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Montana

Hunting

General Deer Hunting Regulations

Aircraft- Unlawful Use (MCA 87-6-208)

  • It is unlawful for a person to shoot a game animal from an aircraft.
  • It is unlawful for a person to use an aircraft for the purpose of concentrating, pursuing, driving, rallying, or stirring up any game animal.
  • Aircraft may not be used to locate game animals for the purpose of
  • Hunting those animals during the same hunting day after a person has been airborne or
  • Providing information for another person for the purpose of hunting those animals within the same hunting day after being airborne.

Archery Equipment (MCA 87-6-401, CR)

  • It is unlawful to use any chemical or explosive device attached to an arrow to aid in the taking of game animals.
  • The following criteria define Archery Equipment. It is unlawful to possess, while hunting game during any Archery Only Season and in Archery Equipment

    Only areas, archery equipment that does not meet the following criteria:

    Hunting Bow: A hunting bow for game animals shall be a longbow, flatbow, recurve bow, compound bow, or any combination of these designs.

  • 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, mechanical, 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 certified by FWP with the

    Permit To Modify Archery Equipment

    (PTMAE) are exempted from the requirement of holding or shooting the bow with their hands.

    >A bow is considered lawful if it is at least 28 inches in total length.

    >The nominal percent of let-off for hunting bows shall be a maximum of 80 percent as advertised by the manufacturer.

    Arrow: An arrow is a projectile at least 20 inches in overall length. The length of the arrow is measured from the rearward point of the nock to the tip of the broadhead.

  • A broadhead is 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 and be at least 7/8 inches at the widest point. Expandable broadheads are lawful as long as when expanded they are at least 7/8 inches at the widest point, and weigh no less than 70 grains.

    The following are not considered a hunting bow or lawful archery equipment during the Archery Only Season or in an Archery Equipment Only area or hunting district:

  • 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.

  • Electronic or battery-powered devices

    attached to a hunting bow or arrow that aides in the taking or locating of any game animal or game bird. Exception: Camera devices attached to bows for the sole purpose of filming is allowed.

–A bow sight or arrow that uses artificial light, luminous chemicals such as tritium, or electronics. Exception: an arrow may have a lighted nock.

Artificial Light (MCA 87-6-401)

It is unlawful for anyone to take or attempt to take any game animal or game bird with the aid of projected artificial light. Use of rifle scopes that project an artificial light to illuminate the target or project infra-red light visible only with specialized optics to illuminate the target are unlawful for the taking of game animals.

Baiting (MCA 87-6-401, CR)

  • It is unlawful for anyone to hunt or attempt to hunt by the aid of or with the use of any bait, salt lick, trap, snare or set gun.
  • Baiting shall mean the placing, exposing, depositing, distributing, or scattering of food sources or salt so as to constitute a lure or attraction.

Carcass Disposal (CR)

To prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease, all parts of the head or skull containing brain material and/or the spinal columns of deer, elk, and moose harvested in Montana must be left in the field at the kill site or, if transported for further processing including taxidermy or meat processing, must be disposed of in a class II landfill once that processing is complete.

Check Stations (MCA 87-6-218)

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

Disturbing Traps or Trapped Animals

(MCA 87-6-601(5))– A person may not destroy, disturb, or remove any trap or snare belonging to another person or remove wildlife from a trap or snare belonging to another person without permission of the owner of the trap or snare, except that from March 1 to Oct. 1 of each year a person may remove any snare from land owned or leased by the person if the snare would endanger livestock. This requirement does not apply to a law enforcement officer acting within the scope of the officer’s duty.

Dogs (MCA 87-6-404)

It is unlawful for a person to use dogs to chase game animals. Dogs may be utilized to recover or locate wounded game animals, but handlers shall maintain physical control of the dog at all times by means of a maximum 50-foot lead attached to the dog’s collar or harness.

Evidence of Sex (MCA 87-6-406)

A person who kills a game animal in this state shall retain evidence of sex of the animal with the carcass until it is processed. The provisions of this section do not apply to a game animal harvested using a license with which either sex of the animal may be taken. Evidence of sex does not need to be naturally attached. A person who kills a game animal in a hunting district where the harvest is limited by the animal’s antler point or horn size shall retain the antlers or horns until the carcass is processed.

