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Montana Elk Hunting

Montana Elk Hunting


Montana’s elk herds are doing great throughout most of the state with most areas currently over population objectives. The exception lies in the northwest part of the state where many region 1 areas continue to struggle with their rapidly increasing wolf population. Current elk count numbers put the statewide population at over 136,000 animals. Montana is mainly an elk opportunity state and should be included in your application strategy if you are looking at rotating between a few states in hopes of having an elk tag in your pocket each year. With its high elk population, there are always a few giant bulls being killed every year, and 2020 was no exception. There are a few limited-entry units that have the potential to produce big bulls with most of these units located on the eastern half of the state. The rifle permits have tough odds, but most of the archery permits are drawn every two to five years as a non-resident.

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Montana Elk Draw

An archery hunter’s best chance to get a tag and be chasing bigger bulls is on the 900-20 multi-unit archery-only permit or the archery-only permits along the Missouri River Breaks. All of these units are limited-entry for rifle hunters, so there are typically older age class elk available. These hunts are physically easier, and the country is fairly open with grassy draws, small canyons, and broken, pine-timbered terrain. Access is good in many of these areas, but expect a lot of hunting pressure, especially if you are near the road. Due to the number of calls being thrown at them by hunters along with the open terrain, these bulls are not usually very responsive to calling and your best bet at taking a bull in these areas is by spot and stalk hunting. Patterning a bull and setting up at an ambush point is another tactic that works well. 

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2021 Montana Elk Season Dates

Non-resident hunters must draw a general license in order to be entered into the special drawing. Non-resident hunters who draw a general license and are not successful in drawing a special, limited- entry permit will still have options. The first option is that hunters may turn their general license back in to the state for an 80% refund, if done so by August 1st, or a 50% refund before the general season starts. Keep in mind that your preference points will not be reinstated if you return your general license for a refund. The second option is to hunt elk in one of the general units. Remember that these general units are all over-the-counter licenses for residents and can receive a fair amount of hunting pressure. One of the great things about the general elk license is the liberal season dates that come along with it. It is a great opportunity for a hunter with a lot of time as it gives you 11 weeks to hunt throughout the archery and rifle season dates. The archery season runs September 4-October 17 and then the rifle season is October 23-November 28. The archery season dates will allow you to hunt all phases of the rut while most general rifle hunters wait for weather to push the elk down into lower, more accessible country.

Season Dates
Archery September 4th - October 17th
General October 23rd - November 28th
Shoulder Seasons Check Regs


Montana is a fun place to hunt elk, especially if you are a bowhunter. If you’re willing to put the time in, do a little research, and then go out and hunt hard, you may find yourself hunting good bulls. If you are interested in a guided hunt, we work with the best outfitters in the state, so call us for a recommendation or if you have any other questions regarding Montana’s general elk hunting.

Self Guided DIY Montana Elk Hunts

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Private Land, Semi-Guided, and Guided Elk Hunts in Montana


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Application Dates for Montana Elk

The Montana Application Deadline For Elk and Deer Is April 1, 2021. 

Montana Non-Resident Elk Hunting Fees

Licenses & Permits Fee
Big Game Combination License (Elk & Deer) $1,089.50
Elk Combination License $925.50
Youth Big Game Combination License $558.50
Youth Elk Combination License $476.50
Special Elk Permit Application $9
Bow and Arrow License (mandatory for all archery hunts) $10
Preference Point Fee for Combination License (optional) $50
Bonus Point Fee per Species (optional) $20

Montana Elk Hunting Articles from Huntin' Fool Magazine