Montana Hunting Seasons, Licenses and Regulations (2023)

Montana is well-known for its big game hunting opportunities, which include elk, bison, mule deer, and bear. These can be found in abundance across Montana, but hunters can also enjoy several smaller species of game. The state offers large amounts of undeveloped space for hunters to enjoy.

  • What to Hunt
  • Where to Hunt
  • Licensing Fees
  • Hunter Education
  • Youth Hunting
  • Trapping
  • Hunting Seasons

What to Hunt

Montana is an ideal location for big game hunting. The unique mountainous habitat supports dense populations of many big game species.

Montana Hunting Seasons, Licenses and Regulations (1)


(Video) Montana Hunting Laws: Learn the Rules & Regulations | Judnich

Elk can be found throughout several million acres of huntable land in Montana. There are 148 total hunting districts that support elk. Roughly half of Montana’s annual elk harvest comes from southwestern Montana, though elk can be found in abundance throughout the state. Elk seasons are divided into an archery season and a general season, and they generally run from September through November. There are also backcountry seasons offered.

Montana Hunting Seasons, Licenses and Regulations (2)


With annual harvests in the thousands, Montana offers significant black bear hunting to residents and nonresidents alike. Hunt methods and zones are tightly controlled. It is not permitted to use artificial light, bait, traps, snares, or set guns. Dogs are not permitted to chase game. Montana generally offers a spring and fall season for black bears. Hunters must learn the difference between a grizzly bear and a black bear, as it is not legal to hunt grizzly bears in Montana.

Montana Hunting Seasons, Licenses and Regulations (3)


Montana offers ideal habitat conditions for pronghorn throughout the entire state. With very high population densities and only moderate hunt pressure, Montana antelope hunters generally report very high success rates. Pronghorn season general runs from August through November, with a special season for archery. Hunters must apply for a pronghorn license through a special drawing, and the application deadline is typically in early June.

(Video) WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW - 2022 Montana Application Strategy

Montana Hunting Seasons, Licenses and Regulations (4)


Montana is home to both mule and white tail subspecies of deer. The state presents very strong success rates for hunters and a high availability of trophy bucks. There is also strong public land availability, ensuring ease-of-access for whitetail and mule deer hunters. Deer seasons in Montana are broken into archery and general seasons, with youth hunt days assigned as well. General deer licenses are available over the counter, while some specialty licenses are available by drawing only.

Montana Hunting Seasons, Licenses and Regulations (5)

(Video) How To Hunt Montana (Deer & Elk) | APPLICATION SEASON


Significant turkey populations can be found on both public and private land throughout Montana. The southeast region of the state in particular presents strong success rates. Central Montana and western Montana also feature high turkey densities for hunters to enjoy. Montana offers both spring and fall turkey seasons. Fall licenses are available over the counter, while spring licenses are granted through a drawing, with a usual mid-March deadline. It is not legal to use rifles in the spring season, and most hunters use shotguns.

Other Montana game species include: Beaver, Bobcat, Wilson's Snipe, Coyote, Frog, Crow, Dove, Fox, Geese, Brant, Ducks, Coots, Groundhog, Mink, Muskrat, Otter, Opossum, Badger, Squirrel, Rabbit, Raccoon, Striped Skunk, Teal, Rail, Woodcock, Bullfrog and Green Frog, etc. found in the "Hunting Seasons" section at bottom of the page.

Where to Hunt

Montana offers several types of land management programs that make public and private areas accessible for hunters.

Block Management

The Montana Block Management program is a collaboration between Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks; landowners; and land management agencies. Through Block Management, hunters are able to access private land.

School Trust Lands

Montana has 5.5 million acres of state school trust lands. These areas are managed by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. To hunt on School Trust Lands, a State Recreational Use License is required. School Trust Lands are illustrated on BLM and Forest Service maps.

State Wildlife Management Areas

Montana Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) are operated by Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. These areas provide free, public hunting land throughout the state. Residents and nonresidents may hunt on WMAs, with the appropriate licenses.

BLM Lands

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages 8 million acres of forested and range land across Montana. Most of these lands are publicly accessible and open to hunting. Many BLM lands are immediately adjacent to private lands. Permission from the landowner is required to cross BLM-adjacent private land.

(Video) New Montana Hunting Regulations

National Forest Lands

There are nearly 16 million acres of National Forests in Montana. Many of these areas are open to hunting. However, land use restrictions may apply in National Forests, so it’s important to consult your local Ranger District Office before hunting.

