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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2017: Montana Sheep, Moose, Goat, Bison

 

Full curl bighorn sheep
Photo credit: Shutterstock

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

Jump to: New for 2017 State Information Draw System Rocky Bighorn Breakdown Shiras Moose Breakdown Mountain Goat Breakdown Bison Breakdown

While Montana has long been a standing destination for thousands of hunters each year in pursuit of deer and elk, it is also well known for phenomenal opportunities on trophy species. Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain goat, Shiras moose and bison can all be hunted here with great trophy potentials in all four species. As with many other western states the draw odds for these incredible animals are dismally low; however, because Montana utilizes a lottery draw system weighted by bonus points, every applicant always has a small chance of drawing each year. Since Montana offers so many great hunts for each of these species having a good game plan prior to  application season can be pivotal in ensuring you draw the tag of your dreams.

Note: The application deadline for Montana moose, sheep, goat and bison is May 1, 2017 by midnight Mountain Standard Time. Apply online here.



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

  • Bighorn sheep! Montana is home to some of the largest rams in the world and has produced more book rams than nearly every state and province combined!
  • Lots of public land allow hunters an almost free reign in nearly every hunt district.
  • Montana’s random lottery draw is weighted with bonus points, which means that your odds increase every year you apply, but there is always an off chance to draw tags with minimal points.
  • Compared to application fees in other states, Montana’s applications fees are extremely low.
  • There are generous season dates with mountain goat and moose lasting 10 weeks, bighorn sheep lasting 12 weeks (including a two week archery only season) and bison* lasting three months.

*Bison seasons are structured entirely around herds of bison migrating from Yellowstone National Park. The three month season is merely a time period and hunting times are dictated by Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks (MFWP).
 


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.

Mountain goat

  • New nanny only hunt added to HD 313


State information

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

Montana State Profile Rocky Bighorn Profile Moose Profile Mountain Goat Profile Bison Profile Draw Odds Filtering 2.0

Important dates and information

  • You can apply here.
  • Before applying, all applicants must possess a current base hunting license.
  • Drawing results will be available the third week of June 2017.
  • Bonus points in Montana are squared, which means that if an applicant has five points they will have 25 chances for a permit plus their current application for a total of 26 chances.
  • Up to 10% of a region's tag quota can be drawn by nonresidents, but that is not guaranteed.
  • Permit holders may only hunt the district they successfully drew their permit for.
  • Successful permit holders may not reapply for the same species until a seven year waiting period has lapsed. The only exception to this rule is bighorn ewe tags, which can be successfully drawn every year without repercussion.

2017 moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and bison season dates

Species Archery General
Bighorn sheep Sept. 2 to 14 Sept. 15 to Nov. 26
Moose NA Sept. 15 to Nov. 26
Mountain goat NA Sept. 15 to Nov. 26
Bison NA Nov. 15 to Feb. 15, 2018

There are not any sanctioned archery only seasons for moose, mountain goat and bison. Pay special attention to the regulations as some districts can have an archery only season in them for sheep.

Wolves in Montana

Montana’s wolf issues have somewhat subsided compared to previous years, but the effects of the reintroduction are still being felt on the west side of the state. With heavy snowfall during the 2016/2017 winter, predation is a legitimate concern, particularly in areas around Yellowstone National Park. With the closing of the 2016 wolf season, hunters have accounted for 163 wolves and trappers harvested a total of 83 wolves.

Grizzly bears in Montana

Grizzly encounters have been on a steady climb in recent years and several incidents with hikers and hunters were reported over the past year. As populations continue to rise hunter and grizzly encounters are expected to continue and hunters need to be prepared. Bear spray is recommended for anyone hunting the western side of the state and proper precautions need to be taken around campsites to ensure that food is secured properly. More information on bear safety can be found here. Recently, a management plan has been proposed for Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming that would allow hunting though a final decision has yet to be made. Details on that proposal is covered in a recent article.

2017 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 2017.



The Montana draw system

Understanding the draw

It is important to understand the draw system before you begin your application process. You can find a complete explanation of the draw process along with important dates and fees in our Montana State Profile. Before applying, all applicants—both resident and nonresident—must possess a current base hunting license.

