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Photo courtesy of Backcountry Squatters

Pack Mentality

by Taylor Burlage

Clubs and Orgs for the outdoor oriented.

As a Bozemanite born and bred, fighting for wild places has always come naturally to me. As I’ve grown older, I’ve found that this penchant for outdoor activism is as easy as breathing for many Montanans. In the spirit of this great state, MSU has fostered a vibrant community of student groups and organizations dedicated to enjoying the recreational opportunities we have here, while simultaneously fighting to protect those public lands for future generations.

Students gathered for a club meeting.

Students gathered for a club meeting.

Whether you hunt, ski, fish, climb, hike, or just want to get outside, there are a handful of student-led groups comprised of people from across the country that are worth checking out. Here are a few:

Montana Wild Collective members take action by inspiring their peers to get outside and advocate for wild places. Often meeting up in the woods for an after-school hike or a weekend cabin trip, they know how to get wild.

Backcountry Hunters & Anglers promotes engagement in, and advocates for, backcountry hunting and angling, the conservation of public lands and wilderness, and the protection of fish and wildlife that rely on clean water and wild habitat. BHA holds loads of fun events that are both educational and fun, whether you are new to hunting and fishing, or an old hat at both.

Backcountry Squatters is an all-ladies club that aims to encourage engagement and leadership in the outdoor community by creating club outings and clinics that are focused on increasing the skills, connections, and support necessary for women to reach their full potential in the natural world.

SNOW (Sustainability Now) aims to provide an atmosphere for students to define and accomplish projects with a sustainability focus. Reducing food waste, banning plastic water bottles, and advocating for biking in Bozeman are just a few examples of what SNOW does.

These are just a few of the many outdoor-oriented student-led clubs. Don’t see what you’re looking for? Click here for more information on student organizations.

Taylor Burlage is an MSU junior and the campus coordinator for Outside Media Group.

Photo by Simon Peterson

Great Escapes

by the editors

Some suggestions this road trip season.

Road-trips are a quintessential college experience: plan the route, gather the crew, pack the rig, and hit the highway. While most big trips are reserved for the freedom of summer, Montana is full of weekend escapes for every season.

Fall

After settling in for the semester, plan a circumnavigation of the Madison Range. Leaving campus Friday afternoon, your first stop should be a campsite in Gallatin Canyon, along Storm Castle Creek. There’s a Forest Service campground with several spots, but push past it and set up further upstream. If you bike, spend the evening pedaling the dirt road up the burned-out drainage. Prefer hiking? Backtrack to the Storm Castle trailhead and make your way up this Bozeman-area classic.

Back at camp, cook something hot and hearty; you’ll need the energy and by this time of year, evening temps can dip below freezing. Build a roaring fire and pass the hot cocoa to the left-hand side.

Taking a study break in the mountains.

Odds are, a cold morning will have you up early. After cooking eggs and bacon over an open fire, and mixing up some cowboy coffee, head south toward Big Sky. Climbers should stop at Gallatin Tower right along the river, or head across the river and climb the Waltz. Anglers will be relieved to see that the tourist hordes of summer have largely dissipated. The Gallatin is once again a locals’ playground.

If you bike, head for the Porcupine trailhead, just south of Big Sky. There are a few several-mile loops you can put together, but keep it short and sweet as lunch will be calling. If you’ve dawdled, hit up the Gallatin Riverhouse Grill. They don’t open until 3pm, but their ribs are worth waiting for. If it’s earlier in the day (and hopefully it is), backtrack to Sola’s Big Sky location for sandwiches and salads. If you can stand it, book it to West Yellowstone and lunch there. After eating, stop in at Freeheel and Wheel for a coffee before getting back on the road.

It’ll be late afternoon at this point, so head west past Hebgen Lake and find a spot at the Beaver Creek campground, or along any Forest Service road at a dispersed site. Beaver Creek boasts impressive aspen groves, and by this time of year, they’ll be bright yellow or blaze orange. Plus there’s the added benefit of camping on Quake Lake, which is full of trout.

