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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2016: Montana Sheep, Moose, Goat, Bison

 

Close up view of a bighorn sheep ram
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Montana's bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat and bison application overview

Jump to: New for 2016 State Information Draw System Rocky Bighorn Breakdown Moose Breakdown Mountain Goat Breakdown Bison Breakdown

Montana can be a great state for western hunters to begin building points with its relatively cheaper costs. While these tags, like other states, will have very steep odds, the hunting can be phenomenal thanks to ample amounts of publicly accessible lands and some of the best trophy potentials in the Lower 48. There are 32 hunting districts available for bighorn sheep, 81 for moose, 39 for mountain goat and three for bison. Out of the 32 bighorn hunting districts, five are on an unlimited quota, which means a 100% chance of drawing even though the chances of success are slim. Montana allows both resident and nonresident applicants to apply for all four of these species in the same year.

Note: The application deadline for all sheep, moose and mountain goat hunts in Montana is May 2, 2016. You can apply online here.



Why Montana for bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat and bison

Large amounts of public land

There is a lot of public land available to all hunters once they draw the tags. Tags are available in nearly every type of terrain that Montana has to offer, catering to all hunters.

Trophy potential

There is great trophy potential for all species, including the largest bighorn sheep found in the Lower 48.

Random lottery draw

Montana drawings are based on a random lottery draw weighted with bonus points, which means that anyone (including applicants with zero points) have a chance at drawing a tag.

Low cost of applying

There are relatively low costs for applying or point building.

Long seasons

There is a generous 12 week seasons for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat, including two weeks of archery only. There is a three month season for bison*.
 

* The Montana bison season is largely based around herds entering and leaving Yellowstone National Park and huntable times and districts can change. Hunters who draw this tag are cautioned to pay extra attention to each district's specific regulations.
 

 

New for 2016

Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep

•  Statewide, the stipulant for presenting harvested sheep in the region it was harvested to anywhere in the state except for R6 and the unlimited districts.        
•  HD 300/302: Gallatin Special Management Area removed; closed area.
•  HD 301: Established ewe licenses (quota 15).
•  HD 315 (Tendoys) is closed.
•  HD 340: Increased either sex from one to two.
•  HD 455: Reopened with either sex (quota one).
•  HD 482: Increased ewe quota from 20 to 35.        
•  HD 501: Increased legal ram quota range from two to four to one to four.
•  HD 622: Increased ewe quota from 25 to 35.

Shiras moose

•  HD 250: Reduced antlered bull licenses from three to one.
•  HD 323: Increased quota for antlered bull license from eight to 10.    
•  HD 325: Increased quota range for antlered bull license from four to six.
•  HDs 308/313/360: Removed individual antlered bull licenses in these HDs. Established 398-50 antlered bull licenses (quota five) valid in all three HDs.
•  HDs 361/362: Removed individual antlered bull licenses in these individual HDs. Established 399-50 antlered bull licenses (quota four) valid in both HDs.
•  Eliminated Canyon Ferry wildlife management area weapons restriction/closure area listing under the Weapons Restriction Area section.

Mountain goat

•  Statewide, mandatory reporting and inspection is no longer required. Some districts with specific management needs (eg. HD 313 – the Crazy Mtns) may still require it.
•  HD 313: Introduce 313-30 female only licenses (quota 25).
Adjusted ES license quota from 50 to 30 and adjusted range from 40 to 100 to 15 to 100.
•  HD 314: Eliminated the closure in the Gallatin Special Management Area.
•  HD 362: Redefined HD to open that portion of the Gallatin Special Management Area between Sage Creek and Yellowstone National Park.
•  HD 327/328: Clarified boundary as West Fork of Beaver Creek by Blue Danube Lake.

Bison

•  HD 385 - Gardiner Basin, Absaroka/Beartooth: Eliminated different time periods. The season will run Nov. 15 to Feb. 15. Overall ES quota adjusted from 40 to 20 (range 15 to 50). Introduced 385-10 cow/calf license (quota 25, range 15 to 50); introduced 385-21 either sex backcountry license (quota five, range one to 10) valid only in the Absaroka Beartooth portion.
•  HD 395 West Yellowstone: Eliminated different time periods. The season will run Nov. 15 to Feb.15.



