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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2016: Montana Antelope

 

Large antelope buck in field
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Montana's antelope application overview

Jump to: New for 2016 State Information Draw System Antelope Breakdown Antelope Bonus Points

While Montana is not known for producing ample numbers of giant antelope, it does offer high odds for tags in many hunting districts, lots of accessible land and a solid shot at a good buck. All of the available antelope licenses for the state are entered into a drawing based on bonus points and Montana allows for up to 10% of a hunting district’s tags to be allocated for nonresident applicants. Montana brings a lot to the table in terms of access with 30 million acres of public land and about 7.3 million acres of private lands enrolled as a Block Management Area (BMA), which allows public access through written permission. Most hunters pursuing antelope will be doing so on U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), BMA, and private lands. Bottom line: Montana is a great state to consider for someone looking to hunt antelope or anyone waiting for points to mature in other states.

Note: The application for Montana antelope is June 1 at 11:59 p.m. MT and the application can be completed through the mail or online.



Why Montana for antelope

Generous seasons 

General tag holders will be able to hunt five weeks during archery only season, which falls during the rut, and five weeks of any weapons seasons. Hunters possessing the 900 series archery only license can begin hunting Aug. 15 through Nov. 13.

Easy tags!

Many districts can be drawn almost yearly with some of the best tags being available after four or five years.

Land, land, land!

Montana has an incredible amount of public and enrolled BMA private lands that provide excellent opportunity for license holders.

Target rich environment

During most of the sanctioned antelope seasons, hunters can also enjoy some fantastic deer and elk hunting on general tags.



New for 2016

  • Statewide: A hunter is required to already have a bow and arrow license when applying for any archery only antelope license (e.g. the antelope 900-20).
  • HD 310: Increase doe/fawn quota to 250.
  • HD 313: Open new district: Upper Yellowstone.
  • HD 318: Increase either sex to 425 and doe/fawn to 375.
  • HD 339: Add second opportunity doe/fawn (quota= 200).
  • HD 340: Add second opportunity doe/fawn (quota= 150).
  • HD 341: Increase either sex quota to 300.
  • HD 360: Increase either sex quota to 500 and add second opportunity doe/fawn.
  • HD 370: Increase either sex quota to 50 and doe/fawn to 100.
  • HD 371: Increase either sex quota to 50 and doe/fawn to 100.
  • HD 380/390: Remove second opportunity doe/fawn, remove Canyon Ferry WMA restricted area.
  • HD 381: Increase either sex quota to 25.
  • HD 388: Increase either sex quota to 30.
  • HD 440: Increase either sex quota to 75.
  • HD 444: Increase either sex quota to 100.
  • HD 513: Increase either sex quota to 300.
  • HD 530: Increase either sex quota to 300.
  • HD 630: Increase either sex to 100 and doe/fawn to 10.
  • HD 670: Increase either sex to 100 and doe/fawn to 25.
     


State information

View important information and an overview of the Montana rules/regulations, the draw system and bonus points, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map on our State Profile. You can also view the Montana Antelope Profile to access historical and statistical data to help locate trophy areas.

Montana State Profile Montana Antelope Profile

Important dates and information

  • The deadline to apply for the 2016 Montana antelope licenses is June 1, 2016 by 11:59 p.m. MT. Apply online here.
  • An 80% refund can be issued on a nonresident license if requested before Aug. 1, 2016.
  • A 50% refund can be issued on a nonresident license if requested after Aug. 1, 2016.
  • Up to five applicants can be used on a party drawing for a license. Bonus points are averaged from all of the applicants and then used in the drawing.
  • Bonus points will be squared. For instance, a person holding five bonus points for the the current drawing will receive 25 chances.
  • There is no maximum amount of bonus points that can be held by an individual in Montana.
  • Unsuccessful drawing of a license will result in the accumulation of a new bonus point if the applicant chose to pay the bonus point fee at the time of application.
  • Bonus points are useable on first choice drawings only.
  • Failure to participate in the bonus point program for more than two consecutive years will result in the forfeiting of all points.
  • Successful drawing of a tag will also forfeit all accumulated points (first choice only).
  • Up to 10% of Montana’s allotted license will be awarded to nonresident applicants.

