Christmas trees are a must for celebrating the holidays! Real trees are the best choice if you want a traditional holiday feel. Pines, spruces, and firs look amazing, but also smell wonderful. What would Christmas be without a real tree?

Cutting your own tree is a fun, family activity that provides lots of holiday memories.  On the surface, this sounds fun and easy, but…. to cut a tree, you need to go to a place where trees live. If it is on a tree farm, you are golden. These commercial farms are usually somewhat level and most of the trees are winners at first sight. Once the tree is cut, a tractor guy rolls by, takes your newly cut tree, and off to “Santa’s workshop” you go. There you pay for the tree, and enjoy cookies and hot chocolate while listening to Christmas music.

REAL “MOUNTAIN MAN” TREE CUTTING is a different sport altogether.  This season’s tree cutting day was scheduled on the same weekend as the local gun show. Montana Grant, and an all-Mountain- Girl crew, one of which is 2 months pregnant, completed the mission this year.

Trekking to the tree harvest areas also means a 4-wheel drive rig. Once you have your $5.00 national forest permit, the adventure can begin. What a deal, right?

So, off to the mountains we go. Of course, the dogs, dressed in their warm coats, come too. A sidearm, just in case the Big Bad Wolf, grizzly bears, or mountain lions get too curious, or see the dogs as dinner. The truck is full of heavily dressed tree cutters, dogs, and gear. The higher we go into the mountains, the deeper the snow. The narrow, slick roads are getting worse. This means that you’ve gone high enough. Time to park and go tree hunting.

The “tree hunt” requires a mountain trek, most likely in snow. You will need a small, safe, sharp saw. The folding hunting saws work great. Winter boots with decent socks that keep your feet dry are a must. Gloves are important to keep your hands warm and to protect your hands from sap and stickers. Walking sticks help you to fall more gently when snagging your feet onto hidden logs and branches.

When the tree trek begins, the perfect tree is elusive. “Too wide, too fat, the side is scrawny, too tall, too short…” After a few hundred yards, the trees start looking better. Suddenly that tall, fat, scrawny tree next to the truck, is looking better and better.

Going downhill is a bad idea when beginning your search for a tree. Downhill means uphill drags! Start searching uphill so gravity can be your friend. Our crew, of course, liked the downhill trees better. After finding several likely candidates, the cutting begins. Pulling the tree away from the cut is a good idea. This prevents the saw from pinching and getting stuck. There is no easy way to cut a tree. You need to get down into the snow, under the tree, and begin. Don’t mind the flushing grouse and dogs that want to supervise your cutting.

TIMBER!!! Now the tree is down, and all are happy. A few more trees fill out our tags. Now is the time when the tree trekkers understand the uphill search, downhill drag theory. Dragging a tree or two uphill in the snow, in heavy boots, with cold feet, calling for the dogs…get the picture?

“Buck, Bella, LaLa, Stay close!” Only Angus, the wiener dog, is listening. He is right in our tracks. I am not sure if this is because he is a good listener or because his legs are 5 inches long and we are in 8 inches deep in snow. His “junk” must be freezing! Montana Lin gets tired of holding poor Angus, takes off her scarf and makes a small nest in one of the trees we are dragging. Angus is placed into the nest and the tree is now 15 lbs. heavier. Montana Amanda and Montana Jessie are dragging the tree, with their tired passenger onboard, slowly uphill. Angus is loving life as he rides in his tree sled. What looked like a small tree in the forest, now appears to be a candidate for the White House lawn. The rest of the dogs are now covering the countryside.

Parkas, shirts, scarfs, and gloves begin to unbutton and are gradually removed. Sweat and stink begins to overpower the wonderful pine scented trees. Toes and feet are wet and cold. “How far is the truck?”, “Buying a tree is easier”, “Where are the dogs?” …  50 yards, 50 yards, 50 more, onward! “What was that noise?” “I think I heard a truck! That is where we parked.” Only 50 yards to go!

VICTORY!!!! Now we need to turn the truck around and load up. The only problem is that the narrow and slick roads make it tough to turn around. So up the mountain I go, looking for a place to turn around. Every pull-off is stacked with snowmobilers, 4-wheeler rigs, and trailers. As the snow deepens, traction is getting worse. Finally, a successful 20-point turn is made, and I maneuver down the hill slipping and sliding, luckily avoiding the ditches and banks.

