Hawk Migration Association of North America

Tour 2024
Montana Golden
Eagle Tour

Join HMANA for an experience of a lifetime, birding the Big Belt Mountains in search of Golden Eagles!

Date: Sep 24 – Oct 2, 2024

Cost: $2,950 per person ($2850 HMANA Member)
  **does not include airfare

Single supplement: $550

Tour deposit: $500

Join Steve Hoffman, HMANA board member, raptor biologist and professional bird guide, for a trip of a lifetime to witness the awesome migration of Golden Eagles (and many other raptor species) through the mountains of western Montana.  This exciting 9-day tour will include all-day hawk and eagle watching in the Gravelly Range as well as the Big Belt and Bridger Mountains’ lookouts, a full-day visit to a migratory raptor banding site, a day-long trip into Yellowstone National Park (with a likelihood of seeing wolves, bears, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, American Dippers, Clark’s Nutcrackers and much more!), and exploring Montana’s wetlands and valley habitats as we search for a variety of raptors (Golden Eagles, Ferruginous & Harlan’s Hawks, Prairie Falcons, etc.) as well as a plethora of wetland birds.

In early October 2015, 329 Golden Eagles were counted in the Big Belt Mountains in less than 7 hours. In both 2015 & 2016 more than 2,600 migrating Golden Eagles were tallied each season, with daily totals often in the 100-200 range throughout early-to-mid October.  Other raptors moving through during this late September-early October time frame include American Goshawk, Rough-legged & Harlan’s Hawks, Merlin, Peregrine & Prairie falcons, Bald Eagle and others.

Important note: Physical demands of the tour
Hiking is necessary! This tour includes moderately strenuous hiking to the top of the Big Belt Observation Point. This is a 1.5-mile hike each way, with a 900-ft. gain in elevation. The observation point is at 8,200 feet).

Another destination on this tour is the Bridger Mountains, which will be optional. This hike is considerably more difficult, with 2,000-ft. elevation gain in about 2 miles (each way).  If any or all participants do not feel physically able to hike to the crest of the Bridger Mountains, we shall arrange a different (but also productive!) birding/raptor watching adventure that is far less strenuous.

Important note: Snow cover
Snow cover in SW Montana varies from year to year. Although unlikely, if there is heavy snowfall in advance of, or during the tour it could require itinerary changes. The guide will be in touch (via email) with all participants a few days before the start of the tour to provide an update on current conditions on the ground as well as the forecast for the tour week ahead. If necessary, we shall provide details regarding any likely changes to the itinerary based on current and forecast conditions. THANK YOU for your understanding with respect to this possibility.

Your Tour Guide

Steve Hoffman – HMANA Tour Guide

In January 2017, after 10 years as Executive Director of Montana Audubon, Steve Hoffman retired to start his own birding tour company, Merlin Birding & Nature Tours, LLC. And, over the past 20+ years Steve has led or co-led many National Audubon Society, HawkWatch International and Montana Audubon birding tours in Montana, and to Belize, Costa Rica, Mexico’s Copper Canyon, Oaxaca & Baja California regions, and of course, Veracruz. (Steve has led birding tours to Veracruz since 1994 and never tires of watching the migration!) 

Steve grew up in suburban Philadelphia, attended college in Reading, PA (near Hawk Mountain Sanctuary), and received his Master’s in Wildlife Ecology from Utah State University in 1979. Steve founded HawkWatch International in 1986, and has spent five decades exploring the Rocky Mountain West, forever searching for new migratory raptor flyways, including the Big Belt Mountains in western Montana. Steve has lived in Bozeman MT since 2004.

Airfare, alcohol, and items of a personal nature are not included.

The tour begins and ends in Bozeman, MT. The round-trip airfare to Bozeman will vary with the city of origin but is estimated at $600-800 per person. 

Please read HMANA’s Tour Refund Policy before making your payment.

For more information or to reserve your spot with a $500 deposit, contact Julie Brown

Tour Itinerary

Tuesday, Sep 24: Fly into Bozeman, MT. Group will meet for dinner at Ted’s Montana Grill at 5:00 PM in downtown Bozeman.  If time permits, we may do an after-dinner Raptor ID Powerpoint presentation. (Overnite in Bozeman)

Wednesday, Sep 25: We will do a full day of raptor (especially Golden Eagles!) migration watching in the Big Belt Mountains.  Hiking distance is approximately one mile each way, with an elevation gain less than 1,000 feet. (Overnight in Helena)

Thursday, Sep 26: We shall visit a raptor banding station at Rogers Pass; if time permits, we may also explore nearby Brown’s Lake to observe local raptors and waterbirds. (Overnight in Helena)

Friday, Sep 27: We will explore the open sagebrush country east of the Big Belts, searching for Ferruginous & Swainson’s hawks, Prairie Falcons, Golden Eagles, etc. Depending upon the weather, we may also visit Smith River State Park to observe raptor migration. (Overnight in Bozeman)

Saturday, Sep 28: We hope to hike to the crest of the Bridger Mountains to view the raptor migration, which has been consistently monitored throughout the fall for 33 consecutive seasons.  This will be a 2-hour hike up, including a 2,000-ft. gain in elevation. Alternatively, we will visit the crest of the Gravelly Mountains for roadside raptor watching (no strenuous hiking required). (Overnight in Bozeman)

Sunday, Sep 29: We shall explore nearby wetlands, especially Headwaters State Park, Three Forks area and Ennis/Harrison lakes, searching for a variety of raptors and waterbirds. (Overnite in Bozeman)

Monday, Sep 30: Today we will do an all-day trip into Yellowstone National Park for wildlife/raptor watching; possible mammals shall include wolves, bears, bison, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, moose, coyotes, red fox, river otter, etc. (Overnight in Bozeman)

Tuesday, Oct 1: Depending upon the weather, we may do roadside raptor watching atop the Gravelly Mountains, or return to the Big Belt Mountains to once again observe raptor migration at this locale. Alternatively, we may return to the open sage country east of the Big Belts, perhaps to include Smith River State Park, where the raptor migration watching can sometimes be quite productive. Farewell dinner in Townsend, White Sulphur Springs or Bozeman. (Overnight in Bozeman)

Wednesday, Oct 2: Fly out of Bozeman to return home 

PLEASE NOTE: This itinerary may be altered substantially to accommodate local weather conditions, snow cover and road access.


Login to your account