The Montana winters are long and cold. That means it’s “Puppy Time”!

Think about getting your new favorite hunting buddy now. The Animal Shelters in your area have some great prospects just waiting for you.

Last year at this time my wife came home with a new puppy! Two years ago, I did the same to her. Her new puppy was a “whoops” dog. It turned out to be half Golden Retriever and half German Shorthair Pointer!

Wow! So the new puppy is jet black and has a long tail. To me she looks like a Black Lab with a Pointer nose. The parents were both hunters and neither was black. The new pup was so small that she fit into a 5 gallon bucket! Keep in mind that I also possess photos of my kids in a 5 gallon bucket!

My first thought was, can the new pup point? Talk about a hunter! Not only can she point, but she is an awesome hunter! No bird is safe around my new pup.

So what do you name this new family friend? Remember to never name a dog anything that rhymes with “no, sit, stay, come, or bad”! You will need all of these sounds for future commands. Single syllables are important too. You don’t want to call your new pup “Bartholomew”. It will take forever to get their attention.

My sweet new pup would be named after her previous family members. Two great hunters named “Sheba” and “Coalby”. “Sheba” was an older dog on her way to the pound. Her owner was moving and had no hope to take her along. We adopted this wonderful dog into our family. “Coalby” was a black German Shorthaired Pointer that was not typical. Neither was wanted by others. Both were the most awesome hunters and friends that I have been blessed to know.

Our new pup would be called “Shelby”! In the field I call her “Shell”. My other homeless pup is called “Magnum”! “Mag” and “Shell” are the BEST hunting buddies you could ever ask for. Both are great hunters and sweet dogs that just want to be loved and hunt birds. If people were as loving and full of energy as dogs, they would only live to be 12 to 15 years old. When we lose a great pup, the best therapy is a new one.

There are a lot of pups just like mine out there. Maybe the “Puppy Boom” is just another result of boredom during these long Montana winters. Checkout your local pet shelters and newspapers for these special gifts!

Keep in mind that bird season is just 9 months away!

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Vacuum Sealing Systems have been around for a while but I am used to the old school way of packing my harvest.

Try out one of these great packaging systems now. Your butchered meat, burger, fish and pre-prepared meals will surprise you. Bob Wards has a full selection of Vacuum Sealing gear and bags. With Christmas coming up, this would be a great gift.

Fishing and hunting is also a great way to enjoy life. Harvesting your fish, fowl and meat is a wonderful way to feed your family and friends. I do not take any of my harvest to a butcher or processor. We have all had our ups and downs when someone else finishes what we started. Unwanted hair, scales, bone or dirt does not make for a tasty presentation. For decades, I have also double wrapped my wild game and fish using plastic wrap, baggies and freezer paper. This tried and true method was fine until now.

The whole point of freezing our food is so we can preserve our future meals. We expect them to stay fresh and flavorful. After about 3 months, our frozen bounty starts to go downhill. The longer we keep it, the worse it gets. We all know buddies that have frozen meat and fish from years ago. What an incredible waste.

Wild game is delicious! This meat is also more expensive than store bought food. If you were to add in the costs related to hunting and fishing, we would discover that it’s cheaper to just go and buy our meat and fish. But what fun would that be?

Food frozen in Vacuum Sealing Systems, extend freshness and keep food 5 times longer than other methods. I found that they are quicker to package and use than other wrapping methods. The finished labeled product also looks great.

One great surprise is using pre-made frozen meals. Preparing Biscuit gravy ahead of time is a great example. Your Vacuum Sealed biscuits and gravy can be heated in a pot of boiling water. When hot, cut open the bag and serve. The hot water can then be used for coffee or washing. Soup, meat loaf, spaghetti or any pre-made meal can be re-heated in this manner. You can be a creative and speedy cook with minimal cleanup. If you can boil water, you can serve a meal to hungry campers fast and easy.

One of my new sealed meals is Meatballs! We all love them on a sandwich, soup or pasta. Meatballs just take a long time to make. I make a big batch ahead of time and Vacuum Seal them. Re-heat using the boiling method and you are meal ready.

Montana Meatballs!

1 ½ lbs. ground meat, ¾ cup Quick Oats, 1 cup milk, 3 tbsp. finely chopped onion, 1 ½ tsp. of salt, black pepper to taste.

Combine meat and oats in a bowl. Pour in the milk. Add the onion and salt and pepper. Combine gently. Roll or scoop the mixture into golf ball size balls. I use a tray to set them on and

allow them to rest in a refrigerator for 30-45 minutes.

