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Tips For Hunters To Make Block Management Program Work For Them

 

August 29, 2018 | View PDF



The 2018 Hunting Access Guide is now available, directing hunters to almost 6,000,000 acres of private, state and federal lands enrolled in Montana’s Block Management Program. Southeastern Montana alone offers almost 2,200,000 acres of hunting access. Get your access guide today at FWP Region 7 headquarters in Miles City or download it at fwp.mt.gov.

FWP Region 7 Block Management staff are set up in the front conference room to assist hunters in finding access and obtaining maps and landowner contact information. August 22 will be the first day to make hunting reservations on participating properties.

The Block Management Program is a tremendous benefit for hunters and for Montana’s economy. Hunting contributes more than $20 million annually to the area economy. This region hosts about 45,000 resident and non-resident hunters throughout the year.

Many hunters have come to rely on Block Management in Region 7, but the staff still encounters misconceptions about how it works. With that in mind, the agency offers some suggestions that may help hunters better utilize the program.

Access not about big bucks

Bea Sturtz, Block Management administrative assistant for Region 7, said the most common misconception is the type of information that she can provide to hunters.

“They assume that because we’re with Fish, Wildlife & Parks, we’re going to know where the big ones [bucks] are, but it has nothing to do with that. We’re just here to help people find access to private lands, and I think that gets lost,” she said.

As long as hunters have realistic expectations about what the program can do and are willing to put in the time, Sturtz is confident that they can have a very satisfying experience.

Hunters choose where to go

Some hunters say they will go wherever the staff sends them, Sturtz said, “but it’s up to the hunter to decide where they’re going to hunt because it’s such a big area.”

The staff may ask people where they want to base their hunt, how far they are willing to travel and how much they want to walk. And they do call landowners throughout the season, in part to direct hunters toward better opportunities and to disperse people.

Big parcels not always better

Hunters tend to want large parcels of land to hunt, but sometimes landowners limit access within those Block Management Areas. Also, hunters may be overlooking opportunities elsewhere.

“They need to know not to avoid those smaller areas, because sometimes they can be a hidden gem,” Sturtz said.

Permission isn’t automatic

Access programs can vary from state to state, and Sturtz cautions hunters that access here is not automatic. “You still have to make that step to get permission,” she said.

FWP provides hunters with contact information for landowners, and then it’s up to hunters to make arrangements. There are two ways to gain permission to hunt: Type 1 BMAs allow a hunter to sign in at a box on site, and Type 2 BMAs require permission from the landowner or a representative. Even then, access is not a guarantee if the landowner is booked or has certain stipulations.

Have a backup plan

Sturtz recommends always having a backup plan because a lot of BMAs book up pretty quickly, particularly when game populations are faring well in those areas. It never hurts to get a contact number for a second-choice area, just in case the first choice doesn’t pan out.

Remember common courtesy

Hunters are asked not to book more than one BMA per day. Sturtz also reminds them to call and cancel a reservation if they fill their tag or change plans, so the landowner doesn’t have to turn other people away. Another tip is to call only at the time designated by the landowner, and to remember time zone differences.

It’s about relationships

Landowners tell staff that they appreciate hunters who don’t take access for granted, are grateful for the opportunity and take the time to build a relationship with them, even if it’s mostly by phone. Some think they get a better group of hunters through the program because visitors have to call first.

In some cases, landowners and hunters form bonds that last for years,” Sturtz said. “The program has been around a long time now. You’re looking at 30 years of history that they may have established with a family.”

Do your homework

Block Management offers hunters a lot of opportunities, “but it’s still just one tool for access, and hunters have to do their homework,” Sturtz said.

“You can still use public land, and you can still knock on a door,” she added.

Get a Block Management Access Guide

One thing hunters can do to prepare is order the Block Management Access Guide in advance, which is available in print and online on August 10. The guide lists participating landowners in 13 southeastern counties, along with what types of game their land typically supports. Sturtz said the Hunt Planner on FWP’s website (http://fwp.mt.gov) is also a good tool. The Hunt Planner combines updated maps with hunting regulations and statistics. Maps are available online beginning in August but are removed in January.

Pay attention to variables

Finally, every hunting season is different in terms of conditions on the ground. For example, in Southeastern Montana, fall hunting season and fire danger often go hand in hand. As the temperatures soar and fuels dry up in late summer, hunters should be sensitive to the fact that landowners are concerned about the increasing threat of fires.

The wildlife populations may vary greatly from year to year as well. Last year’s drought, followed by a tough winter, impacted both big game animals and upland birds, so hunters having good luck in prior years may not have the same experience this season. Still, if they do their research and put in the time, there are still plenty of opportunities for quality hunts in Region 7.

 

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