Reminder in the field this hunting season: Be a good steward of the land
Although most hunters respect the land, property, and wildlife they are hunting, many others do not. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks would like to remind hunters and all outdoor enthusiasts to be good stewards of the land, and respect both private and public property. The FWP Region 6 Citizens Advisory Committee, recognizing that this is an ongoing issue, raised the need for more public outreach.
Every hunting season, there are reports of vandalizing of Block Management Area (BMA) boxes, hunters driving off road, illegal trespassing, hunters being shot over, littering, and livestock being shot. With upland bird and mourning dove seasons beginning over the Labor Day weekend, and deer and elk archery on Sept. 7, we encourage everyone to be good stewards of the land. Below are just a few of the things that hunters and all outdoor enthusiasts should be aware of when enjoying our resources:
• Standing crop- avoid hunting, walking or driving in fields that have not been harvested yet.
• Littering- not only is littering careless and unsightly, it is against the law. This includes toilet paper, and the proper management of human waste.
• Leave gates as you find them- If a gate is closed, close it behind you. If it is obviously open (pulled all the way back to the fence), leave it open. If you are unsure, contact the landowner or public land agency.
• Know your target and beyond- Hunters must be sure of what they are shooting at (species, sex, etc.), and know what lies beyond their target (houses, outbuildings, livestock, vehicles, other hunters).
• Prevent fires- Be aware of fire danger at all times and use precautions.
• Be weed free- Check clothes, dogs, ATV’s, and vehicles for weeds and weed seeds to help prevent the spread to other private and public lands.
• Avoid driving on muddy roads- Unless it is a well-graveled road, walk.
• Avoid ridge driving and driving to overlooks- Not only is this a poor strategy while hunting, it is considered as driving off road if it is not already an established trail.
• Do not park on roads- Move well off of roads to avoid folks moving farm equipment. Find a designated parking area or an approach that is clearly not being used for equipment.
• Driving off road- While hunting on private property, a person may not drive off established roads or trails without landowner permission.
• Off-road travel on public land, including game retrieval, is prohibited unless designated as open. Consult appropriate land agency or land maps for specifics.
• Ask for permission to hunt- Montana law requires permission for all hunting on private land. Even if the land is not posted, hunters must have permission from the landowner, lessee, or their agent before hunting on private property.
• Completely fill out BMA slips- If a hunter doesn’t correctly fill out a block management slip, they are hunting without permission.
• Know where you are located- Whether you are hunting public land, private land, or land enrolled in an access program such as block management, it is every hunter’s responsibility to know where they are to avoid trespassing. Maps are always available, as are GPS chips and cell phone apps to aid in orientation.
• Accessing public lands- Access to public lands (on a private road) through private land requires permission of the private landowner, lessee, or their agent.
• Camping- camping is allowed on most public lands (see agency regulations), but permission is needed to camp on private property and BMAs.
• Know the rules- Consult BMA maps for specific rules on block management property, including: driving on roads, parking areas, no shooting zones, walk-in only areas, camping, number of hunters allowed, game retrieval, etc. Rules for most land agencies can be found on maps and/or on brochures. Go to the appropriate agency website or local office for information.
• Report violations- report any hunting and fishing, trespassing, vandalism, or other criminal activity you see to 1-800-TIP-MONT (1-800-847-6668).
The 1-800-TIP-MONT program is a toll-free number where one can report violations of fish, wildlife or park regulations. Callers can remain anonymous and may be eligible for a reward up to $1,000 for providing information that leads to a conviction.
Also remember that the fall is a very busy time for landowners. Along with late harvest, cattle and other livestock are being moved from their summer and/or fall pastures and are often brought near the home site for winter feeding and care. Please use common sense and respect when around these activities.
FWP also offers a free online program called The Montana Hunter-Landowner Stewardship Project. This project is an information program for anyone interested in promoting responsible hunter behavior and good hunter-landowner relations in Montana. The program is delivered through an interactive website utilizing questions, videos, and feedback as well as opportunities for you to test your knowledge on a variety of practical topics related to hunter-landowner relations and responsible hunter behavior.
Please go to http://fwp.mt.gov/education/hunter/hunterLandowner/ to learn more and complete the program.
–Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks