Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks’ elk hunting access (EHA) agreements provide landowners with an elk license, permit, or combination thereof in exchange for allowing free public elk hunting access as described in a signed agreement approved by the commission. These permits and licenses are valid only on the landowner’s property. The program was first codified in Montana statute in 2001. The most recent changes to the statute came in 2021.
For this access tool, landowners may apply for an elk license, permit, or combination thereof, in exchange for allowing hunting access to a minimum of three public hunters. A landowner may designate the license/permit benefit to an immediate family member or an authorized full-time employee of the landowner.
Additionally, landowner's enrolled in an agreement may select one of the three statutorily required public hunters – the other two being randomly selected by FWP. For each license or permit issued to a landowner, family member, or authorized full-time employee, three public hunters will be selected to hunt the land included in the agreement.
Landowners may also offer additional public hunting access beyond the minimum three required.
FWP is implementing a new application process for these agreements in 2022.
Deadline: Applications must be received by mail or via email with required documentation by June 1 at 5 p.m.
Download: Elk Hunting Access Agreement application (PDF)
FWP - Licensing Bureau
Elk Hunting Access (EHA) Agreements
1420 E 6th Ave
Helena, MT 59620
Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
In hunting districts with limited entry permits and Elk B Licenses, up to 10% of the commission-established quota may be available to applicants. For example if the commission-established quota is 100, the number of new limited entry permits and Elk B Licenses available for EHA agreements would be 10. If the requests within a given hunting district exceed 10% of the approved quota amount, the permits or Elk B Licenses approved by the commission will be subject to a random draw. If 10% of the commission-established quota is a partial number, the department will round down. For instance if the commission-established quota is 35 permits, three new permits will be available for EHA agreements.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission will review and approve applications during the June 23 meeting. The public will be able to review the applications prior to the commission meeting via the FWP website and provide comment at the commission meeting.
In districts with general license opportunities for either-sex or antlerless elk, the two required public hunter slots will be offered in a random-draw opportunity with sign-up taking place from June 30 to July 31.
In districts with limited Elk B License, hunters will be randomly selected from the list of successful Elk B License holders. This process mirrors the steps licensing performs for restricted districts.
To be eligible landowners must:
apply annually by June 1 at 5 p.m.
own occupied elk habitat that can successfully accommodate public elk hunting
enter into an agreement that allows public access for free on the landowner's property for any commission-approved hunting season
FWP will choose two public hunters for every permit/license issued to a landowner (or their designee). For districts with general license opportunity, the public can sign up for general license opportunity from June 30-July 31 (if agreements are approved). Some general license either-sex areas may be limited to antlerless only harvest on a general license depending upon terms of the agreement. Alternatively, for districts with limited entry permits or Elk B Licenses, public hunters will be drawn from the list of successful permit or Elk B License holders.
The landowner may also offer additional public access, as they see fit. This access will be coordinated by the landowner and may also be outlined within the contract agreement with FWP.
This year the department is applying a cap of additional permits at 10% of the commission-approved permit or license quota for the hunting district where the agreement is valid. For example, if a hunting district has 100 permits, 10 new permits would be available for these agreements.
Given our understanding of elk numbers, this number is reasonable considering the following realities:
While we expect more than 13 landowners to enter into agreements in 2022, we don’t know what the interest will be.
If applications for permits total more than 10% of the commission-approved permit quota, FWP plans to push all commission-approved applications to a random draw.
Licenses and permits issued through these access agreements may not be sold, transferred or bartered for, and are only valid on the deeded private land that is also opened to the public as described in the agreement.
The EHA agreements will be between a private landowner, or their representative, and FWP on a year-to-year basis.
The agreement specifies the areas that will be open to public elk hunting, the number of public elk hunting days allowed on the property, and other factors the department and the landowner consider necessary for the proper management of elk and hunters on the landowner's property. The agreement may include a process or methodology public hunters identified in the agreement can use to access the property. The landowner reserves the right to deny access to the landowner's property for cause.
