Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Montana Open Fields for Game Bird Hunters - Public Hunting Areas

Open Fields is officially here in Montana! The Volunteer Public Access-Habitat Improvement Program (VPA-HIP) - or commonly referred to as "Open Fields" - represents the first time federal Farm Bill funding has been offered to assist states in implementing private land hunting, fishing, and access programs. Recently, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks was awarded a VPA-HIP grant to fund expansion of the Block Management Program in new directions, one of which is the Open Fields for Game Bird Hunters, a new program that will be delivered through the FWP Upland Game Bird Enhancement Program.

Although Montana's Block Management Program is extremely popular, bird hunters often agree that finding quality places to hunt birds gets trickier each year. An 80-acre CRP tract can have a lot of appeal for bird hunters, yet this small acreage often doesn't qualify for enrollment in Block Management when competing with larger parcels of property that offer multiple types of hunting opportunities.
Likewise, finding permission to hunt on private land can be daunting. Open Fields can change that by providing landowner incentives to enroll these smaller tracts of land suitable for fall season game bird hunting. Tracts enrolled in Open Fields for Game Bird Hunters are clearly marked by signs to help improve hunter access and management.

Program Details

Click on image for details.

For 2012, game bird hunters will have walk-in access with no further permission required on 55 enrolled lands totaling 17,000 acres of CRP and other quality habitats.

Watch for these signs!
During the fall season, hunters may walk in to hunt upland game birds and waterfowl without further permission. All lands enrolled in Open Fields for Game Bird Hunters will have boundaries signed.

Visit the FWP Hunt Planner
Hunters, go to the Hunt Planner to view Open Fields for Game Bird Hunter project locations. You may zoom in close to projects, create GPS waypoints, and even print individual maps for each project area

2012 Notice to Hunters
Be aware that some parcels of land enrolled in the Open Fields for Game Bird Hunters may be newly-seeded stands of CRP, may have recently undergone USDA-required maintenance provisions that include haying or grazing activities, or may have been hayed or grazed under the 2012 USDA-sanctioned drought & wildlife fire emergency provisions just prior to enrollment in the Open Fields program. Subsequently, for this first year of enrollment, the habitat on some parcels may not meet hunter expectations. Please keep in mind that these lands are enrolled in long-term contracts for up to 10 years, so subsequent years can be expected to yield improved habitat on affected parcels.

Downloadable County Maps
Downloadable county maps are now available for the 2012 bird season! Get your maps here.

Open Fields for Game Bird Hunters Comment Survey

Your opinion matters! Please take a moment to participate in an online survey. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks appreciates your feedback on the Open Fields for Game Birds program!


Need more information? Call Debbie Hohler, Upland Game Bird Enhancement Program Biologist, at (406) 444-5674 or by e-mail.

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