When it comes to Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep hunting, Montana should be on everyone’s radar. To many, drawing a Missouri Breaks sheep tag in units 482, 622, or 680 is at the very top of their hunting bucket list. Last year, 5,300 non-resident sheep applicants applied for a ram tag in one of the three famed units of the Missouri Breaks. Only four of them were successful in drawing a tag. Unit 482 is still going to give you your best chance at a 180"+ ram. Half of the rams harvested here in 2022 are estimated to have broken that mark, followed by 25% in 680 and 10% in 622.
Unfortunately, the bighorn sheep hunts in the Breaks are not quite what they were four or five years ago. Some of the better genetics, especially for mass, are starting to be shot out. The drought over the past three years and the apocalyptic grasshopper hatch that came with it have severely reduced the amount of quality feed these rams need to thrive. These conditions have also contributed to lower lamb production, forcing FWP to reduce the number of ewe tags available in each of the Breaks units. Additionally, ram tags were cut in unit 482 from 20 to 15 in 2022, limiting non-residents to only one permit on this hunt. It’s not all doom and gloom in the Breaks, however, as precipitation levels are off to a great start in 2023. There were also at least one or two mid to upper 80s rams that are known to have made it through the season in each of the three units. The Breaks units are still going to give a hunter the best shot at a 190" ram, hunters will just need to be good at judging and passing up rams if their goal is taking home a book ram.
Those hoping for better odds of hitting on a Montana bighorn sheep tag will need to consider looking past the Breaks units and instead focus on other second tier units that are available for non-residents. Excluding the unlimited hunts last year, 2,035 non-residents applied for ram tags in units other than the Breaks and four were successful in drawing their tag. For 2023, hunts in units 100, 102, 250, 380, and 423 will each be available for non-residents. On each of these hunts, beginning in early November, most of the rams will come down from their summer range in search of ewes. As the rut takes place, these sheep will stay in highly visible areas and offer a hunter a physically easier lower elevation hunt. The exception to this is in unit 423. The area where most of the sheep stage for the rut can’t be accessed by road. It’s also worth noting that less than 20 total sheep permits are being proposed in region one in 2023. This would mean that only one non-resident permit will be available between units 100 and 102, and when one non-resident is drawn for either unit, the non-resident draw will be shut down in the other.
Montana is the only state that offers over-the-counter bighorn sheep tags. This year, hunters can choose from five units – 300, 303, 500, 501, and 502. The tags must be purchased or applied for by May 1st. The odds of harvesting a ram are typically around 2%, but every year, some lucky hunters take rams home. Last year, eight hunters harvested rams in the unlimited areas. See the “Unlimited Bighorn Sheep” section for more information on all of the units and hunts.
For 2023, Montana has once again shuffled the units that non-residents are able to apply for, so be sure to look over our bighorn sheep table as we have included all non-resident sheep hunts available this fall. If you are a Montana resident and you would like to talk about the other units available to you, give us a call. Despite the long draw odds, anyone who wants a chance to hunt giant rams someday has to be applying in Montana!
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The Montana Bighorn Sheep application deadline is May 1, 2023.
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|Base Hunting License
|Bonus Points (optional/per species)
|Sheep, Moose, Goat, and Bison Application Fee
|Bighorn Sheep Permit
|Bow and Arrow License (required for all archery hunts)
|*Fees do not include the additional 2.5% convenience fee.
MT Bighorn Hunting Articles from Huntin' Fool Magazine