If you’re like thousands of other hunters, springtime brings about severe cases of cabin fever and the itch to get into the woods or mountains becomes critical. If you’re thinking about exploring some other states for a fun turkey hunt look no further than the Big Sky Country. Montana is not only a state that provides great public land hunting opportunities for elk, deer, bear, antelope and other big game species but it has bountiful turkey hunting as well! I’ve been very fortunate to hunt turkeys in a number of different states and ecosystems, even notching a Texas Rio tag to complete my turkey grand slam in 2019, but I’d have to say that run and gun turkey hunting in the Missouri River Breaks of Montana is really hard to beat!
There are different areas of Montana that provide vastly different experiences when it comes to turkey hunting public. I live in the Bitterroot Valley just outside of Missoula where the birds tend to flock up on the river bottoms in the winter and early Spring. They are often referred to as “yard birds” since they are often seen loitering in people’s yards and milling around horse pastures and backyard campfire pits. As the snow melts and the temperatures rise the flocks often move off the river bottoms and into the mountains, making for a more exciting typical ‘cat and mouse’ style of turkey hunt where calling and decoys actually work.
I’ve been heading over to the Central part of Montana for the past decade to partake in an annual backcountry turkey hunt with Jason Matzinger and friends. We set up tents, disconnect from the world and spend a few days running and gunning birds, looking for sheds and just enjoying the company of good friends in the Missouri River Breaks. The rolling hills and pockets of timber hold elk, mule deer, whitetails, and antelope and as the coulees turn green with fresh grass we typically find birds moving off the river bottoms and up into the valleys and mountains. It’s the only place I’ve ever turkey hunted where GLASSING plays a big role. If there aren’t any birds answering the morning we’ll sit high on a ridge and use our binoculars. We often refer to these birds as ‘cliff divers’ because they pitch from one canyon to another. It’s not uncommon to chase the faint echos of gobbles only to find him strutting on the opposing ridge with a giant gorge in between you and the taunting Tom.
In Montana non-resident turkey tags are over the counter and depending on which part of the state you’d like to hunt there are often multiple opportunities. You can get a general license good for any part of the state in both spring and fall seasons and there are often additional tags available for either sex with any weapon in the Fall. In 2022 a turkey hunter could hold up to 11 wild turkey licenses for the calendar year depending on various regions and sex of the birds! It’s important to remember to get your prerequisite licenses which include a base hunting license, a conservation license and your upland game bird license if needed before purchasing your general turkey license. Of course, always check with the current up-to-date Fish, Wildlife & Parks regulations either online, picking up a regulations booklet or simply giving them a call.
There’s no better way to break that cabin fever then to get into the beautiful mountains of Montana in the Spring for bear and turkey. There’s plenty of public land opportunities and the odds of stumbling across an elk or deer shed make it all the more exciting! Make sure to download or cache in your OnX maps before heading out since many areas have limited cell service. Happy hunting everyone!