How Would You Improve Block Management?

HighCountryCommando

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First, this thread is for ideas only. It is not a thread for criticizing ideas, no matter how off base you think they are.

I will admit up front I'm a Montana NR hunter, so I'm not going to know the politics and nuance of the Block Management Program. I do love the program. I've harvested my deer the last two years on Type 1 BMAs, both times within sight of the landowner's residence. I found myself framing the farmhouse in the background of both the animals where they lay. It was very profound for me. Each time it presented me with a stark reminder of who provides the opportunity and how grateful I was for it. I wanted to go down and hug somebody and tell them how much I appreciate their generosity. I left a note instead.

Montana's BMA program represents the best private land access program anywhere in the world. I'm sure its got warts I'm unaware of but its potential seems to be far greater than its current state. From my perspective it seem to be underachieving. So how would you fix the BMA program?

The biggest challenges as I see them are thus:
  • Landowner hunter relations
  • Fair and Equitable compensation to the landowner
  • Political bureaucracy
I will leave it to others who know Montana better to comment on compensation and political improvements. However landowner relations is something of a job description for me. If landowner and hunter relations are a problem, due to entitled bad apple hunters lack of respect an common decency, then the only solution is to put the opposite kind of hunter in contact with the landowner. That requires boots on the ground, service with a smile, and handshakes, no way around it. Utah has a program called the Dedicated Hunter Program. Its a service-based hunting program that allows participants to have more time to hunt deer (general season) each year. The types of service dedicated hunters provide to meet their yearly service hours requirement are extremely diverse, most of them directly unrelated to big game habitat improvement. You can donate time or building materials. For every $20 of donated materials you provide, you receive 1 hour credit toward your service hour total. Link below provides info on the kinds of services the DH program entails. The DH program also requires the completion of an online conservation and ethics course.

This idea is not to supplant the current BMA program, this idea would be a new component to the current program:
  • MT BMA program have a hunter service component that is regionally managed.
  • If you want to hunt a region you have to provide service to that region.
  • Participants have some form of input in which regional properties to prioritize.
  • No limit on numbers of hunters participating in the program.
  • 10 hours service required on an annual basis. You could play with this number, but basically no more than what you might spend in a single weekend of work.
  • Completion of an online certification that ensures participants understand the rules and regulations regarding the BMA program and how it works.
  • For non residents, this certification is required to enter BMAs for the region that it is issued. For residents, you could either make the certificate regional or statewide, whatever MT residents feel makes the most sense.
  • If you aren't certified you can't enter a BMA, period.
  • BMA certification card must be provided upon request by enforcement agency.
  • Program requires annual BMA re-certification.
  • For residents $10 in project materials equals 1 hour of service time.
  • For residents, at least half of the service hour requirement must be boots on the ground labor.
  • For non residents, at least 10 hours of boots on the ground labor in aggregate over 3 years. This due to logistical complexities of NR hunters.
  • For residents $20 in project materials equals 1 hour of service time. This compensates for the logistical complexities of NR hunters.
  • Age and disability considerations should be provided, however, if they can hunt, they can obviously do something, even if its doing something as simple as tracking who shows up for a project an how much time they spent.
  • Landowners submit requests for BMA service projects.
  • Anything that helps the landowner out and does not run counter to ethical hunting and conservation ideals qualifies.
    • Plumbing/Electrical/Carpentry
    • Veterinary
    • Engine repair
    • Fencing
    • Roofing
    • Anything...
If you want to hunt MT on public land only. Your still free to do so. This approach to modifying the BMA program does not take away opportunity. If it was a handshake that got folks access to private property in the good old days, it seems to me that whats missing more and more are the opportunities to shake hands. We have to find a way to create those opportunities.

Pragmatically MT residents would likely be the labor and non residents would be the funding. If the program morphs into just throwing more money at landowners for access it will fail. You need faces, feet, and hands who represent the best of the hunting community pressing the flesh with these landowners. It might be harder for NR hunters to provide service, but they are part of the problem and must be part of the solution. So any attempt to remove the boots on the ground requirement for NR hunters will likely backfire.

If you don't like my ideas, keep it to yourself. Present your ideas and lets see where it takes us. If you want to steal an idea from someone, go ahead, but keep criticism to a dull roar. Responses like this...I don't think that will work because...are welcome.

 

Nameless Range

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I'm sorry I missed this thread by @HighCountryCommando, and am bringing it back up.

Here are a couple maps.