FINALLY!!! The trees, dogs, and gear are loaded. “Where’s Angus?”, He is still asleep in the tree nest. Hot chocolate is poured and down the mountain we go. The truck smells of a wonderful aromatic blend of wet dogs, sweaty tree trekkers, pine, cocoa, and oh, someone was drinking a beer.

So, now the trees are home, and all is well. WRONG!!! Now comes the time to place the 12-foot tree into the 8-foot room. A stand is made, lights need to be hung and, hold on… “The lights are not in the right place, they need to be hung again”, “The tree needs to go over here.”, “Why won’t these lights turn on?”

Every Montana Mountain Man who has cut their own Christmas tree, knows this story well. Those $50 trees in the mall parking lot are sounding a little better each season!

Merry Christmas, and pass me another beer!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at


“BEST” is relevant to each hunter. All hunters have their “best” story, joke, recipe, or buck. The thing about the Best, is that once you do you best, the bar is now raised higher. Best, changes with each better best! Every hunter wants to get the most bang for their buck.

Your first buck starts off being your best buck. Hunter’s are happy to fill a tag. The excitement and satisfaction are always the best. What makes your buck the Best is the story, events, companions, or adventure. No two bucks are exactly alike. First bucks, big bucks, all bucks, are simply great.

One of my Best Bucks came 30 years ago. I had just become a Father. Hunting season was now an afterthought. I was committed to stay home and care for the new daughter and recovering Mama. My hunting buddies were off to camp, and their favorite hot spots for opening day. They all made fun of my poor timing. I would be home making soup and changing diapers while they would be slaying monster bucks!

Mrs. Montana Grant told me to go hunting, but be home by 10:00 am. How dare my friends disrespect Montana Grant. Not a problem. At least I could go through the motions of hunting and enjoy the opening day sunrise.

I was in my stand before sunrise waiting for the Big Buck. Sure enough, a herd of 30 deer came by. All were does except for one Big Buck. I leveled my slug gun and pulled the trigger. Deer went in ever direction after the shot. I lost sight of the buck.

After a little searching, I found a blood trail and after some brief tracking, I found my Big Buck! The huge 9 pointer would become my Best Buck. I named it “Jessie’s Buck,” after my daughter. The rack is on display in her home to this day. Oh, and I was home at 9:30am and none of my disrespectful hunting buddies tagged a deer.

Each buck, like sons and daughters, are no more or no less special. There have certainly been bigger and better bucks in my hunting archives, but all legal and honest harvested bucks are the Best. Every buck represents a special and exciting moment in time. The feeling of success never disappoints.

The Best part about best bucks is the quest. The hunting is the Best part. Scouting, companions, preparation, and testing yourself each year become the rite of passage. There are only so many hunting seasons in our lives. When the moment of truth arrives, each hunter does their best to make the best choice, shot, or decision. When a plan comes together, every buck counts.

All Bucks Matter!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at


Wild game “backstraps, tenderloins, fish, loins, or filets”; no matter what you call them, this cut of meat, along the back of the critter, is simply delicious. Filet Mignons are cut from this amazing and lean cut of meat. Loins are often the first cut removed from the critter. Don’t forget the smaller inner loins, inside the body cavity, and near the back.

During hunting camp, these cuts rarely make it home. Once removed, they can be cleaned with salt water. The inner loins can be cut into cubes, and soaked in milk. Warm them up, make a gravy, add some noodles and enjoy. This is often the reward meal for a hunter on his first harvest.

Marinate loins in a bath of cheapo red wine, Montreal Steak Seasoning, and olive oil. This marinate is perfect for beef and all wild critters. Let the meat soak up the flavor for an hour, a day, or a week. Once you try this simple marinate, you will never cook your meat another way.

The larger ventral loins can be cut into more manageable pieces and grilled, smoked, baked, fried, or cut into butterfly steaks. There are so many options. These recipes taste wonderful. The main cooking tip is to not overcook wild game. If you cook it too long, it just gets tough. Medium rare is more than enough cooking.

