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Montana Hunting Overview

Montana is a prime location for big game hunting opportunities, with a variety of species available such as elk, deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, Shiras moose, and bison. Montana hunting, managed through the Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks, offers almost eleven weeks of hunting on general licenses, with the bull elk being a top choice for a great rut hunting opportunity. Though drawing a permit is tough, hunting for the sought after big four species (sheep, moose, goat, and bison) is worth the wait. Montana is not known for high numbers of trophy deer, but there is still ample opportunity for hunting. Antelope and mule deer provide a regular opportunity for archery hunters.

Montana has drawn many hunters thanks to its opportunities for both resident and nonresident hunters to hunt Western big game species. Non-residents can draw “Combo” tags for elk and deer every two to three years, but residents can purchase these tags over the counter. The state consists of significant portions of private lands on the eastern side, so researching public land access before making a decision on where to hunt is crucial, while the western parts of Montana house grizzly bears and wolves. Lastly, it is important to be bear aware in these areas and understand the potential impact wolves have on local big game habits and tendencies. Regardless, the Big Sky State has plenty to offer for big game hunting enthusiasts.

Big Game Species

Montana offers big game hunters an abundance of species to pursue, including elk, deer, antelope, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, bison, moose, black bear, and mountain lion. Tags can be acquired through a drawing or over-the-counter, depending on the species and location. Over 100,000 hunters participate in big game hunting in Montana each year, with roughly 60% being residents and 40% nonresidents. Montana’s vast public lands provide hunters with a unique and varied hunting experience, making it a popular destination for hunters from around the world.

Draw and OTC Sales and Dates

Montana Elk and Deer DrawElk, DeerMarch 1, 2024April 1, 2024
Montana Moose, Sheep, Goat, Bison DrawMoose, Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep, Mountain Goat, BisonMarch 1, 2024May 1, 2024
Montana Antelope and B Tag DrawAntelope, Elk, DeerMarch 1, 2024June 1, 2024
Montana Super Tag LotteryAntelope, Bighorn Sheep, Bison, Deer, Elk, Moose, Mountain Goat, Mountain LionJanuary 1, 2024June 30, 2024
Montana Bonus Points PurchaseAll speciesJuly 1, 2024September 30, 2024
Montana Preference Points PurchaseGeneral Elk, Deer, or combination tag permitJuly 1, 2024December 31, 2024

Montana Hunting Point System

Montana uses multiple point systems to assist hunters in drawing tags, preference and bonus points. Unlike other states, both point types can apply in a single application, for a single species. Prior to reading the below, it is important to understand the difference between a Deer, Elk, or Combination General License, and Deer and Elk Permits. In short, a general license gives the opportunity to hunt a number of general units in the state. A permit allows the opportunity to hunt a specific limited entry unit within the state.

Montana Preference Points System

Applies to general tags

Preference points apply to the ability to get a General License in the state, whether General Elk, Deer, or Combination.

  • They are only required for non-residents, as residents are currently able to get a general tag each year.
  • There is only a single preference point type, there are not unique points for each general tag type.
  • If you draw a general tag, your points will be reset at zero.

Montana Bonus Points System

Applies to specific unit permits

Limited entry permits (Permits) are available for a specific unit or units, and are drawn using an optional Bonus Point system.

  • Bonus points offer additional drawing chances
  • Points are squared to increase the odds for the applicants with more accrued points.
  • If you draw your first choice on a limited-entry permit application, your Bonus Point total will be purged to zero for that species.
  • Points are only applied to first choices and will not be lost unless you draw your first choice on the species you applied your bonus points.
  • If you apply for a permit and are unsuccessful, you will be awarded a Bonus Point for that species if you paid the optional Bonus Point fee at the time of your application. You must check “YES” on the bonus point questions at the time of your application and include the $20 (nonresident) or $2 (resident) bonus point fee per permit type.
  • You can purchase a bonus point for that license or permit from July 1-September 30 without applying. The fee to purchase a bonus point without applying is $15 per species for residents and the nonresident fees are $25 per species except for Moose, Sheep, and Goat, which are $75 per species.
  • You can only earn 1 bonus point per license year for a specific special permit or license. You cannot buy a second point in the point-only period if you were unsuccessful in the draw.
  • All base bonus points accumulate over time until you draw a first choice permit.