If the department determines a landowner (or their designee) has not abided by the terms of the agreement, the landowner (or their designee) will not be eligible to receive another license or permit through this program during any subsequent license year.
In short, these agreements are in Montana statute. Understanding the statute these agreements fall under is important to understanding the authority of the department and the commission:
The statute, not the department or commission, outlines the parameters of the agreements: three public hunters for each one landowner license and/or permit issued, who is selected (one by landowner, two by department), and a landowner may receive an either-sex elk permit (valid for bulls) while allowing only antlerless elk hunting for public hunters for population management.
The commission has final authority on approving applications or sending applications to a random drawing.
The original law was passed in 2001 and has been amended several times, including during the 2021 legislative session.
The permits and/or licenses issued under these agreements are only valid for the private land under the agreement.
The application window is April 15 – June 1. This will allow the department time to review the applications, and the commission time to review and discuss them with the public.
The 2022 applications will be discussed at the June 23 Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting and will be available on the FWP website two weeks prior to the meeting. Only the commission, not the department, can approve the applications. Once approved by the commission, the department will prepare agreements for signatures outlining the terms in the applications approved by the commission.
The deadline to apply is 5 p.m., June 1. The application may be submitted via email or hard copy.
To be considered complete, applications must include the following information):
Person applying for landowner permit/license and associated details. The landowner applicant may designate their full-time employee or a family member to receive the permit/license identified in the application.
The landowner applicant must include relationship to landowner or full-time employee information if applicable.
Copy of the property deed, contract to purchase or current tax notice.
Signatory authority documentation-if applicable (e.g. articles of incorporation, partnership agreement, certificate of trust, etc.)
Two maps to display opportunity offered for public hunting. A large and small-scale map of private lands to be enrolled in the agreement. The maps should clarify where the property is as well as its size and shape.
Acknowledge/agreement to not charge a fee or allow another person to charge a fee to the three public hunters allowed under this agreement.
Per 87-2-513, MCA the landowner may not charge a fee for the public hunters selected to have public access to the enrolled property.
Acknowledge/agreement to allow a minimum of three public hunters (one may be selected by the landowner) for each license/permit allocated to the landowner or their designee.
Acknowledge/agreement to allow access for elk harvest across the seasons available in the 2022 hunting regulations (taking into consideration any constraints of the applicable license/permit).
This does not preclude the landowner from applying hunter management restrictions on their property to include the total number of days available for a hunter to access the property and designation of specific areas of the property to hunt.
A process or methodology the landowner may use to select up to one-third of the public hunters under this program-if applicable.
The landowner may provide a description, if any, of additional public hunter opportunity being proposed beyond the minimum three public hunters. This additional public hunter opportunity is not tied to a request for more licenses/permits to the landowner or their designee. And additional public hunter opportunities not identified in the application should be described in any hunter lists submitted to the department after the hunting season.
Methods for obtaining landowner permission for public hunters described in the agreement, for example:
Name, contact information, and contact times for any person or entity issuing permission for the landowner’s enrolled property.
Acknowledge/agreement that any landowner who enters an agreement shall submit a list with contact information for all hunters offered an opportunity to hunt under the agreement using the FWP-provided permission slip template by March 1 of the next license year.
Note: All landowner and hunter effort and harvest data for 2021 will be compiled by the FWP harvest survey program and the parks and outdoor recreation division.
We heard the criticism last year that FWP wasn’t clear on how these agreements were processed and evaluated. We also knew that with ambiguity in the old process a change was needed. We have a new process in place that is more transparent for the public and clearer and more predictable for applicants.
For 2021, an evaluation report on hunter harvest and effort for the 2021 agreements will be completed by FWP. This allows the department and commission to evaluate the effectiveness of the agreement.
Interested landowners should contact their local biologist, warden, or access program manager to discuss options for the program. Applications are accepted until June 1.
Complete applications will be presented to the Fish and Wildlife Commission at their June meeting for their consideration.
For more information: Contact your local FWP office or contact the FWP Parks and Outdoor Recreation Division, 406-444-3750, LndSportRelations@mt.gov.