Stuffed loin roasts are maybe the most decadent way to cook loins. This recipe can be used with wild game, or pork loins. Cut the loin crosswise ¾ of the way through. Stuff each slice cavity with a ½ piece of pineapple slices. You could also use cream cheese, peppers, tomatoes, etc. depending on the flavors you enjoy. Salt and pepper. If you are not a pineapple fan, use Bleu Cheese, bacon, or whatever you enjoy.  Once sliced, the presentation is awesome.

In a separate bowl, add your favorite BBQ sauce, chopped onion, garlic, diced peppers, pineapple juice from the can slices. Jalapeno is optional. Mix and pour over the loin. If you don’t like pineapple juice, try apple cider, beer, or whatever you enjoy or have on hand. Tie the loin up to hold it together. Don’t over stuff the loin. We tend to add more stuffing than is necessary. Less is more here. The other secret is to allow the loin to rest 5 minutes before slicing and serving. Pouring an Au Jus over top, at the end, is also a nice touch.

You can also cut the loin like a loaf of bread. Unfold and fill the loin with your stuffing. Now tie it up with a string. You can also wrap the loin in foil and cook it. This will not sear the meat, or give the grill marks you may desire. Cooking the stuffed loins in a Sous Vide, hot water bath, style also is tasty but lacks the smoky grill touch.

Bake at 450 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Now lower the temperature to 350 degrees for 35 minutes. You can adapt this recipe to use on your charcoal grill, Traeger Smoker, or Green Egg style grills. Each method enhances the flavor. At hunting camp, I have cooked them in a cast iron Dutch Oven over a wood fire. Just remember that less is more. Think low and slow. DON’T OVERCOOK THE MEAT!

Also plan the other courses when preparing the meal. Try to have everything done at the same time. Hungry hunting or fishing camp pigs do not want to wait. Bake or mash potatoes ahead of time. Veggies like green beans, asparagus can be grilled quickly. Simply add some olive oil to them and season with the Montreal steak seasoning. Stir them up in a bowl or shake and bake them in a zip lock bag. Grill them slowly and serve with the loins. Sweet potatoes offer a different flavor that also goes well with wild game.

Desserts are also important. Always try to make hunting camp, or wild game meals special.  Perhaps a baked apple, cobbler, or S’mores would be a good choice. Dutch ovens create new twists on great meals. Being a great cook is a great way to get invited to hunting and fishing camps.

PIG OUT and Enjoy!

Montana Grant

For more Montana grant, visit his blog at


Catching PIGS is a goal of most anglers. If not Pigs, then “Hawgs, lunkers, whales, toads, jumbos, monstigators”, “troutasarus”, or simply “monster” fish! Size matters to the Pig Power Fishermen.

Nothing is more exciting than making hundreds of casts and finally you connect with a Pig. The thrill lasts a lifetime. It is so funny how we can forget some memories but always remember the big fish, big bucks, and big events in our life.

PIGS need to be hunted. They are not just found in every pool or riffle. You need to know where to look for Pigs! Once you target PIGS, you will catch fewer fish but you will hook bigger fish. Big fish are major predators which means you need to fish major flies, or lures.

Casting huge flies, or lures is work. You need stiffer, heavier, and beefier gear. Patience is a must. I remember hearing a Musky fisherman talk about how it takes 10,000 casts to get one strike from a trophy musky. This takes a lot of endurance, confidence, skill, and casting. Once you are hooked up, it is all worth it.

Hunting a big buck or bull elk is similar. You spend hours, and days, waiting for a moment. Those moments of excitement are amazing, and remembered forever.

No matter how many fish you have caught in a lifetime, hooking a Pig makes you feel like a kid again. Nothing else in life is as important as putting the pig into a net. The guy working the net has a thankless job.

Years ago, I was on a walleye trip to Canada. The lake we fished was a fly in lake called Echo Lake. There were also HUGE PIG PIKE in the lake. About midweek into the trip, I hooked a Beast! My friend was responsible for the net. He netted the 50+ inch monster and, despite my directions, lifted the net, and fish, hoping to swing him into the boat. The net broke and the pike slapped his tail, as he swam free. Needless to say, the Pig got away!!!

