Turkey Hunting in Montana

Back to All State Reports
  • B
  • 120,000

    Wild Turkey Population

  • Merriam’s, some Easterns, hybrids

    Turkey Subspecies

  • 25,193 (turkey)

    Number of Licenses Sold Annually

  • Varies (see regulations)

    Cost of Resident License and Permit

  • Varies (see regulations)

    Cost of Non-Resident License and Permit

As a western turkey hunting destination, Montana has it all: solid bird numbers (120,000 turkeys by 2022 estimates), exceptional access, and high hunter-success rates.

And as of 2022, an ambitious turkey hunter may hold up to 12 wild turkey licenses per year, travel providing. You see, some are limited to specific regions and counties, so read those regulations carefully. Twice.

To top it off, Montana provides a spectacular backdrop when that turkey finally decides to strut into range. It’s a gorgeous place to go after the greatest game bird on the planet. 

But here’s something you might not know: wild turkeys are not native to this state.

When Montana decided to trap-and-transfer them in 1954, it selected the Merriam’s subspecies as the best choice. Thirteen birds from Colorado were introduced into the Judith Mountains of central Montana at the time.

The following year, 18 more Wyoming Merriam’s were released into southeastern Montana. In ’56 and ’57, another 26 birds were placed in the Ashland area of southeastern Montana, which marked the last time turkeys were transplanted from another state.

It was obviously a success, as Big Sky Country is one of the strongest turkey regions in the West, though often overlooked.

Where to Hunt

Turkey populations are located on both public and private ground throughout Montana.

The most recent available kill data here in early 2022 is for 2020, when Montana hunters took 3,266 birds.

Hunters continually find success in the Long Pines and Ashland areas of Custer National Forest in the Southeast (though wildfires moved through the upper third of this habitat several years ago), the Missouri River Breaks and the Charles M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge in central Montana, and within the Intermountain Valley Region out west.

Montana also offers the Block Management Program in all seven wildlife regions throughout the state, and over 8 million acres are currently enrolled. It’s a cooperative effort between private landowners and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, which helps landowners manage hunting activities while providing the public with free hunting access to private land.

According to sources, Montana has the largest Merriam’s turkey population in the Rocky Mountain West. The state also leads the nation with close to 200 NWTF Wild Turkey Record Book entries for this subspecies.

— Steve Hickoff

Turkey hunting in Montana. Image by John Hafner

Go here for more Realtree turkey hunting.