Fifty Montana landowners will be awarded 79 either-sex elk tags as an incentive to allow public hunters access to almost a half-million acres of land in the 2023 hunting season.
The Fish and Wildlife Commission approved awarding the tags on Thursday under the Elk Hunting Access Agreement program, also known as the 454 program for the legislation that founded the process in 2001. Critics called the program "bulls for billionaires."
Last hunting season, 34 agreements were approved with 41 licenses/permits issued to landowners or their designees, according to an evaluation provided to the commission. The agreements provided access to more than 375,000 acres and resulted in hunters killing 285 elk, 47 of which were bulls and the other 238 of which were cows or calves. Thirty of the 34 landowners provided the public free access to elk beyond the requirements of the program.