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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