Upland bird hunting under the big sky of Montana is a beautiful challenge
Montana is famous for its wide expanses of sky and wilderness—as well as mountains in the western parts of the state, which can make for some pretty difficult hunting treks. Those looking for a challenge can certainly find one while bird hunting in the state. Of course, Montana doesn’t just have hard-to-hunt forests full of mountain grouse—it also has a staggering diversity of landscapes. As the fourth largest state, Montana offers prairies, ranges, plateaus, valleys, lakes, and great plains. Some 33 million acres of that land belongs to the public, which means a great deal of it is open for hunting.
|Species*||Season||Daily / Possession Limit||Notes|
|Mountain Grouse||Sept 1, 2020 – Jan 1, 2021||3 / 12 |
|Blue, Ruffed, and Franklin’s grouse|
|Sage Grouse||Sept 1 – 30, 2020||2 / 4||Closed west of the continental divide|
|Sharp-tailed Grouse||Sept 1, 2020 – Jan 1, 2021||4 / 16||Closed west of the continental divide|
|Partridge||Sept 1, 2020 – Jan 1, 2021||8 / 32||Extended season to Jan 10 for a limited area; see regulations|
|Ring-necked Pheasant||Oct 10, 2020 – Jan 1, 2021||3 / 9||Roosters only|
|Ring-necked Pheasant (Youth)||Sept 26-27, 2020||3 / 6||Roosters only|
COVID-19 restrictions in Montana
As of August 2020, there are no restrictions specifically related to hunting in the state of Montana due to COVID-19. Hunters are urged to maintain safe social-distancing practices and stay home if feeling unwell.
All in-person hunter education classes have been temporarily canceled. As a result, FWP will cover the online tuition fees for all Montana residents until the state reaches Phase 3 of the plan and in-person hunter education courses are available once again.
Though they are not native to North America, ring-necked pheasant have been a national favorite of upland hunters for a long time. Look for them in grain crops or open grasslands with brushy cover.
The season for ring-necked pheasant in Montana begins October 10 and ends January 1 with a daily bag limit of 3 roosters.
Montana has three species of mountain grouse: ruffed, dusky (blue) and spruce. Most other states call these forest grouse. In Montana’s case, the ruffed grouse is really only found in the mountainous regions of the western half of the state. This range extends into parts of west-central Montana as well. The dusky grouse has a similar range as the ruffed grouse that extends north into Havre.
The season for mountain grouse begins September 1 and ends January 1. There is a daily bag limit of 3 mountain grouse regardless of species.
The sharp-tailed grouse is considered a species of concern in Montana due to declining populations. Nevertheless, its range covers most of Montana, except for the counties lying on the Montana-Idaho border. Note that hunting for sharptails is not permitted west of the continental divide.
The season for sharp-tailed grouse begins September 1 and ends January 1 with a daily bag limit of 4 birds.
Greater sage grouse
The greater sage grouse, like its name implies, usually inhabits the same landscapes as sagebrush. The Montana Sage Grouse Habitat Conservation Program seeks to preserve these natural habitats for this upland species. Central Montana and counties east of the continental divide account for much of their range.
The season begins September 1 and ends September 30 with a daily bag limit of 2 birds.
Other species for bird hunting in Montana
There are other species for bird hunting in the state. Montana is one of the best states for hunting Hungarian partridge, a bird often considered along with chukar. The season for Hungarian partridge opens September 1 and ends January 1 with a daily bag limit of 8. Mourning dove season opens September 1 and ends October 30. There is a daily bag limit of 15. If you are going to hunt snipe in Montana, you must be certified to hunt migratory birds and fill out an HIP survey. Snipe season opens September 1 and ends December 16 with a daily bag limit of 8.
Upland bird licensing fees for Montana
|Base hunting license||$10||$15|
|Conservation fee||$8 (general)|
|Upland game bird||$7.50 (general)|
|3-day upland game bird |
(not valid for sage grouse or
opening week of pheasant)
Hunter safety course and dog training for bird hunting in Montana
If you were born after January 1, 1985, you must complete a certified course in hunter education before applying for a license. For more information, check out the hunter course. In 2015, Montana created the Apprentice Hunter Program which allows anyone between the ages of 10 and 17 to hunt without completing a hunter education course. You will have to fill out a certificate form which costs $5 and follow the requirements concerning mentors.
You may not train your dog for bird hunting in Montana within one mile of any designated game preserve, bird nesting, or management area.
Project Upland Magazine Content from Montana
In the 2018 film season Project Upland produces the film Fourth Generation with OnX Hunt which focused on the tradition of sage grouse hunting. We converged once again during the production of the film #PublicGrouse only this time to film the Spring leks. Although Montana has appeared in much online content it has only appeared a handful of times in the Magazine. An article by Ben Deeble of the Montana Big Sky Upland Bird Association called The Last Sage grouse in the Spring 2020 Issue as well as another focused on the film Fourth Generation in our inaugural issue.
Related conservation and non-profit organizations for Montana bird hunting
The bird hunting season dates, game bird species available, and other information is subject to change. The article may not reflect this. Please visit Montana, Fish, Wildlife & Parks for the most up to date information on bird hunting in Montana.
Project Upland is an editorial initiative to capture the cultures and traditions of upland bird hunting. We seek to inspire a future generation of upland bird hunters to understand the essence of hunting traditions and the critical cause for conservation.