Other important information to note

The antelope drawing will be moved to the first week of August to accommodate biologists’ surveys, which cannot begin before mid-July. This means that hunters who apply for the 900-20 archery only license will not learn if they drew it until shortly before the season opens on Aug. 15. Over the-counter (OTC) antelope B licenses may be purchased on a first come, first serve basis beginning Aug. 8, 2016. This can be a great way for supplemental hunting opportunities for hunters who possess either sex tags or for hunters who were unsuccessful in the drawings.

Private land issue

Montana's current antelope population estimate is at 138,288 (see graph below in Antelope Breakdown section). The problem... over 77% of the 51.4 million acres that are home to antelope are on private lands.

Montana antelope public vs. private land distribution (acres)


The draw system
 

Stan Spoharski with his 75 inch Montana antelope
Stan Spoharski with his 75" Montana antelope.

Understanding the draw

Hunters should fully understand a few things about Montana’s drawing process prior to applying for the desired tags and licenses. A complete breakdown of the drawing process, dates and fees can be found in our Montana State Profile.

Nonresident cost of applying for Montana antelope

Type of license Cost
Base Hunting License $15
Conservation License $10
Bow and Arrow License
(required for 900 series license)
$10
Antelope license $205
Bonus Point $20
Total cost $260

 

The total cost for resident applicants including bow and arrow stamp is $49.

What does drawing a license grant me?

The drawing on an antelope license will grant the hunter the ability to hunt both the archery only and general weapon season for his or her specified hunting district only. The only tags that will be valid in more than one hunting district will be the 700 and 900 series tags.

The 700 series license

Hunters who draw the 700 series license will be able to hunt any of the hunting districts found within Region 7. This will grant the hunter the opportunity to hunt the archery only and general weapons season.

The 900 series license

Hunters who draw the 900 series license will only be able to use archery equipment even when general license hunters are using firearms. The main advantage to this tag is the ability to begin hunting on August 15, which is two weeks before general license holders are allowed to hunt. This can be a great tag to apply for if you also plan on hunting deer or elk in Montana as it will allow you hunt prior to the general archery season opening. It is important to note that hunters holding the 900 series license must wear hunter orange during a sanctioned firearms season unless in an archery only area. Another advantage to the 900 series license is the ability to list it as your first, second, or third choice license to avoid using bonus points. Holders of the license can hunt any district in Regions 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. The only HDs that are not available are HD 215 and HD 291. The 900 series tag generally goes into surplus every year and can be a great tag for those interested in only bowhunting.

Second and Third choice hunts

In most cases, when applying for licenses, you will have the option to select a second or third choice license. If there are leftover tags in your second choice district after the drawings, then you will be awarded one of those. If that is full and a spot is available in your third choice district, then you will draw that. Drawing either your second or third choice will not use up your bonus points.

Super Tag

The Super Tag is a unique opportunity offered by Montana. Essentially, it is a lottery drawing for eight different species (moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, antelope, elk, deer, bison, and mountain lion) that can be used in any hunting district of the state regardless of it being a general or limited entry area. Only one tag per species is drawn each year. These are very similar to Governor's Tags, which are found throughout the West, but are much cheaper. Hunters can purchase as many “lottery tickets” in the Super Tag drawing as they wish for $5 each. These are non refundable and must be purchased by July 2, 2016. If hunters draw a Super Tag in the same year that they have drawn a license, then they must forfeit the license back to Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) who will then issue a full refund and reinstate any bonus points the individual possessed prior to the drawing.

Unlocking Montana’s system

Information on Montana's draw system can be found on our Montana state profile.



The points system

Montana runs a bonus point system which squares each applicant's points, meaning a person holding four points now has 16 chances, five points has 25 chances, etc. For each year an applicant is unsuccessful, they will be awarded an additional bonus point as long as they chose to participate in the bonus point program. Once a license has successfully been drawn, the applicant surrenders all of their accumulated bonus points for that species.

The bonus point race

2016 max bonus points for antelope: 11



Montana's antelope breakdown
 

Kirk Russell with his 2015 Montana archery antelope
Kirk Russell with his 2015 Montana archery antelope.

