Montana Antelope Hunting Guide for First-Time Hunters

Are you intrigued by the idea of exploring Montana’s vast landscapes? Maybe you’re a seasoned hunter or you’re just starting to dip your toes into the hunting world. Either way, if you’re aiming to be a participant in one of the most exhilarating hunts — the antelope hunt — then Montana will not disappoint.

Let’s start with what brings many hunters to Montana: its large antelope population. With hundreds of antelope roaming its vast public lands, having a tag in this state is much easier compared to others.

Montana’s long hunting season, extensive public hunting grounds, and noticeable presence of the animals make it a prime hunting location for both residents and non-residents. The allure of hunting the state’s pronghorn resonates with a wide range of enthusiasts. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the key things to know about Montana antelope hunting from techniques, tips, and strategies to several trusted outfitters who not only make your hunt exciting but also take care of the logistics, allowing you to solely focus on the thrill of the chase.

So whether it’s your dream to bag that 14″ pronghorn or simply experience the great outdoors, the Big Sky Country’s antelopes are waiting for you. Happy hunting!

7 Key Takeaways on Montana Antelope Hunting

  1. Montana’s Wildlife Management Areas and Public Lands offer prime hunting spots, but ensure you have proper permission.
  2. Antelope hunting seasons in Montana are typically from mid-September to mid-October, with early mornings and evenings being prime times.
  3. Resident and non-resident hunting permits are available through a draw system, with application deadlines to note.
  4. Quality binoculars, appropriate firearms, and strategic stalking methods are crucial for a successful and enjoyable hunt.
  5. Familiarize yourself with antelope feeding patterns, rutting periods, and their exceptional speed and sight.
  6. Stay informed about area-specific regulations and “leave no trace” principles to conserve the natural habitat.
  7. Highlighted outfitters across Montana offer different experiences, from private ranch hunts to assistance with tag applications.

Key Things to Know About Montana Antelope Hunting

A lone antelope strolls through a grassy field outside a wooden fence in Montana

Montana’s rolling hills, towering mountains, and vast open plains beckon more than just scenic photographers and hikers. Waiting silently are the impressive pronghorns, delicately called “speed goats,” but don’t be fooled, they’re no slouch.

A thrilling antelope hunt in Montana isn’t just about the catch; it’s about immersing yourself in the natural rhythm of the land, understanding its inhabitants, and tapping into your primal hunter instincts. With these key insights at your fingertips, you’re more than ready to lace up your boots and commence your antelope-tinted adventure in the Big Sky Country.

1. Montana Antelopes

A close-up view of a Montana antelope in a grassy field, appearing alert as it senses the presence of a hunter.

Do you know that in Montana, you can hunt one of the most unique ungulates in the world? Introducing the Montana antelope, also known as the pronghorn. These are no ordinary creatures – their biomechanics are truly fascinating.

Among the key characteristics of antelopes are:

  • Unique Ice-age Holdovers – The pronghorn is an enduring symbol of our prehistoric North American landscape, with genetic links to the giraffe! Imagine that – roaming across the same landscapes as the mastodons and ground sloths.
  • Wide-ranging Population – Today, we coexist with a North American antelope population exceeding 1 million, with hundreds available for hunting in Montana alone. In some Western regions, they’ve become so common that they’re almost taken for granted by the locals.
  • Migration and Speed – A pronghorn’s annual migration is the longest of any land mammal in the lower 48, adding an extra layer of awe to your fun hunt. And when it comes to speed, they top the charts in North America, only second to the African cheetah.
  • Trophy Qualities – Montana Antelopes are sought after for more than just aesthetic reasons. Their heavy, thick horns and large prongs make them excellent trophies.

Additionally, in the realm of antelopes, distinctions between different members are marked by the length of their horns. The criteria for categorization hinge on the measurement from the top of the skull, serving as a defining feature for the classification of bucks such as:

  • Buck (Horned) – Refers to any antelope possessing horns measuring at least 4 inches in length when gauged from the top of the skull.
  • Doe or Fawn – Denotes any antelope characterized by horns that are less than 4 inches in length, as measured from the top of the skull.

In a world teeming with big game, the Montana antelopes stand out. Whether it’s the speed of their sprint or the captivating story of their genetic lineage, hunting these pronghorns is an experience you won’t find anywhere else.

2. Montana Antelope Hunting Licenses and Fees

Gear used for hunting antelope in Montana, consisting of a rifle and binoculars, on a wooden table.

Let’s talk money – the kind you pay to bag one of Montana’s magnificent antelopes. Whether you’re a local or from out of state, the rules are the same when it comes to getting your antelope hunting licenses and the fees you’ll need to shell out.

For Montana residents and non-residents, the costs are fixed, but the excitement of what lies ahead is priceless. The different Montana antelope licenses are:

  • General Antelope License – Specific districts are the only areas where general licenses are valid. To obtain a license, applicants are obligated to pay the full fee.
  • Antelope Multi-Region Archery – For archery hunters, you can purchase this license limited to specific hunting districts. It’s a first-choice-only license and requires an additional Bow and Arrow (Archery) license before hunting.

Both these licenses cost the same with $19 for the residents, $205 for the nonresidents, and a $5 nonrefundable application fee. It is important to note that these licenses require a Special Permit, which hunters can apply for at the same time as a general combo license.

The antelope draw applications are available online from March 1st, with a deadline of June 1st. To ease up on the math – or at least the guesswork – when it comes to applications, buying bonus points is like insurance for your application. It can improve your chances of winning the hunting lottery for your desired district or hunt area.

For a more specific breakdown of prices for both resident and non-resident hunters, refer to the chart below:

Individual License/PermitResident 18-61 yearsResident Youth (12-17) or Senior (62+)Resident DisabledNon-resident
900 Archery Antelope
(Drawing Only)
Antelope or Antelope B
(Drawing Only)
Disabled (Drawing Only)$19.00$19.00$19.00$205.00

Just remember, when it comes to the number of licenses you can hold, the rule is three in total, but only one of these can be an either-sex license.

3. Montana Antelope Hunting Season Dates

A hunter in Montana, dressed in hunting gear, scans the area through his binoculars for potential antelope prey.

If you’re already envisioning yourself crouched behind sagebrush, waiting for the perfect shot as an antelope travels the vast, open Montana plains, knowing the right time to don your camouflage is crucial. This information is also vital, whether you’re on a professionally guided or self-guided Montana antelope hunting venture.

While the dates for the 2024 season are as follows, please note these are general dates, and the actual regulatory information can change:

Antelope SeasonDates
900 SeriesAug. 15–Nov. 12
ArcherySept. 2–Oct. 6
GeneralOct. 7–Nov. 12

Hunting Permit Drawing Results:

LicenseDrawing Results
SuperTagsAfter July 8
Antelope ArcheryMid-June
Antelope & Antelope B LicenseEarly August

It’s also important to remember that Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) typically releases the official antelope regulations by late February. Before packing your gear and stalking these beautiful creatures, make sure to check the official Montana FWP website for any updates or changes.

4. Montana Outfitters for Antelope Hunting

A group of hunters armed with hunting rifles and accompanied by a dog embark on a Montana antelope hunting expedition.

To hunt antelopes in Montana, there’s one thing that can amp up the joy — it’s a savvy outfitter who not just guides, but also adds a sprinkling of fun and success to your quest.

Here is a list of some of the best Montana Outfitters that offer antelope hunting:

  • Upper Canyon Outfitters – Ideal for those seeking personalized attention and a seamless application process, this family-owned ranch in southwest Montana is a home away from home. With nearly 100% success rates on hunts, they also offer assistance with the drawing-based tag application process, with a deadline of June 1st.
  • Burke Ranch Outfitters – If you’re a fan of archery and want near-ironclad odds of success, this private ranch adds an exquisite touch of exclusivity to your hunt. This is a Montana hunter’s paradise set in a 19,000-acre private ranch providing Montana Archery Antelope and Rifle Antelope hunts.
  • Elk Ridge Outfitters –  For those who want the hunt to be as varied as the game, consider Elk Ridge. You can go foot-stomping solo or opt for the thrilling chase on a four-wheeler. Located in the Bridger Mountain Range and offers multiple hunting modes, it is recommended for hunters looking for variety and a well-rounded experience.
  • Cottonwood Outfitters – Operates across 8 private ranches with vast hunting areas, Cottonwood is the spot-and-stalk dream. Deciding which buck to take down might be your biggest dilemma. With 50-100 sightings of antelope per day, this is recommended for those who want plenty of antelope, and then some.
  • Absaroka-Beartooth Outfitters – For those familiar with the convoluted license application process, Absaroka-Beartooth aims to simplify it. Situated in the scenic Custer Gallatin National Forest, this is ideal for those seeking a serene and straightforward application experience.
  • Montana Big Game Outfitters – Last but not least, if you’re aiming to up your shooting game, these folks should be on your speed dial. Recommended for buck enthusiasts and those who want more bang for their buck, Montana Big Game Outfitters in Missoula offers 50-100 antelope sightings with bucks sporting 13-14″ horns.

Overall, these Montana outfitters offer a combination of mild weather, four-wheel drives, great odds of success, and plenty of antelope, making them top choices for antelope hunting in the region.

5. Montana Antelope Hunting Tips

A hunter tests out his bow and arrow for antelope hunting in Montana during the golden hour.

Montana’s antelope herds are the “easy” part of this hunt – they’re everywhere. But don’t let the word “easy” trick you; antelopes aren’t known as Montana’s fastest animals for nothing.

Here are some tips that could give you a better shot – both literally and figuratively when hunting antelopes:

  1. Spot and Stalk Techniques – For rifle hunters, this method is tried and true, as it allows you to traverse the landscape as you spot antelopes at a distance. You need to see through the animal’s eyes. If you can see their eyes, they can see you.
  2. Bowhunting Ambushes – Bowhunters often find luck setting up in pop-up ground blinds near watering holes. By studying the antelope’s patterns, you can increase your chances of a close-range shot. You’re waiting for the antelope to come to you, giving you the upper hand.
  3. Decoying for the Thrill – Employing a young, aggressive buck decoy during archery season can lead to thrilling close-range encounters, enticing older bucks for more rewarding shots. However, be cautious, as you won’t be the only one vying for the prize.

Whether you’re participating in an archery hunt, playing hide-and-seek behind a decoy, or enjoying a nice buck in your sights, the more you understand the land and the quarry, the more enjoyable and successful your hunt will be.

Think of these strategies as part of a larger chess game, with you and the antelope both playing on a board the size of Montana. And cactus thorns aside, a successful Montana antelope hunt can be a prize worth the effort.

Montana Antelope Hunting Guide Final Thoughts

A lone antelope rests in a grassy field in Montana, unaware that it's being watched by a hunter from afar.

Montana’s antelope hunting experience is a rich combination of thrill, natural beauty, and conservation. With extensive semiarid landscapes, carefully managed public lands, and a respect for the state’s extraordinary wildlife regulations, you set the perfect scene for an unforgettable hunt.

The effective use of natural barriers in Montana’s beautiful topography, along with high-quality hunting gear such as silent cushioning boots and optics, can lead to successful hunts. As you sally forth in Montana’s vast antelope habitat, remember that it’s about more than just the kill – it’s about an indelible connection with the natural world.

So, put your knowledge of antelope herding, that skill-rewarding spot-and-stalk strategy, and the right rifles to the test. A Montana antelope hunt – where every angle spells adventure and every shot sings an ode to your patience and skill.

Montana Antelope Hunting Guide FAQs

1. Is It Hard to Get an Antelope Tag in Montana?

Although easier compared to other states, getting an antelope tag in Montana can still be competitive due to the limited number of tags available and the popularity of antelope hunting in the state. The allocation of tags is based on a lottery system, and hunters may need to apply for several years before successfully obtaining a tag.

2. Where Is the Best Antelope Hunting in Montana?

Montana offers excellent antelope hunting opportunities across various regions, but popular areas include the eastern and southeastern parts of the state, particularly in districts with large prairie expanses.

3. How Much Is a Non-resident Antelope Tag in Montana?

Non-resident antelope licenses in Montana cost $205, with an additional $5 nonrefundable application fee.

4. Can You Buy Antelope Tags Over the Counter in Montana?

Non-resident antelope tags in Montana are not available over the counter and must be obtained through a drawing or lottery system. Hunters need to apply for antelope tags during the designated application period, and successful applicants are determined through a random draw.

5. What Is the Best Thing to Hunt in Montana?

Montana offers diverse hunting opportunities, but many consider elk to be one of the best game species to pursue due to the state’s substantial elk population and varied terrain. Other popular choices include mule deer, white-tailed deer, antelope, and upland birds.

Montana enthusiasts, don’t miss out on these additional articles to feed your curiosity:

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Written by:

Chris Hall
Hi, I'm Chris Hall, co-founder of Growing up among Montana's breathtaking landscapes ignited my passion for travel. While I've journeyed to many corners of the world, the allure of Montana's wild beauty always draws me back. To me, travel is about understanding the soul of a place, and Montana has a special place in my heart. It's where endless adventures meet raw nature.

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