Nonresident tag allocation

In Montana, nonresident applicants are awarded up to 10% of a region's permits. The 10% quota is not a guarantee, though, and it is possible for residents to be drawn for every permit in a hunting district before a nonresident's name is pulled out of the hat. Nonresident districts are set on a revolving schedule and are subject to change yearly. Before applying be sure to check the regulations to make sure that your desired district is available for the current year. You can also find a detailed list of the 2017 hunt districts in our species breakdowns.

Montana SuperTag

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 nonrefundable and must be purchased by July 2, 2017. If hunters draw a SuperTag 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.

Downside to Montana’s cheap application fees

For any applicants already possessing their base hunting license the application fee for trophy species is only $10 per animal for residents and $50 per for nonresidents. This does not include the bonus point cost of $2 for residents and $20 for nonresidents. While the low fees are great since it allows anyone to apply at a minimal cost it has also driven draw odds to an even more depressing low. Since this change in fees was implemented in 2014, application numbers have drastically increased. Below is an in depth breakdown of Montana’s total applications by species since 2012.

Trophy species applications since 2012 in Montana

Year Bighorn sheep Mountain goat Shiras moose
Resident Nonresident Resident Nonresident Resident Nonresident
2012 16,650 6,928 10,062 3,029 18,714 2,560
2013 16,893 7,101 10,383 3,028 19,018 2,549
2014 20,161 7,500 12,902 3,373 23,266 2,910
2015 20,232 7,676 13,131 3,512 23,477 2,978
2016 20,135 7,662 13,384 3,525 23,015 2,984
Increase 21% 11% 33% 16% 23% 17%

2014 through 2016 are years following the application fee change.
 

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 2017 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 $1,250
Bow & Arrow Stamp
(if hunting archery only seasons)
$10 $10
Total cost to hunt (w/or w/out archery) $135 $1,260/$1,250


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 few 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.

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, 2017. 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 2017 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep breakdown
 

Britton Ceynar with his 2016 Montana bighorn sheep
Britton Ceynar with his 2016 Montana bighorn sheep

The simple matter of fact is that if you want to kill one of the biggest bighorn sheep in the world Montana will afford the best opportunity. While this means that a lucky tag holder will have the hunt of a lifetime, it also leads to some of the worst draw odds for the species. Nearly every year, a ram around the magical 200” mark will be taken and two-thirds of the open districts have the potential of producing rams over 175” Boone & Crockett (B&C). It is currently estimated that 6,650 bighorn sheep inhabit Montana.

Five year Montana Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep permit quotas

Year Permits
issued
Drawn by
residents
Drawn by
nonresidents
Unlimited HD
applicants
2012 230 218 12 113
2013 230 211 19 202
2014 256 242 14 233
2015 259 242 17 302
2016 320 299 21 297

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 HD 315.

Five year harvest trends for bighorn sheep in Montana

Year Total
harvest
Rams
harvested
Ewes
harvested
Avg. horn
length
Avg. base
circumference
2011 201 127 74 35.96" 15.24"
2012 167 125 42 35.02" 15.82
2013 189 124 65 36.25" 15.40"
2014 190 120 70 36.48" 15.38"
2015 223 122 99 35.81" 15.24"

Montana’s unlimited bighorn sheep hunting districts

Perhaps the most unique perk to Montana’s bighorn sheep season is the fact that the state features five hunt districts with unlimited quotas (300, 303, 500, 501, 502). With these, hunters just need to simply apply for the permit and it is a guaranteed draw. The districts are run on a quota system and, once the quota is met, the district will be closed within a 48 hour period. While this may sound incredibly appealing at first, hunters need to be aware that these permits are considered some of the hardest tags in the world to fill. Animal densities are dismally low, the country is ruthless, and hunters often encounter grizzlies. Still, with all of the apparent cons to this, any hunter who undertakes this challenge will be in for an incredible adventure that is sure to be retold for years to come.

When applying for unlimited districts it is important to note that the hunt must be listed as your first choice. If you choose to participate in the bonus point program during your application you will lose all of your accumulated points once the permit is drawn. Instead, choose to not participate in points so you can draw the tag without it affecting your point count. By doing so you will also be ineligible to build a point for that year.