The Gravelly Range in Ennis, MT.

The Gravelly Range near Ennis, MT

In the morning, make haste for Ennis, about 45 miles north on Hwy. 287. Grab breakfast in town before picking a trail to hike. There are lots of options on the west side of the Madison Range, but this is serious griz country, so have your bear spray handy. After exhausting yourself with a strenuous foray into the wilderness, a soak at Norris Hot Springs is a welcome reward. Once adequately loosened up, it’s just a short hour drive back to Bozeman.

Winter

A winter road-trip is a great way to keep things interesting during the monotony of Bozeman’s longest season, and Red Lodge is the ideal destination.

For one, it’s relatively close. Leaving campus on Friday afternoon, you can pull into town before nightfall. Book a room at the Yodeler Motel for some classic ski-town décor, then walk downtown to Foster & Logan’s for some hearty pub fare. Don’t overdo it, as you’ll want to rise early for a full ski day at Red Lodge Mountain. On good snow years, there’s interesting terrain for all skill levels. When Mother Nature isn’t cooperating, embrace the local ski-hill vibe and the steep, long groomers.

Apres at Fosters & Logan.

Apres at Fosters & Logan’s.

Once you’ve gotten your vertical fill, check out Mas Taco on Main Street. Pick and choose from their extensive taco menu, or fill up on their burrito special. Pass the evening soaking in the Yodeler’s hot tub.

In the morning, make the rounds at the Red Lodge Nordic Center. They groom trails for skiers of all abilities and rentals are available in town at the Sylvan Peak Mountain Shoppe. On your way out of town, grab an early lunch at Café Regis. If it’s later in the day, take the long way home, making a pit stop in Roscoe at the Grizzly Bar. Think meat and lots of it. After gorging yourself, cruise to the interstate for the straight-shot drive back to Bozeman.

Skiing at Red Lodge

Skiing at Red Lodge Mountain

Spring

By the time spring rolls around, most Bozemanites are itching to ditch the snow for some desert sun. While we can’t blame them, we’re satisfied with the Treasure State’s outdoor offerings, and you will be too.

Instead of driving ten hours to Moab, head west on the interstate for 30 minutes toward Three Forks. If you bike, stop at Copper City a few miles north on Hwy. 287. If you climb, continue on to Pipestone, where the Queen and King crags await. This is also a great place for early-season camping, as the ground dries out before most mountain sites. There are dozens of trails for motorized and non-motorized users alike.

Camping with a view in Pipestone.

Camping with a view at Pipestone

Pipestone can handle bigger crowds, so make a party of it, making sure to clean up after yourselves. Bring the grill, as much meat as you can possibly eat, and all the car-camping luxuries you can think of.

You’ll likely sleep in Saturday morning, and that’s okay—your next stop isn’t far. Hop on I-90 and head west into Butte. If you’re already in need of some lunch, stop at Metals Sports Bar & Grill for massive burgers. Well-fueled, push north on I-15 to Helena. This is Montana’s mountain-biking mecca. There are miles of trail that tend to dry out early, and many end at Blackfoot Brewing. If you aren’t 21, fret not—the Capital City has other excellent food-and-drink options. Also, non-bikers shouldn’t be discouraged from using Helena’s trails; they’re great for trail running and early-season wildflower viewing as well.

Like most Montana cities, Helena is surrounded by public land. Head up any Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management road to find a campsite. If you prefer having a picnic table and a fire ring, book campground sites ahead of time here.

A pack of pals enjoying the singletrack

In the morning, take Hwy. 287 south to Townsend, making sure to stop for some fishing on the Missouri River or canoeing on Canyon Ferry Reservoir. This time of year, waterfowl abound and this a great place for watching them in their element. Lunch at the Full Belli Deli is highly encouraged—their sandwiches are fantastic, and you can pick up a bag of jerky for snacking on later.

