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APPLICATION STRATEGY 2020: Montana Elk

Montana's 2020 elk application overview

Jump to: NEW FOR 2020 Draw System Elk Breakdown HUNT CHOICES STATE INFO

The application deadline for Montana deer and elk permits and nonresident big game combos is April 1, 2020 by 11:59 pm MST. The application process is completely online here or in any Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (Montana FWP) office.

Note: We are publishing this application strategy article ahead of the regulation publish date. We wanted to give INSIDERs a jump start on their application strategy for Montana. Once the official 2020 regulations have been published, we can jump back in here and call out anything new as needed.

The 2020 regulations have recently been published. You can check them out here.

March 1 Update: The 2020 nonresident general combination worksheet can now be found here. And the nonresident deer and elk permit worksheet can be found here. The resident worksheet for deer and elk permits can be found here.


New for 2020

New draw deadline:

The draw deadline has been moved back by an additional two weeks to April 1, 2020. Read more details here.

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 offices.

New tag system

Hunters will now be able to print off any 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 within two weeks of each respective deadline.

Percentage of bulls with 6 points or more harvested in Montana - 2020


Proposed 2020 elk changes

For 2020, Montana FWP has proposed a large number of changes. Most of these are focused around unit boundary changes and adjusting quota ranges for antlerless tags. Hunters can find a complete list of proposals here and are encouraged to make sure nothing major has changed in their hunting district of choice. 

Commenting periods have ended for the proposals and the final commission meeting is set for February 13, 2020. Final regulations will generally be made available around mid-March.


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

Important dates and information

  • Applications for elk must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. MST on April 1.
  • Applications can be submitted online here after March 1, 2020.
  • 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 will be available by April 20, 2020.
  • Surplus licenses are available for purchase in early August.
  • 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.

Montana elk hunter numbers - 2020

Current weather/snowpack

Overall, this past winter in Montana has been fairly normal in terms of snowfall. Things are looking great for a good spring and calf recruitment should be good. Montana is often prone to late spring snowstorms although nothing too serious is predicted at this time.

2020

Montana 2020 current snowfall

2020 Montana snow water equivalent update as of February 18, 2020. Source: National Resources Conservation Service

2019

Montana snowfall 2019

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

Predators in Montana

The predator populations in Montana are often the subject of spirited debates with strong feelings on both sides of the spectrums. Wolf packs continue to maintain healthy population levels and have firmly rooted themselves into most of the western portion of the state. Elk populations are down throughout the state compared to historic levels, but great hunting can still be found.

Montana grizzly bear distribution map

**Montana grizzly bear distribution map

Grizzly populations continue to climb along with bear and hunter interactions. As of now, hunting seasons across the West are still on hold for grizzly bears. Much of western Montana is home to a roaming population of grizzlies and hunters need to be acutely aware and prepared when spending time in these locations.

Even with growing grizzly concerns, hunters can still find plenty of huntable areas where they won’t have to worry about grizzlies. When researching specific areas, a quick call to local biologists can be well warranted. 


The Montana draw system

Before delving into the trending hunt districts for Montana elk in 2020, 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; however, every applicant at every point level has a chance of drawing a tag every year. The bottom line: you’ll never draw if you never apply.

If you are not drawn for your deer, elk or big game combo for the 2020 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.

Montana 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 - Elk, conservation license, state lands, upland bird (excluding turkey), base hunting, AISPP and season fishing license.
  • Deer combination license - Deer, conservation, state lands, upland bird (excluding turkey), base hunting, AISPP and season fishing license.
  • Big game combination license - Deer, elk, conservation license, 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 75% of the tags are reserved for the highest point holders. The remaining 25% of the tags are then put into a random draw with the remaining applicants. The first few years of this system saw 100% draw odds and even leftover tags. Over the last few years, 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. With applicant numbers on the rise, the odds of even securing a leftover tag is becoming a questionable proposition. 

