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Resident and Nonresident Licensing Requirements

  • You must have a current Montana wildlife conservation license before purchasing any hunting, fishing, or trapping license.
  • You must provide your Social Security number along with the other information required for a Conservation License. This requirement applies to residents and nonresidents, including youth.
  • It is unlawful to swear to or to affirm a false statement in order to obtain a resident hunting/fishing license.
  • Only one license of any type may be purchased each year, unless specified otherwise (i.e., you may purchase more than one deer B License).
  • Youth under 14 years of age must be accompanied by a person having charge or custody of the child or under the supervision of a qualified firearms safety instructor or an adult who has been authorized by the parent or guardian when carrying or using in public any firearms for any reason.
  • A resident or nonresident who is 12 years of age or older or who will turn 12 years old before or during the season for which the license is issued, is entitled to purchase a deer A, deer B, elk and/or black bear license prior to turning 12 years of age.
  • Resident youth 14 years old who purchase a discounted general deer or elk license, may use the license throughout the season, even if they turn 15 years old during the season.
  • All licenses and permits must be signed before they are valid.
  • Licenses and permits must be carried on your person and hunters are prohibited from loaning or transferring their license to another person or using a license issued to another person.


Hunter Education for Firearm and Archery

  • If you are 12-17 years of age, you must show proof of completing a hunter education program before purchasing any hunting license. Montana youth must provide a Montana-issued certificate. (New residents of Montana 12-17 years of age should check with their local FWP office to determine if their out-of-state hunter education certificate can be transferred to a Montana certificate.)
  • To receive a Montana-issued certificate of completion for the Hunter Education Program, a youth must be at least 11 years of age.
  • If you are purchasing a Montana bow & arrow license, you must show proof of an NBEF Bowhunter Education Certificate or present any prior year's bow hunting/archery stamp, tag, permit, or license from any state or province.
  • Duplicate Certificates of Completion for the Hunter Education and Bowhunter Education course may be obtained from the FWP website.


Hunting Access Enhancement Fee

  • The 2001 Legislature created this new fee for those who purchase a Montana hunting license.
  • The purpose is to help maintain and enhance hunting access to public and private lands statewide through programs like Access Montana and Block Management and other special hunting access projects.
  • This is a one-time annual fee -- $2 for residents and $10 for nonresidents -- and will be charged at the time the hunter purchases his/her first hunting license (including upland game and migratory bird).


General License Information

  • Hunters must possess licenses and permits while in the field and produce them if requested by Enforcement personnel.
  • Wildlife taken must be shown to Enforcement personnel for inspection when requested.
  • Licenses and permits are nontransferrable and generally nonrefundable.
  • It is unlawful for a person to carry or have physical control over a valid and unused hunting license or permit issued to another person while in any location that the species to be hunted may inhabit.

Party or Group Hunting

  • Party hunting is not legal in Montana; each hunter must shoot his/her own animal.
  • Hunters are prohibited from loaning or transferring their license to another person or using a license issued to another person. You cannot use your license to tag a big game animal that was killed by someone else.


Hunting Hours

  • Authorized hunting hours for the taking of big game animals begin one-half hour before sunrise and end one-half hour after sunset each day of the hunting season.
  • Clothing Color
  • For all big game hunting, including mountain lion and black bear, any person hunting or accompanying hunters as an outfitter or guide must wear a minimum of 400 square inches of hunter orange (fluorescent) material above the waist visible at all times.


Glandular Scents

  • Natural or artificial glandular scents may be used by licensed hunters to attract game animals or game birds by spraying or pouring scent on the ground or other objects. Hunters may not create a scent station where the scent continues to be dispensed without the hunter's direct action, such as an automatic device which drips or otherwise continues to dispense scent. Scents may not be used to attract bears. No scents other than glandular may be used for attracting animals, but other scents may be used to mask human odor.

Method Of Taking

  • Hunters are prohibited from hunting or taking any game animals by the aid or with the use of any set gun, jacklight or other artificial light, trap, snare, scent stations, bait or salt lick, nor may any such aforementioned device to entrap or entice game animals be used, made, or set.
  • It is unlawful to discharge a firearm or other hunting implement at a simulated wildlife decoy in violation of any state statute or commission rule regulating the hunting of the wildlife being simulated MCA 87-3-109.