State information

To view important information and an overview of Montana’s rules/regulations, the draw system and points system, tag and license fees and an interactive boundary line map, check out our State Profile. You can also view the Sheep Profile, Moose Profile, Mountain Goat Profile and Bison Profile to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.

State Profile Rocky Profile Moose Profile Mountain Goat Profile Bison Profile

Important dates and information

•  You may begin applying NOW.
•  You can apply online here.
•  The deadline to apply for the 2016 Montana bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat and bison permits is May 2, 2016 by midnight MT.
•  Drawing results will be available the week of June 13, 2016.
•  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.
•  An additional $1,200 must be paid to FWP if a nonresident hunter is successful in drawing.
•  Applicants who draw a tag must wait a mandatory seven years before being eligible to apply again, regardless of whether or not they were successful with the current tag. The seven year rule will not apply to hunters who are unsuccessful with a tag in any of Montana’s unlimited bighorn sheep districts.
•  Bonus points will be squared. For instance, a person holding five bonus points for 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 permit 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 only useable on first choice drawings.
•  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 first choice tag will also forfeit all accumulated points.
•  Up to 10% of Montana’s allotted permits will be awarded to nonresident applicants.
•  Permits are only good for the hunting district they were drawn in.

2016 tentative nonresident hunting districts

Nonresident Hunting District choices rotate yearly for sheep, moose and mountain goat. Districts may change when final quotas are set in July. Be sure to check the information carefully to ensure you are applying for the correct hunting district because the area you applied for last year may no longer be offered. See each species breakdown below for the list of nonresident hunting district choices for 2016.



The draw system

Understanding the draw

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

Unlocking Montana's system

Moose and mountain goat

•  Applicants can only make one selection.

Bighorn Sheep

•  Applicants can make two hunt code selections.
•  You can only apply for one limited license HD and it must be your first and only district choice.
•  Second choice selection is for ewe only.

How do my bonus points work?

Montana runs solely on a bonus point system via a random lottery drawing. A fews years ago, Montana began squaring each applicant's points in an effort to weight the draws in the odds of those individuals possessing the most points. Two points becomes four, five points becomes 25 and so on. Points are earned after an applicant is unsuccessful in drawing his or her preferred tag. Points cost $2 for residents and $20 for nonresidents. Each year a hunter is unsuccessful, another point will be added to their tally to be used during the next year. Once a tag is successfully drawn, the applicant forfeits their points. Inactivity for two consecutive years on your ALS account for points on a given species will result in the loss of your accumulated points. Points may only be used on first choice tags and cannot be transferred. Bison is the only animal on the list that does not use bonus points.

Cost of bonus points when applying for one of
Montana's big three

Type of license Cost
  Resident Nonresident
Base hunting license* $10 $15
Conservation* $8 $10
Permit application $10 $50
Bonus point $2 $20
Total cost for
unsuccessful applicants
$30 $95

* A conservation and base hunting license are prerequisites to apply. You might already have them from the 2016 deer and elk application period.
 

Additional costs that will need to be paid
once a permit is drawn

Type of license Cost
  Resident Nonresident
Additional fees for permit $125 $1,200
Bow & Arrow Stamp
(if hunting archery only seasons)
$10 $10
Total cost to hunt (w/or w/out archery) $135 $1,210/$1,200

 

Second and third choice

In most cases, when applying for permits, you will have the option to select a second or third choice permit. Basically, if there are leftover tags in your second choice district after the drawings you will be awarded one of those; if that is full and a spot is available in your third choice district you will draw that. Drawing either your second or third choice will not use up your bonus points. Be mindful of the regulations as some hunting districts that are an unlimited draw require that your first choice be the unlimited district. If applying for such an area, hunters should choose not to participate in the bonus point system as you will then lose you points and it will be wasted money and time.

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 open hunting district in the state regardless of it being an unlimited or limited entry area. Only one tag per species is drawn each year. These are very similar to Governor's Tags 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 permit they must forfeit the permit 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.