Firearms

  • Firearms, including rifles, handguns, shotguns with 0, 00, or slugs, and muzzleloaders; archery equipment; and crossbows are lawful for taking game animals. All other methods of take are prohibited.
  • There is no rifle or handgun caliber limitation or magazine/round capacity restrictions for the taking of game animals.
  • Rifle scopes with illuminated reticles, built-in range finding capabilities, and “red dot” scopes are lawful for the taking of game animals.

    Hunter Harassment (MCA 87-6-215)

    It is unlawful to:

  • Intentionally interfere with the lawful taking of a wild animal.

Disturb an individual engaged in the lawful taking of a wild animal with intent to prevent the taking of the animal.

Hunter Orange Requirement (MCA 87-6-414)

Firearm Hunters

Any person hunting or accompanying a hunter 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 (see the following exception).

Archery Hunters

A licensed bowhunter pursuing deer, elk and/or antelope during the Archery Only Season or in an archery only hunting district is not required to meet the hunter orange requirement, even if there is a concurrent firearm season in that hunting district or portion of district. However, bowhunters hunting during any portion of the general (firearm) season for deer, elk, antelope, moose, bighorn sheep, mountain goat, black bear, and/ or mountain lion must always wear a minimum of 400 square inches of hunter orange (fluorescent) above the waist, visible at all times.

Hunting Hours (CR)

Authorized hunting hours for the taking of game animals begin one-half hour before sunrise and end one-half hour after sunset each day of the hunting season. See the official Sunrise-Sunset Tables listed on page 135.

Incidental Harvest Resulting in an Unlawfully

Taken Animal

If you or a member of your hunting party shoots an animal that results in an unlawfully taken animal, you should notify an FWP game warden or 1-800-TIP-MONT

(1-800-847-6668) immediately and follow their instructions.

> Hunters should field dress the animal but DO NOT transport the animal until you’ve received instructions.

Indian Reservations

  • The F&W Commission has by rule, closed all lands within the exterior boundaries of Montana’s Indian Reservations to the hunting of game animals with the use

    of state licenses unless provided for in a cooperative agreement between the Tribal Government and the State of Montana.

  • Currently, there are no cooperative agreements between FWP and any of the Tribal Governments in Montana and as such the season for the hunting of game animals, by nonmembers, with a state license is closed. Please contact FWP for further information.

Inspection by Warden (MCA 87-1-502, 87-6-218)

Game animals, game and nongame birds, fish, and furbearers taken must be shown to FWP Enforcement personnel for inspection when requested.

Interstate Wildlife Violator Compact (IWVC) Montana is a member of the IWVC. Under the compact, member states recognize suspensions of hunting, fishing or trapping privileges. It is unlawful for a violator whose privilege to hunt, fish or trap is suspended to obtain or attempt to obtain a license, tag or permit in a member state. For more information, call 406-444-2452.

Kill Site Verification (ARM 12.6.1005)

At the request of a Department Game Warden, it is required to return to the kill site of any game animal, game bird, wolf, or furbearer that has been hunted or trapped.

Landowner Permission (MCA 87-6-415)

A resident or nonresident shall obtain permission of the landowner, the lessee, or their agents before taking or attempting to take furbearing animals, game animals, migratory game birds, nongame wildlife, predatory animals, upland game birds, or wolves while hunting on private property.

  • Even if the land is not posted, hunters must have permission from the land owner, lessee, or their agent before hunting on private property, regardless of whether the land is posted or not.
  • Access to public land through private land requires permission of the private land owner, lessee, or their agent.
  • Retrieval of all wildlife through private land requires permission of the private landowner, lessee, or their agent.

License and Permit Possession/Use (MCA 87-6-304)

It is unlawful to:

  • Hunt or attempt to hunt for any game animal unless the person is carrying the required license or permit at the time.
  • Refuse to produce a license or permit and the identification used in purchasing a license or permit for inspection to a game warden.
  • Alter or change a license in any material manner.
  • Loan or transfer any license to another person.
  • Use a license issued to another person.
  • Attach the person’s license to a game animal killed by another person.
  • 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. This prohibition does not apply to a person who is carrying or has physical control over a license or permit issued to that person’s spouse or to any minor when the spouse or minor is hunting with that person.

License Validation/Tagging (MCA 87-6-411)

  • A hunter must cut out the proper month and day of the kill from the appropriate license and attach it to the animal before the carcass is removed from the site of the kill, or before the hunter leaves the site of the kill.
  • To properly validate a license (sometimes referred to as a tag):
  • The triangles denoting the month and day the animal was killed must be completely cut out and removed.

The properly validated license must remain with the meat (including cold storage) until consumed.

Littering (MCA 75-10-212)

A holder of a Montana resident or nonresident hunting license or camping permit convicted of littering campgrounds, public or private lands, streams, or lakes, while hunting, fishing, or camping shall forfeit any current Montana hunting, fishing, or trapping license and the privilege to hunt, fish, camp, or trap in Montana for a period of one year.

Marked or Radio-Collared Animals (CR) It is lawful to shoot game animals that have radio collars, neck bands, ear tags and/or other markers, but markers and radio collars must be returned to FWP. Please report the killing of a marked animal to the local FWP office.

Motion-Tracking Devices (MCA 87-6-401)

It is unlawful for a person, while hunting, to use any electronic motion-tracking device or mechanism that is designed to track the motion of a game animal and relay information on the animal’s movement to the hunter.

Motion tracking devices are defined by F&W Commission as remote operated camera or video devices capable of transmitting real time information, pictures or videos; seismic devices; thermal imaging devices; and satellite and radio telemetry devices.

A radio-tracking collar attached to a dog that is used by a hunter engaged in lawful hunting activities is not considered an unlawful motion-tracking device.

Motorized Vehicles (MCA 87-6-405)

It is unlawful for anyone to:

  • hunt or attempt to hunt any game animal from any self propelled (motorized) or drawn vehicle. To be lawful, a hunter must have two feet on the ground and his/her body outside of the vehicle. Holders of the Permit To Hunt From A Vehicle are the exception to this.
  • use a motorized vehicle or aircraft to concentrate, drive, rally, stir-up, corral, or harass game animals.
  • use a motor-driven vehicle on a road or trail on state land if that road or trail is posted as closed by the land management agency. This restriction applies only to state land and not to federal land For more information related to state school trust lands.
  • use a motor-driven vehicle other than on a road or trail designated for travel by a landowner unless permission has been given by that landowner. Off Road- Federal lands (CR)
  • operate, on federal public lands, a motorized wheeled vehicle off legal routes (including game retrieval). All Federally approved travel plans on public lands in Montana have been adopted by the F&W Commission. Contact the appropriate land management agencies for travel plan information.
  • Boats (MCA 87-6-207)
  • use a powerboat, sailboat, or any boat under sail or any floating device towed by a powerboat, sailboat, or any boat under sail for the purpose of killing, capturing, taking, pursuing, concentrating, driving, or stirring up any game animal.

    Off–Highway Vehicles (including ATV, UTV and dirt bikes)

    Residents (MCA 23-2-804, 23-2-111) –

    OHVs must be registered with the county treasurer and display a current off-highway permanent registration decal to be used for off-road recreation on public lands (trails, frozen lakes, reservoirs). To be used on roads (county, Forest Service, etc.), an OHV must be registered with the county treasurer and display a license plate and street-legal modifications. Resident hunters utilizing “summer motorized recreation trails” must also purchase a summer motorized recreation trail pass (decal) at a cost of $20, valid for 2 years and expires on December 31 of the second calendar year. All decals must be affixed in a conspicuous place on the OHV.

    Nonresidents (MCA 23-2-814) – OHVs that are owned by a nonresident may not be operated by a person anywhere in Montana unless a nonresident temporary-use permit is obtained. North Dakota residents are exempt. Permits are good for one calendar year, cost $35 and can be purchased from local vendors (stateparks.mt.gov/recreation/ ohvProgram.html, OHV Permits and Laws), at FWP offices or online at app. mt.gov/als. Contact Montana State Parks OHV Program at 406-444-3750.

    Outfitters and Guides (MCA 37-47-301)

    A person may not act as an outfitter or guide or advertise or otherwise represent to the public that the person is an outfitter or guide without first securing a license.

  • It is unlawful to engage in outfitting/ guiding while not licensed.

    • It is unlawful to hire an outfitter or guide not licensed by the Department of Labor and Industry. For information, call 406-841-2300.

