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Cowboy Heaven Consulting, LLC
6116 Walker Road
Bozeman, MT 59715
1-877-613-0404
406-587-9563
info@cowboyhvn.com

Antelope Advice for Non-Residents

Areas with better drawing odds and success rates for visiting speed goat hunters

W.gif (979 bytes)hether you’re an experienced hunter, or looking to go on your first big game hunt, you ought to consider going on an antelope hunt. Comparatively inexpensive and not particularly physically demanding, an antelope hunt is a great activity for the whole family. Plus, you’re virtually assured of seeing lots of game, and the odds of success are very high, 75-100% in most areas. Compare that to elk hunting success rates, which hover around 15% for general access public land hunting.

The conventional wisdom says that if you’re looking for a really big antelope, record book class,A nice Region 5 speed goat you should concentrate on the southern states like Arizona and New Mexico, since bucks in the northern states often winterkill before they get old enough to grow those big horns. There’s some truth to that, but we’ve been having relatively mild winters for quite some time now, and a glance at the record books show quite a few Boone & Crockett class antelope taken in recent years. Besides, in the southern states you’re looking at long drawing odds, or shelling out some fairly serious money for a landowner tag. In Montana, you can potentially go antelope hunting every year, and we do! That’s basically what this article is about; how to choose an area where your drawing and success odds are good.

The conventional wisdom also maintains that eastern Montana, Region 7, is the place to go antelope hunting. That’s true, although you can find good antelope hunting basically anywhere east of a line through Livingston and Havre, which also takes in portions of Regions 4, 5, and 6. PlusKurt Rued with a Boone & Crockett Montana antelope you can find decent antelope hunting in a few areas of western Montana. Region 7 has by far the most antelope, though, and through sheer numbers that also translates into the most trophy class antelope. If you’re a Montana resident and don’t mind the drive, I’d say yes, head for Region 7. If you’re a non-resident, that maxim suddenly causes a problem, though. Non-residents are limited to 10% of the quota in any given hunting district. In Region 7, all the districts are lumped together for antelope hunting purposes, with an overall quota of 13,000 tags, meaning that only 1300 of those tags are available for non-residents. In 1999 (the most recent year in which drawing odds are available as of this writing) 5201 non-resident hunters applied for those tags, which results in drawing odds of almost exactly 1 in 4. Several of the outfitters we represent in Region 7 have superb antelope hunting available, with a very realistic chance at a speed goat that scores over the 82 points needed for Boone & Crockett inclusion. The problem is that their clients can’t draw the tags on any sort of consistent basis, and so not too many of them stress antelope hunting.

The bright side of this situation is that there are a good number of districts further west that also offer good antelope hunting, where drawing odds for non-residents are way better. The following table details what we feel are the best choices. The drawing odds on all of them are better than Region 7, and while the drawing odds vary from year to year for any given district with no way to predict what they’ll be in advance; in several of them you’re looking at odds close to or at 100%. That makes it a little easier to plan a Montana antelope hunting trip!

Hunting District

Name

Non-resident quota

Applicants

Drawing Odds*

Success
Rate**

341

Twin Bridges

15

11

100%

78%

360

Ennis

40

71

56%

76%

450

Cascade

40

45

89%

73%

480

Winifred

40

123

33%

68%

481

Winnett

5

12

42%

49%

500

Twodot N

30

29

100%

67%

501

HarlowtownNE

55

77

71%

80%

511

Hardin

25

28

89%

100%

513

Roundup W

90

110

82%

84%

530

Roundup E

140

218

64%

100%

550

Lavina

30

9

100%

73%

560

Ryegate

60

28

100%

65%

570

HarlowtownSE

50

71

70%

64%

571

Rapelje

35

39

90%

100%

590

Twodot S

45

56

80%

63%

610

Havre

10

2

100%

65%

690

Bearpaws E

100

176

57%

70%

* Based on 1999 figures
** Five-year averages through 1996. The FWP programmer in charge of compiling success statistics quit in 1997, and hasn’t been replaced. Success statistics since then are available on an inconsistent basis, aren’t compiled under the same criteria from district to district, and so don’t offer the same degree of accuracy as these 5-year averages.

