Montana is the perfect state for hunting since it is renowned for its captivating and diverse terrain ranging from the Rocky Mountains and the Great Plains.
The state houses vast swathes of open lands and includes the famous Glacier National Park. For avid hunters, Montana bestows a host of opportunities and is the home to antelope, bison, black bear, elk, mountain lion, etc.
Both Montana residents and non-residents are required to have hunting licenses and permits, which can be purchased from the official website of Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department.
The state also offers special permits for legal salvage of deer, moose, elk and antelope that have been accidentally killed by vehicle collision.
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1. Hunting Season
Hunting seasons in Montana mainly varies depending on the primary factors like breeding or nesting, age or gender distribution, economic and recreational concerns.
However, the simple formula used to define hunting season for different species of animals is that if the animal population is large, the moderators will time it to give the hunters a greater advantage to hunt and if the population is dwindling, the dates will be set in such a way so as to give the animals a greater survival advantage.
The Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks has bifurcated the hunting season into two: Big Game Hunting Season and Small Game hunting Season.
1.1 Big Game Hunting Season
Big Game species in Montana largely includes Antelope, Bighorn Sheep, Bison, Black Bear, Deer, Elk, Moose, Mountain Goat and Wolf. The general season for each animal is mentioned below.
- The general hunting season for antelope is from October 10 to November 8.
- Bighorn sheep can be hunted from September 15 to November 29.
- The hunting season of bison starts from November 15 to February 15.
- The fall general season and spring general season for bear is from September 15 to November 29 and April 15 to June 15, respectively.
- The general season to hunt deer is from October 24 to November 29.
- Elks can be hunted from October 24 to November 29.
- The moose hunting season commences from September 15 to November 29.
- Montana Wolf general hunting season is from September 15 to March 15.
- Mountain goats can be hunted from September 15 to November 29.
1.2 Small Game Hunting Season
Small game animals that are found in Montana include mountain grouse, partridge, swift fox, sage grouse, marten and snipe. The season dates vary according to the animal and by zones.
- Mountain grouse and partridge can be hunted between September 1 and January 1.
- Swift fox can be hunted from November 1 to march 1.
- The sage grouse hunting season is from September 1 to 30.
- Marten and snipe have the hunting season that commences from December 1 to February 15 and September 1 to December 16, respectively.
2. What Species to Hunt in Montana?
Antelope, also known as Pronghorn, has a tan skin coat with white underside, two white bands across throat, large eyes and black markings on head.
They have lived in North America for millions of years, and today they number over 1 million across North America.
The hunter needs to take into account the hunting norms and bag limit, while hunting antelope in Montana.
2.2 Bighorn Sheep
Montana is the home to over 5000 bighorn sheep in 45 distinct populations. As the name implies, bighorn sheep have large and curved horns. They have a chocolate brown skin coat, with a white rump and lining on the backs of all four legs. The bag limit in Montana is 1.
Bison are large animals with shaggy coats of long hair. Wallowing is a common behavior of bison. Generally, they appear to be peaceful, unconcerned and also sometimes lazy, yet they may charge upon anything, often without any warning or reason. Bison meat is considered to be a great source of protein.
Sadly, Montana is one of the last places where bison live, most notably in Yellowstone National Park and at the National Bison Refuge near Moiese.
2.4 Black Bear
The black bear occupies suitable forested areas in Montana. Black bears have short and rounded claws, black feet and a vestigial tail. They are highly sprightful and can run at speeds of 25 to 30 miles per hour.
They have excellent eyesight and are capable of rapidly learning to distinguish different shapes such as circles and squares.
In Montana, the aggregate daily bag limit for black bear is 8, with a possession limit which is four times the daily limit.
Two varieties of deer are abundant in Montana, that is, Mule Deer and White-tailed Deer. They have a reddish-brown coat and can be recognized by the white underside to its tail.
They can remarkably adapt themselves to a wide variety of habitats. They communicate through their white tail and when spooked, it will raise its tail to warn the other deer in the immediate area. They are largely hunted for sport commodities and meat.
In Montana, the hunters may hold only one general deer license, which can be used for deer as indicated under the “General Deer License” heading on the deer and elk hunting regulations.
