Become an INSIDER to gain access to this article

Join now

APPLICATION STRATEGY 2019: Montana Elk

2019 Montana elk application strategy article

Montana's 2019 elk application overview

Jump to: New for 2019 State Info. Draw System Elk Breakdown Points Breakdwn

When it comes to opportunity for elk very few states can compete with Montana. Nonresidents must apply for tags every year, but, with the current odds, tags can be drawn once every few years. Successful applicants will find themselves with excellent opportunities on the general tag alone along with access to millions of acres of public land. Drawing one of the coveted limited entry permits can even provide opportunities at bulls above the 370”+ Boone & Crockett (B&C) mark! The general tag is good for approximately 80% of the elk hunt districts and nearly every district can provide decent chances at mature bulls in the 270” to 300” B&C range.  

For the past several years, Montana’s elk herd has been recovering from a recent dip in numbers and the hunting has been excellent. Whether you’re looking for the bull of a lifetime or the best opportunity to fill your freezer, Montana elk should be part of your yearly application strategy!

Note: The application deadline for Montana elk is March 15, 2019 and can be mailed in or completed online here. Also, according to FWP, the online licensing system goes down every night from roughly midnight to 5:00 a.m. To ensure an application or purchase is entered on time, transactions should be completed by 11:45 p.m. Mountain Daylight Time.

Application packets:



Why Montana for elk in 2019

Public land

Montana has nearly 30 million acres of public land with an additional 7.3 million acres of private land that are enrolled in Montana’s Block Management program.

Awesome general tag

Hunters possessing a general tag can hunt 133 of the state’s 165 total hunt districts. Many of the remaining districts can also be drawn with 100% odds at zero points!

Generous season dates

Along with an incredible general tag, Montana also offers some of the most generous season dates with six weeks of archery and five weeks of rifle hunting available on the same tag.

General tag good for both archery and rifle seasons

Montana does not make hunters choose their selection of weapon and, instead, allows for general tag and most permit holders to hunt every available season on just one tag!

Solid trophy potentials

Nearly every hunt district in Montana can provide decent chances at bulls over 300” and nearly 50% of the bulls killed every year will be 6 points or larger!

Percentage of bulls with 6 points or more harvested in Montana since 2010

MONTANA STATEWIDE ELK HERD POPULATION ESTIMATES (2010-2018)



New for 2019

Important Note: At the time of the publication of this article, the proposals have not been set in stone and a hard copy of the 2019 Hunting Regulations will be not be made available until approximately March 4, 2019. If a hunting district you are interested in applying for falls within the changed proposals it would be wise to hold off on submitting your application until the new regulations have been released. If your desired district is not found on the list then simply refer to the 2018 regulations for said district when applying.

Online only applications by year 2020

Montana is moving to an online-only application process by the license year 2020.

New INSIDER Feature: Filter by bucks and bulls harvested

New for Filtering 2.0 is the ability to filter Montana hunt districts based on the number of bucks or bulls harvested in the previous season. Montana has long been lacking in its data gathering and reporting and this is a huge feature goHUNT has implemented to better help INSIDERS discover hidden gem areas. Once you dive into this data, you can then look at the number of "Hunters Surveyed" in the Unit Profiles to find the ideal hunt district that may have a high number of bulls harvested, and low hunting pressure.

Top Montana general hunt districts sorted by # of bulls harvested

Hunt District # of bulls
harvested
HD 215 420
HD 391 343
HD 393 316
HD 313 305
HD 360 299
HD 312 255
HD 314 232
HD 317 229
HD 329 226
HD 446 221

Check out the video outlining this new feature below


Antlerless elk draw odds

During the 2018 application season, goHUNT added Draw Odds for all female species. In Montana, there are many opportunities for elk in the way of B licenses, which can be used in addition to your general tag! When selecting your districts to hunt be sure to also check out our Draw Odds details page to see if a few opportunities exist that can be added to your hunt. With the amount of B license listed in the new season’s proposals, it could be a great year to scoop up a few extra tags should everything get accepted. The deadline to apply for B licenses is June 1, 2019.

Antlerless elk draw odds

Find your resident antlerless Elk draw odds here

Find your nonresident antlerless elk 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. You can also view the Montana Elk Profile to access historical and statistical data to help you find trophy areas.

