Wildlife watching is a great activity in Central Montana. We’re home to 250 bird species and over 100 mammals, providing ample opportunities to spot game in its natural habitat. Several wildlife management areas and wildlife refuges in the region offer excellent access for viewing a variety of wildlife. Check with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks for information on access to Central Montana’s wildlife management areas.
Sun River Wildlife Management Area
On the Rocky Mountain Front, nine miles northwest of MT. Highway 287 near Augusta, is Sun River Wildlife Management Area. Large numbers of elk can usually be observed during winter months.
Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area
Freezout Lake Wildlife Management Area borders US Highway 89 between Fairfield and Choteau. There are year 'round opportunities to view upland game birds and raptors in winter, waterfowl migrations in spring and fall, and waterfowl and shore birds in summer. Its open water and nearby grain fields entice more than 300,000 snow geese and 10,000 tundra swans to assemble during migration.
Blackleaf and Ear Mountain Wildlife Management Areas
Farther north on US Highway 89 are roads that lead to Blackleaf Wildlife Management Area and Ear Mountain Wildlife Management Area. Entrance to Blackleaf WMA is fifteen miles west of US Highway 89 near Bynum. Ear Mountain WMA is 22 miles west of Choteau. Both provide viewing opportunities for elk, mule and white-tailed deer, black bear, grizzly bear and a variety of songbirds and raptors.
Judith Wildlife Management Area
Eleven miles southwest of Utica in the east end of the Little Belt Mountains lies Judith Wildlife Management Area. This area provides abundant vegetation for wintering elk and deer. Winter presents the best opportunities for viewing elk and deer; however, the Wildlife Management Area is closed to recreational activity between December 1 and May 15. Big game animals may be viewed from the county road throughout the year depending on weather conditions (the county does not maintain the road through the Wildlife Management Area during the winter months, and snow accumulations often preclude travel). White-tailed deer and antelope can be seen in spring, summer and fall as can a variety of raptors, small mammals, and songbirds.
Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Benton Lake National Wildlife Refuge, 14 miles north of Great Falls just off US Highway 87, offers a self-guided auto tour route through the refuge. The refuge has critical habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.
Shelby, Montana Area
The Kevin Rim area north of Shelby has outstanding raptor viewing along county roads. Northwest of Shelby in the Sweet Grass Hills are deer, elk, fox, raptors and upland game birds.