Central Flyway Hunting Zones and Regulations in Montana

  • Central Flyway Zone Division

    • Two zones designed to enhance hunting opportunities.
    • Zone 1: Counties excluding those in Zone 2 (see map on page 8).
    • Zone 2: Big Horn, Carbon, Custer, Prairie, Rosebud, Treasure, and Yellowstone counties.
  • Season Dates and Split Seasons

    • Different season dates for each zone; consult local regulations.
    • Split seasons are prevalent, with the exception of Central Flyway Zone 2.
  • Additional Regulations

    • Special restrictions are in place when hunting at Canyon Ferry Wildlife Management Area.
    • Hunters should be vigilant of closed and open hunting days, especially considering zone disparities.

How to Migratory Bird Obtain Hunting Licenses in Montana

  • License Availability

    • Obtain licenses at all FWP offices, licensed providers statewide, and online.
    • Federal Duck Stamp from USPS and FWP, valid July 1, 2023, to June 30, 2024.
  • Federal Migratory Bird Stamp Requirement

    • Mandatory for waterfowl hunters aged 16+.
    • Must be signed in ink by the hunter.
    • E-stamp option available for immediate use, with physical stamp delivered later.
    • More on E-stamps at the  Fish and Wildlife Service.
  • Migratory Bird Harvest Information Program (HIP)

    • Required part of National Harvest Survey.
    • Complete the survey before purchasing the Montana Migratory Bird License.
  • Drawing Applications

    • Apply online by July 20 for Sandhill Crane and Swan special licenses.
    • Apply over-the-counter at FWP offices.
    • A $5 application fee and valid Conservation and Base Hunting Licenses are required.
  • Hunter Education for Youth

    • If born after Jan. 1, 1985, proof of hunter safety and education course completion is required.
  • Youth Hunters

    • Apprentice hunter certification at the FWP office for those 10+; restrictions apply.
    • Youth 12-17 may hunt game species with licenses, beginning after August 15 if turning 12 by Jan. 16, 2024.
    • Details on FWP's Youth Hunting page.
  • Special Youth Waterfowl Hunt

    • September 23-24, 2023, for ages 10-15.
    • Apprentice hunters must be with a non-hunting mentor (21+).
    • Certified hunters (12-15) need a non-hunting adult (18+).

Montana Hunting Laws and Rules Summary

Baiting Regulations

  • Federal Restrictions: Title 50 CFR Part 20.11 and 20.21(i).
  • Prohibited Practices: Using bait to attract migratory game birds for hunting purposes.
  • Baited Area Rule: 10-day prohibition on hunting after bait removal.

Watercraft Regulations

  • Mandatory Inspections: At all designated check stations.
  • AIS Prevention Pass: Required for nonresident boats.
  • Decontamination: Obligatory for watercraft with ballast or bladder.

Hunter Harassment

  • Unlawful Acts: Interfering with lawful hunting or disturbing hunters.

Shooting Hours

  • One-half hour before sunrise to sunset, unless specified.

Landowner Permission

  • Requirement: Must obtain consent to hunt on private lands.

License and Permit Usage

  • Carrying Licenses: Required during migratory game bird hunting.
  • Transferring Licenses: Prohibited.

Method of Taking

  • Allowed: With bow and arrow, shotgun (up to 10 gauge), and falconry according to specifications.

Motorized Vehicle Usage

  • Prohibition: Taking game birds with the aid or use of motor vehicles, motorboats, or aircraft.

Nontoxic Shot Requirement

  • Application: Mandated for hunting ducks, geese, swans, or coots.

Possession Limits

  • The number of birds that may be kept in any form.

Recorded Animal Sounds

  • Restriction: Unlawful except for predatory animals, wolves, and unprotected birds.

Selling of Migratory Game Birds

  • Federal Regulations: Allow the sale of feathers for certain uses.

Transport and Tagging

  • Identification: Birds must have the head or one wing attached for transportation.
  • Tag Requirements: For migratory birds left with another person for transportation, cleaning, storage, shipment, or taxidermy.

Unlawful Posting

  • Prohibited to restrict access to state or federal lands.

Waste of Game

  • Mandatory Retrieval: Required effort to retrieve all hunted migratory game birds.