Nonresident combo tag draw odds

BIG GAME COMBO
3 points 2 points 1 point 0 points
100% 100% 77% 55%
ELK COMBO
3 points 2 points 1 point 0 points
100% 100% 75% 57%
DEER COMBO
3 points 2 points 1 point 0 points
100% 100% 100% 43%

Limited entry permits

Beyond the 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. Montana FWP 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 permits as a party. The maximum party size is five. When processing a party permit, the state will consider the average number of points between all of the party members and then round to the nearest whole number for a final party permit total. For example, a party with an average of 2.33 points would enter the draw at two points while a party with 2.66 points would enter at three.

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.

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 per species for residents and $25 for nonresidents. Moose, bighorn sheep and mountain goat points can be purchased at the same time for $75 per species. Additionally, nonresidents can purchase combination license preference points during the same timeframe 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.

Preference point tip

Montana offers applicants a unique opportunity to purchase preference points prior to the draw deadline for use in the current year application on nonresident combos. Essentially, if anyone is willing to front the extra $50 they can apply with at least one preference point every year.

The different between Montana's bonus and preference points

Bonus points

Montana has a bonus point system in place for all special permits (deer, elk, antelope, sheep, moose and mountain goat). Every year that you are unsuccessful in the drawing, and you participate in the bonus point system, you will be awarded a point. When you apply in the draw your accrued points are squared to increase the odds exponentially for the applicants with more accrued points. All base bonus points accumulate over time until you draw a permit.

Preference points

Montana also has a preference point system for nonresident Big Game Combination, Elk Combination, and Deer Combination Licenses. Preference points increase the chances of drawing a combination license and essentially move you ahead in line. 75% of all combination licenses awarded during the drawing will be issued to hunters with preference points. Anyone applying with three preference points will draw the license before anyone with two, and so on. Preference points accumulated will be used during the current drawing whether you purchase an additional preference point or not.


Montana's 2020 elk breakdown

Montana’s elk populations have been decent over the past few years, but still continue to struggle in some areas — most notably in Regions 1 and 2. Elk populations statewide are not where they were 15 years ago but great hunting can still be found with some research. A large majority of the state is now within — or higher than — the population objective set by the biologists and the overall condition of herds have continually increased in recent years.

Montana region by region elk harvest breakdown - updated 2020

Current 2020 elk herd condition

Elk population objective status (number) - 2019 Montana FWP

Elk Population Objective Status (Number) 2019. Source: Montana FWP

Trophy potential for elk in Montana is good, particularly for a general tag, but it is important to keep in mind that Montana is a state that is managed for opportunity. Most hunters should expect that the general opportunity on a bull elk will be younger raghorns and the simple truth of the matter is that most units can produce some incredible bulls every year. There’s always the opportunity to stumble into a giant. A few select limited entry units routinely spit out bulls above the 370” Boone & Crockett (B&C) mark. 

Private lands and ranches will generally provide the best opportunity for trophy bulls; however, there is an incredible amount of public and roadless lands available in the state for those willing to put in the work.

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

Montana elk populations by region

Region Population Notes
1 3,313 This region has been struggling the last several years with populations really taking a dip. Hunting in this region can be tough due to the extreme vegetation and steep terrain.
2 22,139 Region 2 has some quality hunting although predation is still a large issue and higher populations of elk can be found elsewhere. Vegetation can be dense and terrain steep, but there is plenty of elk pressured to be found for those willing to work for it.
3 56,270 Region 3 has the highest elk population and, consequently, the highest number of hunters. In general, far more glassing opportunities will be found here. Escaping pressure can be more difficult in this region, but the payoff can be great.
4 31,944 Region 4 is often overlooked, but has some exceptional hunting opportunity. Large ranches will be somewhat more prevalent, but good elk numbers and lower predator numbers can lead to some quality hunting.
5 14,227 A lot of Region 5 will be comprised of huge expanses of private land; however, there is a fair amount of roadless country to explore, too. Some great bulls are taken in this region every year although most of these will be found on private land.
6 2,941 Region 6 has the lowest number of elk although the elk habitat in and of itself is smaller and densities in these areas remain good. The primary focus for hunters in this area will generally fall along the famed Missouri River Breaks. In actuality, some of the biggest bulls in the state will be killed in Region 6 every year.
7 3,723 Region 7 has been coming on stronger in recent years and the elk populations have been growing. These hunting districts are largely comprised of private lands, but some good public is still available. The reigning world record bull was killed in 2016 in Region 7.

