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Bighorn sheep against snowy landscape

Hunt Species Guide: Bighorn Sheep


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Regulations & Maps

Regulations

Regulations for upcoming seasons are posted online throughout the year. Bighorn Sheep regulations are typically posted late February.

 

Mandatory Harvest Reporting

A hunter harvesting a bighorn ram must personally present the complete head and cape intact within 48 hours to any FWP office, game warden, or designated employee.

In the Missouri Breaks (Region 6 and Hunting District 482) and in unlimited districts, the harvested sheep must be presented in the administrative region where the bighorn ram was taken.

A hunter harvesting a bighorn sheep with a license valid for a "legal ram" must not alter the head and horns so as to affect detemination of legality. 

Bighorn ram horns greater than one-half curl must be plugged or pinned at any FWP office within 10 days after harvest. 

  • Transfer possession of harvested game animal that requires mandatory FWP inspection: Download form (PDF)

 

Recovering a Ram Skull

A person may recover and possess the horn or horns and attached skull, or a portion thereof, of a mountain sheep that died of natural causes. A person may not possess these parts of a mountain sheep if the mountain sheep was purposefully or accidentally killed, captured, or taken, including being struck by a vehicle.

Horns and skulls recovered must be reported to FWP within 48 hours and presented to the department for inspection and placement of a permanent pin in a horn within 10 days. The fee for the pin is $25.

Horns and skulls found in state parks may not be recovered or possessed.

 

Plan Your Hunt Online

Launch maps, obtain legal descriptions, regulations, and statistics all in one place.

Seasons

These dates are provided only as a general reference. Check current regulations or use FWP's online Hunt Planner for specific dates.

 

2021 Bighorn Sheep Season Dates

Archery
September 4 – September 14

General
September 15 – November 28

 

Archery Season

The Archery Only Season is only for limited entry bighorn sheep hunting districts and will run prior to the start of any district's general bighorn sheep season opener. There is no Archery Only Season in CLOSED or unlimited entry districts. A Bow and Arrow (archery) License is required.

 

Harvest Quota Status & Closure Information

In hunting districts with a bighorn sheep harvest quota (HDs 300, 303, 500, 501 and 502), when a hunting season quota is reached, the hunting season will close upon a 48-hour notice.

Bighorn sheep quota status information may be obtained:

  • By calling 1-800-385-7826 or 406-444-1989 for statewide information

Licenses & Fees

Bighorn Sheep Limited / Unlimited

Details: Prerequisite licenses are Conservation and Base Hunting in order to apply. There is an additional $10 resident or $50 nonresident nonrefundable application fee for each license or permit you apply for.

License holders may legally take one bighorn sheep subject to all specifications on the license issued.

Fees:

  • Resident: $125

  • Nonresident: $1,250

 

There are limited and unlimited bighorn sheep licenses:

Limited Licenses
  • A limited bighorn sheep license is awarded only through the special drawing and is designed to limit the number of hunters in a specific hunting district (s). Hunters may apply for one limited license area only and it must be their first and only district choice, with the exception of an adult ewe, which may be listed as a second district choice.

  • An applicant who receives a limited either-sex or legal ram license is not eligible to apply for or receive another either-sex or legal ram bighorn sheep license for the next succeeding seven years.

  • An applicant who is successful in obtaining a limited ewe license (first or second choice) is not restricted to the seven-year waiting period.

 

Unlimited Licenses
  • Unlimited bighorn sheep licenses have no limit on the number of licenses sold but there is a limit of one per hunter. These licenses may be available from License Providers, including FWP Online Licensing System, or the hunter has the option of applying by the May 1 deadline through the drawing process.

  • An unlimited bighorn sheep license purchased through the special drawing must be listed as your first and only district choice.

  • Unlimited bighorn sheep license districts have harvest quotas and can close a few days after the opening date.

  • Licenses are nonrefundable, and a hunter may not change the selected hunting district even if a district closes before the hunter has participated in a hunt.

  • An applicant who receives an unlimited legal ram license and harvests a legal ram is not eligible to receive or apply for another bighorn sheep license for the following seven years.

  • Unlimited bighorn sheep hunting districts are assigned a harvest quota. Unlimited bighorn sheep license hunting districts will close on a 48-hour notice. When the quota is reached or approached, the bighorn sheep season in that district will close. Any ram harvested by a hunter will be counted against the quota.