Over 55,000 acres of Block Management have burned up in MT so far this year.

Map.jpg

Some BMAs, provided to us by very generous landowners, have burned up entirely.

Richard Springs.jpg


Here we are, toward the end of a year of record drought. Ranchers selling off entire herds due to a lack of feed - something many may never financially recover from. Add to that fire seasons that are longer and longer.

We may be approaching a wave of landowners, who in the past were generous, who due to financial necessity and less of a headache, will have to choose the leased hunting model.

We have an FWP Director who says hunters are the reason there is a divide between them and landowners. What can be done to show this to be BS? How can hunters show landowners that we value them, that we appreciate their generosity, and that we have skin in the game? I really like some of the ideas in the OP.

I hate to say this, as Montana has enough problems, but I spoke to someone who has an elk problem on their land, but does not allow public hunting. When I asked why, they said, "Because when I did my irrigation system got shot up." Hunter behavior is an issue, and something I would add that could help would be more heads on pikes, figuratively, for bad actors.
 

8andcounting

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So I have a question , if your signed up tomorrow for a type 2 bma , but on way to it you see a critter on a type 1 , can you then sign in to the type 1 ? Can you have a reservation for a type 2 and hunt a type 1 the same day ? If so I think that should be changed . The other day when I signed up for a type 2 the guy on the phone said there’s many many people each day that sign up but then never show up thus taking opportunities away from folks who want to hunt . So me personally, I’d like to see stiffer penalties for those kind of folks , maybe no bma’s for a year or two for them . I think I definitely gets abused
 

badlander

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Most frustrating thing on type 2 block management for me is getting thru on the phone call in 5 min after the call in period opens and being told by the landowner that they are fully booked every day for the entire season.

Maybe its an incorrect assumption, but it seems to me that 5 minutes isn't enough time to book every day thru the entire season in 3 day blocks, take all of the info down and completely fill up. I'm guessing that means that there are friends, family, etc... booking these dates long before they are opened. I hope its nothing worse like outfitters paying to allow their hunters to sign up on BMA before it opens and the landowners double dipping into both systems.

Either way, some auditing of the program might clear this up. I totally understand letting your friends and family hunt your property, it just seems to me that passing that off as a BMA accessible to the public and getting paid for that isn't right. Pick one.
 

Big Fin

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My top priority would be to follow the Wyoming HMA system, where money is spent on the type of hunting that is brining in the revenue. In other words, if 60% of the funding is from elk license sales, allocate 60% of the investment in access to primarily elk ground.

And, use their model of scoring that takes into account the amount of public land that an HMA will provide access to. This has been brought up to FWP in prior administrations, but it was declined.

I think Jason, the new BMA coordinator, is trying hard to think of new ways and new ideas to improve the program. I have seen significant improvement since he took over. I he is allowed to continue making changes to the program.

@Nameless Range posted..
We have an FWP Director who says hunters are the reason there is a divide between them and landowners. What can be done to show this to be BS? How can hunters show landowners that we value them, that we appreciate their generosity, and that we have skin in the game? I really like some of the ideas in the OP.

I wish I had an answer to that question. The struggle of these working ranches and farmers during this incredible drought is for real. Troublesome, as many of them are the best of our private land conservation stewards and have a strong wildlife ethic. Unfortunately, there are many waiting on the sidelines to buy some of these places; mostly buyers who are from out of state and will continue the trend of "New Age Landowner" who creates a lot of neighbor problems with how they manage their properties without regard for their working-ranch neighbors.

If anyone has ideas of how to help those folks, I am all ears. Losing some of them to the Hedge Fund Trophy Ranch Collectors Club only complicates the problems we struggle to solve today. And, it will make it even harder to improve the Block Management Program.
 

Mallardsx2

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I loved the block management program because it promotes hunter access but the quality of deer on most of those is lacking to say the least.

Personally if it was up to me I would do away with ALL Type 2's. What a giant awkward pain in the a$$. Half the time the people arnt even home and its a mess trying to get things secured. Two of the landowners I had to meet with were super WEIRD. Especially the weird lady that lived in a shack... She came to the door with a pistol talking on the phone with someone telling them on the phone that "she had trouble and would have to call them back"....

My Dad who can get along with about anyone even asked me after we left what the hell that lady's deal was. lol

The other people were not around to sign their paper and when they were they were nice but they made me open and close like 4 gates just to get to their house, then proceeded to beat me to the road by driving around them themselves laughing as they passed me. So strange.