Continue south along Hwy. 287 until you make it back to Three Forks—but before making haste for Bozeman, check out Missouri Headwaters State Park. Here, the Jefferson, Madison, and Gallatin rivers converge to form the Mighty Mo. The park has trails and interpretive signs with historical information, and the river-bottom cottonwood groves provide cover for moose, deer, and other critters.

Cap the weekend off with steak fingers at Sir Scott’s Oasis in Manhattan before rolling back to campus.

Back to school we go.

Back to Bozeman we go

For more road-trip ideas and summer options, check out Outside Bozeman’s weekender guide.

Music on Main

Downtown Low-Down

by Taylor Burlage

A local’s guide to downtown Bozeman.

Coming to a new place can be daunting, especially if it’s your first time away from home. But straying off-campus is well worth the effort, so let us help you out. First, if you don’t have your own car, a personal chauffeur, or a gracious friend willing to drive you places, you can always take the Streamline bus. With five different routes, you can get almost anywhere in Bozeman; and better yet, it’s free. Route maps can be found on page 76 of your Blue Light guide, so let’s hop on a bus and head downtown.

Alright, you made it. You have no idea where to start, but you know that you’re hungry. For something cheap but tasty, hit up Naked Noodle or Taco del Sol. Feeling like organic food prepared in-house? Stop off at the downtown Co-op and grab some grub from the hot bar or deli—it ain’t cheap, but it’s healthy and delicious. Looking for a classic Montana meal? Ale Works or Copper are good places to start.

Naked Noodle, your one-stop shop for everything pasta.

Naked Noodle, your one-stop shop for everything pasta.

Now it’s time for some music. Back in your home city, you may have had some unbeatable music venues, but don’t write Bozeman off just yet. There’s a surprisingly robust music scene around here, and it keeps getting better. New this year, the Rialto Theater is definitely up and coming here in the Bozone, offering acts from across the country in a classy, fun setting. Other locations include the Ellen Theatre (where you can catch plays, classic films, and other events, too), the Emerson Theater, and the Willson Auditorium for the symphony. Loads of other local venues cater to the 21-and-over crowd, and they have some great shows as well.

So now that you know where to eat and where the best music is, you just want to explore a little. On the east end of Main Street, the Bozeman Public Library is a great study spot situated right next to the beautiful Lindley Park. With loads of books, free Wi-Fi, and a coffee shop, you can basically live there six days a week.  Looking for music, or some quirky gifts? Cactus Records is where you want to be. Although it’s nice to check out books from the library, sometimes, you just gotta have one for yourself. In that case, head on down to Vargo’s (books and records) or the Country Bookshelf (just books). Both have tons of character and a wide selection of literature. Lastly, head to Sacks thrift store. Although there’s a plethora of thrift stores around town, Sacks is the most colorful. With great prices and excellent finds, thrift-shopping at Sacks is more like hunting for treasure.

The Bridgers looming over the Bozeman Public Library.

The Bridgers looming over the Bozeman Public Library.

Okay, you almost know downtown like the back of your hand, but not quite. You still don’t know where to get your outdoor gear! Odds are, you came to Bozeman at least partly (or mostly) for the recreational opportunities. First, stop by Second Wind Sports. We know that brand-new gear tends to be pricey. Luckily for you, Second Wind has some excellent options when it comes to lightly used gear of any kind. Ladies, head over to Girls Outdoors. With a wide selection of outdoor apparel, GO is a great option. For biking gear, there’s Owenhouse and Summit Bikes & Skis, and Schnee’s is the biggest all-around outdoor store downtown. Lastly, hit up Chalet Sports. Chalet provides top-of-the-line gear for reasonable prices, and the staff are super helpful. It’s worth a look, if only to admire the shiny new stuff.

Girls Outdoors storefront in downtown Bozeman.

Girls Outdoors storefront in downtown Bozeman.

