APPLICATION STRATEGY 2017: Montana Antelope
Montana's 2017 antelope application overview
While Montana is not a state that commonly finds itself on the short list for trophy antelope hunts, it does offer some incredible opportunities with good quality hunting and a great chance at a nice buck. Bucks in the 70-75” range can be found with careful planning and several bucks over the 80” mark are taken each year. Montana is the land of opportunity for any hunter with nearly 30 million acres of public land found throughout the state and another 7.3 million acres of private land enrolled in the Block Management Program. Montana can be a great state for anyone to consider and with enough planning some great bucks can be found in nearly every hunt district.
Another bonus found in the silver lining is the fact that Montana’s deadline for antelope applications is not until June 1. This late deadline gives hunters the chance to see drawing results in many other states prior to this date and the opportunity to supplement a missed shot with a Montana permit.
Note: The application deadline for Montana antelope is June 1, 2017 and can be mailed in or completed online.
Why Montana for antelope in 2017
Great season structure
Montana offers several seasons ranging from archery to rifle with some being weapon specific and others allowing the use of both.
Great draw odds
Many of Montana’s antelope permits can be drawn almost yearly with many of the top hunt districts becoming available over a considerably shorter time period than what is found in other states.
Montana has a lot to offer when it comes to public lands, most of the land found in antelope county is comprised of Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Many private ranches also participate in the Block Management program which allows hunters to gain public access to private land. This can be a great way to access public land stretches that may be otherwise inaccessible. The problem... over 77% of the 51.4 million acres that are home to antelope are on private lands.
During many of the sanctioned antelope seasons hunters can also encounter a plethora of other game animals that may be hunted with the proper permits or tags.
New for 2017
Montana runs on a two year schedule when it comes to season changes meaning that regulations, quotas, and season dates can only be adjusted every other year. 2016 saw a large number of changes that will remain in effect until the 2018 calendar year.
View important information and an overview of the Montana rules/regulations, the draw system and bonus points, SuperTags, 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 you find trophy areas.
2017 Montana antelope season dates
|Season||Start and end dates|
|900 Series (Archery only)||August 15 to November 12|
|Archery||September 2 to October 6|
|Any Weapon||October 7 to November 12|
Important dates and information
- Applications for antelope must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. MST on June 1.
- Applications can be submitted by mail or online here.
- 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.
- Bonus points are useable on first choice drawings only.
- Successful drawing of a tag will also forfeit all accumulated points (first choice only).
- An 80% refund can be requested on nonresident licenses if requested by Aug. 1, 2017.
- A 50% refund can be requested on nonresident licenses if requested after Aug. 1, 2017.
- Draw results are generally available during mid August
State-by-state antelope tag fees
The cost of applying for antelope in Montana for 2017
|Base Hunting License||$10||$15|
|Bonus Point Fee|
The Montana draw system
Understanding the draw
It is important to understand the draw system before you begin. You can find a complete explanation of the draw process along with important dates and fees in our Montana State Profile. All of the antelope tags are distributed through a drawing though many B licenses are generally available for purchase as leftovers. Leftover tags are sold on a first come first serve basis.
Montana used to boast a nearly 100% draw odds on the 700 series tag which is usable throughout the entirety of Region 7. After a massive breakout of blue tongue as well as a harsh winter in 2011, antelope quotas have been drastically reduced thus making tags harder to come by. With that said, tags have been on a steady climb in the past few years and this trend is expected to continue. The below table outlines the shocking amount of tags that were dropped off after the 2010 and 2011 seasons.
Tag quotas for 700 series antelope in Montana since 2010
|Year||700 Series||% change|
Nonresident tag allocation
In Montana, nonresident applicants are awarded up to 10% of a district’s permits. The 10% quota is not a guarantee, though, and it is possible for residents to be drawn for every permit in a hunt district before a nonresident's name is pulled out of the hat.
The SuperTag 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, much cheaper. Hunters can purchase as many “lottery tickets” in the SuperTag drawing as they wish for $5 each. These are non refundable and must be purchased by July 2, 2017. If hunters draw a Super Tag in the same year that they have drawn a permit, then they must forfeit the permit back to MFWP who will then issue a full refund and reinstate any bonus points the individual possessed prior to the drawing.
Montana's 2017 antelope breakdown
Before beginning your initial research on the district of your choice it will first become important to establish the bottom line goals of your trip. Generally this can be broken down into a few categories including weapon of choice, drawing odds, or access opportunities. As with most other drawings in the west, archery hunters generally see the highest drawing odds yet routinely experience lower success rates in harvest. Below we will breakdown all of the most recent data and explore districts currently trending on our hit list!
Five year Montana Montana antelope harvest numbers
2017 antelope herd condition
As of 2016 the estimated population of Montana’s antelope is topping out at nearly 160,000 animals. Compare this to the low of 90,000 antelope in 2011 and it’s easy to see that the state's herd is currently doing well and thriving. Recovery activities continue to progress since the major die off of 2011 and these growth trends are expected to continue. Montana is currently experiencing a very wet spring and this generally leads to great horn growth, 2017 should be a great season!
Region by region antelope population breakdown
When it comes to the tag structure for Montana antelope hunters are initially subjected to a decision of three major pathways: The 900 series tag, 700 series tag, or individual hunting district tags.
The 900 series tag is an archery only permit that is good for every hunt district in the state with the exception of HD 215 and HD 291. This provides the obvious benefit of giving hunters the freedom of movement but holders of this permit are also allowed to begin hunting on August 15, two weeks before general tag holders can take to the field. This will also give successful applicants the option to chase antelope before the general deer and elk seasons begin. This season runs through the entirety of the rut and ends on November 12.
