When purchasing a big game hunting property in the West, the availability of landowner tags can be an important factor. Landowner programs were established to acknowledge the contribution of private lands to support wildlife and provide a form of compensation to landowners for resources used by wildlife. Permits or tags are typically available to landowners, family members and others designated by the landowner based on the acreage owned. In most cases, the recipient may only hunt on the property for which he/she is registered. Landowners who are absentee owners can greatly benefit from these tags especially when a property is in a game management area that is hard to draw permits. Different states have varied landowner programs that include what qualifies a landowner, property qualifications, acreage requirements, species requirements and other factors. Since all states are not the same, before assuming what the landowner tag program is in a particular state, it is important to research the state’s laws and contact the state’s wildlife regulatory agency. In most states,15% of deer, elk and antelope licenses in limited units are reserved for landowners.
It is also important to remember that there are land registration requirements and application deadlines that apply to landowners. Landowners must comply with all state laws and requirements to be successful in acquiring tags. Some states provide a Landowner Preference Program that allows landowners to build preference points to increase the odds in drawing a tag. For example, a Colorado deeded landowner who registers with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, may be eligible for landowner tags if the property is used primarily for agricultural purposes, is inhabited by the species applied for, and they own a contiguous parcel of at least 160 acres. In addition, based on the number of deeded acres registered, the landowner may be eligible for multiple tags. Tags are issued based upon the population of each specific animal in a landowner’s game management unit and tags will not be issued unless it is deemed that there is enough of that species to warrant a tag. Colorado also has a voucher system that allows a landowner to transfer a tag to a third party.
Montana, Utah, & Wyoming
In Utah, landowner tags are transferable, however landowners must own at least 640 acres to be eligible. In Wyoming and Montana, landowner tags are not transferable. Wyoming requires that the deeded owner of 160 acres or more be an individual, partnership, corporation or trust or have the property under written contract to apply. Spouses, parents, grandparents or lineal descendent can use the tags in Wyoming. Montana operates on a landowner preference and sponsor program and requires 160 acres for deer and 640 acres for elk tags. A registered resident landowner deer combination license can be applied for when a landowner is granting access to hunting on the property to a nonresident hunter.
In Kansas, “Hunt-On-Your-Own-Land Permits” are available to resident or non-resident landowners or tenants who actively engage in agricultural practices on 80 acres or more of Kansas property. To qualify as a nonresident landowner, a person must own property in fee simple ownership with their name on the deed. Property held in a trust, LLC, partnership, or other legal entity is owned by that legal entity. Permits on properties owned by a legal entity are available only to tenants who either farm at least 80 acres, or manage an 80 acre or larger farm that produces an agricultural commodity such as crops or cattle. Special hunt-own-land deer permits may be issued to a landowner’s or tenant’s siblings and lineal ascendants or descendants, or their spouses, whether or not a Kansas resident. These tags are not transferable.
In Nebraska, owning or leasing 80 acres or more of land for the purpose of agricultural production by the owner or leaseholder may receive a limited landowner permit for antelope and deer. Maximum number of landowner permits allowed for one farm or ranch is determined by the size of the property in acres divided by 80. Owning 320 acres or more of land dedicated to agricultural production may receive a limited landowner permit for deer. Only one permit will be issued per 320 acres. Hunting is restricted to the land owned/operated by the owner or leaseholder and described on the application. Hunting leases do NOT qualify. Eligible family members may hunt together on the described land but are not required to live in the same household. Landowner permits are not transferable. For Elk, landowners with property within an elk management zone are eligible to apply. Valid in open seasons with appropriate weapons for one elk (sex depends on unit). Bull permits are issued by drawing and preference points and landowners can only draw a bull permit once everey 5 years and a cow permit once every 3 years.
In all of these states, landowners are not guaranteed licenses without following specific state requirements. Landowner hunting tags are a great benefit to owners of hunting properties. The foregoing is intended to be a short summary of the laws in these states. Be sure to contact a state’s wildlife agency to get specific information on these programs. Happy Hunting!
Written by Robb Nelson, Ranch Broker & Experienced Hunter