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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2018: Montana Antelope

2018 Montana antelope application strategy article

Montana's 2018 antelope application overview

Jump to: New for 2018 State Information Draw System Antelope Breakdown Points Breakdown

While Montana is not known for producing giant bucks like Wyoming, Arizona and New Mexico it does offer plenty of opportunity and generous seasons. With a little strategy and planning, bucks in the 65” to 70” range are not uncommon and a few bucks at the 80” and up mark do pop up every year. Montana is home to 30 million acres of public land with another 7.3 million acres of private land enrolled into the Block Management Program, which creates public access to private lands. Antelope in Montana can be hunted during several different seasons, giving hunters the opportunity to find the exact experience they are after.

Note: The application deadline for Montana antelope is June 1, 2018, by 11:59 p.m. MST and can be mailed in or completed online.



Why Montana for antelope in 2018

Options, options, options

Montana offers a few different options when it comes to antelope. Hunters have their choice of applying for archery only tags as well as any weapon permits with different quirks for each.

Generous seasons

The archery-only permits give hunters nearly 15 weeks to fill their tag beginning Aug. 15. Those holding the any weapon tags will have a five-week archery-only season beginning Sept. 1 followed by a five-week any weapon season beginning Oct. 6.

Multiple species opportunities

During a large portion of the antelope season, many other species can be encountered and hunted. This can provide a lot of opportunities when the hunting gets slow.

Public land

Montana is home to almost 30 million acres of publicly accessible grounds including an additional 7.3 million acres of private land enrolled in the Block Management Program. The biggest issue most hunters will encounter is the sheer number of antelope found on private land. Taking advantage of the BMA program can be a huge step in the right direction.

Private vs. public land distribution of Montana antelope

Total acres of
distribution
Private acres Public acres
51,479,936 39,652,985 (77%) 11,826,951 (23%)


New for 2018

  • Statewide: Change the 900-20 archery-only license to a first-and-only choice.
  • HDs 311/313: Boundary change to accommodate expanding Paradise Valley population and make more consistent with deer/elk hunting district boundary.
  • HD 319: Increase 319-20 either sex quota range from 25 to 75 to 25 to 100. Increase 319-30 doe/fawn quota range from 10 to 50 to 10 to 75.
  • HD 341: Increase 341-20 either sex quota range from 50 to 350 to 50 to 400.
  • HD 350: Increase 350-20 either sex quota range from 25 to 75 to 25 to 100. Add doe/fawn second opportunity to 350-20 license (up to two per hunter). Remove 350-30 doe/fawn license.
  • HD 370: Increase 370-20 either sex quota range from 25 to 150 to 25 to 200. Add doe/fawn second opportunity to 370-20 license (up to two per hunter). Remove 350-30 doe/fawn license.
  • HD 511: Decrease 520-20 quota range from 250 to 500 to 100 to 500.

New for goHUNT

For 2018, goHUNT has added Draw Odds for all female species. In Montana, there are quite a few opportunities for antelope in the way of B licenses, which can be used in addition to your general tag! Some of these need to be drawn while others are available over-the-counter (OTC) after drawing certain individual hunting district permits. When selecting your districts to hunt, make sure to also check out the draw odds page to see if a few opportunities exist that can be added to your hunt. The deadline to apply for B licenses is June 1, 2018.

Find your resident doe antelope draw odds here

Find your nonresident doe antelope draw odds here



State information

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 Montana State Profile. You can also view the Montana Antelope Profile to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.

State ProfileAntelope Profile Draw Odds Filtering 2.0

2018 Montana antelope season dates

Season Start and end dates
Archery only (900 series tag) Aug. 15 to Nov. 11
Archery (General season tag) Sept.1 to Oct. 5
Any Weapon season Oct. 6 to Nov. 11


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.
  • An 80% refund can be requested on nonresident licenses if requested by Aug. 1, 2018.
  • A 50% refund can be requested on nonresident licenses if requested after Aug. 1, 2018.
  • Draw results are generally available the week of July 30, 2018.
  • Surplus licenses are available for purchase on Aug. 7, 2018.
  • When applying for archery only permits Montana requires that each applicant possess their bow and arrow stamp as a prerequisite. Applicants not holding the bow and arrow stamp at the time of applying will forfeit their chance.
  • New for 2018: When applying for the 900-20 archery permit you must list this as your first and only choice. In previous years, the 900-20 permit could be listed as a second choice option.

