Is there a map of the
refuge that is available?
Yes. You can find the “Maps” link on the right side of this
page to access various maps. Call or
email (see the Contact Us page) and we will be happy to mail you a copy .
Is there a difference
between the State (Montana) and Federal (Bowdoin) hunting regulations?
Yes. You can find
Refuge-specific regulations under the “Visit” tab above, and the “Rules and
Regulations” page, with a link on the left side of the menu.
How do I get a copy of
a map and regulations?
If you do not have access to a printer, you can contact the
Refuge Office (406) 654-2863 and we will mail you a copy.
Are there special
hunting licenses to hunt?
No. There are no special
hunting licenses; only state issued licenses and the Federal Duck Stamp are
required. Special Use Permits are
required to hunt and trap coyotes, skunk, raccoons, and fox. We do not sell licenses or Duck Stamps.
Are there any special
requirements for hunting?
Yes. All hunters are
required to register EACH day upon arrival and when leaving. The Hunter Registration kiosk is located by
the Refuge Office. Only non-toxic shot
is allowed. Upland bird hunters must wear orange. For additional requirements please read the
Public Use Regulations for Bowdoin Refuge and for the Wetland Management
Is there any special
Yes. In December the
eastern closed portion of the refuge is opened to upland game bird
hunting. The first two days of this
opening season are reserved for youth only, ages 12-15. The season closes on January 1.
What can I hunt?
During the state set seasons, hunters may hunt waterfowl
(ducks, geese, tundra swans), upland game birds (sharp-tailed grouse,
ring-necked pheasant, sage grouse, and gray partridges), and webless birds
(sandhill cranes and mourning doves).
Snipe and big game hunting are not permitted at any time.
Can I hunt or trap coyotes,
skunk, raccoons, and fox?
A Special Use Permit is required to hunt and trap coyotes,
skunks, raccoons, and fox. Hunting and
trapping permits are issued based on management needs, and are not an annual occurrence.
To request a Special Use Permit contact
the Refuge office for more information.
When will birds start
Ducks and geese typically start arriving in late August,
with larger numbers arriving in late October to early November, coinciding with
the arrival of Tundra swans. Waterfowl
are typically gone by early December when most wetlands have frozen over. Migration is dependent on weather patterns,
when colder temperatures from the north start to force the birds southward. Upland game birds reside year round in the
area. Sharp-tailed grouse typically begin
to congregate on the refuge after the first snowfall.
Where can I hunt?
The western portion and all areas south of the rail road track
of the Refuge are open to hunting during the entire state hunting seasons. The remaining eastern portion of the refuge
is closed to hunting (except during the late-season upland game bird season
from December 1- January 1). The
administrative area around the office, shop, and residences is closed to
hunting at all times. See the map
located in the Public Use Brochure.
When will the eastern
portion of the Refuge open for upland game bird hunting?
The purpose of the closed portion of the Refuge is to provide
sanctuary to migratory birds (primarily waterfowl). The eastern portion of the Refuge will open to
hunting of upland game birds only, no earlier than December 1st. Opening day is based on all wetlands being
frozen and when all migratory birds have left.
A news release will be printed in the local paper announcing the exact
date. You may call the Refuge office
(406) 654-2863 for further information and to find out the date of the opener.
When will Lake Bowdoin
Freeze up it is completely dependent on weather but typically
Lake Bowdoin freezes mid to late November.
Contact the Refuge office (406) 654-2863 for current conditions.
Are there a lot of hunters on the weekend of an opening season?
It depends on what you plan to hunt. The opener of the pheasant season is very popular,
both during the regular season in October and during the late season opener in December
in the eastern portion of the Refuge. If
you plan to hunt for pheasants during the openers, expect to see other hunters
while you are here.
Very few people hunt mourning doves and sharp-tailed grouse during
the opening weekend of the season. Sharp-tailed grouse hunting on the Refuge
seems to be incidental to pheasant hunting.
