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59,395 Deer and Elk Tags to Nonresidents!

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. 



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  1. Maybe to many Resident Hunters on Federal Lands.

  2. To soon Dan, to soon

  3. Funny, this author, Dan Pickar fails to mention is the additional millions of dollars Montana received for the additional nonresident licenses to the tune of $39,308,652 in license fees alone, not including money spent in restaurants, gas stations, hotels, convenient stores, and sports stores. Do the math, as I did using Montana’s 2021 license fees. If those tags went to residents only, the loss in license fees alone would be $38,267,060. Will the residents make up this short fall? That would be a hard no.

    • I’d rather have a cap on the licenses and not worry about the money being made. Our wildlife are the ones taking the hit, if you are from Montana you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Too many states getting money hungry and the ones that suffer is the wildlife!

    • Vann Kirklan, as a MT resident my $0.02 is that we’d be just fine in Montana without the out of state money. I would 100% agree with you if I saw FWP using that money to invest back into conservation measures that boosted big game populations but unfortunately It just goes back into bureaucracy and paying for new vehicles and salaries of people that don’t get out in the field enough to know what is going on. The only management the FWP does is adjust harvest of does and cows, they don’t use that money to manage predators or improve habitat, so I have changed my stance on this. I used to be all about the extra money form out of state tags, but now I don’t think any amount of money would get them to improve management.

      • Ian, that’s just it…they are not ok without the out of state money, if they were, the nonresident tags wouldn’t be so high. I also agree with what they do with the money, most it never goes back to conservation. It lines pockets. Politicians only care about $$$, themselves and little else. What western residents and those that support the horrendous nonresidents costs don’t see, is the effect it has on hunting and hunters. I have friends who will NEVER be able to afford to drop 3-4k for a DIY western 5 -7 hunt. Any new hunter interested won’t put down that much cash either. Hunting as we know it, is dying a death by a thousand self inflicted wounds. I’m a Florida resident. Most think fishing more than hunting when considering, yet there is plenty here. Look and see what it would cost you to hunt and or fish here, then see what a 5-7 day Montana elk/deer/fly fishing trip would cost me. The disparity is glaring, but nonresident hunters wishing to hunt in the western states are just told to grin and bare it. Greed will eventually kill hunting sooner than you think.

        • Ok, let’s say your correct and giving the government more money is the solution. How many dollars will it take before they start using that money for conservation. They haven’t done it yet so how many dollars will get them to start?

          • Ian, they have more than enough now. It is up to the residents who vote in these politicians, to hold them accountable. Either vote them out, and/or have a class action lawsuit and demand transparency and accountability for the money.

  4. Personally I to like a cap on the licenses, although I do live in a different state now. Once I did live in montana, some of the best years of my life. Even then the non residents were everywhere, it seemed. It’s all about the all mighty dollar these days for sure. More difficult regulations, more money out of pocket, it’s all it is ,,money. Now fwp leaves train cars on the tracks to block animal movements. Do fly overs to chase animals into private property. No access, but charge big dollars for a license. It has become a game. Ranchers don’t want all these deer and elk in their land. But won’t allow hunters in.. fwp started the shoulder seasons private property again. Too many animals in a small area, they get diseases, and die. Blue tongue, cwd. Now you have a lack of deer and elk. But still they hand out thousands of licenses.. not long ago you could drive around and see hundreds of deer, big mature bucks, healthy animals. Large groups of elk up in the meadows. Now? A few deer at a time, elk are either in one spot or not at all. And fwp still hands out all theses licenses.. makes no sense. 35 years of hunting montana, seen a ton of changes. Few for the good of the animals..

  5. Thanks for posting this article Dan. I hate to think that in 10 more years we will be talking about the good ol days when we could go out and shoot a trophy 150” deer and 270” bull. MT currently is flush with greedy politicians and billionaire landowners, but we currently have zero game management.

  6. How many of the 59,395 are B licenses?

  7. Some will even say it’s publications like Eastman’s and programs like TagHub and Social Media influencers like Dan Pickar that are to blame for the large influx of non-resident hunters in recent years

  8. Funny how Eastman’s published an article bitching about Wyoming cutting non resident tags and then turn around to bitch about to many non resident tags in Montana. Eat a dick Eastman’s!

  9. Montana is almost three times as big as Alabama with probably 10 times the amount of public land. And there is more turkey hunters than 59000. You western guys don’t know what crowded is.

