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How to purchase Montana bonus points and preference points

How to purchase Montana bonus points for hunting

Don't miss out on a chance to grab Montana bonus and preference points!

If you didn't apply for certain species in the main draw, or are new to hunting, you can purchase bonus points and nonresident preference points for Montana from July 1 through September 30. Purchasing these points will help you in the following years' draw.

This point only period does not allow you to gain more than one point per year as you cannot apply for a species and then purchase points for that same species in the same year. Hunters can only purchase bonus points for species which they have not yet applied for, and also a nonresident preference point if you didn't apply earlier in the year. For instance, if you did not apply for a bighorn sheep license, you can purchase a bighorn sheep bonus point. Any accumulated bonus points will not expire, but preference points are lost after two years of not applying for a nonresident Combination License.

Nonresidents who did not apply for a combination license during the main draw (deer, elk or the big game combo), may purchase a preference point to be used in next year’s combination drawing.

Purchase Montana points here

New for 2019/2020

New Montana 900-20 archery only Montana bonus point

You now have two different bonus point options for buck antelope and going forward, there will be two different draws for antelope in Montana. You can now get bonus points for the 900-20 archery-only hunt, and the normal antelope bonus point. Technically there are three options, as you can still pick up an antelope B bonus point.

  • For the 2020 draw, you can only apply for one permit or the other, just like before (A refresher: 900-20 must still needs to be your first and only choice if making this selection during the draw)
  • You can buy a point for both providing you did not apply for either
  • You can draw one permit in a year and purchase a point for the other during the same year

The difference 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.  

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Montana's point only fees

Below are the fees for purchasing bonus points and a nonresident preference point without applying for a license. There are no prerequisites to purchase the points.

Resident & nonresident bonus point fees

Species Resident Nonresident
Deer $15 $25
Elk $15 $25
Antelope $15 $25
Moose $15 $75
Bighorn sheep $15 $75
Mountain goat $15 $75
Preference Point* NA $50

* The nonresident preference point is for the nonresident combo tags (deer, elk and big game).

How to purchase bonus and preference points

You can purchase bonus points and nonresident preference points online here or at any FWP license provider.

Montana bonus points purchase screenshot
Screenshot of the Montana bonus point application page.
Montana nonresident preference points purchase screenshot
Screenshot of the Montana preference point purchase page. You can still purchase preference points for general nonresident combination licenses until September 30.

Note: This new system doesn't allow an additional opportunity to gain two bonus points in the same year because you cannot apply for and purchase bonus points in the same year.


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Nick A. - posted 11 hours ago on 07-16-2019 08:40:45 pm

Appreciate the explanation and help Brady! Thanks for all you guys do.

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 17 hours ago on 07-16-2019 02:13:22 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

@Gary - You can only shoot a whitetail OR a mule deer with a deer combo license.

@Shan - Unfortunately, you are probably out of luck. If you didn't check the box on your application to participate in the preference points program, then under the bonus point rules, you now cannot purchase a preference point during this points only period. Here is a direct quote from their wording, "If you did not apply for a license or permit you can purchase a bonus point for that license or permit from July 1st through September 30th.... Note: Note: You cannot apply and purchase bonus points in the same year."

If your account doesn't have an option to buy the nonresident preference point like in my screenshot above, then, unfortunately, you probably can't pick up the point. I'd definitely call FWP to confirm your account is showing the correct information.

It is one of those things that not many people are used to purchasing at the time of the draw, because up until a few years ago, you were basically throwing away $50. But I've been trying my best to get the word out on this on several of the INSIDER app strategy related articles.

Gary H. - posted 19 hours ago on 07-16-2019 12:44:53 pm

Can you shoot a whitetail AND a mule deer with a deer combo license?


Can you only shoot a whitetail OR a mule deer with a deer combo license?

Shan M. - posted 19 hours ago on 07-16-2019 12:44:39 pm

For the comment below - I was unsuccessful in the draw.

Shan M. - posted 19 hours ago on 07-16-2019 12:43:50 pm

Hey Brady. Question - If I applied for a NR Combo License do I automatically accumulate a PP?

If not, when can I buy one? When I open the FWP page it does not have the option to buy a PP and my FWP account shows my bonus points but shows 0 for PPs.

Thanks for the help!

