Montana’s 2023 Big Game Hunting Regulations are available. Regulation booklets can be downloaded from their website at https://fwp.mt.gov/hunt/regulations.
|Montana Elk||Montana Mule Deer||Montana Mountain Goat|
|Montana Bighorn Sheep||Montana Bison||Montana Moose|
|Montana Pronghorn Antelope||Available Montana Hunts (HF Adventures)||Montana Wolf|
The deadline to apply for sheep, moose, mountain goat, and bison is May 1, 2023, and the antelope deadline is June 1, 2023. Draw results for sheep, moose, mountain goat, and bison will be available in mid-May. Antelope results will be available early August with the exception of antelope archery 900-20 results, which will be available mid-June. Antelope refunds will be mailed out after the draw. Every year, Montana rotates most of the sheep, moose, and mountain goat units where non-residents are allowed to apply for a permit, making it different from year to year. Do not apply based off of old information as there may not be a non-resident tag available there this year. We do not have enough room to cover all of the resident units, but if you are a resident, you can call us and we can go over the options that are available.
Montana has a complicated application process for non-residents. They need to apply for one of the big game, elk, or deer combination licenses in the general draw in order to apply for special, limited-entry deer and/or elk permits, both of which are due by April 1st. Montana only accepts online applications for all big game draws. Paper applications are no longer accepted. You may apply online at https://fwp.mt.gov/buyandapply.
Party applications are available for elk and deer with a maximum party size of five. Bonus points will be averaged and rounded to the nearest whole number. All big game hunting applications are final after submittal. You may no longer withdraw or amend any of your big game hunting applications.
Applicants wishing to apply for points only for any species may do so from July 1st through September 30th. When applying for points only, applicants only have to pay the point fee for each species.
You may apply online at https://fwp.mt.gov/buyandapply. Montana only accepts online applications for all big game draws. Paper applications are no longer accepted, and Montana does not allow phone applications.
You cannot apply as a party for Montana’s sheep, moose, or mountain goat hunts. Antelope hunters may apply as a party. The maximum number of hunters who can apply as a party is five.
If you don’t want to apply in the draw, you can purchase a bonus point from July 1st through September 30th. The fee to purchase a bonus point without applying is $15 per species for residents and $25 per species for non-residents. The exception is for sheep, moose, and goat for non- residents, which is $75 per species.
Everyone’s first choice is awarded before anyone’s second choice is considered. For deer and elk, draw results will be available mid-April. There is no waiting period to apply if you have previously drawn an elk or a deer permit.
Elk and deer non-resident applicants are allocated up to 10% of the permit quota, not guaranteed. If a non-resident applies for a deer or elk permit area that has less than a quota of 10, the application will not be considered for the drawing.
For moose and mountain goat, there is only one hunt choice. For sheep, there is a second choice, which is for adult ewe sheep only. Be sure to check the hunt codes carefully when applying to avoid accidentally applying for a ewe tag. For antelope, you may list multiple choices on your application. Everyone’s first choice is given before anyone’s second choice is considered.
By state law, non-residents are limited to, but not guaranteed, 10% of the license and/or permit quota. Unique to Montana’s application process, the 10% non-resident quota is per region, not per unit or state. Non-residents are allowed, but not guaranteed, up to 10% of each region’s quota for sheep, moose, and mountain goat. Residents and non-residents are in the same drawing for sheep, moose, and mountain goat tags until the non-resident quota is met or all of the tags are issued. If the non-resident quota of up to 10% is reached and tags remain, only residents will be drawn for the remaining tags.
If you receive a moose, mountain goat, or limited either-sex or legal bighorn ram permit, you may not receive another permit for the next seven years, regardless of if you harvest or not. Unlimited bighorn ram permit holders who harvest a ram may not receive a permit for the next seven years. If you fail to harvest with an unlimited tag, there is no waiting period. There is no waiting period for bison, antelope, or ewe bighorn sheep.
Licenses, permits, and carcass tags are printed on 8 1/2" x 11" regular white paper. An email will be sent to you at the conclusion of your transaction that will include your non-carcass licenses to print from your home printer. If you purchased carcass tags, you have the option to print them from home (a link will be included in the email) or have FWP print and mail them to you. If you choose to print from home and do not print within five days of purchase, FWP will automatically print and send the tags by mail.
Applicants who apply online will need a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or debit card to apply. When applying, license fees must be paid for at the time of application.
The Montana bonus and preference point systems are voluntary. The bonus point costs $20 for non-residents per species. The preference point costs $100 for non-residents for the general combination drawing. When applying online, you will be charged a convenience fee of $1.25 plus approximately 2.5% of the total purchase will be added to the application fees.
With the exception of archery hunters who are hunting during an archery-only season, all big game hunters, companions who are hunting, or accompanying hunters as an outfitter or guide must wear a minimum of 400 square inches of hunter orange fluorescent material above the waist, and it must be visible at all times.