Montana State Profile Elk Profile Draw Odds Res. Cow Elk Draw Odds Nonres. Cow Elk Draw OddsFiltering 2.0

Montana elk hunter numbers since 2010

2019 elk season dates

Season

Start and end date

Archery Sept. 7 to Oct. 20
General Oct. 26 to Dec. 1
Shoulder season (elk) Aug. 15 to Feb. 15

Backcountry elk only (HD’s 150, 151, 280, 316*)

Archery Sept. 7 to Sep. 14
General Sept. 15 to Dec. 1

* No archery season in HD 316

Important dates and information

  • Applications for elk must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. MST on March 15.
  • Applications can be submitted by mail or online here after Feb. 19.
  • 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 are generally available mid-April.
  • Surplus licenses are available for purchase on Aug. 7, 2019.
  • Preference and bonus points are available for purchase for nonresidents who did not apply in the general drawing between July 1 and Sept. 30 for a fee. See more information here.

Other important information to consider

It is important for hunters to understand that any deer or elk permit obtained does not allow the taking of a second animal; rather, it grants the ability to hunt bucks and bulls with the use of your general tag in a restricted hunting district. In Montana, hunters who possess a mule deer permit are not allowed to hunt mule deer in any other hunting district in the state regardless of the other hunting districts being limited entry or general. The opposite happens when you draw a special draw elk permit. For example, if you draw a special draw elk permit, you can still hunt all of the general districts plus that special draw district (during the season you drew the tag for).

Cost to apply

Residents

The cost to apply for limited entry elk as a resident of Montana

Item Cost
Conservation license $8
General elk license $20
Elk permit application fee
($5 nonrefundable)
$9
Bonus point fee $2
Total $39

Nonresidents

When submitting their initial applications, nonresidents will have a few options. First, they must apply for their choice of nonresident combo licenses as a prerequisite. All of the nonresident combination licenses include an upland game bird license, fishing license, bow and arrow license and the base hunting and conservation license. Successfully drawing any of the combination licenses will give successful applicants access to the statewide general tag.

The cost to apply for nonresident combination licenses in Montana

Item Cost
Big Game Combination (deer and elk license) $1,041
Elk Combination (elk license only) $885
Preference point (optional) $50

While applying for their combination license nonresidents will also be able to apply for limited entry permits if desired. The following table includes fees that will be added to your initial application fee for either the big game or elk combination license.

The cost to apply for limited entry elk as a nonresident of Montana

Item Cost
Elk permit application fee ($5 nonrefundable) $9
Bow and arrow license
(if applying for an archery only hunt)
$10
Bonus point $20
Total cost if applying with Big Game Combination $1,130
Total cost if applying with Elk Combination $974

Applicants also have a few choices after the draw, depending on their plans for the fall. If an applicant was successful in drawing the elk or Big Game Combination license, but unsuccessful in drawing a limited entry permit, they can request a refund of 80% of the combination license cost. Additionally, if an applicant successfully drew the Big Game Permit, but only wishes to hunt deer with the general tag, they can request a refund of $309 for the elk license portion of the Big Game Combination.

The current impact of wolves in Montana

Wolves continue to be a hot topic in Montana though they have recently been somewhat side tabled thanks to the growing grizzly bear delisting controversies. Hunters continue to take a large number of wolves every year via traditional hunting methods and trapping. Hunting efforts have been mostly effective so far in reducing human and wolf interactions though some still feel as though elk activity is still down.

2018-2019 wolf season
(as of Feb. 12)

Unit

Total taken*

Status

100 11 Open
101 46 Open
121 25 Open
130 12 Open
150 5 Open
200 14 Open
210 7 Open
250 18 Open
280 0 Open
290 24 Open
310 22 Open
320 16 Open
330 7 Open
390 34 Open
400 26 Open
110
Quota Unit
Open
313
Quota Unit
2 Closed
316
Quota Unit
1 Open

*Montana currently doesn't break apart hunter vs. trapping numbers as they did in years past.

Growing grizzly concerns
 

2018 Montana grizzly bear range
Source: Montana Field Guide

Grizzlies have been a hot topic of discussion, heated debates and emotional responses throughout the West. Hunts were approved in Wyoming and Idaho after grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE) were removed from the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2017 by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Unfortunately, a federal judge reinstated ESA protections for grizzlies in September of 2018, effectively blocking the impending hunts scheduled to begin later in the fall.

