If you want to start a row among knowledgeable Western hunters, mention Montana's so-called "Unlimited Bighorn Sheep License" areas. There are five of these areas in all, with most of them abutting Yellowstone National Park in the southern part of the state. Rugged beyond belief, they all share one characteristic - they are open to all sheep hunters who apply, no draw required, for only $483 ($5 for a Conservation License and $478 for a sheep tag). Two of the areas (Units 300 and 301) have a six-day season in early September, while the other three (Units 303, 500 and 501) have longer seasons. Only Unit 301 has an unlimited quota of rams that may be taken. The rest close when their set quotas of one to three rams have been met.
I have written about these areas before and offered my suggestions as to which one offers the self-outfitted hunter the greatest chance of success (see May 1997 issue, pages 1-3). Here, I want to talk about these areas in terms of the guided hunter. First, though, let me point out what makes these areas so controversial is their ruggedness. Some hunters will tell you the chances of getting a sheep here are so low that license sales by the state are little more than a "racket." The chart that accompanies this report gives you the hunter success rates for the various areas, and I am not about to say they are high. But then again, living here in Montana and staying in close touch with the game department, I know that a lot of people who buy permits each year wind up not hunting at all, or doing so only half-heartedly. The fit hunters who makes a campaign out of this hunt, I believe, stand an excellent chance of taking this country's greatest trophy. In fact, there are drawing hunts in this country that offer lower statistical odds of scoring on a ram than some of Montana's unlimited sheep license areas. Couple those low odds of scoring with low odds of being drawn in the first place and you begin to see........(continued)