It seems at bit crazy, at first glance, to be talking about year 2000 hunts when the 1999 season hasn't even been held yet. But that's the way Western hunting has gone. The sooner you start planning, dreaming and saving for your next big hunt the better your chances are of actually going afield. So, toss this suggestion for an affordable deer and elk hunt in Montana into your planning files. I discovered this opportunity while on a spring bear hunt with Mike and Ron Robinson of Thunder Bow Outfitters. I tagged my bear on the third day of a six-day hunt, so I had plenty of time to enjoy the beautiful scenery of northwestern Montana's Swan Valley. One thing became obvious very quickly: this area has a lot of deer, mostly whitetails. Almost every time we drove back to camp there was a new deer carcass on the road. I wondered how things were in the fall and asked Mike for particulars about his hunts at that time of year. I was pleasantly surprised at the affordability of the combo deer and elk hunt he told me about.
To be sure, affordability is not something that Montana is known for - among non-residents in particular who have to buy out-of-state tags. Let's start with the cost of a draw license for deer. The cost is a reasonable $248, and your chances of being drawn are around 25 percent. As for a draw elk license, that costs $428, and your chances of being drawn are roughly 30 percent. But get this: a combination license allowing you to hunt deer and elk costs only $478 ($50 more) and your odds of being drawn are about the same. With one preference point, you are almost assured of getting a combination deer/elk license. Turning to guaranteed tags, which are available only through outfitters, a deer tag alone costs a whopping $745, which may be enough to make most hunters look elsewhere. But again, take a look at the combination license. It costs only $835. That means that for only an extra $90 over the cost of a........(continued)