Upland bird hunting under the big sky of Montana is a beautiful challenge with a lot of game bird variety, check out the latest season dates and impactful issues.
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.
Download: the 2022 Montana Upland Game Bird Guide
|Species*||Season||Daily / Possession Limit||Notes|
|Mountain Grouse||Sept 1, 2022 – Jan 1, 2023||3 / 12 |
|Blue, Ruffed, and Franklin’s (Spruce) grouse|
|Sage Grouse||Sept 1 – 30, 2022||2 / 4||Closed west of the continental divide|
|Sharp-tailed Grouse||Sept 1, 2022 – Jan 1, 2023||4 / 16||Closed west of the continental divide|
|Hungarian Partridge||Sept 1, 2022 – Jan 1, 2023||8 / 32||Extended season to Jan 10 for a limited area; see regulations|
|Chukar||Sept 1, 2022 – Jan 1, 2023||8 / 32||Only in Carbon County|
|Ring-necked Pheasant||Oct 08, 2022 – Jan 1, 2023||3 / 9||Roosters only|
|Ring-necked Pheasant (Youth)||Sept 24-25, 2022||3 / 6||Roosters only|
|California and Gambel’s Quail||NO CLOSED SEASON||NO LIMIT||May be taken without license, season, or limit|
|Eurasian Collared Doves||NO CLOSED SEASON||NO LIMIT||May be taken without license, season, or limit|
|Mourning Dove||Sept 01 – Oct 30, 2022||15/45||It is unlawful to shoot mourning doves resting on utility lines or fixtures adjacent to those lines.|
|Snipe||Sept 01 – Dec 16, 2022||8/24|
Though they are not native to North America, ring-necked pheasant have been a national favorite of upland hunters for a long time. There is a general decline in the popularity of non-native species, specifically those supported by stocking programs. 2022 marked a controversial policy by Gov. Greg Gianforte’s administration that allocates $1 million for bird rearing pens at the state prison. The policy seeming to be deaf to the stakeholders want for such money to be allocated on habitat work rather than ineffective stocking programs with cost estimates of $150 per pheasant.
The season for ring-necked pheasant in Montana begins October 8th and ends January 1st with a daily bag limit of 3 roosters.
Montana has three species of mountain grouse: ruffed, dusky (blue) and spruce (Spruce referred to as Franklin’s grouse in Montana). Most other states call these forest grouse but this is an ample clue on where to find them. 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 1st and ends January 1st. There is a daily bag limit of 3 mountain grouse regardless of species.
The sharp-tailed grouse is probably the most poplar of the native species to hunt in Montana. Often with overlapping populations in place where sage grouse and Hungarian partridge live.
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 1st and ends January 1st with a daily bag limit of 4 birds.
Hungarian partridge are a delight to those seeking a challenge of a very wild bird despite being an introduced species. Their populations do not require annual stocking like the pheasant to sustain populations. This covey bird offers great shooting opportunities and a fine meal at the end of the day.
Hungarian partridge support a high daily bag limit of 8 birds per day in Montana. One should be ethically conscious of how taking 8 birds out of a single covey can damage a population in an are before filling their game bag. The seaosn opens September 1st and ends January 1st.
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 1st and ends September 30th with a daily bag limit of 2 birds and max possession of 4 birds.
Other species for bird hunting in Montana
Chukar hunting opportunities exist only in Carbon County but can be worth the chase for those that love this devil-birds challenge. The season 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.
The most unusual upland game bird hunting seasons in Montana are related to quail. California quail are a non-game species, and can be hunted year round and can be found in abundance in some parts of the state. This quail offers and exciting opportunity for both the hunter and dogs. Gambel’s quail fall under the same non-game designation but are far less common in the state.
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.