Montana 2017 unlimited bighorn sheep district breakdown

HD Number of
hunters
Sheep
taken
Success
rate
300 23 0 0%
303 26 2 7.7%
500 41 2 4.9%
501 51 1 1.9%
502 35 3 8.6%

 

2017 nonresident bighorn sheep districts

Nonresident bighorn sheep hunt districts for 2017

Either sex permits
100-20 102-20 216-20 250-20
340-20 421-20 422-20 482-20
620-20 622-20 680-20 -
Ewe only permits
216-30 301-30 302-30 482-30
622-30 680-30 680-31 -
Unlimited permits
300-60 303-60 500-60 501-60
502-60 - - -


How to uncover hidden gem Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep districts

For the most part, there isn’t any undiscovered sleeper districts to be found in Montana. Even the lowest trophy potential districts have the capabilities of producing rams larger than many other states ever will. For the most part, the odds of drawing a sheep tag are incredibly low for both nonresidents and residents, but with Montana's lottery system there is always a small chance of pulling a tag. Some of the lower trophy potential districts can provide better odds; however, the difference is marginal at best and isn’t really a calculable difference.

The biggest sheep are still found in the famous Missouri River Breaks (482, 620, 622, 680) though 200” rams are getting somewhat more scarce than in prior years. While the odds aren’t much better, Region 1 also houses some incredible rams with several over 180” being produced in recent years.

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

HD Trophy
potential
Tags issued
in 2015**
Rams
harvested
Success Avg. horn
length
Avg. base
circumference
680 190"+ 25 25 100% 37.39" 15.72"
482* 185"+ 20 22* 100% 38.79" 16.02"
203 185"+ 5 5 100% 35.46" 15.49"
124 185"+ 8 7 88% 35.46" 15.49"
100 180"+ 2 2 100% 38.18" 14.59"
121 180"+ 1 1 100% 37.06" 15.56"
123 180"+ 4 2 50% 35.16" 14.09"
213 180"+ 2 2 100% 31.63" 14.31"
261 180"+ 1 1 100% 37.81" 16.13"
302 180"+ 4 3 75% 30.86" 14.59"
340 180"+ 1 1 100% 38.31" 14.16"
421 180"+ 2 2 100% 38.84" 14.94"
422 180"+ 4 4 100% 35.56" 15.04"
441 180"+ 5 4 80% 32.89" 15.22"
620 180"+ 1 1 100% 38.13" 16.88"
622 180"+ 10 9 90% 36.71" 15.58"

*SuperTag and auction tag rams taken in this district during this year.
** Harvest reports from 2016 are not available at this time so we're going to use 2015 tag numbers and harvest.

 

B&C entry trends for Montana Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep

When it comes to Montana, nearly every district will produce a book ram meeting the B&C minimum requirements of 175”. By examining the table below, it will quickly become clear the that the districts found in the Missouri River Breaks produce the most book rams; however, it is also important to note that these districts also hand out the most tags. Because of this fact, these districts routinely see the highest number of applications leading to some possible angles for hunters to move in on districts that may fly under the radar of most.


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
% of rams taken
that make record book
Fergus 36 482 37.4%*
Blaine 35 680
Chouteau 18 482, 680
Sanders 9 121, 122, 123, 124 10.7%
Missoula 8 203, 210, 283 22.2%

* The districts found in the Missouri River Breaks cross the county lines of Fergus, Blaine and Chouteau counties in several spots making exact numbers impossible to predict.

Along with producing more book rams than any other state or province in the world, Montana also holds the record for the most 200”+ rams entered into the B&C record books.

A fine scale example that your odds are not getting better.

Montana HD 680-20 bighorn sheep ram application trends

Year Total applicants Residents Nonresidents % 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%
2016 6,922 3,649 3,273 -2.67%

In the past seven years, 2015 and 2016 were the first two years that applications actually decreased for HD 680.
 


 

Managing points and expectations

The biggest thing to remember when going into the Montana drawing system for any of the trophy species is that with the lottery system the tags can literally be drawn by anyone. This point became even more apparent last season when several sheep tags were drawn by residents with only one point! So, while your odds of drawing are dismal at best, the fact is that if you don’t apply you’ll never draw.

Maximum points going into the 2017 draw: 16

Note: For another view of the bonus point breakdown using tables, visit the Montana Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep Species Profile. The table view will allow for an easier readout of the higher point totals.

Find your draw odds

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

The unfortunate truth is that the odds are stacked so heavily against you at this point that the opportunity of drawing a tag are almost nonexistent. The only glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel is that, with Montana’s lottery system, there is always a small chance that you may pull a tag ahead of maximum point holders.