That’s it. You’ve taken your first step towards becoming a full-fledged Bozemanite. Keep on exploring, in and outside of town, and be sure to pack your Blue Light guide along.

Woodward-Running-3

Acclimating to Altitude

By Wangmo Tenzing

Running through the pain. 

Like every other newcomer to Bozeman, I knew that things would be different—from the people and the atmosphere to college life and small-town culture. One thing I didn’t anticipate, however, was how the higher elevation would affect me. I grew up at sea level, and the 4,800-foot altitude change hit me the minute I stepped off the plane. Little did I know that this was just the beginning.

WebOnly_IRoderer_Hikers2

Breathing was worst when exercising—especially aerobic exercises. Since Bozeman’s air is thinner, my lungs needed to work harder to perform. Gradually, however, my stamina grew so that I wasn’t gasping for breath every five minutes. With that behind me, I assumed I had completed the brunt of the work. I was wrong.

After spring semester, I left Bozeman for two months and upon returning, I was back to square one. I huffed and puffed—not the way Bozemanites do at Thanksgiving—and everything hurt when I exerted myself. When I ran, my speed plummeted to turtle-like 12-minute miles.

While daunting, this challenge had to be overcome—while in Bozeman, I planned to accomplish everything I could to the best of my ability. And after much effort, pain, and sobbing in the corner of my room, I finally have.

So here’s what I learned. If you’re like me, these tips should help you accelerate your acclimation to Bozeman’s higher elevation.

DavidTucker-BridgerRidge_001

1. Start small. Don’t expect yourself to perform the way you did at sea level. Pushing yourself too hard can slow your progress.  Your body will take longer to recover, compromising your progress.

2. Try breathing exercises.  By developing a larger lung capacity, you’ll be able to take in more oxygen each time you breathe and therefore, you can exert yourself more.

3. Stay hydrated. Your body loses fluids faster at higher altitudes, so drink water or something with electrolytes. You might have to pee all the time, but that’s better than a headache.

4. Cross-train. Swim, bike, climb, hike, etc. This will increase your  lung capacity, making other activities easier.

5. Enjoy the pain. No, I’m not advocating masochism; just appreciate the pain you put yourself through for the things you love. Doesn’t it make you a little proud that you were able to grunt through the suffering and reap the rewards?

All in all, the most important thing is to enjoy whatever activity you’re doing, even if you can’t breathe while doing it—eventually, your lungs will adapt. That being said, make sure to take care of your body along the way, so that you can continue to enjoy your chosen outdoor sports. Regardless, be sure to get out there and explore some of Bozeman’s landscapes. You can always sob later.

Photo by Ian Roderer

Get Up & Go

by Luke Ebeling

Getting around town.

Let’s face it: the MSU campus is pretty nice, and maybe even partially why you decided to come to school here. So, when you live in a place where your bed, food, a duck pond, friends, classes, and even a gym are all within walking distance, it can be comfortable and easy to never leave. Not to mention plenty of students who live on campus leave their cars at home, or don’t want to pay for the gas to get their cars out of the parking lot.

However, only a couple minutes from campus is a plethora of things to see and do, both indoors and out. If you have limited transportation, here are some suggestions on how to get off campus and experience what’s around you.

New year means new clothes, hopefully reasonably priced.

The cheapest form of transportation: your own two feet.

Use Your Legs
God gave you them for a reason—use them to explore the world around you. I suggest wearing shoes, but if that ain’t your style, no sweat. If you live on campus, the Gallagator and the boulders along it are only a few minutes away, making it easy to get in some trail time or a quick climb. It’s also a just a short walk to Peets Hill or downtown.

Pedal Power
A bike is a great mode of transportation, especially in a place like Bozeman, where things are close and there’s little traffic. Also, it’s human-powered, so it’s good for the environment and your health. A bike is quick and efficient, and will get you a bit further than your feet will take you. Be sure to lock it up; scum that they are, bike thieves do exist, even in a relatively crime-free town like Bozeman.

