Hunting Big Game Hunting Elk Hunting

Montana Offering Over-the-Counter Bull Tags

Andrew McKean Avatar

For only the second time in a generation, non-resident hunters can buy a Montana bull tag over the counter. No worries about the stingy lottery, no casting around for an outfitter or landowner to sponsor you.

As of Friday afternoon, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks had 1,094 Big-Game Combination Licenses (this includes both an elk tag and a deer tag) and another 2,036 Elk Combination Licenses available for the 2012 hunting season. The combination licenses also include upland bird, conservation, and fishing licenses.

Why the leftover licenses?

The reason can be attributed to a combination of factors, including the uncertain economy, non-resident hunters’ concerns that wolves have impacted the state’s big-game populations, and the price of the licenses themselves–$944 for the Big-Game Combo and $794 for the Elk Combo.

But the biggest change is one made by the legislature last session that allows unsuccessful applicants for special deer and elk permits to get a refund of a portion of their license. In the case of a non-resident deer hunter who also applied for a special elk tag in, say the Missouri River Breaks or the Elkhorn Mountains, the new rule means they get the elk portion of their license refunded. That has put non-resident licenses back in the pool.

“This is only the second time in my career that we’ve had over-the-counter elk licenses available after the draw,” says Ron Aasheim, FWP’s director of communications. “The cap of 17,000 has almost always been reached, and in most years the demand outstrips supply by something like 2-to-1.”

The leftover licenses can be purchased over the counter at FWP offices and license venders, or online at

As for hunting outlooks, biologists are currently flying spring surveys and quotas for antlered and antlerless harvest will be established over the next month. Aasheim expects a good hunting season.

“We hear a lot about wolves, but fully 70 percent of our elk hunting districts are over population objective,” he says. “Wolves have had a localized impact in some districts, but by in large our herds are in great shape.”