I read the other day that the outdoor population of Southwest Montana are responsible for the most violations of outdoor laws! Hunting, boating, and fishing violations are varied, abundant, and important. Honest Sportsmen are embarrassed by the thoughtless, dishonest, and disrespectful choices these violators are making.

Part of that may be due to a larger and growing population. The SW area is abundant with resources, access, and people. The area is also better patrolled and managed. The violations range from not having permits and licenses, to poaching, to trespassing.

Greed is about getting something for nothing. These losers are too cheap to contribute their part but feel entitled to whatever they feel like. This mentality is way to common throughout our society.

Outdoor recreation is a privilege, not a gift. License fees, permits, stamps, and taxes are our admission fees. These funds manage, maintain, and protect these public places for all. These protections are important and required.

We advocate that outdoor recreation is about rules, regulations, limits, safety, and sport. These are perfect expectations that future generations need to honor, respect, and embrace. In this way, the future of outdoor regulations will remain open and welcoming.

Poachers, trespassers, and law breakers are simply THIEVES! They are stealing what is not theirs. These criminals embarrass the honorable and honest sportsmen. We all need to do our part to monitor and enforce Montana’s outdoor laws.

Cell phones are a great way to communicate and photograph these outdoor thieves in the act. A quick photo of a vehicle tag, area, or other evidence will help eliminate these outlaws from our wild places. Also know the rules. Each year a new regulation booklet comes out. It is rather complicated, so be diligent and review the legal rules. Pay special attention to the new or changed rules.

Special cell phone apps and maps are helpful to discover and explore new areas. Knowing property lines is a huge advantage. Montana is a huge state but there are areas that are private. These land owners are becoming more aggressive with enforcement. If many of the wealthy had their way, no streams, rivers, forests, or fields would be available to the average public hunter. Each time there is a violation, these selfish landowners become more protective over their property. They also have the political and fiscal resources to change laws to their benefit.

Don’t fuel the fire! Sportsmen need to set the example and mentor the next generations to do the same. Teaching others the rules and ropes about the best and most honest way to celebrate our outdoor heritage is imperative.

The future of Montana Sportsmen is in our hands!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at www.montanagrantfishing.com.

“Aim small, miss small!” This should be the mantra for every hunter. We all try to make sure that our big game guns are sighted in, our gopher getters are fine-tuned, and our bows are perfect at 30 yards. Nobody thinks about sighting in their turkey shotguns.

Shotguns are generally pointed and not aimed. They usually are bare barreled or have a vent rib with a pair of iron sights. Modern hunters may mount a red dot, or low powered scope, to the top of their turkey busters. This certainly improves accuracy and shooting brightness in low light conditions.

Back in the day, sportsmen’s clubs would have Turkey Shoots to raise money. They were like the Super Bowl betting pools except you got to shoot them. Each block had an X in the center and whoever shot the closest to the X wins. It was about luck.

When we aim our shotguns at turkeys the target is a narrow head approximately 10 inches tall and 3 inches wide. The neck and head are featherless and contain the spinal cord and head/brain area. Take out the head, and the turkey is done. You can still eat the rest of the bird.

Ammunition for turkeys is a shot shell. Most states require #4-6 shot in an up to 3-inch magnum shell. That means you are shooting a lot of BB’s at a relatively small target. Only a few of the BB’s will hit what you aim at. If you shoot the body of a turkey, the great eating will be lost. No one wants to bite into BB’s or holey meat, crammed full of feather pieces.

To kill a turkey, shoot at it’s head. Aim right where the neck skin stops, and the feathers start. You want at least a dozen BB’s to hit the head area. Of the hundreds of BB’s that you fire, only a few will kill the bird. Turkey’s have incredible eyesight. Wear full camo that includes a head net and gloves. Don’t Move!

Practice will make perfect. Using a short shooting stick will help you rest your gun until it is time to shoot. Call less once the bird is coming in. Let him hunt you, don’t give away your exact position. Once you decide to shoot, squeeze the trigger as you would a rifle. Shotgun triggers are set at around 6-8 lbs., so it will take more of a squeeze than with a rifle trigger set at 2-3 lbs.

The turkey’ head is simply UGLY!! So ugly that you do not want to touch it. Instead, shoot it. The rest of the bird is amazingly beautiful, but God must have taken a nap when he created the turkey’s warty, knobby, bulbous, pimply head!

Not all shotguns pattern the same. They shoot a cloud of BB’s in a circle. The further away the shot, the larger the circle and the less dense the BB’s. Sight in your shotgun as you would a rifle. 30 yards will do the trick. Use a sandbag rest and take your best shot. Aim at the head target and count the holes. If your gun is off, adjust accordingly. You can also purchase stick on iron sights or mount iron sights to the vent rib. They come in a variety of colors, I prefer chartreuse, which is easily seen even in low light.