All political agendas aside, the grizzly bear population in both the GYE and North Continental Divide Ecosystem have recovered to levels higher than originally planned for and interactions between bears and humans—mostly hunters—has been on a sharp rise. Hunters are becoming very concerned—and notably so. If you hunting in grizzly country in Montana be prepared to protect yourself and take all of the proper precautions to reduce to chances of encountering bears.

More information on bear safety can be found here.

Current weather/snowpack

2019

Montana snow water equivalent February 2019

2019 Montana snow water equivalent update as of February 12, 2019. Source: National Resources Conservation Service

2018

Montana snow water equivalent as of late February 2018
2018 Montana snow water equivalent update as of February 20, 2018. Source: National Resources Conservation Service

Current status of chronic wasting disease in Montana

2018 Montana CWD map

Montana had a notable outbreak of CWD last year in populations of mule deer in the southern and north central portions of the state. The state has established and aggressive containment program and have been actively working with landowners and hunters alike to slow the spread of the disease at all costs. So far, efforts have been largely successful considering how contagious the disease is. Currently, there have not been any elk that have tested positive for CWD; however, the concern is always there.



The Montana draw system

Understanding the draw

Before delving into the trending hunt districts for Montana elk in 2019, it is first important for hopeful applicants to fully understand the Montana draw system, which can, at times, be very complicated. For the main limited entry permit draws, Montana employs a random lottery that is weighted by bonus points. Additionally, bonus points are squared at every point level. This system heavily favors those with the most points, but every applicant at every point level has a chance of drawing a tag every year. The bottom line here: you’ll never draw if you never apply.

If you are not drawn for your deer, elk, or big game combo for the 2019 season, then keep a close eye on a leftover or returned license, which occurs, generally, in early May. We will cover the license availability as the year progresses.

Nonresident Big Game Combo Licenses Explained

The prerequisite for all nonresidents in Montana will be the Big Game, Elk or Deer Combination license.

Elk Combination License includes the following:

  • Elk, conservation license, state lands, upland bird (excluding turkey), Base Hunting, AISPP and season fishing license.

Big Game Combination License includes the following:

  • Deer, elk, conservation license, state lands, upland bird (excluding turkey), Base Hunting, AISPP and season fishing license.

Deer Combination License includes the following:

  • Deer, conservation, state lands, upland bird (excluding turkey), base hunting, AISPP and season fishing license.

The combination licenses essentially act as a general tag for Montana and must be drawn. Unlike limited entry permits, the combination licenses are distributed through a preference point system where the highest point holders will receive licenses first. The first few years of this system saw 100% draw odds and even leftover tags. Last year, the combination licenses were drawn out in the initial draw, leaving hopeful hunters hanging by a thread and waiting for someone to turn a tag back in. Applicants with zero points stand about a 50% chance of drawing while those with one preference point will see 100% odds of drawing.

Breakdown of the 2018 nonresident combination license draws

Big Game Combo

Number of points Applicants Number
successful
Draw
odds
0 7,747 3,970 51.25%
1 9,007 9,007 100%
2 708 708 100%
3 3 3 100%

Elk Combo

Number of points Applicants Number
successful
Draw
odds
0 2,690 1,443 53.64%
1 1,827 1,827 100%
2 75 75 100%

Deer Combo

Number of points Applicants Number
successful
Draw
odds
0 7,614 4,577 60.11%
1 4,117 4,117 100%
2 282 282 100%
3 4 4 100%

Limited entry permits

Past general tags and nonresident combinations hunters can apply for limited entry permits. Successfully drawing a limited entry permit does not grant a second animal, but does augment the general tag to include new areas for hunters. These limited entry districts generally carry higher success rates and more mature animals, but this is not always the case. MTFWP also uses some limited entry districts as population control tools where they offer unlimited permits in hopes that the area will see a higher harvest for the year. Out of all of the limited entry districts for deer and elk, less than half actually offer better odds at trophy animals than some of the better general hunts.

Nonresident tag allocation

Montana grants nonresidents up to 10% of a district’s tag quota; however, the 10% is not guaranteed. Some years, the nonresident applicant pool will fill the entire 10% cap and other years it can be significantly less.