Damn!!! Pigs that escape the net may be the best memories of all. These failures make us fish harder and longer. We had a taste of Pig Power and want more. “There can be only one!”

Every cast could be the one that hooks a Pig. That is why fishermen never catch enough fish. “One more cast please!”

Pig Out!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at

Q and L

Questions inspire answers. Everyone has an opinion, complaint, or judgement. Sometimes the best answer is to ask a better question.

So, you want to become a better hunter, fisherman, or sportsman. Start by finding a great mentor, teacher, or role model. Now ask the best questions you can. Be honest about your weaknesses and be open minded. Ask great questions. The truth is, you will probably not like the answer you are given. Instead, you want the answer that you can own.

Now “Listen!” When I was a young fly fisherman, I went to a seminar being taught by Lefty Kreh. He is the greatest fly fisherman I know. My casting stroke was poor and it had to be the rod, line, or something that was not about me. After demonstrating a few of my sloppy loops, he asked me, “What kind of girls did I like?” I had no clue how this was relevant but I told him that “I liked girls with big smiles!” Next, he had me cast and say, “I like girls with big smiles!”, and come forward with the cast on “smiles!” The problem with my cast was in the timing. I was moving the rod too fast. Using the phrase allowed me to know the exact moment when the line had flowed completely backward, and loaded the rod, for the return cast. Lefty’s question became my answer!

The best answers are the ones that you discover through trial and error, or personal experience. Humans learn best when they make a Big, Fat, Mistake. If it hurts, makes you feel bad, or costs you money, or pride, the sting will help you avoid making the mistake again.

Make it your own! Whatever answer that you come up with, put your twist on it. If you find a successful fly, add some of your own color to it. If you hunt an area that was shared with you, look at the maps and find a similar one.

Often, we tend to listen less, and are too anxious to give our input. Clarify the question with another question. Construct your questions so that they lead you to the answer. If the questioner comes to the answer on their own, they will use it, remember it, and grow.

When I perform seminars at outdoor shows, clubs, or schools, I ask the viewers to take at least one thing away with them. This challenge usually leads to more retention. The audience wants to be entertained, but they also have some questions they would like answered.

So, the next time you have a question, or answer, try listening more closely, and more often. You will be surprised what you hear!

Say What?

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at


Antelope hunting is an annual, western, hunting tradition. “Speedgoats, Stinkgoats, or Lopes” are all names for a critter that is the last survivor of an ancient deer species. The Lewis and Clark expedition made the first documentation of this native North American critter.

Much of Montana requires a lottery permit to access vast areas of public land. Eastern Montana tags are more easily obtainable. A second Doe tag is also available in some areas. Check out the regulations before heading afield.

Antelope hunters often practice long range shooting, close in bowhunting, or stalking. Opening day can be crowded but hunting is productive throughout the season. Antelope are not leapers and will only crawl under fences. These crossings and water holes are great places to set up a blind.

A normal antelope hunting day allows you to see distance groups of “lopes” all day long. Anticipating their path of travel, or putting the sneak on them requires skill and patience. Antelope can be seen at great distances due to their white rump hairs. They can straighten their hollow hair to eliminate excess heat, or lay their hairs flat to gain warmth.

Eyes are positioned so that Lopes can see 320 degrees. This field of view helps them to survive for 7-10 years. These fast critters can reach speeds of 60 mph! Only a Cheetah is faster.

 “Horns” are a combination of hair and keratin. They are not antlers. Antelope horns sport the only forked horns in nature. A horn sheath is annually shed and a new one begins to grow over the bony core on both bucks and does.

Antelope eat many toxic plants that are harmful to domestic farm animals. They also target available grasses and low crops. Primary antelope predators are coyotes and humans. Disease and weather can also impact herds dramatically.

Once the Lope is down, it is important to dress it and allow cooling to begin. Dragging a dead critter will quickly remove the softer hair. A cart is perfect for transporting harvested critters from the field. Each antelope weighs 80-120 lbs.