At this point you’ll have a few options that can include going after the unlimited districts and simply being happy with a sheep tag in your pocket every year, applying for some of the easier to draw ewe tags, or picking your number one choice and starting the waiting game.

For nonresidents, as available districts are rotated through the years, it will be important to identify several contingency districts in the case that your number one selection is not available for the current application period. Remember that applying for a closed district will automatically forfeit your application.

What can I expect with 5 to 6 bighorn sheep bonus points?

Even with a few points under your belt, the draw odds are still stacked largely against you. Still, there is always a chance you may draw so keep focusing on your desired district and hope you can get lucky in the draws.

What can I expect with 10 plus bighorn sheep bonus points?

Unfortunately, as you near the top of the points pool your odds of drawing a tag are only marginally better, but better nonetheless. After you’ve invested this much time and money into the points system, it’s best to hold out for your district of choice. Every year many point holders at the higher end of the spectrum grow tired of waiting and simply cash out on ewe tags or even focus on some of the unlimited districts in hopes of simply harvesting a bighorn sheep in their lifetime. This will be a decision that is ultimately faced by most applicants at some point and can require some serious thought.

As a resident with maximum points, your best odds of drawing in 2017 are in HD 302 at 7.3% and nonresidents will find their best odds in HD 620 at 1.0%.
 



Montana's 2017 Shiras moose breakdown
 

Kyle Marko with his 2016 Montana Shiras moose
Kyle Marko with his 2016 Montana Shiras moose

As with the other trophy species the odds for drawing Shiras moose are extremely low, but any lucky permit holders will be treated to great hunting throughout the state. Moose in Montana are found in a variety of terrains from the jungles in the northwest corner of the state to wide open sage flats in southern and central Montana. Most of the state will offer good opportunities at bulls over 35” wide with some great bulls over 50” taken every year. In addition to antlered bull only permits, Montana also offers antlerless permits for applicants looking to experience the thrill of moose hunting and a rare opportunity to fill their freezers with moose meat.

Five year Montana Shiras moose permit quotas

Year Permits
issued
Drawn by
residents
Drawn by
nonresidents
2012 360 349 11
2013 368 351 17
2014 365 353 12
2015 361 342 19
2016 361 347 14

Current herd condition

Overall Montana’s moose population is doing fairly well. Predation continues to be a problem on the western side of the state as wolves continue to dwindle populations. Yet, even in these affected areas, hunters are still experiencing good hunting; however, the quality of bulls has been on a downward trend for several years.

Five year harvest trends for Shiras moose in Montana

Year Total
harvest
Bulls
harvested
Cows
harvested
Calves
harvested
2011 291 242 42 7
2012 275 241 33 1
2013 263 227 32 4
2014 278 252 24 2
2015 268 232 35 1


2017 nonresident Shiras moose hunt districts

Every year the available districts for nonresidents to apply for Shiras Moose will change, meaning that the district you apply for this year may or may not be available to apply for the following year. This means that it is incredibly important to pay attention when applying for a district that is currently closed to nonresident applicants. If a nonresident applies for a closed district, it will result in an ineligible application.

2017 nonresident Shiras moose hunt districts

100-50 101-50 102-50 103-50 104-50
105-50 106-50 110-50 111-50 150-50
240-50 250-50 261-50 323-50 311-50
332-00 332-50 333-00 333-50 334-00
334-50 335-50 340-50 341-50 342-50
350-50 380-00 380-50 383-50 390-50
398-50 401-20 513-50 - -


How to uncover hidden gem Shiras moose hunt districts

For the most part there isn’t any undiscovered sleeper districts to be found in Montana. Nearly every district can produce opportunities for good bulls. Depending on the area some hunts may offer easier chances at harvesting a bull where others will provide more adventure for those looking to really escape into the backcountry.


B&C entry trends for Montana Shiras moose

While Montana is not commonly recognized as a trophy state for Shiras moose, many hunters would be shocked to see the number of record book entries that have come out of the Treasure State. Below we break down the top counties for record book entries in Montana as well as a breakdown of total record book entries since 2010 for each state across the West.


