Land Investor FeaturesVolume 1

Applying For A Non-Resident Elk License | Montana

By Ryan Bramlette, Ranch Sales, Licensed in Montana

While quietly navigating the trails of Dancing Bear Ranch,  last summer, a client and I came around a corner to see 3 mature Bull Elk proudly flaunting their velvet-covered antlers.  That encounter got us talking about the hunting of course, and triggered a conversation around non-resident Elk license in Montana. What I have provided below is a high-level summary of our conversation and my basic understanding regarding the topic.

To start, there are 2 main types of licenses in Montana: General Licenses and Draw/Special Permits.

The availability is dependent on which unit you would like to hunt and what weapon (typically archery or rifle) you would like to hunt with.

Each elk-hunting unit is a defined geographical region within the state.  Each unit is managed differently, respective to factors such as the population and health of the overall elk herd, bull to cow ratio’s, and if the unit is being managed for quality or quantity.

Because units are managed differently, a new hunter to Montana should understand that while many units will simply require general draw licenses for archery and rifle, some will be special draw only and others may be a combination of both.  For example, it is common that a unit requires a general license for archery season but a special permit for hunting during the rifle season.Ranch For Sale upper west ranch reed point montana

In addition to the different types of licenses, a hunter should be familiar with the difference between Bonus Points and Preference Points, as Montana uses them both.

For non-resident hunters, a preference point system is used for the elk combination license (explained later).  When a non-resident hunter applies for an elk combination license and does not draw, they have the opportunity to purchase a preference point ($50) for the following year(s).  In the preference point system, hunters with the most preference points will have priority in a given draw.  As an example, if I did not draw last year and therefore have 1 preference point in the upcoming draw, I will be awarded a license before anyone with zero preference points.

For special permits, the bonus point system is used.  A bonus point system is simple, in that your name goes in the draw one extra time for every bonus point you have.  You can obtain bonus points through purchase ($20) if you are unsuccessful in your special permit draw.  Because Montana “squares” their Bonus points, a hunter who has not drawn for 5 consecutive years would have their name in the hat 25 extra times for an upcoming draw and while someone with no points can draw a special permit, the individual with the higher amount of bonus points has greater odds of drawing the special permit.

For non-residents to hunt some of the general draw elk units that Montana is so well known for, such as HD 360 where Dancing Bear is located, you must apply for the Elk Combination License in the general draw.  Besides, if you want to apply for a special elk permit, you must fill out an additional application during the same application process.  The special permit application is only valid if you draw the Elk Combination license.

One last topic worth mentioning is Landowner Preference License.  In Montana, 15% of a hunting district’s quota is set aside for landowners owning or contracting to purchase at least 640 acres.  (160 acres for Landowner Deer License).  While Landowner Preference License certainly do not guarantee a landowner a license, their odds are increased.

While the deadline for applying for the 2020 season has come and gone, we are only a short 7 months away before you need to have your application in for next year.  The deadline is around the first of April and the full license fee of $1046 for an elk/deer combo license (or $884 for the elk combo license) will not be charged until you draw.

Montana is known for its world-class Elk hunting, and it should be. Places like Castle Creek and our other big game hunting properties provide the hunter with heart-pumping encounters with world-class animals in some of the most beautiful landscapes ever drawn up by Mother Nature. By understanding the ins and outs of the non-resident elk hunting application process, you are well equipped to experience the sensations of elk hunting in Montana yourself.


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