Montana Draw and Point Systems

January 05, 2023 by DrawScout

Montana has one of the most complex draw systems in the country. It includes preference and bonus points, varied application deadlines and draw dates, and plenty of nuance. Get a handle on it in this Draw Systems article.

Montana Elk in Snow

Application Periods

Montana’s application periods for Antelope, Deer, Elk, Bighorn Sheep, Bison, Moose, and Mountain Goat all start at the same time during late winter — typically March 1st. This includes “B” applications (doe deer, doe antelope, etc.), limited permits, and general licenses.

Despite opening at the same time, deadlines vary between each application type. Application periods typically end throughout the spring from April to June.

Consult upcoming application dates in your DrawScout member portal or visit Montana FWP.

Upcoming Application Dates
DrawScout’s Upcoming Dates Widget

Bonus Points and Preference Points

The Montana big game draws are a bit unique and at first, can appear overly complicated. For many people, one of the most confusing parts is the use of both bonus and preference points. In the case of deer and elk, Montana even uses both types of points within the same species.

Preference points are only used for big game combo, elk combo, and deer combo licenses and only for nonresidents. Bonus points are used for limited entry and “b” applications.

Elk, Deer, and Big Game Combination Draw

As mentioned above, preference points are used for combination licenses in Montana. These combination licenses are valid in general hunt districts. The “big game” combo includes both deer and elk general licenses.

Add combination licenses in DrawScout
Adding Combination Applications in DrawScout

The preference point draw for combination licenses occurs before limited entry draws. It’s split into two separate draws: A purely preference point draw awards 75% of licenses to those with the most preference points. Next, the remaining 25% are awarded at random to people with 0 preference points. This means that during some years, it may actually be beneficial to have zero points instead of one.

Other important notes about the preference point draw include:

  • Applicants can purchase a preference point during the year of the application. This is unique compared to many states.
  • You must apply every other year or your preference points will be purged.
  • No one can hold more than 3 preference points.
  • If hunting with an outfitter, applicants can purchase 2 preference points for the current year.

Because of these quirks, Montana Elk and Deer Combination Licenses are more of a short-term plan than some other applications.

Limited Entry and B-Licenses

Limited entry and “B” type licenses are all awarded using a bonus point system. Species include deer, elk, antelope, sheep, moose, and mountain goat. One bonus point per year can be accrued and unlike preference points, they don’t expire.

The limited entry draws are random, but bonus points are squared. Everyone has a chance, but those with bonus points have an advantage.

If you apply for a bonus point species, you must purchase a point during the application period. If you don’t, you can’t purchase one during the points-only period later in the year.

Elk Permits and Deer Permits

Limited entry elk and deer permits are drawn after the Combination preference point draw. These permits allow you to hunt a specific limited entry hunt district. A deer or elk permit requires a general deer, elk, or combo license and can only be drawn if you were also successful in the combination draw.

It was mentioned above that combination licenses can be more of a short-term plan. If planning to hunt elk or deer in a limited entry unit, bonus points should be looked at more long-term. There isn’t a low maximum or a requirement to enter the draw every other year, so you can start building bonus points well ahead of preference points.

If successful in the general license draw, but unsuccessful in the permit drawing, applicants can elect to turn their general license back in for a partial refund. Look for this option while filling out your application.

Costs for Applying in Montana

The costs for applying in Montana can vary widely depending on your goals in a given year. Depending on your applications, you may be required to purchase a base hunting license, conservation license, and aquatic invasive species prevention pass. An application fee and processing fees are also required.

Applicants must pay the cost of tags upfront. Unsuccessful applicants receive refunds after the draws.

Estimated Costs and Refunds in Montana
Estimated Costs and Refunds in Montana

Big Game Draw Results

Draw results are staggered throughout several months. Some species even have results available at different times for different application types. For example, Antelope and Antelope B results may not be available until August, but Antelope 900-20 archery results may be available in June with Deer B and Elk B results.

Visit your DrawScout member portal for relevant dates for your applications.

Point Purchase Period — Purchase Points in Montana

Preference and bonus point purchases open up in the summer, typically on July 1st. Preference points and bonus points have different deadlines. Bonus points are purchasable until end of September, while preference point purchases go through the end of the year.

It’s important to note that you cannot purchase a species point in Montana if you applied for that species and elected not to participate in the point system while applying. So if you do want to accrue points in Montana, be sure to either purchase them on your original applications or don’t apply if you only want to participate in the point purchase period.

Tracking Points in Point Manager

Montana’s point system can be a little more complex than other states. For example, Colorado uses a straightforward preference point system for many species, while New Mexico doesn’t use one at all.

In Montana, DrawScout accounts for different point types and different application types in Point Manager.

Tracking Points in Montana with Point Manager
Tracking Points in Montana with Point Manager

Plan Your Applications and Estimate Costs in DrawScout

DrawScout helps you get a handle on all of your application costs for Montana and any other states that you apply in.

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