Two-way communication

  • Two-way communication may not be used to: 1) hunt big game animals as defined in MCA 87-2-101(8) ("Hunt" means to "pursue, shoot, wound, kill, chase, lure, possess or capture.") OR 2) avoid game checking stations, FWP enforcement personnel, or to facilitate unlawful activity. When hunting mountain lions or bobcats with dogs, this rule applies when hounds are placed on tracks in a district open to lion or bobcat harvest. The rule shall not be interpreted to prohibit the possession or use of two-way radios for safety or other legitimate purposes, nor does it prohibit the use of radio tracking equipment to locate hounds when hunting mountain lions or bobcats.



  • Caliber: There is no caliber limitation during the general big game hunting season (except as specified under shotgun) for the taking of big game animals in Montana. Match the caliber and firearm to the size of the animal hunted.
  • The use of poisonous, explosive, or deleterious substances on or in any bullet or projectile is prohibited.
  • Shotgun: Hunters are prohibited from shooting deer or elk with shotguns, except with lead loads of 0 buck or larger, or rifled slugs.
  • Restrictions for muzzleloader and traditional handgun areas only:
  • Muzzleloader: A muzzleloader must meet the following criteria:
    • It must not be capable of being loaded from the breech of the barrel.
    • It may not be loaded with any prepared paper or metallic cartridges.
    • It must be charged with black powder, pyrodex, or an equivalent.
    • It must be ignited by a percussion, flintlock, matchlock, or wheelock mechanism.
    • It must be a minimum of .45 caliber.
    • It may have no more than 2 barrels.
    • It must use lead projectiles only, no sabots.
  • Traditional Handguns: A traditional handgun:
  • is not capable of being shoulder mounted;

    has a barrel of less than 10 1/2 inches;

    chambers only a straight wall cartridge,not originally developed for rifles.


  • Crossbows may be used during the general rifle season and in most weapons restricted areas during the GENERAL rifle season. They are prohibited during the Archery Season - ArchEquip only season.



  • Hunters may hunt with a bow and arrow during the general rifle season. However, they must conform to the rifle season regulations which includes drawing a special permit in special permit areas. This also includes wearing a minimum of 400 square inches of hunter orange (fluorescent) material above the waist.
  • All legally described deer and elk hunting districts are open to archery hunting during the Archery Season - ArchEquip only season. Exceptions are noted under the specific hunting district regulations.
  • General deer A license holders may hunt deer as listed under the specific hunting district regulations.
  • Deer B or landowner sponsored nonresident deer combination license holders may hunt during the Archery Season - ArchEquip only but are restricted to the district, sex, species, etc., listed on the license.
  • Elk license holders may hunt elk as listed under the specific hunting district regulations.
  • Hunters who receive a special permit to hunt deer or elk during all or any portion of the general season (Oct. 26-Nov 30), may archery hunt for the species and sex indicated on the permit or license during the Archery Season - ArchEquip only season unless specifically prohibited in the hunting district regulations.
  • Any chemical or explosive device attached to an arrow to aid in the taking of wildlife is prohibited during rifle or Archery Season - ArchEquip only season.
  • A bow and arrow license, plus the proper hunting license, is required of all hunters during the Archery Season - ArchEquip only season.
  • Purchasing a Montana bow & arrow license: All bowhunters MUST:
    • Provide a copy of an NBEF Bowhunter Education Certificate OR
    • Provide any prior year's bowhunting/archery stamp, tag, permit, or license from any state or province. If you cannot produce this license, you can sign an affidavit stating that you previously purchased such a license from any state or province. This affidavit then entitles you to purchase a duplicate license, which will allow you to purchase a current year's Montana bow and arrow license.
  • All bowhunters 12-17 years of age must show proof of completing a hunter education program before purchasing any hunting license.

