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Fall 2020 Operational Updates

This page will be updated as information becomes available. (Last update: 9/16/2020)

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FWP offices and visitor centers

Social distancing, other pandemic protocols in place at FWP offices

As the state continues operating under Phase 2 of Gov. Steve Bullock’s Reopening the Big Sky Plan, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks offices and visitor centers are open with COVID-19 protocols in place. 

Strict adherence to Phase 2 guidelines is critical: stay at home if you feel sick, make sure to frequently wash and sanitize your hands, and maintain at least six feet of distance from other people. 

FWP front offices around the state are set up to help facilitate these simple guidelines, including signs on floors to help keep people spaced out, hand sanitizer for customers, and glass dividers between front counter staff and customers. 

FWP's Helena Area Resource Office at 930 Custer Ave. W. in Helena remains closed. 

Please note that many FWP employees are still working remotely, so for business beyond front desk license purchases and other related information, please plan to reach out to the appropriate staff member directly by phone or email or ask front desk staff for contact information.

License Purchasing

License buyers can purchase licenses online or from license providers around the state. Hunters applying for special licenses or permits need to do so online and need to have a valid email address. FWP will mail carcass tags to those who purchase online, and people who have had trouble printing their licenses will receive them in the mail.

In response to COVID-19 and to protect the public as well as staff, FWP has decided to mail our carcass tags, just as we have done in years past. We understand that some people don’t have access to a printer at home. If you purchased a license that requires a carcass tag already this year and have not printed it at home yet, FWP will also mail your carcass tag to you. Please disregard the email with the link to print, it will no longer work.

  • For the foreseeable future, people interested in getting help with application and licensing questions should call the FWP Licensing Call Center at 406-444-2950 or email fwplic@mt.gov.
    The licensing call center will be answering calls from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. At times the call volume is high; please be patient as statewide staff work hard to answer questions in a timely manner.
  • Buy a license online at: https://app.mt.gov/als/index/index.html.

Other Questions?

If you’re trying to reach FWP staff to ask very localized questions outside of licensing issues, please call:

  • Kalispell: 406-751-4564
  • Missoula: 406-542-5503
  • Bozeman: 406-577-7900
  • Great Falls: 406-454-5841
  • Glasgow: 406-228-3702
  • Billings: 406-247-2970
  • Miles City: 406-234-0930 – for Block Management Program questions
  • Aquatic Invasive Species boat check inquiries: 406-444-2440

Hunting Seasons

CWD Testing

FWP strongly encourages hunters to have their animals tested for CWD. Testing for CWD involves removing lymph nodes in the neck, just below the jaw. Hunters can have their deer, elk and moose tested for CWD in a few ways.

  • They can take the samples themselves and submit them to the FWP Wildlife Health Lab in Bozeman. Learn more about taking your own sample >>
  • They can bring the animal’s head with a few inches of neck meat attached to an FWP regional office or CWD sampling station and FWP staff can take the sample. The samples will be submitted to the Montana Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for testing. Results should be available online within three weeks. Hours of operation and locations of CWD sampling locations will also be posted online.

Due to the COVID pandemic, staff presence in FWP offices can vary as many continue to work remotely. Not all regional offices can offer help with sampling, so please call ahead to check on availability and to ensure your visit is timely, quick and smooth.p>

Also, please come prepared to wear a mask, as required by Gov. Steve Bullock’s directives, should social distancing be difficult to achieve. FWP staff will be wearing a mask as well.

Apply early for FWP's Apprentice Hunter Program

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks encourages early mail-in certification for eligible Apprentice Hunters in order to avoid crowds and frustration prior to season openers and the youth hunt. COVID-19 safety protocols are in place at FWP offices and lobby occupancy is very limited, therefore wait times outside may be long. 

The "Apprentice Hunter" law allows anyone 10 years of age or older to hunt two license years without completing hunter education. An apprentice hunter may not obtain a big horn sheep, black bear, mountain lion, or wolf license. 

Apprentice hunters, ages 10-15, may hunt in the two-day youth pheasant and duck hunt (Sept. 26 and 27) and two-day deer hunt (Oct. 15 and 16) and throughout the general season. 

FWP recommends that people interested in this program read the Apprentice Hunter Program packet before seeking certification through your regional office. The packet outlines guidelines for both the apprentice and the required mentor, including what apprentices can and cannot do, who can act as a mentor, and how the certification process works.

FWP maintains adjusted reporting requirements for black bear hunters

Consistent with adjustments made during spring, Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will continue with the adjusted harvest reporting requirements for the fall black bear hunting season.

The archery-only season starts Sept. 5 in most areas. The general fall season starts Sept. 15. All successful black bear hunters are required to report their harvest through the FWP Harvest Reporting Line 1-877-FWP-WILD (1-877-397-9453) within 48 hours of harvest. Unlike in years past, FWP will not require a mandatory carcass inspection, hide seal or tooth collection.

In place of mandatory tooth collection, FWP will be initiating a voluntary tooth collection process whereby a hunter may extract and submit a tooth to FWP to determine the age of the harvested black bear. FWP biologists use this age information, along with the sex of the bear, to manage bear populations in Montana.

All reporting and inspection requirements remain in place for wolves, mountain lions, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, bobcats, and otter, as described in the printed 2020 hunting regulations for those species. For information about specific times and locations for tagging animals, contact regional FWP offices. The archery-only seasons for wolves, mountain lions, and bighorn sheep open Sept. 5 in most areas

Inspection and pinning for bighorn sheep and mountain goats

Hunting regulations require that if you are successful in harvesting a bighorn sheep or mountain goat, you present the complete head and cape (bighorn sheep) or the head/top of head with horns attached (mountain goat) to FWP for inspection and pinning.

Due to the COVID pandemic, staff presence in FWP offices can vary as many continue to work remotely. To help accommodate this required inspection and pinning, please try to call ahead to one of our offices for this service. This will help us ensure that your visit is timely, quick, and smooth.

Inspecting and pinning animals often requires the successful hunter and FWP staff to be in close proximity with each other. Please come prepared to wear a mask, as required by Gov. Steve Bullock’s directives, should social distancing be difficult to achieve. Our staff will be wearing a mask as well.

Hunter Education

To protect public health and reduce overall spread of COVID-19, we have temporarily cancelled all in-person Hunter Education classes. Since the in-person options aren’t feasible under Phases 1 and 2 of Gov. Steve Bullock’s Reopening the Big Sky plan, FWP will cover the online tuition fees for all Montana residents until the state reaches Phase 3 of the plan and in-person hunter and bowhunter education courses are available once again.

The online courses are available to Montana residents who are at least the age of 12 by Jan. 16, 2021.

Fishing Seasons

Paddlefish Season

The 2020 paddlefish seasons on the Yellowstone and Lower Missouri rivers (yellow tag) are canceled in response to Gov. Steve Bullock’s extension of the directives for social distancing and non-resident quarantine to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Upper Missouri Paddlefish remains open for those who drew a tag. Tags are being mailed. Snag and release permits will not be issued, so this season will only be open for those who drew a tag.

Outfitters and Guides

The Montana Governor’s Office of Outdoor Recreation has updated additional guidance to the “RECREATION GUIDELINES” that are specific for guides that will allow them to put customers in their boats.

FWP Sites

Camping is open at most FWP fishing access sites and state parks.

Group-use sites, including fishing piers, are also open, but social distancing guidelines must be strictly followed.

State Parks

Visit stateparks.mt.gov for Montana State Parks COVID-19 updates and closures.

Hunter Education