 

Review by District

  • 341 Twin Bridges- Limited public access (where the antelope are, anyway), although in the past some ranchers have granted permission. If you can get access, the hunting isn’t too bad, although I wouldn’t plan on a Booner.
  • 360 Ennis- Limited or non-existent public access. Outfitted hunts are available at reasonable cost, though, and the scenery and fishing are great (whether that is relevant criteria for an antelope hunt I’ll leave up to you).
  • 450 Cascade- Almost completely private land, but several Block Management ranches provide some opportunity. Not really a typical antelope hunting destination, but I’ve seen speed goats along the Smith River road.
  • 480 Winifred- A fairly popular area, given the lack of public access. A couple of smallish Block Management ranches provide limited opportunity. Best plan on going with an outfitter or spending some time gaining permission here.
  • 481 Winnett- More public land, plus a number of Block Management ranches (including some very large ones) offer quite a bit of opportunity here. The success rate looks like a mistake to me, I know people who hunt this district and do well.
  • 500 Twodot N- Antelope numbers are good, and two Hutterite Colonies offer public access through the Block Management program. Trophy potential is not the greatest, at least on the publicly accessible stuff, though.
  • 501 Harlowtown NE- Reasonably good numbers, but limited access (very little public land, and a few smallish Block Management ranches).
  • 511 Hardin- Good numbers, but for all practical purposes you need to go with an outfitter here (which we can arrange).
  • 513 Roundup W- Excellent numbers, and a good amount of public and Block Management land put this one on the very short list.
  • 530 Roundup E- Also good numbers, but more limited public access. A reasonable number of Block Management ranches, but they don’t have that great of antelope hunting. The best hunting is in the SE portion of the district, and you’ll need to go with an outfitter.
  • 550 Lavina- Attractive numbers, but very limited access. In some districts, a good number of permits can indicate low landowner tolerance for speed goats, and I’d say this is one of them.
  • 560 Ryegate- Basically the same situation as 550, although access is somewhat better.
  • 570 Harlowtown SE- Very little public land, but a reasonable number of Block Management ranches. Basically, any direction from Harlowtown is pretty decent antelope hunting.
  • 571 Rapelje- See 570, this district is more of the same…
  • 590 Twodot S- See the previous two….
  • 610 Havre - This is mainly farming country, with fairly limited antelope habitat. You can get a tag, and you’ll be able to get permission for the asking, for the most part, though. Antelope numbers are best around Big Sandy.
  • 690 Bearpaws E- Lots of public land in the southern portion of this district, with reasonable numbers of antelope throughout. The highest concentrations are between Chinook and the Bearpaw Mountains, which is mostly private, although there are several Block Management ranches.

Limited antelope hunting opportunities are also available on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. This does not require a Montana hunting license, although the equivalent must be purchased from the Tribal Fish and Wildlife agency. Also, you must hire a guide that is a member of the Gros Ventre or Assiniboine tribes. Contact us if you’re interested, as regulations are currently in a state of flux. In the past this has been in the $1500 range, which is comparable with other upper-end guided hunts.

So, you can see that while Region 7 is unarguably great antelope hunting, there are plenty of other districts where your drawing odds are much better, and the success rates are good. A perusal of the Montana State or Boone and Crockett Club record books show that some trophy class antelope come out of these other districts, too, including the number 2 (for Montana), a tremendous 90 point antelope from Chouteau County taken in 1990, and the number 5 from Sweetgrass County.

It boils down to how lucky you’re feeling…You can take your chances with the 1 in 4 drawing odds for the 700 districts, or go with a district where you might be able to draw a tag every year. The drawing results don’t come out until the third week of August, and antelope season opens the second weekend in October, so if you have trouble scheduling vacation time on relatively short notice, it’s looking like a pretty clear choice to me…

 

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