Dredge the chilled meatballs in flour and brown in 4 tbsps. Canola oil. As they brown, place them into a baking dish and bake for about 40 minutes at 350 degrees.

Sauce; Mix 1 cup of ketchup, 2 tbsp. sugar, 3 tbsp. vinegar, 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce, 6 tbsp. minced onion and a dash of Tabasco. Heat and serve for a great add on.

Now that you have a pile of Montana Meat Balls, freeze them in your Vacuum Seal Bags for later.

Even Montana Grant can learn

new tricks!

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I love to eat fish! We all have our favorite recipes for whatever species we enjoy. Trout are a healthy and great fish to eat.

Try making some fish into a “Burger”! I saw this idea on a cooking show and started to play around with this idea. I called mine “Brookie Burgers”. I used fresh caught Brook trout from Hyalite Lake. If you want to rename it, go for it. As a camp cook, we always need to more creative about what we serve. This recipe is certainly now a part of my Fish Camp menu.

Montana fish tend to have higher levels of toxins. Gold mining waste and Yellowstone’s Geo-thermal features have left lead, mercury and other goodies in the food web. The state publishes a Consumption Brochure that identifies species and locations of higher levels of toxins. Fish that tend to live longer also have higher levels of pollutants in their meat.

So anyway, my point is to clean and filet with this in mind. Remove skin, belly fat and fins. Soak the filets in the solution I have written about before. Search, “Sweetening Fish Filets”, on the Montana Outdoor Radio Show website. The results for all fish recipes will be amazingly healthy and more flavorful after you use this soak recipe.


Cut the skinned filets of 5 pan sized trout into small pieces, pea sized, and place in a small mixing bowl.

Add finely chopped onion, and a tbsp. of lemon juice.

I spice with Old Bay seasoning to taste. This seasoning contains salt and pepper but you can always add more.

Add a cup of Panko crumbs, 2 eggs and mix all ingredients together gently. The eggs and Panko hold the fish together.

Form and press into burgers using a burger mold / ring. In a pinch use an inch wide piece of cardboard that you tape into a circle. I have also cut plastic tubs from used up sour cream containers into molds. The burger should match the size of the bun you are using. Press more Panko onto the top and bottom of the burger

Fry the Fish Burger in butter or your favorite oil until done. I like a little crunchy char on the outside.

Place the burger onto a toasted bun. I added a mayo mixed with some Old Bay on the bottom bun. Put a fresh spoon full of coleslaw on the top.

Now you can certainly mix and match all the spices to your own tastes. Tartar sauce or the abundant flavored Mayo’s are also available. The crunch from the Panko makes for a firm and tasty Burger. Enjoy naming your own special and healthy Fish Burger.

What I like about this burger is that it is perfect for a tailgate feast. Few dishes are needed. This meal is quick and simple with very little mess and a lot of fresh flavor. Everyone can customize their burger to their taste.

I have fished around the world and caught a pile of memories with some special friends. Our best memories often end up with food and fun. The fishing was just the excuse to get out and together for more adventures.

Tight lines,

Montana Grant

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shedIt’s time to get some serious exercise! After a cold winter, it is time to come out of our caves and get back into shape. All we need is some motivation to get outdoors and exercise.

SHEDS are the answer. There is something magical about antlers. While kids may love to find Easter Eggs, I love to search for antler sheds.

I have always been amazed that deer and elk have to grow new antlers each season. During prime time for antler growth, elk can grow 1 ½ inches of antler a day! The antlers attach to the deer’s head at a place called the “pedicle”. When the photoperiod of the sun gets to a certain length, the antler stops growing and the velvet covering comes off. This occurs around the end of August.

Usually in March, the old antler literally falls off or “sheds”! I have seen antlered deer as late as May. After that, any antlered deer is probably a hermaphrodite. These deer have both sex features and produce antlers that stay covered in velvet and may not shed.

Make sure that you have permission from the land owners before you begin. Antlers are precious to some for their monetary value. Competition can be furious. On many public lands, you may not enter before a certain date. Make sure you know the rules. The MT FWP can address any questions.

Back east, many states would not allow you to pick up any sheds or road kill trophies. Antlers were destined to be gnawed on by rodents or weather away. Without a legal tag, antlers were to be left in nature.