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
Glacier 6 415
Beaverhead 6 300, 301, 302, 323, 324, 326, 327,
330, 331, 332, 333, 334, 340
Flathead 5 106, 110, 111, 112, 122, 140, 141, 150
Missoula 4 150, 210, 230, 240, 261, 285, 292
Gallatin 4 304, 306, 307, 308, 309, 310, 311,
312, 313, 314, 315, 361, 362, 390

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"+ 92% 476 363 113
HD 102 130"+ 100% 547 547 NA
HD 103 130"+ 67% 108 108 NA
HD 104 130"+ 20% 88 88 NA
HD 121 130"+ 67% 180 180 NA
HD 140 130"+ 100% 103 91 12
HD 150 130"+ 0% 43 43 NA
HD 261 130"+ 100% 151 151 NA
HD 285 130"+ 0% 115 115 NA
HD 301 130"+ 88% 202 202 54
HD 323 130"+ 93% 792 555 237
HD 324 130"+ 67% 610 490 120
HD 330 130"+ 100% 1,643 458 1,185
 


Managing expectations

The biggest thing to remember when going into the Montana drawing system for any of the trophy species is that with the lottery system the tags can literally be drawn by anyone. The biggest fact to keep in mind here is that if you don’t apply you’ll never draw a permit!

Maximum points going into the 2017 draw: 15

Note: For another view of the bonus point breakdown using tables, visit the Montana Shiras Moose Species Profile. The table view will allow for an easier readout of the higher point totals.

Find your draw odds

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

The unfortunate truth is that the odds are stacked so heavily against you at this point that the opportunity of drawing a tag are almost nonexistent. The only glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel is that with Montana’s lottery system there is always a small chance that you may pull a tag ahead of maximum point holders.

At this point, your best bet is to simply pick your favorite district and begin applying. The antlerless hunts will hold the best draw odds; however, if your ultimate goal is to harvest a bull moose then you are only setting yourself way back as you will have to wait seven years to reapply after successfully drawing a tag.

For nonresidents, as available districts are rotated through the years, it will be important to identify several contingency districts in the case that your number one selection is not available for the current application period. Remember that applying for a closed district will automatically forfeit your application.

What can I expect with 5 to 6 bonus points?

Even with a few points under your belt the draw odds are still stacked largely against you. Still, there is always a chance you may draw so keep focusing on your desired district and hope you can get lucky in the draws.

What can I expect with 10+ Shiras moose bonus points?

Unfortunately, for nonresidents, as you near the top of the points pool your odds of drawing a tag are only marginally better, but better nonetheless with many districts falling in the 7% range. After you’ve invested this much time and money into the points system it’s best to hold out for your district of choice.

As a resident with maximum points, your best odds of drawing in 2017 are in HD 101 at 15%, HD 104 at 25%, and HD 291 at 31%. For nonresidents, your best odds will be found in HD 326 at 8.4%, HD 324 at 7.8%, and HD 126 at 7.7%.


 

Montana's 2017 Rocky Mountain goat breakdown
 

Colton Bender with his 2016 Montana mountain goat
Colton Bender with his 2016 Montana mountain goat

Out of all of Montana’s trophy species the mountain goat draws carry some of best odds with a large number of tags distributed. Great goats can be found throughout the state with most of the districts providing opportunities at billy goats above the 9” mark. Along with good trophy potentials, Montana also offers some of the most breathtaking backdrops for your hunt to take place in. These mountain dwelling creatures are often found in some of the roughest terrain offered where climbing gear is a normal item to be found in your pack.

Five year Montana Rocky Mountain goat permit quotas

Year Permits
issued
Drawn by
residents
Drawn by
nonresidents
2012 292 268 24
2013 292 265 27
2014 282 257 25
2015 241 220 21
2016 234 217 17

Current mountain goat herd condition

While Montana used to produce some of the biggest goats in the West, it has dropped off largely in recent years. Still, many great goats can be found in most of the districts that will certainly meet trophy expectations for any hunter. Populations in some areas have dropped compared to historical standards and, while there are many theories, the most commonly accepted thought is that a drop in nutritional foods coupled with the slow reproduction nature of mountain goats has led to a population threshold that cannot be overcome. This effect can be seen in HD 240 along the Bitterroot-Selway Wilderness where tags have been dropped by over 80% since 2005.

