Any hunter knows that half the battle of a trophy hunt is finding a premium area and spot. You likely have a local spot that you enjoy and try to keep top secret. However, there are some destinations that are a dream for every hunter, and Montana fits the bill. Here’s why Montana is one of the best locations for hunting – not to mention some of the challenges you’ll have to prepare for.
Montana is the fourth-largest state in the United States, and with it comes a hunter’s paradise. It covers 147,000 miles, split by the Continental Divide into eastern and western regions. Typical hunted species include white-tailed and mule deer, Rocky Mountain elk, Shiras Moose, black bears, mountains lions, mountain goats, turkeys, bison, wolves, and bighorn sheep. The state’s wildlife is exceptionally well managed, with trophies taken out of the state every year in each of the big game categories.
Montana Fish Wildlife And Parks
Hunting is a huge part of the economy in Montana, and enjoys proactive management by Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. Hunting is one of the largest contributors to Montana’s tourism in combination with camping, hiking, and fishing. So the state has stepped up to the task and hunters enjoy huge support for their sport.
Montana has over 156,000 resident and 29,000 non-resident hunters each year, and they tend to spend big. In recent years non-resident hunters alone brought in over 3.4 billion dollars in revenue for the state. The hunting industry in Montana also supports small businesses in towns that would otherwise have very little income.
Despite these great achievements, one of the most important things that the hunting industry does is support wildlife conservation. The state is able to maintain healthy levels of predator and prey species through both the revenue generated and the actual hunting that occurs. Preventing overpopulation means that animals are less likely to experience starvation and disease and are able to thrive. To do your part to keep Montana’s wildlife populations healthy by knowing and following Montana hunting regulations.
Montana Bison Hunting
This iconic animal of the Old West, can be found In Montana. The Crow Reservation in Montana is a wonderful place with a healthy herd of bison, where most of the hunts take place. The Crow Reservation offers free-range bison hunts that do not require a tag. Many hunters choose this hunt as a way to avoid the draw process. There are outfitters that guide on the reservations, which will increase your chance of success. However, be prepared for a hefty price tag ranging from $8,000 to $12,000 for trophy bulls.
Montana Elk Hunting
Elk are part of what makes Montana’s hunt so famous and popular, both DIY and guided elk hunts. The state’s geography and climate support a huge heard, and trophies are frequently taken. Be sure to get familiar with Montana hunting districts, the permit system, and get a hunter license if you are a DIY hunter.
Traditional Bear Hunts
Bear calling or spot and stalk are the only two options for hunting bears in Montana. It is illegal to bait bears or run them with dogs. The laws are so strict, even using scents to draw bears in is prohibited. That makes the hunt a fair chase, and you can feel good about taking your game on an even playing field. Using these methods not only improves your bear hunting skills, but it also prepares you for other big game hunts. You can hunt bear in both the spring and fall, however spring hunts seem to be the most preferred. If you are interested in booking with hunting outfitters, look for outfits that offer unique options like hunting horseback.
Here’s the bottom line. Hunting is allowed nearby, but not in, the national parks. Take advantage of nearby wilderness areas, national forests, state parks and private lands near the national parks. The parks are well managed and enforced by Montana Fish and Wildlife, so be certain you haven’t strayed into the national parks when hunting. If you want to spend time inside the spectacular parks, you’re better off with a Montana fishing license (check on Montana fishing regulations with Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks).
Glacier National Park
The Glacier National Park was established as a national park in 1910, marked by majestic mountain ranges carved by prehistoric rivers. It features about 50 glistening glaciers and 200 sparkling lakes, deep forests, waterfalls, and alpine meadows.
The views you get are amazing and the wilderness is like unlike any other. There are 1,600 miles of picturesque landscape in the park, and only a few miles of road exist inside it. This helps preserve it’s a primitive and unspoiled beauty. While hunting is not allowed within the park, hunters can use the trails and roads surrounding the park.
Although hunting is also prohibited in Yellowstone National Park, upland birds, various waterfowl and big game can be hunted in season on national forest area land near the park boundaries. A very popular location near Yellowstone is the Bob Marshal Wilderness. This site provides a backwoods experience with most hunters setting up camp miles into the deep forest. Typical hunts consist of elk, deer, moose, bear and wolves. You can increase your odds of a successful hunt by hiring a guide that is familiar with the terrain and will get you all the gear you need.
Preparing For Your Montana Hunting Trips
Much of the hunting done in Montana is on private land. The state agencies work with private and owners to provide ample space for hunters. In order to hunt on any of the 64 million acres private land, hunters must obtain approval from the owner. Although it can be intimidating to ask permission to hunt on another person’s land, there are some tips that can make it easier. First of all, be courteous and reach out to the owner at times that are convenient. Plan ahead and secure approval well before the actual hunt takes place. Ask questions about the property and be clear about where you plan to hunt and what you are hunting for. Lastly, follow the owner’s instructions closely, and don’t bring anyone with you who you didn’t receive permission to bring. Also, Montana hunting seasons can vary from other states, so be certain to read up before approaching the land owner.
Montana is truly a four seasons state with a distinct winter, spring, summer, and fall. Depending on what you are hunting for, you could be facing any of these seasons. Winters in Montana can be brutal, so prepare with quality gear. It is not uncommon for areas in Montana to go into “deep freeze,” well below 0 degrees F. However, Montana wildlife are highly adapted, so winter can be the best time to hunt big game like bison and mountain lion. Snowfall can continue into the spring and is also mixed with heavy rainfall. As mentioned, this is the best time to hunt for black bear so get some water-wicking gear and enjoy the moisture during the spring hunts. Summer tends to dry out the state and brings the warmth. From July-September the weather is usually beautiful with temperatures ranging from the 70’s- low 90’s. Elk, deer, and antelope provide the perfect reason to get out and enjoy the dreamy Montana summers. Fall picks up in September and runs through November. Fall weather can be sporadic and unpredictable bringing heat, then rain, and even snow. You won’t mind the weather though, since fall is one of the seasons with the most available hunts. There are tags available for deer, elk, bighorn sheep, black bear, moose, mountain goat, and even wolves.
High Tag Prices
Many of the great joys of life come with a price and hunting in Montana is no different. Non-resident hunters are going to feel a hit to their pocketbooks for some of the most popular hunts. Montana hunting licenses rank among the highest for deer and elk coming in at $809 for non-resident elk tags and $570 for non-resident deer. However, Montana compares well against other states for bear, moose, and antelope, so there is hope. For this reason, don’t dismiss Montana as a great hunting getaway. Just plan accordingly and possibly go for one of the less expensive big game.
The Montana wilderness is truly to be respected, and not reckoned with. Be certain your supplies and skills are up-to-date for first aid, hunting maps reading and navigation, grizzly bear safety, and always travel with quality weather proof clothes and emergency supplies and a survival kit as the Montana weather can turn harsh very quickly. Always hunt in groups or at least pairs. If you have any questions about whether you or your party can pull off a trip safely, be certain to retain a hunting guide with a Montana outfitting license.
Despite some considerations above to be aware of and plan for, the Montana hunting season is a great option when planning your next hunt. You will be rewarded with breathtaking views, ample space, and trophy game. Montana offers memorable and once in a lifetime hunts that you will not want to pass up.