Antler is primarily made up of calcium or bone. Bone has no nerves so bucks and bulls feel nothing but pressure. Some folks say that deer make rubs on trees to scrape off the “itchy” velvet. With no nerves there is no need to scratch. In some countries, crushed antler is sold as an aphrodisiac to aid with sex drive. I have never eaten crushed antler but I do get excited when I see a big buck or bull coming through the forest!

My shed destination is where I expect the deer to winter. Usually this is lower elevations with lots of coulees and cover. Find the deer sign and you will find sheds. Look for trails and fence crossings. Think like a deer and travel these areas. The vibrations resulting from a deer jumping across a ditch, log, or fence can cause the antler to fall off. Low branches can snag an antler and cause it to shed.

I save most of my antler sheds for decoration, crafts, or education. Antlers also make awesome chew toys for pets. I trim any sharp tines off and let the dogs chew away. This training also helps dogs to find antlers on their own.

I drove my 4 wheeler into my prime shed collection site. Sturdy boots, walking sticks, binoculars, and a pack was all the gear I needed. The hunt was on. As I travelled down a deer trail, I looked to my left and there it was….my first shed of the year. A white tailed deer 5 pointer! It would have been a great buck during hunting season. The good news is that this trophy buck survived the hunting season and will be waiting for me next fall. It’s a date!

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Life can be challenging! We all have the need to release our stress. The long Montana winters can be kept in balance by the great hunting and fishing. If you don’t enjoy the recreation that is available or find ways to release your stress, life gets tougher. Things are hardest for the kids. Our youth end up getting in trouble when they get bored. They need some opportunities for more stress relief.

We only need to look at the outdoors to find some stress relief. Target shooting is a cheap, safe, and fun way to release stress. President Roosevelt would place portraits of his political adversaries on his White House lawn rifle range. There was something therapeutic about punching holes in paper. His stress was emptied along with his cartridges. Now he could make wise and important decisions without anger.

I taught my wife and kids how to shoot. Whether with pistols, rifles, or shotguns, there is something empowering about pulling a trigger and hitting a target. Your confidence grows with each bull’s-eye. Life is better when we are on target. If guns are not your “cup of tea”, try archery.

Shooting is not a gender thing. Many of the best shots that I have seen are women. Every new shot is an opportunity for success. To be a great shot, you need to learn “self- control”. This is exactly what most people are looking for in life.

I think this is why “shooter video games” are so popular. Many parents don’t allow kids the opportunity for actual shooting sports. They are afraid of the safety issues. The difference is that with real shooting there are real rules responsibility and safety. Accuracy and shooting skill is important. A true understanding of weaponry is required. When hunting, there are limits and regulations to follow. In a video game, the rules are impersonal and the goal is how many things you kill and how much ammo you have!

Shooting is not for everyone. It is an earned privilege. There may be other reasons when prevention from shooting is a good idea. Mental or behavioral concerns must be considered and monitored. Find other less lethal ways to release stress.

I am not saying that we should allow for “unsupervised” activities. Shooting is about safety, training, skill and fellowship. The rules, limits, laws and structure around shooting sports teach us many important life skills. Shooting opportunities must be earned and can be taken away just like cars and other privileges. Safety is always paramount. Many anti-gun advocates have never pulled a trigger. They just assume that if there are no guns, all will be safe. History shows this not to be true. Life is about choices and many of us “choose” to be able to protect life.


Prior to World War 2, shooting was part of the school curricula. Rifle ranges were part of Physical Education. This paid off when the US went to war. Our young recruits were great and disciplined marksmen. Guess who won the war? Shooting is a symbol of freedom.

When in a supervised environment, shooting is a wonderful way to relax and spend quality time with family and friends. Each trigger pull allows us to focus on something other than our problems. Success at shooting targets and cans builds our confidence. We refuse to become a victim. Clearer and more focused minds make better choices.

There is something rewarding when we celebrate a can full of holes. For a few moments, we did something safe, well, and fun. No one was hurt, stress was dealt with in a healthy way, and life can go on.

Shoot straight and safe!

Montana Grant

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Montana is blessed with big time awesome campsites. Our state and federal agencies maintain wonderful campsites throughout Big Sky Country.

When using more “primitive”, remote sites it is important to consider more than the scenery. First, Think Safety. Look for standing dead trees and overhead debris. A falling dead snag is bad news.

Think about critters. If camping near water remember that nocturnal beasts use these areas routinely. Storms miles away can cause fast flooding.

If near marshes or other wetlands, it’s a pretty good bet that bugs will be there too. Montana mosquitos grow antlers and can really wreck a campout. Ants, flies, and other insects deserve your consideration also.