ALL of the Type 2's I signed up for were taken care of in advance and when I got there they acted surprised and didnt understand who I was and when I was planning to hunt. Then they said " oh ya, I let everyone hunt" even though it CLEARLY stated that they only allowed 6 people per day to hunt their land.....so that was cute.

Moral of the story, they need to do away with the type 2 and get sign in boxes and turn everything to type 1.
 

Mallardsx2

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Oh yes, and if they dont want to be called at 7:00AM to request permission then they should put the correct hours on their contact form. I got a tongue lashing for "calling too early" from a couple of them. I think the shack lady was hung over when I talked to her. lol
 

huntin24/7

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As much as I love upland bird hunting, I feel like you’re much more likely to call someone or knock on their door to get permission for that anyways. Big game access is always more difficult and should probably have a bit more precedent. Plus the upland bird access program is increasingly adding property anyways. Also, focusing $ on bma’s that not only open up that private land, but they also open up more landlocked areas. By and large I have really enjoyed the bma hunting I’ve had in eastern MT for birds and deer, but I’ve heard a lot more horror stories the further west one goes. Also, maybe have FWP issue type 2 access instead of the landowner if possible?
 

Schaaf

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Fort Peck, MT
Im typing from a phone so my thoughts will be kept to a minimum because I hate typing on it but I will relate to a recent situation I am aware of.

My best friend recently purchased a couple hundred acres of land on the Milk River. The farm has been in Block Management for quite some time and he wanted to continue keeping it in BM and had it open for Spring Turkey. Since it is only a couple hundred acres he wanted to keep it archery only during both archery and rifle seasons. FWP said thanks but no thanks. I don’t blame them, the way Block Management is statutorily written, they have to prioritize hunter days.

I think a move towards prioritizing quality hunting experience and not total hunter days would do wonders for the program. I don’t think you would need to scrap the entire program, just create a different route for landowners to reach a payment threshold through satisfaction or harvest surveys.
 

bigsky2

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FWP could be more selective about where they spend their money and stop enrolling places that look like the surface of the moon. I much prefer Type 2 over Type 1, I've had quality hunting on Type 2 areas but the deer get decimated on Type 1 areas. The Type 2 reservation system definitely needs fixing though. It's frustrating when you follow the reservation rules in the BMA book, then call and find out that the rules don't actually apply and someone has already reserved the day you were hoping to hunt.
 

Nameless Range

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@Nameless Range posted..
We have an FWP Director who says hunters are the reason there is a divide between them and landowners. What can be done to show this to be BS? How can hunters show landowners that we value them, that we appreciate their generosity, and that we have skin in the game? I really like some of the ideas in the OP.


@BigFin posted...
I wish I had an answer to that question. The struggle of these working ranches and farmers during this incredible drought is for real. Troublesome, as many of them are the best of our private land conservation stewards and have a strong wildlife ethic. Unfortunately, there are many waiting on the sidelines to buy some of these places; mostly buyers who are from out of state and will continue the trend of "New Age Landowner" who creates a lot of neighbor problems with how they manage their properties without regard for their working-ranch neighbors.

If anyone has ideas of how to help those folks, I am all ears. Losing some of them to the Hedge Fund Trophy Ranch Collectors Club only complicates the problems we struggle to solve today. And, it will make it even harder to improve the Block Management Program.
A friend of mine who I have come to view as a mentor, is close friends with the owner of the Block Management area above that is almost entirely burned up. 90% of their pasture and all their hay - gone. Generous people who have been in block management since its inception, and allowed public access before that.

It would be interesting if the conservation machines in place could do some sort of emergency fundraiser. I don't know. Here is something I thought of. Curious if it is a dumb idea:

When you buy a hunting license, you have an option to give to "Hunters against Hunger".What if, when you purchased a hunting/fishing license, there was a voluntary option to donate 10 or 20 dollars to the "Landowner Relief Fund", dedicated to the alleviation of damages to the livelihoods of working private landscapes due to grass depredation by wildlife or wildfire? Jesus, Montana had sold 45 million licenses by April 1st of this year. Imagine if 10% of those, a conservative estimate, donated $20 bucks to this fund. That right there would proivde 9 million dollars to aid landowners, voluntarily paid for by the sportsmen and women of Montana and those visiting. I feel like such an example, particularly if it came from our community as an idea, would be a powerful example for the hunters and fishermen of Montana to point to to say that in fact, yes, we do care about the landowners of Montana and acknowledge that little of this happens without them.

