Montana is home to Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, and a few more major parks. With plenty of mountains and generous snowfall in winter, it is a prime destination for skiing, especially for those who want to avoid the crowds in Colorado. The eastern part of the state offers gently rolling plains.
Getting past the traditional tourism areas, Montana’s reputation as a hunting destination puts it on a bucket list for many hunters. A major reason the species found in few other places in the nation. They are: bison, wolf, mountain lion, bighorn sheep, and mountain goats. More traditional game animals have strong populations and hunters see good success, especially when using Montana hunting guides and outfitters.
The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department offers a “hunt planner” to help you decide what to hunt and where.
The state is divided into regions. Click here for a full list of game and huntable animals in the Big Sky Country state. Licenses can be draw or over-the-counter depending on the species.
Wolf hunting is one of the most popular hunts in the state, despite an extremely low success rate. The 2019 season saw 17,000 licenses issued and less than 350 of the top predators actually killed. Just over half went to hunters and slightly less than half to trappers. Region 1 in the northwest corner of the state has the highest population density.
Wolves are not coyotes. A mature wolf can top 200 pounds and has a thickly matted fur coat. You must hunt with a weapon capable of bringing down a big deer. A .223 is not sufficient. A .300 WinMag is not too much gun for these top predators. Wolves are also wary and much harder to hunt than coyotes. Northwest Sportsman has a list to 10 tips to help you bag one. Wolf permits are over-the-counter.
Big Game Hunts
Big Sky Country allows mountain lion hunts. Permits are over-the-counter for most districts. Some districts have a drawing for a license. You can attempt to stalk hunt these big cats, but they are masters at disappearing. Montana hunting guides and outfitters who use dogs have the most successful cougar hunts. “Over the past 15 years, about 450 cats have been harvested a year, most of them by hunters using hounds to track the lions, the most effective hunting method,” says the Great Falls Tribune.
Montana’s other big game includes bear, deer, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep and mountain goats.
Bighorn sheep hunts are drawing only and a hot commodity. Getting a license is tough as the New York Times story reports. Considering the long odds of getting one of these permits and the expense if you get selected, using a guide only makes sense.
Mountain goat hunting is also a draw. Like the bighorns, these ungulates prefer mountains and places where they can see predators coming from a long way.
Open spaces is another trait shared by the pronghorn, also called a goat. These hunts are draw and are limited to certain districts.
Firearms hunters prefer long-range weapons on these three game animals. Shots of more than 500 yards are common. Rifles that can reach those distances with enough knockdown power are needed. They include hard-hitters like the .300 WinMag or smaller rounds with plenty of range like the .250-3000 Savage. The old .25-06 is another caliber that certainly fills the bill for these long-distance shots.
Montana is one of few places that allows hunters to take Sandhill cranes and swan. Both are draw hunts. Cranes have 500 permits a year and swans have 1,000 permits spread across regions. These are big birds, bigger than geese. Hunters need magnum loads. A 10 gauge with BB to FF shot is appropriate. Make sure you pattern your gun before hunting these birds.
The state also has wild turkey. It has two subspecies, the Merriam and the Eastern. Neither is native to Montana. The Merriam was brought in by state biologists and the Eastern was brought in privately. The state offers a spring and fall hunt. As with all turkey hunting, camo is essential. Tight patterns for shotguns is a requirement. Bowhunters find great success using turkey-specific broadheads.
Montana Hunting Trips
Make the most of your Montana hunt. Get a professional guide who can put you on the game you want with the least amount of effort on your part. HuntAnywhere.com has the guides; you have the desire. Let’s talk.