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Montana Mule Deer Hunting  

Montana Mule Deer Hunting 2022

Montana made a lot of changes to the deer regulations, with goal being to simplify them. By doing so, they have combined a number of units. Make sure you pay attention to the new regulations as there are a number of changes from 2021. One change that took place for 2022 is a handful of mule deer units that used to be unlimited went to general. A couple of these units will close the mule deer season early on November 13th. Hopefully this change will help increase the age class of the bucks in those units.

Most of the state is managed to maximize hunter opportunity each fall. Montana’s general deer tags provide a great opportunity to harvest a mule deer or whitetail and provide plenty of time to get it done over generous season dates. The archery season runs September 3-October 16, most rifle seasons run October 22-November 27, and the muzzleloader season runs December 10-18. The rifle season dates allow hunters to hunt the rut. The downside of hunting the rut is that most of the mature bucks are harvested every season while they are more vulnerable as they are out chasing does. This can make finding a trophy buck something difficult to do on public land.

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Montana Mule Deer Draw

There are a handful of good limited-entry units, and most of them give a hunter a good hunt for an average buck. The Bitterroot Valley has long been known as the best place to take a trophy buck, and it is no secret as the draw odds have been horrible for units 261, 262, and 270. In 2021, three of the five total non-resident deer permits available in units 261-50 and 270-50 were drawn by non-resident landowners. In Montana, 15% of all permits for elk and deer can go to landowners. The landowner draw takes place before the regular draw. Any special permit that a non-resident landowner draws will count against the 10% non-resident quota for that unit. Over the last three years, all non-resident permits were drawn by non-resident landowners in unit 261, and 7 out of 12 tags for unit 270 were drawn by non-resident landowners. Access is getting harder to come by as many landowners in the area have grown tired of being asked for permission to hunt their land. 

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Montana mule deer herds are showing a small improvement in quality, but herds are stable to declining in most areas of the state. The 2021 state estimate was 293,950, which is down 34,363 from 2020. The 2021 mule deer population estimate is the lowest since 2014. Unfortunately, Montana has been giving out so many mule deer doe tags that they have put a hurt on the mule deer population. They further broke that number down into each region as follows: region 1 with 6,055; region 2 with 9,551; region 3 with 43,025; region 4 with 58,082; region 5 with 32,103; region 6 with 67,994; and region 7 with 77,140. The eastern side of the state provides good mule deer hunting. There is a lot of private land, but there is plenty of Block Management and public land for anyone to have a good hunt.


Montana Whitetail

Montana estimates its whitetail population to be at 212,814. That is 16,660 above the 2020 population estimate and slightly above the 10-year average of 202,033. The breakdown of whitetail per region is as follows: region 1 with 69,094; region 2 with 37,747; region 3 with 23,745; region 4 with 32,657; region 5 with 14,917; region 6 with 14,311; and region 7 with 20,343. The more popular areas for whitetail are along the river systems and large agricultural areas throughout the eastern part of the state. 

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Long season dates and hunting deer in the rut will always make for a fun hunt, but don’t expect to see many mature mule deer bucks on the landscape in the general units. If you have any questions about the general deer hunting opportunities or outfitters in Montana, give us a call.

Self-Guided, DIY Montana Mule Deer Hunts

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Private Land, Semi-Guided, and Guided Mule Deer Hunts in Montana

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Application Deadline

The Montana application deadline for deer is April 1, 2022.

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Montana Deer Hunting Fees


Up-Front Fees
Big Game Combination License (Elk & Deer) $1,145.50
Deer Combination License $683.50
Youth Big Game Combination License $584
Youth Deer Combination License $353
Special Deer Permit Application $5
Bow and Arrow License (mandatory for all archery hunts) $10
Preference Point Fee for Combination License (optional) $100
Outfitter Preference Point Fee for Combination License (optional but must hunt with an outfitter) $100
Bonus Point Fee per Species (optional) $20
*All Combination License prices include the required Base Hunting License, Conservation License, Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Pass, and Application Fees.