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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2019: Montana Antelope

2019 Montana antelope application strategy article

Montana's 2019 antelope application overview

Jump to: New for 2019 State Information Draw System Antelope Breakdown Points Breakdown

Montana has long been a destination state for many western hunters most notably for its deer and elk populations and world class Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep. Along with a plethora of options for most species Montana also offers some incredible opportunities for antelope. While the state isn’t known for producing giant antelope like those found in Arizona or New Mexico, most units can provide good opportunities at bucks in the 70” Boone & Crockett (B&C) range.

Note: The application deadline for Montana antelope is June 1, 2019, by 11:59 p.m. MST and can be mailed in or completed online.


Why Montana for antelope in 2019

Options

Montana offers several options for antelope hunters ranging from archery and rifle hunts to opportunity and trophy hunts.

Generous season dates

Archery-only permits give hunters nearly 15 weeks to fill their tag beginning Aug. 15 and those holding an any weapon tag will have a five-week archery-only season beginning Sept. 1 followed by a five-week any weapon season beginning Oct. 6.

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.

Additional species opportunities

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

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 2019

  • Archery licenses are required to hunt in archery only districts or seasons; however, they are no longer a prerequisite for application for archery only districts or licenses. Hunters will be notified of the archery license requirement if they are drawn for an archery only license or permit.
  • The archery affidavit will no longer be available. Hunters will have to show proof of having a prior years archery license or completing archery safety prior to purchasing an archery license.

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

2019 Montana antelope season dates

Season Start and end dates
Archery only (900 series tag) Aug. 15 to Nov. 11
Archery (General season tag) Sept. 7 to Oct. 11
Any Weapon season (general season tag) Oct. 12 to Nov. 10

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, 2019.
  • A 50% refund can be requested on nonresident licenses if requested after Aug. 1, 2019.
  • Draw results for the 900 series tag are generally available the week of July 15, 2019.
  • Draw results for the general tag are generally available the week of August 9, 2019.
  • Surplus licenses are available for purchase in early to mid August.
  • 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 May 2019

Montana snow water equivalent percent of normal as of May 9, 2019. 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 monitor status as of end of April 2019

Montana drought monitor status as of April 30, 2019. Source: US Drought Monitor

The western half of Montana received some late, heavy snowstorms although this largely impacted habitat that doesn’t support antelope populations. Overall, winter was fairly normal in Montana and, with a great spring up to this point, the state should see great fawn recruitment and horn growth for 2019.


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 drawing 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, over-the-counter (OTC) or as leftovers, depending on the hunting district.

Montana 2019 antelope draw numbers

Residency First choice apps Second choice apps Third choice apps
Resident 33,111 7,497 4,162
Nonresident 6,236 1,219 763

MONTANA ANTELOPE DRAW STATS - updated 2019


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, 2019. 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 2019 antelope breakdown

When anyone begins their application process for Montana antelope, the first question they should ask themselves is “What weapon do I want to hunt with?” With the 900 series archery only tag, hunters can hunt nearly every unit in the state and can begin archery hunting three weeks before the general tag holders! Those interested in hunting during the general rifle season will find a lot more options when it comes to tag selection and breaking down the units will get more and more important. In the following sections, we will break down the best units for antelope in Montana and explore the ins and outs of this species.

Six year Montana Montana antelope harvest numbers

Year Hunters Bucks Does/fawns Total
harvest
% successful
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 13,928 67.7%
2017 20,126 10,162 4,389 14,552 72.3%
2018 17,796 9,289 3,717 13,007 73.1%

2019 antelope herd condition

2017 Montana antelope population and distribution

2018 data not available at the time of publishing. Source: Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks

The western half of Montana received some late, heavy snowstorms although this largely impacted habitat that doesn’t support antelope populations. Overall, winter was fairly normal in Montana and, with a great spring up to this point, the state should see great fawn recruitment and horn growth for 2019. For the below graphics, 2018 data was not available at the time of publishing.

