Big game hunting in Montana gets a lot of attention. It’s easy to see why dramatic animals and rugged terrain make hunting for large game a challenge.
However, bird hunting in Montana is an equally challenging adventure and can be quite rewarding. Many of the upland birds in Montana are great for food and provide a smaller and often beautiful trophy piece.
In Montana bird species that fall into the upland bird hunting season include nine different birds, some are native species, some are non-native.
The History of Upland Game Hunting in Montana?
Native upland birds have long been hunted in Montana as a source of food for Native Americans, settlers, and modern Montana residents. These birds provide a sustainable source of food when properly managed.
Prior to the 1950s, upland bird hunting was not well managed in Montana. Popular game birds including pheasant, turkey, partridge, and grouse, were heavily hunted, to the point that populations began to suffer.
Starting in the 1950s Montana recognized the importance of managing the harvest of upland birds as a way of protecting the species and proper habitat management. Reducing the stress on upland bird populations by limiting hunting allows these species and their habitats to be self-sustaining and healthy.
Today, Montana FWP carefully controls and monitors the hunting and harvesting of upland bird species.
When is the Montana Upland Game Hunting Season?
Upland bird seasons in Montana are based on the individual bird species. Each species has specific seasons for each sub-species that can be found in the state and are open for harvesting. The dates listed in this article are a general reference. For exact season dates, consult the Montana FWP upland bird hunting site.
- Mountain Grouse: Sept 1 – Jan 1
- Sage Grouse: Sept 1 – Sept 30
- Sharp-Tailed Grouse: Sept 1 – Jan 1
- Partridge General: Sept 1 – Jan 1
- Pheasant General: Oct 8 – Jan 1
- Youth General: Sept 24 & Sept 25
- Spring (male): April 15 – May 31
- Fall: Sept 1 – Jan 1
When is the Best Time to Go Upland Game Hunting in Montana?
For most of the upland bird species that are open for harvesting in Montana, the best time of year to hunt is later fall through early winter. The best days to hunt for upland birds tend to be the days when the weather is the worst.
When hunting for upland birds, expect to spend a good amount of time in the cold and wet. Make sure you are well prepared for this sort of weather.
The exception to this rule is Turkey. Turkey can be hunted in the springtime in Montana. This is a shorter window than the winter season, but there is a good potential to harvest a good size Tom during the spring season.
Where is the Best Place to Hunt Upland Game in Montana?
The best areas for upland bird hunting are the parts of Montana with wide open spaces and grassy cover. The eastern half of the state is generally the best for upland bird hunting.
Again, the exception to this rule is Turkey. Turkey also tends to like dense tree cover for roosting, so some of the lower elevation mountain areas are good hunting spots for Turkey.
Current Upland Game Hunting Laws in Montana?
Before heading out on an upland bird hunt, you will need to familiarize yourself with the Montana rules and regulations.
Montana FWP provides updated upland bird regulations each year, and they can be found on the upland bird page of the Montana FWP website.
- All individuals born after Jan 1, 1985, must complete a hunter education course prior to applying for a hunting license.
- The use of aircraft to spot or shoot upland birds is prohibited.
- Baiting upland birds is unlawful.
- All hunters must wear hunter orange while actively hunting.
- Hunters must tag all turkeys harvested with a turkey license.
What are the Fees for an Upland Game License?
Anyone applying for a hunting license and upland game license must pay the associated fees for licenses and tags.
|Base Hunting License||$10||$15|
|Upland Game Bird License||$7.50||$110|
|3-Day Upland Game Bird License||$50|
|3-day Shooting Preserve License||$20|
How Many Upland Game Can Be Taken with a General License?
Montana’s upland game bird limits vary by species. Information regarding species-specific limits is updated each year, depending on estimated populations.
|Species||Daily Limit||Possession Limit|
|Ring-necked Pheasant (youth)||3||6|
|Turkey||1 per license|
Guided Tours to Hunt Upland Game in Montana
The best way to experience upland bird hunting in Montana is to hire an experienced hunting guide. Hunting guides can provide you access to private lands, and are knowledgeable about the best areas where specific species can be found
Montana Upland Outfitters – Montana Upland Outfitters provides clients with access to some of the best upland game habitats in eastern Montana. Their camp is located near the Montana Badlands, in prime bird habitat.
Montana Upland Outfitters provide hunting tours for Sharp-tailed Grouse, Ring-necked Pheasant, and Hungarian Partridge.
Dave Brown Outfitters – Dave Brown Outfitters has long been known as a great outfitter for fly fishing, but they recently added upland game hunting to their tour offerings.
Operating outside of Billings and Great Falls, Dave Brown Outfitters leases 120,000 acres of land for upland bird hunting. They utilize hunting dogs to flush and track birds.
The wide-open prairie that is used for upland game hunting is home to sage and sharp-tailed grouse, pheasants, and Hungarian partridge.