Open Fields for Game Bird Hunters

What is Open Fields?

Montana has lost a significant amount of CRP in recent years, and more is scheduled to expire in the near future. Open Fields works with landowners to conserve CRP and associated quality habitats that provide important cover for Montana’s game birds.

Open Fields is made possible through a grant received by the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Voluntary Public Access - Habitat Incentive Program. This grant helps landowners keep some land in CRP and expands hunting access for game bird hunters.

Program Details

Landowners may enroll up to 160 CRP acres per application. More than one application may be submitted if the CRP is located on separate, unique parcels of land.

Leases do not allow for emergency haying or grazing that is in addition to scheduled maintenance.

All enrolled acres are open to free walk-in public access for game bird hunting with no further permission needed.

Landowners receive a one-time lease payment of $5.00 per CRP acre (160 acre maximum per contract) for each year that remains in their CRP contract. For example, If 160 acres of CRP are enrolled for 10 years, the landowner receives an upfront payment of $8,000 in return for managing the CRP as outlined above.

Open Fields contracts begin September 1 and end January 1 of the year the CRP expires.

Program Eligibility

Program eligibility map

To be considered eligible, the following crite­ria must be met:

  • All enrollments must be on private land that is legally accessible for walk-in game bird hunting.
  • A minimum of 2 years remaining on USDA CRP contracts.
  • CRP that is located within priority counties (green shading) will receive additional evaluation points.

Lands not eligible include the following:

  • Lands enrolled in Block Management in 2015.
  • Lands immediately adjacent to a Block Management Area under the same ownership.
  • Lands part of an active Upland Game Bird En­hancement Program contract.
  • Stands of grass dominated by crested wheat­grass or smooth brome.
  • Because of differing management jurisdictions, lands within Indian Reservations do not qualify.

Review Process

Enrollment in Open Fields is voluntary and competitive. Applications are undergoing a review and scoring process by FWP staff. Contracts are awarded based on evaluation scores and available funding. FWP will alert applicants of their status in April 2016.

Application Submission and Deadline

Download Application

Mail your application and your required maps to FWP:

  • Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks – Wildlife Division
  • P.O. Box 200701
  • Helena, MT 59620

Application Deadline

Applications must be postmarked no later than May 20, 2016.


  • Debbie Hohler

  • Upland Game Bird Enhancement Program Biologist
  • (406) 444-5674
  • E-mail

Thank you for your interest in Open Fields for Game Bird Hunters!

Since 2012, nearly 150 private landowners have enrolled approximately 44,000 acres of CRP with other quality habitats!