Application Strategy 2023: Montana antelope
Note: The application deadline for Montana antelope is June 1, 2023 at 11:45 p.m MT. The application process is done completely online here or at any Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) office.
View important information and an overview of the Montana rules/regulations, the draw system, 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.
- Applications for antelope must be submitted by 11:45 p.m. MT on June 1, 2023.
- Applications can be submitted online here.
- An 80% refund can be requested on nonresident licenses if requested by Aug. 1, 2023.
- A 50% refund can be requested on nonresident licenses if requested after Aug. 1, 2023.
- Draw results for the 900 Series tag are slated to be available by mid-June 2023.
- Draw results for the general tag are slated to be available by early August 2023.
- 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.
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. When purchasing points only during the points only period, an applicant does not need to purchase any prerequisite licenses.
How do my bonus points work?
Montana runs solely on a bonus point system via a random lottery drawing for antelope. A few years ago, Montana began squaring each applicant's points in an effort to weigh 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 2023 ANTELOPE BREAKDOWN
Montana is often overshadowed by the big buck producing states of Wyoming, Arizona and Nevada, but the simple fact is that Montana offers an insane amount of opportunity along with a healthy density of good mature bucks. 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 with permits along with lower drawing odds in general. When you really start breaking down antelope in Montana, research becomes that much more important.
Harvest trends for Montana antelope
|Year||Bucks killed||Does/fawns killed||Total|
Current antelope herd condition
The 2022/2023 winter has definitely been harder in many parts of the West. Montana has largely escaped the big winterkill storms, but the state has definitely received more snow than in previous years. Some units will have some slight impacts; however, overall, antelope in Montana are doing good and 2023 should be another great season.
Montana antelope population trends
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.
2023 Montana antelope season dates
|900 Series archery only||Aug. 15 to Nov. 12|
|General archery||Sept. 2 to Oct. 6|
|General rifle||Oct. 7 to Nov. 12|
The 900 Series archery only permit
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 Hunting Districts (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 a small handful of points for both residents and nonresidents. Quite honestly, if an archery hunt is what you are after, then the 900 Series tag is a no-brainer.
The 700 Series any legal weapon permit
Every season, Region 7 (HD 701, 702, 703, 704 and 705) accounts for the largest portion of the yearly statewide antelope harvest. The 700 Series permit (2023 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 lots of other 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.
For 2023, this permit is getting a slight bump in tag numbers, which should help draw odds.
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 for some may merely boil down to proximity from cities while others may be simply looking for the highest odds of filling a tag.
Top units for harvest success on Montana antelope in 2022*
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.
When looking at Montana antelope, it is important to note that there are essentially three different point options available: the 900 Series archery only point, the general tag point and the antelope B license (doe/fawn) point. Hunters can apply for either the 900 Series archery tag or a general tag, but not both.
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 phenomenal draw odds and can be used nearly statewide.
At this point level, the 700 Series permit is likely out of reach with the tag cuts for this year; however, with Montana’s draw system, this is still a good hunt to apply for. 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.
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 permit will still likely be among the best bets.
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.