 

Montana's Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep breakdown
 

Young band of bighorn sheep rams
Young band of bighorn rams. Photo credit: Shutterstock

Among its gorgeous parks and appealing nature, Montana is known for one thing; producing giant bighorn sheep! In fact, since 2010, Montana has produced nearly 10 times as many Boone and Crockett (B&C) rams as any other state — a number that is still greater than the sum of all other states combined. Most rams in Montana will generally reach their trophy potential by 7.5 to 8.5 years of age. Due to this high score to low age ratio, Montana’s overall sheep potential rarely varies from year to year and several rams in the 195”+ range are taken annually. Plain and simple, hunters who are looking to hunt the biggest sheep in the Lower 48 should be pushing their chips towards Montana.

Top 10 B&C Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep locations since 2010

Current Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep herd condition

Even though the bighorn sheep hunting in Montana is still fantastic, the state’s herd continues to struggle. While a growing predator population and poaching continue to hurt the sheep in isolated cases, the main culprit of bighorn sheep deaths is Mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, or sheep pneumonia. Pneumonia in sheep is, in most cases, passed from domestic sheep to wild sheep when they feed and cohabitate in close quarters. The disease is incredibly contagious and nearly impossible to control or quarantine without significant loss of life, generally 90% of the herd or more. A recent outbreak prompted the closure of HD 122 and another forced the removed of the entire Tendoy Mountain herd in Hunting District 315.

Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep rams over 200

Montana’s unlimited bighorn sheep hunting districts

Montana is unique because hunters have the opportunity to hunt bighorn sheep with a 100% guarantee on drawing the tag. The hunt districts (300, 303, 500, 501, 502) are found along the south central border of Montana and Wyoming. The tags are issued in unlimited quantities, but once a quota for an area has been reached the district will close in a 48 hour window. Generally speaking, a few districts will go unfilled every year with some never seeing a legal ram killed for a several year stretch. While this is a guarantee to hunt sheep, many hunters will avoid the opportunity as this is often referred to as the most difficult hunt in the U.S. It’s generally accepted that hunters will spend more than five insanely dedicated years before finally tak a ram. Your unlimited tag must be listed as your first choice in the applications and will forfeit accumulated points if you elect to participate in the bonus points program.

The seasons

Bighorn sheep, like moose and mountain goat, will feature a two week archery only season that will run Sept. 3 to 14 and an any weapons season that will run Sept. 15 to Nov. 27. It is important to note that deer and elk may not be hunted with a firearm until Oct. 22. The any weapon season for bison will run from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15.

While big rams can be located throughout the year, the best chance for a true trophy will be to hold out until the rut in mid-November. This can be a great time of the year as all of the sheep will be grouped together and much easier to locate.

There are a total of 32 districts available for resident hunters and 17 for nonresidents.

2016 nonresident sheep Hunting Districts

HD 124 HD 212 HD 213 HD 216 HD 300
HD 301 HD 302 HD 303 HD 441 HD 455
HD 482 HD 500 HD 501 HD 502 HD 620
HD 622 HD 680      

 

goHUNT’s hit list HDs for trophy Montana Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep in 2016

Top hit list HDs to consider for 180" or better
Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep
(not in order of quality)

HD Trophy
potential
Largest
horn length
Avg. horn
length
2015*
Harvest
success
Total
No. of
apps.
Res.
apps.
Nonres
apps.
HD 680 190"+ 41.5" 37.39" 71% 7,112 3,813 3,299
HD 482 185"+ 45.37" 38.70" 86% 4,555 3,194 1,361
HD 124 185"+ 38" 34.72" 83% 1,291 1,291 NA
HD 203 185"+ 38.62" 33.31" 100% 464 464 NA
HD 620 180"+ 38.12" 38.12" 100% 299 103 196
HD 622 180"+ 41.25" 36.48" 92% 3,234 2,294 940
HD 421 180"+ 41.75" 38.84" 100% 165 165 NA
HD 340 180"+ 38.62" 38.31" 100% 877 583 294
HD 100 180"+ 41.12" 38.18" 100% 366 366 NA
HD 121 180"+ 37.37" 37.06" 100% 390 390 NA
HD 123 180"+ 41.37" 37.37" 100% 1,033 406 627
HD 213 180"+ 36.75" 31.62" 100% 871 871 NA
HD 261 180"+ 38.12" 37.81" 100% 202 202 NA
HD 270 180"+ NA NA 100% 742 742 NA
HD 302 180"+ 38.5" 32.2" 85% 368 368 NA
HD 422 180"+ 39.25" 35.56" 100% 737 737 NA
HD 441 180"+ 37.12" 32.89" 100% 368 368 NA