Whooping Cranes

  • Protection: It's unlawful to harm whooping cranes, report any sightings.

For additional details and specific zone maps, check the FWP website or visit local FWP offices.

Duck Identification and Species Information for Montana Hunters

Duck Identification Resources

  • Waterfowl ID Guides: Available for free at FWP regional offices and online.
  • Electronic Guide: "Waterfowl Identification in the Central Flyway".
  • Video Guide: Identifying ducks by wings, accessible via the Central Flyway website.

Eurasian Collared Doves

  • Species Status: Designated as unprotected in Montana; no license, season, or limit.
  • Identification: Larger than mourning doves, with a rounded tail and a black neck ring.
  • Regulations: Can be hunted freely and don't contribute to the mourning dove bag limit.

Reporting Banded Birds

  • Online Reporting: Recommended via www.reportband.gov.
  • Banding Information: Obtain details about the banding event of the reported bird.

Waterfowl Information

  • US Fish and Wildlife Service: A source for waterfowl data and mid-August waterfowl status reports at fws.gov/birds.

Land Access Responsibilities for Hunters

Hunters, your ability to enjoy your hunting activities hinges on your understanding and adherence to land access regulations. Familiarize yourself with the following guidelines to ensure a smooth and lawful hunting experience.

Fishing Access Sites (FAS)

Montana’s Fishing Access Sites (FAS) present valuable hunting opportunities, but it's crucial to be aware of specific restrictions. Factors such as no-hunting safety zones and limitations on hunting weapons or firearms may apply. Refer to the Fishing Access Site website for detailed, site-specific information on opportunities and restrictions.

Montana State Parks

While some Montana State Parks allow hunting, certain restrictions prevail. Be mindful of no-hunting safety zones and limitations on hunting weapons or firearms. For site-specific details, contact the park directly or visit the Montana State Park website.

Federal Land Access Regulations

National Parks

National Parks are off-limits for hunting activities.

National Wildlife Refuges

If you're considering hunting on National Wildlife Refuges or Federal Waterfowl Production Areas, be aware of more stringent regulations. For additional information, visit www.fws.gov/refugesrefugeLocatorMaps/Montana or inquire at the local refuge office.

U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management

For hunting on federal lands, such as those managed by the U.S. Forest Service or U.S. Bureau of Land Management, seek information from the local Federal office.

Private Land Access

Accessing public lands through private property demands permission from the landowner, lessee, or their representative.

Indian Reservations

Hunters targeting migratory birds on Indian Reservations must adhere to Reservation regulations. Different regulations apply to deeded land and the Bighorn River within the Crow Indian Reservation. Cooperative management agreements exist, so consult the relevant authorities for specific details.

Railroad Access

Railroads and their rights-of-way are private property. Hunting on or using them for access to other lands, whether private or public, requires explicit permission from the railroad. Check with the individual railroad for specific details.

State School Trust Lands

For information on State School Trust Lands, including closures and restrictions, contact the DNRC at 406-444-2074. A Conservation License provides access, but additional permits are required for trapping.

Conservation License Guidelines

  • Overnight Use: Limited to two consecutive days on leased land and 16 consecutive days within designated campgrounds or on unleased land.
  • Motorized Travel: Restricted to public roads or designated open roads.
  • Firearm Discharge: Prohibited within one-quarter mile of inhabited dwellings without permission.
  • Open Fires: Permitted only in designated campgrounds.

State Wildlife Management Areas (WMA)

WMAs, vital for game animal winter range, have specific access restrictions. Public entry is closed from the day after the general deer/elk season or Dec. 1, whichever is later, until noon on May 15 each year, as posted.

  • Exception 1: Blackfoot Clearwater WMA remains open during the hunting season for ducks and geese only.
  • Exception 2: Kootenai Falls WMA is open year-round; Porcupine (Gallatin), Dome Mountain, Bear Creek, and Wall Creek WMAs open on May 1.

Stream Access

Migratory game bird hunting between the ordinary high water marks of streams and rivers is legal. However, always obtain landowner permission for hunting or retrieval on private lands adjacent to waterways.

Statewide Closures for Hunting

Region 2: Warm Springs Pond No. 3 (Deer Lodge County)

Closed Area Description:

  • Comprising portions of Sections 1, 2, 11, and 12, T4N R10.
  • Portions of Sections 30 and 31, T5N, R9W.
  • Portions of Sections 25 and 36, T5N, R10W.

