Night Hunting in Montana – Follow the Law! 

 July 10, 2021

By  Daniel Gray

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Last updated on June 27, 2022

Hunting is the act of seeking, capturing, or killing of wildlife either for recreation or for protection. In the United States, hunting is also essential for the conservation of certain species by controlling the population of other species. 

Of course, with hunting having such a big impact on the environment, certain laws and regulations must be put in place to maintain the stability of our environment. Practices like night hunting can be detrimental to the local species if not carried out correctly. 

Here are some things you should know about this sport and some specifics about night hunting in Montana.

Meeting the Minimum Requirements

Before the hunt can begin, you must have the necessary paperwork. To hunt in Montana, you need to complete Hunter/Bowhunter Education and receive certification before applying for a Montana Hunting License. Fortunately for you, if you were born after January 1, 1985, you are exempt from this and can just move on to the next step.

After that, you need to get a Conservation License, pay the Base Hunting License Fee, and acquire Carcass Tags and/or Licenses for the species you are hunting. In addition, for specific seasons like Archery-only seasons, you must acquire those individual licenses too.

Although this is not a legal requirement, you need to determine what and where you want to hunt. Montana is a big state with plenty of wildlife, which means you must plan out your hunt in advance. Figuring out which species to hunt can help you narrow down on the districts you can hunt and makes it easier to check up on the regulations for that species.

For non-residents, coyote hunting is allowed year round in Montana which means you may be required to obtain a necessary license similarly to Montana residents. Though, if you choose to hunt using traps or snares you are required to purchase a Non-Resident Trapping license.

Big Game Hunting

Montana is home to a wide variety of species that you can hunt, ranging from the common mule deer to the black bears and bison. There are plenty of opportunities to score your prized trophy here as long as you are aware of the regulations surrounding big game.

Hunting for big game in Montana can be conducted on both public and private grounds, both of which require licenses and permission is required to hunt on private land. In addition to the general hunting license, you may also need to pick up a specific permit entitling you to hunt a specific animal. Contact your local authority to figure out if your target requires a special permit.

To preserve the sanctity of the land and prevent transmittable diseases that can affect the local wildlife, big game animals are required to be properly tagged before the carcass is removed from the site or before the hunter leaves the kill site. Failure to comply could not only land you in serious legal issues but also damage the local fauna with something called “chronic wasting disease.” Remember to respect the law and local nature.

Conservation and Coyote Hunting

While the state of Montana does not have hard limits on coyote hunting, it is important to keep conservation in mind.  On the scale of conservation, coyotes are on the lower end and are not endangered, but this could easily be changed with over-hunting. Always be mindful of how many coyotes you hunt, and it is recommended that you report that number to the local authorities so that they can keep track of the local population.

Legality of Night Hunting in Montana

There are a few legal regulations that you must keep in mind when night hunting in Montana: 

  1. Always have your license on you whenever you're hunting. Do not leave it in your car (or even worse at home), you must have it on your person at all times.
  2. Never allow someone else to use your license or tag just because you may not be able to go hunting for a season. This is 100% illegal!
  3. You may hunt on private land ONLY AFTER you have gotten explicit permission from the landowners.
  4. Do not use spotlights while hunting big game (or any game for that matter) at night as this is illegal. You also cannot use an infrared scope/sight on your rifle.
  5. Hunting hours in Montana:
    1. Hunters are allowed to hunt 30 minutes before sunrise and after sunset, the hours of which are tabulated by local authorities. These hours only apply to game species.
    2. Hunting after hours or night hunting is still legal but only applies to predators and non-game species like coyotes, weasels, or rabbits.

While these are the major legal regulations that you must keep in mind, if you have a question or are just unsure contact your local authorities before you go hunting.

Equipment for Night Hunting in Montana

hunting hogs at night with a thermal scope

There are lots of different equipment specifically made for hunting at night. Depending on your budget range, your equipment could range from a simple spotlight to highly advanced scopes for your hunting weapon. Of course, not all equipment is legal in some districts, so it is best to check with your local authority before using them.

Night Vision

Night vision hunting has been gaining traction in these recent years due to their effectiveness in helping identify targets and their ease-to-use. Although the investment is a massive hike from the spotlight, it is worth every dollar. Regulation-wise, night vision technology is not permitted in Montana.

Thermal Scopes

Thermal scopes can help you spot targets in the dark thanks to their body temperature revealing their positions. Through thermal imaging, it is possible to identify the target thanks to their outline. Some of the latest thermal scopes also come with a rangefinder, thus making it easier to plan your shots. However, use of thermal imaging devised in Montana is unlawful.


Night hunting in Montana has a fairly straightforward set of regulations and rules. As long as you follow all of them you should have a good season of hunting coyote and other big game. Despite this article being a great resource for everything you may need, always contact your local authorities with any concerns you have.

About the author 

Daniel Gray

As a digital marketing manager, Daniel is responsible planning and managing marketing campaigns at Smart Scouter. He has a masters degree from Indiana University and over 20 years of experience in the thermal imaging industry. In his spare time he likes hiking and traveling around South America.

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