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How to purchase Montana bonus points and preference points

How to purchase Montana bonus points for hunting

Note: This article was originally published July 12, 2019, and it has been updated to include new screenshots of the process after Montana changed their website.

Jump to: Bonus vs. Preference PointsGeneral Hunt Distric MapsPoint Fees How to purchase points

Don't miss out on a chance to grab Montana bonus points and preference points!

Montana can be a confusing state to apply in. So be sure to read the differences between bonus points and preference points. Also, there are a lot of great comments at the bottom of this article, so be sure to read those if you have questions. And as always, drop a comment on the article if you'd like something clarified.

If you didn't apply for certain species in the main draw, or are new to hunting, you can purchase bonus points and nonresident preference points for Montana from July 1 through September 30. Purchasing these points will help you in the following years' draw.

This point only period does not allow you to gain more than one point per year as you cannot apply for a species in the draw and then purchase points for that same species in the same year. Hunters can only purchase bonus points for species that they have not yet applied for, and also a nonresident preference point if you didn't apply earlier in the year. For instance, if you did not apply for a bighorn sheep license, you can purchase a bighorn sheep bonus point. Any accumulated bonus points will not expire, but preference points are lost after three years of not applying for a nonresident Combination License.

Nonresidents who did not apply for a combination license during the main draw (deer, elk or the big game combo), may purchase a preference point to be used in next year’s combination drawing.

Purchase Montana points here

The difference between Montana's bonus and preference points

Montana has bonus points and preference points. The difference between the two is very important.

Bonus points

Montana has a bonus point system in place for all special permits (deer, elk, antelope, sheep, moose and mountain goat). For deer and elk, the special permits are used with a general hunting license (you need to draw a general combo license, to essentially be put into the draw for a special permit). Every year that you are unsuccessful in the drawing, and you elect to participate in the bonus point system, you will be awarded a point. When you apply in the draw your accrued bonus points are squared to increase the odds exponentially for the applicants with more accrued bonus points. All base bonus points accumulate over time until you draw a permit.

Example of why bonus and preference points are important: if you are aiming to draw a special permit for a certain hunt district and let's say you have 7 bonus points, but the year prior you drew a nonresident big game combination license and burned your preference points because you wanted to hunt elk deer on the general hunt. So now is the year you really want to burn your bonus points, so you apply for a special permit hunt district where you should draw since most applicants are drawing at 4 points. Well... now that you have zero preference points, you got unlucky in the random side of the draw for the nonresident combination license, and so because you didn't draw the nonresident combination license, you are automatically ineligible to draw a special permit hunt. This is why bonus points AND preference points are needed to draw a special permit hunt.

Applying as a party with bonus points

The maximum number of applicants within a group is five for deer, elk and antelope. When processing a party permit, the state will consider the average number of points between all of the party members and then round to the nearest whole number for a final party permit total. For example, a party with an average of 2.33 points would enter the draw at two points while a party with 2.66 points would enter at three.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION: You may purchase one bonus point per year; either at the time of application OR between July 1 and September 30 of the current year. For example: if you submit an application for an elk permit on April 1, you may also purchase a bonus point at that time. If you do not choose to purchase a bonus point at that time, you may not purchase one from July - September. You may, however, purchase a bonus point for a different species between July 1 and September 30.

Preference points

Montana also has a preference point system in place for the nonresident Big Game Combination, Elk Combination, and Deer Combination Licenses. A preference point can be used for either the big game, elk or deer combo (there is only one preference point system and they are not tied to only one combination license type).

The prerequisite for all nonresidents in Montana will be the big game, elk or deer combination license.

What are combination licenses in Montana?

  • Elk combination license: Elk, conservation license, state lands, upland bird (excluding turkey), base hunting, AISPP and season fishing license.
  • Deer combination license: Deer, conservation, state lands, upland bird (excluding turkey), base hunting, AISPP and season fishing license.
  • Big game combination license: Deer, elk, conservation license, state lands, upland bird (excluding turkey), base hunting, AISPP and season fishing license.

Those combination licenses are valid for the general hunt districts in the state. Preference points increase the chance of drawing a combination license and essentially move you ahead in line. 75% of all combination licenses awarded during the drawing will be issued to hunters with preference points. Anyone applying with three preference points will draw the license before anyone with two, and so on. The remaining 25% of the licenses are then put into a random draw with the remaining applicants who have not purchased any preference points.

Preference points accumulated will be used during the current drawing whether you purchase an additional preference point or not. Keep in mind that if you eventually want to draw a special permit hunt and use your "bonus points" you will also need preference points (or get lucky and draw a combo tag at random).

Applying as a party with preference points

Up to five applicants may apply as a party. Montana uses an average of the number of preference points accumulated by those applicants to determine the party's preference points and they consider any fraction that results from the calculation of an average when determining that priority. Example: if three people are applying with 5 total points, this party would go into the draw at 0.6 points. 

A look at all the general hunt districts by species

Montana archery elk hunt districts on goHUNT Filtering

The screenshot above shows the Hunt Districts for general season archery elk in Montana. You can easily see each species, season and weapon differences on Filtering 2.0.

Nonresidents can see the full list of all of the general season hunt districts for deer and elk on INSIDER by clicking on one of the links below:

Elk rifle general hunt districts Elk archery general hunt districts Mule deer rifle general hunt districts Mule deer archery general hunt districts Whitetail rifle general hunt districts Whitetail archery general hunt districts

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Montana's point only fees

Below are the fees for purchasing bonus points and a nonresident preference point without applying for a license. Note: There are no prerequisites to purchase the points.

Resident & nonresident point fees

Mountain Lion$15$25
Bighorn sheep$15$75
Mountain goat$15$75
Preference Point*NA$50

* The nonresident preference point is for the nonresident combination tags (deer, elk and big game).

How to purchase bonus and preference points

You can purchase bonus points and nonresident preference points online here or at any FWP license provider. Below is a step by step walkthrough on how to purchase points in Montana.

Once you land on their "Buy and Apply" page. Scroll down and click on their "Online Licensing" link.

Montana online licensing page residency

You'll land on the screen that looks like the above image. Now select your residency.

Montana sign in for points purchase

After that, you'll need to enter in your name, date of birth and ALS number, then click continue. You'll land on another page where you have to accept all statements are true. Click Accept.

Montana bonus points purchase screenshot

Now, under the "Categories" tab, click on the "Bonus Points" section. A new tab will open on the right that shows all of the points you are able to purchase. Note: your screen might look differently if applied for a species in the draw.

Montana nonresident preference point purchase screenshot

Don't forget that there is also a tab to purchase a nonresident preference point. This section might not show up if you already applied for a combination in the main draw earlier in the year.

Selecting all the points you want to purchase in Montana

Select all of the points you want to purchase. For this example, all of the bonus points are selected (except for the B bonus points and the swan point), and also a preference point was selected. You'll see on the left under the "Category" section that there are 9 total items selected. Click continue.

Then you'll land on the screen asking you to verify the items you selected. If all looks good click Continue.

Address confirmation for points purchase in Montana

Now you will need to confirm your address information. Once that is complete, again click Continue.

Verify personal information for points purchase in Montana

One last page to confirm your personal information. If all looks good click continue.

Final shopping cart verification when buying Montana points

Again, you will have the verify all the items you want to purchase. Click "Proceed to payment."

Montana points purchase payment summary

The next page will again show the points you are purchasing, plus it will add a surcharge fee. Make sure everything is correct once again, and click next.

Confirming point items and card information

Then the last screen is where you'll enter your card information. Click "Submit Payment" and you're done!


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