Montana – From a Deer Hunter’s POV

Posted: 08/23/2012 in Archery, Hunting, Legal, News, Regulations
Tags: , , , ,

This is an ongoing series looking at each state from the point of view of a nonresident hunter trying to find information about deer hunting, the basic explanation is HERE.


Is the information easy to find?

The Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks hunting web site is at the top of the search results.

Grade: A

Website: is it easy to use and understand?

The usual questions, where to hunt, when to hunt, and how much a license will cost, are easy to answer on the Montana site, with drop down lists sorted by species that make the information manageable.  There is also a Hunt Planner page with an interactive map system to allow for a targeted search: choose an area, then choose a sub-area from that map – a specific page will load with statistics regarding number of hunters and harvest by deer species, Mule or Whitetail. There is also a Deer and Elk PDF file that spells out the maze of regulations for hunting in Montana. Quite a lot of the detailed regulations can only be found in one of the many PDF files on this site, which is disappointing considering the overall excellence of the site in general.

Grade: C

Does the state hold a lottery system for non-residents or are over the counter licenses available?

Montana uses a lottery system for nonresident hunters, although there is a first-come, first-serve over the counter license available after the quota lottery is complete.  There are multiple types of licenses as well. Also, please note that Montana requires bowhunter education certification to purchase an archery tag.

Grade: C

How much does it cost to hunt, and is there a short term license available?

A resident deer license is $16.00, with a $10.00 conservation license, and is available over the counter.  The over the counter “Deer B” nonresident license is priced at $75.00, however the “Deer B” tag must be used in conjunction with a nonresident deer combination license, which is priced at $561.00, a lottery style license,  and includes the following permits:

All Combination licenses include a season Fishing license, Upland Bird license, Conservation license, and Hunting Access Enhancement Fee.

There does not appear to be a short term license offered, and while the combination license seems steep, it does come with the additional licenses stated above.  In addition to the $561.00, there is a $10.00 fee for accessing public land deemed ‘school trust lands,’ and another $10.00 fee plus proof of bowhunter education completion to bowhunt Montana. The success rate for nonresident license applications can be found on page 29 of the Deer and Elk PDF, which is selected pages from the full Deer and Elk regulations, so be certain to use the printed page number, not the page of the overall document. Please note that the Combination license only grants hunters license to harvest one antlered Whitetail or Mule deer, while the “Deer B” licenses (up to seven “Deer B” licenses may be purchased) is usable for antlerless whitetail or mule deer depending on the area hunted.

Grade: D

Are the hunting seasons easy to find and laid out in a logical manner?

The Deer Hunting Seasons are simple to find and read on the Hunting Seasons page, just use the ‘Deer’ drop down.

Grade: A

Is public hunting available, if so, are the rules different? If the rules are different, are they easy to understand?

In addition to the 5.5 million School Trust lands that are accessible with a $10.00 permit, Montana also lists Wildlife Management Areas in a searchable format.  Once species are selected, in this case ‘Mule Deer’ and ‘White-Tailed Deer,’ a list of areas that allow hunting of those two species is generated.  Once a specific WMA is selected, in this case Beartooth WMA, a very good page is loaded with all the data a nonresident could ever desire, maps, species, sub-pages with hunting seasons, area specific issues such as Grizzly Bears, and more.  After searching a few random wildlife management area pages, very few if any WMA specific regulations were found.

Grade: A

Are there major issues in hunting this state as a non-resident?

There are a lot of regulations for Montana, and the common violations page lists a few that a first time, nonresident hunter might easily miss.  One of the regulations is ‘proof of an animal’s gender remaining attached.’   Yet the regulations call for ‘antlered’ and ‘antlerless,’ not ‘male or female,’ which is a contradiction in and of itself.  Another regulation that stands out is the ‘wasting part of the animal suitable for food’ violation. This is vague enough that it could be used to charge a hunter with violating the rule for leaving the liver or heart when field dressing their deer, some folks do eat those, some folks do not, a complete, clear regulation would be nice in this case. Combine some of the regulations with the need to most likely spend several years building up preference points, or a lot of money booking a guide with guaranteed licenses.  A quick search for guides that have guaranteed licenses did NOT find any, but there may be such hunts available.

Grade: C

Summary: Final Grade B-

There are a LOT of regulations covering deer hunting in Montana, and the price is steep in comparison to other states.  The fact that the licenses can be for mule deer or whitetail deer is something of a consolation, and that the combination license also covers fishing and quite a few other outdoor activities, but at nearly $600.00, with the likely effort of several years of sending that amount in and getting it back along with a preference point, it could take half a decade just to hunt deer in Montana.  Montana also requires bowhunter specific certification in addition to the standard hunters education if the purchaser was born after 1985 and doesn’t have an archery-specific tag from another state.

States Completed: AlabamaAlaskaArizonaArkansasCaliforniaColoradoConnecticutDelaware

FloridaGeorgiaHawaiiIdahoIllinoisIndiana, IowaKansasKentuckyLouisianaMaineMaryland

MassachusettsMichiganMinnesotaMississippi, Missouri



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