Party applications

In addition to individual applications, hunters can also apply for a deer and elk permit as a party. The maximum party size is five. For example: the base bonus points for a party are the average of their individual base bonus points rounded to the nearest whole number. So if a party of three people has a total of 8 points, you would divide 8 by 3 = 2.67 which would round up to 3.

When used correctly party applications can be very beneficial. Residents and nonresidents can apply jointly, but the party will be forced into the 10% pool for available permits.

Purchasing points only

If applicants are simply looking to build points for the current year—both preference and bonus— they can skip the expensive application prerequisites. Bonus points can be purchased between July 1 and Sept. 30 for $15 per species for residents and $25 for nonresidents. Moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat points can be purchased at the time for $75 per species. Additionally, nonresidents can purchase combination license preference points during the same time frame for $50. You cannot apply for a permit or combination license and purchase a separate point in the same year. Only one point per species can be accumulated per year.



Montana's 2019 elk breakdown

Josh Volinkaty with his 2018 Montana archery elk

Josh Volinkaty with his 2018 Montana archery elk.

Other than dealing with the draw each year Montana is pound for pound one of the best elk states out there. Tons of opportunity, great trophy potentials and good populations all lend themselves to a fantastic hunt. Montana offers an enormous amount of varying terrain features to chase bugles through ranging from thick cedar rain forests to wide open sage flats.

Current 2019 elk herd condition
 

Montana 2018 elk population status by hunting district
Source: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Overall, the elk in Montana are doing very well and numbers have been rebounding over the last few years. Some areas in northwest and west-central Montana continue to struggle a bit,  but the outlook is much better than it has been in previous years. Snowpack and rainfall have been lower this year compared to prior years and it is predicted that this weather trend will continue throughout the spring. While this doesn’t mean excellent things for antler growth, it does signify that we should see low winterkill counts and great calf recruitment. Populations in central and eastern Montana continue to grow and expand their range thanks to good feed options and low predator impacts. Region 3, located in southwest Montana, still has the highest population and distribution of elk though hunters will experience more hunting pressure and a large presence of grizzly bears when hunting around Yellowstone National Park.

Currently, about two-thirds of the hunting districts are above population objectives as set by MFWP. The above map does a great job of illustrating where the state’s healthiest herds reside, but, when looking at the lower map, you can really see where some of the hot spots are!

Montana 2018 elk population objective status percent

Source: Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks

Montana statewide elk harvest - 2019

Montana statewide elk 6 point or better harvest - 2019

To see a region by region population breakdown of Montana elk with graphics, visit our Species Profile for Montana elk below.

Montana Elk Species Profile


General hunts vs limited entry hunts

Brad Heine with his 2018 Montana archery elk

Brad Heine with his 2018 Montana archery elk.

With Montana being a draw-only state for any type of hunting opportunity the questions begs: Do I stick with general districts or go for the top-tiered trophy districts? Quite frankly, Montana has some phenomenal opportunities in the general areas though the state's largest bulls consistently come off of limited entry hunts. Now, of the 39 available limited entry units, approximately a third actually provide better opportunities than some of the better general units.

Western States with elk over 400" all time - 2019 (Montana app)

As we mentioned before, several limited entry districts are used as population control areas by MTFWP and won’t necessarily guarantee a higher probability of mature animals. Even at maximum points (15), some of the best districts will still only see odds in the 15% range and under for nonresidents. In many cases, you could put that same effort into neighboring states and come out with a better hunt. As negative as that may sound, it’s cheap to build points in Montana and it’s a great idea to apply every year or simply purchase points. Remember that with Montana’s random draw everyone has a chance at any point level.

goHUNT hit list for Montana general season elk
(not in order of quality)

Hunt District Trophy
Potential
Total
harvest
% 6pt or
better
# bulls
harvested
Public land
%
310 360"+ 137 55% 111 98%
212 340"+ 277 29% 170 59%
442 340"+ 161 71% 129 86%
150* 330"+ 55 67% 52 99%
151* 330"+ 14 43% 14 100%
204 330"+ 136 24% 71 65%
210 330"+ 427 34% 166 42%
216 330"+ 72 48% 40 89%
298 330"+ 127 37% 46 16%
311 330"+ 648 62% 179 29%
314 330"+ 430 66% 232 40%
361 330"+ 69 29% 31 80%
422 330"+ 242 35% 91 57%
560 330"+ 360 33% 171 60%

* Both HD 150 and HD 151 are backcountry hunt districts where access will be very difficult. These areas are generally best hunted by those with livestock and extensive backcountry experience.