Current weather/snowpack

Montana snow water equivalent as of early May 2018

Montana snow water equivalent percent of normal as of May 2, 2018. Source: NRCS

The north-central and southeastern portions of the state received some late winter storms that dumped a bunch of snow. This totally buried any remaining feed and is sure to claim more animals than average. Fortunately, these storms were very short lived and the die-off shouldn’t be too bad because of the brevity of the storms. Depending on the moisture content of this coming spring we could be in trouble if green-up does not happen soon. Right after the last of the snows have melted animals are at their most vulnerable point and will rely on a good green-up to quickly rebuild nutritional supplies. Still, even in some of the most heavily impacted areas, hunters should find decent numbers and an overall good quality of hunting experience.

Montana drought status as of early May 2018

Source: US Drought Monitor
 


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 for Montana are distributed through drawings with the exception of B tags, which are distributed through drawings, OTC, or as leftovers, depending on the hunting district.

MONTANA ANTELOPE DRAW STATS - updated 2018

Tag quotas for 700 series antelope in Montana since 2010

Year 700 Series % change
(Since 2010 high)
2010 11,000 --
2011 6,500 -40.1%
2012 3,000 -72.7%
2013 3,000 -72.7%
2014 3,000 -72.7%
2015 5,000 -54.5%
2016 7,500 -31.8%
2017 7,500 -31.8%


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 hunting district before a nonresident's name is pulled out of the hat.

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, 2018. If hunters draw a SuperTag in the same year that they have drawn a permit, then 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.

Landowner and landowner sponsor license

Another great opportunity Montana offers is the availability of landowner tags and landowner sponsored tags. With landowner tags, 15% of the permits for a district will be set aside specifically for landowners—resident or nonresident—that meet specific requirements. For deer, landowners must own, or be contracted to purchase, 160 acres that are primarily used for agriculture or 640 acres if applying for elk. Landowners who are not successful in drawing one of the 15% allocated tags will then be thrown into the regular pool. Landowners who own at least 640 acres are also able to sponsor up to two nonresident hunters who possess the deer combination license. 2,000 tags are set aside for the sponsor program, which is a guaranteed draw, but the hunter may only hunt on the sponsored private land.


Montana's 2018 antelope breakdown

Montana antelope taken with Powder River Outfitters

Montana antelope taken with Powder River Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

Really, the biggest question anyone interested in Montana antelope should be asking themselves is what weapon they wish to hunt with. For archery hunters, the 900-20 series tag is a no-brainer as this grants access to nearly every hunting district in the state and on a season that starts a full two weeks before any other antelope hunts. For those interested in rifle or multi-weapon hunting, the choices can get somewhat more complicated, but will primarily depend on where in the state you would like to hunt. Regardless of your hunting aspirations, the important thing to keep in mind is that antelope can be hunted in Montana nearly every year in some shape or form by both nonresidents and residents alike. Below, we will break down the best hunt districts to consider and explore some of the best that the Treasure State has to offer.

Five year Montana Montana antelope harvest numbers

Year Hunters Bucks Does/fawns Total
harvest
% successful
2012 16,350 6,698 3,458 10,156 62.1%
2013 15,057 5,480 2,692 8,172 54.3%
2014 14,858 6,029 2,698 8,727 58.7%
2015 17,057 7,773 3,115 10,888 63.9%
2016 20,588 9,789 4,149 13,938 67.7%
2017 20,126 10,162 4,389 14,552 72.3%


2018 antelope herd condition

2017 Montana antelope population and distribution

Source: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

As mentioned before, some late winter storms hit the north-central and southeastern sides of the state and, while the winter kill will be above average, it is unclear at this point how deep it will go. The snows melted quickly, which could drop the impact by quite a bit; however, only time will tell. In other areas of the state, the antelope are doing excellent. Chronic wasting disease has popped up in Montana’s mule deer herds in the south and north-central portion of the state, but, so far, there has not been any major breakouts in antelope since 2011. Depending on the moisture content for the remainder of the year, Montana should see a great season with some good horn growth.

