The deer draw is a two-step operation to acquire a limited-entry tag. The deer or big-game combination tag ($587/$1001) application is the first step in the process, followed by the limited draw permit choices on the same application. Prior to last year, the deer combination draw was 100%, but in 2018, it dropped to 95%.
The combination tag allows the applicant to basically hunt the entire eastern half of the state. The limited-entry choices are located in the western half.
The deer hunting offered with the combination license in the eastern half is currently excellent. The area encompasses millions of acres of Block Management public hunting areas as well as the Custer National Forest. The 700-series units in particular are areas to concentrate on. The current state of deer hunting on the combination tags makes it difficult to find a limited entry unit that would be significantly better than the general areas afforded with the combination tag.
There are a handful of tags in the limited-entry permit draw that do warrant a closer look for 2019. The two top units are located near the Idaho border in HD261 and HD270. HD270 (East Fork Bitterroot) has been and continues to be the best unit in the state. The draw odds are extremely long, but a 180” mule deer is likely.
Unit HD261 is adjacent to HD270 and has similar deer hunting opportunities. As an outside flyer, take a look at HD455 (Beartooth WMA). It’s a walk-in area that offers both whitetail and mule deer. A side benefit to this tag would be to scout an up-and-coming elk unit.
Just like deer, an elk or big-game combination tag is the first step in the application process. This is followed by limited-entry choices as well as if points (preference and bonus) are desired in the case of an unsuccessful draw. The elk and big-game combination tags are generally a 100% draw ($851/$1001). The combination tag basically allows elk hunting in the western half of the state and the limited-entry permits allows hunting in individual units in the eastern half.
There is no lack of choices as it relates to the limited-entry elk permits. There is a top-shelf limited-entry unit located in the western half of the state – HD380 Elkhorn Mountains, but draw odds are dismally low. Top-end bulls will stretch the tape to 360. The area is primarily public land.
Another unit to consider would be HD445 – Beartooth WMA – a walk-in area that borders a wilderness area. This unit had a 6% draw last year and should be able to produce bulls in the 320 range.
The balance of the high-end limited-entry units are located in the eastern half of the state, primarily located along the Missouri River Breaks/Fort Peck Reservoir. These include 410, 621, 631, and 632. All of these units bring very low draw odds for a rifle hunter, but with high harvest rates and large bulls.
Other good choices would be the 702/704/705 tag grouping or the 700 tag. Both of these tag choices are located in areas with a lot of private property and low elk densities, but do offer big bulls.