I think such a thing may take a legislative act, and I am sure there are some reasons against it - namely, the legislature seems to ruin everything.
 

Sytes

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My simple portion beyond the heavy hitters of a quality background to cover the detailed improvements:

Have a Block Management stamp in order to use BM's. $$$ to aid fair value to somewhat counter outfitter lease, etc.
 

JLS

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My simple portion beyond the heavy hitters of a quality background to cover the detailed improvements:

Have a Block Management stamp in order to use BM's. $$$ to aid fair value to somewhat counter outfitter lease, etc.
This would seem to go without saying, but it’s rarely done. Usually it’s a portion of the conservation/hunting license earmarked for access, which at times I think may be easier, but usually seems to short change the program.
 

JLS

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Unfortunately it seems there is little flexibility or creativity within the program. Landowners are rewarded by providing hunter days. There is no requisite for quality hunter days. There is little incentive to provide greater quality.

It’s a sticky situation because you don’t want the sportsman getting screwed by paying for lack of quality, which I think they already are. The real quality places like McRaes and the Sieben are extraordinarily hard to get on. Then there are some places that are incredibly easy, and offer decent hunting. Something is broken though when a vast array of stubblefield brings in more reimbursement because the hunter days are maxed out with guy’s signing in, spending an hour driving around, then leaving.

I personally would look to surrounding states and do a thorough analysis of what works and what doesn’t, and revamp it top to bottom. You listening Hank? This would be customer service oriented.
 

BuzzH

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The first thing I would do is have all the access permission slips for the type 2's administered through the FWP. Do exactly like Wyoming does with their HMA programs if an HMA only allows say, 25 people a year, make it a random draw through the FWP.

There's just too much monkey business with the way MT does it, allowing the landowners to say they're all filled up 10 minutes after they start taking reservations.

I would also probably do what WY does with creating sub-unit specific tags that are essentially valid for some of the better Block ranches. Those that drew a special permit would be granted access via the BM plan hunt those great ranches.

I would also remove the monetary compensation for high value public access to compete with leasing.
 

LukeDuke

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Minnesota
Most frustrating thing on type 2 block management for me is getting thru on the phone call in 5 min after the call in period opens and being told by the landowner that they are fully booked every day for the entire season.

Maybe its an incorrect assumption, but it seems to me that 5 minutes isn't enough time to book every day thru the entire season in 3 day blocks, take all of the info down and completely fill up. I'm guessing that means that there are friends, family, etc... booking these dates long before they are opened. I hope its nothing worse like outfitters paying to allow their hunters to sign up on BMA before it opens and the landowners double dipping into both systems.

Either way, some auditing of the program might clear this up. I totally understand letting your friends and family hunt your property, it just seems to me that passing that off as a BMA accessible to the public and getting paid for that isn't right. Pick one.
This has happened to us before. I called on the first morning that they opened up reservations. The rancher said he was all booked up and I could tell he wanted to get off the phone. I get it, he was probably busy and didn’t want to take down the info. It was odd because this same guy offered to come haul our bull out the previous yr, and we took him up on that offer. Super nice guy. Something didn’t seem right, so I had my wife call back the next day and she spoke to the ranchers wife and got us permission for the days we wanted....once again, he offered to help us if we got one....and we took him up on that:) Each case is different, and I understand the frustration on each side. Love WY system!!
 

300stw

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the parcels of land of different landowners when enrolled into one big bma needs looked at, lets say 12 landowners 12000 acres, but only 1000 acres are qualiry, the rest looks like the moon, all 12 get equal share i was told last year when i spoke with a gentkeman in glasgow office.
only 1 guy has great land and good hunting but there all getti g a chk, really not fair or equitable

i dont think we need acres of poor habitat,, unless it opens acces to landlocked public, i hunt 3to 5 days a week on block, mainly upland birds, cover lots of acres annually, this year any area that can be hayed. is barren, tree rows with no shooting signs are some of the best habitat left,

the stamp idea to benefit landowners over and above there payment would be a benefit, i think, to keep quality land enrolled,
 

antlerradar

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I would also probably do what WY does with creating sub-unit specific tags that are essentially valid for some of the better Block ranches. Those that drew a special permit would be granted access via the BM plan hunt those great ranches.
This is a very interesting idea.
 
T

timmy

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I would eliminate block management and use that money to ensure long term access to public land. The sooner people realize they won’t get to hunt private the better. And there is no reason we have to cater to private land if they want animals gone they will let people hunt.
 

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