Navigating Montana’s application process for deer and elk licenses can be an overwhelming experience for first-time non-resident applicants. This article aims to demystify the process with step-by-step instructions and detailed screenshots from Montana’s Online Licensing Service (OLS).
Obtain an ALS Number
The first step in participating in Montana’s non-resident application process is obtaining an ALS number. ALS is an acronym for Automated Licensing System. Each individual is assigned a unique ALS number in the following format: Birthday – Serialized Number. For example, if your birthday is January 1st, 1980 and you are the 999th person with that birthday, your ALS number would be: 01/01/1980-999. To obtain an ALS number, visit the following webpage: https://ols.fwp.mt.gov/
Click on “I AM A NONRESIDENT”
On the next page, Click “I DO NOT HAVE AN ALS#”
Fill in the pertinent information and then Click “CONTINUE”
Buy and Apply Licenses
Click on “I AM A NONRESIDENT”
Enter your info and Click on “CONTINUE”
Click on “ACCEPT” if you agree to the terms.
Select the appropriate license year and Click on “CONTINUE” (Note: License years begin March 1st, so License year 2023 covers March 1, 2023 – February 28th, 2024. Also note, hunting seasons differ from license years, always consult the applicable hunting regulations).
Filter available options by Clicking on “APPLICATION” and then select an appropriate choice. All nonresident deer and elk license are issued via an application process (no over-the-counter tags). Typically, nonresident hunters come to Montana to hunt deer, elk, or deer AND elk. To hunt deer only, select “GENERAL – DEER COMBO”. To hunt elk only, select “GENERAL – ELK COMBO”. To hunt deer AND elk, select “GENERAL – BIG GAME COMBO”.
Deer Combination — General
Details: Nonresidents may apply for only one combination license per year. Includes a General Deer license and authorizes fishing and hunting of upland game birds, excluding turkey. Conservation with State Lands, Base Hunting and Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Pass (AISPP) must be purchased separately. 4,600 licenses available.
- Resident: N/A
- Nonresident: $704
Elk Combination — General
Details: Nonresidents applying for any other combination license may not apply. Includes a General Elk license and authorizes fishing and hunting of upland game birds, excluding turkey. Conservation with State Lands, Base Hunting and AISPP must be purchased separately. This license is included in the 17,000 quota of Big Game Elk/Deer Combination license.
- Resident: N/A
- Nonresident: $1018
Big Game Combination — General
Details: Nonresidents applying for any other combination license may not apply. Includes a General Elk license and a General Deer license. Authorizes fishing and hunting of upland game birds, excluding turkey. Conservation with State Lands, Base Hunting and AISPP must be purchased separately. This license is included in the 17,000 quota of Big Game Elk/Deer Combination license.
- Resident: N/A
- Nonresident: $1208
What are “BONUS POINTS” and “PERMITS”?
Bonus points can increase your chances of drawing a special limited permit/license.
Bonus points essentially offer you additional drawing chances and are used for first-choice drawings only. Every year that you are unsuccessful in the drawing, and you participate in the bonus points system, you will be awarded a point. When you apply in the draw your accrued points are squared to increase the odds for the applicants with more accrued points. All base bonus points accumulate over time until you draw a permit.
You can only earn 1 bonus point per license year for a specific special permit or license.
The options are:
- At the time of application for that species permit or license
- Between July 1-September 30 if you did not apply for that species special permit or license
Reminders (Bonus Points)
- Unlike a preference system, the bonus points system does not guarantee a license/permit to the applicants with the most bonus points, and first-time applicants still have a chance to draw a license/permit.
- Bonus points essentially offer you additional drawing chances and are used for the first hunting district choice only.
- Existing bonus points will be mathematically “squared” prior to the drawing. That means if you already have 3 “base” bonus points those will be “squared” and you’ll then have 9 bonus points going into the drawing.
- If you wish to participate in the bonus point program for licenses/ permits, at the time of your application, you must check “YES” on the bonus point questions and include the $20 (nonresident) or $2 (resident) bonus point fee per permit type. Then if you’re unsuccessful, you’ll be awarded an additional base bonus point for next year’s drawing.
- If you did not apply for a license or permit, you can purchase a bonus point for that license or permit from July 1-September 30. The fee to purchase a bonus point without applying is $15 per species for residents and the nonresident fees are $25 per species except for Moose, Sheep, and Goat, which are $75 per species.
- You cannot apply and purchase bonus points in the same year.
- Any bonus points accumulated will not be lost unless you draw your first choice on the species you applied your bonus points.
- Applicants must be eligible to apply for the license to purchase a bonus point.
In short, permits allow entry into otherwise limited quota hunting districts. As an example, buck mule deer cannot be hunted in hunting district 270 on a general deer license alone. To hunt buck mule deer in hunting district 270, hunters must draw one of the very limited (and coveted) 270-50 permits (see below).
To find out which districts require permits for entry, download a copy of the 2023 regulations (or current year if you’re reading this in a future year). https://fwp.mt.gov/hunt/regulations
Details: The permit must be used with a general deer hunting license. A permit is not a second license and does not allow the holder to kill an additional animal. Rather, it expands the opportunity to hunt for a species in a particular hunting district allowing the hunter in some hunting districts to harvest a Buck Mule Deer. General Deer license is available to nonresidents only through the Deer or Big Game Combination licenses. Residents must hold a valid general deer license to apply. Nonresidents must also apply for a big game or deer combination license to apply.
- Resident: $5
To apply for a deer permit, applicants must select the “DEER PERMIT” option on the online licensing service page (shown below)
Details: The permit must be used with a general elk hunting license. A permit is not a second license and does not allow the holder to kill an additional animal. Rather, it expands the opportunity to hunt for a species in a particular hunting district allowing the hunter to harvest a bull, antlerless or either-sex elk. Residents must hold a valid general elk license to apply. Nonresidents must also apply for a big game or elk combination license to apply.
- Resident: $9
- Nonresident: $9
Select Your Permit Districts (if applying for Permit Districts in addition to a general license)
Deer Permit (Example Only)
Elk Permit (Example Only)
Select Big Game Combo Fields
- If applying as a party, the first member of the party will have to put the other party member’s names in their application. All other party members will reference the party ID (will appear on first party members application receipt).
- Buying a preference point ($100) increases the odds of drawing a combination license. For clarity, preference points are for drawing the combination license (deer, elk, or big game combo) and bonus points are for drawing limited entry/quota districts. That is distinction between the two types of points (and something I initially found very confusing about the Montana application process).
- Hunting with an outfitter allows applicants to purchase a 2nd preference point in the same year, thereby increasing draw odds for outfitted clients (bad news for DIY guys…and as a DIY guy, this recent change to the regulations is disappointing!)
- Be sure to select the correct radio button, depending on your preference (not applying for an elk permit, receive a general tag, receive a refund of 80%, request a refund for elk license and get a deer license).
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