Snakes!!!! Need I say more except maybe BEARS!!!

Do a search before set up. During a canoe trip down the Missouri River, we beached at a campsite and quickly discovered 24 mean rattlers that were there first. We camped on an island.

Demonstrate minimal impact techniques. Avoid chopping and nailing into the trees. Find creative and discreet ways to prepare your site.

Fire safety is paramount. Wind can quickly blow fires out of control. Have a full fire bucket handy. Use existing fire rings or construct one with ample rocks. When putting your fire out, do the Smokey Bear procedure completely. We don’t want to love our campsites to death. Pack out all of your trash and dispose it properly.

Not all sites have Outhouse comfort stations and yes, mammals do crap in the woods. Scat is an attractant to predators so think about waste disposal. Always cook away from your campsite so the smells are limited. Bear protection is a good idea. It works on more than bears.

As an Eagle Scout, I was taught to leave a campsite better than you found it!

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Maryland’s North Branch of the Potomac River is a wild and wooly trout stream. My friend Keith and I went out for a day of great trout fishing. The river’s access point is called “Lost Land Run”, and on this day it was almost true.

Keith prides himself on handcrafted rods, flies and gear. His hand crafted wading staff was truly a masterpiece. He would attach it to his wader belt with a stout strap.

To protect the staff tip from damage, he attached a brass 45 cal. shell casing. This tip was glued and riveted for a strong and perfect fit.

“The fishing is always better on the other side of the river”. Keith decided to make the crossing despite the high water. His “Thighs of Steel” and “Sturdy Custom Wading Staff” would certainly keep him safe.

Just as he was into the heart of the current, Keith lost his footing. His wading staff was wedged between the rocks and he was off his feet and dangling in the current! The wading staff tipped with the 45 cal. shell casing has a lip around the edge and apparently hooked onto a rock.

His sturdy wading staff strap was securely attached to his wading belt. Fortunately so was his sheath knife. Keith was able to draw his knife and sever his own “wading staff umbilical”!

What amazed me was how he did this without losing his head, rod, glasses, or hat. He made it safely to shore safe and soaked.

The custom wading staff was still snagged in the river. The last time we saw it, the cut “umbilical” was waving farewell in the current.

So much for “Tight Lines”!

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Maryland Department of Natural Resources – Fish & Game:

Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks:

  • “Read news releases are about emergency fire and/or drought conditions that may affect your recreational use of Fishing Access Sites as well as other public lands.”
  • “Find a list of all Fishing Access Sites currently affected by restrictions or closures, including fire restrictions and closures. Please check waterbodies (below) as well to ensure the appropriate waterbody doesn’t have other restrictions.”
  • “Read news releases are about emergency conditions of waterbodies or parts thereof, that may affect your fishing or other recreational activities. These emergencies may be due to fire, drought, weather, or other unforeseen dangers.”
  • “Find a list of all waterbodies currently affected by restrictions or closures, including fishing restrictions and closures. Please check Fishing Access Sites (above), State Parks (below), and Wildlife Management Areas (below) as well to ensure the appropriate land doesn’t have other restrictions.”

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Sadly, there are evil people in our world. Whether they use a gun, bomb, airplane or violence, it comes down to gaining two things. Attention or control. Everyone wants it and no one wants to lose it.

In our lives, we live this every day. It comes from an abusive bully, spouse, parent, boss or from ourselves. Some folks don’t know the difference between good or bad attention. They feel out of control. To them, any attention is good attention.

How would we know when something is good if we didn’t know something bad? As children, we are supposed to learn right and wrong. Some never do.

We blame guns, drugs, abuse….we are so good at making excuses and avoiding real issues. The right things to do are never the easiest. We enable problems to persist because it’s uncomfortable to get involved.

Why not shoot up a school? Schools try to teach control and give attention. This is a place advertised as a “GUN FREE ZONE” where a selfish, sick person can feel invited to do as they choose at no risk.

Violent video games, media and sports condition participants to not care. For some, life becomes a game or a fantasy. Acting on this allows them to feel control and get their 15 minutes of fame or attention.

The Newtown massacre is an example of a sick cowards’ way to deal with their selfish needs. For a moment, they’re in control and the news media awards them with their 15 minutes of attention.

Somebody always knows something and fails to speak up. Perhaps this is where we need to place blame. What makes me nervous is how the media and political attention is encouraging us to disarm and is motivating the next offender.

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