Closure Boundaries:

  • From the junction of Interstate 90 and Opportunity Road.
  • North along Opportunity Road to the northerly base of the dike of Warm Springs Settling Pond No. 3.
  • Northwesterly along the base of the dike to the Mill-Willow Bypass area road.
  • Due west from the junction of the dike and road to Interstate 90 (as posted).
  • Southerly along Interstate 90 to its junction with Opportunity Road.

Region 3: Helena Valley Regulating Reservoir (Lewis & Clark County)

  • Bureau of Reclamation Regulating Reservoir in Sections 4, 5, 8, 9, 16, and 17, T10N, R2W.
  • Open to hunting until the waterfowl season, then closed to all hunting.

Region 3: South Half of Lake Helena (Lewis & Clark County)

Closure Boundaries:

  • From a marked point in the southwest part of Lake Helena.
  • Southwesterly direction to the south shore, then south approximately ½ mile.
  • Easterly direction 1-1/2 miles, then north ¼ mile.
  • East ¾ mile to the west bank of the BLM drain ditch D-7.
  • Down the west bank of the drain ditch to the lake, out into the lake 400 yards to a marked point.

Closure Details:

  • Closed to hunting, harassment, or molesting of migratory waterfowl.
  • Except for direct and immediate foot, boat, or dog retrieval of downed game within the closed area.

Region 3: Portion of the Manhattan Game Closure

Closure Boundaries:

  • From the west bank of the West Gallatin River and Interstate 90 intersection.
  • West along the south boundary of Interstate 90.
  • Southwest to the east bank of the Spring Creek irrigation canal.
  • Southerly along the east bank of the Perk Canal to Camp Creek.
  • Southerly along the southeast side of Camp Creek to Spring Creek.
  • Southerly along the southeast bank of Spring Creek to the south line of Section 23, T1N, R3E.
  • East along the south line of Sections 23 and 24, T1N, R3E, and Section 19 T1N, R4E.
  • To the West Gallatin River, then north along the west bank to its intersection with Interstate 90.

Regions 3 and 4: Gates of the Mountains Game Preserve

  • No hunting in the specified area including Upper Holter Lake, Stoney Point Beacon Road, and the Missouri River.


  • Southeast corner of Upper Holter Lake to Bulldozer Road.
  • Northerly along the powerline to Stoney Point Beacon.
  • Along Bulldozer Road to the ridge in Section 23, T13 N, R3W.
  • Northerly to the Missouri River, then easterly across the river and lake to the USFS boundary.
  • South along the wilderness boundary to the southeast corner of Section 1, T12N, R3W.
  • West back to Upper Holter Lake.

Region 4: Freezout Wildlife Management Area (Teton County)

Closed Area:

  • SW1/4, Section 19, Sections 29 and 30, T22N, R3W.
  • W1/2 Section 12, W1/2 of E1/2 Section 12, and portions of Sections 13 and 24 within the posted boundary.

Closure Details:

  • Open to upland game bird hunting until the general waterfowl season.
  • From the waterfowl season opening to November 19, no hunting, access, or harassment allowed.
  • Reopens for all hunting from November 20 to the end of the season.

Region 4: Missouri River (Cascade County)

  • The Missouri River below the ordinary high water, inclusive of islands, backwaters, and sandbars.
  • From the confluence of Sand Coulee Creek to Black Eagle Dam.

Region 6: McLean Reservoir (Hill County)

  • Approximately 2,560 acres located in Sections 16, 17, 20, 21, T36N, R15E.

Region 6: Nelson Reservoir (Phillips County)

  • All of Nelson Reservoir and within 300 yards of its shoreline.
  • Within specified sections in T32N, R32E and T32N, R31E.

Region 6, Sands Lake (Hill County)

  • SW ¼, Section 18, T32N, R16E.

Region 7: Treasure & Rosebud Counties

Closure Boundaries:

  • From the junction of the Bighorn and Yellowstone rivers.
  • East down the Yellowstone River to the Rosebud-Custer County line, east of Hathaway, Montana (as posted).
  • Confined within normal stream flow, including islands, backwaters, and sandbars.

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The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.