National Refuges and Waterfowl Production Areas

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) maintains 10 national wildlife refuges across Montana. These allow hunting during certain seasons. Many of these areas are enriched for waterfowl and upland bird habitats as well. Hunting on wildlife refuges is generally tightly restricted, so it is important to consult the appropriate office before planning a trip.

US Bureau of Reclamation Lands

The US Bureau of Reclamation maintains 200,000 acres of land throughout Montana. BOR lands that have legal public access are generally open to hunting.

Licensing Fees

Montana does not offer a general hunting license. However, a Conservation License is a prerequisite for all resident and nonresident hunting. A base hunting fee is also required annually. Further licenses are required for the various game species in Montana. Below are some of the state’s most popular game licenses.

​Base Hunting License Fee​$10.00​$15.00
​Deer (General)​$16.00​$612.00 (includes upland game birds)
​Elk (General)​$20.00​$884.00 (includes upland game birds)
​Upland Game Bird​$7.50​$110.00

Hunter Education

Hunter education is required in Montana for all hunters born after January 1, 1985. Montana hunter education courses are available for free online. Bowhunting and trapping courses are also available.

Youth Hunting

Montana offers an apprentice hunting program. This allows youths 10 and older to purchase licenses to hunt without completing a hunter education program. Apprentice hunters must be accompanied by an adult hunter 21 years of age or older.

Montana also offers youth pheasant, waterfowl, and deer hunting weekends. These are generally open to hunters under 15 years of age, with some restrictions based on season.


Montana offers a one-day trapper education course. The following species are considered furbearers in Montana: marten, badger, beaver, bobcats, Canada lynx, coyote, fisher, mink, muskrats, raccoons, red foxes, river otters, striped skunk, swift and kit foxes, and wolves. Each of these animals are subject to their own individual, species-based restrictions.

Hunting Seasons

GameSeason BeginsSeason Ends
AntelopeAug 15 2022Nov 13 2022
Beaver*Nov 1 2022Apr 15 2023
Bighorn Sheep*Sep 3 2022Nov 27 2022
BisonNov 15 2022Feb 15 2023
Black BearApr 15 2022Jun 15 2022
Sep 3 2022Nov 27 2022
Bobcat*Dec 1 2022Feb 15 2023
Common SnipeSep 1 2022Dec 16 2022
Deer and Elk*Sep 3 2022Dec 18 2022
Duck & Coot*Sep 24 2022Jan 13 2023
ScaupSep 24 2022Jan 13 2023
FisherDec 1 2022Feb 15 2023
Goose*Oct 1 2022Jan 13 2023
GrouseSep 1 2022Jan 1 2023
Marten*Dec 1 2022Feb 15 2023
Moose*Sep 15 2022Nov 27 2022
Mountain GoatSep 15 2022Nov 27 2022
Mountain LionSep 3 2022Apr 14 2023
Mourning DoveSep 1 2022Oct 30 2023
Otter, Mink, MuskratNov 1 2022Apr 15 2023
Partridge*Sep 1 2022Jan 1 2023
PheasantOct 8 2022Jan 1 2023
Sandhill CraneOct 1 2022Nov 27 2022
SwanOct 8 2022Jan 5 2023
Swift FoxNov 1 2022Mar 1 2023
TurkeyApr 15 2022May 31 2022
Sep 1 2022Jan 1 2023
Wolf*Sep 3 2022Mar 15 2022

*Hunting dates for this species may vary by zone, method of take, or subspecies of animal. Visit the state’s website here to find out more.

(Video) I don't understand how he can hunt this rare Montana Shiras

Disclaimer:The information provided here is not to be construed as legal advice or acted upon as if it is legal advice: it is provided for informational purposes only. While we strive to provide accurate, up-to-date content, we cannot guarantee the accuracy, completeness, or currency of the information.


What licenses do I need to hunt in Montana? ›

A Conservation, base hunting license, and valid General Deer, Elk or Antelope hunting license is required to hunt. Valid license types are identified for each hunt. Depending on the type of hunt, the FWP Regional office may require or offer the purchase of additional B license(s).

Do you need a hunting license to hunt on your own property in Montana? ›

In order to legally hunt in Montana, you must obtain a hunting license — or what is commonly referred to as a “tag” and a conservation license for a specific species and sex of an animal – before you hunt it.

What can you hunt in Montana without a license? ›

Predatory animals and nongame species can be hunted in Montana year-round without a license by both resident and nonresident hunters. A Conservation License, or a State School Trust lands recreational use license is required to hunt predatory animals and nongame species on State School Trust lands.

