What should I expect hunting in Montana?
This thread will be for anyone to post there experiences hunting in Montana. Just give a General Area you hunt no honey holes or secret spots. For example NW SW etc. Just give some Idea of what a hunter should expect while hunting that part of the state. Give info on what type of hunt, time of year, weather, toughness of the hunt Etc. Dont be afraid to edit your post to add more information.
I will start.
Southwest Montana is my main stomping grounds.
Species of animals I hunt Elk/Mule deer.
Time of year I hunt here primarily during Bow season. Mid Sept- mid Oct.
Weather can be quite variable this time of year. I have hunted in this part of the state when the temps have ranged a high in the 30s- 80s during the day to the lows at night being from 15*- 50s. In early September the temps of course are higher most years than they are in October. At 8500ft the average temp over the years during this time of year seems to average 40s-60s during the days and fall off in the evenings to the 20s and 30s.
Precipitation is normally fairly sparse in SW Montana. In early to mid September you may have the occasional rain shower or thunderstorm. Last year was the first year I can remember where it rained multiple days in a row. Towards the end of September into October you can expect some snow above 7500ft. I have seen a dusting of snow to basically getting snowed out in the higher elevations during this time of year. Last year towards the end of September there was a snowfall of 8-10 inches above 8500ft/ The good thing is many times it is gone in a few days.
Terrain The terrain can vary quite a bit in this are from very flat to very steep and difficult. At higher altitudes the in the region I hunt for elk the terrain is about a 8 out 10 on the difficulty scale. There are many steep inclines and drainage's to traverse while hunting and being in shape is a must. Cover in this area is mostly Sage and Pine with a fair amount of dead falls on the steeper slopes and drainage's. Loose rock is very common at mid to higher elevation. Most creeks and streams are fed by springs and ground water / ground Ice and water can be difficult to find in some areas and easier in others. A water filter system would be a recommendation due to the cattle grazing in many areas. Most grazing cattle are rounded up and brought out of the higher country by mid September.
Animals In the areas I hunt you see all species of the big game species. Be prepared to move as many species can cover a lot of ground in a short period of time. Over the past ten year I have noticed a pretty obvious decline in the mule deer population on public land in SW Montana, Elk numbers seem to be pretty stable but are normally in pockets.
Last edited by 25contender; 05-15-2014 at 12:33 PM.
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As my name says eastern montana is where I am most familiar with.
Location: Missouri River Breaks/Charles M. Russell NWR
Usually from Hell Creek rec area and west and through the Missouri Breaks National Monument. Stick to the timber but don't over look upland reservoirs. Hunting pressure is high in some areas but dissipates as you 1.5 miles+ from a road (sometimes just over the next ridge). Road hunting is a big problem and lots of people bugle near the roads or in camp. Don't drive off road at all unless to camp. Get out and walk to glass.
Big bucks are few and far between but good bucks can still be found in hard to reach areas. Local guide websites show that they are still pulling nice bucks out. Yeah deer numbers are down but they'll be back. Bring some good glass and check every bush.
EHD got them good but they will be back quickly too, need a few more years to grow big bucks
Plenty around if your smart about it. 2011 took a toll but still respectable bucks running around. Archery permits are a given draw and opens mid august but just remember most block management areas don't open till September. I would suggest spot and stalk in broken country with a bow or water hole blinds during dry years.
A ridiculous amount of ewes, if you want to shoot a sheep (ewe) with your bow now is the time.
The breaks are nasty and steep. Lots of up and down up and down that will take its toll.
Rain is the bane of any hunter's plans in the Breaks. The roads have a mixture of sand, bentonite clay, and organic matter that turn the roads into GUMBO. Words cannot explain this mud, you have to experience it. I have lost count of the amount of people I have told to not go somewhere because of the roads/pending weather conditions just to hear they buried their truck. Any sort of small hill will turn impossible when it rains. Consider your self warned.
General Tips (important)
MAPS!- New CMR refuge map coming this summer (2014) which actually shows the public roads that are open. The current one lists many roads that are closed to the public.
Respect the topography- those bushes in that coulee are actually the tops of 40ft pondorosas. Further more people die fairly often in the breaks due to inexpierence with the gumbo, lack of water, and turning the wrong way in a coulee. Don't let the "openness" of the area catch you with your pants down
A current study is being done on elk in the CMR looking at elk movements and road densities/use. Should be interesting what they find out- my guess is that the elk are away from the roads. So bring your hiking boots.
Miles City BLM:406-233-2800
Charles M. Russell NWR: Lewistown Office (There are also field offices near Fred Robinson Bridge, Jordan, and Glasgow that can provide more detailed information) (406) 538-8706
The missouri river breaks also covers several Montana fish wildlife and parks regions.
Last edited by eastmont; 06-22-2014 at 04:08 PM.
Reason: more info added
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Great post! Gumbo is a nice way of describing the roads in wet conditions, I would refer to it as the contents of a baby's fully loaded diaper! We hunt out of Jordon every year and will push into Petroleum county if the hunting is slow or there are too many people. You are 100% correct about getting off the roads. I hunt with a big fellow who is 20 years older than me and not very mobile. He drops me off and I walk and glass and always produce much bigger bucks than he does from the road. I am no fan of road hunting, however; if hunters have limited mobility the breaks offer them the best chance to shoot a decent animal with minimal drag distance. To re-enforce your point, if you're are going to road hunt, stay on the ROAD!!! I have seen people drive off the road one time to recover an animal and ten years later their tires tracks look new. The grass in that area is very fragile and does not recover from vehicle travel.
Last edited by Buck8541; 10-21-2014 at 09:44 AM.