Mooch a Ride
If you don’t have a car, it’s likely that one or more of your friends do, so hitch a ride. This is a great option for going a bit further than downtown, whether it’s to fish the Gallatin, hike in Hyalite, or ski at Bridger. Don’t be too much of a mooch, and pitch in for gas or spring for a beer. Otherwise, you risk losing your ride, not to mention your reputation.

Photo by Devon Lach

Ride the Short Bus
The Streamline bus system—Bozeman’s fleet of old-school yellow busses—runs all around Bozeman, and to Four Corners, Belgrade, even Livingston. Also, during winter they offer rides up to Bridger, so you can sleep on the way to or from the mountain. Don’t want to buy a bus ticket? Well, you’re in luck: it’s free. For more info or a bus schedule go to streamlinebus.com.

Hyalite area, Montana.

Streaming Service

by the editors

A fishing guide for the attendees of Trout U.

Ever wonder why Montana State is nicknamed Trout U? Because the Bozeman area’s got some of the best trout water in the world, that’s why. You have the privilege of taking classes less than an hour from three blue-ribbon trout streams, and dozens of other fishing options. From alpine lakes in the backcountry to valley streams near town, MSU truly is an angler’s paradise.

If you’re new to the sport or new to the area, the first thing you’ll want to do is grab a copy of the Cast fishing guide. This local publication is full of everything you need to know about fishing in southwest Montana, from matching the hatch to how to get geared up. Once you have your bearings, you need only head to the river. With a little practice—and patience—you’ll be catching your limit in no time. Here’s some basic information to get you started.

The ultimate getaway.

The ultimate getaway.

Essential Gear

Walk into any outdoor store or fly shop, and the quantity, diversity, and variation—not to mention prices—of fishing gear can be overwhelming. Luckily, it’s not all essential to having fun and catching fish. A good all-around setup will keep you casting and catching all season, without breaking the bank.

For fly fishing, you’ll need a rod, reel, line, leader, and tippet. A good 9-foot, 5-weight, fast-action rod should handle everything from lightweight dry flies to heavier streamers. Match it with a 5-weight reel and a WF5 (weight-forward 5-weight) fly line. A 9-foot 5X leader and a range of tippet material, from 2X-6X, should accommodate most scenarios. Confused yet? Don’t worry; it makes sense once it’s all in your hands.

 

Every summer day is a good day for fly fishing.

Every day is a good day for fishing.

 

Next, get yourself some waders and wading boots, especially if you plan to fish in late fall, winter, and/or early spring. Be sure to use a wading belt so your waders don’t fill with water in the event of a plunge. Polarized sunglasses are great for spotting fish, although they can be expensive and are certainly not required.

Organize your flies in a fly box or sleeve; bring nippers for trimming line, floatant to keep your dry flies on top of the water, and pliers or forceps to removing hooks. Pack it all into a small chest-pack, butt-pack, or vest to keep it organized.

 

Brown trout, Yellowstone River

Brown trout, Yellowstone River

Where to Go

Hyalite Creek
The road to Hyalite Reservoir follows this creek and there are plenty of pullouts. Small rainbow trout are plentiful, and a well-presented dry fly will almost certainly entice a strike. For slightly larger fish, head up to the reservoir.

Gallatin River
The valley’s namesake waterway is a great option, thanks to its abundant public access, proximity to town, and high numbers of fish. Whether you fish the upper river in Gallatin Canyon or the lower section out in the valley, taking the time to walk a little ways from your car provides solitude and better fishing. The lower stretch holds larger fish and can provide good dry-fly fishing, especially on cloudy days. Cameron Bridge, Axtell Bridge, and Williams Bridge are all great starting points. Further south, Hwy. 191 follows the river through the canyon on the way to Big Sky and numerous pullouts access the river.

Beartrap Canyon.

Bear Trap Canyon.

