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Hunt > Access Public Land 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.

DOWNLOAD: Public Land Hunting Opportunities - Maps & Rules (PDF)

FWP Lands

Wildlife Management Areas

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.

  • Contact the appropriate FWP Regional Office for specific information about a particular area.

  • For information about Marias River WMA Hunting Access, please click here.


Fishing Access Sites

FWP owns and manages Fishing Access Sites (FAS) statewide. Generally, FASs provide stream or lake access only. Some sites also allow hunting.

  • Contact the appropriate FWP Regional Office to check on restrictions before hunting at an FAS.

Other State Lands

State Trust Lands

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 Department of Corrections

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.

  • Contact FWP Region 2 Headquarters at (406) 542-5530.

Federal Lands

National Forest Lands

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.


BLM 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.


National Refuges and Waterfowl Production Areas

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.


US Bureau of Reclamation Lands

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 Program

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.

Unlocking Public Lands

The objective of the Unlocking Public Lands 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 (Bureau of Land Management or United States Forest Service) land for the purpose of fishing, hunting, trapping, hiking, bird-watching, and other forms of outdoor recreation compatible with the use of public lands.


Sun River WMA

The Rocky Mountain Front is one of North America's prime wildlife winter ranges.