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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2018: Montana Sheep, Moose, Goat, Bison

2018 Montana sheep moose goat application strategy article

Montana's 2018 bighorn sheep, moose, mountain goat and bison application overview

Jump to: New for 2018 State Information Draw System Rocky Bighorn Breakdown Shiras Moose Breakdown Mountain Goat Breakdown Bison Breakdown

Along with great deer and elk opportunities, hopeful applicants will also find a dream hunt if they draw a coveted Montana moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat or bison tag. The state is home to large populations of each of the four species and holds great trophy quality, too. Draw odds for residents are steep and even steeper for nonresidents, but the cheap costs to apply make this a no brainer for anyone. Montana offers more available hunts per species than most of the other western states and formulating a good game plan heading into the application period can be pivotal.

Note: The application deadline for Montana moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and bison is May 1, 2018 by 11:45 p.m. MST and can be mailed in or completed online.



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

Great trophy potential

Montana provides great opportunities at harvesting record book animals in each species with the crowning jewel lying in the state’s bighorn sheep herds. In fact, Montana has produced more record book rams than nearly every other state and province combined!

Public land

Montana is home to almost 30 million acres of publicly accessible land, including an additional 7.3 million acres of private land enrolled in the Block Management Program.

Options, options, options

Montana offers lots of options when it comes to applying for any of the big four, including 33 bighorn sheep hunts, 39 mountain goat hunts, 82 moose hunts and four bison hunts.

Generous seasons

Montana offers long seasons for anyone lucky enough to be holding a tag, including two weeks of archery only for bighorn sheep and moose, eight weeks of any weapon for bighorn sheep, mountain goat or moose and a 13-week any weapon season for bison!



New for 2018

Every other year (even years: 2016, 2018, etc..) Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (MFWP) will adopt and implement season changes. These changes can affect bag limits, hunt district boundaries and even the creation or removal of districts. Be sure to check over the following changes adopted for the 2018 season to see if it has affected your chosen areas.

Bighorn sheep

  • HD 100: Increase either sex 100-20 from two to three
  • HD 210: Remove the 210-30 adult ewe license
  • HD 304: Reopen HD 304 — Hyalite, either-sex 304-21 (quota one, range one to three)
  • HD 330: New HD — Greenhorn Mountains, establish limited bighorn sheep license 330-10. Any ram (quota one, range one to five)

Moose

  • HD 302: Add 302-00 antlerless moose license (quota two, range one to four), valid Sept. 15 to Nov. 25
  • HD 323: Change 323-00 and 323-50 moose seasons end date from Nov. 25 to Dec. 15
  • HD 441: Change HD boundary to better align hunter expectations with moose hunting opportunity.

Mountain goat

In all hunting districts in Regions 1, 2 and 4 it is illegal to take a female mountain goat accompanying a kid or a female mountain goat in a group that contains one or more kids.

  • HDs 131, 132, 134, 141, 151: Close hunting districts
  • HD 313: Change 313-20 either sex license from quota 30 (range 15 to 100) to quota 15 (range 5-100) Decrease 313-30 adult female license from quota 25 (range five to 35) to quota five (range one to 35)
  • HD 314: Increase 314-20 either sex license from quota 20 to 30
  • HD 330: Decrease 330-20 either sex license from quota three (range three to 12) to quota one (range one to 12)
  • HD 350 North Big Belt Mountains: New HD, establish goat license 350-20 quota one (range one to two)
  • HD 414 and 442: Close hunting districts

Bison

HD 395: The West Yellowstone Area — Create new boundaries for northern and southern portions and rename them Gallatin Watershed and Madison Watershed Portions. Close the new north Gallatin Watershed portion.

New for goHUNT

For 2018, goHUNT has added Draw Odds for all female species. 

Ewe bighorn draw odds

Find your resident ewe bighorn draw odds here

Find your nonresident ewe bighorn draw odds here

Nanny mountain goat draw odds

Find your resident nanny mountain goat draw odds here

Find your nonresident nanny mountain goat draw odds here

Cow moose draw odds

Find your resident cow moose draw odds here

Find your nonresident cow moose 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 State Profile.

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

Important dates and information

  • Applications for moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, and bison must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. MST on May 1, 2018.
  • 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 slated to be available the week of June 11, 2018.
  • Bonus points are available for purchase if you did not apply in the main draw. You can purchase points between July 1 and Sept. 30 for a fee of $75 for nonresidents and $15 for residents for each species (moose, sheep, goat). Read more about the points only period here.

2018 moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat and bison season dates

Species Archery General
Bighorn sheep Sept. 1 to 14 Sept. 15 to Nov. 25
Moose Sept. 1 to 14 Sept. 15 to Nov. 25
Mountain goat NA Sept. 15 to Nov. 25
Bison NA Nov. 15 to Feb. 15, 2018

There are not any sanctioned archery-only seasons for mountain goat and bison.

Wolves in Montana

With the Montana wolf hunting and trapping season well established for the last few years, the amount of predatory activity has definitely subsided to some degree; however, the evidence is still, and will likely always be, visible. With the current winter being mild across most of the state, with the exception of the northwest corner of the state, we should see a fairly normal year in terms in winterkill due to predators and likely a good calf, kid, and lamb recruitment for the spring.

2017-2018 wolf season

Method of take Total taken
Archery and rifle 166
Trapping 88

Grizzly bears in Montana

2018 Montana grizzly bear range

Source: Montana Field Guide

Grizzly bear encounters continue to climb in Montana, causing major concern for hunters in some areas. Federal protection under the Endangered Species Act has been removed from bears within the Greater Yellowstone Area and, because of that, Idaho, Wyoming and Montana have all submitted proposals for grizzly bear management plans. Even so, MFWP has recently announced that they will not endorse a 2018 season when they meet with the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission last February. MFWP Director Martha Williams was quoted as saying “Holding off on hunting, for now, I believe, will help demonstrate our commitment to long-term recovery and at the same time allow us the science-based management flexibility we need.” Time will tell if Montana hunters will see a season in 2019.

Considered one of the highest densities of grizzlies in the Lower 48, the population found in the northern Rockies is still under federal protections and is not expected to be released from the list for an additional three to four years. Research your hunt area carefully and examine the grizzly population distribution map. If you are hunting in grizzly country, it is imperative to practice safe camping and hunting. More information on bear safety can be found here.

Current weather/snowpack

Montana snow water equivalent April 2018

2018 Montana snow water equivalent update as of April 10, 2018. Source: National Resources Conservation Service

With the major scare of last year's winter, Montana has kept an anxious eye on snowfall for the current year. We are currently trending an average of about 30% higher than last year for precipitation—both snow and rain—though overall snow levels are lower. During this past spring, it was obvious that Montana dodged a major bullet in terms of winterkill when looking at some of the major hits in Wyoming and Idaho. In fact, Montana saw some great antler growth and good feed throughout spring. With this year’s current trend, we should be in store for another great year. Montana saw a very dry summer in 2017—one of the worst on record—so it will be interesting to see how 2018 plays out. If the high precipitation levels continue, this could be a phenomenal year to hold a tag in the Treasure State.

2018 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 2018.



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. As a prerequisite, residents and nonresidents must at least possess a base hunting license before applying. The cost for the base hunting license is $10 for residents and $15 for nonresidents.

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.

2018 nonresident districts

Nonresident allocations for moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat are set by region and then distributed to specific hunt districts within a region. The quota of nonresident tags as well as available hunt districts differ from year to year and are on a controlled rotation system. To simplify this, if a nonresident applicant applied for a hunt district last year that permit may be an unavailable option for the 2018 season. A detailed list of all available nonresident permits will be included in each of the 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, 2018. 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.

The 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.

Bighorn sheep 1st choice applications since 2012 in Montana

Year Resident % change Nonresident % change
2012 16,650 -- 6,928 --
2013 16,893 +1.46% 7,101 +2.5%
2014* 20,161 +19.35% 7,500 +5.62%
2015* 20,232 +0.35% 7,676 +2.35%
2016* 20,135 +0.48% 7,662 -0.18%
2017* 21,799 +8.26% 7,885 +2.91%

A fine scale example for Montana sheep

Montana HD 680-20 bighorn sheep application trends

Year Total applicants Residents Nonresidents % change
of total
2010 6,289 3,496 2,793 --
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%
2017 6,098 3,774 2,324 -11.9%

In the past eight years, 2015 to 2017 are the only years that applications actually decreased for HD 680.
 

Mountain goat 1st choice applications since 2012 in Montana

Year Resident % change Nonresident % change
2012 10,062 -- 3,029 --
2013 10,383 +3.19% 3,028 +0.03%
2014* 12,902 +24.26% 3,373 +11.36%
2015* 13,131 +1.77% 3,512 +4.12%
2016* 13,384 +1.93% 3,525 +0.37%
2017* 14,501 +8.35% 3,666 +4.0%

 

Shiras moose 1st choice applications since 2012 in Montana

Year Resident % change Nonresident % change
2012 18,714 -- 2,560 --
2013 19,018 +1.62% 2,549 -0.43%
2014* 23,266 +22.34% 2,910 +14.16%
2015* 23,477 +0.91% 2,978 +2.34%
2016* 23,015 -1.97% 2,984 +0.2%
2017* 24,923 +8.29% 3,149 +5.53%

*2014 through 2017 are years following the application fee change.


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 become 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.


 

Montana's 2018 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep breakdown

Shawnee with her 2017 Montana bighorn sheep

Shawnee H. with her 2017 Montana bighorn sheep.

When it comes to Montana’s population of bighorn sheep, hunters can rest assured of one fact: they are hunting the world's biggest sheep. In fact, out of the top 20 bighorn sheep in the world, Montana currently holds 12 of the spots, including the new world record ram scoring an impressive 216 ⅜ Boone and Crockett (B&C)! Like most of the other states, the draw odds for both residents and nonresidents alike are dismally low; however, anyone lucky enough to pull a tag will be in for a hunt of a lifetime. Every year, rams near the 200” mark are taken with many of the “average” rams landing the 170s. Along with the permit areas, hunters can also test their physical and mental resolve in one of five available over-the-counter (OTC) sheep hunting opportunities. Here, the challenges are daunting, but the memories will last a lifetime. 

Six 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
2017 314 294 20 306

Current 2018 Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep herd condition

Overall, Montana’s bighorn sheep population is doing fairly good. Recent outbreaks of mycoplasma ovipneumoniae, or sheep pneumonia, have been largely controlled though the threat is still very real. 2017 was a great year with some great rams taken, including a 208 ⅜” B&C ram that is now the largest ram ever taken by a hunter. The state’s current population of bighorn sheep is estimated at 6,615 animals.

Seven year harvest trends for bighorn sheep in Montana

Year Total
harvest
Rams
harvested
Ewes
harvested
Avg. horn
length (rams)
Avg. base
circumference (rams)
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"
2016 259 125 130 35.92" 15.25"
2017 225 120 101 36.43" 15.54"

Montana bighorn sheep entered into B&C record book since 2010

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 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 2016 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%

 

Montana 2017 unlimited bighorn sheep district breakdown

HD Number of
hunters
Sheep
taken
Success
rate
300 22 2 9%
303 19 1 5%
500 34 2 6%
501 37 0 0%
502 29 1 3%

 

2018 nonresident bighorn sheep districts

Nonresident bighorn sheep hunt districts for 2018

Either sex permits
102-20 121-20 250-20 261-20
301-20 423-20 424-20 482-20
622-20 680-20    
Legal ram only permits
250-60      
Ewe only permits
216-30 301-30 482-30 622-30
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

With nearly every hunting district in the state offering opportunities at great rams, hunters will be hard pressed to find any uncovered sleeper districts for bighorn sheep. In the grand scheme of things, bighorn sheep tag draw odds are extremely low; however, with the Montana lottery system, there is always a chance that anyone can draw.

While not a true hidden gem, 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. But, this is good information to keep in mind because the draw odds are steep. Region 1 has also historically produced a number of rams in the 190”+ range. Below we will break down the hottest districts in the state.

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 2017
Rams
harvested
Success Avg. horn
length
Avg. base
circumference
Public land
%
680 190"+ 25 22 88% 38.7" 16" 56.9%
124 185"+ 8 6 75% 35" 15.6" 53.2%
203 185"+ 5 4 80% 37" 15.3" 72.8%
482 185"+ 20 19 95% 38.5" 15.4" 28.3%
100 180"+ 2 2 100% 37.4" 15.9" 91.9%
121 180"+ 1 0 0% NA NA 58.7%
123 180"+ 4 3 75% 34.1" 14.7" 85.2%
213 180"+ 2 2 100% 35.8" 14.5" 52.6%
261 180"+ 1 1 100% 35.3" 15" 57.3%
270 180"+ 3 3 100% 34.4" 15.7" 91.4%
302 180"+ 6 4 67% 35.7" 15.1" 82.7%
340 180"+ 2 2 100% 40.6" 16" 57.6%
421 180"+ 2 2 100% 34.8" 15.2" 56.6%
422 180"+ 5 5 100% 37.3" 14.8" 35.7%
441 180"+ 3 1 33% 32.2" 14" 38.7%
620 180"+ 1 1 100% 40.9" 16.5" 51.1%
622 180"+ 13 13 100% 37.2" 16.1" 74%
 

 

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. Data provided below courtesy of the Boone and Crockett Club.

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

County No. of
entries
HDs found
within county
Fergus 42 482
Blaine 40 680
Chouteau 21 482, 680
Ravalli 10 250, 261, 270
Sanders 9 121, 122, 123, 124
Missoula 8 203, 210, 283

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

TOP 10 B&C ROCKY BIGHORN SHEEP LOCATIONS SINCE 2010 - Montana 2018

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.

ROCKY MOUNTAIN BIGHORN SHEEP OVER 200" NET SCORE ALL TIME - 2018


 

The point system

Montana utilizes a random lottery draw for permits that are 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. The bottom line is: if you have a district you want to hunt then apply! No matter the draw odds you still have a chance at drawing. 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 $15 for residents and $75 for nonresidents.

Managing points and expectations

With Montana utilizing a random draw, it is important to understand that possessing the maximum number of points will never guarantee a tag like other states that utilize preference points.

Maximum points going into the 2018 draw: 17

MONTANA RESIDENT BIGHORN SHEEP BONUS POINT TOTALS GOING INTO THE 2018 DRAW

MONTANA NONRESIDENT BIGHORN SHEEP BONUS POINT TOTALS GOING INTO THE 2018 DRAW

MONTANA ROCKY BIGHORN SHEEP BONUS POINTS GOING INTO THE 2018 DRAW

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 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.

Find your resident bighorn sheep draw odds with 0 points here

Find your nonresident bighorn sheep draw odds with 0 points here

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

Nonresidents will not see a noticeable bump of draw odds with five to six points; however, residents will see almost every ewe district now available with reasonable draw odds. Still, with Montana’s lottery system there is always the chance of pulling a permit.

Find your resident bighorn sheep draw odds with 6 points here

Find your nonresident bighorn sheep draw odds with 6 points here

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.

Find your resident bighorn sheep draw odds with 10 points here

Find your nonresident bighorn sheep draw odds with 10 points here



Montana's 2018 Shiras moose breakdown

Ryan with his 2017 Montana shiras moose

Ryan G. with his 2017 Montana Shiras moose.

Montana is somewhat of a sleeper state when it comes to big bull moose and a large majority of the hunting districts will provide opportunities at bulls over the 40” wide mark. The draw odds, like most of the other western states, are very steep. Unfortunately, that is the name of the game with moose permits. Hunters looking to apply for a moose permit in Montana will be happy to find a vast array of terrain types to consider from the jungles of the northwest part of the state to the wide, high elevation sage flats found in the southwest. Either way you look at it, drawing a coveted moose permit is going to lead to the adventure of a lifetime!

