We are bound together by a common landscape.
Common Ground, a partnership of Montana landowners, outfitters and sportsmen, is our initiative to build trust and better working relationships between landowners and sportsmen in Montana. This group has been working together since 2010 to creatively address land stewardship and access, and to find win/win solutions benefiting landowners, sportsmen, and wildlife. In 2018 Common Ground launched the Montana Hunter Advancement Program (MHAP) to put more ethical, educated, and effective hunters in the field. The Common Ground partnership acts as the advisory group for the MHAP and is continuing to developing creative solutions to address additional wildlife, sportsmen, landowner challenges.
Hunter Advancement Program
In addition to creatively addressing access and stewardship, Common Ground is also tackling hunter behavior in Montana. Hunting is a privilege and not a right. It is an important part of our heritage and culture. The state of Montana uses hunting as the primary management tool for elk and other wildlife. As more land is closed to hunting, the state's ability to effectively manage wildlife populations is significantly decreased. Declining access is a multi-faceted issue, but at least part of the negative trend can be attributed to a handful of less competent and unethical hunters. Bad hunter behavior makes it easier for landowners to close their gates to the public for hunting, and as an example, it is commonly cited as a primary reason for landowners who are pulling their property out of block management.
To address these issues, in 2018 the Common Ground program launched and implemented the Montana Master Hunter Program (MHAP) to put more ethical, educated, and effective hunters in the field.
The Mission of the Montana Hunter Advancement Program is to provide advanced hunter education that increases hunter competence, ethical hunting behavior, knowledge of agriculture and stewardship, and private land access.
The Montana Hunter Advancement Program (MHAP) is a 50-hour course which includes classroom instruction, online instruction, and field work. The program offers skills mastery combined with conservation and stewardship education, and specialized ballistics and marksmanship training. Instructors include ranchers, farmers, landowners, university faculty, professional shooting instructors, wildlife managers, wildlife biologists, first aid personnel, as well as back country survival and equipment experts. Each curriculum element includes either written, oral or field tests that assess student competence. Each participant has the opportunity to become a certified “Master Hunter”, and will receive a Montana Master Hunter Certificate upon successful completion of the course that is valid for five years. Continuing education and certificate renewal will be available through additional in-person and online coursework, and testing.
The MHAP is directed at improving the connection and cooperation between hunters, private land owners, and game managers. Certified Master Hunters will understand how their hunting activities and behaviors impact Montana farmers and ranchers. Hunters who successfully complete this course will be allowed managed hunting access to our partner farms and ranches, and deepened knowledge and skillset that will make them more competent, successful hunters.