Montana antelope population trends - updated 2018

Region by region Montana antelope population breakdown - updated 2018


The Tags

While the tag breakdown for Montana antelope can be confusing at first glance, I’ve found that breaking the options down into three categories can make unit or tag selection much easier.

900 Series

The 900 series tag is the holy grail when it comes to archery opportunities in Montana. Holders of a 900 series archery only tag will be permitted to hunt in every open unit throughout the state with the exception of HDs 215, 291 and 313. Additionally, those holding this tag can also begin hunting nearly three weeks before any of the other general tag archery hunts begin. This tag generally has near 100% odds of drawing—even for nonresidents—and just last year nearly 900 tags were sold as surplus! This tag has to be applied for as a first choice option only.

Drawing stats for 900 series antelope in Montana

Residency Quota 1st Choice
Applicants
1st Choice
Successful
Surplus
Resident 5,600 3,819 3,819 878
Nonresident 560 894 894

700 Series

When it comes to opportunity for rifle hunters it’s very hard to ignore the 700 series tag. This tag is good in any of the Region 7 HDs (701, 702, 703, 704 and 705) and accounted for nearly 40% of the entire 2018 antelope harvest! Hunters will find lots of private lands here as well as hunters; however, the sheer amount of antelope and size of the units does somewhat negate these cons. Hunters willing to research public land opportunities and who are willing to put in the sweat equity can find some of the best hunting in the state in these areas.

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%
2018 8,000 -27.27%

Individual hunting districts

Beyond the 700 and 900 series tags, the final option for hunters to apply for will be the remaining individual hunting district tags. These tags are only good in their specified areas and cannot be used in any other parts of the state. While not always the case, these areas can have lighter hunting pressure and a more mature age class. 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” 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.

Really, from a research standpoint, Montana is a great state for planning an antelope adventure. Trophy potentials are fairly level across the board, statewide harvest statistics are high and there are plenty of opportunities available to those willing to work. Because Montana is such a large state unit selection may boil down to reciprocity for some while others may be simply looking for the highest odds of filling a tag.

TOP MONTANA ANTELOPE B&C COUNTIES ALL-TIME - updated 2019


Hit list for Montana antelope

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"+ 73% 0.8% .34% 49.8%
404 80"+ 71% 4.0% 4.0% 10.1%
701 80"+ 70% 96% 18% 18.2%
702 80"+ 71% 96% 18% 11.9%
704 80"+ 73% 96% 18% 30.5%
705 80"+ 85% 96% 18% 30.3%
310 75"+ 70% 15% 15% 78.6%
360 75"+ 90% 46% 39% 57.5%
450 75"+ 57% 28% 28% 12.8%
490 75"+ 73% 36% 18% 36.8%
510 75"+ 68% 100% 96% 13.2%
570 75"+ 79% 93% 75% 7.6%
690 75"+ 83% 26% 22% 19.1%
700 75"+ 72% 96% 18% 36.1%

* Draw odds in the above table are based on applicants with 0 points. For detailed draw odds at every point level, check out our standalone Draw Odds.

When analyzing the above table there are a few interesting things to note. The 900 series archery tag is good in all, but one of our hit list units and five of the six 700 series HDs made the list. The bottom line is that the most sought after tags rarely offer more than some of the easiest to draw tags in the state.

Top antelope HDs to consider for 60% or better rifle harvest success

HD Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
Public
land %
215 80"+ 91% 49.8%
291 70"+ 90% 20.1%
360 75"+ 84% 57.5%
490 75"+ 83% 36.8%
510 75"+ 83% 13.2%
705 80"+ 75% 30.3%
570 75"+ 74% 7.6%
590 70"+ 71% 23.3%
704 80"+ 71% 30.5%
512 70"+ 70% 26.3%
700 75"+ 70% 36.1%
330 70"+ 69% 69.3%
341 70"+ 69% 48.4%
450 70"+ 69% 12.8%
310 75"+ 68% 78.6%
491 70"+ 68% 41.3%
650 70"+ 68% 17.6%
690 75"+ 67% 19.1%
702 80"+ 66% 11.9%
339 70"+ 64% 15.1%
318 75"+ 63% 70.5%
514 75"+ 63% 21.6%
340 65"+ 62% 10.7%
501 75"+ 62% 14.8%
321 70"+ 61% 55.1%
701 80"+ 61% 18.2%