Montana Point Types

NR Combo License Pref PointPreference PointNon-Resident
ElkBonus PointBoth
Elk BBonus PointBoth
DeerBonus PointBoth
Deer BBonus PointBoth
AntelopeBonus PointBoth
Antelope BBonus PointBoth
Antelope 900-20Bonus PointBoth
Mountain GoatBonus PointBoth
MooseBonus PointBoth
Mountain LionBonus PointBoth
Bighorn SheepBonus PointBoth
TurkeyBonus PointBoth
SwanBonus PointBoth
Sandhill CraneBonus PointBoth
PaddlefishBonus PointBoth

How to build points

There are two methods to acquire points in Montana.

  1. At the time of application for that species permit or license.
  2. Between July 1-September 30 if you did not apply for that species special permit or license.

Please note, if you elect to purchase points during the draw, you must specify your intent to purchase a points in the event of an unsuccessful draw application. You must also pay the species specific fee for the species you want to acquire a point for.

Tags, Licenses, and Pricing

A Base Hunting License and Conservation License are required to apply in Montana draws. An application fee is applied per species applied for, including for points purchases through the draw. An additional fee is applied if you elect to purchase points in the event you are unsuccessful in the draw.

Points can also be purchased separately from the draw. When all fees are incorporated, the prices for points are roughly the same via the draw or via the points only period.

General Fees

ItemResident PriceNon-Resident Price
Base Hunting License$10.00$15.00
Conservation License$8.00$10.00
Nonresident Preference Point (For Big Game, Elk, Deer Combo)N/A$100.00
Archery License$10.00$10.00

Species Specific Fees

ItemResident PriceNon-Resident Price
Application fee - elk, deer, pronghorn$5.00$5.00
Application fee - Moose, Sheep, Goat, Bison$10.00$50.00
Bonus point during draw application - All species$2.00$20.00
Bonus point during points only period - Elk, Antelope, Deer$15.00$25.00
Bonus point during points only period - Moose, Sheep, Goat$15.00$75.00
Elk Tag$20.00$1,048.00
Elk Permit (not an additional tag)$9.00$9.00
Deer Tag (whitetail + mule)$16.00$724.00
Deer Permit (not an additional tag)$5.00$5.00
Big Game Combination (elk + deer)N/A$1,242.00
Antelope Tag$19.00$200.00
Bighorn Sheep Tag$125.00$1,250.00
Moose Tag$125.00$1,250.00
Rocky Mountain Goat Tag$125.00$1,250.00
Bison Tag$125.00$1,250.00
Black Bear Tag$19.00$350.00
Wolf Tag$12.00$50.00

Montana Hunting Regulations

Hunters Education

  • Hunters Education is required for individuals born on or after January 1, 1985.

Age Restrictions

  • Hunters must be 12 years of age.

Archery Limitations

  • Mechanical broadheads and lighted nocks are allowed.
  • Bows are limited to a maximum of 80% letoff.
  • Crossbows are not allowed in archery seasons
  • Electronic devices attached to a bows are prohibited.

Group Hunting

Montana draw applicants may apply for group hunts for elk, deer, and pronghorn. Groups are limited to five members, and the state will use the average number of bonus points among all members to determine the final group permit total. Groups can consist of residents and non-residents, but will only be eligible for the 10% pool of available permits if both are included. It’s important to note that all group members must apply for the same hunt choices. Sheep, moose, and mountain goat hunts are excluded from the group application process.

Montana Hunting FAQ

What is the difference between a General tag and permit for elk and deer?2023-04-13T01:15:22+00:00

General licenses or general tags offer the ability to hunt a number of general units across the state. These are typically lower success units with higher hunter population, as they are not limited in hunter quantity. For non-residents, general tags are associated with preference points.

Elk permits are unit specific and offer the opportunity to hunt a higher success unit within the state. They are associated with the state’s bonus point system, which applies to both residents and non-residents. In order to draw an elk permit, a hunter must also apply for a general tag and be successful in drawing one, although both these are assessed in the same draw process.

Waiting Periods

Youth Hunting

Landowner Tag Options

Weapon Restrictions

Return / Transfer Tags

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