Anyone born after January 1, 1985 must have taken a hunter education course to purchase a hunting license in Montana. In order to purchase an archery license, you must provide a certificate of completing a bowhunter education course or provide any prior year’s bowhunting permit from any other state prior to applying.
An 11-year-old youth who will be 12 years old by January 16, 2024 may purchase a hunting license and apply for any drawing but cannot hunt until after August 15, 2024. New last year, a youth must be 12 years old by January 16, 2024 to be eligible to begin accumulating points.
Bonus points will be issued for the special deer and elk drawings. Bonus points for deer and elk are squared in the drawing. For example, if you have 3 bonus points, you will have 9 points in the draw plus that year’s application, equalling 10 chances in the drawing. If unsuccessful, you will be awarded another point and will have 4 points going into next year’s drawing. The most bonus points a hunter can have going into the 2022 draw for deer and elk is 19 points. Any bonus points accumulated will not be lost unless the individual draws the species they applied their bonus points to. Party applications will have their bonus points averaged and rounded to the nearest whole number. Bonus points are not used or lost in second and third choice drawings.
Preference points are issued for the general combination drawings. 75% of the general combination licenses will be issued to the people with the most preference points. The other 25% of the general combination licenses will be issued to the applicants who were unsuccessful in the preference point draw and have 0 points. Montana does this to give hunters with no points a chance at drawing a combination license. The Montana preference point system is voluntary for non-residents. Only purchase a preference point for the general license if you intend to apply in the next years draw. Otherwise, your preference points will be purged if you don’t apply in the next draw.
Montana started a bonus point system for sheep, moose, and mountain goat in 2001. The maximum number of points someone can have is 23 going into the 2023 draw. For each year you are unsuccessful in the drawing and you paid the extra $20 bonus point fee, you will be given a point. Bonus points are squared in the drawing. For example, if you have 3 points, that gives you 9 chances, plus you will receive an additional chance for the current year, making it a total of 10 chances in the drawing. If unsuccessful, you will be awarded that point, giving you 4 points going into the next year’s drawing. The only way you will lose all accumulated points is if you draw a license with your first choice.
Montana gives non-residents up to 10% of the big game tag quota. We listed the prior year’s first choice draw odds based on if that applicant had 0, 5, 10, or 15 points going into the draw. This will give applicants a better idea of their draw odds for that specific hunt, depending on the point level they are at, and it also gives applicants a time frame of when they can anticipate increased draw odds.
For Montana sheep, moose, mountain goat, bison, and antelope, we list the total applicants who applied as non- residents and residents along with the total tag number and potential non- resident quota. All applicants are in the same drawing pool, unless non-residents have met their regional and/or unit quota. The information we list does not take into account accumulated bonus points. We try to show you how much demand there is for the tags that are available.
For detailed draw odds where you can enter in your points to see exactly what your odds were last year, go to research.huntinfool.com.
Under the Apprentice Hunter program, youth ages 10-17 can get out in the field to hunt deer prior to having taken hunter education. An apprentice hunter must be accompanied by a mentor who is at least 21 years of age. Apprentice hunters cannot apply for limited-entry draws. However, if you plan on hunting an unlimited unit, you must submit an application to FWP headquarters. Contact the licensing department directly with any questions.
In many units, youth ages 12-15 may harvest a cow elk with their elk license without having to draw a cow permit. FWP Commission is once again allowing legally licensed hunters who are 10-15 years of age to hunt deer during the statewide two- day, youth-only deer season, which runs October 20-21.
There are no special youth opportunities for moose, sheep, mountain goat, bison, or antelope.
For archery, your bow must meet all of the following requirements to be legal: must be handheld, must be at least 28" in length, and may have no more than 80% let-off. The arrow must meet all of the following requirements to be legal: must be at least 20" in length, the total arrow weight must be more than 300 grains, broadheads must weigh 70 grains or more and have two cutting edges, and expandables are legal if they expand to at least 7/8". The following equipment restrictions apply only to weapon restriction areas: muzzleloaders must not be capable of being loaded from the breech of the barrel; may not be loaded with any pre-prepared paper or metallic cartridges; must be charged with black powder, pyrodex, or an equivalent; must be ignited by a percussion, flintlock, matchlock, or wheellock mechanism; must be a minimum of .45 caliber; may have no more than two barrels; and must only use plain lead projectiles. Sabots or other similar power and range-enhancing manufactured loads that enclose the projectile from the rifling or bore of the firearm are prohibited.
