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Top 25 Montana General Elk Rifle Hunt Districts

From video taken the final day of my 2018 elk hunt.

In previous posts I’ve ranked the archery and rifle hunt districts (aka hunt models) for the General Elk seasons for numerous western states.

I want to do the same for the General Elk season in Montana, but it is troublesome because Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (MFWP) does not report General elk harvests separately.

Montana Still has General Elk Season

However Montana continues to be one of many states that has OTC General Elk Licenses for residents and although non-residents have to use for these Licenses, you will have a very good probability of drawing one. So anybody planning a DIY public land elk hunt for 2019 wants to apply by March 15, 2019. It’s too late this yr, so be certain that to apply by Mid March subsequent yr.

MFWP reviews Harvest Knowledge from 165 Searching Districts (and partial Searching Districts (HDs)) for Elk and Mule Deer. The newest out there Harvest Date is from the 2017 hunt season. 153 of these HDs permit searching with the General Elk License, 146 HDs have General Rifle Seasons and 151 HDs have General Archery Seasons. There were a number of HDs that I ignored because no elk have been harvested there.

In Montana, you possibly can hunt most HDs with a General Elk License, but pay close attention to the laws in each HD.

Totally different HDs in Montana permit hunters to take seven totally different mixtures of age/intercourse/antlered/antlerless elk with General Elk Licenses throughout rifle seasons (see Desk 1) and has 5 totally different mixtures for archery hunters.

DIY Public Land Elk Hunt

Since I’m concerned with DIY Searching on Public Land, HDs that do not permit me to hunt on the National Forest or HDs which might be restricted to Personal Lands are not any use to me, so I take away those HDs from consideration.

Desk 1 exhibits the variety of HDs with every Age/Sex Mixture elk hunters can legally take with General Elk Licenses.

The left column exhibits all HDs and the suitable column exhibits solely these HDs that do not prohibit searching on the Nationwide Forests or are limited to non-public lands.

Desk 1. Montana General Elk License and Authorized Take for Rife and Archery Seasons

Montana General
Elk Licenses
Age/Sex Mixtures Complete Number HDs Un-restriced HDs
General Elk Rifle (ALW) Forehead-tined Bull Elk 54 51
Brow-tined Bull or Antlerless Elk 41 34
Antlerless Elk 34 13
Either-sex Elk 35 29
Spike Bull or Antlerless Elk 11 eight
Antlered Bull Elk 3 1
Spike Bull Elk 2 2
Complete HDs 179 130
General Elk Archery Forehead-tined Bull or Antlerless Elk 85 82
Either-sex Elk 43 39
Antlerless Elk 15 14
Spike Bull or Antlerless Elk 13 10
Brow-tined Bull Elk 6 4
Complete HDs 162 140

When you observed the totals do not add up in Desk 1, it’s as a result of many HDs have multiple season and in many instances, the Age/Sex you’re allowed to harvest modifications. Also word that a few of the additional mixtures are for Youth Only hunts.

But you possibly can see in case you are fascinated with searching Mature Bull elk in Montana, there are 51 HDs that will let you hunt Forehead-tined Bulls on Public Land.

As well as, there are 34 HDs that permit both Forehead-tined Bull elk or antlerless elk. There are additionally 29 HDs permit Both Intercourse elk and 1 HD that permits Antlered Elk; which means spike elk may also be harvested. In complete, that is 110 HDs that permits you to harvest a mature bull elk with a General Season License.

Need to Hunt Either-sex Elk?

For people who want the option to harvest any elk, only the 29 unrestricted HDs with Both Intercourse hunts permit you to do this (apart from spikes, however spikes make up a small portion of the population). The Brow-tined Bull and Antlerless elk hunts (34 HDs) makes a complete of 63 unrestricted HDs the place you’ll be able to take any elk on 29 models and all however spikes on the remaining.

The identical is true for those occupied with searching archery seasons. The whole HDs that permit either sex and Mature Bull searching is totally different, however there are extra alternatives to hunt any elk besides spikes with archery gear.

Rating Top Montana General Elk Hunt Districts

The methods I used to rank Montana’s Hunt Districts (HDs) are as follows.