Elk is a very large animal and have a reddish hue due to their hair coloring, as well as large, buff-colored rump patches and smaller tails. They have a thick coat of hair which insulate them during the winter season.
They have a loud vocalization consisting of screams known as bugling, which can be heard for miles. You must have a valid hunting license in order to hunt elks.
The moose population in Montana is believed to be around 5,000, with the largest number spread across western Montana. Moose are not usually aggressive towards humans, but can be violent, if threatened.
They can kick in all directions, including sideways. The bag limit is 8 in total.
2.8 Mountain Goat
Mountain goats have beards, short tails, and long black horns. They are protected from the elements by their woolly white double coats. They are herbivores and spend most of their time grazing.
Mountain goats can occasionally be aggressive towards humans, if frightened. The bag limit is 1 adult goat of either sexes with horns 4 inches or longer.
Wolves were first introduced into Yellowstone National Park in 1995. The average wolf pack in Montana has 6 to 8 animals. The wolf is slender and powerfully built with a large, deeply descending rib cage, a sloping back, and a heavily muscled neck.
They communicate by the use of vocalization, body posture, scent, touch and taste. Maximum hunting and trapping limit are 5 wolves per person. Use of electronic calls by wolf hunters is allowed.
2.10 Small Game Animals
Among the small game animals found in Montana, partridges are medium-sized, non-migratory birds and are often reared in captivity and released for the purpose of hunting.
The daily limit of partridge hunting is 8, with a possession limit of 32. Marten are also spread throughout the state of Montana. Sage grouse and Snipe are also available in plenty.
3. Where to Hunt in Montana?
3.1 Public Lands
Montana has over 30 million acres of land, which covers nearly one-third of the state. There are 5.5 million acres of state school trust lands in Montana and are managed by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation.
The Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) are managed by the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and offer free public hunting opportunities state-wide.
National Forest Lands in Montana of nearly 16 million acres are legally accessible via a public road or navigable waterway and are open to hunting. The following list enumerates certain important public hunting grounds.
- Callatin National Forest, of nearly 1.8 million acres, offers excellent hunting opportunities for elk, deer, bear and birds.
- Flathead National Park, of 2 million acres, provides excellent big game hunting opportunities.
- School Trust Lands, of 5.5 million acres, are open to public hunting.
- Kootenai National Forest, of 2.2 million acres, offers superb hunting opportunities for deer, elk, moose, bear and mountain lion.
- Lewis and Clark National Forest, of 1.8 million acres, contains adequate big-game hunting options including elk and deer.
3.2 Private Lands
Private lands offer ample hunting opportunities since Montana has almost 23,000 landowners who own nearly 64 million acres of private land.
Landowner permission is a must to hunt on private lands and can be obtained through simple courtesy and communication between the hunter and the landowner.
Montana has also introduced the Block Management Program, which is a cooperative effort between landowners and land management agencies to provide free public hunting access to private and isolated public land.
The conservation easement program allows landowners to protect traditional farm and ranch land while at the same time preserving natural resources and wildlife.
Lands enrolled in the Upland Game Bird Enhancement Program and Migratory Bird Stamp Program also offer hunting opportunities.
4. License Requirements
Depending on the age, hunters may be required to have the Hunter Education Certificate in order to legally buy a license or permit to hunt.
After completing the Montana hunter education certification requirements, you can choose the correct license type and then purchase it through the official website or a Montana-approved provider.
4.1 Types of Hunting Licenses
4.1.1 Montana Resident
A resident is a person who has lived in Montana for a minimum period of 180 days. Active-duty military members stationed in Montana are considered residents.
All the residents of ages 12 or older must have the Base Hunting License and the Conservation License as prerequisites when purchasing licenses or permits required to hunt specific game species.
All non-residents of age 12 or older must have the Base Hunting License and the Conservation License as prerequisites when purchasing or applying for licenses and permits needed to hunt specific game species.
In order to apply for the Come Home to Hunt License to shoot big game and deer, the following requirements need to be fulfilled.
- The person is a non-resident who once lived in Montana and purchased a resident hunting license or was awarded a hunting education certificate.