One Super Tag will be drawn for each species and can be used in any hunting district, including Montana’s most legendary trophy districts. Revenue from the Super Tag sales is used to enhance hunting access and boost FWP enforcement efforts. Unlimited Super Tag chances may be purchased for $5 each. Super Tag chances may be purchased online at https://app.mt.gov/als/index/index.html. Super Tag chances are available for bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat, bison, elk, deer, antelope, and mountain lion.
Montana landowners, both residents and non-residents, may qualify for preference in the special permit drawing for deer and elk. Landowners may designate a family member or employee to be placed in the draw for a tag. 15% of the limited draw tags are set aside for landowners. Any special permit that a non-resident landowner draws will count against the 10% non- resident quota for that unit.
The new outfitter preference point will allow a hunter applying with an outfitter to purchase two points going into the draw. The hunter could buy the normal preference point and the outfitter preference point. This would give the hunter two preference points, which has historically always drawn a tag. The only thing to remember when buying an outfitter preference point is that you are required to hunt with the outfitter for your entire hunt.
Any leftover general combination licenses for deer and elk will go on sale within a week after the draw results have been posted. The licenses should be available online.
Montana does not have a landowner tag program for sheep, mountain goat, or moose. Do not expect any moose, sheep, mountain goat, or bison tags to be leftover. There are occasionally leftover antelope tags. These tags will go on sale on a first-come, first-served basis shortly after the results have been posted.
Montana landowners, both residents and non-residents, may qualify for preference in the special permit drawing for deer and elk. Landowners may designate a family member or employee to be placed in the draw for a tag. 15% of the limited draw tags are set aside for landowners. Any special permit that a non-resident landowner draws will count against the 10% non-resident quota for that unit.
Super Tag chances are available for moose, sheep, mountain goat, antelope, elk, deer, bison, and mountain lion. The deadline is June 30th. You can purchase unlimited Super Tag chances at $5 per chance. Super Tag chances may be purchased online. Each species will have one Super Tag drawn, and it is valid in any hunting district in Montana. The revenue from the Super Tag sales is used to enhance hunting access and boost FWP enforcement efforts. For more information, visit https://fwp.mt.gov/buyandapply/hunting-licenses.
Applicants who are successful in drawing a general license will then be placed in the special drawing if they applied for it. For big game combination or elk combination licenses, you will be able to choose from the following if unsuccessful in the special drawing: keep your general combination license to use on the general seasons, receive an 80% refund of the license, or, if drawn for a big game combination license and you are unsuccessful in drawing a special elk permit, elect to receive a $351.20 refund for the elk license and be issued a deer combination license to use for the general deer seasons. These options do not exist if you only apply for the deer combination license. If you successfully draw a deer combination license but are unsuccessful in the special drawing, you can return your license for an 80% refund by August 1st or a 50% refund before the start of the general hunting season. All refunds will be mailed to unsuccessful applicants in the form of a check.
Montana does not have mandatory harvest reporting requirements for deer and elk taken using paper licenses.
A hunter who harvests a bighorn ram must personally present the complete head and cape intact within 48 hours of the harvest to any Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks office, game warden, and/or employee. However, in unit 482, region 6, or the unlimited units, the sheep must be presented in the administrative district where the ram was taken. A hunter harvesting a mountain goat must present the complete head with horns attached to a Department official within 10 days of the date of kill. No harvest reporting is necessary for moose.
New last year, Montana has given hunters the option to use electronic tags. The Montana MyFWP app provides a digital wallet to store and display licenses and digital carcass tags, known as E-Tags, that can validate your harvest in the field. When you validate your E-Tag, it automatically reports your harvest to Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks.
Montana has a good hunt planner that can be found at https://myfwp.mt.gov/fwpPub/planahunt. Regular Montana BLM maps may be obtained by calling 406-896-5000. Other topographical maps may be obtained by calling the USGS at 888-275-8747.
Montana has a Block Management program, which is a cooperative program between private landowners and Montana FWP. Block Management helps landowners manage hunting activities and provides the public with free hunting access to private land and sometimes to adjacent or isolated public lands. Currently, hunters can hunt about 7.1 million acres of private land for free. Program funding comes from the sale of various licenses. A regional Hunting Access Guide is published annually by August 15th, which lists the Block Management areas enrolled for that year and explains how to gain access to them. Call 406-444-2612 for more information.
The Montana wolf harvest for the 2021-2022 season was 272. On average, around 300 wolves are being harvested per hunting season. Two-thirds of the wolves are usually harvested by hunters each year with the rest being taken by trappers. Montana lawmakers drafted a series of bills that expand opportunities to better manage the state’s wolf population. The measures included expanded wolf harvest seasons, increased bag limits, night hunting on private land, baiting on private land, and the use of snares for trapping. The wolf trapping and hunting season will end on March 15, 2024. We encourage hunters to have a wolf tag in their pocket if they are hunting in the western half of Montana. We cover Montana wolf hunting information in our October issue.Pro Tips from the License Application Department