Current antelope herd condition

Antelope populations continue to slowly climb throughout the state after the bluetongue virus and severe winters decimated the herds between 2008 and 2011.

Montana antelope license trends

Because of this steady growth, more either sex tags have been added to multiple districts. With an easy winter, the 2016 season is expected to produce good hunting opportunities and trophy potential looks great statewide. Look for multiple hunting districts to become easier to draw in the next few years as additional tags are added.

Montana antelope population trends as of 2015

The seasons

Hunters possessing the 900 series license will be able to begin hunting antelope as early as Aug. 15 while the general license holders will not be able to hunt until Sept. 3. Applicants holding the general licenses as well at the 700 series licenses will be allowed to hunt an archery only season Sept. 3 through Oct. 7 and use firearms from Oct. 8 through Nov. 13.

2016 Montana antelope season dates

Season

Start and end date

900 series license Aug. 15 to Nov. 13
General archery Sept. 3 to Oct. 6
General any legal weapon Oct. 7 to Nov. 13

 

The goHUNT hit list hunting districts for Montana antelope

Top hunting districts to consider for 75” or better antelope
(not in order of quality)

Hunting District Trophy
Potential
Harvest
success
Total
apps (rifle)
HD 215 80"+ 50% 353
HD 404 80"+ 56% 1,399
HD 701 80"+ 52% 6,971
HD 702 80"+ 39% 6,917
HD 704 80"+ 56% 6,971
HD 705 80"+ 70% 6,971
HD 300 75"+ 57% 559
HD 310 75"+ 51% 657
HD 318 75"+ 52% 1,072
HD 360 75"+ 80% 955
HD 371 75"+ 46% 312
HD 380 75"+ 59% 1,018
HD 390 75"+ 42% 361
HD 401 75"+ 59% 1,018
HD 413 75"+ 53% 316
HD 440 75"+ 43% 385
HD 444 75"+ 48% 500
HD 450 75"+ 60% 358
HD 480 75"+ 51% 409
HD 703 75"+ 65% 6,971

 


 

How to uncover hidden gem antelope hunting districts
 

Vince Cebuhar with his 2015 70 inch Montana antelope
Vince Cebuhar with his 2015 70" Montana antelope.

With so many options for antelope hunters in Montana the decision on where to go exactly can be intimidating. Thankfully, the scouting and research game has been significantly simplified with our Filtering 2.0 system. With this, hunters can look at every district in the state and find out exactly which districts meet their criteria. Once likely hunting districts have been located you can visit their respective district profiles to learn more about the immediate area and what tools you will need to be successful. Also check out our State Profile to stay current with the status of Montana’s wildlife.

To get started with Filtering 2.0

  • Select state.
  • Select species.
  • Adjust the Trophy Slider to your desired size (e.g. 75”+).
  • Click whether you are a resident or nonresident and indicate how many points you currently possess.
  • Select your minimum percentage of odds for drawing the tag. This can be very good for weeding out districts with unlimited (100%) tags.
  • Select which season(s) you want to hunt. Have other hunts going on throughout the fall? You can also set your date parameters and Filtering 2.0 will automatically find what's in season that time of the year.
  • Choose what harvest percentages you would like to see in the districts.
  • Lastly, click on any of the remaining districts to read in-depth profiles containing valuable information.

For instance, let’s say you are a nonresident hunter, have minimal bonus points of three, want to hunt bucks with the trophy potential of 75”+ and want an area with a tag drawing rate of 65% or higher for the rifle season and a harvest success rate of 60% or higher. Sounds like a pipe dream, right? Most people would also agree, until they watch Filtering 2.0 go to work. Using those parameters, you will be able to narrow the search down to seven hunt districts to then start your research using the Unit Profiles. Getting familiar with this software will allow hunters to see the whole picture all at once and reduce the risk of burning points on a unit that may not live up to your expectations.