* Average horn length includes both sides
2015 Montana bighorn sheep horn lengths and age for each HD

 

Hidden gem information

With Montana’s reputation for giant rams — and only up to 10% of a region's tags being set aside for nonresidents — the odds of finding a hidden gem will be bleak. Imagine a dozen shiny diamonds in the middle of a field with you and 5,000 other applicants on a starting line 100 yards from the prize. Now, toss in 30,000 resident hunters on the same starting line and know that it’s entirely possible they may account for all of the diamonds. Sounds dismal, right? Thanks to MFWP utilizing a modified lottery system, weighted with bonus points, anyone has a legitimate chance of drawing a tag. So, where to begin? The scouting and research game has been significantly simplified with our new Filtering 2.0 system. With this, hunters can look at every hunting 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 profile to further learn about the immediate area and what tools you will need to be successful. Be sure to also check out our Montana State Profile to stay current with the status of Montana’s wildlife.

Five year B&C entry trends for Montana Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep

Hunting Districts listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Districts in this table are considered if any part of the district is found within any part of the county.

Montana's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for bighorn sheep

County No. of
entries
HDs found
within county
Blaine 31 680
Fergus 30 482
Chouteau 17 482, 680
Sanders 9 121, 122, 123, 124
Missoula 6 203, 210, 283


Problem with Montana lowering fees

Once again, Montana has the cheapest application fees for nonresidents and residents in the West. This means hunters no longer have to upfront as much money so more people are applying. 

Like we discussed in our 2015 Montana application strategy article, this gives everybody with a credit card and an internet connection a chance at these coveted licenses. Now it's cheap enough that an entire family or a group of friends can start applying, regardless of how little some of these people would want a license, in order to accrue bonus points for the future.

While this may seem like a great idea, it also means that now anyone can apply for sheep, moose and goat in Montana and your chances of drawing a tag are now even slimmer than before. Luckily in 2015, the number of people applying for sheep only increased by 0.89% unlick the giant 15.28% jump from 2013 to 2014.  

A large-scale example that your odds are not getting better

Montana statewide bighorn sheep application trends

Year Total applicants Residents Nonresidents Percent change
of total
2010 23,567 17,164 6,403 NA
2011 23,811 17,145 6,666 1.04%
2012 23,578 16,650 6,928 -0.98%
2013 23,994 16,893 7,101 1.76%
2014 27,661 20,161 7,500 15.28%
2015 27,908 20,232 7,676 0.89%


As the table above illustrates, your odds have drastically decreased with the reduced fees. There was an increase of 3,667 applicants from 2013 to 2014 or a 15.28% increase. That is a drastic change from a 1.76% increase in applicants from 2012 to 2013.

A finescale example that your odds are not getting better.

Montana HD 680-20 bighorn sheep ram application trends

Year Total applicants Residents Nonresidents Percent change
of total
2010 6,289 3,496 2,793 NA
2011 6,820 3,741 3,079 8.44%
2012 7,105 3,870 3,235 4.18%
2013 7,400 4,046 3,354 4.15%
2014 8,322 4,138 4,184 12.46%
2015 7,112 3,813 3,299 -14.54%

 


 

Managing points and expectations

Before applying for Montana is it very important for hunters to determine what exactly they are after. Some may want the trophy of a lifetime while others may want the adventure of a lifetime; some may want both. 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 will be 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 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 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.

Another topic that needs some attention is whether or not to hire an outfitter. When going for the best trophy districts in the state it’s not uncommon for a nonresident applicant to spend nearly $1,000 and more than 10 years trying  to draw these tags and most guys will never draw another.