  10. Montana has effectively zero non resident hunters compared to Colorado or any midwestern state. There needs to be some level of fact checking even in an opinion article. Eastman’s as a whole is losing readers and supporters with articles like this.

  11. Ya you could live in Utah talk about big money for big game i haven’t been able to get a general deer tag for 4 years now, but if you have the money you can hunt premium deer and elk every year. Now all the other states are starting to catch on so it is harder and cost more every year to try to get tags in other states so I can at least hunt big game. Very sad future 😔

  12. Quit your bitching. Welcome to what NM, CO, AZ and Utah have been facing the last 20+ years. You’ve (Eastmans’ , Epic and other like publications) been making money off this greed for years and contribute to the problems. But you’re so eager to point at NR hunters and blame us, LOL. This problem not going to get better and it’s only going to get worse over time. Hunting will never be what it once was unless you’ve got deep pockets and unlimited resources. The normal Joe will only draw a few limited tags in a lifetime and can expect average over hunted areas at best when you do finally draw.

  13. The real problem is Facebook. I believe it has single handed created excess demand in tags. All of the hunting groups, fishing groups, outfitter groups posting on FB has generated tremendous tag demand. Every western state has several hunting groups on FB. Eastmans is not the problem in anyway especially compared to FB. So keep on posting pics on FB etc …….sure it’s great advertising for the outfitter, but stop bitching at the increase in demand for tags as a result.

  14. Well here we go again, nonresidents are all the problem with quality hunting in Montana…. Although the State controls the game populations. The Federal government owns the land (that would be residents and nonresidents) which almost all this Nonresident hunting takes place… The decision where the states have control over the game is hanging by a thread just ready to be modified, as it has in the past… Look it up under wildlife law…. Nonresidents contribute heavily and are the primary source of revenue for Montana Fish Wildlife and parks…. But did you know that Nonresidents fund Montana’s State Budget to the tune of 29.23% of the State’s Total Budget…that right almost 1/3 of the State Budget comes from Nonresidents…Montana’s next 2 budger years is $6,000,000,000, so about $1,753,800,000 comes from OUT OF STATE RESIDENTS. Frankly I am disgusted with this continued argument…. When your son or daughter was in Afghanistan or Iraq was it not a Nonresident walking the wall next to them…. When your Dad had to go to Mayo for his delicate Heart operation that could not be done in Montana, did those Minnesota Docs charge him more because he was a Nonresident, did they limit the number of patients from out of State, NO… And yes, Mayo receives funds from the State of Minnesota…. Montana’s hunting has probably declined in the last 10 years because of the perhaps 4 major factors….. 1. Hunting deer during their rut and the long season length. 2. Wolfs, Wolfs and more Wolfs…. 3. The drought and now 4….Long Range Shooting at Big Game animals…… the estimated loss of Big Game from wounding is between 15 to 30%… This number comes from Craig Jourdonnais a Montanan who spent 35 years with the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks as a Wildlife Researcher and Game Warden… We now have people attempting to shoot Big Game at ranges exceeding 400 or 500 yards… A rifle shot few hunters are capable of making given field conditions encountered during hunting… Even the time of flight for the bullet to strike the animal is so great as to allow the animal to take a step forward and a killing heart lung shot becomes a gut shot with retrieval of the animal becoming questionable…….. God, I am tired of this Nonresident Resident debate, I am pretty sure this debate about public land hunting and fishing issues are only a simple court decision away from being overturned and modified…”…

    • Thank you William Feldner. Couldn’t agree with you more. To bad that Dan Pickar won’t read it and understand it.

    • Of course there are many factors contributing to the decline of hunting on public land and the points you brought up are accurate too. I’m reporting the tag numbers in this article which is just a small piece of the pie when it comes to the decline of ungulates in MT. Thanks for commenting.

  15. It will eventually come down to a certain skin color, redskin, being the only human allowed to hunt. The country is sick no matter what state you live or hunt in. Washington state is very close to being a native hunter only state, with wolves being the preferred conservationist. Many more states will follow. Unfortunately no extra money to buy any NR tag in any state, so I’m stuck hunting in this shithole state. Enjoy whatever you currently have because it is coming to an end, the sickness in the city dwellers is spreading faster than the Fauci virus.