 I have never shot a turkey further than 30 yards. Why would you take a longer shot? The whole point of calling a turkey is to call them in close. Once the bird is in a close kill zone, aim squeeze and enjoy. If the only way you can kill a turkey is with a rifle or a long, risky shot, then either become a better turkey hunter or just go buy one at the store.

Gobble gobble, cluck cluck!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at www.montanagrantfishing.com.

Fishing is a year around sport. Each season presents different challenges and techniques, but the opportunity to enjoy the sport is always available. No matter how cold it is, fish, have to eat. They may move less, and feed on more marginal food sources, but fly fishing can still be fun.

Fly fishing is the most Zen-like way to fish. Much of it is catch and release. So why brave the cold for a few fish? Fishing is therapy. When the rod and line are in sync, so are our lives. Some call it “ripping lips”, “going on a slay ride”, or “drowning worms”. No matter what you call it, fishing is an excuse to get outdoors and take your mind off of life’s challenges.

Winter fishing requires some modifications and special tips.

1.)    Comfort comes first! Winter fishing can be really cold. If you are not comfortable, you are not fishing. Fingers and toes are usually the first thing to consider. If you can’t tie a knot, you will be spending your time standing in a cold river with your hands in your pockets. Keep your body core warm. Layers of thin, modern fabrics can be added or removed as needed. Since these fabrics are thin, they are less bulky. Hand warmers are a necessity. Use a gel or waterproof style of pocket furnace. The cloth powder packs will get wet and worthless in short order. Most of your heat will escape from your neck and head. Wear a scarf, bandana, and a decent hat. The hat should be dull in color, to keep you stealthy, and have a visor to reduce glare. Polaroid glasses are also essential to protect your eyes from glare but also help you to see the fish.

2.)    Slow things Down! Cold water causes many food sources to become dormant. Trout, and other species, need to move less so they can save stored energy. You will not find the fish in the fast moving currents or experience aggressive strikes. The fish will be holding in areas where food and cover exist.

3.)     Cast less but cast smarter! Trout tend to hold in deep water, in an eddy, or slow moving current. The seam between the still and moving water is their feeding site. Look for the fish before casting. Using additional weight is often required. A drag free drift is essential as always. Casts need to be right on the money. The fly must be seen by the fish at least a yard upstream so they can start preparing to see and eat it. Since the fish’s eyes are on the side of their heads, they can’t see what is directly in front of their face. They need to swerve to the side for a clear view. Also, by casting less, your hands can stay warmer longer tucked into your heated pockets.

4.)     Placement, presentation, and appearance! Why will a fish pick your fly out of a herd of natural offerings? If your fly is easy to eat, familiar, and looks tasty, they will eat it. They will not move far in the cold water. Every motion requires energy. The fly needs to be on target.

The fly must also stand out from the other natural foods and say “Eat Me!’. Most fish are color blind, so reflective, trashy materials, help attract attention. At seminars, I talk about “wedding cake”. A wonderful cake is cut into dozens of pieces. It is all the same cake but we still pick a certain, special piece. Maybe it has extra icing, or is a corner, or has an extra decoration on it, but for some reason, we pick something different.

Fish have just moments to choose a meal. A little extra something will help them to choose your fly.

5.)    Take a Break! Fishing must be FUN!!!! If it isn’t, then you are doing it wrong. Freezing cold can make the day miserable. Hot soup or beverages can save the day. Candy bars and energy snacks can refuel your body’s furnace, so you can get back to fishing. It is funny how when the fishing is hot, you never think about being cold. When fishing cools off, so do your toes and fingers. Find a warm and sunny rock to take a break. Continue to look for rising or feeding fish. Once you are warm and ready, take another cast.

6.)    90% of a fish’s diet is subsurface! Nymphs are what is for dinner in the cold water of winter. Attractors such as glow eggs and San Juan worms also work well. Streamers are less likely to work when fished as a fast- moving minnow. A slow, natural drift is required. Seeing a strike may require a strike indicator. Set the hook on any movement or change in the drift. If you can see the fish, look for any movement that indicates they mouthed your fly.

There are times when dry flies can be effective. On sunny days, or where warm water discharges occur, hatches can be prevalent. These Midge hatches are a winter staple for the fish familiar with them. Size 18-22 flies are usually needed attached to fine tippets. Also try a larger attractor dry fly with a shallow midge nymph dropper.