Hunter Orange Requirement

  • Bowhunters pursuing moose, sheep, goat, black bear, and/or mountain lion must wear a minimum of 400 square inches of hunter orange (flourescent) above the waist.
  • Any person hunting or accompanying hunters as an outfitter or guide must wear a minimum of 400 square inches of hunter orange (fluorescent) material above the waist visible at all times.
  • Bowhunters pursuing deer, elk, and/or antelope during the Archery Season - ArchEquip only are not required to meet the hunter orange clothing requirements.
  • Archery Equipment (ArchEquip)
  • It shall be illegal to possess, while hunting big game during any Archery Season - ArchEquip only season, archery equipment that does not meet the following criteria:
    • Hunting Bow - A hunting bow for big game shall be a longbow, flatbow, recurve bow, compound bow, or any combination of these designs meeting the following requirements and restrictions:
      • The bow must be a device for launching an arrow, which derives its propulsive energy solely from the bending and recovery of two limbs (includes bows with split limbs).
      • The bow must be hand drawn by a single and direct uninterrupted pulling action of the shooter. The bowstring must be moved from brace height to the full draw position by the muscle power of the shooter's body. The energy used to propel the arrow shall not be derived from any other source such as hydraulic, pneumatic, mechancial, or similar devices. These limitations shall not exclude the mechanical leverage advantage provided by eccentric wheels or cams so long as the available energy stored in the bent limbs of the bow is the sole result of a single, continuous, and direct pulling effort by the shooter.
      • The bow must be hand-held. One hand shall hold the bow and the other hand draw the bowstring. The bowstring must be moved and/or held at all points in the draw cycle entirely by muscle power of the shooter until release. The bowstring must be released as a direct and conscious action of the shooter either relaxing the tension of the fingers or triggering the release action of a hand-held release aid. Exception: Physically disabled bowhunters shall be exempted from the requirement of holding or shooting the bow with their hands.
      • The bow shall be no shorter than 28 inches.
      • The nominal percent of let-off for hunting bows shall be a maximum of 80 percent. It is recognized that variations in draw length and/or draw weight can affect the percent of let-off on compound bows. For these reasons minor variations in let-off are acceptable.
      • The following shall not be considered a hunting bow:
        • A crossbow
        • Any device with a gun-type stock or incorporating any device or mechanism that holds the bowstring at partial or full draw without the shooter's muscle power.
        • Any bow for which a portion of the bow's riser (handle) or any track, trough, channel, or other device that attaches directly to the bow's riser contacts, supports, and/or guides the arrow from a point rearward of the bow's brace height. This is not intended to restrict the use of standard overdraw systems.
      • Arrow - an arrow shall be a projectile at least 20 inches in overall length. The length of the arrow shall be measured from the rearward point of the nock to the tip of the broadhead.
        • Fletching shall be attached to the shaft end.
        • A broadhead shall be mounted on the fore end.
        • The arrow shall weigh no less than 300 grains with the broadhead attached.
        • Arrows must have broadheads with at least two cutting edges. The broadhead must be at least 7/8 inches at the widest point, and weigh no less than 70 grains.
    • Exclusions: The following archery equipment is prohibited during the Archery Season - ArchEquip only season:
      • Electronic or battery-powered devices attached to a hunting bow.
      • A bow sight or arrow which uses artificial light, luminous chemicals such as tritium or electronics.

    The following archery equipment is prohibited during any season:

    • Any chemical or explosive device attached to an arrow to aid in the taking of wildlife.


Permit To Modify Archery Equipment (PTMAE)

  • The PTMAE allows a person with a disability to use archery tackle that supports the bow, and draws, holds, and releases the string to accommodate the individual disability (arrows are not exempt, and would still need to meet current requirements for the archery season). The person is required to meet eligibility criteria established by FWP. Contact FWP at 406-444-2535 for more information or to obtain an application.



Procedures To Follow Upon Harvesting An Animal


License Validation and Tagging

  • IMMEDIATELY after harvesting a game animal, hunters must cut out the proper month and day of the harvest from the appropriate license and attach it to the animal in a secure and visible manner.
  • To properly validate a license, locate the appropriate month and day the animal was killed and completely cut away (notch out) the month and day designations. The license example shown has been properly validated for an animal taken on November 23. Be careful! The correct and appropriate month and day designations must be removed completely from the license. Removing more than one month or one day designation invalidates the license. It is recommended that black electricians tape be used to secure the license to the animal's leg or antlers.
  • The properly validated license/tag shall remain with the meat until consumed (including cold storage). If quartered, the license/tag should remain with the carcass or largest portion of the carcass. See ·or ·for proper tagging of those species.