 

Lower Madison River / Bear Trap Canyon
Head west and reach the picturesque Bear Trap in less than 30 minutes. From the trailhead, hike along the east side of the river to access nearly eight miles of pocket-water, deep holes, and weedbeds. Generally speaking, this section of river is not known as a dry-fly haven, and it’s not the easiest place to learn how to properly drift an artificial fly. But if you’re after a big brown, the Madison’s your spot. Strip big, ugly streamers like a zonker, double bunny, or wool-head sculpin.

Events

The fishing calendar is full January through December, but certain events stand out. From film festivals to fly-tying clinics, there’s always something for the trout enthusiast. Below are a few highlights; for more, check out Outside Bozeman’s event calendar.

Wednesdays
Fly-tying – Big Sky. Every Wednesday evening, all year long, the pros at Gallatin River Guides teach a fly-tying class. The atmosphere is informal, so whether you’ve tied flies before or not, it’s a great opportunity to work on your skills. Details here.

August 30
Upper Gallatin River Cleanup – Big Sky. Before you get too bogged down in schoolwork, lend a helping hand to the good folks at the Gallatin River Task Force. Clean rivers mean healthy fish, and healthy fish mean good fishing. Details here.

August 31 – September 1
Fly Fishing & Outdoor Festival – Ennis. If you fish, odds are you’ll be spending lots of time in Ennis, a drinking town with a fishing problem about an hour west of Bozeman. Celebrate the end of summer with vendors from throughout the industry and activities including fly-tying demos, casting clinics, and more. Details here.

September 21-23
Trout Spey Days – West Yellowstone. Whether you’ve heard of spey casting or not, this event is sure to be intriguing. The legendary fly shop Big Sky Anglers hosts a weekend of classroom seminars and on-water clinics, all in the fishing hamlet of West Yellowstone, just outside the Park. Details here.

November 4
All waters close to fishing – Yellowstone National Park. After a long summer and a productive fall, it’s time to give the Park’s trout a break for the long winter ahead. They’ll be well-rested and hungry come spring. Details here.

February (Date TBD)
TroutFest Banquet – Bozeman. The Madison-Gallatin chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU) hosts its annual fundraiser every February. The local TU chapter is instrumental in fighting for access, keeping rivers clean, and keeping trout healthy. Details here.

East Gallatin Recreation Area

Parks & Rec

by Nora Mabie

Where to park it in Bozeman.

Whether you’re looking to socialize with friends or enjoy some recreational alone-time, Bozeman’s incredible park system is the place to do it. These are some favorites, but the list doesn’t stop here.

Bogert Park has a spacious field and large pavilion, which makes it an ideal picnic spot. Not hungry? Get your feet wet in the creek, head over to the tennis courts to hit a few balls with a friend, watch an evening concert by the stage, or ice skate during winter.

Runners on top of Peets Hill.

Runners on top of Peets Hill.

Burke Park, also known as Peets Hill, is one of the best off-leash dog parks in Bozeman, so let your pooch gallivant while you walk, run, or ride the trail system. In the evenings, post up at one of the many benches for a breathtaking Bozeman sunset.

Got a problem that needs solving? Head to Depot Park and check out the boulder that challenges climbers with a variety of scenarios. This is one of several in-town boulders, so be sure to hit them all.

The East Gallatin Recreation Area is also a great picnic spot, especially on warm days. It features a sand beach, volleyball courts, a fishing platform, a climbing boulder, and horseshoe pits—plus a trail system that meanders over and along the East Gallatin River.

East Gallatin Recreation Area, formerly known as Bozeman Beach.

East Gallatin Recreation Area, formerly known as Bozeman Beach.

Kirk City Park has picnic tables, baseball fields, and basketball courts. It’s also home to the Bozeman Skate Park, so bring your board or bike.

Into disc golf? Rose Park has a great course, perfect for honing your skills before heading to more challenging locales like Battle Ridge in the Bridgers.