- The person has an immediate family member who is a resident of Montana and will act as a sponsor.
Non-resident Montana Native Hunting License can be purchased if the person was born in Montana but no longer is a resident and has an immediate family member who is a resident of Montana.
4.1.3 Youth Hunting License
Montana residents and non-residents of ages 12 to 17 may be eligible for reduced price licenses. Moreover, residents and non-residents of ages 10 to 17 are eligible to participate in the Apprentice Youth Program.
4.1.4 Senior Hunting License
Montana residents 62 or older may be eligible for reduced price licenses.
4.1.5 Disability License
Montana residents with a disability may be eligible for the reduced-fee Resident with a Disability Conservation License. The Permit to Modify Archery Equipment and Permit to Hunt from a Vehicle are available for free.
4.1.6 Military and Veteran License
Active-duty military members who are stationed in Montana for at least 30 days may purchase a resident hunting license. In addition, active-duty military members who are Montana residents but stationed elsewhere may purchase a resident hunting license.
Disabled veterans and active-duty military members may be eligible to receive donated hunting licenses. They must be a Purple Heart Recipient and have 70% for more service-connected disability.
4.2 License Expiration
Hunting licenses expire at the end of February. Species licenses and permits are valid during only their authorized seasons.
5. Hunters Education
Montana Hunter Education Course is necessary to purchase a Montana Hunting License, if you were born after January 1, 1985. In order to take the online course, you must have been born on or before January 16, 2009 and a Montana resident to take this online course.
The course imparts knowledge to the young hunters regarding wildlife management, hunting ethics, first-aid, safety and survival.
You can go either for the Offline Hunters Education Course or Online Hunters Education Course. In order to register for this course, you must be 12 years of age or older.
6. Rules and Regulations
6.1 Distance Regulations
In Montana, it is illegal to discharge a firearm or any other implement capable of taking human life, causing injury or damaging property in or within 150 yards of a residence or on a National Forest System road, or trail or in any place whereby any person or property is exposed to injury or damage as a result of such discharge.
6.2 Legal Hunting Hours
The legal hunting hour in Montana begins 30 minutes before sunrise and ends 30 minutes after sunset.
6.3 Hunter Orange Requirement
Hunters fluorescent orange vests and hats are essential for safe hunting in most hunting scenarios. If you go for archery hunt during rifle season, you are required to wear hunter orange.
Smart hunters carry an orange hat with them during camo hunts, so they can wear it when they are done and walking out. This is necessary when they are hauling out an elk or deer rack.
6.4 Bag Limits
Depending on the size of the game animals, the bag limit or tag permits vary in Montana. Usually, the bag limit is more if the game is small and vice-versa.
6.5 Can You Hunt at Night?
Night Hunting in Montana is disallowed for all the game animals except coyotes. Coyotes can be hunted at night on private property with permission from the landowner.
You are not supposed to use any light at night from any motorized vehicle except when you are using it to dispatch or track an already wounded animal.
Bowhunters can purchase the Montana Bow and Arrow License only if they can provide a certificate of completing the National Bowhunter Education Foundation Course or any prior year’s bowhunting or archery stamp, tag, permit or license from any state or province.
7.1 Bow and Arrow Requirements
- A bow must be at least 28 inches in total length.
- Bows shorter than 28 inches are prohibited for use in Montana.
- An arrow is defined as a projectile at least 20 inches in overall length.
- An arrow must weigh no less than 300 grains with the broadhead attached.
- Crossbows are not a legal weapon during the archery equipment only season.
8. Game Calls
Game calls refer to the signals emitted by the hunters in order to lure animals to the trap. There are two types of game call: hand-held and electronic. Hand-held game calls are carried out with the aid of wood and plastic and are extremely cost-friendly.
Electronic game calls are, however, not always considered legal. Recorded or amplified sounds may not be used to hunt any non-game bird or non-game mammal, except coyotes and wolves.
Ample hunting opportunities in the state of Montana draw masses interested in hunting from all over the world. The wide range of fauna is highly captivating. In order to gain a beautiful and enjoyable experience, you must adhere to all the hunting norms and tag permits.
For more information, please visit the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website: http://fwp.mt.gov/.
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