Growing up in an outdoor-loving family has always been great. While most families get excited about football in the fall, my family is packing up the truck for a trip to the field. For anyone who knows me, you can pretty much assume where I will be when I am not at work between Labor Day and Thanksgiving. I WILL BE OUT HUNTING!

One of the hardest parts about hunting is finding a place to hunt.

One of the biggest obstacles for a Montana hunter is finding access to a place to hunt. We are blessed here in Montana with hundreds of thousands of acres of public land that is open to hunting. But, a good majority of game that can be hunted are on private property. Getting access to private can be as easy as knocking on a door and asking for permission. Just don't assume that the answer will always be "yes." With more and more property being bought up by out-of-state money, many property owners are not as familiar with the hunting heritage we hold so dear here in Montana. Making getting landowner permission next to impossible.

The answer is always "NO" if you don't ask.

Thankfully, the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks has created what is known as the Block Management Program, which incentivizes private landowners to offer public hunting access. This opens up plenty more hunting opportunities than just sticking to public land. But, there are some restrictions depending on the property.

A good majority of BMA (block management areas) are open to the public on a first come first serve basis. Meaning hunters must show up at the property and sign in at a designated spot before hunting. Some of these properties restrict how many hunters can be on the property at any given time. Meaning if you are not one of the first to get signed in, you may have to wait for another day to hunt. Other BMAs require written permission in order to hunt. Meaning you must either call the landowner and request a "hunt period." This will allow you to reserve hunting rights to the property for a certain amount of days. Some BMAs even hold lottery drawings for people to reserve "hunt periods."

Much like many of Montana's state campgrounds, these reservations are often full within hours of being offered. And, much like the "walk-up" campsites, hunters have to roll the dice on whether they are the first to the signup box on another BMA.

I cannot tell you how many times I have shown up to a BMA, National Forest trailhead, or even a Wildlife Management Area to hunt, and the parking area looks like a truck dealership. More needs to be done to gain more public access to hunting.

I applaud the FWP for their continued efforts to get more landowners on board with the Block Management Program.

What REALLY grinds my gears is when landowners profit from allowing access. Charging people for permission to hunt. Making people pay to harvest a resource that belongs to the public. But, we will save that for another day.

States with the most registered hunters

Stacker analyzed data from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to determine which states have the most registered hunters. Read on to see how your state ranks on Stacker’s list.

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