Possession of Wildlife Parts (MCA 87-6-202)

A person may not possess, ship, or transport all or part of any game fish, bird, game animal, or fur-bearing animal that was unlawfully killed, captured, or taken, whether killed, captured, or taken in Montana or outside of Montana. This section does not prohibit the possession, shipping, or transportation of:

(a) hides, heads, or mounts of lawfully killed, captured, or taken game fish, birds, game animals, or fur-bearing animals, except that the sale or purchase of a hide, head, or mount of a grizzly bear is prohibited, except as provided by federal law;

(b) naturally shed antlers or the antlers with a skull or portion of a skull attached from a game animal that has died from natural causes and that has not been unlawfully killed, captured, or taken or accidentally killed;

(c) the bones of an elk, antelope, moose, or deer that has died from natural causes and that has not been unlawfully killed, captured, or taken or accidentally killed;

Vehicle Killed Wildlife Salvage Permit (MCA 87-3-145) (ARM 12.3.186)

Carcasses and parts of elk, deer, antelope and moose killed in vehicular collisions may be taken and possessed but only with a Vehicle-Killed Wildlife Salvage Permit. No other game animals may be salvaged by this permit. Recovery and possession of horns and skulls from mountain sheep that died of natural causes (MCA 87-3-315) A person may recover and possess the horn or horns and attached skull, or portion thereof, of a mountain sheep that died of natural causes and was not purposefully or accidentally killed, captured, or taken, including due to being struck by a vehicle.

Horns and skulls recovered pursuant to this section must be reported to the department by a method prescribed by the department within 48 hours and presented to the department for inspection and placement of a permanent pin in a horn within 10 days. The fee for the pin is $25.

This section does not allow the recovery or possession of horns and skulls found in state parks.

Predatory Animals and Nongame Hunting

Predatory animals and nongame species can be hunted in Montana year-round without a license by both resident and nonresident hunters. A Conservation License, or a State School Trust lands recreational use license is required to hunt predatory animals and nongame species on State School Trust lands. Permission must be obtained to hunt predatory animals and nongame species on private land.

  • Predatory Animals are classified as coyote, weasel, (striped) skunk, and civet cat (spotted skunk).
  • Nongame species are defined as any wild animal not otherwise lawfully classified by statute or regulation in Montana. Examples include badger, raccoon, red fox, hares, rabbits, ground squirrels, marmots, tree squirrels, porcupines, and prairie dog.

    Public Roadways (MCA 87-6-403) It is unlawful for anyone to hunt or attempt to hunt any game animal: on, from, or across any public highway or the shoulder, berm, barrow pit or right-of-way of any public highway (the entire width between the boundary lines of every publicly maintained way when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel).

Recorded Animal Sounds (MCA 87-6-401)

It is unlawful to use any recorded or electrically amplified bird or animal calls or sounds or imitations of bird or animal calls or sounds to assist in the hunting, taking, killing or capturing of any wildlife except predatory animals, wolves, and those birds not protected by state or federal law.

Restitution for Unlawfully Taken Wildlife (MCA 87-6-906, CR)

Under Montana law, a person convicted, or who was charged and forfeited bond or bail, of unlawfully killing, taking, or possessing game animals shall reimburse the state. The law sets the amount of restitution for a trophy animal under Montana law as:

Bighorn Sheep

$30,000

Elk

$8,000

Antlered Deer

$8,000

Moose

$6,000

Mountain Goat

$6,000

Antelope

$2,000

Grizzly Bear*

$8,000

  • no authorized hunting season
  • The law specifically outlines minimum standards for a trophy under this regulation, but authorizes the F&W Commission to adopt more specific criteria.
  • For the purpose of assessing restitution for unlawfully taken trophy wildlife under Montana law, the following are considered “trophy” animals:
  • 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:

    1) at least six points on one antler, 2) a main beam length on each antler of at least 43 inches, and 3) an inside spread of at least 36 inches.

    OR

    Any elk with at least one six-point antler and having a gross/green Boone & Crockett score of 320 points or greater.

  • Mule Deer: Must meet all three criteria: 1) at least four points on one antler

    (excluding brow tine), 2) a main beam

    length on each side of at least 21 inches, and 3) 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 gross/green Boone & Crockett score of 160 points or greater.

  • White-tailed Deer: Must meet all three criteria:

    1) at least four points on one antler

    (excluding brow tine), 2) a main beam

    length on each side of at least 20 inches, and 3) a greatest inside spread across the main beams of at least 16 inches.

    OR

    Any white-tailed deer with at least one four-point antler and having a gross/ 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 (B&C) 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 B&C 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 B&C 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 Montana law.