Montana antelope population trends - updated 2018

Region by region Montana antelope population breakdown - updated 2018



The Tags

Before diving too deep into the specifics of some of the best districts to focus on, first, it’s important to outline the three main options applicants will need to select from: the 900 series, 700 series, and individual district tags.

900 Series

The 900 series tag is going to be the best option for anyone who is serious about bowhunting. Unlike any of the other available permits, the 900 series tag is good for every hunt district in the state with the exception of 215, 291 and 313. Additionally, holders of this permit can begin hunting a full two weeks before any of the other permit holders and will also provide opportunities for antelope before the deer and elk archery seasons begin. This tag is essentially guaranteed and just over 2,000 permits were available as leftover licenses last year!

700 Series

The 700 series tag is a unique option that allows successful applicants the opportunity to hunt antelope in any district within Region 7 (700, 701, 702, 703, 704, and 705). This is an any weapon permit that offers chances during both the archery and any legal weapon seasons. This permit will hold some of the highest draw odds for any weapon hunting with residents falling at 89% and nonresidents coming in at 20%.

Individual hunting districts

Other than the 900 or 700 series tag, the third choice has hunters applying for individual hunting districts. These permits will only be usable in the hunting district for which they are drawn. These permits can generally mean lower competition and higher trophy qualities though that 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 there are certainly some areas that are better than others, the simple fact is that nearly every district in the state can produce mature antelope. Utilize Filtering 2.0 and manipulate the Trophy Potential to display the districts that have a legitimate chance at bucks that score 75” Boone and Crockett (B&C) 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. Within the Species Profile, you will find a table showing the top B&C producing districts over the years for antelope bucks.

TOP MONTANA ANTELOPE B&C COUNTIES ALL-TIME - updated 2018


Hit list for Montana antelope

When you really start breaking down the numbers for Montana antelope it becomes pretty apparent that good bucks can be found in nearly every district of the state. The biggest bucks, though, are generally found in the southeast corner of the state. When planning your hunt, it will be important to evaluate your goals for the tag. Are you looking for the best opportunity at a book animal or simply adding a bonus tag to an existing deer or elk hunt? Regardless, there are plenty of opportunities to be found in Montana. Below we will break down all of the top hunt districts for 2018.

Top hit list HDs to consider for 75" or better antelope
(not in order of quality)

HD Trophy
potential
Success rate Res. draw
odds*
Nonres.
draw odds*
Public land
%
215 80"+ 91% 0.84% 0.17% 49.8%
702 80"+ 66% 89% 20% 11.9%
704 80"+ 71% 89% 20% 30.5%
705 80"+ 75% 89% 20% 30.3%
310 75"+ 68% 16% 16% 78.6%
360 75"+ 84% 47% 28% 57.5%
450 75"+ 69% 30% 30% 12.8%
490 75"+ 83% 40% 17% 36.8%
510 75"+ 83% 100% 95% 13.2%
570 75"+ 74% 74% 62% 7.6%
690 75"+ 67% 26% 26% 19.1%
700 75"+ 70% 89% 20% 36.1%
 
* Draw odds based on applicants with 0 points. For detailed draw odds at every point level, check out our standalone Draw Odds page.

When analyzing the above table there are a few important points that should be noted. The 700 districts represented on the table (700, 701702, 703704 and 705) can all be hunted on the same tag and carry great draw odds for residents at 89% and for nonresidents at 20%. These hunt districts also have produced the most B&C bucks in the state. Additionally, every district on the above list with the exception of HD 215 can be hunted on the 900 series archery tag, which carries a 100% draw odd for both residents and nonresidents.

Top antelope HDs to consider for 70% or better rifle harvest success

HD Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
Applications
215 80"+ 91% 436
291 70"+ 90% 106
360 75"+ 84% 973
510 75"+ 83% 456
490 75"+ 83% 635
705 80"+ 75% 10207
570 75"+ 74% 1348
704 80"+ 71% 10207
590 70"+ 71% 380
700 75"+ 70% 10207
512 70"+ 70% 82

 


 

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.