As I’ve heavily hinted at previously, Montana does have several limited entry districts that are just used for population control hunts and will serve a hunter for nothing more than a waste of points, especially when you consider some of the heavy hitting general tags. In the following list, we will break down the top limited entry districts that can provide awesome hunting experiences and opportunities at some incredible bulls.

goHUNT hit list for Montana limited entry elk
(not in order of quality)

Hunt
District
Trophy
Potential
Total
harvest
% 6pt or
better
# bulls
harvested
Public land
%
380* 370"+ 808 26% 368 39%
310 360"+ 137 55% 111 98%
680 360"+ 16 100% 2 40%
690 360"+ 70 94% 32 11%
410 350"+ 595 74% 264 47%
447 350"+ 259 86% 83 21%
417 340"+ 160 78% 65 38%
590 340"+ 660 67% 252 10%
621 340"+ 136 68% 62 78%
622 340"+ 189 83% 54 73%
631 340"+ 74 74% 34 81%
632 340"+ 23 66% 18 86%
700 340"+ 489 66% 201 36%
704 340"+ 333 88% 139 31%
705 340"+ 107 79% 39 30%

* HD 380 features general tags for antlerless elk and spike bulls, resulting in an incredibly skewed 6 point percentage along with success rates.

When looking at the above table, it is important to keep in mind that many of the limited entry districts also sport antlerless elk hunts: both permitted and general. Because of these harvest success rates, hunters numbers and total harvest numbers can become very diluted and essentially worthless from a data standpoint. Unfortunately, MTFWP does not reflect different seasons in their yearly harvest estimates, leaving our useable data as nothing more than generalizations.

Special note on HD 310

You may have noticed while reviewing both of the above tables that HD 310 appears on both lists. There is a small area on the eastern side of this hunt district known as the Gallatin Special Management Area that is only huntable with a limited entry permit. This area is primarily adjacent to Yellowstone National Park and normally sees a higher percentage of mature bulls harvested. Still, some great bulls wander into the areas open to general hunting and hunters can find some trophies here.

About harvest success rates

MTFWP only reported hunter numbers on a statewide basis and did not break this down district by district. This unfortunate way of data representation has been the norm in Montana for some time and can make accurate data hard to come by during certain years. Currently, only data from the 2017 season is available and it is unclear at this point if more accurate numbers will be represented for the 2018 season. Beyond the current lack of data, MFWP groups all hunters together on the same report regardless of type of tag or type of weapon making for very lackluster results when researching units.

The 900 series archery permit

A unique tag for archery hunters to consider is the 900-20 permit. This permit—only good for the archery elk season—is usable in the following hunting districts (HD): 401, 403, 411, 412, 426, 447, 450, 500, 502, 510, 511, 520, 530, 570, 575, 580, 590, 701, 702 and 704. While not every single one of these districts will produce a trophy quality bull, most will offer opportunities at bulls at or above the 300” mark. In previous years, many hunters could grab this permit on their second choice though this has since changed and will more than likely need to be drawn as a first choice. Residents can still draw this with 100% odds on zero points though this will also likely change over the next few years.


 

How to uncover hidden gem hunt districts for elk

Rex Wolferman with his 2018 Montana archery elk

Rex Wolferman with his 2018 Montana archery elk.

While the state's biggest bulls are found in the top shelf draw districts, many hunters can find great success and trophy bulls in some of the general districts year after year while they accumulate points.

Region by region Montana elk population breakdown - updated 2019

Utilize our Filtering 2.0 tool and manipulate the Trophy Potential to display the districts that have a legitimate chance at bulls that score 320” 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 Elk 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 both typical and nontypical bulls.

B&C entry trends for Montana elk

Hunt Districts listed below may not have a current hunt for this species. Hunt Districts in this table are included if any part of the district is found within the county. Data provided below courtesy of the Boone and Crockett Club.