Can you buy mule deer tags over the counter in Montana? ›

General Deer License

Residents can purchase over the counter. Most nonresidents cannot purchase over the counter; to get a General Deer License, nonresidents must draw of one of the following licenses via random lottery drawing: Big Game Combination License, Deer Combination License or Landowner Sponsored License.

Can you fish on your own property without a license in Montana? ›

No fishing license is required to fish on licensed, privately stocked fish ponds. Fishing license requirements apply to all other ponds and/or waters on private land. Koi and goldfish ponds must be registered with FWP.

How much is a Montana deer tag? ›

Montana Hunting License Fees
License typeResident cost
Deer, General$ 16.00
Deer, General - Disabled$ 6.50
Deer, General - Senior (62+)$ 10.00
Deer, General - Youth (12-14)$ 6.50
46 more rows

Can you shoot someone for being on your property in Montana? ›

The law in Montana, however, doesn't give landowners and homeowners the right to shoot intruders and trespassers at will. Far from it. Any person in Montana who uses force to defend himself can use that force only if they or another person are at risk of physical harm.

How many acres do you need for a landowner tag in Montana? ›

DEER B & ANTELOPE LICENSES: To qualify for landowner preference, you must own or be contracting to purchase at least 160 acres of land in the hunting district for which you are applying.

Can I shoot a deer on my property in Montana? ›

Hunting on private property requires permission from the landowner, lessee or agent, regardless of whether the land is posted.

Can you carry an unregistered gun in Montana? ›

Montana law allows any person to conceal carry a weapon without a concealed weapon permit, so long as that person is eligible to possess a firearm under state or federal law. Montana issues concealed weapon permits, which must be applied for and obtained from your local Montana county sheriff.

Can you carry a pistol while hunting in Montana? ›

Montanans still enjoy the right and privilege to Carry a sidearm. With a training class, you can apply for a Conceal Carry card.

Can you shoot from a vehicle in Montana? ›

The vehicle from which the permit holder is shooting must be conspicuously marked on the front, rear and both sides with the orange colored Permit to Hunt from a Vehicle placards provided by Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks.

How hard is it to get a Montana elk tag? ›

The rifle permits have tough odds, but most of the archery permits can be drawn every two to five years as a non-resident. Non-resident hunters must draw a general license in order to be entered into the special drawing.

What is the best mule deer unit in Montana? ›

In Montana, unit 270 is considered one of the top trophy mule deer units in the state. Tag holders can expect to see 20+ quality bucks per day. Each year we see and possibly harvest bucks that score 190+ B&C including some that score over 200 B&C inches.

What can I shoot with a general deer tag in Montana? ›

Most of the state is managed to maximize hunter opportunity each fall. Montana's general deer tags provide a great opportunity to harvest a mule deer or whitetail and provide plenty of time to get it done over generous season dates.

Can you night fish in Montana? ›

Fishing for bass is the most common type of night fishing in Montana. Since bass seldom travel great distances, you should be able to locate them at the same locations they are found during the day. If you have a favorite daytime spot, they should be there at night as well.

How many rods can you fish with in Montana? ›

It is legal to fish with 2 rods in Montana.

Can you fish with worms in Montana? ›

Live animals such as meal worms, red worms, night crawlers, leeches, maggots, crayfish, reptiles, amphibians and insects may be used as bait on all waters not restricted to artificial lures only. Leeches may only be imported into Montana from FWP-approved leech dealers.

Can you hunt on Sundays in Montana? ›

Blue Laws Still Keeping Hunters Out of the Woods On Sundays 200 Years Later - Montana Hunting and Fishing Information.

Can you buy over the counter tags in Montana? ›

Application, Drawing Deadlines & Results

Residents can purchase over the counter. Most nonresidents cannot purchase over the counter; to get a General Elk License, nonresidents must draw a Big Game Combination License or Elk Combination License through a random lottery drawing.

Where is the best deer hunting in Montana? ›

  • Hunting in Big Sky Country.
  • Bitterroot Valley: Elk, Antelope, Deer, and More.
  • Gallatin National Forest: Elk, Deer, Black Bear, and More.
  • Yaak Valley: Deer, Elk, Mountain Lion, and More.
  • Flathead National Forest: Elk, Deer, Bear, and Mountain Lion.
  • Badger-Two Medicine Area: Mule Deer, Whitetail Deer, & Upland Birds.

What is the Romeo and Juliet law in Montana? ›

Montana law provides that a person is incapable of consent if the person is less than 16 years old. The practical effect of this statute is that a person of any age can be charged with Sexual Intercourse Without Consent if he or she engaged in sexual intercourse with someone 15 years or younger.

