Top Five Montana Hunting Destinations
By Toby Trigger
Montana is a huge state with opportunities to hunt two different flyways. With over 147, 000 square miles to hunt it can be tough to find the best locations to hunt ducks, geese and trumpeter swans. Learning the top five waterfowl locations for 2014 will put you on your way to amazing hunting this season.
- Red Rocks National Wildlife Refuge: With two primary camping locations, excellent access and water managed for wildlife this one is hard to beat. I put it first on the list because it freezes up early. This isn’t a great goose location but the variety of ducks here is awesome! There’s also great fishing and big game hunting on this beautiful waterfowl production area in the Centennial Range of South West Montana.
- Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge. This amazing waterfowl area is in North-Central Montana in the milk-river valley famous for its whitetail hunting. While there are a great variety of birds here I know hunters who have travelled here specifically for wood ducks. This is a must for the serious water fowler.
- Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge sees a lot of hunting pressure but on middle of the week hunts the action is fast and furious especially in early November. Nestled in the heart of the Bitterroot Valley this refuge offers incredible walk-in access with a dozen or blinds. Bring material to cover the blinds and pick a pond. I’ve seen snow geese pile in here in late November, a rarity in western Montana.
- Nine Pipe National Wildlife Refuge. This place is awesome on a good rain year and 2014 was pretty good. The refuge is in the Mission Valley and offers good pit blinds for pass shooting birds coming off the main lake. I recommend hiking into the numerous (I’m talking hundreds here) kettle ponds and jump shooting ducks and geese. If you are hunting on the Reservation you’ll need to buy a tribal permit to access the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Lands. The laws on the reservation may be different than the Montana regulations so get well versed on the differences. Tribal licenses are available at licensing stores in Montana and on the reservation for ten bucks. That is in additional to the Montana licensing fees.
- Anywhere there’s a river. Montana prides itself in providing access for hunters and anglers. The stream access laws guarantee access to the river near bridges along state or county highways and as long as you stay below the high water mark (which is easy to do) you can hunt or fish anywhere.
Montana is an often overlooked waterfowl destination with seasons running into mid January. The bird numbers are looking good for 2015 and the season is just beginning.