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 into 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 2-October 15, rifle season is October 21-November 26, and muzzleloader season is December 9-17. 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. The muzzleloader season can be good as it gives hunters another opportunity for those late season wintering bulls.
Montana’s elk herds are still doing really well across 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. The 2022 elk hunting season was very successful for rifle hunters as there were great snow conditions during the state’s five-week rifle season. Due to the high harvest, we may see a lower bull to cow ratio during the 2023 season in the general areas.
The Missouri Breaks units continue to produce good bulls, but Eastern Montana has been in a drought for the last couple of years. The elk populations on the north side of the Breaks in region 6 have fallen below elk population objectives, with the exception of unit 690. The populations on the south side of the Breaks in regions 4 and 7 are still above elk objectives. This winter has been really good for precipitation across Montana, and if it keeps up, the Breaks units should have a really good horn growth year.
A big change that took place last year was that if you draw an elk permit, you can only hunt elk in that unit while your season is open. An example 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. A number of hunters missed this change in 2022 and got in trouble.
Montana has always been a good place to hunt elk, especially if you are a bowhunter as the season runs into the middle of October. There are plenty of opportunities to hunt elk in Montana for a hunter who is willing to put in the work. 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 2nd - October 15th|
|General Rifle||October 21st - November 26th|
|Muzzleloader||December 9th - December 17th|
|Shoulder Seasons||Check Regs|
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The Montana Application Deadline For Elk is April 1, 2023.
|Licenses & Permits||Fee|
|Big Game Combination License (Elk & Deer)||$1,245.50|
|Elk Combination License||$1,055.50|
|Youth Big Game Combination License||$636.50|
|Youth Elk Combination License||$541.50|
|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