The 2016 maximum bonus points for bighorn sheep: 15

Find your draw odds

 

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

I have 0 bighorn sheep bonus points. What can I expect?

With zero points, the odds of drawing a tag are about as bleak as they can be. With Montana’s draw system there is always a very slight chance than you can pull a tag, though. At this point, simply pick the district you wish to hunt and start applying for it. Be sure to participate in the bonus point program to improve your odds as time moves on. Residents just starting out have an average of 0.01% chance to draw a tag with zero points (unless you apply for the unlimited HDs) and nonresident draw odds are even worse. 

Hunters may also look at the unlimited districts during this time if they feel up to tackling the challenge. Hunters wishing to hunt an unlimited district will want to choose to not participate in the points program that year or you will lose your bonus points, as drawing the tag (100% guarantee) will forfeit your accumulated points if you list as a first choice.

What can I do with 3 or 4 bighorn sheep bonus points?

Your odds with three to four points won’t change much from having zero. Hunters should still be applying for the district they wish to hunt and hope that the squaring of their points will eventually pay off. A resident hunter with four bonus points still doesn't even have draw odds that break 1% and nonresidents once again are even worse. Keep applying and building points, because with Montana's system, you could be the lucky one to pull a tag.

What can I expect with 9 or 10 bighorn sheep bonus points?

Your odds at this point, while better, still won't come close to guaranteeing a tag. Even resident hunters will over 13 points may still be waiting for several years. Continue to apply for your desired district and keep your fingers crossed: somebody has to draw the tag! At 10 points, the highest odd of drawing a tag if you are a resident is in HD 250 at 3.1%. Odds are very slim for both residents and nonresidents at this point level. Study the Draw Odds page to figure out your best course of action.
 


 

Montana's Shiras moose breakdown

Montana can be a great state for hunters to look for moose because nearly all of the districts found across the state contain trophy class animals. Most hunters can expect to find trophy bulls in their districts topping out in the 35” to 40” range in width and there are reports of several bulls hitting 50” every year. While there are other surrounding states where bigger bulls can be found, Montana still produces more B&C entries than most.

Top B&C Shiras moose states since 2010

Current herd condition

Montana’s moose population continues to decline and has been since the 1990s. While wolves and other predators have played a significant role in the decline, an increase in winter ticks because of shorter winters has also been to blame. Yet, great hunting still exists throughout the state.

The seasons

Moose, like bighorn sheep and mountain goat, will have a two week archery only season that runs from Sept. to 14 and an any weapons season that runs from Sept. 15 to Nov. 27. It is important to note that deer and elk may not be hunted with a firearm until Oct. 22. The any weapon season for bison will run from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15.

Frequently, the majority of hunters possessing a moose tag will stick to the roads in hopes of reducing, or eliminating, the need to pack the animal out of the woods. While great bulls are harvested with this method every year, there is some low hanging fruit for those willing to push the envelope a little deeper and deal with a miserable packout. Livestock can be a great solution to this problem. Hunting the rut in mid-October can be a great time to locate bulls through calling.

2016 nonresident moose Hunting Districts

HD 100 HD 101 HD 105 HD 106 HD 110
HD 111 HD 125 HD 126 HD 140 HD 141
HD 215 HD 220 HD 230 HD 314 HD 315
HD 319 HD 320 HD 322 HD 323 HD 324
HD 325 HD 326 HD 327 HD 329 HD 330
HD 496        

 

goHUNT’s hit list Hunting Districts for trophy Shiras moose in 2016

Top hit list HDs to consider for 130" or better
Shiras moose
(not in order of quality)

HD Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
Total
no. of
apps.
Res.
apps.
Nonres.
apps.
HD 100 130"+ 40% 491 359 132
HD 102 130"+ 50% 682 682 NA
HD 103 130"+ 100% 110 110 NA
HD 104 130"+ 60% 169 116 53
HD 121 130"+ 75% 260 194 66
HD 140 130"+ 100% 111 111 NA
HD 150 130"+ 100% 36 36 NA
HD 261 130"+ 50% 144 144 NA
HD 285 130"+ 100% 114 114 NA
HD 301 130"+ 88% 305 251 54
HD 323 130"+ 85% 441 441 NA
HD 324 130"+ 63% 520 520 NA
HD 330 130"+ 80% 428 428 NA