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

County No. of
entries
Hunt Districts found within county
Gallatin 6 General HDs:
301, 309, 310, 311, 312, 314, 333, 361, 362, 390, 393
Limited entry HDs:
310
Lewis & Clark 6 General HDs:
150, 280, 281, 284, 293, 335, 343, 388,
392, 421, 422, 423, 424, 425, 442, 444, 445, 455
Limited entry HDs:
339, 380, 425, 445, 455
Park 6 General HDs:
301, 313, 314, 315, 316, 317, 393, 560, 580
Limited entry HDs:
313, 580
Fergus 5 General HDs:
418, 419
Limited entry HDs:
410, 411, 412, 417, 426, 511, 530
Powder River 5 Limited entry HDs:
704, 705
Jefferson 3 General HDs:
311, 318, 333, 335, 340, 350, 370
Limited entry HDs:
340380

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

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

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

County No. of
entries
Hunt Districts found within county
Fergus 2 General HDs:
418, 419
Limited entry HDs:
410, 411, 412, 417, 426, 511, 530
Powder River 2 Limited entry HDs:
704, 705
Jefferson 1 General HDs:
311, 318, 333, 335, 340, 350, 370
Limited entry HDs:
340380
Blaine 1 General HDs:
600, 611
Limited entry HDs:
621, 680, 690
Teton 1 General HDs:
404, 406, 441, 442, 444, 450
Limited entry HDs:
441, 450
Hill 1 General HDs:
400, 600
Limited entry HDs:
690
Lewis & Clark 1 General HDs:
150, 280, 281, 284, 293, 335, 343, 388,
392, 421, 422, 423, 424, 425, 442, 444, 445, 455
Limited entry HDs:
339, 380, 425, 445, 455

* Two more counties with one entry each

You may notice in the above table that many districts feature both general and limited entry hunting opportunities. Generally speaking, in this instance, the limited entry permits will be usable during a more desirable portion of the season and will be valid in special areas within a given district. Pay close attention to these types of hunt districts while researching for your hunt.

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

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



The point system

Before beginning your application strategy, it will be important to first decide your end goal for Montana. Mainly, do you plan on hunting Montana on general tags or are you only interested in building points to use later? As a nonresident, applicants will need to apply for their combo license in addition to any extra permits. If you are unsuccessful in the draw you are only granted an 80% refund of your total application cost if you are not interested in hunting the general districts. If you wish to hunt other states, you can simply purchase the preference point and bonus point separately after July 1 and move on. If you do plan on hunting the general season regardless, then put in for your district of choice. Because it’s a lottery system, there is always a chance of drawing!


 

Managing points and expectations

Don't forget about the general tag!

Montana can be a daunting state to build points in simply because it lacks a good supply of limited entry hunts. Applicants are either forced to cash out early on some of the decent archery only permits or hang on for dear life and hope that they pull the tag of their dreams in the next twenty years. However, it’s cheap to build points in Montana and the random draw gives everyone a small chance of drawing at any point. Don’t let the grave odds of drawing some of the better districts deter your mind from the fact that Montana can hang with the best of them when it comes to its general tags. Some incredible bulls are taken off general hunts every year.

I have 0 preference points. What can I expect?

With Montana nonresident combos finally selling out in the initial draw for 2018, it’s time for hunters to start considering the preference point system. Montana utilizes bonus points for permit drawings, but employs preference points for the nonresident combo tags (prerequisite for permits). Under the preference point system, people with preference points will draw the first 75% of the tags; once that is finished, the remaining tags will move onto the remaining applicants. During the 2018 draw, applicants saw a 51% success rate in the nonresident Big Game Combo tag drawings and 54% in the. If you plan on making Montana part of your regular routine, it would be a great move to start participating in the preference point system.

Find your nonresident big game combo draw odds here

I have 1+ preference points. What can I expect?

Coming into the 2018 drawings, anyone holding one preference point or higher should draw their combo license without any problem. With the Montana preference point system, you have to apply at least every other year or your accumulated preference points will be forfeited. Point creep could become a huge issue very fast. If you are not planning on hunting Montana this year, but wish to in the next two years, it would be very smart to buy a preference point for 2018 to stay ahead of this creep.

Find your nonresident big game combo draw odds here

Permit elk tags

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. This simple fact can steer a lot of hopeful applicants away, but with the low cost per point, it doesn’t hurt to participate.

Montana is a state that is managed for opportunity and, because of this, does not have the number of top quality districts as found in surrounding states. Good hunt districts are available across the state with four points or under, but the top tier districts will require maximum points and, even then, the odds will rarely eclipse 40%.