Montana's top B&C producing
counties since 2005 for antelope

County No. of
entries

Hunting Districts found within county

Rosebud 9 701702704
Custer 6 701702704705
Powder River 4 704705
Carter 3 705
Chouteau 3 404, 470, 471, 690
Phillips 3 600, 620, 630, 670
 
Total number of B&C Antelope entries since 2000

 

Managing antelope bonus points and expectations

Before applying for Montana is it very important for hunters to determine what they want out of their hunt. Some may be looking for the highest quality bucks while others may be looking for higher percentages of opportunity; some may want both. With Montana’s draw system only offering an 80% refund on your application, it may be necessary to prioritize your hunts in other states and put one or the other on hold so both can be hunted to their full potential. It is important to note that for two consecutive years it is not necessary to build or use Montana points. Yet, if no activity has been made with your points after three years, they are automatically forfeited.

To start your planning, you should use our Filtering 2.0 software. By manipulating the sliders to choose your desired minimum trophy potential and harvest odds you will be presented with a list of remaining districts that will meet your criteria. This can also be a great way to discover areas not on your radar that may take far less points to draw than your current hunting district choice. Next, by visiting the Draw Odds page, it will be easy to decide which hunting districts to start with and approximately how many points it will take to draw them. It is important to note that bonus points simply mean more names in the hat and a higher point count does not directly relate to drawing a tag, though the squaring of points does help.

While the applicants still need to carefully plan their application plan, a shorter waiting period will be required with antelope over other species. Most of the hunt districts can be drawn on four or less points while the top tier hunting districts will require seven to eight.

Find your draw odds

Montana resident antelope bonus points going into the 2016 draw
Montana nonresident antelope bonus points going into the 2016 draw

 

When an applicant is first starting the process they will be faced with a few choices. Do you want the highest trophy potentials in the state? Would you like to sacrifice a few inches of score for a hunt that can be done more frequently? Making these choices can make or break a season and prevent the applicant from burning points or spending useless money.

For applicants looking for the biggest and the best, pay close attention to HD 215, HD 401, HD 404, HD 600 and HD 690. These will be great districts to focus on and all are accessible at three to four points, with HD 215 really getting good at around six points. For hunters willing or wanting to wait, you can simply put in for your desired hunt district and request an 80% refund if you are unsuccessful in the draw. If applicants are looking for easier hunts while they build points for other districts they should look at the 700 series license if they wish to rifle hunt and the 900 series license if they wish to bowhunt. Both of these tags can be listed as second or third choice options. The 900 series license can be used in any hunting district in the state and will have high odds of drawing and there is usually a surplus. Possessing the 700 series license will allow the applicant to hunt any hunting district in Region 7, which is the highest Boone & Crockett (B&C) entry producing region in the state.

I have 0 antelope bonus points. What can I expect?

For hunters wishing to hunt every year, or as close as they can come, it is highly advised that those interested in rifle hunting should put in for the 700 series rifle license and that those interested in archery hunting put in for the 900 series license. Draw odds for the 700 series rifle license are pretty slim (10%) for a nonresident with zero point, but if you draw, you're looking at a fantastic hunt. As stated earlier, the highest numbers of B&C antelope come out of Region 7 and it also possesses one of the state's highest antelope populations. The 900 series tag goes to surplus nearly every year and is an excellent second choice option, though the hunter will be restricted to archery gear only for the season.

If you want to draw and hunt almost every year in Montana, there are 14 hunt districts for the rifle season that have 50% or better draw odds for a nonresident with zero points.

What can I do with 3 or 4 antelope bonus points?

Your application strategy won’t be changed much here except now HD 401, HD 404 and HD 690 will be well within your odds of drawing and HD 215 and HD 600 will most likely take a few more years. A nonresident at this level has 28 rifle season hunt district options that have 70% draw odds or better. 

Hunters should continue to list 700-20 or 900-20 as their second or third choices if they just want to hunt Montana without burning your points.

What can I expect with 9 or 10 antelope bonus points?

At this point, you are essentially on the top of the points pile due to Montana’s antelope tags being fairly easy to draw. By this point, you could have drawn HD 401, HD 404 and HD 690 a few years prior but these can still be good districts to look at if you're OK with burning some points. This will be an all but guaranteed draw. Most nonresident applicants will usually draw HD 215 or HD 600 by this point without sacrificing any additional time or money. Lucky hunters will enjoy one of only two antelope hunting districts in Region 2 as well as some incredible bucks.

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