Evidence of Game Animal's Sex

An important and proven wildlife management technique is the ability to adjust, through regulated harvest, the ratio of male to female animals within a population. This management strategy is the primary solution to issues involving population health, vitality, and growth as well as issues involving increasing or decreasing specific populations for such reasons as landowner tolerance, hunter opportunity, range and forage preservation, and other critical management principles.

  • Regulations requiring persons to provide evidence of sex of the harvested animal in a specific fashion are written so that department personnel can determine, under field conditions, whether a person is in compliance with the overall restrictions affecting harvest regulations. These are:
    • It is illegal to possess or transport the carcass of any big game animal unless evidence of the animal's sex and species remains naturally attached to its carcass or a portion of the carcass.
    • In most cases, the easiest way to meet this requirement is to leave the animal's head attached to the carcass. However, if the animal's head is removed, including quartered, boned-out or skinned animals, some other evidence of sex must remain naturally attached to the carcass or a portion of it.
  • The following are considered lawful evidence of sex for horned or antlered game animals:
    • Male: head with the horns or antlers naturally attached, penis, testicles, or scrotum.
    • Female: head or udder (mammaries).
  • For specific requirements for black bear and mountain lion, refer to the current Black Bear and Mountain Lion Hunting Regulations.
  • Evidence of an animal's sex and species must be retained until the animal's meat is processed (cut and wrapped) or until a bear or mountain lion is checked by a department employee or delivered to a taxidermist.
  • To attempt to include every imaginable scenario of how a person could dress and transport a game animal, and provide specific requirements that would cover every contingency, is not possible. If you have questions on how to apply the regulations in your particular situation, please contact your local game warden or Regional FWP Enforcement Office.



It Is Unlawful To:

  • Interfere with or hinder the lawful taking of a game animal.
  • Kill more than one game animal per license (overlimit).
  • Ship, possess, take out of state unlawfully killed game, game birds, furbearers, and fish.
  • Possess firearms with silencers while afield.
  • Harass or chase game animals with vehicle.
  • Use recorded or amplified game call.
  • Hunt, fish, or trap while license is suspended or revoked.
  • Purchase more than one license or special permit per species, per license year except with Commission approval.
  • Alter, transfer, or loan a license to another.
  • Possess hunting license or permit of another.
  • Swear or affirm to any false statement when obtaining licenses or permits.
  • Solicit, command, or encourage others to commit violations.
  • Make a false report to law enforcement authorities.
  • Act as an outfitter or guide without being licensed to do so.
  • Sponsor contests based on size of game animals.



After The Hunt


Kill Site Verification

  • As a condition of hunting in Montana, persons may be required to return to the kill site if requested to do so by any department employee.


Transporting Big Game

  • Properly tagged animals that comply with the "Evidence of Sex Requirements" and that were lawfully taken by the license holder may be transported by an individual other than the license holder. All shippers of fish, game or nongame birds, game animals or predatory animals, or parts thereof are required to label all packages offered for shipment by parcel post or common carrier (airlines or UPS, etc.). The label should be securely attached to the address of the package and shall plainly indicate the names and addresses of the consignor and consignee and the complete contents of the package (87-3-114, MCA).
  • It is a violation of the Federal Lacy Act to transport an illegally taken game animal across state boundaries. Federal Lacy Act violations could result in a criminal penalty of $20,000 and 5 years in prison.

Checking Stations

  • All hunters and anglers are required by law to stop as directed at all designated check stations on their way to and from hunting and fishing areas, even if they have no game or fish to be checked.

Waste of Game

  • Hunters, or persons in possession of a game animal or game animal parts, are prohibited from wasting or rendering unfit for human consumption, any part of a game animal, game bird, or game fish that is defined as "suitable for food." For big game animals excluding mountain lions, all of the four quarters above the hock, including loin and backstrap are considered suitable for food.
  • A person harvesting a black bear or mountain lion is prohibited from abandoning the head or hide in the field.

