To improve habitat for upland game birds, landowners can apply to enroll in a variety of cost-share programs under the Upland Game Bird Habitat Enhancement Program (UGBHEP) to develop, enhance, and conserve Montana’s upland game bird habitats. Part of the agreements for these programs is that the land in the project area remains open to reasonable public hunting. Generally, up to 75% of the cost of the landowner’s UGBHEP project can be reimbursed.
One of the UGBHEP options to secure habitat and provide hunting opportunity is the Open Fields program. Open Fields started in 2012 and is a grant program that combines Farm Bill funds with state hunting license dollars. The program works with landowners to manage CRP in a wildlife-friendly way that provides important cover for Montana’s game birds. Conservation-incentive programs like Open Fields are geared to help landowners keep some land enrolled in CRP and to provide public game bird hunting opportunities.
Open Fields enrollment in Region 6 has been very successful this year. For the 2018 season, the program added 21 contracts totaling over 8,000 acres across the region, including 4,606 CRP acres and 3,484 additional acres of access. Thirteen of these contracts are in the northeast corner, six are near Havre, and two are near Hinsdale and Saco. Combined with previous enrollments, the program now offers about 39,000 acres of conserved habitat and access to bird hunters in Region 6.
Interested hunters can find the locations of Open Fields and other UGBHEP projects in the annual Montana Upland Game Bird Guide Enhancement Program Access or through the “hunt planner” on the FWP website.
In addition, the Block Management Access guides, which recently arrived at FWP offices, are another great resource to find places to hunt for upland birds.