  16. This article states that 59395 TAGS were issued to Nonresidents, How many actual Nonresidents hunted in Montana… yes, many may have had both elk and deer licenses… The actual number of nonresident hunters is probably closer to 1/2 the amount of tags supposedly issued in this article……. Since Nonresidents fund about 1/3 of Montana’s roads, schools, hospitals, grants to cities and welfare programs is it not right that they receive 1/3 of the big game licenses that are issued to lets say hunting on Federal Bureau of Land Reclamation Lands, Federal NATIONAL Forest Land and Federal NATIONAL Wilderness Areas… I mean equal rights under the Constitution.. This whole issue will soon be going to the Federal Courts…. It is going to come to a National draw, where everyone is treated equally and equitably……. Continuing to complain about Nonresidents is not going play well in the end…. Instead of this constant them vs us how about” this land was made for you and this land was made for me” Be fair to others ……………

    • You sound like a true socialist my friend, keep voting for Bernie Sanders. My guess is you have no idea what legislative jurisdiction is and what a sovereign state is. Go to http://www.publiclandjurisdiction.com and get educated. You whine for your right to hunt in someone else’s state because you help pay for something??. That sounds like big spoiled socialist to me. You have zero right to hunt within another sovereign state as a nonresident its in the 10th Amendment Tenth Amendment- “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States” . The federal gov’t holds only a Proprietorial Interest Only over 95% of the federal lands (federal enclaves excluded – National Park, etc), nonresidents are at the mercy of the state for their tag allocation, thank the holy lord for that as the federal gov’t would probably sell them to China under the Biden Admin.

      • They all sound that way, Jim. Til the pressure comes to their back yard, then its “help me government.” Some of these yahoos have the audacity to suggest we vote out our representatives and vote in ones that will look out for the non residents interests, suggesting they set the price for a tag just because they want it. Madness and desperation, if you ask me. Their time would be better spent bitching at their own legislators to preserve hunting in their state, if its all about conservation. Create positive change in their own state i stead of suggesting we ruin ours to make more room for them

  17. Ultimately the problem is over human population.
    1% hunting population used to be say 10 people now say 1% hunting population 10,000 people plus less land and fewer resources elk,deer ect. The rich man will still be hunting because of the money it’s going to take

  18. 59,000 big game tags is chump change for nonresident tag allocation, Colorado has less 4 million fewer acres of federal land (23 million vs 27 million) and is triple that for nonresident tag allocation. Colorado has 1 elk hunter per 350 acres of public land and Montana has 1 elk hunter for every 850 acres of public land Montana is doing good compared to greedy Colorado Park and Wildlife Commission $$$, https://publiclandjurisdiction.com/no-state-treats-resident-hunters-worse-than-colorado/ . No state sells out its resident tax-paying hunters worse than Colorado. Let us not forget we are all supposed to be living in a sovereign state.

  19. Mr. Carsen

    First off how Sovereign can your State be when it depends so heavily on Federal (nonresident) Funds to run itself.

    When United States Outfitters took Arizona to the Supreme Court of the United States they won and Arizona lost under the Commerce Clause…. However the Congress reversed this when Harry Reid slipped a Bill into the Defense Appropriations Bill in 2005 without any debate because of course the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were raging and had to be funded. Now Congress in the Constitution has control of Interstate Commerce, but laws are changed all the time and a debate on license allocation never actually took place. It is amazing that Montana and Wyoming service personnel love there fellow nonresident service members when they are on a mountaintop in Afghanistan or walking a village city street in Iraq…but damm they sure do not want give them any licenses to hunt on their own Federal Lands..
    . There are many other avenues into Federal Court other than the Commerce Clause by the way……..in this matter.

    Please read the listed Faculty Law Review Articles from the Law School at the University of Montana…. Read it carefully and completely……. FISH AND WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT ON FEDERAL LANDS : DEBUNKING THE STATE SUPREMACY MYTH.. The Law Review Article was written by preeminent legal scholars with expertise in matters of State and Federal land management and wildlife law..

    Just a parting note, I am not a Socialist by any means. I am an American Citizen and I love my Country and the People who reside here…. I am for treating everybody fairly and equally. Somehow, it gulls me to think some residents wish to cutdown or eliminate nonresident big game hunting, when people would be hunting on there own land be it Bureau of Land Reclamation, National Forest, National Grasslands, National Monuments and Wilderness Areas in the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA.

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