Hunting friends Mike and Shawn hunt “Lopes” annually. Antelope make for great eating. This year’s hunt began at sunrise, with a couple of mile hike to the antelope grounds. A game cart is pulled along and stashed along a fence row until needed. Usually, tags are filled by noon. 25-06 and flat shooting calibers work well. Rifle shots are usually 150-400 yards.

Now the work begins. A “Cart e Lopes” is hard to navigate across open prairie. Team carting makes the work easier. Tags must be attached immediately upon reaching the downed animal. Wardens typically set up roadside check stations to examine harvests and licenses.

Once back to the truck, with a “Cart e Lopes”, the beverage is a little colder, hunters are a little happier, and the meat will provide food over the upcoming long winter.

Hunt honest, safe, and often!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at


Every sportsman wants to be the winner. Whether they win the biggest buck, bull, or fish, the trophy wall will celebrate the winning memorial. If it is not on the wall, it will be in the conversation.

During a lifetime of hunting and fishing, sportsmen contribute to protecting, managing, and conserving our wild places. No other organization contributes as much to our wild places than hunters and fishermen! That’s simply a fact.

Fees for licenses, permits, access, taxes, and every other supporting element of the sport are important. No other sport requires more fees, training, expenses, and time than hunting, and fishing. Workaholics that have few hobbies, and interests do not understand this. They simply find ways to limit vacation, days off, and fun.

Sportsmen contribute taxes through the Pittman- Robinson, and the Dingell- Johnson Acts. These acts, levy a tax on all implements of the sport. Every gun, bow, rod, reel, lure, or hook costs additional fees. This money is then re-appropriated back to every state based upon the number of hunting, and fishing, licenses purchased. The funds are earmarked to purchase, manage, and maintain public parks and wildlife areas.

Many states put these funds into the general fund to help balance the state’s budget. This loophole re-directs these important, earmarked funds. Anti-hunting and fishing groups do all they can to destroy these sports, and contribute little. Most anti- hunting, and fishing organizations do not spend their funds on habitat, parks, greenways, or wild places. Every American can access open spaces paid for by sportsmen’s dollars. Many of these places allow no hunting or fishing.

Outdoorsman that survive a lifetime of hunting and fishing can now become “winners”! At the age of 64, license fees decline. Instead of paying full price for these licenses, the fees are greatly reduced. In MD. A hunting license is only $5.00! In MT. these veteran hunters and fishermen can purchase a “Sportsmen’s License” for just $25:00 each year.

This is good news for every state. These aged hunters are still contributing to the sport. License sales are rising. The bad news is that aging hunters have aged. Most of my hunting and fishing buddies have died, have handicaps or health issues, are physically unable to venture out, or have simply become lazy.

Who wins? The last sportsmen standing have an opportunity to celebrate their sport for a little less expense.

Congratulations on being the winner!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at


Size does not always matter when it comes to boats! There are certainly an ocean of boat styles and sizes to choose from. Anyone that has lived near water has had a flotilla of boats.

My friend Dennis, has a growing fleet of boats. As a child, many of Dennis’ favorite memories were with his Dad on the water. He continues to navigate life finding joy afloat. The other day, I saw Dennis heading out onto the water. He only had a small cooler and a couple rods. Not the usual boat hitched to his truck. Instead, he was going to use a different craft.

Dennis’ Dinghy is small! The inflated, Zodiac style boat, has a small kicker motor on the back. A Big Man can stretch out and touch both ends. On a calm day, Dennis’ Dinghy will safely get you where you need to go. It may not be a seaworthy craft, but it is certainly fine for inland waters.

Dennis’ small dinghy makes less noise and wakes, which can scare off fish. Small crafts also can navigate in shallow water. Using these boats can be a great advantage. Stealth is important for fishing and hunting.

“I just wanted to practice using my dinghy”, is what Dennis said. Many boaters have a small dinghy, for emergencies, and have never used them. What is the point of having a boat, RV, or outdoor toy, if it just sits?  Use it or lose it!

Dennis climbed aboard his small dinghy and headed out to fish. The craft handled perfectly and Dennis was soon into a nice keeper striper! Sitting back, puffing on a cigar, and enjoying a refreshment, he was comfortable in his small dinghy. The size of the fish you catch matters more than how big your boat is.

Whatever floats your boat!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at

500 !!!