  • Current quota status may be obtained by calling the appropriate FWP regional office during normal business hours or by calling 1-800-385-7826 or 406-444-1989, or by visiting here. 

Application, Drawing Deadlines & Results

Availability 

The Limited Bighorn Sheep license is available via Special Drawing. 

Unlimited bighorn sheep licenses have no limit on the number of licenses sold but there is a limit of one per hunter. These licenses may be available from License Providers, including FWP Online Licensing System, or the hunter has the option of applying by the May 1 deadline through the drawing process.

 

Application Deadline

May 1

 

Drawing Results

Approximate bighorn sheep drawing dates:

  • Special — Mid-May

  • SuperTag — Early July

 

Check Your Drawing Results

Harvest Quota & Reports

Mandatory Harvest Reporting

A hunter harvesting a bighorn ram must personally present the complete head and cape intact within 48 hours to any FWP office, game warden, or designated employee.

In the Missouri Breaks (Region 6 and Hunting District 482) and in unlimited districts, the harvested sheep must be presented in the administrative region where the bighorn ram was taken.

A hunter harvesting a bighorn sheep with a license valid for a "legal ram" must not alter the head and horns so as to affect detemination of legality. 

Bighorn ram horns greater than one-half curl must be plugged or pinned at any FWP office within 10 days after harvest. 

 

Harvest Quota

In hunting districts with a bighorn sheep harvest quota (HDs 300, 303, 500, 501 and 502), when a hunting season quota is reached, the hunting season will close upon a 48-hour notice.

Bighorn sheep quota status information may be obtained:

  • By calling 1-800-385-7826 or 406-444-1989 for statewide information, or

  • By checking the online harvest page

 

Harvest Reports

  • To view annual harvest reports and more information, click here.

Guide to Bighorn Sheep

 

Lambs

  • Weigh from 8 to 10 pounds at birth and grow to 70-90 pounds at 8-10 months of age

  • Are the smallest sheep in body and horn size

  • Shed wooly juvenile coat between August and October and grow coat similar to adults

 

Ewes (Adult Females)

Ewes have a narrow horn base and less divergent horns than young rams.

  • Are the most often seen class of bighorn sheep

  • Reach adult proportions at 4-5 years

  • Weigh from 130-160 pounds

 

Young Rams (1 to 2 years)

Ewes and young rams have similar appearance.

  • Have approximately the same body and horn size as adult females (0-1/4 curl)

  • Weigh from 130-160 pounds

  • Have slightly wider horn base and more divergent horns than ewes

  • Have hair on the back of the neck is slightly longer than ewes, giving young rams a more chunky appearance

  • Look more lamb-like in face than adult rams

  • May have testes visible at 18 months (December), if it is an exceptionally well-developed yearling ram

 

Adult Rams (3 to 4 years)

A full frontal of broadside view is best for judging the size of the ram.  Never judge a ram from behind. Hunters should look at several rams for comparison, rather than shooting the first one seen.

  • Legal Ram

    • You can make a straight line extending from the front base of the horn through any portion of the eye opening intercept any portion of the horn.

  • Base of the horn

    • The point where the horn meets the hairline of the head.

  • Mature Ram

    • Has a hump on their shoulders when viewed broadside

    • The lower curve of the horn of a large ram drops below the line of the chin.

    • Horns have broomed.

    • Horns have large second and third quarter circumferences.

 

Horns Tell the Age

Horns tell us the age of rams, and a little less accurately, the age of ewes. Since a lamb grows its first set of horns by six months, and its second horn segment by eighteen months, the number of horn segments of a ram taken in the fall is actually one more than his actual age. For example, a ram with ten horn segments is actually 9.5 years old. In old ewes, the horns may not grow every year, so their horns may only tell their minimum age. In young ewes, the count of horn segments is probably accurate.

Bighorn Sheep Measurements

Management & Monitoring

Bighorn sheep are managed as a game species in Montana.

MONTANA OUTDOORS

The BIGHORN'S Rocky Recovery

After a catastrophic decline in the early 1900s, Montana's bighorn sheep population has grown into one of the nation's largest.  But habitat loss, highway fatalities, and deadly disease could send numbers tumbling again.

Read the Article 
A bighorn sheep.