Five year harvest trends for mountain goat in Montana

Year Total
harvest
Billies
harvested
Nannies
harvested
2011 174 117 51
2012 213 146 67
2013 208 NA* NA*
2014 213 136 77
2015 179 121 58

* MFWP did not collect any data for billy and nanny harvests for this year.


2017 nonresident mountain goat hunt districts

Every year, the available districts for nonresidents to apply for mountain goat will revolve, meaning that the district you apply for this year may or may not be available to apply for the following year. This means that it is incredibly important to pay attention to when applying for a district. If a nonresident applies to a district that is currently closed to nonresident applicants, it will result in an ineligible application.

2017 nonresident mountain goat hunt districts

132-20 133-20 313-20 313-30 314-20 316-20
323-20 327-20 328-20 329-20 330-20 331-20
361-20 362-20 442-20 518-20 - -


How to uncover hidden gem mountain goat hunt districts

For the most part, there isn’t any undiscovered sleeper districts to be found in Montana. Nearly every district can produce great goats. Depending on the area, some hunts may offer easier chances at harvesting a goat where others will provide more adventure for those looking to really escape into the backcountry. Pay special attention to the tag allocations for each district when applying as a few districts offer more than 20+ permits. While these districts offer the best odds in the state, it can be more difficult to locate mature animals as the competition is obviously higher.



B&C entry trends for Montana Rocky Mountain goat

While Montana may not be home to the biggest mountain goats in the West, it does offer many great hunts that can occasionally produce record book animals. Below is a list of the top record book producing counties found in the state.


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 mountain goat

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

* Four other counties with one entry.
 

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"+ 83% 720 720 NA
HD 131 35"+ 0% 306 266 40
HD 133 35"+ 100% 86 86 NA
HD 134 35"+ 100% 120 120 NA
HD 141 35"+ 100% 92 92 NA
HD 312 35"+ 50% 876 779 97
HD 313 35"+ 89% 2,633 2,144 489
HD 314 35"+ 97% 1,074 731 343
HD 320 35"+ 100% 804 497 307
HD 323 35"+ 80% 916 572 344
HD 331 35"+ 100% 295 295 80
HD 393 35"+ 100% 2,116 994 1,122
HD 447 35"+ 100% 696 696 NA
HD 460 35"+ 100% 1,079 1,079 NA


Managing points and expectations

The biggest thing to remember when going into the Montana drawing system for any of the trophy species is that, with the lottery system, the tags can literally be drawn by anyone. Last season, several districts were drawn by residents with one point and a few were even drawn by residents with zero points! While your odds of drawing are dismal at best, the fact is that if you don’t apply you’ll never draw.

Maximum points going into the 2017 draw: 15

Note: For another view of the bonus point breakdown using tables, visit the Montana Mountain Goat Species Profile. The table view will allow for an easier readout of the higher point totals.

Find your draw odds

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

The unfortunate truth is that the odds are stacked so heavily against you at this point that the opportunity of drawing a tag are almost nonexistent. The only glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel is that with Montana’s lottery system there is always a small chance that you may pull a tag ahead of maximum point holders.

Beginning from ground zero, a good starting point for most applicants will be to focus on the districts with the highest tag outputs such as 313, 314, 316, 323, and 329. While bigger goats can generally be found in the other districts these will generally offer the best draw odds and still have some great opportunities at mature animals. If your desired district does not fall into the above list then simply start throwing your name into the bucket and hope the random draw is on your side.

For nonresidents, as available districts are rotated through the years, it will be important to identify several contingency districts in the case that your number one selection is not available for the current application period. Remember that applying for a closed district will automatically forfeit your application.

What can I expect with 5 to 6 mountain goat bonus points?

Even with a few points under your belt the draw odds are still stacked largely against you. Still, there is always a chance you may draw so keep focusing on your desired district and hope you can get lucky in the draw.

Residents at this point level are just starting to get into the realm of drawing HD 323 over the next few years.

What can I expect with 10+ mountain goat bonus points?

Unfortunately, for nonresidents as you near the top of the points pool your odds of drawing a tag are only marginally better, but better nonetheless with many districts falling in the 4% range. After you’ve invested this much time and money into the points system, it’s best to hold out for your district of choice. At this point, residents stand pretty good odds of drawing permits with several districts showing odds over 20%.

