Hunting & Fishing in Central Montana
Hunting is a Montana tradition and Central Montana still lives up to that tradition. Residents and nonresidents alike enjoy hunting a variety of big game animals and upland game birds.
For nonresidents, the permit deadline for deer and elk hunting in Montana is March 15. Antelope hunting license deadline is June 1. The Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website has forms and more information about licenses.
If you are a bow and arrow hunter, be sure to check archery requirements. A Bow and Arrow license, in addition to the proper hunting license, is required during Archery Only Season for any species or to archery hunt in an Arch-Equip only area or hunting district.
Upland game bird licenses, including license for pheasants, may be purchased over the counter along with your conservation license. Hungarian Partridge and several varieties of grouse are common in Central Montana. Turkey licenses are also sold over the counter with the exception of special spring and fall turkey hunts. Hunting for Montana migratory birds requires a Montana migratory bird license and a federal waterfowl stamp. Central Montana is often referred to as the Golden Triangle because of all of the grain grown in the area. Those same grain fields also provide good habitat for birds.
The Block Management program managed through Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks offers access to private land from over 1,000 landowners and covers almost 8 million acres of land. There is no charge to hunt on Block Management land. A Hunters Access Guide is published each year giving details about the program and it is usually available by August 15. Central Montana also has public land managed by the U. S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management.
In 2009, the Montana legislature passed legislation to benefit former Montana residents who want to “Come Home To Hunt”. If you still have direct family in Montana who hunt, check the guidelines to see if you qualify for this program.
The 2012 hunting season for Central Montana was good. Upland game bird numbers were strong in most of the region, due largely to a good nesting season. White tail deer numbers were good although mule deer and antelope populations were down. Spring snow storms hit mule deer and antelope hard. Elk harvest numbers in Central Montana were up this past season.
Be sure to check the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website for detailed regulations, bag limits and any area closures due to dry early season conditions.
Central Montana offers anglers great opportunities as well, including fly fishing and bait fishing. Trout of all varieties are the mainstay, but you can also land yourself a walleye, bass and pike just to name a few. We don't stop when the snow flies either - ice fishing is a favorite pastime in winter.
Fishing and conservation licenses are required for almost all anglers in Montana, both residents and non-residents. For your convenience, licenses are sold in angler shops, sporting goods stores, and many supermarkets, convenience stores and gas stations. These outlets also provide this year's Fishing Regulations, which list license requirements.
Listed below are a few of the fishing spots in Central Montana:
- Ackley Lake State Park
- Ackley Lake State Park offers good fishing opportunities for 10 to 15 inch rainbow trout. Ackley Lake is located 17 miles west of Lewistown on U.S. 87.
- Giant Springs State Park
- Discovered by the Lewis and Clark Expedition in 1805, Giant Springs is one of the largest freshwater springs in the nation. Take time to visit the Visitor's Center, fish hatchery and Rainbow Falls overlook and picnic along the banks of the Missouri River. Giant Springs is located 3 miles east of U.S. 87 on River Drive in Great Falls.
- Sluice Boxes State Park
- A primitive trail provides access to several stream fishing spots and a nearby ghost town. Many places along the trail are best navigated during low water. Sluice Boxes is located 5 miles south of Belt on U.S. 89.
- Smith River
- A 61-mile float trip down the Smith River Canyon offers outstanding scenery, excellent trout fishing and a relaxed atmosphere. There are 27 boat camps along the river from the put-in-point at Camp Baker to Eden Bridge. In order to help preserve the wild nature of the Smith, a reservation and permit are required to float the river. For more information call 406-454-5840.
- Walleye Trail
- Central Montana does have terrific trout fishing, but it is also excellent walleye country. To read more, and watch videos, about Central Montana's Walleye Trail, click here.