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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2020: Montana Antelope

Montana speedgoat application strategy 2020

Montana's 2020 antelope application overview

Jump to: NEW FOR 2020 State Information Draw System Antelope Breakdown Points Breakdown

The application deadline for Montana antelope is June 1, 2020 at 11:59 p.m MST. The application process is done completely online here or at any Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (Montana FWP) office.

Note: As the COVID-19 virus continues to spread, the in-person option for applications may become increasingly difficult. For 2020, it would be best to plan on online or phone applications.


New for 2020

No more mail-in applications

Mail-in applications will no longer be accepted in 2020. All applications will now need to be completed online or in-person at any Montana FWP office.

New tag system

Hunters will now be able to print off all tags or permits at home using traditional printing paper. Additionally, items other than carcass tags (hunting licenses) can be carried in electronic form on a mobile device.

Quicker draw results

Because the application process has been moved to online only, draw results will now be available quicker than in prior years. The approximate posting date for Montana antelope 900 series tags is June 15, 2020 and the remaining antelope and antelope B tags are set for Aug. 6, 2020.

2020 antelope district boundary changes and new districts


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

Important dates and information

  • Applications for antelope must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. MST on June 1, 2020.
  • Applications can be submitted online here.
  • An 80% refund can be requested on nonresident licenses if requested by Aug. 1, 2020.
  • A 50% refund can be requested on nonresident licenses if requested after Aug. 1, 2020.
  • Draw results for the 900 series tag are slated to be available by June 15, 2020.
  • Draw results for the general tag are slated to be available by August 6, 2020.
  • 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

2020

Montana current snowpack 2020 as of April 28

Montana snow water equivalent percent of normal as of April 28, 2020. Source: NRCS

Overall, Montana experienced a fairly normal winter with decent amounts of snow. To date, there have not been any major late snowstorms and antelope populations from across the state are looking excellent. 

Montana drought status as of April 2020

Montana drought monitor status as of April 21, 2020. Source: US Drought Monitor

2019

Montana snow water equivalent as of May 2019

Montana snow water equivalent percent of normal as of May 9, 2019. Source: NRCS

The Montana draw system

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 although some B licenses can be purchased over-the-counter (OTC) for specific tag holders.

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.

Hunt choice selection and bonus points

One key fact that hunters should consider is that while all antelope hunt choices must be submitted on the same application, the 900 series archery-only permit has its own set of bonus points that are separate from the standard antelope pool.

If applying for the 900 series tag, applicants must list this as their first and only choice. 

Points only option

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 for residents and $25 for nonresidents.

How do 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 become 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. Points may only be used on first choice tags and cannot be transferred.


Montana's 2020 antelope breakdown

Really, the biggest choice an applicant will initially face when considering antelope in Montana is deciding upon their weapon of choice. The 900 series archery only tag is good nearly statewide and allows hunters to hit the field nearly three weeks ahead of the general tag holders. Hunters who are primarily interested in rifle hunting will see far greater restrictions on available hunting areas with each permit. Research becomes that much more important. 

Montana antelope population trends

Year Estimated population
2011 90,389
2012 100,631
2013 110,225
2014 121,696
2015 138,288
2016 159,215
2017 157,965
2018 136,762
2019 159,923

Current antelope herd condition

Montana current herd condition

Graphic provided by Montana FWP

Antelope herds in Montana are doing very well after large winterkill over the last few years. The winter of 2019/2020 has been mostly mild and winterkill is looking to be of small concern for biologists. Hunters can expect great hunting conditions for the 2020 seasons and good trophy potentials, depending on moisture for the remainder of the year.

Montana antelope harvest by region (2018)

Region Total harvest 2019 est. population
2 40 214
3 2,866 18,133
4 1,801 24,711
5 3,005 35,525
6 1,117 32,155
7 4,996 52,923

2019 data not available at the time of writing.

TOP MONTANA ANTELOPE B&C COUNTIES ALL-TIME - updated 2020


The hunt choices

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.

2020 Montana antelope season dates

Season Date
900 series archery only Aug. 15 to Nov. 8
General archery Sept. 5 to Oct. 9
General any legal weapon Oct. 10 to Nov. 8

The 900 series archery only

We’ve mentioned this tag a few times already, but it really deserves its own section to really break down the greatness here for archery hunters. Applicants who successfully draw the 900 series tag will have access to every single unit in the state with the exception of HD 215, 291, and 313. With this permit, the season begins a full three weeks ahead of the general archery season and allows the first crack at larger bucks for the year. Excellent spot and stalk or ground blind opportunities are available. The best part? This tag can be drawn with zero points for both residents and nonresidents. Quite honestly, if an archery hunt is what you are after, the 900 series tag is a no-brainer.

The 700 series any legal weapon permit

When viewing our table of antelope harvest by unit, you may have noticed that Region 7 (HD 701, 702, 703, 704 and 705) accounts for the largest portion of the yearly statewide harvest. The 700 series permit (2020 hunt code: 007-20) is valid in all of these districts found in Region 7 and is an exceptional tag for anyone to consider. Hunters will find lots of private land 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.

This tag can generally be drawn by residents with one to two points while nonresidents will generally need five points. Still, with Montana’s random lottery, there is always a chance to draw at zero points.

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 part of the state. While not always the case, these areas generally 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 hunt already planned in the area.


How to uncover hidden gem antelope districts

While there are certainly some areas that are better than others, the simple fact is that nearly every district in the state can produce mature antelope. Utilize Filtering 2.0 and manipulate the Trophy Potential to display the districts that have a legitimate chance at bucks that score 75” Boone & Crockett (B&C) or better. Customize your search and click on a specific district to access the Unit Profile in order to gain the greatest resource available to thoroughly learn an area. Our Montana Antelope Species Profile is another great way to determine other districts and regions of the state to consider.

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 proximity for some while others may be simply looking for the highest odds of filling a tag.

Top units for harvest success on Montana antelope*

HD Trophy
potential
Harvest
success
Public
land %
311 70"+ 100% 34%
480 75"+ 99% 24.9%
630 75"+ 98% 68.4%
530 70"+ 97% 17.8%
340 65"+ 95% 10.7%
650 70"+ 94% 17.6%
700 75"+ 94% 36.1%
690 75"+ 93% 19.1%
570 75"+ 90% 7.6%
*Montana FWP has not published data for the 2019 season as of this writing.
**Montana FWP does not differentiate between hunter success for archery or rifle as well as bucks or does.

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 5 705
Rosebud 3 701, 702, 704
Garfield 2 650, 700, 701
*15 other counties with one entry each.

Map of Montana's Antelope B&C all time entries 2020

Top B&C antelope locations since 2010 - Montana 2020 app strategy


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, here are some realistic options for hunters at various point levels and how to best use your points and time.

Montana antelope bonus points after the 2019 draw

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.

At this point level, the 700 series permit—good in 700, 701, 702, 703, 704 and 705—is accessible to residents within a few points and there’s still a decent 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 antelope draw odds with 0 points here

Find your nonresident 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 districts. Nonresidents will see good odds in several units and could easily land a good hunt. The 700 series rifle tag was at a respectable 99% odds in 2019 at five points.

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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