What should I expect hunting in Montana?

25contender

Veteran member
Mar 20, 2013
1,618
19
This thread will be for anyone to post there experiences hunting in Montana. Just give a General Area you hunt no honey holes or secret spots. For example NW SW etc. Just give some Idea of what a hunter should expect while hunting that part of the state. Give info on what type of hunt, time of year, weather, toughness of the hunt Etc. Dont be afraid to edit your post to add more information. :cool:
 

25contender

Veteran member
Mar 20, 2013
1,618
19
I will start.

Southwest Montana is my main stomping grounds.

Species of animals I hunt Elk/Mule deer.

Time of year I hunt here primarily during Bow season. Mid Sept- mid Oct.

Weather can be quite variable this time of year. I have hunted in this part of the state when the temps have ranged a high in the 30s- 80s during the day to the lows at night being from 15*- 50s. In early September the temps of course are higher most years than they are in October. At 8500ft the average temp over the years during this time of year seems to average 40s-60s during the days and fall off in the evenings to the 20s and 30s.
Precipitation is normally fairly sparse in SW Montana. In early to mid September you may have the occasional rain shower or thunderstorm. Last year was the first year I can remember where it rained multiple days in a row. Towards the end of September into October you can expect some snow above 7500ft. I have seen a dusting of snow to basically getting snowed out in the higher elevations during this time of year. Last year towards the end of September there was a snowfall of 8-10 inches above 8500ft/ The good thing is many times it is gone in a few days.

Terrain The terrain can vary quite a bit in this are from very flat to very steep and difficult. At higher altitudes the in the region I hunt for elk the terrain is about a 8 out 10 on the difficulty scale. There are many steep inclines and drainage's to traverse while hunting and being in shape is a must. Cover in this area is mostly Sage and Pine with a fair amount of dead falls on the steeper slopes and drainage's. Loose rock is very common at mid to higher elevation. Most creeks and streams are fed by springs and ground water / ground Ice and water can be difficult to find in some areas and easier in others. A water filter system would be a recommendation due to the cattle grazing in many areas. Most grazing cattle are rounded up and brought out of the higher country by mid September.

Animals In the areas I hunt you see all species of the big game species. Be prepared to move as many species can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. Over the past ten year I have noticed a pretty obvious decline in the mule deer population on public land in SW Montana, Elk numbers seem to be pretty stable but are normally in pockets.
 
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eastmont

Member
Feb 28, 2014
92
1
updated /
updated Jan. 2015

As my name says eastern montana is where I am most familiar with.

Location: Missouri River Breaks/Charles M. Russell NWR

Species: Elk/Muley/Whitetails/Pronghorn/Grouse/Bighorns

Elk:
Usually from Hell Creek rec area and west and through the Missouri Breaks National Monument. Stick to the timber but don't over look upland reservoirs. Hunting pressure is high in some areas but dissipates as you 1.5 miles+ from a road (sometimes just over the next ridge). Road hunting is a big problem a/nd lots of people bugle near the roads or in camp. Don't drive off road at all unless to camp. Get out and walk to glass.

Update (2015): 2014 had lots of hunting pressure, locals say there were more people out here than they have ever seen. If you want to get a away from the crowd, this is not the spot. You have to really plan for other hunters. I expect the same, or more this year.

Mulies:
Big bucks are few and far between but good bucks can still be found in hard to reach areas. Local guide websites show that they are still pulling nice bucks out. Yeah deer numbers are down but they'll be back. Bring some good glass and check every bush.

Update (2015): This last season they eliminated doe muley harvest which means bucks were really shot up. If your looking for muley bucks I would seriously consider other areas for a couple of years.

Whitetails:
EHD got them good but they will be back quickly too, need a few more years to grow big bucks.

Update (2015): Saw just a handful of whitetail does this year, on small 3 pnt buck. Pretty Scarce.

Pronghorn:
Plenty around if your smart about it. 2011 took a toll but still respectable bucks running around. Archery permits are a given draw and opens mid august but just remember most block management areas don't open till September. I would suggest spot and stalk in broken country with a bow or water hole blinds during dry years.

