Big game hunting is the most popular type of hunting in the United States, and deer and elk hunting are the most popular type of hunting in Montana. Similar to other states, deer and elk hunting also generates most of the revenue spent on wildlife conservation by the state of Montana. Although nationwide trends indicate a concerning decline in hunter participation, the trends in license sales and hunter participation within most states have not received as much attention. We investigated trends in resident deer and elk license sales in Montana using existing licensing databases. We then estimated hunter recruitment, hunter participation, and license purchasing probabilities using hunter education and licensing databases. We employed a multi-state mark–recapture model and 248,819 records of deer and elk license purchasing habits for individual Montana residents during 2002–2007. We used matrix population models to examine the relative influence of these parameters on trends in license sales and hunter participation. Resident deer and elk license sales increased 4% in Montana during 2002–2007. We found that males had greater recruitment rates, retention rates, and license purchasing probabilities than females, and that young adults had lesser license purchasing probabilities than other age classes. Based on analyses of matrix population models, trends in license sales in Montana are most influenced by middle-aged and baby boomer male license purchase probabilities. Trends in hunter participation are positively influenced by recruitment and retention in all male age classes, with the smallest predicted effects arising from recruitment of young adult males. Our results suggest that a focus on older age class males with programs designed to increase hunter recruitment, retention, and license purchase probabilities may have similar or larger effects on trends in license sales and hunter participation in Montana than programs directed at youth. Our analyses also provide a framework by which trends in hunter recruitment, retention, and license purchasing habits can be objectively quantified in order to inform and evaluate hunter recruitment, retention, and license purchase habit programs. © 2011 The Wildlife Society.