First, General Elk Licenses usually are not obtainable in a number of HDs, so these HDs have been eliminated.

Second, HDs (or seasons) that do not permit searching on US Forest Service lands, or these restricted to Personal Lands or those with solely Permits To Hunt From A Car (PTHFV) restrictions have been additionally eradicated.

I was additionally wanting specifically at rifle seasons, however every of the tables (Tables 2, 3 & 4) show the % of elk harvested by rifle (or Any Legal Weapon) vs archery.

Key Harvest Knowledge Lacking from Montana Harvest Stories

Since harvest knowledge in Montana does not separate harvests from draw permits or General Licenses, the problem is methods to take away the elk harvested with drawn permits. The reality is, it might’t be finished accurately with out more info.

MFWP doesn’t even report Archery and Rifle Hunts separately and these days, they’ve stopped reporting the number of hunters and hunter effort, so we not have any concept about hunter density or elk hunter success in Montana.

But when the General Elk License in a HD solely allows Brow-tined Bulls to be harvested, I eliminated all Antlerless elk and spikes that have been harvested. If the General License in a HD only allows Antlerless Elk to be harvested, I eliminated all bull elk from the harvest.

We have no idea which seasons, tags or weapons have been truly used to reap the elk in those Hunt Districts, however we will see the full variety of elk that would have been harvested in each unit with a General License for comparability. So the elk harvested give an concept concerning the high quality of the district, but we simply don’t know precisely which season all the elk have been taken.

After removing elk that might not be authorized with General Tags for each unit, I recalculated Complete Elk and then ranked the Montana HDs with General Licenses by the remaining Complete Elk Harvested (see Desk 2).

Spike elk are included in the Complete Elk Column, but not in the Bull Elk Columns, apart from HD 590 the place the one legal bull harvested would have been Spike Elk.

Discover the following tables have the following columns on the left aspect of the Tables, displaying harvest knowledge that might be authorized only with General Elk License:

  • “Total Elk”
  • “Bull Elk”
  • “General Rifle Tag”

On the proper aspect of the tables, the columns show the totals for all Licenses, seasons and weapons

  • “Total Elk”
  • “Bull Elk”
  • “% 6 pt Elk”
  • “% Rifle”

The “% 6 pt Elk” column exhibits the share of 6 point or higher elk out of all Bull Elk harvested by all methods, licenses and seasons for each HD.

The “% Rifle” column exhibits the share of Complete Elk taken by “Rifle” vs Archery from Complete Elk Harvested by all strategies, Licenses and seasons for every HD.

You should use the “% 6 pt Elk” knowledge to look for models with a excessive proportion of mature bulls. Archery hunters can use the “% Rifle” knowledge to estimate archery harvest by HD in case you are prepared to imagine the proportion of elk harvested by all strategies, licenses and seasons approximates the same proportion taken with General Elk Licenses.

Desk 2 Top 25 Montana Hunt Districts – Complete General Elk Harvest – Rifle

table with top montana general elk hunts

*B.T. Bull Elk = Forehead-tined Bull Elk

The HDs in Table 2 ranged from 841 to 251 complete elk in the Top 25 HDs. The highest nine HDs in Table 2 present principally the identical Complete Elk and Bull Elk on each side of the table as a result of the one difference have been a hand filled with spike elk. Once more, I am not saying all of these elk have been harvested with General Licenses, however I am saying a General License would put you in the space where it’s legal to harvest these elk. I hi-lighted knowledge in cells which are totally different.

The number 10 spot (HD 590) does show giant variations between the General License aspect and the Complete aspect as a result of the only legal bulls taken on the General License can be the 38 spikes. You possibly can see this unit allowed mature bulls to be taken with the drawn elk permits (252 B.T. Bulls in truth), that have been faraway from the left aspect of the table. Eradicating that many bull elk additionally effects the Complete Elk estimate.

One other instance the place General Licenses would not have the identical opportunity as the drawn licenses is HD 411, the place the General License solely permits antlerless take and the drawn permits permit each.

