When hunters dream of Montana and hunting they usually dream of big game hunting properties where they can hunt one of the many big game species we have out here in the West. Clients coming from other parts of the country wanting to buy a big game hunting property have a few things they need to consider before narrowing their property choice. I am going to use elk in this article as an example but this holds true for all big game species. Let’s get started.
The first thing to check out is whether you are going to be able to hunt the big game on your own property. The West is filled with complicated licensing where you have to put in for a draw and sometimes at horrible odds. You want to check out whether you have a general license area or are on a draw situation. Know the resident and non resident odds as well as whether being a landowner gives you preference. You will also need the acreage requirements for landowner preference. Certain big game species are just going to be hard to get a license. Two that come to mind are Moose and Bighorns. In many states, you can purchase preference points that will increase your odds at being drawn.
Adjacent to Public Land
Purchasing land that is near or adjacent to public land can have its advantages. Out west there are times you can purchase smaller acreages and have access to much larger public land. It is not unheard of to purchase land that has public land effectively landlocked from the public. Effectively you own the public land because there is no public or limited public access. This is a hot topic out west for the general public but you don’t have to give access and anyone that crosses your land w/o your permission is trespassing which in Montana is a pretty serious offense. Even if you don’t land lock public land many times you reap the benefit of hunting pressure right across the fence from you. Big game can quickly figure out where hunting pressure is and isn’t. So buying a big game hunting property adjacent to public land many times effectively gives you more big game and more acreage to hunt.
Land access is another issue that those buying a big game hunting property out west need to check out and ensure they have good legal and weather access. Access in Montana is something that many times were established decades or centuries ago. Land has been sold, passed down or changed in use. Numerous times you will have to go across other ranches or land to reach your property and you want to make sure you have legal access to enter your own property. You also want to check out the type of access you are granted. If all you have is access for agricultural purposes and you want to build a lodge there might be issues. You also want to check out whether there is winter access or is the land only accessible during summer.
Size of Game
Everyone wants to ask how big is the game you shoot on property or in the area. Most real estate agents you talk to are going to quote you the biggest scores on the antlers that have been taken on property. They are not telling a fib. Most hunters don’t know how big a 350 bull elk looks like and don’t know how rare that size is but you will hear that 350 number a lot. Most hunters would be incredibly proud to take anything 300+ bull. There are the discerning buyers with tens of millions of $’s that can buy large acreages and control the habitat and truly go after the 400 bull elk but my advice to buyers is to find a decent area with lots of elk where you will get lots of opportunities. You might get an opportunity at a big bull or buck every once in a while but meanwhile, you can harvest a number of respectable antlers along the way. The large elk are usually also where there are not high numbers of elk. Think lots of food for less animals that give you the nutrition needed to grow big horns.
Ability to Attract Game
This goes along very well with a couple of considerations named above. If you have land where you can plant crops that will attract big game you have a distinct advantage because it truly is built it and they will come. Irrigated land is the best but not absolutely necessary. You just need to try and find enough good soil where forage can be planted. Big game hunting properties a lot of time are mountainous or alpine with meadows type properties. You will be surprised what you can do with even those type properties. A plant like sainfoin needs little water and elk love it. If you are adjacent to public land with hunting pressure and you are providing good forage you have a distinct advantage.
These are just a few things that clients need to know when starting to look for a big game hunting property. You also need to be aware of water rights, mineral rights, easements and numerous other things in your search. This is why you need a knowledgeable Advisor/REALTOR® in your corner. At E&V Ranchland we cover most of the Rocky Mountain West and have combined hundreds of years of experience matching land to clients. If you are starting on your journey give us a call. You will find this to be one of the best investments you make from a financial and emotional standpoint.
Buzz Tatom is an Advisor/REALTOR® for Engel & Voelkers in Montana. He specializes in farms and ranches. A ranch owner himself he knows the complications that a buyer or seller will go through and is able to help navigate the complicated process. Give Buzz a call or fill out his contact form and put him to work finding you the right property so you can start building memories with friends and family!