All hunters should have a good understanding of Montana's access laws.
The law requires every hunter to have permission from the landowner, lessee or agent before hunting on private property regardless of whether the land is posted or not.
It is every hunter's responsibility to know the land ownership of the area he or she intends to hunt and any land use restrictions that may apply there.
The first thing you will need is a good set of up-to-date maps.
Land ownership changes over time. It's a good idea to verify public ownership with your local land management agency. You can also verify public and private land ownership through the Montana Department of Administration Cadastral Mapping Project.
FWP publishes the Directory of Montana Maps, which provides a listing of all agency and local government contacts where you can find land ownership information.
Other sources of information:
Local sporting goods store for a map of the area you intend to hunt
Launch maps, obtain legal descriptions, regulations, and statistics all in one place.
Montana has approximately 23,000 landowners who own nearly 64 million acres of private land, much of which offers excellent hunting opportunities.
Hunters must obtain landowner permission to hunt on all private land, which often can be obtained through simple courtesy and communication between the hunter and the landowner.
Remember, while orange paint and No Trespassing signs indicate that the land is private, they do not necessarily mean that no hunting is allowed.
There are a few things to keep in mind that will greatly improve results when attempting to secure hunting access to private land.
Show courtesy to the landowner and make hunting arrangements by calling or visiting at times convenient to the landowner.
Whenever possible, plan ahead and secure permission well in advance of the actual hunting date.
Provide complete information about yourself and your hunting companions, including vehicle descriptions and license numbers.
Explain what type of hunting you wish to do, and and be sure to ask any questions which can help clarify the conditions of access.
Follow the landowners instructions, and bring with you only the companions for whom you obtained landowner permission.
Be sure to thank the landowner after your hunt, and consider sending a subsequent note to show your appreciation for being granted the privilege of hunting on private land.
This program is a cooperative effort between FWP, landowners, and land management agencies to provide free public hunting access to private and isolated public land.
This program seeks to open or improve free public access to isolated parcels of state or federal land for hunting or fishing. The Public Access Land Agreement program is a creative way for landowners to provide public access to public lands for hunting and/or fishing, in exchange for a payment and other negotiated improvements to facilitate public access to public lands.
The objective of this program is to allow members of the public to cross parcels of enrolled private land to gain access to otherwise inaccessible parcels of state or federal land for the purpose of fishing, hunting, trapping, hiking, bird-watching and other forms of outdoor recreation compatible with the use of public lands.
Landowners are critical to the work of conserving Montana’s wildlife populations and habitat. To recognize their important role in conserving these resources, landowners have opportunities to receive licenses or permits and to sponsor hunters to hunt on their deeded land.
This educational program is for anyone interested in promoting responsible hunter behavior and good hunter-landowner relations in Montana.
There are numerous other programs and opportunities for hunting on private lands in addition to the Block Management Program. One of these programs is the conservation easement program, which allows landowners to protect traditional farm and ranch land while at the same time allowing FWP to preserve natural resources such as wildlife habitat.
Public access to most conservation easements is managed through the Block Management Program. Those areas not managed through Block Management can still be found through the mapping portion of the Hunt Planner.
Lands enrolled in the Upland Game Bird Enhancement Program and Migratory Bird Stamp Program also offer hunting opportunities.
Montana boasts over 30 million acres of state and federal lands, nearly one third of the state. Much of that land provides excellent hunting opportunities.
However, like all good hunting ground, finding a productive area that is legally accessible takes some effort. At a minimum you will need a good set of maps and some time to spend scouting to determine available habitat and game populations. Rules and restrictions on public lands differ depending on the managing agency.
There are 5.5 million acres of state school trust lands in Montana. These lands are managed by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation (DNRC) with revenue collected from the use of these lands used to support Montana Schools. All hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities that occur on state school trust land require possession of a State Recreational Use License which is available from all license agents where hunting and fishing licenses are sold. BLM and Forest Service maps are typically the best source for identifying state school trust land.
Remember, only those state lands that are legally accessible via a public road, navigable river, or adjacent federal lands are available for hunting without permission from the adjacent landowner.
You must have permission from the landowner before crossing private land to access state or federal lands.
Montana Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) are owned and managed by the Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks and provide free public hunting opportunities statewide.
All WMAs have limitations on the available season of use. Some areas allow camping and motorized use is restricted to designated routes.
Hunting on WMAs is open to all resident and nonresident hunters with a valid hunting license and/or permit. Purchase of the State Recreational Use License is not required to recreate at these sites.
FWP owns and manages Fishing Access Sites (FAS) statewide. Generally, FASs provide stream or lake access only. Some sites also allow hunting.
The Montana State Prison Ranch offers big game and bird hunting on 23,000 acres of land managed by the Department of Corrections at Warm Springs near Deer Lodge.
National forests in Montana comprise nearly 16 million acres. Most national forest lands that are legally accessible via a public road, navigable waterway, or adjacent state or federal land are open to hunting. Land-use restrictions do apply to some areas so its always a good idea to check in with the local Ranger District Office.
Individuals must have permission from the landowner to cross adjacent private land to hunt on National Forest Lands.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) manages over 8 million acres of mostly range land and some forested land across the state. Most BLM lands that are legally accessible via a public road, navigable waterway, or adjacent state or federal land are open to hunting.
You must have permission from the landowner to cross adjacent private land to hunt on BLM land. The BLM sells maps that identify BLM land.
The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) manages ten national wildlife refuges in Montana most of which allow hunting during some portion of the season. USFWS also oversees hundreds of waterfowl production areas that provide waterfowl, upland bird, and limited big game hunting opportunities. Hunting opportunities on wildlife refuges are generally quite restrictive and in some cases prohibited altogether.
You should contact refuge personnel before hunting on any national wildlife refuge.
The US Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) administers approximately 200,000 acres of land and 100,000 acres of surface water in Montana. Where there is legal public access, BOR managed land is open to hunting, fishing and other recreational activity. Motorized travel is restricted to existing roads.
Access Public Lands was created to improve access to state and federal lands and to help reduce the conflicts that arise when sportsmen utilize public lands. Program funding is used for agreements that provide access corridors to public lands, landowner incentives like fencing, cattle guards, and water crossings on access routes, signing to indicate public/private land boundaries, and increased patrolling where appropriate. FWP relies on a cooperative approach that considers the needs of landowners, sportsmen, and land managers to resolve conflicts over access to state and federal lands.
Download a form to report problems involving public lands access: