Montana’s elk herds are doing really well 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 and parts of Region 2 areas continue to struggle with their elk populations. Current elk count numbers put the statewide population at over 136,000 animals, which is down from 176,000 in 2017. Montana is mainly an elk opportunity state and should fit everyone’s schedule with its liberal 12-week seasons. Montana should be included in your application strategy if you are looking at having an elk tag in your pocket each year. The general season units cover most of the western portion of the state with a handful of units scattered across the eastern side of the state. There are also a number of limited-entry units that have the potential to produce bigger 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 can be drawn every two to five years as a non-resident.
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 over 12 weeks to hunt throughout the archery, rifle, and muzzleloader season dates. The archery season is September 3-October 16, rifle season is October 22-November 27, and muzzleloader season is December 10-18. 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. Last year was the first muzzleloader season, and it gave hunters another opportunity for those late season wintering bulls.
Make sure you pay attention to the new regulations as there are several changes from 2021. Several units have been combined and/or changed. In the past, Montana had a 900-20 elk permit where they issued 4,000 permits that were good for 20+ units located in eastern Montana. For 2022, Montana did away with the 900-20 archery elk permit. That broke the 900 unit into a bunch of different units. Some of the units were turned back into general units, and some went to a limited-entry draw. If you look at our archery elk table, you will see 411-21, 417-21, 455-21, 447-21, 595-21, and 799-21. In the archery elk table, you will see “New for 2022” listed under the draw odds for those units. Some of these units were also changed to first choice only. By taking the units to first choice only, Montana will go over the 10% non-resident quota if there are not enough residents who apply to fill the resident 90% quota.
Another big change for 2022 is that if you draw an elk permit, you can only hunt elk in that unit while your season is open. An example of this is that if you draw unit 410-21, which is an archery-only elk permit, you can only hunt archery elk in unit 410. You cannot hunt a general elk unit. Once your archery season is over, you could hunt the rifle or muzzleloader elk season in the general units. Another example is that if you drew unit 380- 20, which is an elk permit that is valid on archery, rifle, and muzzleloader seasons, you would not be able to hunt elk anywhere else in the state as the permit you drew is valid for all three seasons. The only elk permit exception to this is unit 270-45. This is an unlimited first choice permit area that is valid for all three seasons. If you hold the 270-45 elk permit, you may hunt elk in unit 270 as well as the general units. Unit 270 was only made a permit area due to low bull to cow ratios, and it is not a trophy unit.
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.
|Archery||September 3rd - October 16th|
|General||October 22nd - November 27th|
|Shoulder Seasons||Check Regs|
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The Montana Application Deadline For Elk is April 1, 2022.
|Licenses & Permits||Fee|
|Big Game Combination License (Elk & Deer)||$1,145.50|
|Elk Combination License||$971.50|
|Youth Big Game Combination License||$584|
|Youth Elk Combination License||$497|
|Special Elk Permit Application||$9|
|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.|
Montana Elk Hunting Articles from Huntin' Fool Magazine