B&C entry trends for Montana antelope

As we’ve stated before—and in previous application strategies—Montana is generally overshadowed when it comes to producing trophy book antelope, but what it lacks in horn size it more than makes up for in sheer opportunity. When analyzing the table below pay attention to the Region 7 HDs, which are, again, huntable with both the 700 and 900 series tags.

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 3 650, 700, 701
Rosebud 3 701, 702, 704
Garfield 2 705

* 15 other counties with one entry each.

Map of Montana's Antelope B&C all time entries 2019

Top B&C antelope locations since 2015 - Montana 2019 app strategy


The point system

Montana utilizes a basic lottery draw system where applicants accrue bonus points for each unsuccessful year of drawing. Any bonus points held by an applicant will be squared for the drawing, greatly increasing their odds. This type of system offers good opportunities for those just joining the points game, but will not necessarily reward long-time applicants as a preference point system would.

If applicants missed the draw deadline, decided not to apply or would like to hunt in the following years, Montana does offer the opportunity to buy an antelope bonus point for a low cost of $15 for residents and $25 for nonresidents. The purchase period for these points is from July 1 to Sept. 30 and only one point per species can be purchased per year.

Managing points and expectations

With the number of hunt options and the relatively high draw odds having a sound application strategy can mean the difference between hunting every one to three years or spinning your wheels on wasted opportunities in the draw. In the following section, we will look at realistic options for hunters at various point levels and explore how to best use your points and time.

Montana resident antelope bonus points going into the 2019 draw

Montana nonresident antelope bonus points going into the 2019 draw

Montana antelope bonus points going into 2019

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

At the beginning point of your application strategy in Montana, it will be important to first establish whether you wish to hunt with a bow or rifle. For archery hunters, the 900 series archery tag is an absolute must have. Not only does this open hunting opportunities up at an earlier time in the season, but it also carries almost guaranteed draw odds and can be used nearly statewide.

Rifle hunters can look into the various individual units, but one of the better options will be the 700 series tag. In 2018, draw odds at zero points for this tag for residents and nonresidents were 96% and 18%, respectively. In 2018, residents also had 16 HDs with draw odds above 75% at zero points and nonresidents saw the same odds with seven HDs.

If going for a specific unit is in your plan, then simply apply for your hunt and cross your fingers. With the nature of Montana’s draw system, it’s still entirely possible to draw at any point level.

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 a 96% chance of drawing and a 18% 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

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

What can I expect with 4 to 5 antelope bonus points?

At this point level, residents will see good odds of drawing for nearly 75% of the state’s available units with the remaining units still averaging around 30% for odds in 2018. Nonresidents will see good odds in several units and could easily land on a good hunt.

While it would inevitably waste points, the 900 series archery tag can still be a good choice for archery as this can almost guarantee an antelope tag every year. Nonresidents saw 99% odds for the 700 series tag at five points in 2018.

Find your resident antelope draw odds with 4 points here

Find your nonresident antelope draw odds with 4 points here

What can I expect with 8 plus antelope bonus points?

Applicants at this point level—both residents and nonresidents—are holding more points than 95% of the applicants in the state and can draw nearly any available tag. The important thing to keep in mind is that while some areas have historically produced larger antelope than others, the overall trophy potential of the state is fairly even. Carrying points in Montana, while necessary for some hunts, can be an easy way to waste your time and money, too. Don’t overlook the fact that some of the state’s largest bucks come off the easiest to draw hunts.

Find your resident antelope draw odds with 10 points here

Find your nonresident antelope draw odds with 10 points here

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