Terrain
The breaks are nasty and steep. Lots of up and down up and down that will take its toll.

Weather
Rain is the bane of any hunter's plans in the Breaks. The roads have a mixture of sand, bentonite clay, and organic matter that turn the roads into GUMBO. Words cannot explain this mud, you have to experience it. I have lost count of the amount of people I have told to not go somewhere because of the roads/pending weather conditions just to hear they buried their truck. Any sort of small hill will turn impossible when it rains. Consider your self warned.

General Tips (important)
MAPS!- New CMR refuge map coming this summer (2014) which actually shows the public roads that are open. The current one lists many roads that are closed to the public.

Respect the topography- those bushes in that coulee are actually the tops of 40ft pondorosas. Further more people die fairly often in the breaks due to inexpierence with the gumbo, lack of water, and turning the wrong way in a coulee. Don't let the "openness" of the area catch you with your pants down

A current study is being done on elk in the CMR looking at elk movements and road densities/use. Should be interesting what they find out- my guess is that the elk are away from the roads. So bring your hiking boots.

Contacts
Miles City BLM:406-233-2800
Charles M. Russell NWR: Lewistown Office (There are also field offices near Fred Robinson Bridge, Jordan, and Glasgow that can provide more detailed information) (406) 538-8706
The missouri river breaks also covers several Montana fish wildlife and parks regions.


Coming soon...
Units
Good websites
 
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Buck8541

Member
Sep 29, 2012
72
0
Northern California
eastmont,

Great post! Gumbo is a nice way of describing the roads in wet conditions, I would refer to it as the contents of a baby's fully loaded diaper! We hunt out of Jordon every year and will push into Petroleum county if the hunting is slow or there are too many people. You are 100% correct about getting off the roads. I hunt with a big fellow who is 20 years older than me and not very mobile. He drops me off and I walk and glass and always produce much bigger bucks than he does from the road. I am no fan of road hunting, however; if hunters have limited mobility the breaks offer them the best chance to shoot a decent animal with minimal drag distance. To re-enforce your point, if you're are going to road hunt, stay on the ROAD!!! I have seen people drive off the road one time to recover an animal and ten years later their tires tracks look new. The grass in that area is very fragile and does not recover from vehicle travel.
 
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mtnmikem

New Member
Dec 5, 2014
36
0
Bozeman, Montana
Central Montana

Whitetail- Usually hunt the river bottoms and ag fields. One thing that is nice about Montana is the block management. There are some great opportunities if you can find the right ones. I've had great luck on the walk in's as well as the reservation types. Although, you usually have better luck on the reservation units. Not as much hunter traffic. I've seen some booner bucks during the rut on them also. Lots of road hunters though! I suppose like everywhere else in Montana, that I've seen.

Mule deer-Havent had much luck with finding many big ones. They're there, but usually in pretty hard to reach areas. Although, again, I've seen some decent ones on the block management units early in the season.
 

gonhunting247

Very Active Member
Jan 21, 2014
897
17
For me it's been Eastern and South Central MT.
I have utilized a lot of Block Management as well as State and federal land.
I have been told the hunting is at a real low for deer and antelope. We have had good success on 3 antelope hunts and 3 deer hunts in the last 6 yrs. So all I can say is, If this was bad, I can't wait for the good times.:)
Not huge deer and antelope so far for us, but not to bad either. We've experienced lots of opportunity and love the flexibility of the long season to work around other out of state hunts.
As far as terrain, I think it's been fairly mild where I've been, but I have crossed through and seen all levels of difficulty for sure.
No experience with elk in MT yet, hopefully soon, but I will definitely be back for deer and antelope and maybe someday lord willing, (If I live long enough to draw) Sheep.
I've been in the mud near the breaks, and my advice is to heed the warning on the mud. It's bad stuff!
MT has so many options for places to hunt, a guy/gal could spend a life time and not get to enjoy them all.
It's an awesome place IMO. Good luck on your hunts!
 
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droptine

Active Member
May 19, 2014
236
0
Minnesota
Did a trip last fall. After a lot of research I decided on staying in Sheridan and hunting the tabacco roots. Found out opening morning that there was a lot of hunters, but beautiful country. After talking to an old cowboy in the bar there. We wound up way at the southern end of the gravellys and snowcrest. All I can say is WOW!! The most beautiful country I had ever seen. Still quite a few hunters but most don't want to get too far off the road so didn't have much trouble with competition. Didn't even see another hunter where we were. Second to the last day I had a chance at a nice bull but blew it. Had the time of my life!! No other feeling even comes close to the feeling of being up hiking in the mountains looking for critters! All in all, even though didn't harvest anything, I think I had a very successful trip! Cant wait for this fall!!
 

25contender

Veteran member
Mar 20, 2013
1,618
19
What month did you go? Archery or Bow. I have found that area to be a great place during archery season.
Did a trip last fall. After a lot of research I decided on staying in Sheridan and hunting the tabacco roots. Found out opening morning that there was a lot of hunters, but beautiful country. After talking to an old cowboy in the bar there. We wound up way at the southern end of the gravellys and snowcrest. All I can say is WOW!! The most beautiful country I had ever seen. Still quite a few hunters but most don't want to get too far off the road so didn't have much trouble with competition. Didn't even see another hunter where we were. Second to the last day I had a chance at a nice bull but blew it. Had the time of my life!! No other feeling even comes close to the feeling of being up hiking in the mountains looking for critters! All in all, even though didn't harvest anything, I think I had a very successful trip! Cant wait for this fall!!
 

droptine

Active Member
May 19, 2014
236
0
Minnesota
Went during the general Firearms season. It sure looks like it would a great archery hunt. Sure hoping they're gonna have surplus licenses available again this year. May just have to take two trips out there this year!!
 

joens

Member
Nov 30, 2015
92
2
Miles City, Montana
Southeast Montana is my stomping grounds/ Main hunting area . Primarily east and south of Miles City. South half of Region 7 ,The land ownership is a mix of all types of state and federal land. some in larger chunks some in very small. Lots of private land but a lot of private land entered in the Block management program to allow public access. Not always easy to tell when you have gone from public to private land. Decent road access in many parts but some of the BLM land has poorly maintained roads and some of the other lands restrict off road use.
Elk- some in the area but most are on private land. some wander onto some of the Block Management Areas but cant count on it..
There is a herd in the Terry Badlands north of Terry that is mostly BLM and BMA.
Mule Deer. lots of opportunities , Many large tracts of accessible land . low to moderate hunting pressure depending on where you go.
Antelope , Not as good as Wyoming but still same comments as for mule deer. Whitetail Deer- there are a fair number of whitetails generally along river bottoms there are a number of Block Management areas along rivers that provide access to private land

Antelope and Mule Deer numbers are on the rise after a decline a few years ago.

weather
2014 hunting season was cold heavy freeze-up with snow last weekend in October stayed cold , frequently below zero with frequent snow falls .overall the winter was not too bad for wildlife though. even though it snowed often it thawed often enough to allow deer to still find food. I think high survival rates. almost all mule deer does seen during 2015 had twins

2015 Hunting season was warm , few freezes until the weekend before Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving week( last week of hunting season) it got to zero a few days with a little snow then began warming again. Saw one buck chasing a doe 2 weeks before thanksgiving but did not see others till last week of season.

Will update as I think of more info. feel free to PM me with questions.
 
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Dos Perros

Member
Jul 1, 2015
128
0
Can someone please explain to me how the limited entry draw works for non-residents? I currently have one point which I purchased last fall. I plan to put in for an area I probably won't draw. So, I understand I absolutely will draw for the general combo tag. After I secure that general tag, then I put in for the limited entry tag? And what if I don't draw? Am I stuck with the general tag?
 

