Getting the Green Light

Getting the Green Light

A rancher’s tips for gaining access to private land this season. By Dan Anderson

This story is featured in Montana Outdoors September-October 2014 issue

t’s no secret that much private land in Montana is off-limits to public hunting. Some landowners reserve their property for friends or family, others lease it to outfitters, and some restrict access to maintain privacy or simply to avoid the hassle of strangers on their land.

As a result, too often hunters give up trying to hunt any private land not enrolled in the Fish, Wildlife & Parks Block Management Program. They should reconsider. Many farms and ranches, even those with “No Trespassing” signs or orange gate posts, may not be entirely closed. The key to gaining access is knowing exactly how—and when—to ask permission. Yet many hunters who knock on my door kill their chances before the first words spill out of their mouth.

For 50 years I’ve been fielding requests for permission to hunt our acreage. Sometimes I grant permission and sometimes I don’t. Often the reason is obvious. A big SUV pulled into our driveway last year, loaded with half a dozen hunters wearing blaze orange. A guy in the backseat rolled down his window and addressed my wife, Emily, who was doing her barn chores, with, “Hey, honey!”
I’ll leave her response to your imagination.

Thankfully, we’ve had far more pleasant experiences—many of them resulting in us granting permission. Having fielded hundreds of requests over the years, I’ve assembled a list of permission-asking dos and don’ts that apply to our property and, I suspect, would produce similar results on other ranchlands across Montana.



Don’t cruise roads during hunting season, spot game, then ask at the nearest ranch or farm house for permission to hunt. A dozen other hunters have probably seen the same buck and have already pestered the landowner. You should have done your scouting and asking weeks before.

In the field:
So you’ve done everything right, and a rancher or farmer has opened that gate a crack. But like a new employee, you’re only on probation. Whether you’ll be welcomed back depends on how you treat the owner and the land. Some additional tips:

Dan Anderson and his wife, Emily, own a ranch in south-central Montana.