The very first thing you need to notice from Table 2 is how the top 25 HDs are dominated by Regions 3 and four. No surprise here, these Areas have one of the best year-round elk habitat and plenty of public lands.

Two Region 5 HDs present up within the prime 25; HDs 540 and 590. HD 590 made it on the idea of antlerless harvest, because solely 38 of the whole harvest have been Spike Bulls allowed on the General Elk Tags.

Want to Hunt Mature Bull Elk?

Personally, I like the option to hunt any elk (or both intercourse elk), however many people are more considering searching mature bulls. So I additionally separated and ranked HDs both methods.

This next table (Table three) is from all HDs the place the General Elk License allowed hunters to take Mature Bull Elk (extra particularly Brow-tined Bull Elk, Forehead-tined Bull Elk or Both Sex HDs and Desk four exhibits ranked HDs where hunters had the choice to take any elk (specifically Forehead-tined Bull Elk or Antlerless or Both Intercourse HD – realizing that the “Brow-tined Bull or Antlerless elk” choice leaves out spikes and probably a couple of different younger bulls.

Table 3 exhibits the highest 25 HDs (ranked by Bull Elk; (Brow-tined Bull Elk) in General License Elk HDs that permit the take of Mature Bull Elk (Brow-tined Bull Elk, Forehead-tined Bull or Antlerless Elk or Both Intercourse Elk). Young bulls (spikes) are included in the Complete Elk Column, but not within the Bull Elk Columns.

Table three Top 25 Montana Hunt Districts – General Mature Bull Elk Harvest – Rifle

table with top montana bull elk hunts
*B.T. Bull Elk = Brow-tined Bull Elk

Ranked by Mature Bull Elk only, the HDs in Desk 3 range from 420 to 140 Bull Elk that have been harvested in HDs with General Tags.

Again, these HDs are dominated by Region 3 and Region 4 apart from the TOP Bull Elk unit with General Tags; HD 215.

For someone interested only in searching mature bulls, you also needs to take a look at HDs 312 & 445 because over 70% of the bell elk taken in these HDs have been 6 points or higher and HDs 393, 314, 390 and 311 had over 60% of the bull elk with at the very least 6 factors.

So for many of you people that reside in the higher mid-west, you’ll be able to hunt elk most years with out having to drive all the best way to Colorado, however in the event you hunt in Montana, particularly in Area three and Area four (the place most are), you will have to take note of grizzly bears.

A Phrase of Advice for Your First DIY Elk Hunt

To begin with, it’s unattainable to know all the things before you go on your first elk hunt. Sooner or later, you simply should decide and apply for or purchase a tag.

You’ll never study all the things you could know, but you will study most of what you’ll want to know after you begin searching. DIY elk searching is a journey, not an occasion and not a vacation spot.

It’s never going to be a perfect state of affairs and I feel that keeps many people from every happening their first DIY elk hunt, but you must begin someplace. Study “on the job”, don’t hold waiting for the right state of affairs and don’t hold waiting till you study it all.

The “perfect” half is spending time in superb habitat (alone or with family or associates) with the chance to harvest an elk.

When you’ve got buddies or household that have invited you to return hunt with them, you need to go. The decision of where to hunt has been made or is left up to them as your native guide.

However in case you are planning a DIY hunt, you can throw a dart at the map and may in all probability find elk on a lot of the National Forest Lands (relying on time of yr), however before I select a searching unit (particularly as a non-resident), there are numerous issues I need to know concerning the HDs (not essentially on this order):

  1. The place Can I Hunt? – One unit, many models, all models?
  2. What Can I Hunt? Mature Bulls Elk? Cow Elk? Each (or in Montana additionally Bull/Buck Combo)?
  3. When Can I Hunt?
  4. How a lot public land on the unit?
  5. How many elk have been harvested on the unit?
  6. What is elk population and/or management goal?
  7. What number of other hunters and the way much searching effort?
  8. Elk habitats, water sources and terrain
  9. Access factors, trailheads, campsites, Roadless and Wilderness Areas

I hope by sorting and rating the Montana General Elk models, it’ll help make your determination of the place to hunt somewhat simpler.

About the author

TravelMoto