Westlake BMX Park is open year-round, so don’t hesitate to ride on the track or hit the dirt jumps whatever the weather (unless it’s raining). The park also hosts local races on Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday nights throughout the fall season.

IRoderer_BaxterBlueLight-4

The Blue Light’s Blinking

by David Tucker

An introduction to becoming a Bozemanite.

My first winter in Bozeman, the blue light atop downtown’s Baxter Hotel blinked almost every day. In December, I didn’t know what the light meant; I just assumed it always blinked.

Then one day, a fellow Bridger Bowl ski instructor explained the light’s significance: every time the ski hill reports two or more inches of fresh snow, the light blinks.

It’s Bozeman’s invitation to powder.

A Bozeman winter under the Big Sky.

A Bozeman winter under the Big Sky.

Late at night, after catching a show or a bite downtown, I’d wander back to my car and see the light flashing. A smile would spread across my face. Anticipation would build inside me, excitement for soft turns and good times.

That’s our goal with this student guide: we want to invite you to enjoy Bozeman’s outdoor offerings. And not just the skiing, but the hiking, biking, climbing, hunting, fishing, and floating. Whether you’re here for four years or plan on staying a lifetime, we want you to take advantage of all Bozeman has to offer.

With this guide in-hand, you’ll gain entry into an exclusive world of outdoor adventure that has become the Bozeman way of life. But keep in mind: with that access comes responsibility. You’re obligated to look after these forests, rivers, mountains, and trails. Be stewards, and leave them as you found them, for the next generation of students.

Main Street, Bozeman.

Main Street, Bozeman.

In between outings, venture downtown and partake in Bozeman’s unique combination of small-town hospitality and big-city possibility. To soften the blow of those big-city-like prices, we’ve also packed this guide with dozens of cash-saving coupons, good for everything from two-for-one coffees to discounted dorm furniture. Save where you can, and spend the extra on a climbing trip or fly-fishing lessons.

So now that you’re here, accept the invitation. Take the guide, make plans, and follow through. The blue light will soon be blinking, and a smile will spread across your face. The anticipation will build and you’ll have the information you need to make the most of it.

Welcome to Bozeman.

PumaRunner_CrossTraining

Safety Smarts

by Ross Cascio

Safety tips for outdoor recreation.

According to the most recent report published by the Outdoor Foundation, 144 million people participated in outdoor recreation in 2016. Whether your choice of activity is going for a hike in a park, fishing at your favorite lake, or hunting in the woods, it’s important that you do what you can to prevent being a victim of a violent attack.

  • Tell a friend. Make sure to tell a family member, friend, or significant other where you’ll be and when to expect you home before heading out. This way if something seems amiss they will have all the information they need to inform the authorities. If you can, bring a buddy with you. There is always strength in numbers.
  • Pack the right gear. Packing the gear is important and so is making sure you have the essentials in case of an emergency. Portable chargers and a self-defense tool like pepper spray are great additions to your gear bag.
  • Basic skills. Before heading outdoors, it doesn’t hurt to know basic self-defense skills in case an assailant does approach you. The classes often teach body language and verbal skills that can also help deter a situation from escalating as well as physical skills to fend off an attack.
  • Listen to town gossip. It’s always fun and exciting to try out new spots for fishing, hiking, and hunting, but that can leave you vulnerable to attacks because you aren’t familiar with the area. Listen to what other outdoor enthusiasts think of certain spots and what the safe areas are. Online forums and blogs are also a great way to learn about new areas to explore and which ones to stay away from due to safety concerns.
  • Don’t turn your back. Try to pick spots that don’t leave you blind-sided. Most assailants choose to attack from behind because the victim obviously can’t see them and rarely hear them in time to react. If you do have areas that you can’t see, make sure to turn around every once in a while and scan the area.
  • Take in your surroundings. When you finally get to your favorite spot on the lake or in the woods make sure you scope out your surroundings and listen to your gut feeling. If something seems off or if a person is giving you bad vibes, pick up and head to the next location.

