APPLICATION STRATEGY 2020: Montana Antelope
Montana's 2020 antelope application overview
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
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.
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.
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.
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
Current antelope herd condition
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|
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
|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*
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.
Montana's top B&C producing counties since 2010 for antelope
|Rosebud||3||701, 702, 704|
|Garfield||2||650, 700, 701|
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.
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.
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.
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.