Montana Nonresident big-game combination (deer and elk) licenses have been capped at 17,000 since 1975 and are to this date. Over the past five years or so I hear of the public land being more and more crowded and the hunting is getting worse and worse in many of these public areas. I do believe the general hunting for deer and elk has been declining in much of the state the last 10+ years but how is there more and more pressure? Not only has there been a huge influx of hunters moving to Big Sky Country and buying their resident general elk and deer tags (quota is unlimited), but there also has been a massive increase in nonresidents as well.
There are several options now for a nonresident to obtain a deer or elk combo in Montana now which include the following. Legislation in 2021 created the landowner-sponsored deer (2,000), coming home to hunt (500 elk and 500 deer), nonresident native (unlimited), nonresident youth (unlimited), nonresident college student (unlimited), and 454-Agreement (quota: none) combination licenses. These are all in addition to the 17,000 big game combination licenses issued through the nonresident drawing. During the 2021 legislative session, HB 637 allowed all nonresident hunters that had previously booked with an outfitter and not drawn a big game combination license to purchase one for the 2021 hunting season. This resulted in an additional 1,429 elk and 1,486 deer licenses being issued to nonresident hunters for the 2021 hunting season. In addition to this, nonresidents were issued a plethora of “B” licenses for antlerless elk and deer.
When all the numbers are tallied up, it does indeed come out to 59,395 licenses issued to nonresidents during the 2021 hunting season. Those include 22,818 elk and 36,577 deer licenses. This shows that there is in effect no cap to the 17,000 nonresident deer and elk licenses. As a nonresident it does seem like a lot of “side deals” are going on here that are being used as a revenue stream and there is something to everyone complaining about the public land being overcrowded after all.