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A Comprehensive Guide

% Public Land
Species Available
# of Hunters

2024 Montana Big Game

Montana has a variety of landscapes and big game species to chase. Several mountain ranges rise out of the plains in central Montana and the western portion has rugged terrain throughout. Elk, mule deer and whitetail deer can be found throughout much of the state. Antelope are found primarily in the eastern half of the state while black bear and, increasingly, grizzly bear are found in the western half. While public land is not as ubiquitous in the rolling plains and lower elevations of the eastern state, plenty of large national forests can be found. A solid public access program called Block Management enables hunters to access private land and ranches that chose to enroll.

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Species to Hunt



Black Bear



Mountain Goat

Mountain Lion

Mule Deer

Rocky Mtn Bighorn

Whitetail Deer



Deer & Elk                                          April 1
Moose, goat, sheep, bison                May 1
Antelope                                            June 1
Mountain Lion                                    July 24
Bonus Points                                     Sept 30
Preference Points                              Dec 31

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Over the Counter Hunts

Montana residents can hunt deer and elk by purchasing a general over the counter license. The many hunting districts have seasons for different methods of take allowing hunters to choose archery equipment to hunt elk during the rut or use rifle and muzzleloader equipment later in the year. Nonresidents have some limited options to hunt deer and elk over the counter. Where permit codes are listed as unlimited in the regulation booklet, nonresidents can purchase a license over the counter to hunt deer and elk. 

Black bear, mountain lion and several bighorn sheep hunting districts allow for both resident and nonresident over the counter license purchases. Montana is known to have some very good Spring black bear hunting and is the only state in the lower 48 where residents and nonresidents can purchase a license to hunt rocky mountain bighorn sheep. Sheep densities are very low and success rates hover around 5%, so lots of scouting and preparation is needed if you hope to be successful on one of these hunts. 

Limited Entry Hunts

Montana has limited entry hunts for nearly every big game species for both resident and nonresident applicants. There are 3 draws that occur during spring and early summer. Deer and elk A tags and nonresident general licenses are the first draw of the year. The Montana's nonresident general licenses are allocated by a preference point system whereas the deer and elk permits use squared bonus point system. Next are drawings for moose, rocky mountain bighorn sheep, mountain goat and bison. With the exception of bison, the squared bonus point system is used. Bison licenses are drawn randomly. Finally, elk and deer B tags are drawn along with antelope licenses using the squared bonus point system.

The Draw

Montana employs 3 different draw systems for allocation licenses or permits. Below is a breakdown of each system and they impact an applicants odds.

  • Squared Bonus Point Draw: in this scheme, applicants can earn 1 point a year by either being unsuccessful in the draw or purchasing a bonus point. All limited licenses and permits except for nonresident combination licenses and bison hunts use a bonus point draw. If an applicant has two bonus points coming into the draw they would receive 4 (2 points squared) entries for their bonus points plus an additional entry for the current year application. Bonus points apply to an applicants first choice hunt

  • Preference Point Draw: nonresident general deer, elk and combination licenses are drawn using a preference point system. Applicants can earn 1 point a year by either being unsuccessful in the draw or purchasing a point. 75% of the quota is given to those applicants with the highest number of preference points. The remaining 25% of the quota is randomly given out those with zero points in the draw. This creates a system where it can be advantageous to have no points rather than 1 point some years in Montana.

Quotas and Choices

Montana allocates a minimum of 90% of licenses or permits to residents. The remainder can go to nonresidents (with the exception of nonresident general licenses which have a defined nonresident quota). It is possible that residents could draw 100% of the quota if they happen to be assigned the lowest random numbers in the draw. It should also be mentioned that qualifying landowners can take up to 15% of the quota off the top. That is, before any resident or nonresident applications are considered. However they must meet MTFWP requirements in order to be considered.

Applicants can select three hunts and order them 1st, 2nd and 3rd. 1st choice hunts are drawn using one of the point systems listed above. If there is quota remaining after all 1st choice applicants have been considered, 2nd choice applicants will be considered and licenses are allocated randomly. Finally if there is still quota remaining, 3rd choice applicants will be considered.

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