 


Hidden gem information

With Montana’s reputation for great moose, and only up to 10% of a regions tag quotas being set aside for nonresidents, the odds of finding a hidden gem will be bleak. Thanks to MFWP utilizing a modified lottery system, weighted with bonus points, anyone has a legitimate, albeit small, chance of drawing a tag. So, where to begin? The scouting and research game has been significantly simplified with our new 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 identified you can visit their respective district profile to further learn about the immediate area and what tools you will need to be successful. Be sure to also check out the Montana state profile to stay current with the status of Montana’s wildlife.

Five year B&C entry trends for Montana Shiras moose

Hunting Districts listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Districts in this table are considered if any part of the district is found within any part of the county.

Montana's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for Shiras moose

County No. of
entries
HDs found
within county
Lincoln 10 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 110, 111
Beaverhead 5 300, 301, 302, 323, 324, 326, 327,
330, 331, 332, 333, 334, 340
Glacier 4 415
Missoula 4 150, 210, 230, 240, 261, 285, 292
Flathead 3 106, 110, 111, 112, 122, 140, 141, 150
Gallatin 3 304, 306, 307, 308, 309, 310, 311,
312, 313, 314, 315, 361, 362, 390
Madison 3 313, 320, 330, 331, 332, 340, 360, 362

 


 

Managing expectations

Before applying for Montana is it very important for hunters to determine what exactly they are after. Some may want the trophy of a lifetime while others may want the adventure of a lifetime; some may want both. 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 will be automatically forfeited.

To begin your planning, 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 radar that may take far less points to draw than your current district choice. Next, by visiting the draw odds page, it will be easy to decide which 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.

Another topic that needs some attention is whether or not to hire an outfitter. When going for the best trophy districts in the state it’s not uncommon for a nonresident applicant to spend nearly $1,000 and over 10 years worth of effort in drawing these tags and most guys will never draw another.

The 2016 maximum bonus points for moose: 14

Find your draw odds

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

With zero points the odds of drawing a tag are going to be very slim. With Montana’s draw system, there is always a very slight chance than you can pull a tag, though. At this point, simply pick the district you wish to hunt and start applying for it. Make sure to also participate in the bonus point program to improve your odds as time continues.

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

Your odds with three to four points won’t change much from having zero. Hunters should still be applying for the district they wish to hunt and hope that the squaring of their points will eventually pay off.

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

Your odds at this point, while better, still won't come close to guaranteeing a tag. Even resident hunters will over 13 points may be waiting several more years. Regions 1 and 3 are the top areas in the state for trophy moose. Consider looking at HDs 101, 102, 331, 332 and 333. Continue to apply for your desired district and keep your fingers crossed: somebody has to draw the tag!


 

Montana's Rocky Mountain goat breakdown
 

Branden VanDyken with his 2015 Montana archery mountain goat
Branden VanDyken with his 2015 Montana archery mountain goat. 

Perhaps one of the most challenging animals to pursue in Montana is the the Rocky Mountain goat. Clinging to cliffs in areas only accessible to humans with climbing gear, these goats thrive through multiple seasons and extreme weather conditions at elevations that will make the most experienced hunters feel uneasy at times. With these extreme conditions, the balancing act of waiting for a goat to become “haired out” and still maintaining access into the backcountry through snowy passes is a delicate process that can make or break a hunt.

Top B&C mountain goat states/province rank since 2010

Current mountain goat herd condition

Montana was once known as one of the highest trophy producing states in the West for mountain goats, but has fallen off the map a bit in recent years. While the state may not be producing as many record animals, it is still boasting a 75% or better success rate on nearly three-fourths of the available hunting districts and excellent hunting can still be had.

The seasons

Mountain goat, like moose and bighorn sheep, will feature a two week archery only season that runs from Sept. 3 to 14 and an any legal weapons season that runs from Sept. 15 to Nov. 27. It is important to note that deer and elk may not be hunted with a firearm until Oct. 22. The any legal weapon season for bison will run from Nov. 15 to Feb. 15.