7.)    Sharpen your hooks and set the hook sharply. Sharp hooks catch 3-4 more fish than you are currently using. Even new hooks can use a little sharpening. The point of a hook must penetrate a mouth made of cartilage. This material is like your fingernails, hard and without nerve endings. Studies show that barbed hooks are not the main culprit for fish mortality. Handling the fish roughly or dragging them onto the bank will kill way more fish than barbs. Fish friendly nets are also important. A plastic net fabric will not wipe the fish’s protective mucus coating from their skin. The longer you fight and handle a fish, the higher the mortality will be. Netting a fish will allow you to handle the fish quickly, and safely while still in the water. Forceps are wonderful for hook removal. Once you are done with the fish, warm your hands and get ready for the next catch.

8.)    Fish When You Can! If you wait for a perfect day to fish, you will spend fewer days on the water. Adapt and adjust to the conditions you are offered. Consider fishing midday, or in a location in the sun, less windy, or more comfortable. Every cast is an opportunity for success. No matter how many times we fish, “one, more cast” is always needed. That is because of Hope! If you don’t cast, then there is no hope to catch another fish. The metaphor also applies to our lives.


Fishing is just fishing! It is not called “catching”. “Fishing” is about challenging ourselves, searching, seeking, and discovering. Fewer crowds of fishermen tend to brave the winter waters. Not everyone is willing to escape a Fat Boy Lazy Chair for a cold winter trout stream or lake. Great fishermen do not fish because it is easy. They fish because it is hard. For those that are hearty and brave enough to venture outdoors, the experience can be wonderful, educational, and rewarding!

Stay warm, active, and fish in the winter too!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his website at www.montanagrantfishing.com.

Ice fishing tips and tricks can turn the ice on fire! So many Ice Men spend the day getting skunked on the ice. Here are some ideas to turn you on to catching more fish through the ice.

Rod Rack    Keep your reels out of the slush with a multipurpose rod holder. Most Ice Men use short mini rods when fishing. These may fit into an ice shanty but are a real handicap when catching fish through the ice. Fishing rods are levers. The longer the lever, the more energy they have. A longer rod can set the hook faster and hold onto larger fish. The longer rod also will allow you to play the fish more quickly.

Traditional rod holders require you to put the butt of the fishing rod into a pipe fixture. When it is time to set the hook, you must pull the rod out then set. Build a simple wooden rack as shown. Sand the wooden edges to make sure there are no splinters or burrs to catch your line. An open rod rack also allows you to keep your shadow away from the hole. Just lift and strike. Hook ups are swift and solid.

Kink Patch    Monofilament fishing line often has memory. The coiled line needs to be straightened out. This is a big problem when it is cold. Try to smooth out the line using a leather or rubber patch. Simply pull the line through the patch and gently squeeze. Do not create too much friction as this will weaken finer lines. You can also simply pull the line off the reel and tug on it to get out the kinks.  Once the line is straight, you will see more light bites.

Spring Bobbers    You can’t set the hook if you can’t see the bite. Spring bobbers attach to the tip of your rod and will move even with the slightest bites. Now that you see a bite, you can set the hook. You can buy a variety of spring bobbers, or make your own using spring steel wire, and a Styrofoam strike indicator ball. Electric tape or a silicon product such as GOOP, will help attach it to your traditional rod.

Hook Sharpener    Fish lips are made of cartilage, just like your fingernails. A dull hook will not penetrate their lips. If you want 4 times more hook ups, use a pen style hook sharpener routinely. The pen style ones are about $8.00, or you can steal your wife’s diamond dust emery board. Either way, you and the fish will get the point.

Gel Scent    Snow covered ice means that little light is below the ice. Fish will rely more on smell and movement. This means an active jig will promote more bites. Adding some scent to your lures, bait, and hole will enhance your presentation. Try using salmon or minnow flavors. Some gels also glow which adds another level of attraction. Scents also help reduce ice build up in the hole. The scented hole will allow you to re-scent your lures as they are dropped into the hole.

Fluorocarbon tippet    The finer the fishing line, the less likely the fish will see it. Usually finer line also means less strength. Fluorocarbon tippet is thinner but stronger than traditional lines. You can have a fluorocarbon tippet that has a strength of 10 pounds but the diameter of 2 lb. test line. Connect the fluorocarbon tippet to you ice lie using a tiny barrel swivel. Now you avoid any twisting and spinning, and the action of your bait or lure is enhanced.

Ice Men find great joy sitting on their frozen paradise. Fishing is great fun but catching is way better. Try a few of the Ice Chip Tips and take-home dinner along with some great new stories. Also introduce new friends, kids, and family to your cool world of fishing fun.