Montana statewide elk harvest - 2020

Montana statewide elk 6 point or better harvest - 2020


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 2020

Top B&C typical elk locations since 2010 - Montana 2020 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 rocky mountain elk locations since 2010 - Montana 2020 app strategy


The hunt choices

General season

The general season tag is really the prize jewel in Montana. The biggest bulls are routinely found on some of the better limited entry hunts, but the quality of most of these hunts rarely exceeds what can be found in the general units. Hunters — particularly those who invest several years into a particular area — can find some exceptional hunting on general tags.

General season hunts are available as over-the-counter (OTC) for residents, but must be drawn through the elk combination or big game combination license by nonresidents. Hunting areas can become crowded in general units, but those willing to put in some effort can largely escape any outside hunting pressure. While living in western Montana, I could generally go a whole season, including archery and rifle, and see less than ten people a year in the field. However, this was done simply by targeting areas that could be day hunted. The main point being that with some careful research it’s possible to have areas almost entirely to yourself.

Draw odds and patterns seemed to have leveled some in Montana and, for 2020, hunters with two or more preference points should still be able to pull a tag without issue. The random odds at one preference point should still be good, but could see a slight dip.

goHUNT's hitlist for general units in Montana
(not in order of quality)

Hunt District Trophy potential Hunters surveyed* Bulls harvested 6 point or better % Public land %
442 340”+ 732 61 36% 86.2%
300 320”+ 1,567 248 46% 73.5%
301 320”+ 1,087 80 24% 86.6%
319 320”+ 1,368 119 39% 80.1%
324 320”+ 1,463 137 53% 88.7%
327 320”+ 1,157 106 48% 73.6%
331 320”+ 1,921 112 38% 80.9%
332 320”+ 1,417 97 32% 80.9%
350 320”+ 1,197 53 36% 82.9%
362 320”+ 820 77 38% 75.1%

*Montana does not differentiate between bull or cow only hunters when reporting hunter numbers. Harvest success can be skewed due to this.

Most of these areas have a good deal of roadless country available to hunt. Backcountry areas are aplenty; however, don’t overlook small areas within striking distance of a road for quick day trips, too. The probability of encountering grizzlies will be the highest in Hunt District 442, 362, 332, 324, 327 and 319. The odds will be slim to none in the remainder of the units on the list, but being prepared is never a bad idea.

The units on this list are mostly handpicked for hunters simply looking to experience elk hunting with a decent chance of coming home with a legal bull. Other units in the state can certainly provide higher opportunities at larger and more mature bulls, but hunters may have to jump over some hurdles, including private land access, low elk densities or extreme backcountry. 

Limited entry

Like many other states, the largest bulls in Montana will generally come off of limited entry units. When first diving into some of the limited entry units it’s important to realize that a limited opportunity doesn’t always equate to better bulls. In some areas of the state, elk densities are lower so the state put limits on the number of hunters in the field. Additionally, elk populations may be too heavy on other districts so the state issues unlimited permits in an attempt to entice a larger crowd of hunters.

In general, when targeting the largest bulls in the state, only a handful of units will truly offer hunters a unique hunting opportunity. This small selection of quality units forces long-time applicants into the same hunts year after year. Without a true preference point system for permits you are playing the odds game every year — no matter your point level.

All things considered, applying for permits is cheap if you are already planning on hunting with the general tag so throwing your name in the hat is a no brainer. 

goHUNT's hitlist for limited entry units in Montana
(not in order of quality)

Hunt District Trophy potential Hunters surveyed* Bulls harvested 6 point or better % Public land %
380 370”+ 3,443 281 22%** 39.4%
310 360”+ 752 94 53% 98%
690 360”+ 351 32 88% 11.1%
410 350”+ 2,355 270 58% 47.1%
447 350”+ 1,015 80 84% 21.1%
417 340”+ 626 85 92% 37.5%
621 340”+ 713 46 87% 77.6%
622 340”+ 712 77 60% 73.4%
631 340”+ 303 34 50% 80.7%
632 340”+ 185 10 20% 86%

*Montana does not differentiate between bull or cow only hunters when reporting hunter numbers. Harvest success can be skewed due to this.
**HD380 allows hunters to use their general take on spike elk only. This can greatly skew the 6 point or better percentages and hunters surveyed number.