Mr Drysdale

Active Member
Mar 24, 2013
208
0
Only hunted once. First week of November 2014 in SE part of state (Carter County). I am a non resident. Invited to private land to hunt deer. Choice of Muley or Whitetail. I was told that the numbers were down and saw 75 deer the first day. Took a nice Whitetail Buck the second day and my son took a better one the third day. If these numbers were down, dang! Long way for us to travel to kill one deer and quite expensive for license and tag but enjoyed the trip and met a lot of nice people in Ekalaka. I'm from Mississippi and we can kill three bucks and five does per season. I am mainly a bow hunter but do rifle hunt some. I still don't understand why the limits are so stringent when we saw so many animals. We didn't see any racked Muleys worth shooting. Beautiful country.
 

Kentucky hunter

Active Member
Jul 22, 2013
275
0
loretto ky
This thread will be for anyone to post there experiences hunting in Montana. Just give a General Area you hunt no honey holes or secret spots. For example NW SW etc. Just give some Idea of what a hunter should expect while hunting that part of the state. Give info on what type of hunt, time of year, weather, toughness of the hunt Etc. Dont be afraid to edit your post to add more information. :cool:
25contender have you hunted in the Bob Marshall ?
 

Farwest

New Member
Oct 23, 2015
2
0
I normally bow hunt for elk in sw montana. We had decent luck this year but then a storm came rolling in and our scent was being pushed all over the place. No elk. We hunt off of our backs in the back country. We normally go in 2-6 miles depending where the elk are hanging and the peaks are as high as 10000 ft. Trailhead is about 6500 so it can be some good exercise! I love the country in sw montana and am satisfied just being out in the mountains even if we aren't having good action. It's always best to bring something home though, this year I found a nice moose shed.
 

rammont

Active Member
Oct 31, 2016
226
0
Montana
Southwest Montana is my main stomping grounds, elk/ deer hunt area 215 along the western side of the Continental Divide.

Species of animals Elk/Mule deer/Whitetail deer

Time of year I live here year round and hunt the rifle season. Mid Oct - mid Nov.

Weather can be quite variable this time of year. I have hunted in this part of the state when the temps have ranged a high in the 30s- 80s during the day to the lows at night being from 15*- 50s. This October the temps have been a few degrees lower than the average (regardless of what the TV talking heads say) and it's been wetter. The average day time temp at 7100 feet has been around 40 – 50 degrees most of the month but with the wind chill it's felt about 5 degrees lower. Night time averages are around 20 – 30 at that altitude.

Precipitation is normally fairly sparse in SW Montana but we've had more this year than normal. In early to mid October we've seen rain about once a week and we've had several days where we had winds and rain for several days in a row. The winds have been more sever than normal for this time of year, we've several days of 60 mph gusts this October. It looks like it wont be until the last week or two of November before the temps drop and the snow starts but many of the locals expect deeper snow levels than normal due to the higher precipitation amounts. While it's not uncommon for the snows to melt within a day or two at the beginning of the snow season, it will eventually stick and accumulate until February or so.

Terrain The terrain can vary quite a bit in this are from very flat to very steep and difficult. There are many steep inclines and drainage's to traverse while hunting and being in shape is a must. Cover in this area is mostly everything from willows in the creek/ river bottoms to lodgepole pine as you leave the bottoms. Dead falls are a common problem around this area, especially on the west and north slopes, when the snow covers these dead falls it can be extremely difficult to navigate safely. Rock faces and scree are not common but there are places where they exist. Most creeks and streams are fed by springs and ground water / ground Ice and water can be difficult to find in some areas and easier in others. A water filter system would be a recommendation due to the cattle grazing in many areas. Most grazing cattle are rounded up and brought out of the higher country by mid September.

Animals In the areas I hunt you see all species of big game. Be prepared to move as many of these animals can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. Elk numbers seem to be pretty stable but are normally in pockets as are the other big game animals during the rifle season. The rifle season is right after the bow season and the animals are still on the defensive after being pushed by the bow hunters so expect them to prioritize security. You wont see too many elk or deer in the open during the day, they will spend most of their time in small grazing or browsing areas within the trees, don't be surprised if you find them protected by lots of blow downs. Bear attacks are rare but both black and brown bears (grizzlies around here) do exist with far more black bears in the population. Moose are common and for my money are more of a threat than bears, I've had several moose charge me in the last two years and no bears, even though I've seen almost equal numbers of both.