Restitution for Illegally Taken Wildlife

  • Montana law orders that, "In addition to other penalties provided by law, a person convicted or forfeiting bond or bail on a charge of the purposeful or knowing illegal killing, taking, or possession of a trophy animal listed in this section shall reimburse the state for each trophy animal" The law goes on to set the amount for restitution for each animal under MCA 87-1-115 as:
  • Bighorn Sheep: $30,000Elk: $ 8,000Antlered Deer: $ 8,000Moose: $ 6,000Mountain Goat: $ 6,000Pronghorn Antelope: $ 2,000·The law specifically outlines minimum standards for a trophy under this regulation, but authorizes the Fish, Wildlife and Parks Commission to adopt more specific criteria. The following proposal for specific criteria was brought before the Commission and was accepted for tentative consideration in November 1999, and approved as proposed in February 2000, and modified in February 2003.

  • For the purposes of assessing restitution for illegally taken wildlife under Montana Code 87-1-115, the following are considered "trophy" animals:
    • Bighorn sheep with at least one horn equal to or greater than three-fourth curl as defined in the annual regulations
    • Moose having a widest outside spread, tip to tip, of at least 30 inches
    • Any mountain goat
    • Antelope with at least one horn greater than 14 inches in length, as measured along the outside curve from base to tip
    • Elk (must meet all three criteria):
      • At least six points on one antler, and

        A main beam length on each antler of at least 43 inches, and

        An inside spread of at least 36 inches.

    • Mule Deer (must meet all three criteria):
      • At least four points on one antler, excluding brow tine, and

        A main beam length on each side of at least 21 inches, and

        A greatest inside spread across the main beams of at least 20 inches, OR any mule deer with at least one four point antler and having a green Boone & Crockett score of 160 points or greater.

    • White-tailed Deer (must meet all three criteria):
      • At least four points on one antler, excluding brow tine, and

        A main beam length on each side of at least 20 inches, and

        A greatest inside spread across the main beams of at least 16 inches, OR any whitetail deer with at least one four point antler and having a green Boone & Crockett score of 140 points or greater.

  • A "point" as defined in these regulations is at least four inches long for elk and at least one inch long for deer, measured from base to tip. Boone & Crockett measuring procedures or standards are used for criteria measurement. The official measurements for the purpose of this regulation are those that are taken at the time of confiscation or seizure of the trophy. Any Boone & Crockett measurements will be considered final when taken by an official B&C scorer, regardless of drying time. If the skullcap of antlers or horns is broken in such a manner to render an official Boone & Crockett score invalid, three official B&C scorers will estimate a score. The three scores will be averaged and the average score used to determine trophy status in accordance with MCA 87-1-115.

Elk feeding eyed as source of brucellosis

By MIKE STARKBillings Gazette

The suspected link between elk on a state-run feed ground and Wyoming cattle infected with brucellosis will rekindle discussions over the future of the program for feeding elk in the winter.

Each year, about 25,000 elk congregate on one of the states 22 feed grounds where they munch on hay and, in some cases, share diseases.

Although investigators are still trying to pinpoint the source, the elk on the Muddy Creek feed ground are the prime suspects in the brucellosis outbreak in a herd of cattle in Sublette County. So far, theres no sign that the herd got the disease from other cows, according to Jim Logan, Wyomings state veterinarian.

Were not trying to point a finger but the reality is we do have a lot of brucellosis-infected wildlife and there is potential for transmission to livestock, Logan said last week.

Since 31 cows in the herd tested positive for the disease late last year, a second group of cows near Worland also has tested positive, which means that Wyoming is likely to lose its brucellosis-free status and face new restrictions on exporting cattle.

Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal is forming a state task force on brucellosis. The group will look at elk feed grounds and how to manage them while minimizing the risk of spreading brucellosis to livestock, said Ryan Lance in the governors planning office.

Theyre going to exist. Its a matter of how theyre going to work, Lance said.

But Meredith Taylor, of the Wyoming Outdoor Council, said its time for the state to consider the possibility of phasing out at least some elk feed grounds.

