To many self-guided hunters, the prospect of trespass fees is too expensive, or just cuts against their grain. For others, the armies of orange-clad hunters on the National Forest or Bureau of Land Management lands are enough to make them look elsewhere. In some instances, it may be the fact that the species for which they hold a tag is not available on the public grounds. Some states don’t have much public ground for hunting.
As a result, many states have started walk-in or public hunting programs on private properties. Such programs got a start with the Block Management Program in Montana and have grown to neighboring states, each having a twist reflective of the priorities and challenges of that state.
The quality of hunting on these properties is as varied as the properties themselves. Some are top-notch opportunities for a trophy, while others have average trophy quality, but good numbers. Walk-in only is the norm in some states, while other states allow some form of motorized access. Landowners may require permission slips and reservations, while some merely require a form to be completed at the “sign-in box.”
Whatever your hunting interest, you will find some area, in some state, that can fulfill your need for access to chase the species you are hunting. Below is a quick summary of these programs by state. Some are more geared to big game, while others are pointed toward upland birds. Any serious western hunter needs to look at these possibilities and the inexpensive access they provide.
Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah at this time, have no program available.
Montana – Montana has the most expansive program of all the states, the Block Management Program (BMP). Depending upon the year, the program encompasses between 6,000,000 and 7,000,000 acres. Yup, those are in millions of acres, not thousands. Montana’s program is funded mostly by the fees charged to non-residents through specially priced-licenses. Residents pay a small amount through their licenses fees. Montana’s program is administered mostly by the landowners. In most instances, you will need to call the regional office and request the booklet that lists the enrolled properties, the species open to hunting, and the manner by which access is secured and allowed. From that booklet, you will be given the contact information and restrictions, if any.
Most of these properties are in the eastern part of the state dominated by private property. Most of the large properties are designed to allow hunters to sign-in at a box and do not require a landowner reservation. Some are a combination of landowners and are administered by the department of Fish Wildlife and Parks.
If you are looking for bird hunting, the properties in the central and northeastern part of the state are geared for you. For antelope, the central and southeastern properties should be your focus. Deer chances exist in every area and on most all of the BMP enrolled properties. Elk are a spotty opportunity in the BMP, with most of the chances being walk-in only areas in central and southwest Montana.
There is no fee to the hunter for access to these properties. Hunters merely make reservations or sign-in, load their guns, and hit the fields. It is a great deal with great opportunities.
Every year I hear of record book deer and antelope taken from these properties. In most instances, the walk-in only properties have the best quality. In later parts of the season, you will have very little competition and the animals will be back in their normal routines. Late bird and waterfowl seasons find these properties nearly abandoned, leaving us hard-core fanatics all to ourselves.
Some properties do get over-hunted. It will not take long to see which properties those are. With that in mind, do not place all your hopes on one property. You can only have one reservation on any given day, but do not be afraid to have multiple properties on your list for the course of a weeklong hunt. For those of you considering a western hunt, look into the possibility of these access programs. They are an overlooked opportunity that could be just what you are looking for.
For more information about Montana’s Block Management Program visit: http://fwp.mt.gov/hunting/hunteraccess/blockman/default.html