Guidelines for hunting, fishing, trapping, recreating on Montana state trust land
Last updated 9/22/2022 at 12:38pm
Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks
GLASGOW - Many people will likely hunt state trust land at some point during Montana's hunting season. These lands, which can provide great recreational opportunity, are managed by the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation for the benefit of the public schools and other public entities. In Fish, Wildlife and Parks Region 6 in northeast Montana, large areas of state trust land are found in central Valley and western Daniels counties, as well as scattered across Blaine County.
Although state trust land is often considered simply as "public land," specific rules and regulations apply to these lands that hunters and other outdoor recreationists need to follow. In addition, nearly 100 percent of these lands are leased to operators for livestock grazing or other agricultural production, along with oil and gas leases. Recreationists need to respect these operations and abide by all rules and guidelines for safety and cooperation with the lease holders and other recreators on state trust land.
Below are some general guidelines for hunting, fishing, trapping and recreating on state trust land. For more information, people go to http://dnrc.mt.gov/recreation or contact one of their local DNRC offices, see contact info below.
On most maps, state trust land is colored blue. However, a few of the state tracts colored blue are not necessarily state trust land. Some are owned, leased or operated by other state agencies, such as the state water conservation board, FWP, the Department of Transportation and even some state universities. These lands may have different rules and regulations that apply to their specific tract of land. Please check with the appropriate entity for any further information.
What is state trust land?
State trust land, often called just "state land," is land managed by the DNRC for the sole purpose of generating income for public schools and other public institutions. Most state parcels are the sections 16 and 36 of each township. However, some areas such as central Valley County north of Glasgow and western Daniels County west of Scobey, have large blocks and/or many other pieces of state trust land beyond the typical 16 and 36 sections.
Hunting, fishing and trapping on state trust land
Recreational use licenses are required by state law to use state lands for recreational purposes. By agreement between DNRC and FWP, persons who possess a valid Montana Conservation License from FWP will be authorized to hunt, fish and trap on legally accessible state trust lands that are not closed or restricted to such use.
Prior to trapping on state trust land, everyone 12 years old and older must first apply for and be issued a Special Recreational Use License from a DNRC office. Beginning in 2022, to purchase a Montana resident trapping license, residents must complete a Montana trapper education course if they have not purchased a trapper's license in three prior trapping seasons.
Recreating on state trust land
People looking to do other types of activities falling within the definition of "general recreational use," such as camping, hiking, skiing, sight-seeing, and horseback use - unless such activities are conducted in conjunction with and incidental to hunting, fishing and trapping - will be required to possess a State Land Recreational Use License, which is available from any authorized FWP license agent or through FWP's online license service.
Commercial use of state trust land
Commercial or concentrated recreational use, as defined by Montana statute, is prohibited on state trust lands unless it occurs under the provisions of a SRUL.
Outfitting requires a SRUL from the local DNRC office.
Dog training constitutes a commercial use of state trust lands. To minimize impacts to game bird populations, the DNRC will not issue a SRUL for dog training on live birds within FWP Region 6.
Access to state trust land
Legally accessible state trust land can be accessed by public roads, roads usable by the public under state or federal law, or which are under the jurisdiction of the Montana Department of Transportation or a county or municipal government; public rights-of-way or easements; by public waters such as rivers and streams that are recreationally navigable by Montana law; by adjacent federal, state, county or municipal land if the land is open for public use, or by adjacent private land if permission to cross the private land is secured from the landowner. Accessibility by aircraft does not render state trust lands legally accessible.
It is a good idea to have land ownership topographic maps and/or a GPS system that can help identify the state trust land you wish to hunt. The FWP Hunt Planner map is a reliable, free resource: https://fwp.mt.gov/gis/maps/huntPlanner/?species=muledeer&showOwn=true&showRef=true .
Most state trust land boundaries are not marked, many are not fenced, and fences are commonly not located on the actual property boundary. Please refer to area BLM or USFS maps for land ownership patterns or consult with the adjacent landowner or lessee to determine the boundary locations on the ground. A land ownership GPS can help with this as well.
Posting of state trust land with orange paint or signs such as "No Hunting" or "No Trespassing" is illegal. Lessees may post state trust land with blue paint to signify no unauthorized use. However, if such land is legally accessible and has not been closed or restricted to recreational use by rule or by DNRC, recreational use by individuals with a proper recreational use license is permitted.
Do not park on public or private roads. Move well off roads to avoid farm equipment or other operations. Find a designated parking area or approach that is clearly not being used for equipment. To reduce fire danger, do not park in tall grass.
Restrictions and rules
• Motorized vehicle use, including ATVs and snowmobiles, is restricted to federal, state and dedicated county roads or other roads regularly maintained by the county, or to other roads which have been designated open by DNRC. Snowmobile rules vary depending on whether the land is leased or not; however, nearly 100 percent of the land in Region 6 is under lease and closed to cross-country snowmobiling.
• Off-road travel is prohibited on state trust lands.
• Disabled hunters who possess a permit to hunt from a vehicle issued by FWP are authorized to drive on any road on state trust land, except a road closed by the DNRC by sign or barrier.
• Parking on state trust land is allowed within 50 feet of a customary access point; on federal, state and county roads in accordance with local traffic laws or regulations; or within 50 feet of a road designated open by DNRC. Parking must not block other vehicle access to the tract, damage the land or a lessee's improvements or otherwise create a hazard.
• Discharge of firearms must be conducted in a careful and prudent manner. Firearms may not be discharged within 1/4 mile of an inhabited dwelling or outbuilding without permission from the inhabitant or on state trust land where DNRC has restricted firearms.
• Interference with a lessee's or recreationist's legitimate use of state trust lands is prohibited. Remember, respect each other's uses of state trust lands.
• Overnight use - camping - on leased or licensed state trust land outside of a designated campground is allowed within 200 feet of a customary access point but is limited to two consecutive days. Vehicles must remain within 50 feet of a road designated open by DNRC.
• Open fires are restricted to designated campgrounds. Fires are not permitted on state trust land that is leased. Again, nearly 100 percent of Region 6's state trust land is leased. People also should check if any additional fire restrictions have been put in place.
• Pets must be kept on a leash or otherwise under the control of the recreationist.
• Overnight horseback use for more than two consecutive days is prohibited without a Special Recreational Use License. Horses may be kept overnight on state trust land with the following constraints: 1) the horses do not remain in a stream riparian zone for more than 1 hour; 2) horses are to be fed with only certified noxious weed seed free forage; and 3) the horses must be restrained.
• Fireworks are prohibited.
• Littering is prohibited.
FWP game wardens enforce the laws and rules pertaining to recreational use of state trust land. Other state and local law enforcement personnel may also be involved in the enforcement of laws and rules specific to their agency and jurisdiction.
To report violations, contact an FWP warden or call 1-800-TIP-MONT.
For more information or specific questions on state land, people should contact a DNRC office in their area, with contacts available online at http://dnrc.mt.gov/divisions/trust/recreational-use-of-state-land/field-office-contacts .
Glasgow Unit Office
Havre Field Office
Northeastern Land Office
Central Land Office
Eastern Land Office
Northwestern Land Office
Southern Land Office
Southwestern Land Office