Six 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
2017 354 341 13

Current 2018 moose herd condition

Overall Montana’s moose population is doing fair. Numbers have been on a decline in recent years and biologists with MFWP have been working diligently to find a cause and eventual solution. So far, nothing has been officially called as the culprit, but the two more generally accepted reasonings seem to be predation and diseases spread through ticks.

Seven 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
2016 261 229 27 6
2017 270 236 26 8

Montana shiras moose entered into B&C record book since 2010



2018 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.

2018 nonresident Shiras moose hunt districts

Either sex permits
100-50 101-50 105-50 106-50 110-50
111-50 112-50 121-50 122-50 125-50
270-50 280-50 285-50 300-50 301-50
302-50 303-50 309-50 310-50 311-50
312-50 314-50 315-50 319-50 323-50
398-50 399-50 415-50    
Antlerless permits
300-00 301-00 302-00 303-00  


How to uncover hidden gem Shiras moose hunt districts

When it comes to any of the big name species the unfortunate truth is that hunters will never really find any hidden or overlooked hunt units. That being said, there are definitely some districts that can offer marginally better draw odds, especially when you get into the upper end of the points game.


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. Data provided below courtesy of the Boone and Crockett Club.

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

County No. of
entries
HDs found within county
Lincoln 12 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 110, 111
Flathead 10 106, 110, 111, 112, 122, 140, 141, 150
Glacier 7 415
Beaverhead 5 300, 301, 302, 323, 324, 326, 327,
330, 331, 332, 333, 334, 340
Gallatin 5 304, 306, 307, 308, 309, 310, 311,
312, 313, 314, 315, 361, 362, 390
Missoula 4 150, 210, 230, 240, 261, 285, 292

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

TOP B&C SHIRAS MOOSE LOCATION ENTRIES SINCE 2010 - 2018 Montana

Top hit list HDs based on draw odds for Montana bull moose
(not in order of quality)

Resident HDs
HD 0 pts 6 pts 12 pts Permits
issued*
Bulls
harvested
Success Public land
%
100 0.06% 2.1% 8.0% 12 9 75% 92.6%
101 0.06% 2.4% 8.9% 12 6 50% 86.5%
103 0.05% 1.7% 6.5% 3 2 67% 79.5%
104 0.05% 2.0% 7.5% 5 0 0% 79.5%
105 0.05% 1.8% 6.7% 20 12 60% 76.7%
126 0.05% 2.0% 7.7% 1 1 100% 82.8%
150 0.06% 2.1% 8.0% 1 0 0% 99.8%
240 0.06% 2.1% 7.9% 3 1 33% 78.5%
314 0.08% 2.9% 11% 2 2 100% 56.3%
319 0.06% 2.2% 8.3% 2 1 50% 82.9%
329 0.05% 2.0% 7.6% 2 0 0% 68%

* Includes both residents and nonresidents
 

Top hit list HDs based on draw odds for Montana bull moose
(not in order of quality)

Nonresident HDs
HD 0 pts 6 pts 12 pts Permits
issued*
Bulls
harvested
Success Public land
%
100 0.02% 0.62% No
apps
12 9 75% 92.6%
101 0.02% 0.56% 2.4% 12 6 50% 86.5%
105 0.03% 1.2% 4.5% 20 12 60% 76.7%
110 0.03% 1.1% 4.3% 12 8 67% 81.8%
111 0.02% 0.73% 2.8% 10 8 80% 53.7%
398** 0.05% 2.2% No
apps
5 3 60% 37.9%

* Includes both residents and nonresidents
* The 398-50 permit is good in HDs 308, 313 and 360. The public land percentage is an average between the three districts. 


The points system

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. The bottom line is: if you have a district you want to hunt then apply! No matter the draw odds you still have a chance at drawing. 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 draw you can purchase bonus points anytime from July 1 through Sept. 30 for a fee of $15 for residents and $75 for nonresidents.

Managing expectations

With Montana utilizing a random draw, it is important to understand that possessing the maximum number of points will never guarantee a tag like other states that utilize preference points.