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. Data provided below courtesy of Boone and Crockett Club.

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

County No. of
entries
HDs found
within county
Carter 2 650, 700, 701
Garfield 2 705

* 15 other counties with one entry each.

Map of Montana's antelope B&C all time entries 2018

Top 10 B&C antelope locations since 2010 - Montana 2018 app strategy



The point system

Montana antelope taken with Powder River Outfitters 2

Montana antelope taken with Powder River Outfitters — A goHUNT Business Member

Montana utilizes a random lottery draw for permits that is weighted through bonus points. While this system is great for applicants with only a handful of points, it doesn't reward applicants at the maximum point level. Every year that you are unsuccessful in drawing a desired permit you will be awarded a bonus point to use the following year. When used, bonus points are squared so an applicant with four points will have 16 total chances in the pool. If you did not participate in the draws you can purchase bonus points anytime from July 1 through Sept. 30 for a fee of $25. The maximum amount of bonus points going into the 2018 draw is 13.

Managing points and expectations

Before establishing your application strategy for Montana antelope it will first be important to line out exactly what you are after for your experience. For the time being, hunters wishing to only bowhunt can draw the 900 series permit with a 100% guarantee. This will likely change in years to come, but is a safe bet for the foreseeable future. Additionally, the 700 series tag is nearly guaranteed for residents and carried a 20% shot for nonresidents with zero points and 100% with five points in 2017.

Additionally, many hunters may choose to apply for antelope as they can be a great auxiliary animal when primarily focusing on deer or elk. The individual hunting districts carry the highest odds in the state, but are still mostly available to anyone with a handful of points.

Montana resident antelope bonus points going into the 2018 draw

Montana nonresident antelope bonus points going into the 2018 draw

Montana antelope bonus points going into 2018

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

As already mentioned, a few options will be available to both residents and nonresidents at the beginning of the points game. Residents at this point level had 16 districts available with at least 75% draw odds or better in 2017. Under the same criteria, nonresidents have their pick of nine districts.

Find your resident antelope draw odds with 0 points here

Find your nonresident antelope draw odds with 0 points here

If you are a dedicated bowhunter you’d be wasting your time and money to put in for anything other than the 900 series permit, which is good in every district in the state with the exception of 215, 291 and 313.

Find your resident 900 series antelope draw odds with 0 points here

Find your nonresident 900 series antelope draw odds with 0 points here

At this point level, the 700 series permit—good in 700, 701, 702, 703, 704 and 705—is accessible to residents with an 89% chance of drawing and a 20% chance for nonresidents. If location is not a high priority when choosing where to start your antelope hunt then this is an excellent option to look at. The highest populations of antelope will be found here as well as the highest density of record buck locations.

Find your resident 700 series antelope draw odds with 0 points here

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

Residents

At this point level, residents applicants are either extremely unlucky or applying for some of the harder tags to draw (215, 291, 455 and 600). Nearly every tag is now nearing 75% or better draw odds. If you are going for some of the harder to draw tags, simply stay the course and keep applying. With Montana’s lottery system, a tag can be drawn by anyone and at any point level. If you are growing tired of the points game and looking to cash in on your points then consider the 700 district permit at 100% odds or HD 404, which has a trophy potential of 80”+ and draw odds of 67%.

Find your resident antelope draw odds with 4 points here

Nonresidents

Nonresidents at this point level will now find the 700 series permit within easy grasp and should draw it with a 100% guarantee in the next year or two. If you are going for some of the individual district permits, then keep applying for your desired choice and hope that the lottery system is good to you.

Find your nonresident antelope draw odds with 4 points here

What can I expect with 10 plus antelope bonus points?

At this point level, residents and nonresidents alike are in the top 1% of all point holders. There are only five residents with 10 or more points who applied in the draw in 2017. Nearly every district will now to be available with great odds for both residents and nonresidents with the hardest draws in the state landing at 50% or better for residents and about 15% for nonresidents.

Find your resident antelope draw odds with 10 points here

Find your nonresident antelope draw odds with 10 points here

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