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Visitor Activities


 National wildlife refuges are far more than havens for just wild plants and animals. They can be havens for people as well.  We encourage you to visit Medicine Lake National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) and enjoy the hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, and educational opportunities here.

  • Hunting


    Hunting seasons occur between September 1 and late December. Hunting is permitted for select game species, according to state regulations. The most common species hunted are white-tailed deer, ducks, geese, ring-necked pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse, and Hungarian partridge. Other species on the Refuge complex that are open to hunting under state regulations include red fox, coyote, white-tailed jackrabbit, coots, and mourning doves. 

    A special hunting season for white-tailed deer and upland game birds opens every year on November 15 for the Homestead and Lake Creek areas of the Refuge. These areas are closed before November 15 to protect populations of migratory birds that congregate in these areas for rest and feeding before continuing their fall migration. By November 15, these units are usually frozen, and migratory birds have continued on their migration, so other hunting can take place. 

    Certain areas are closed to hunting to protect Refuge facilities and to provide resting and feeding habitat for migratory birds. Areas closed to hunting are clearly posted with signs. 

    All waterfowl production areas are open for hunting of any game species legal to hunt in Montana.

    Learn More
  • Fishing


    Fishing takes place primarily on Medicine Lake itself. Although fishing does occur on Lake 12, Gaffney and Swanson Lakes, the fish populations are low or nonexistent; thus, these lakes are rarely used for fishing. Due to the wilderness status of Medicine Lake, power boats are not allowed, nor are powered augers during the ice-fishing season. Note: While canoes and rowboats are permitted on Medicine Lake, few people use them because of the high winds that can arise at any time, creating safety concerns.

    Eight public access points for fishing are located around Medicine Lake. The most-used areas are those off of Montana State Highway 16 and along the Environmental Education Area shoreline. Most fishing is done from the shore. Winter ice fishing is very common, especially with the aid of an ice-house. These temporary shelters (in essence hard-sided, tent-like structures) must be hand-pushed or dragged out onto the ice and removed before ice-out in the spring. They are allowed only near the Highway 16 bridge and Refuge Headquarters. Northern pike is the only game species available to the public and is a much sought-after species.

    Due to the lack of available fishing lakes in northeastern Montana, Medicine Lake is a popular place for anglers. Fishing on the Refuge is subject to state regulations. Refuge-specific regulations are included in the state fishing regulations, which are updated every 2 years.

  • Wildlife Observation


    Wildlife observation is one of the most popular public use activities on the Refuge. Most wildlife observation occurs on the Refuge along the Wildlife Drive, which begins at Montana State Highway 16 along the north shore of Medicine Lake. The Wildlife Drive traverses various habitats, from freshwater to alkaline wetlands, and native prairie to planted grass. All of these habitats and the wildlife that occupy them can be viewed from a vehicle. A favorite location is Pelican Overlook, which has an observation platform that allows viewing of the Refuge Complex’s 10,000-bird white pelican colony.

    The Refuge also has a sharp-tailed grouse observation blind available mid-April to the end of May on a reservation basis.  Learn more on our Plan Your Visit page.


  • Interpretation


    The Refuge Complex office contains indoor exhibits, including informative bird mount displays and maps. Interpretive signs and information kiosks are situated at various locations along the Wildlife Drive.

  • Environmental Education


    Environmental education usually is conducted on the Refuge with school, scouting, and civic groups. The staff also conducts off-site programs, when schedules allow. These programs are very popular with various groups.


Page Photo Credits — Credit: USFWS
Last Updated: Dec 31, 2014
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