2019 max bonus points for elk: 15

MONTANA RESIDENT ELK BONUS POINTS GOING INTO THE 2019 DRAW

MONTANA NONRESIDENT ELK BONUS POINTS GOING INTO THE 2019 DRAW

MONTANA ELK BONUS POINTS GOING INTO THE 2019 DRAW

Find your draw odds

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

Before beginning your application strategy, it will be important to first decide your end goal for Montana. Mainly, do you plan on hunting Montana on general tags or are you only interested in building points to use later? As a nonresident, applicants will need to apply for their combo license in addition to any extra permits. If you are unsuccessful in the draw you are only granted an 80% refund of your total application cost if you are not interested in hunting the general districts. If you wish to hunt other states, you can simply purchase the preference point and bonus point and move on. If you do plan on hunting the general season regardless, then put in for your district of choice. Because it’s a lottery system, there is always a chance of drawing!

Residents

Many districts can be found in this state with an unlimited quota, which means that your odds of drawing are 100%; however, in drawing these you will not build any bonus points for the following year. These can be great to draw when you have zero points, but will ultimately waste any future points you may accrue if applied for at a later date. As a resident, consider hunting general districts as you build bonus points for some of the top shelf districts. If you are an archery hunter you may also consider the 900-20 elk permit, which carried 100% draw odds on zero points last year. This is expected to change in the years to come. Along with the 900 series tag, the 620 series archery permit good for 620, 621, 622 can also be drawn to hunt the Missouri Breaks, which offers opportunities at great bulls.

Find your resident elk permit draw odds with 0 points here

Nonresidents

As with the residents, many districts with an unlimited quota can be drawn with 100% odds. The 900 series archery tag carries 30% odds for nonresidents with zero points and is not out of the question to draw. If you are saving points for top tier districts, then apply for these as normal and pray for luck in the random draw with a strong contingency of hunting general districts.

Find your nonresident elk permit draw odds with 0 points here

What can I do with 3 or 8 elk bonus points?

With three to four points both residents and nonresidents will see very few additional districts (compared to those with zero to two points). However, nonresidents will now see a few more districts available with 100% odds, which can be an attractive use of points. These will primarily consist of archery-only seasons with most of the “good” rifle districts taking maximum points to draw.

Residents

If you are holding out for some of the top tier districts keep applying for these and play your odds in the lottery as you continue to build points. General districts can still provide excellent opportunities at bulls above the 300” mark. Archery hunters can now draw HD 632, which can provide opportunities at bulls reaching the 340” mark.

Find your resident elk permit draw odds with 5 points here

Nonresidents

If you are holding out for some of the top tier districts keep applying for these and play your odds in the lottery as you continue to build points. Archery hunters can now draw the 620 series archery permit good for 620, 621, 622 to hunt the north side of the Missouri Breaks, which can provide some excellent hunting with great trophy quality.

Find your nonresident elk permit draw odds with 5 points here

What can I expect with 10 or more elk bonus points?

At this point level, residents and nonresidents are nearing the maximum point capacity. Applying for anything other than the top tier districts will merely result in burning points on hunting districts that could be drawn on far less. Odds will still be steep, but your odds simply won’t improve beyond this point with Montana’s drawing system.

Residents

If you’re after the best bulls in the state then you’ll want to be putting in for HDs 380, 680 or 690. These will provide opportunities at bulls above the 360” mark with several eclipsing the 400” mark every year. Odds will still be incredibly steep, but you can't draw if you don't apply.

Find your resident elk permit draw odds with 10 points here

Nonresidents

As with the resident applicants, if you're after the biggest bulls, you might want to focus your efforts on HDs 380, 680 or 690. Odds will still be incredibly steep here, but you’re finally at the top of the heap and will have the best odds you’ll ever see. You example, at maximum points, your odds of drawing HD 380 are 6.3%, HD 680/HD 690 archery only had no applications at 15 points, but your odds might be around 15%, and HD 680/HD 690 rifle odds are roughly 15-16% with maximum points, as again, no one with 15 points applied for this HD.

Find your nonresident elk permit draw odds with 10 points here

Comments

50 States for 50 Bucks
Tried and True Hunting Gear
Get Hunting Gear for Less