside the Breaks is on private land, so be sure to secure access before applying, otherwise, with good mapping and GPS skills, hunters can find a few public blocks of land to hunt.
Montana has average antelope hunting with average sized bucks available. Antelope also suffered major die-offs in 2010 and 2011. The populations are still way down in numbers, but they are making a comeback. If you are looking to see a ton of antelope, it may be best to give it a few years before you apply to hunt antelope in Montana.
Montana is a great state with plenty of opportunity and some really good hunting. For trophy elk, trophy deer, or trophy antelope, we would advise you to line up a good piece of private land or book a hunt with a quality outfitter. Sheep, moose, goat, and bison units typically have no issues with public access and produce trophy animals every year. Apply, Apply, Apply!