Bottom line with this tag, if you’re an archery hunter then there are very few, if any, reasons to apply for any tag other than the 900 series.
The 700 series tag is a unique permit that allows hunters to hunt any of the hunt districts found within Region 7 (700, 701, 702, 703, 704, and 705). This is an any weapon tag though a period from September 2 through October 6 is designated as archery only. This time frame will allow hunters to pursue rutting antelope but many neglect this in favor of elk or deer hunting. This can be an excellent time to be in the field. The rifle season will begin on October 7 and run through November 12.
Individual hunting districts
Other than the 900 or 700 series tag, the third choice will land hunters on applying for individual hunting districts. These permits will only be usable in the hunt district for which they are drawn. These permits can generally mean lower competition and higher trophy qualities though this is not always the case. For some hunters, these can be great permits to look at as additional opportunities to supplement a deer or elk hunts already planned in the area.
How to uncover hidden gem antelope districts
While the state's biggest bucks are usually found in the top shelf draw districts many hunters can find great success and mature bucks in just about very hunt district in the state. Utilize our Filtering 2.0 tools and manipulate the Trophy Potential to display the districts that have a legitimate chance at bucks that score 75” or better. Customize your search and click on a specific district to access the Unit Profile in order to gain the greatest resource available to thoroughly learn an area. Our Montana antelope Species Profile is another great way to determine other districts and regions of the state to consider.
Top hit list HDs to consider for 75" or better antelope
Top antelope HDs to consider for 70% or better rifle harvest success
B&C entry trends for Montana antelope
As can be seen from the table below, Montana does not routinely produce the amount of record book animals as some of the surrounding states. While this can be a deterrent at first glance, it’s important to note that Montana is a state managed for opportunity and not necessarily trophy potentials. One apparent fact when analyzing the record book entries for Montana is that many of the bucks come from the 700 districts found in Region 7, huntable on the 700 series tag. This permit carries a 99% draw odd for residents with zero points and a 25% chance for nonresidents with the same amount of points. These areas can also be archery hunted under the 900 series tag which carried a 100% chance of drawing for both residents and nonresidents in 2016.
Montana's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for antelope
|Carter||2||650, 700, 701|
|Rosebud||1||701, 702, 704|
Managing points and expectations
With Montana utilizing a random draw, it's important to understand that possessing the maximum number of points will never guarantee a tag like other states that utilize preference points. This simple fact can steer a lot of hopeful applicants away but with it’s low cost of $20 per point it doesn’t hurt to participate.
With Montana having so many good options for antelope the simple fact is that any hunt is a good hunt. Record book bucks can pop up from time to time in any hunt district, though the odds are generally higher for encountering mature bucks on the eastern side of the state simply due to population densities.
Note: For another view of the bonus point breakdown using tables, visit the Montana Antelope Species Profile. The table view will allow for an easier readout of the higher point totals.
I have 0 antelope bonus points. What can I expect?
Before beginning the steps of building your application strategy for Montana, it will first be import to establish a few ground rules. Whether you want the biggest buck in the state or you simply want to experience a good antelope hunt, those decisions can drastically change the way you apply. Beyond that, hunters may also consider antelope as an auxiliary species to supplement a hunt already planned in a nearby area for other big game.
At zero points, residents have quite a few options with a nearly 100% guarantee on drawing. Consider applying for the 700 series tag if you're a rifle only hunter or the 900 series tag if you're an archery hunter. If you are going for a tag that requires higher points for realistic odds then consider listing the 900 series archery tag as your second choice as on most years this has been available to both residents and nonresidents. Of the 61 different hunt options, a resident with zero points has 50% draw odds on 16 different hunts. You can see that list here.
For nonresidents at the zero point level you do have a few options to work with. For one, the 900 series archery tag which is usable in nearly the entire state is an excellent option. Past that, hunt districts 501, 510, 511, 540, and 550 generally hold great odds. The 700 series tag may still be a year or two out of reach but with Montana’s random lottery system you aren't wasting your time applying if this is your end goal. In the end, there are 14 hunts that have 50% draw odds or better at zero points. You can check out the list of hunts that meet that criteria here.
What can I expect with 2 or 3 antelope bonus points?
At this point level residents will have the majority of the districts within a reasonable percentage of drawing. Drawing either the 700 or 900 series tag, unless on a second choice, will be merely burning points. Still, consider listing 900 as a second choice as you continue to apply for your desired district. Many hunt districts in the north central portion of the state within Regions 4 and 6 will have great odds and hold mature bucks.
At this point level, nonresident applicants are just getting into some of the better individual districts in the state. The 700 series tag will now have great odds (95% odds) and is the best bet for both animal encounters as well as trophy potentials. If you have a specific hunt district in mind then continue to apply there as normal. At three points, you now have 33 hunts to choose from with 50% draw odds or better. You can see that list here.
What can I expect with 5 plus antelope bonus points?
At this point level residents are nearly at the top of the heap. Due to the sheer amount of tags and the number of resident hunters who participate in the 900 or 700 series tags very few hunt districts will ever need a large number of points to draw. Once you’ve accumulated this many points the best bet is to keep applying for your desired hunt district as you will likely draw it within the following year or two. The breakdown of hunts you can draw looks very good. You can see the list of options here.
By this point level most applicants should have drawn out on the 700 series tag if they had applied for it. Applying for it at this stage can simply lead to burned points and wasted money, though with the relatively low cost to apply this isn’t a deal breaker. Consider applying for some of the top tags in the state found in Regions 4 and 6 or go for the sure things and go after the 700 series tag. A nonresident with 5 points has 37 hunt options available with 50% draw odds or better. You can see that list here.