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 20 hours ago on 07-16-2019 11:26:51 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

@Cody - That is correct. If you didn't apply a special draw permit hunt during the main draw, you are eligible to purchase bonus points during the points only period. You should be able to purchase your bonus points here:

@Gregory - No worries. I'm always around and willing to help. So what you need to do is figure out if you just want to hunt the general hunt districts in Montana for elk, or if you want to try for the special draw permit hunts. Permit elk hunts are typically the areas in the central part of the state, the breaks, and most of eastern Montana. General elk hunts are the ones found in western Montana.

To draw a general hunt, you would be using preference points.

To draw a special draw permit hunt, you need bonus points.

If you apply in the draw, you have the option to participate in the preference points or bonus points program at that time. And so you must elect to do that, as you can't purchase points in the summer for something you applied for in the winter.

@Nick - That is the problem with Montana. As a nonresident, who only wants a tag like HD 270... it is going to be very expensive! If you apply for HD 270, don't draw, get your bonus point, but you do draw a general deer tag. You can refund the general deer tag by August 1 for an 80% refund... but you have to lose a bunch of money each year just for a chance to hunt 270.

cody s. - posted 1 day ago on 07-15-2019 06:51:57 pm

I drew a combo general license for this fall using my preference points and didnt apply for the bonus points for deer/elk, can i still purchase them after drawing a general license?

Gregory F. - posted 1 day ago on 07-15-2019 06:06:02 pm

I am still a little confused. I am from VA and want to hunt in Montana eventually for elk and sheep. This would be my first year getting points, so do I put in for the bonus points or the preference points or both? Also it sounds like as long as i apply every year i will probably get a point or draw a good tag for applying in a tough unit?
Thanks and i know i am sort of asking the same question, but this seems the best way for me to understand it.

Nick A. - posted 1 day ago on 07-15-2019 05:33:09 pm

Thanks for the great write up, and please excuse my ignorance as I’m still a little confused. So this year, almost exactly like you used in your example, I applied for a unit 270 deer tag and only a unit 270. I anticipated not drawing, but earring a pref point. I figured I’d continue doing that and maybe some day hit the lotto and draw. So when the draws are released, as expected, I didn’t draw a 270 tag, but was given a general deer tag. I’m not complaining, and not wanting to refund it, but most years, I really just want to put in for the 270 tag, and if I don’t get that, earn a point. How can I go about doing this? Again, please excuse my ignorance

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 1 day ago on 07-15-2019 11:19:37 am
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

@Garrett - That is correct. You can purchase bonus points without applying and you will not lose your points. I have been building points for my brother for some species for a long time now and he hasn't been applying to draw the tag yet.

@Gary - You're very welcome!

Gary H. - posted 1 day ago on 07-15-2019 08:40:56 am


This is VERY interesting. Thanks for looking into it. You are answering a lot of my concerns.

Well done sir.

Garrett T. - posted 2 days ago on 07-15-2019 06:10:13 am

So can you accumulate BONUS points for multiple years without applying? Good info on the PP requirements. I would have been in a predicament.

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 2 days ago on 07-14-2019 11:47:14 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Hey Nickolas.

This is definitely a tough situation, as Montana is trying to make it so you can't build points without trying to draw a tag. Also, because of the wording that you can't go into the drawing for a nonresident combination license and elect to not participate in the preference points, as your accumulated points will still be burned. Here is a quote from the nonresident application packet, "Preference points accumulated will be used during the current drawing whether you purchase an additional preference point or not."

Applying, and not participating in the points period would make it so you can't purchase a preference point in the July 1 to September 30 points only period. But if you do apply on your third year, you could accidentally draw a tag.

Also, here is the direct quote from the 2019 Montana regulations, "Any accumulated preference points are lost after two years of not applying for a Nonresident Combination License.

Based on everything about Montana's draw system, here is what I believe you could do to ensure you don't lose your points.

You and your friends could each apply for the Elk Combination License and at the same time apply for a special Elk Permit hunt. Pick the hardest unit in the state to draw (you want it so you don't pull the permit, but doing so isn't the end of the world). So select either one of the breaks rifle tags, Bearpaws, or HD 380 and then on your application, select that if you don't draw the permit tag, you wish to receive an 80% refund. The problem with this, you will lose roughly $181.

That part about losing preference points after two years of not applying is pretty vague. But the way it reads to me, if you buy a point in 2019 and 2020. You need to apply in the 2021 main draw or you will lose those points.

To throw another wrench into things, here is a quote from their website which I'll link after the quote, "You can only purchase without applying for the combination license for 2 consecutive years. If you skip 3 years of applying for the combination license, all preference points are zeroed."

Sorry, it's so late at night, but I'll reach out to FWP to get a better answer.

