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Mike Kautz, American Prairie Reserve manager

MIKE KAUTZ

This September the Chokecherry Festival and several archery season openings fell on the same Saturday. I was at the American Prairie Reserve booth in downtown Lewistown handing out maps of the reserve and answering questions – many about hunting: “Do you allow hunting?” “I heard you don’t allow hunting?” “How do I get access to hunt?”

The short answer? You bet; APR allows hunting on our deeded land and we provide access to thousands of acres of adjacent public lands.

We manage hunting in two ways:

  • Through Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Block Management program.
  • Through our own call-in reservation system, similar to MT FWP’s Type-2 block management.

For example: sign in at a box at the property boundary to hunt our Burnt Lodge property, make a reservation through FWP’s Region 4 Block Management phone line to hunt our Two Crow property, and call the APR office if you want to hunt the PN unit.

While we encourage and welcome public hunting, we manage with a quality-over-quantity approach. We have six reservations per day (with two youth hunting bonus spots) on our PN and Dry Fork properties, to keep you from finding another hunter in every coulee. We don’t allow off-road driving, shooting of non-game species, and require non-lead ammunition.

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On properties like Sun Prairie – where we have dense areas of staff housing and a public campground – we don’t allow hunting for common-sense safety reasons.

On the recently-purchased Blue Ridge property, we’re not allowing public access of any kind this fall as we inventory the property and develop a management and access plan for 2020 and beyond.

Hunters learning about APR sometimes ask, “How do I know APR isn’t going to close hunting access in the future?” I always point to the people who make up APR. We are hunters, hikers, paddlers and public land users ourselves. Our founders actually met while on a hunting trip in Phillips County. After work and on weekends during the fall, many of our staff are also out hunting birds, big game, or practicing with their bows. And public access is, and always has been, a core value for this organization.

One of the things that personally drew me to work for this project is the opportunity to create more publicly accessible land and bigger wildlife populations at a time when America is seeing diminishing numbers of both. I feel fortunate to work for an organization that is actively creating more opportunities for people to get and enjoy the outdoors.

In that spirit, general rifle season is already upon us. I urge you to have a safe season and consider visiting the Reserve to take advantage of these opportunities for yourself.

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Mike Quist Kautz is APR’s director of public access and recreation. Read more about APR at www.americanprairie.org/hunting.

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Opinion Editor

Opinion editor for The Billings Gazette.