Can I sue someone for recording me without my permission in Montana? ›

Montana law requires the consent of all parties to record an in-person or telephone conversation except under certain circumstances, usually involving public officials/entities, or warning given about the recording. A violation of this law can lead to fines and/or jail time.

Can you shoot trespassers Montana? ›


(1) A person is justified in the use of force or threat to use force against another when and to the extent that the person reasonably believes that the use of force is necessary to prevent or terminate the other person's unlawful entry into or attack upon an occupied structure.

Who owns the most acres in Montana? ›

10 Largest Land Owners in Montana
  • John Hillenbrand – 118,417 acres. ...
  • Ted Turner – 148,870 acres. ...
  • The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints – 151,840 acres. ...
  • Great Northern Properties – 153,056 acres. ...
  • The Coffee Family – 212,633 acres. ...
  • Robert Earl Holding – 213,462 acres. ...
  • Stan Kroenke – 225,162 acres.
23 Nov 2022

Can a parcel of land be landlocked in Montana? ›

More than 3 million acres of public state and federal land in Montana is considered landlocked, which means that the public can't access those acres without crossing through private property. Unless they own a helicopter or have express permission from a private land owner, it is impossible to legally access this land.

Does land have to be posted in Montana? ›

Under Montana trespass law, a trespass is not criminal unless the landowner has posted no-trespassing signs or has marked the property with fluorescent orange paint. To be able to seek the help of law enforcement authorities in preventing trespasses, a landowner should comply with these notice requirements.

How close can you shoot to a house in Montana? ›

It is unlawful to discharge a firearm or any other implement capable of taking human life, causing injury, or damaging property as follows: (1) in or within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation site or occupied area, (2) across or on a National Forest System road, or trail, or a body of ...

Can you have a loaded rifle in your car in Montana? ›

There is no law prohibiting loaded or unloaded firearms in vehicles. Unlike other states, there is no wildlife regulation on loaded long-guns. Weapons cannot be concealed upon the person within city/town limits (see permitless carry).

Does Montana have a stand your ground law? ›

Montana Law

Montana has a stand your ground law which removes the duty to retreat before using force.

Can you carry a gun while hiking in Montana? ›

Can You Carry a Gun While Hiking in Montana? Yes. Any person who is at least 18 years old and legally entitled to carry a firearm can carry a handgun openly or concealed in Montana without a permit.

Where can you not carry a gun in Montana? ›

Does Montana allow permitless carry? Yes. As of February 18, 2021, HB-102 was signed into law making it legal to concealed carry without a permit except in government buildings, offices and restricted locations.

How many firearms can I own? ›

Applications in terms of sections 13 and 15 collectively may not exceed four firearms. The licence, which is issued in terms of this section, is valid for 10 years, unless it is cancelled or terminated in terms of the Firearms Control Act, 2000.

How long of a knife can you carry in Montana? ›

The Montana Annotated Code, section 45-8-316, states that it's illegal to carry a concealed blade if its length is 4 inches or longer. What's important to note here is that the knife has to be less than four inches; a four-inch knife is illegal to be partially or wholly hidden.

Can you hunt with an AR 15 in Montana? ›

You can use any caliber of rifle– whether it's a handgun or shotgun. Thanks to a recent change in the law, there are no longer any restrictions on magazines or ammunition capacity. You can have as many rounds as you want in your gun. There are also no longer any restrictions on semi-automatic or AR-15 style weapons.

Does Montana have a magazine capacity limit? ›

Montana has no law regulating large capacity ammunition magazines.

Can you shoot a dog on your property in Montana? ›

That law says shooting a dog is justified if it is harassing or attacking livestock. His dog wasn't harassing livestock at the time he was shot, Holcombe said. “The Montana code supports the livestock owner really well,” Holcombe said of the law. “It gives them the protection they need.

Can you carry a gun in a state park in Montana? ›

(2) The possession, display, carrying, discharge, or use of a firearm in a state park must be in compliance with Title 45, chapter 8, part 3, MCA. (3) In addition to any other penalty provided, individuals violating this rule may be expelled immediately from the state park, as provided in ARM 12.8. 823.

Do you have to wear orange hat in Montana? ›

Montana law requires that all big game hunters and those accompanying them (including guide/outfitter) must wear at least 400 square inches of Hunter Orange above the waist. A hat or cap alone is not sufficient. (Exception: bow hunters during special archery season.)

What is the best elk hunting unit in Montana? ›

Montana's Region 3 is the most densly populated elk region in the state. Unit 380 is Montana premier permit draw unit and is the hardest elk draw in the state of Montana.