It is important to note that mountain goat hunting can be a very intense game of cat and mouse if the hunter is looking for the best possible winter coat on the trophy. Unlike most game animals, mountain goats are seemingly unaffected by deep snow levels and will generally stay in their high elevations most of the year. Most goats will generally be “haired up,” as they say, by mid to late October, but this is a factor that is obviously weather dependant. Be careful not to get snowed out of goat country or, worse yet, let another hunter take your opportunity.

2016 nonresident mountain goat Hunting Districts

HD 101 HD 131 HD 312 HD 313 HD 314
HD 316 HD 320 HD 323 HD 324 HD 325
HD 326 HD 329 HD 393 HD 415 HD 517

 

Top hit list HDs to consider for 35" or better
mountain goat
(not in order of quality)

HD Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
Total
No. of
apps.
Res.
apps.
Nonres.
apps.
HD 100 35"+ 100% 903 751 152
HD 131 35"+ 100% 281 281 NA
HD 133 35"+ 100% 102 102 NA
HD 134 35"+ 100% 123 123 NA
HD 141 35"+ 100% 126 126 NA
HD 312 35"+ 88% 717 717 NA
HD 313 35"+ 78% 3,073 2,366 707
HD 314 35"+ 80% 1,393 609 784
HD 320 35"+ 100% 483 483 NA
HD 323 35"+ 76% 965 527 438
HD 331 35"+ 100% 362 282 80
HD 393 35"+ 80% 939 939 NA
HD 447 35"+ 100% 763 763 NA
HD 460 35"+ 100% 1,062 1,062 NA

 

 

Hidden gem information

With Montana’s reputation for good mountain goats, and only up to 10% of a district's tags being set aside for nonresidents, the odds of finding a hidden gem will be small, but better than bighorn sheep and moose. Thanks to MFWP utilizing a modified lottery system, weighted with bonus points, anyone has a legitimate, albeit small, chance of drawing a tag. So, where to begin? The scouting and research game has been significantly simplified with our new 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 districts have been identified, you can visit their respective district profile to learn more about the immediate area and what tools you will need to be successful. Be sure to also check out our state profile to stay current with the status of Montana’s wildlife.

B&C entry trends for Montana mountain goats

Hunting Districts listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Districts in this table are considered if any part of the district is found within any part of the county.

Montana's top B&C producing
counties since 2000 for mountain goat

County No. of
entries
HDs found
within county
Chouteau 3 447, 460
Flathead 2 132, 134, 140, 141, 142, 150
Gallatin 2 314, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 362, 393
Ravalli 2 240, 250, 261, 270

* Four other counties with one entry.

 

Managing points and expectations

The 2016 maximum bonus points for mountain goat: 14

Find your draw odds

Montana resident mountain goat bonus points going into the 2016 draw
Montana nonresident mountain goat bonus points going into the 2016 draw

I have 0 mountain goat bonus points. What can I expect?

With zero points the odds are drawing a tag are about as bleak as they can be. Residents have 39 HDs to chose from and nonresidents have 16 HDs they can apply for. With Montana’s draw system there is always a very slight chance than you can pull a tag, though. A resident just starting out with zero points has anywhere from 0.01% to 0.37% chance to draw a tag. With zero points, a nonresident has anywhere from 0.01% to 0.06%. At this point, simply pick the district you wish to hunt and start applying for it. Make sure to also participate in the bonus point program to improve your odds over time. Be sure to read over our District Profiles intently before decided on a hunting district. Some of the districts can contain some of the state's roughest terrain and this will often keep many applicants away from a particular hunting district.

What can I do with 3 or 4 mountain goat bonus points?

Your odds with three to four points won’t change much from having zero. If you have four bonus points as a resident, your draw odds are anywhere from 0.08% to 4.6%, and nonresident from 0.05% to 0.95%. Hunters should still be applying for the district they wish to hunt and hope that the squaring of their points will eventually pay off. Check out the Draw Odds page for more information on your strategy at this point level. 

What can I expect with 9 or 10 mountain goat bonus points?

