Possible Access Layer Shows Opportunities You Never Knew Existed

There were two weeks left in Montana’s hunting season, and the rut was finally kicking off. I pulled up to the parking area of my favorite spot with an hour to go before legal shooting light. My heart sank, however, when my headlights turned the corner and illuminated my worst nightmare—I had lost the race. Two trucks sat parked by the gate, and by noon there would be five. With only two weekends left to hunt, I had to find a new spot.

Every hunter wants the woods to themselves. We are always looking for that new secret hunting spot to call our own, but we often don’t know where to access new land.

Until now.
For years, onX’s in-house GIS (geographic information system) technicians have studied large privately-owned lands across the country that occasionally grant public recreational access. From private timberland in the West to non-governmental and non-profit lands in the East, the team has compiled information to create the only database containing over 40 million acres of possible access.

onX Hunt Possible Access Layer

Among many other things, these lands include:

  • Timber Access – In many cases, a timber company will allow public access to their lands with minimal restrictions (barring fires, for example) without requiring a permit or prior permission. Some companies will allow access with restrictions such as a formal leasing program or permit requirement. Sometimes, these lands are managed by a forestry consulting company that manages the leasing and permitting programs. All Possible Access timber lands are represented with green dots.
  • NGOs – Our research indicates that non-profit groups usually, but not always, allow public access on their lands without prior permission. However, certain parcels are not publicly accessible, so always do your research before setting out for one of these areas. All NGOs are represented by green diagonal lines and include organizations such as The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy and The National Wildlife Federation.
  • Misc. Access – These lands consist mostly of parcels owned by utility companies where our research indicates that public access may be allowed for recreational purposes. They are designated by green Xs.
Find Possible Access Near You
Possible Access, Private Property Boundaries and Ownership Info, Government Lands, GPS Tools and More.

Ownership changes, so check and double check.

Unfortunately, public access policies and their changes can be difficult to track. For that reason, we urge users to view the Possible Access layer as a starting point. To narrow down your search, tap on a possible access site. Timber lands will show one of two possible designations, access or unknown access, and might require further investigation. Other possible access lands, like NGOs and utility companies, will always need a deeper look in order to understand their policies.

Man with elk shot while bowhunting using onX Hunt Possible Access Layer.

Success is out there, but don’t take our word for it.

Times may have changed, but timber is still king in Oregon. When the Weyerharuser timber company purchased Plum Creek, hunters were left to figure out how to navigate the new pay-to-play rules on land that had been public for decades. The team at Born and Raised Outdoors used the Possible Access layer and found incredible success, tagging six bulls in the Beaver State. This accomplishment was the result of finding land that was not heavily trafficked by other hunters and confidently maneuvering through the pay-to-play boundaries of other timber company land.

“It’s been a game changer for us,” Born and Raised Outdoors’ Trent Fisher said. “It’s allowed us to hunt areas we didn’t know we could before and dramatically increased our success.”

Follow Born and Raised Outdoors’ Land of the Free project, documenting their 50-day archery season across five states.

Last updated: May 2019.

Christian Fichtel

Raised in North Carolina’s Appalachian Mountains, Christian Fichtel now resides in rural Montana. He is a father, writer, hunter, and fly fisherman.