invalid montana elk tags
(Photo/Harry Collins)

Montana FWP Issues Nonresident Deer and Elk Tags to Unsuccessful Applicants

A clerical error led to Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks mailing unsuccessful nonresident hunters a stack of tags they didn’t draw.

Over the weekend, multiple nonresident hunters posted to social media that they received Montana elk and deer tags in the mail. The kicker is that these hunters purported to be unsuccessful in the online lottery.

The reality is more nuanced. The big game combo tags in question were sent to applicants who were successful in drawing the combo, but unsuccessful in drawing their unit.

“What we’ve done is we’re contacting everybody that got those licenses, and we’re gonna send them a letter with a postage-paid return envelope and ask them to mail back their licenses, but the licenses themselves will not be valid,” Greg Lemon, an administrator for Montana FWP told GearJunkie.

Needless to say, it’s a confusing situation for many.

1,200 Invalid Paper Tags, A Lot of Confusion

elk cows in the cottonwoods
A group of elk stand in a protected area among the cottonwoods; (photo/Nicole Qualtieri)

“About 1,200 nonresident combination licenses were erroneously printed and mailed to nonresident hunters who had successfully drawn a license but elected to return them for a refund when they didn’t draw their chosen permit,” Montana FWP said in a press release.

When nonresidents apply for the coveted Montana elk and deer combination, they’re essentially entered into a lottery. But, a lot of nonresident hunters will also apply for a permit that allows them to hunt a particular district.

In order to be entered to draw the permit, these applicants must first draw the nonresident combination tag. But, supply is limited. So Montana FWP offers a few options for folks who draw the combo but fail to draw the location permit desired.

They can choose an 80% refund on the license and return the tags, or they can return the elk tag and keep their deer tag. The hunters who received tags in the mail had chosen one of these two options.

Essentially, if you’re a nonresident hunter who received tags in the mail, you’re highly advised to go to MyFWP, log in to your account, and note your drawing results.

If you were not successful in drawing your permit area, your mailed tags are invalid.

Not the Only Glitch This Season

Over the past few years, Montana FWP continues to make inroads in simplifying the tag system for Montanans and nonresident hunters.

One recent win is the new Montana FWP app that allows hunters to download tags and “notch” them electronically. This is its first season in action, so Montanans will have a new option to get used to. Another is giving Montanans the ability to print tags at home.

But, as things change, systemic weaknesses are often exposed.

Another major glitch this year concerned first- and second-choice elk hunting units. That hiccup equated to 2,482 applicants being kicked out of the drawing pool for incorrectly choosing a second choice in a first-and-only choice unit.

MT FWP’s solution for that error was to issue permits to all the applicants who applied for areas with unallocated permits remaining. The rest would be put into a second drawing, allowing for up to 10% more permits to be available in those areas.

Other minor errors include incorrect season dates being printed on archery tags, stating the season is 2 days longer than it actually is.

Rachelle Schrute
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Rachelle Schrute has been writing about hunting, fishing, and conservation for several years, as well as being a wilderness guide in Yellowstone National Park. Prior to that, Rachelle held leadership positions in multiple conservation organizations and often finds herself testifying in the capitol on topics ranging from wildlife management to habitat protection. Based in Montana, Rachelle is an avid hunter, angler, wild game cook, and professional outdoor napper.