The opening weekend of the waterfowl season can bring moderate numbers of hunters. The number
of waterfowl hunters is typically lower during week days and increases as the season
What things should I
know before hunting that is often overlooked?
Non-toxic shot is required for ALL hunting on the Refuge,
even for upland game bird. One article
of blaze orange visible above the waist must be worn for upland game bird
hunting. Before traveling to the Refuge
make sure to have these items with you, otherwise you may purchase them in the
town of Malta.
Can I camp?
No. Camping and any
overnight stay is prohibited. The Refuge
is open from sunrise to sunset daily. Camping
is available at Nelson State Park, by Nelson Reservoir, and at Trafton City
Park in Malta.
Can I fish?
No. Fishing is not
Can I use my boat for
Boating is permitted only during the waterfowl hunting
season. Boat motors are limited to a
maximum of 25 horsepower. Boating is only allowed in the open-to-hunting
portions of the Refuge.
Can I do recreational
Recreational boating (including canoes, kayaks, paddleboards,
boats with motors, and any others) is prohibited at all times, except during
the waterfowl hunting season. Boating is
allowed only in the open-to-hunting portions of the Refuge. Boaters are limited to a maximum of 25
Are there any boat
Yes. There are two
boat ramps on Lake Bowdoin (one of which is handicap accessible) and one on
Drumbo. Water levels fluctuate during
the year, dictating what type and size of boats you may be able to launch. Contact Refuge staff at (406) 654-2863, to
get up to date water level conditions and boat launching capabilities.
Can I use my ATV or
ATV’s and UTV’s are permitted only on the Auto Tour Road and
as long as they are street legal.
Driving off the Auto Tour Road, cross country, or on any other service roads
Can I ride my bike?
Yes. Bikes are
permitted only on the Auto Tour road.
Bikes are not permitted cross country or any other Service roads.
Can I ride my horse?
No. Horses are not
permitted anywhere on the Refuge.
When do the birds
Spring migration of birds can start as early as March, but
most birds arrive in April and into May.
Shorebirds have two fall migration periods. After the breeding season adult shorebirds
begin to migrate in July. Juveniles of the year and remaining adult birds
migrate in September through November, with peak numbers around October.
What kind of birds can
See the Bird List, for the complete list of bird species. Some examples are American avocet, marbled
godwit, American white pelican, northern pintail, cinnamon teal, tundra swan,
Franklin’s gull, white-faced ibis, Forster’s tern, bald eagle, golden eagle,
Baird’s sparrow, and Sprague’s pipit.
Some winter residents are Bohemian waxwing, snowy owl and northern
When is the best time
It depends what you are looking for. See above for when birds start arriving and for
migration peaks. Also look at “Seasons
of Wildlife” on the top tab of this page.
Where can I hike?
There is one designated hiking trail around Display Pond,
located near the refuge office. It is
0.4 miles long. Hiking is permitted on
the refuge, except in the administrative area, and in the eastern closed
portion of the refuge from September 1 to November 30.
Is there a place to
There is a picnic table located along the Display Pond trail
near the office.
What should I bring?
Aside from binoculars and a camera, wear along clothing
appropriate for the weather. The wind
can be quite strong at times so a good wind breaker is ideal. Mosquitoes are plentiful come summer, bug
spray or netting is recommended. Bring
plenty of water and sunblock, as it can be hot and sunny.
What are the road
Old US Hwy 2 from Malta to the Refuge is a
secondary paved road. During the winter snow and ice may cover the road. The refuge Auto Tour Road is a 15 mile long, single
lane gravel road in very good condition.
The Auto Tour Road is open year round, except during inclement weather
conditions (significant snow accumulation, flooding), or during road
maintenance. Cars are able to drive the
Auto Tour road spring through fall.
Follow Us Online
Rare sight of a partial albino great horned owl on the Bowdoin National Wildlife Refuge.