A better option would be to improve habitat for wintering elk and give them room to spread out so that diseases arent passed so easily, she said.

These recent outbreaks of brucellosis make the case for finding other alternatives, Taylor said. Were at a crisis situation and its no longer going to be feasible for the state to ignore this issue.

Jim Magagna, executive vice president of the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association, agreed that the brucellosis situation warrants an in-depth look at how elk are managed.

It brings the whole issue front and center and for all parties to be more aggressive in looking at solutions, Magagna said. Its also a reminder from the cattle producers perspective that we will not be relatively safe as long as the infection is present in the greater Yellowstone area.

Wyoming has been providing hay to wintering elk since 1909, when the Legislature appropriated $5,000 to feed elk in Jackson Hole that were starving and starting to eat haystacks on private land.

Since then, 21 more feed grounds have been formed in western Wyoming. The National Elk Refuge outside Jackson also provides winter food for elk.

Aside from providing food, the feed grounds have also offered habitat for elk as development in rural areas cut off traditional migration routes.

The supplemental feeding program has been popular, especially among those who want to see high numbers of elk in the state. It costs about $1.5 million a year, which exceeds the annual state income from the sale of elk hunting licenses, according to a paper written by state officials in 2002 for a conference on brucellosis.

The feed grounds have also become a place to spread disease.

Between 1 and 5 percent of the tested elk who dont use the feed grounds have shown signs of brucellosis. On the feed grounds, the average rate is around 35 percent.

At the Muddy Creek feed ground, which is suspected to be the source of the latest brucellosis outbreak in Wyoming cattle, about 29 percent of the elk showed signs of the disease when they were tested in 1997. The 600 or so elk in the herd were vaccinated for the disease in 1995.

Brucellosis is a highly contagious disease among elk, bison and cattle that can cause abortions and health problems for infected animals. The disease is often spread from matter left after a calf is born or aborted.

Yellowstone National Park and the surrounding area is the nations last reservoir of the disease. For years, those watching the disease have been particularly concerned about elk at the feed grounds.

Tom Thorne, a 36-year veteran of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, said that feed grounds came along before the extent of brucellosis was known. Now that the feed grounds and the disease are established, Wyoming has to find a way to deal with the disease while protecting cattle and managing disease.

We are perpetuating the problem by continuing the feed grounds but they are also the best tool for controlling brucellosis, said Thorne, who retired last year but now works as a consultant for the department. We cant go back in time and never start the feed grounds.

Thorne cautioned against simply closing all the feed grounds in Wyoming as a reaction to the brucellosis outbreak. More than likely, that would lead to more infected elk dispersing in search of food and coming in contact with more cattle in the state, he said.

That would almost guarantee several outbreaks a year, Thorne said. I think some folks mistakenly think that if we didnt have feed grounds, brucellosis would go away.

Shutting down the feed grounds would also send more elk into remaining winter ranges, which would could drive up infection rates for non-feed ground elk, Thorne said. Loss of the feed grounds would limit opportunities to vaccinate elk for the disease, he added.

But Taylor, with the Wyoming Outdoor Council, said the existence of the feed grounds is a threat not only for spreading brucellosis but other wildlife diseases such as chronic wasting disease.

She suggested that the state try phasing out one or two feed grounds and improving natural habitat for elk. That would give elk more room to roam, food to eat and lower risk of spreading disease.

If the pilot programs show that habitat improvements can improve conditions for elk and lower the risk of disease risk, other feed grounds could be phased out over time as historic migration patterns are re-established, she said.

The case weve been making for years is that the three most important needs for wildlife are habitat, habitat, habitat, she said. Were at a turning point now where we can take a stand to make tremendous gains for free-ranging healthy wildlife or we can resist change and risk a catastrophic problem in the future.

The 12 members of Freudenthals brucellosis task force havent been named yet but the group is expected to start meeting in the coming months.

Key topics are expected to include disease transmission between elk and cattle and, more specifically, how elk feed grounds are managed.

The governor came to this first and foremost that he didnt just want to study it again, Lance said. We have to get some substantive results.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004


Click here for more information on Montana license requirements and hunting regulations


Timm Twardoski

238 Blodgett Way

Hamilton Montana 59840



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