Montana’s Hunting Traditions - Common Ground Shared by Hunters and Landowners

Montana has a strong hunting heritage and traditions, rooted in the state’s also longstanding agricultural heritage and traditions.

Hunting permeates our Montana lifestyles, much like the wind and the sky. Many hunters live and breathe hunting, and for them, hunting season is the peak of the year. Many landowners anticipate the annual visits from hunters, some with enthusiasm and some with trepidation. Hunting helps drive our economy. It shapes our culture. It connects generations of families, helps us understand our vast natural world, and fills our freezers.

But the future of hunting in Montana depends on the continuing cooperation between landowners and hunters. In recent years, finding a place to hunt has become increasingly difficult for some hunters. Gone are the days when a hunter could jump a covey of huns and pursue them at will, when orange paint on a fence post was rare, when a hunter was surprised when a landowner said, "No, sorry, I don't allow hunting."

In Montana, as in all of North America, wildlife belongs to no single person, but rather to all people—the public. But there's a hitch. Private individuals or businesses own two-thirds of the land in Montana. And when a hunter shows up at the door in an orange vest asking to hunt on private land, those landowners have the right to say yes or no.

Unfortunately, more of them are saying no. It might be because they've had a bad experience in the past, or because they've heard of somebody else's bad experience with hunters. They might be concerned about weeds, or road damage or livestock disturbance. Maybe they just relish their privacy. They don't have to explain.

But decreasing access may soon result in fewer people deciding to hunt, which could mean long-term problems for landowners, for wildlife, and for Montana’s hunting traditions.

Hunters provide the most viable tool to control populations of big game animals. Left unmanaged, those animals can cause extensive damage to agricultural lands and natural habitat or become so concentrated and over-populated that they become vulnerable to diseases.

Hunters allowed to use private land appreciate the privilege, and appreciate the opportunity to learn more about landowners’ contributions to the wildlife resource and Montana traditions.

Hunters and landowners traditionally have much more in common than they have as differences. Both groups share a keen interest in Montana's land and wildlife, they depend upon a healthy and sustainable landscape, and they face the challenges of working or hunting in a natural landscape.

So, where does that leave us, as hunters and as landowners? We need each other, but we often fail to understand each other.

That's what this Web site and project is designed to do, to help landowners and hunters discover how much they may have in common, to help them learn more about some of their different perspectives, and to present ideas and tools that hunters and landowners might use to identify acceptable hunter behaviors and build better relationships.

We hope you enjoy the journey.

Hunter Perspective
Landowner Perspective
FWP Perspective