Maximum points going into the 2018 draw: 17

MONTANA RESIDENT SHIRAS MOOSE BONUS POINT TOTALS GOING INTO THE 2018 DRAW

MONTANA NONRESIDENT MOOSE BONUS POINT TOTALS GOING INTO THE 2018 DRAW

MONTANA SHIRAS MOOSE BONUS POINTS GOING INTO THE 2018 DRAW

I have 0 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 is 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. 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.

Find your resident moose draw odds with 0 points here

Find your nonresident moose draw odds with 0 points here

What can I expect with 5 to 6 moose bonus points?

You will not see a noticeable bump of draw odds with five to six points, but, with the Montana lottery system, there is always the chance of pulling a permit. At this point it’s best to just hold the course and continue to apply for your preferred district.

Find your resident moose draw odds with 6 points here

Find your nonresident moose draw odds with 6 points here

What can I expect with 10+ moose 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.

Find your resident moose draw odds with 10 points here

Find your nonresident moose draw odds with 10 points here


 

Montana's 2018 Rocky Mountain goat breakdown

Mike with his 2017 Montana mountain goat

Mike M. with his 2017 Montana mountain goat.

Montana used to be known as one of the top mountain goat states in the West, but has been on a decline in recent years. Hunters can still expect a great hunt with good trophy quality, but the number of book type animals is getting smaller and smaller. Of all of the big name species, the mountain goats carry slightly better draw odds and are sure to provide a memorable experience set in some of the most breathtaking country found in the Lower 48!

Six 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
2017 218 200 18

Current 2018 mountain goat herd condition

While great hunting can still be had, it’s no secret that Montana’s mountain goat population has been dropping in recent years. A fair assessment of this fact can be seen in the above table that illustrates the drop in available permits each year. While nothing has been officially stated as being a direct cause of this decrease, it is generally accepted that a decline of nutrient-rich foods coupled with the slow reproduction nature of mountain goat are major factors.

Seven 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
2016 172 102 70
2017 142 80 61

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


2018 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.

2018 nonresident mountain goat hunt districts

Either sex permits
312-20 313-20 314-20 316-20 320-20
323-20 324-20 325-20 326-20 329-20
393-20 519-20      
Nanny permits
313-30        


How to uncover hidden gem mountain goat hunt districts

When it comes to any of the big name species the unfortunate truth is that hunters will never really find any hidden or overlooked districts. That being said, there are definitely some hunt districts that can offer marginally better draw odds, especially when you get into the upper end of the points game.



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. Data provided below courtesy of the Boone and Crockett Club.

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

County No. of
entries
HDs found within county
Flathead 5 132, 134, 140, 141, 142, 150
Chouteau 3 447, 460
Gallatin 3 314, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 362, 393
Ravalli 2 240, 250, 261, 270
Madison 2 320, 324, 325, 326, 327, 328, 330, 361

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

TOP B&C MOUNTAIN GOAT LOCATION ENTRIES SINCE 2010 - 2018 Montana

Top hit list HDs based on draw odds for mountain goat
(not in order of quality)

Resident HDs
HD 0 pts 6 pts 12 pts Permits
issued*
Total
harvest
Success Public land
%
314 0.07% 2.6% 9.8% 20 17 85% 58.2%
316 0.24% 8.4% 29% 12 7 58% 98.1%
323 0.18% 6.4% 23% 38 27 71% 87.7%
324 0.06% 2.0% 7.8% 6 3 50% 43.7%
325 0.07% 2.6% 9.6% 4 2 50% 40.3%
326 0.09% 3.3% 12% 2 1 50% 77%
327 0.06% 2.3% 8.8% 4 3 75% 74%
329 0.19% 6.9% 24% 15 9 60% 99.4%
330 0.07% 2.7% 10% 3 1 33% 53.1%
362 0.08% 2.9% 11% 6 5 83% 97.3%
519 0.06% 2.3% 8.7% 1 1 100% 79.6%

* Includes both residents and nonresidents
 

Top hit list HDs based on draw odds for mountain goat
(not in order of quality)

