Chances are, a significant number of miles separate you from the hunting paradise of Montana. What may surprise you is the fact that once you commit to tackling the travel issue, hunting the Big Sky State becomes a viable, affordable option. You don’t need a guide or outfitter. You just need to understand Montana’s Block Management Program (BMP).
According to the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks (FWP) website, “Block Management is a cooperative effort between Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks, private landowners, and public land management agencies to help landowners manage hunting activities and to provide free public hunting access to private and isolated public lands.”
Private landowners who enroll their property in the BMP allow hunters access to their land in exchange for financial compensation from the state. It doesn’t cost the hunter anything. Hunters get access and landowners get paid. The money comes from license sales, drawing heavily upon funds from non-resident licenses.
BMAs vary. They vary in size and they vary in regulation. Some parcels are as small as 50 acres while others are larger than 100,000 acres. Landowners retain certain rights concerning how their land is managed. For instance, how hunters access land and how hunters obtain permission. Some areas are walk-in only, while others are accessible by vehicle. Some require a face-to-face interaction before hunting permission is granted, while others are posted with sign-in boxes where hunters simply fill out a slip before getting after it. Individual landowners make their own rules.
Learning how to obtain permission for each specific piece of property is easily accomplished by reading posted signs or consulting a regional Hunter Access Guide, which lists the block management opportunities available for the current season. These are published annually, and are available online. Montana is divided into seven regions. Regions are numbered from west to east.
The first time I hunted the Milk River in the northeast part of the state, I spent an entire day exploring the river bottoms from Glasgow to Malta. Although I had watched hunting shows featuring the Milk River for years, I wasn’t prepared. The shear number of deer is unimaginable. I must have seen 1,000 whitetails. Honestly, it was more than that, but I’m afraid you’ll think I’m embellishing.
I located a BMA away from any others with a horseshoe shaped field full of lush alfalfa. What makes the Milk so special is the seemingly never ending stretch of irigated alfalfa running along both banks. From the air, the river looks like a long green snake slithering across a sheet of plywood. Except for the fields, everything else, as far as the eye can see, is brown.
This particular field was surrounded by river on three sides. Between the water’s edge and the field, a strip of timber, fluctuating in size from roughly 50 to 100 yards wide, looked like it should house a significant number of whitetails. When I first pulled up to observe the field for an evening though, it was empty. Within an hour, that changed. Well over a hundred deer made their way into the alfalfa, and as darkness fell, more were still filtering in. I arrowed a beautiful 10-pointer that hangs on my wall to this day.
Montana’s Block Management Program makes finding a place to hunt in this game rich state much easier than one might expect. Even in parts of the state not blessed with a significant amount of public land, like the Milk River Valley, hunters can obtain access to quality ground. Don’t think you can’t afford to hunt Montana. All you have to do is buy s tag, research BMAs and endure a seemingly endless road trip.
See you down the trail…
Pic: Hunting private land in Montana is possible through the Block Management Program.