For more information, check out the Krav Maga website.

Black bear

Watchable Wildlife

by the editors

Animals of the Montana forests.

Montana is a wildlife hotbed. Unless you’re from the Serengeti, the wildlife-viewing opportunities around here probably surpass anything you’ve seen before. Any given hike can produce half a dozen megafauna sightings, and all the major species seen by Lewis and Clark are still around. Here are some of the usual suspects.

Deer
Hike, bike, run, or ride any mountain trail between Big Timber and Dillon, and you’ll likely see mule deer. Their ubiquity doesn’t make them any less impressive. These ungulates are built for mountain travel. Tell them apart from white-tailed deer by their black-tipped tails, donkey-like ears, and hopping gait. Whitetail tend to stick to the agricultural lowlands, and when spooked, their fluffy white tails flare straight up as they bound away.

Mule Deer

Mule deer raise their heads from grazing.


Elk
While it’s rare to see elk on the trail, it does happen, especially if you hike in the sage-flecked meadows of Yellowstone Park. More likely, you’ll see huge herds on your way to and from the trailhead, often grouped on private land in the valleys, safe from hunters’ bullets. Dawn and dusk, fall, winter, and spring are the best times to spot elk, and Paradise and Madison valleys are both full of them.

A bull elk in velvet

A bull elk in velvet.


Birds of Prey
Eagles, falcons, and hawks enliven Montana’s big, blue sky, and fall is an excellent time to observe them in huge numbers. Many hawk species migrate along the Bridger Range in October, so hike up to the ridge and bust out the binos. Along our many rivers and streams, look for bald eagles, a formerly endangered species that has made a huge comeback. Out in the open fields, hawks and falcons perch on power poles and fencelines, looking for rodents scurrying through the grass.

A bald eagle sitting atop its perch.

A common sight along Montana’s rivers.


Canines
Foxes and coyotes are fairly common sights around these parts. They’re similar in size, but the former’s bright-orange coat makes it unmistakable. While folks new to town might see coyotes as majestic wildlife, many locals see them as a nuisance. Still, watching one lope across an open field as the sun sets on the mountains is a sight to behold. Wolves are far less common, especially outside Yellowstone Park. Inside the Park, if your goal is to see Canis lupus, head in early and follow the naturalist tour-guide vans. The Lamar Valley is a good bet.

A fox looks back after trodding through the snow.

A red fox sizing up the risk.


Small Mammals
Small critters get much less fanfare, but they’re worth mentioning. A few standouts are marmots, pikas, and gophers (aka, Richardson’s ground squirrels). Marmots are fairly common in the alpine, and you can find them by following their high-pitched chirps. Their call is a warning cry, and they’ll start screaming as soon as you’re on their radar. Pikas are far less common, and indeed, they’re in trouble, due to warming temps. They occupy large rock clusters and if you spot large splotches of white droppings, odds are a pika is inside. Gophers are the pigeons of southwest Montana. From spring through mid-summer, they’re everywhere and no local would fault you for picking off one or two with a pellet gun.

Small animal tracks through the snow.

Small animal tracks through the snow.


Ursines & Felines
The “coolest” animals are usually the toothiest. Around here, that means bears, cougars, bobcats, and lynx. Our area has good populations of grizzly and black bears, but odds of seeing a grizzly are pretty low outside of Yellowstone. Black bears are far more common. Tell them apart by the shape of their faces and the telltale hump above the griz’s shoulder. Bobcats are also fairly common, but far stealthier than bears. For one, they’re much smaller—about the size of a medium-sized dog—and they tend to stalk their prey silently, whereas bears are primarily scavengers, wandering around from smell to smell in search of their next meal. Cougars and lynx are extremely hard to see in the wild. Their stealth is unrivaled in the animal kingdom, and if you see one, count yourself among the lucky few.

Up close and personal with a mountain lion.

Up close and personal with a cougar.