Bighorn Sheep Hunting in Montana is a coveted tag to draw. Before we start talking about hunting Bighorns let’s do some background work on Montana Bighorns. There are 5700 bighorn sheep in 45 distinct populations spread throughout the state. They inhabit 3.7 million acres in the state. There are 40 Bighorn hunting districts. Eight are currently closed and 5 are unlimited. The state awarded less than 200 ram tags last year so for most districts it is like finding a needle in a haystack.
The unlimited district needs some explaining. Unlimited Bighorn hunting districts can sell an unlimited number of tags. The district then has a quota of animals that can be harvested. The quota is usually 2-3 bighorn rams. Once the quota is filled the district is closed. Needless to say that makes for some fast and furious hunting once the bighorn season starts. Hunters usually come several days in advance of the season opening and spotting is done endlessly to find and locate the bighorns. If spotted this leads to a race to the animals. If they are still there. So, you better be in great shape if you are doing unlimited because it is either a race to the game at the beginning or days of long hikes locating the bighorn if they aren’t spotted.
Bighorn Sheep hunting in Montana has grown and hopefully will continue to grow in coming years. The state is transplanting populations of bighorns into other areas. They take from areas with good numbers and will relocate to other areas that have good habitat and are not located close to domestic sheep or goats. Bighorns can be very susceptible to disease and large dieoffs. Many of these diseases happen when the bighorns come close to the domestic sheep or goats.
The FWP is trying hard to protect and expand bighorn populations with bighorn sheep hunting in Montana partially in their thoughts. All certainly want a healthy population of bighorns to see and view and the FWP has done a good job of balancing with those ideas in mind. A bighorn is legal if the horn extends past an imaginary straight line from the front base of the horn going through any portion of the eye.
In dealing with landowners one of the biggest gripes I have heard is that FWP gives no landowner preference in the draw yet these landowners are feeding these animals through crops and their land. FWP can also come in and trap “excess” bighorns for relocation off private property. There is a rumor that FWP is trying to remedy this over time in some way. Landowners can charge trespassing fees for bighorn tag drawers and that can be nice fees.
One thing you need to know is if you draw a tag in one of the districts or kill a ram in one of the unlimited districts you have a 7 year hiatus from being drawn again. This makes for some hard decisions sometimes on taking legal bighorn rams that may not be the trophy of a lifetime. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush and it boils down to what meets your trophy status. Montana hunting is varied and if you want guaranteed or high draw possibilities other species offer that. If you want to read about other possibilities read about Alpine Hunting in Montana click on the link.