HD380: This is arguably one of the most popular limited draw districts in Montana and for a good reason. The area routinely spits out some giant bulls every year, especially for those who can gain some private access. Those who draw the permit can hunt both the archery and rifle seasons if desired. Due to the popularity of this unit, the draw odds are intimidating, even with maximum points. In 2019, applicants in either the resident or nonresident pool with maximum points were still under 10% odds of drawing.

HD310: This hunting district offers both a permit and general hunting opportunity. The permit is good for the Gallatin Special Management Area, commonly referred to as the “buffer zone,” which sits on the border of Yellowstone National Park. Only five permits are given out for this area; however, hunters will be treated to an incredible migration corridor and the potential for a bull of a lifetime.

HD690: Permits drawn in this district are also good in HD680 although the majority of bulls are generally killed in 690. There are archery only permits and rifle only permits available. The large majority of lands in either district are private, but savvy hunters can find some excellent opportunities on public land. Every year, several bulls over 380” will be taken — particularly on the archery hunt — with 400” bulls not entirely uncommon. Out of all of the big bull units, either of these permits carries better odds than most others.

HD 410 and 417: There are two permits available for each of these districts. One will allow hunters to hunt during both the archery and rifle season while the other is archery only but is valid in both districts. The archery only permit can be drawn with just a handful of points for residents and anywhere from six to eight points for nonresidents. The multi-season permits will take near the maximum number of points. Either of these districts will offer hunters the opportunity to hunt in the famed Missouri River Breaks.

HD447: This district is often referred to as the Highwood Mountains. A multi-season permit is available in this district along with the 900 series archery only permit. Hunters with a general tag can hunt antlerless elk during these seasons and can increase some of the hunting pressure. There is a good deal of roadless country in here for hunters willing to work for it although many of the largest bulls will be taken on private land every year. 

HD 621 and 622: There are three permit options available for both of these hunting districts. An archery only permit is available that is valid in 620, 621 and 622 as well as a rifle only permit valid in the same districts. Additionally, each district also offers a rifle only permit valid only in that unit. Holders of the multi-unit permits may not hunt on the Charles M. Russell Refuge. These hunts take place on the northern side of the Missouri River Breaks. For hunters looking for unique hunting experiences outside of general units while not having to wait years to pull a top-tier unit, this can be an excellent option.

HD 631 and 632: There are two options for permits available in either of these districts: archery only or rifle only. Both permits are good in their respective districts as well as HD630. The archery only permits are very popular among residents as they allow opportunities to hunt the famous Missouri River Breaks and can be drawn every few years. Nonresidents will generally be held to hunting every five years or so. For hunters looking for unique hunting experiences outside of general units while not having to wait years to pull a top-tier unit, this can be an excellent option. 

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 Hunt Districts: 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. This permit must be listed as your first and second choice on your application.


How to find hidden gem elk areas in Montana

With so many options for hunting elk in Montana, the question of where to go can be a big dilemma. Because there are so many terrain features, hunters can really almost pick and choose a hunt to fit any desires they may have. This can include open sage country, deep and almost jungle-like timber, extreme backcountry, and so on. As stated earlier, hunters shouldn’t expect a ton for trophy quality in most of the general units, but the unique opportunity to take bulls over the 320” benchmark is still highly plausible at the same time. 

With some thorough research, hunters can find excellent hunting in general units, which can be a great way to bolster confidence as they wait for their name to be drawn for a coveted tag. 