Like the other trophy animals in Montana, your odds of drawing a tag at this point level is still going to be really low, but there is definitely hope. For both bighorn sheep and moose, Montana only issues up to one permit per hunting district. Fortunately, this is not the case for mountain goat. Both HD 314 and HD 323 issue three nonresident tags while HD 313 issues eight! Even better, HD 329, while not on the scope for the state's biggest animals, has the highest draw odds of any hunting district at this point level at 31% for a resident, with 14 resident tags issued. For a nonresident, HD 327 produces the highest draw odds at 10 points at 5.5%, but only gives out one tag. Again, check out the Draw Odds page for more information on your strategy at this point level. 


 

Montana's bison breakdown
 

Bison standing in snowy conditions
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Another unique opportunity only available to a handful of western states is the opportunity to hunt free ranging bison, also known as buffalo. In Montana, the herd that is hunted is considered a migratory herd and the hunt is largely centered around when the bison leave Yellowstone National Park during periods of heavy snows. The permit allotment for the 2016/2017 season will be 80 either sex permits. Nonresidents will be eligible for up to 10% of a hunting district’s permits. Along with the permit drawings, Montana also holds drawings for a bison hunt roster. Hunters placed on this roster will be called in the order they were drawn if the state decides to take more animals out of the herd than the original quotas dictated. It is important to note that during the time that the MFWP regulated hunts are taking place there may also be  state tribal members hunting the animals during a treaty hunt.

Current herd condition

The main idea and drive behind the bison hunts in Montana, and other states, is to control the spread of brucellosis. Brucellosis among bison is thought to infect over 50% of the population in Yellowstone Park. The disease is contractible by humans and it is recommended that successful applicants spend time reading the Bison Hunting Guide found on MFWP’s website for safe handling instructions. The bacteria is concentrated in the reproductive tract and lymph nodes. Cooking the meat thoroughly destroys bacteria that may be present, making it safe to eat.


Hunting Districts listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Districts in this table are considered if any part of the district is found within any part of the county.

Montana's top B&C producing
counties since 2010 for bison

County No. of
entries
HDs found
within county
Park 7 HD 385 - Absaroka/Beartooth, HD 385 - Gardiner Basin
Gallatin 2 HD 395 - Cabin Creek, HD 395 - West Yellowstone

 

The seasons

Traditionally, the bison season tags were divided into separate, smaller seasons. New for 2016 is a single any weapon season that runs for three months. In years of light snowfall this hunt can be a very difficult hunt as many bison will never leave the park.

Montana's 2016/17 bison season dates

Hunting District Season
dates
HD 385 - Gardiner Basin Nov. 15 - Feb. 15
HD 385 - Absaroka/Beartooth Sept. 15 - Nov. 14
HD 395 - West Yellowstone Nov. 15 - Feb. 15

 


 

Managing points and expectations

Which district do I apply for?

Montana bison application history (2004-2015)

Montana makes the hunt choice fairly easy for hunters as there are only two hunting districts available for hunting: HD 385 and HD 395, both of which are split into two sub districts (HD 385 - Absaroka/Beartooth, HD 385 - Gardiner Basin and HD 295 Cabin Creek, HD 395 - West Yellowstone. Both have about the same draw odds as well as harvest success and the decision is really down to the hunter to pick to a number and go. The highest draw odds for a resident is HD 395 - West Yellowstone (Nov. 15 to Feb. 15) at 1.2% and the highest draw odds for a nonresident is HD 395 - West Yellowstone (Sept. 15 to Nov. 14, 2014). The hunt that takes place in the West Yellowstone portion of 395 will see a lot of outside influence by unwanted spectators and can, at times, put hunters on edge. It is generally recommended that hunters apply for the other three available districts if they wish for a more “private” experience, though that is still not guaranteed. Montana does not have bonus points for bison.

Find your draw odds

What about the roster hunts?

Generally, the roster hunts won’t improve your odds in hunting bison and may, in fact, be a detriment to your goals. In the best case scenario, an individual hunter may receive the coveted number one spot on the hunt roster. Yet, if the state receives a light winter and there isn't a massive migration, that individual may never even be called down to hunt. For the same money, and virtually same odds, the best bet is to apply for the sure thing.

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