Nonresident HDs
HD 0 pts 6 pts 12 pts Permits
issued*
Total
harvest
Success Public land
%
313-20 0.01% 0.27% 1.1% 30 33** 60% 21.1%
313-30 0.05% 1.9% 7.1% 25 33** 60% 21.1%
314 0.01% 0.37% 1.4% 20 17 85% 58.2%
316 0.01% 0.05% 1.9% 12 7 58% 98.1%
323 0.01% 0.39% 1.5% 38 27 71% 87.7%
329 0.02% 0.67% 2.6% 15 9 60% 99.4%

* Includes both residents and nonresidents
**MFWP does not differentiate harvest data between the 313-20 and 313-30 mountain goat hunt. Success is based of the total number of goats taken and the total number of permits between the two hunts.

The points system

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. The bottom line is: if you have a district you want to hunt, then apply! No matter the draw odds you still have a chance at drawing. 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 draw you can purchase bonus points anytime from July 1 through Sept. 30 for a fee of $15 for residents and $75 for nonresidents.

Managing points and expectations

With Montana utilizing a random draw, it is important to understand that possessing the maximum number of points will never guarantee a tag like other states that utilize preference points.

Maximum points going into the 2018 draw: 17

Montana resident mountain goat bonus points going into the 2018 draw

MONTANA NONRESIDENT MOUNTAIN GOAT BONUS POINT TOTALS GOING INTO THE 2018 DRAW

MONTANA MOUNTAIN GOAT BONUS POINTS GOING INTO THE 2018 DRAW

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 start throwing your name into the bucket and hope the random draw is on your side.

If you are simply looking to hunt mountain goats, the nanny only tags do hold marginally better draw odds. 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.

Find your resident mountain goat draw odds with 0 points here

Find your nonresident mountain goat draw odds with 0 points here

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

You will see a marginal bump of draw odds with five to six points, but, with the Montana lottery system, there is still always the chance of pulling a permit. At this point, it’s best to just hold the course and continue to apply for your preferred district.

Find your resident mountain goat draw odds with 6 points here

Find your nonresident mountain goat draw odds with 6 points here

What can I expect with 10+ mountain goat 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.

Find your resident mountain goat draw odds with 10 points here

Find your nonresident mountain goat draw odds with 10 points here


 

Montana's 2018 bison breakdown

TJ with his 2017 Montana bison

TJ B. with his 2017 Montana bison.

Along with the big three (moose, sheep, and mountain goat), hunters in Montana also have the opportunity to apply for bison tags. The bison hunt is centered around the Yellowstone National Park (YNP) herds as they follow their historical migratory routes into the Gardiner and West Yellowstone valleys. This hunt is extremely weather dependent and during years of light snowfall lucky permit hunters may be able to do nothing, but simply watch the buffalo graze in the safety of the park.

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 do 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

Overall, the total health of the YNP Bison herd is doing very well and above objective for the park. Recently, park officials culled 1,155 bison as part of their annual population control efforts. Predation from wolves and bears along calving grounds is still present though this is part of the natural cycle and something the bison have been dealing with, and overcoming, for years. Brucellosis continues to be a growing concern and has further created a rift between local ranchers and conservation efforts outside of the park. Brucellosis among bison is thought to infect over 50% of the population in YNP.

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 --

*MFWP has not updated harvest data since 2015

 

2018 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.

2018 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

Due to the simple fact that there are only three hunting districts for residents and two for nonresidents anyone researching this hunt will not find any hidden gem 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
 

* MFWP has not updated application totals since 2015
*
* 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 eleven animals than the West Yellowstone (HD 395) district 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. Data provided below courtesy of the Boone and Crockett Club.

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

County No. of
entries
HDs found within county
Park 11 HD 385 - Absaroka/Beartooth, HD 385 - Gardiner Basin
Gallatin 2 HD 395

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

TOP B&C BISON LOCATION ENTRIES SINCE 2010 - 2018 Montana



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 0.59% 0.59%
385-21
Absaroka/Beartooth
1.5% --
395-20
West Yellowstone
0.96% 0.72%

Find your resident bison draw odds here

Find your nonresident bison draw odds here

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