Use our Filtering 2.0 tool to search historical data and find a hunt that is correct for you. Utilize the trophy potential slider, public land filter and bulls harvested to really filter down the options. After hunting Montana for most of my life, there are a few key things I like to look for in a general unit:

My best tips for selecting a hunting area

Elk habitat This is an obvious no-brainer, but deserves its own spot in the limelight. We all know that elk need three things: food, water shelter. If you can find all three of those in close proximity you will generally find elk or elk sign. Even if something looks incredible on your maps it’s always important to keep one thing in mind when in the field: “Elk are where you find them.” Stay flexible while hunting. If you aren’t seeing sign then move.
Maintained trails Maintained trails can be a great way to quickly access some of the backcountry areas. However, these areas will also attract other hunters and those with livestock. I will utilize trails from time to time; however, if my true destination includes a trail in the immediate area I’ll cross it off the list. Instead, consider basins you have to hike from the trail to reach and you will find yourself with far less competition.
Roads Again, this is another no-brainer, but locating areas with less road activity will increase the likelihood of finding elk. The average hunter in Montana will generally not venture much more than a mile or mile and a half from a road — even less, if the going is tough. Western Montana is full of closed logging and mining roads; these can be excellent options for accessing deep basins, but will also draw some attention. In my experience, most hunters utilizing these closed roads will simply walk the roads and bugle. Getting off the beaten path could lead to some exciting action.
Ease of access This is perhaps my biggest piece of advice. Don’t immediately look for the deepest and nastiest terrain you can find. There is nothing wrong with that, but hunters will often walk past elk to find elk. Some of my better spots in Montana were close to roads, but brutal to get into. Sometimes, even a square mile of good habitat that is unpressured will hold some incredible hunting action. Looking for areas where a massive climb is needed from the truck will weed out nearly all other competition. My mantra has always been “If it looks terrible to hike into then there is a high chance of finding elk there.” A lot of guys like to hunt the backcountry, but there is a definitive zone between the road hunters and the hardcore guys where good elk will live and die every year.

Montana statewide elk harvest
(Includes bulls and cows)

Year Harvest success
2010 24%
2011 20%
2012 20%
2013 19%
2014 24%
2015 27%
2016 22%
2017 27%
2018 25%

*2019 data not yet available

Managing points and expectations

2020 points

MONTANA RESIDENT ELK BONUS POINTS GOING INTO THE 2020 DRAW

MONTANA NONRESIDENT ELK BONUS POINTS GOING INTO THE 2020 DRAW

MONTANA ELK BONUS POINTS GOING INTO THE 2020 DRAW

I have 0 preference points. What can I expect?

Last year, applicants in the zero point preference pool saw about a 50/50 shot of pulling a combo license. 2020 will likely be more of the same although it would not be surprising to see a slight dip. One caveat to the Montana preference point system is that hopeful applicants can actually purchase a preference point going into the draw. Effectively, anyone could put in with at least one point every year. The cost for this point is $50, which is a small percentage of the total bill and well worth the extra cost if you are planning to hunt the state.

Find your nonresident big game combo draw odds here

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

Last year, applicants at the one point level saw odds in the 75% range on combo hunts while those at the two point level and up were at 100%. Again, this trend will likely stay the same for 2020, but we could begin to see the random odds trickling into the two-point level as well. 

Find your nonresident big game combo draw odds here

Permit elk tags

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% even for residents.

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!

Some of the unlimited permit districts can be a good option; however, drawing these will not allow a hunter to gain or accrue a point. Additionally, drawing one of these permits will forfeit any points you may have been holding. In the western half of the state, Hunt District 270 is an unlimited district and can be a great choice. A good chunk of elk found in that district will be residents, but later in the year — particularly with heavy snows — this area becomes a massive migration corridor and new elk will continually pour in. Hunting pressure can be high, but those willing to work around the crowds can be greatly rewarded.

In general, at this point level, if you have a desired top-tier district you’d like to hunt, then your best bet is to say a prayer and throw your name in the hat. 

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.

Some good options here will include the Missouri River Breaks tags in Hunt Districts: 410, 417 620, 621, 622, 630, 631 or 632. Additionally, at this point level, nonresidents stand a great chance of drawing the 900 series archery tag.

Residents closer to the eight point mark are almost sitting in no man’s land. Here, they can burn some points and draw a tag that will generally take under five or continue to hang onto their points in hopes of getting lucky in the random odds on a top-tier unit. 

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.

Applicants at the high tier point levels will generally be focusing on hunts in 310, 380, 680, and 690. The archery only tags in 680/690 carry some great odds and can provide exceptional hunting opportunities. 

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