Sale of Game Animals (MCA 87-6-206)

A person may not purposely or knowingly sell, purchase, or exchange all or part of any game fish, bird, game animals, or fur-bearing animals, except that a person may sell, purchase, or exchange:

  • Hides, heads, or mounts of game fish, birds, game animals, or fur-bearing animals that have been lawfully killed, captured, or taken, except that the sale or purchase of a hide, head, or mount of a grizzly bear is prohibited, except as provided by federal law.
  • Naturally shed antlers or the antlers with a skull or portion of a skull attached from a game animal that has died from natural causes and that has not been unlawfully killed, captured, or taken or accidentally killed; for additional exceptions, see 87-6-206 MCA. Sale of meat is not allowed.

Simulated Wildlife (MCA 87-6-217)

It is unlawful to discharge a firearm or other hunting implement at a simulated wildlife decoy in violation of any state statute, ARM, or F&W Commission rule regulating the hunting of the wildlife being simulated.

Transport of Wildlife

  • An individual other than the license holder may transport lawfully taken, properly tagged game animals that comply with the “Evidence of Sex Requirements.”
  • It is unlawful to ship, possess, transport, or take out of state unlawfully killed game animals.
  • It is a violation of the Federal Lacey Act to transport an unlawfully taken game animal across state boundaries.
  • If you are transporting lawfully taken wildlife (including parts and/or products of live or dead animals) between the United States and any foreign country, you must complete a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declaration form. For further information, contact the USFWS wildlife inspector at 406-335-4350 or www.fws.gov.
  • Questions concerning carcass transport may be directed to FWP Enforcement at 406-444-2452 or to your home state’s wildlife division. Traps (MCA 87-6-601)

    It is unlawful to destroy, disturb, or remove any trap or snare belonging to another person or remove wildlife from a trap or snare belonging to another person without permission of the owner of the trap or snare.

Two-way Communication (ARM 12.6.1010)

The use of two-way electronic communication is prohibited:

  • While in the act of hunting game animals or wolves to aid in the taking or locating of live animals.
  • While in the act of hunting mountain lion or bobcats with dogs, beginning when the dogs are placed or physically released on tracks or a scent trail.
  • To avoid game check stations or FWP enforcement personnel.
  • To facilitate unlawful hunting activity. The use of two-way electronic communication for the use of safety or other legitimate purposes is exempt. Two-way electronic communication includes, but is not limited to, the following; radios (walkie-talkies/CB), cell phones, text messages, and the use of social media or other electronic platforms, applications, or programs.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles UAV (CR)

It is unlawful for a person to use an UAV/ drone for the purposes of concentrating, pursuing, driving, rallying, or stirring up any game animal. A UAV/drone may not be used to locate game animals for the purposes of: hunting those animals during the same hunting day after a UAV/ drone has been airborne, or providing information for another person for the purposes of; hunting those animals within the same hunting day after the UAV/drone has been airborne. UAVs/drones are not allowed to film a hunt.

Waste of Game (MCA 87-6-205)

  • 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 that is defined as “suitable for food.”
  • For game animals (excluding mountain lions), all of the four quarters above the hock, including loin and backstrap, are considered suitable for food.

Weapons Restriction Areas (CR)

Weapons restrictions are in effect in some hunting districts. Such restrictions are stated in the license/permit description and/or with a specific date range. The following equipment restrictions apply to Weapons Restriction Areas:

Archery

See lawful archery equipment in the “Law & Rules” section.

Crossbows

Lawful in weapons restriction areas unless exception noted in specific hunting district regulations.

Traditional Handguns

  • Are not capable of being shoulder mounted;
  • Have a barrel length of less than 10 1⁄2 inches;
  • Chamber only a straight wall cartridge, not originally developed for rifles.

    Muzzleloader

  • Must not be capable of being loaded from the breech of the barrel;
  • May not be loaded with any pre-prepared paper or metallic cartridges;
  • must be charged with black powder, pyrodex, or an equivalent;
  • Must be ignited by a percussion, flintlock, matchlock, or wheelock mechanism;
  • Must be a minimum of .45 caliber;
  • May have no more than two barrels;
  • Must only use plain lead projectiles;
  • Sabots or other similar power and range-enhancing manufactured loads that enclose the projectile from the rifling or bore of the firearm are prohibited. “Skirts” or gas checks on the base of a projectile are acceptable. Shotgun

    Must be shouldered, breech-loaded, or muzzle-loaded firearm with a smooth bore and/or rifled barrel and/or rifled choke device designed to fire shot or slugs.