Nicholas A. - posted 2 days ago on 07-14-2019 04:51:23 pm
Denver, CO

Thanks for the info, Brady! Always great information. I've been trying to find more detail around the preference point expiration, but I cant seem to find any. My crew and I are planning on hunting Montana in the coming years, likely 2022. We want to start building preference points, but don't want to lose them if we don't actually apply within two years.

Say we buy a point this summer, we would have 1 point going into the 2020 draw. We would not apply in 2020 as we will likely draw Wyoming. We would then buy another point in summer of 2020, giving us two points going into the 2021 draw. If we do not apply in 2021, would we lose those two points? Or, does the expiration occur if you do not apply in that third year, 2022 in this case? Essentially, if we are wanting to hunt Montana in 2022, do we buy a preference point this summer, or wait until next to start accumulating?

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 3 days ago on 07-13-2019 02:47:43 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

Hey Scott. Glad you enjoyed the article! So for Montana, you have general deer hunts and special draw permit deer hunts.

The general deer hunts use nonresident preference points and allow you to hunt all of the general hunt districts in Montana.

The special draw deer hunts use bonus points and to a degree, they will also burn your preference points when you draw the tag as you need to have a general combo license to get a permit license. But drawing that permit is based on squaring your bonus points to give you a better chance to draw that tag. These special draw deer hunts restrict you to only being able to hunt that one district. You cannot draw a special draw mule deer permit, and then decide that you want to hunt a general district in the same year. Not to add confusion, but if you draw a special draw elk permit, you could still hunt your permit district and also bounce around the state and hunt general districts.

If you just want to hunt general deer hunts in Montana. Then you would apply for a deer combination license or a big game combination license (gives you an elk and deer tag). If you draw this tag, it will then burn your two preference points. You would then still retain your deer bonus point (because you didn't apply for a permit district).

Now in Montana. Let's say you wanted to apply for one of the Bitterroot mule deer special draw permit districts. I'll use HD 270 for example. If you wanted to draw that tag, you'd first need to apply for and draw a general deer and burn your preference points, and then right after that, you would be entered in the draw for the HD 270 mule deer permit. Which is an extremely hard tag to get.

It's definitely a confusing system, but for a summary, if you just want to hunt deer in Montana in general hunt districts, then you'd apply for a deer combination or if you want to hunt elk and deer in the same year, then you should apply for the big game combination license. If you draw either of those (or the standalone, you will burn your nonresident preference points.

Hope that clears it up. Happy to help if you have other questions.

Scott K. - posted 4 days ago on 07-12-2019 09:23:52 pm
Damascus, Oregon

That is, if I have both bonus points and 2 preference points and I want to hunt deer, as a non-resident will I be applying in both a special draw and a combination license draw?

Scott K. - posted 4 days ago on 07-12-2019 09:13:45 pm
Damascus, Oregon

Thanks Brady. Great article. Another question though: Are bonus points and preference points used for different types of draws (species), or can they be applied to the same hunt? Thanks!

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 4 days ago on 07-12-2019 07:57:08 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

@Randy - Happy to help explain Montana points further if you'd like. Always willing to help any way I can. Montana definitely is a confusing state. If you wanted, you could still pick up bonus points for elk, antelope, sheep, moose and mountain goat. Those bonus points are good for antelope, the special draw permit hunts (non-general deer and elk) and the big three species (sheep, moose, goat). You are correct that because you have an elk/deer combo and mule deer permit, you cannot pick up a nonresident preferent point for the combo hunt.

@Brett - the elk permit bonus point is typically for the special draw bull elk permits. So it could be hunts located here on Filtering 2.0:

The elk permit bonus point is not for the general combination hunts, as those hunts you draw using preference points.

The Elk B bonus point is a cow elk point.

Brett A. - posted 4 days ago on 07-12-2019 07:04:25 pm
Las Vegas, NV

What's the difference between a ELK PERMIT bonus point and a ELK B bonus point ?

RANDY D. - posted 4 days ago on 07-12-2019 05:36:28 pm

I'm still confused. But I was successful for 2019 elk/deer combo and a mule deer permit. So apparently I can't purchase any points this year anyway. But thanks for the updates and all info! Very helpful always!

Brady J. Miller
Brady M. - posted 4 days ago on 07-12-2019 04:44:44 pm
Las Vegas, NV
goHUNT Team

You're very welcome!

Harold L. - posted 4 days ago on 07-12-2019 03:56:32 pm

Thanks Brady. Got mine done.