The Montana chapter of Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) is hosting a raffle for one of the Treasure State’s most coveted big game tags, and it’s open residents and non-residents alike. The winner will get an antlered mule deer tag valid in every hunt unit in the state—even hard-to-draw units known for massive mulies. It’s the first time that a Montana conservation organization has hosted an open raffle for a trophy tag, as licenses like this are typically auctioned off to the highest bidder during banquet hall ceremonies.

Montana’s statewide mule deer tag will be valid for the 2024 big game season during the archery, rifle, and muzzleloader seasons. According to BHA Regional Policy Coordinator Kevin Farron, all funds raised during the raffle will go to Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP), and those dollars will be earmarked for mule deer conservation work. 

Equal Opportunity Tags?

“What we’re trying to do with this is prove that in today’s world of social media and online ticket buying, this is a legitimate alternative to the auction model that only benefits a few individuals of great means,” Farron tells F&S. 

The Montana Legislature created the state’s special tag program in 1986 by authorizing FWP to create a bighorn sheep tag to be sold at auction. Since then, the agency has implemented annual auction tags for elk, moose, mule deer, and mountain goats—and those tags funnel big money into state wildlife coffers year after year. Just last month, the Montana Outfitters & Guides Association set a new state record, auctioning off a Shiras moose tag for the staggering sum of $65,000.

Historically the statewide mule deer tag has been auctioned off by the Mule Deer Foundation, a Utah-based conservation organization that funds and performs vital habitat work for mule deer herds all over the West. The Mule Deer Foundation has offered the Montana tag, along with many other auction items, at their annual Expo in Salt Lake.

Big Ticket Item

Over the last 10 years, Montana’s staewide mulie tag netted an average of $27,600 on the auction block. In two of the last three years, it went to bidders who shelled out upwards of $40,000.

Montana BHA should be able to match if not eclipse those numbers with its raffle, Farron wrote in a formal request for BHA to begin administering the statewide mule deer tag, which he delivered to the the FWP Licensing Bureau back in July 2022. In the letter, he noted that a BHA chapter in neighboring Wyoming raised nearly $50,000 when it held a similar raffle for the Cowboy State’s Commissioner’s License.

The winner of Wyoming BHA’s Commissioners License raffle got to hunt any species of their choosing in any of Wyoming’s hunt districts. Like with the current Montana mule deer raffle, participants put their names in for the cost of just one $20 donation, and there was no limit to the number of $20 entries rickets that hunters could purchase.

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“While the Wyoming Chapter has fewer members and a much smaller email list and social media following than our Montana Chapter,” Farron wrote in his 2022 proposal letter, “they were able to raise $48,470; if given the chance, we expect to surpass that in Montana.”

If you’d like to throw your name in the hat for a chance at the statewide mule deer tag and a once-in-a-lifetime trophy deer hunt in the Big Sky State, you can do so here. The deadline to apply is April 30, 2024.