Practice makes perfect! Wisdom comes from experience. It takes 500 repetitions, or more, for some things to become learned.

The only way to learn how to catch a fish is to catch a fish. After you catch 500 of one species of fish, you are beginning to figure out what it takes. You will never master the craft but at least your confidence grows.

They say it takes 10,000 repetitions to learn some things. The examples were, how to pick up dirty clothes, follow directions as a child, and to do simply what you are told. Putting down the toilet seat must be way more repetitions than that. My estimates of 500 repetitions are way more positive and conservative.

Good bird dogs need to smell 500 birds before they figure things out. The hunter basically goes along for the walk while this happens. Hunting good areas, or game farms, helps to train your dog faster. The hunter needs to practice commands, but the dog needs to practice and tune their instincts. It just takes a pile of birds, and repetition, for them to learn.

Only 499 to go!

A good drift boat oarsman needs to row 500 miles to understand how to row a drift boat. Everything is backwards. You need to row upriver to drift downstream. Once your brain figures that out, the job becomes easier.

Jogging is another sport that requires repetition. It takes 500 miles until the rewards start to show up. Your cardio, weight, muscles, and body will begin to show positive results after this marathon. Now the exercise becomes a positive habit.

Shooting takes practice. 500 trigger pulls per gun will help you understand the accuracy of your weapon. After that many shots, you are now ready to put one best shot where it needs to be. Not only will your skill level grow, the stress relief will also be appreciated.

It also takes 500 “I Love Yous” for your partner or friend to hear just one. Just keep them coming and in the end, it will pay off. Over a lifetime, they will add up.

Just because you have accomplished 500 successes does not mean you are done learning. The truth is that everyone learns differently. Practice still makes perfect and we will discover that there are 500 more things to learn or try. We learn so much from mistakes. Our efforts are always rewarded over time. Just keep forging onward and upward!

Only 500 more to go!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at


Everyone has experienced the special fragrance that emanates from a stinky ice chest. Whether it contained fish, bait, old food, or other rotten things, stinky ice chests can take your breath away!

Years ago, I saw an article in a Popular Mechanics magazine. It addressed this exact problem. The powerful stink from old coolers is just as rank as the stink from today’s coolers. My friend Tom also read this tip and swears by their not so stinky suggestion.

Many stinky ice chest owners try bleach, cleansers, chemicals, and scrubbers to de-stink their coolers. Usually, the cleaning process starts after the stink has already started. Many ice chests die an early death from smells that just will not go away.

Tom suggests that you immediately rinse the cooler after each use. Do not use any chemicals, bleach or cleaners. The cooler is also used to contain food, drinks, and fish that you plan to consume. Avoid any chemical contamination!

Once rinsed, dry with a towel or leave the lid open and exposed. Once the cooler is dry, add a little Vanilla extract to a paper towel. A teaspoon or so is all that you need. Now wipe the coolers surfaces with the Vanilla. Leave the fragrant paper towel in the bottom of the cooler. Your cooler is now clean, chemically safe, and pretty “sniffty”!

Over years, some light brown color may be visible from the Vanilla. With scrubbing, this can also be removed but, most coolers die before that becomes an issue. The truth is, that folks will be able to enjoy opening your cooler to smell the Vanilla fragrance and not a scent that triggers a vomit reflex.

You can also extend the life of the cooler by replacing or protecting the hinges. Replacement cooler hinges are available on line. Use some silicon adhesive, on the screw threads, when replacing. You can also reinforce the hinges with a flexible fabric or rubber cover, that is attached overtop the hinges. An internal string, spring, or strap is also a good idea to hold the lid partly open. This will keep the lid from folding back too far and breaking the plastic hinges.

Keep a damp towel spread out over top the ice and cooler contents. This will keep the temperature down and save the ice from melting so fast. Freezing ice jugs, with water, allows the cooler to stay chilled and will also provide cool water to drink later. The melted ice water may also be used to clean and rinse.

Attach an old plastic cutting board or tray to the outside cooler lid. This will serve as a cutting board for bait, or cleaning fish. Screw the board in place with stainless steel rust proof hardware and seal with silicone adhesive, on the screw threads.

Stay stink free!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his website at