What part of Montana has the most elk? ›

Montana boasts some of the healthiest elk populations in the country—that's why so many folks flock here to hunt. Southwest Montana is home to almost 40% of the statewide herd, and it's no surprise that a high percentage of the yearly harvest is taken right here in our back yard.

How many elk can you shoot in Montana? ›

The general elk license for both residents and non-residents will allow you to harvest one elk per year. However, you may be able to harvest one additional animal if you can acquire a Montana “B” hunting license. This license allows you to harvest one elk without antlers on particular management units within the state.

What is the most hunted animal in Montana? ›

The most popular animal to hunt here is elk. In fact, about 50 percent of all Montana's elk harvest happens in Big Sky. Other popular animals to hunt are black bears, mule deer, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, and antelope.

What is the best gun to hunt mule deer with? ›

The . 30-06 Springfield and the . 300 Winchester Magnum are perfectly capable of bringing down a mule deer, but short-action cartridges will save you a few ounces in your rifle.

Can I hunt on my own land without a license in Montana? ›

In order to legally hunt in Montana, you must obtain a hunting license — or what is commonly referred to as a “tag” and a conservation license for a specific species and sex of an animal – before you hunt it.

What Animals Can you shoot in Montana without a license? ›

Predatory animals and nongame species can be hunted in Montana year-round without a license by both resident and nonresident hunters. A Conservation License, or a State School Trust lands recreational use license is required to hunt predatory animals and nongame species on State School Trust lands.

Do you need a hunter safety course to hunt in Montana? ›

Who is required to complete hunter education in Montana? According to Montana law, all hunters who were born after January 1, 1985, must complete hunter education certification in order to hunt in Montana.

Does Montana have over the counter tags? ›

Montana has a spring and fall season for bears; tags for both seasons are available over-the-counter. Idaho also has a spring and fall season for black bears.

What can I shoot with a general elk license in Montana? ›

Elk Combination — General

Includes a General Elk license and authorizes fishing and hunting of upland game birds, excluding turkey. Conservation with State Lands, Base Hunting and AISPP must be purchased separately. This license is included in the 17,000 quota of Big Game Elk/Deer Combination license.

How hard is it to get an elk tag in Montana? ›

The rifle permits have tough odds, but most of the archery permits can be drawn every two to five years as a non-resident. Non-resident hunters must draw a general license in order to be entered into the special drawing.

How much does hunters safety cost in Montana? ›

Price and Payment

The Montana Hunter Ed Course fee is $25.00.

Can you hunt on your own property in Montana? ›

Landowner Preference & Sponsor Licenses

Landowners are critical to the work of conserving Montana's wildlife populations and habitat. To recognize their important role in conserving these resources, landowners have opportunities to receive licenses or permits and to sponsor hunters to hunt on their deeded land.

Can non residents hunt in Montana? ›

Montana is a great state for nonresident hunters to consider. There are plenty of big game options with generous season dates. Big game hunters also have add-on opportunities for small game, upland birds and fishing.

Do you have to draw for tags in Montana? ›

Nonresident Deer and Elk Combination Licenses

Nonresidents must first successfully draw a deer, elk or deer & elk combination license to be eligible to apply for a specific hunt permit.

What is a Montana super tag? ›

One SuperTag will be drawn for each species. The SuperTag can be used in any hunting district in Montana-including Montana's legendary trophy districts. Revenue from the new SuperTag sales is used to enhance hunting access and boost FWP enforcement efforts.

What hunting district in Montana has the most elk? ›

Northwest Montana is where you will find the best Elk Hunting under Big Sky Country. Combine this with the high success rate for hunters, 17.4 success rate as reported by FWP, and it is easy to see why hunting in Montana is so desirable- there are over 132 outfitters in the state with many offering hunting trips.

What unit in Montana has the most elk? ›

Montana's Region 3 is the most densly populated elk region in the state. Unit 380 is Montana premier permit draw unit and is the hardest elk draw in the state of Montana.

How do you get a non resident elk tag in Montana? ›

For a nonresident to hunt the general license Elk units in Montana, he or she must apply for the Elk Combination License in the general license draw, where the preference point system is used.

How much does an elk hunt cost in Montana? ›

Rifle Hunts
Elk – 6 Day Hunt (very difficult draw)$5,750
Antelope – 3 Day Hunt$2,500
Big Horn Sheep – 6 Day HuntCall for Pricing
Cow Elk – 2 Day Hunt$2,000
Cow Elk added to Mule Deer Hunt$750
1 more row

Where is the biggest elk herd in Montana? ›

One of the state's largest elk herds roams across the Big and Little Snowy mountains of central Montana.


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