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Time to Reinvigorate Montana’s Remarkable Block Management Access Program

July 27, 2012

I shot my first Montana big-game animal on a ranch that was enrolled in Block Management. I walked in about a mile, following a slough, creeping through thorny buffalo berry, hoping there was a deer dumb enough for me to take.There he was, a small 2-year-old whitetail buck. His rack wasn’t much, but he had a belly on him as big as my own. I dragged him out to the truck and tossed him in as the landowners were unloading bulls to be put in the same field. We had a good conversation, and we’ve become good friends in the years that passed. We talk about wolves, cattle prices, hunting access, and politics with the ease of friends and neighbors.Two years after I harvested that little buck, the ranchers ended their agreement with Montana’s Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks. They still allow for public access, but they don’t get a check for it anymore. Some could say that they’ve managed the hunting better than the way it was under Block Management. Others would disagree. One thing is certain though, more and more cooperators are asking for a different set of rules, and more and more hunters are looking for a better experience on land enrolled in the program.

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Guide to America's Public Land

Click on your state in the map below.

Find the top public-land destinations in your state, including:

  • Wildlife Refuges
  • State WMAs
  • National Forests
  • Fishing Access Sites

About Open Country

Hunters and anglers across the nation consistently list one challenge as their primary obstacle to spending more time in the field: Access.

Outdoor Life's Open Country program aims to tackle that issue head on and with boots on the ground. The program highlights volunteer-driven efforts to improve access along with habitat improvements to make existing public lands even better places to hunt and fish. The program's goal is to substantially increase sportsman's access across the country by promoting events that make a difference.

Here on Open Country's blog page, contributors take a close look at access issues across the country. Some are public-policy discussions, where we investigate the nuances of public access. In other blogs, we shine a light on attempts to turn public recreation opportunities into private hunting and fishing domains. In still other blogs, we interview decision makers about access issues. Together, we fight for the ability of America's hunters and anglers to have a place to swing a gun or wet a line.

We promise the discussion is always lively, interesting, and fresh, so visit this page frequently to tune into the latest access issue.

The Open Country program culminates in grants and awards with top projects and participants being honored.

Submit a project for the Open Country Grant Award.
Nominate an individual for the Open Country Award.

Open Country



Event Calendar

  • June 1: Red Oak Planting in Gwinn Forest Management Unit
  • June 7: Pinegrass Restoration, Willamette River (Eugene, OR REMF Chapter). Contact.
  • June 7-8: Lower Deschutes River Thistle Cut (OR Foundation for North American Wild Sheep and OR Fish and Wildlife). Contact.
  • June 13-15: Prairie City Aspen Habitat Enhancement (Oregon Hunters Association, Capitol Chapter) Contact: 503-399-1234
  • June 21: Smith Ridge Meadows (Eugene, OR Chapter RMEF). Contact.

  • July 25, 2012

    Good News, Bad News For National Wildlife Refuge Hunters-2


    Looking for an opportunity to speak up in support of hunting? Here’s a good opportunity to do so – and you just might land a new place to hunt in the process.

    The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting public comments on several proposed hunting expansions in the National Wildlife Refuge System.

    Yes, some wildlife refuges are open to hunting. In fact, hunting is an important part of the wildlife management plan on many refuges. The areas are generally substantial in size and prime wildlife habitat.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • July 24, 2012

    How to Find Out if Your Hunting Area Has Been Hit By Wildfire-2


    This summer, massive heat waves and catastrophic wildfires have ravaged hundreds of thousands of acres in the West, and we’re not even to the heart of fire season. Montana has borne the greatest brunt of the season, with the Ashland Fire in the Custer National Forest alone consuming more than 250,000 acres. Colorado is also taking a hit with close to 170,00 acres burned.

    The Custer National Forest is a popular destination for archery and rifle hunters looking for Booner bull elk. Those who drew that coveted tag need to think about adapting their strategies. But Custer Forest hunters aren’t the only ones. 

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • July 9, 2012

    Exclusive Report: HUNT Act Could Unlock Public Hunting and Fishing Areas Across the Country-15


    There’s nothing worse than a beautiful piece of public wilderness getting landlocked by private property and made inaccessible. In hopes of making sure that more of those areas are busted open to the public, Congressman Martin Heinrich (D-NM) stepped up today and introduced the HUNT Act.

    The Hunt Unrestricted on our National Treasures Act is the kind of legislation we love to see. It’s simple and to the point. It directs the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management to do what many outdoorsmen have been asking those agencies to do for years: Inventory public lands, figure out which areas are inaccessible, and decide what resources are needed to change that.

    [ Read Full Post ]
  • July 5, 2012

    Use a GPS to Unlock America's Best Hunting-0


    When the Russians launched their Sputnik satellite in 1957, most Americans were stunned, if not frightened, by the news. Cold War aside, American hunters and anglers should have rejoiced.

    That’s because shortly after Sputnik was launched, U.S. scientists learned they could track the satellite’s orbit by listening to changes in its radio frequency, relying on the same principle that explains why the pitch of a train seems to change as it rumbles past while you wait impatiently at a crossing.

    [ Read Full Post ]