As a resident with maximum points your best odds of drawing in 2017 are in HD 316 at 35%, HD 329 at 40%, and HD 323 at 41%. For nonresidents your best odds will be found in HD 326 at 12%. 


 

Montana's 2017 bison breakdown
 

Paul Borash with his 2016 Montana bison
Paul Borash with his 2016 Montana bison

Along with the other unique opportunities to chase Shiras moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat in Montana a few lucky hunters will also receive the opportunity to chase free ranging bison. The Montana bison hunts are centered around herds that migrate from Yellowstone National Park during winter time and are extremely weather dependent. Bison can be hunted in one of two ways: a permit hunt or a roster hunt. Under the permit hunts, tags will be distributed like the other trophy species are with the exception that Montana does not utilize bonus points for bison and the drawing is entirely random. Roster hunts are used for additional population control during years of heavy migration; applicants who apply for a second choice roster hunt will be randomly drawn and assigned a number, but are not guaranteed a tag. If and when the decision has been made to take additional buffalo over the permit quota, hunters will be called off the roster in an ascending order starting with the number one position.

During periods of the bison hunt there may also be state tribal members taking part in a treaty hunt. These tribal members can at times hunt in areas otherwise closed to permit holders and there is no quota cap for tribal members. The quotas set forth by MFWP does not include any animals taken by state tribal members though bison taken during treaty hunts can dictate closures and possible sanctions imposed on permit holder hunts.

Current herd condition

Other than population management the main driving force of the bison hunts in Montana—as well as other states—is to control the spread of brucellosis. Brucellosis among bison is thought to infect over 50% of the population in Yellowstone Park. While predation from wolves continues to be a threat, the general health of Yellowstone's bison herd remains strong.

Harvest trends for bison in Montana

Year Total
harvest
Bulls
harvested
Cows
harvested
Unknown
sex harvested
2005 40 39 1 --
2006 31 30 1 --
2007 63 20 36 7
2008 1 1 -- --
2009 1 1 -- --
2010 22 7 4 11
2011 11 4 6 1
2012 37 16 21 --
2013 36 22 11 3
2014 47 40 7 --
2015 29 25 4 --

 

2017 bison hunt districts for residents and nonresidents

Every year the available districts for nonresidents to apply for bison will change, meaning that the district you apply for this year may or may not be available to apply for the following year. This means that it is incredibly important to pay attention when applying for a district that is currently closed to nonresident applicants. If a nonresident applies for a closed district, it will result in an ineligible application.

2017 bison hunt districts

Resident hunt districts
385-20 385-21 395-20 385-77 (Roster) 395-77 (Roster)
Nonresident hunt districts
385-20 395-20 385-77 (Roster) 395-77 (Roster) --


How to uncover hidden gem bison areas

Unfortunately, with the limited amount of hunting opportunities for bison in Montana there are not any undiscovered areas. Trophy potentials in all of the districts are fairly equal with opportunities at bigger bulls being heavily reliant on timing and migration levels.

Application trends for bison in Montana

Year Total
applications
Either sex
tags drawn*
2004 8,373 10
2005 6,178 24
2006 6,210 74
2007 4,402 38
2008 3,079 36
2009 10,363 36
2010 7,754 34
2011 8,079 34
2012 7,834 34
2013 10,132 44
2014 9,513 72
2015 10,424 72

* Does not include tags awarded to Montana tribal members


B&C entry trends for Montana bison

While drawing a permit for any one of the two bison hunting districts does not necessarily guarantee a chance at a bigger bull, there have been more record book animals since 2010 taken out of the Gardiner (HD 385) districts at nine animals than the West Yellowstone (HD 395) districts at two animals.


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 9 HD 385 - Absaroka/Beartooth, HD 385 - Gardiner Basin
Gallatin 2 HD 395 - Cabin Creek, HD 395 - West Yellowstone


Managing points and expectations

Which district do I apply for?

With Montana utilizing a strict lottery system for bison your odds of ever drawing a tag will never get better; however, they will also never get worse. The best strategy here is to simply pick a district and begin applying. The odds are long for both residents and nonresidents alike, but, with the current drawing system, you could draw a tag at any time.

Draw odds for bison in Montana

HD Resident Nonresident
385-20
Gardiner Basin
0.63% 0.63%
385-21
Absaroka/Beartooth
0.96% --
395-20
West Yellowstone
1.1% 0.84%

Find your draw odds

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