Straight and tight lines,

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at www.montanagrantfishing.com.

There are always new tips and tricks to make our days afield better. The picture shows a few tips and ideas that have helped me to become a better Ice Man. There are probably no new ideas but we all appreciate any help we can get when ice fishing.


Comfort on the ice is paramount. Cold toes, fingers, faces, and butts will drive you off the ice. Try cutting a 5-gallon ice bucket lid to sit on. This quick fix, allows you a place to sit while leaving access to maggots, snacks, or other gear. Standing all day gets old fast. You could add some foam onto the seat for cushion but usually we have on so many layers of clothes that we wear our padding. Back in the day, we used to use an old metal milk crate, or bucket, attached to a sled for our seats. A paint can full of charcoal briquets would add welcome heat to our behinds while warming a sandwich or our fingers.


The rifle cartridge, with a metal loop is another tip I was shown by a Brother Ice Man. He added molten lead to a 30-06 brass cartridge with the wire loop inside. I have kept it for decades as my favorite bait tool. This idea allows you to pop eyeballs out of the fish for bait. Attach them to your hook, or jig, and hang on. Perch especially love an eyeful of food. This trick has saved the day many times. Keep an eye out for these tools at the bait shop or make one yourself.


Many of our lakes have a silty bottom. When fish feed on the bottom, they stir up the silt and attract others over to the feeding frenzy. When things get slow, use a cord to drop a heavy washer to the bottom and lift it up and down a few times. Keep your eyes on the fish finder or your rods for the upcoming bites.


Scent is also important when ice fishing. Try using a vial filled with cotton balls. Drill a few holes in the vial to allow them to get wet and attach a cord. Add a gel scent to the cotton balls. Glow scent in salmon flavor works great for trout, shrimp flavor works well for perch. Once you have loaded the scent bomb, sink it to the bottom. You may need to add a weight or rock to the rig for ballast. I have also suspended the scent bomb or just floated it in the ice hole. Every time you drop your jig into the hole, it is re-scented. The globs of gel scent will also attach themselves to your line and slide down to your jig.

Even Old Ice Men can learn new tricks! Try these out and enjoy.

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at www.montanagrantfishing.com.

Ice fishermen, and women, are the coolest folks on the water! Almost everyone says “Howdy”, and willingly shares fishing reports and conversation. This is not always the case on fly fishing waters, or other destinations. Some fishermen come off as snobs or just curmudgeons.

The other day I ventured onto a local mountain lake and started to hike toward a likely hot spot. On the way, I ran into a fellow named Nate. He was fishing holes left by another angler. His rods were short and laying on the ice. The jigs he had on were huge, with an added sinker. Nate also had no fish on the ice.

We had a wonderful conversation and I willingly gave Nate some suggestions and ideas to catch a limit. He eagerly made the adjustments and was ready to learn. Nate was becoming an Ice Man! I could have easily waved and walked past the cool fisherman, but that is not what Ice Men do.

Ice Fishermen are a family. We launch ourselves onto our huge frozen lake yachts and look out for one another. Ice fishing can be dangerous so having company and friends is always a good idea. All of us Ice Men have had days when some old, grizzled, heavily dressed stranger walked up and started a conversation. We have all invited others to take over our hot holes, after we have kept our fill.  Many of our best ideas were shared with us by our Ice Man Brotherhood. The Sisterhood of Ice Women also bring a wonderful spirit into our frozen world.

Ice Men, and Women are not born, they evolve. Our first ice treks were more about fishing and not catching. Cold toes, fingers, and ice holes were the norm. Finally, a tip or trick from another fisherman, an idea from a u-tube video, information from an outdoor show seminar, or just plain luck, resulted in catching a fish!

Pulling a fish through an ice hole is magic. There is just something about having success in a freezing cold environment that starts this cool fishing addiction. Now that you caught one fish, your goal is catch a bunch. Then you want to catch a big on. Next a specific kind, or size of fish. Eventually, it becomes about showing others how to catch a fish. This is the evolutionary cycle of a true Ice Man!

Ice fishing is perfect for kids, friends and family. Groups of fishermen can share a small area and enjoy the day together. Everyone catches fish and is hooked on the fun. Sure, we all want to catch fish, but real Ice Men get fuller limits when they help others catch their limits too! The only problem is that we never fill our lifetime of limits. There is always one more cast, one more fish, and one newer friend to teach.

Tight Lines and Man Up!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his blog site at www.montaagrantfishing.com.

Safety on the ice, or in a boat, is essential. There are times when throwing someone a line is required. I am not talking about a cute joke or phrase, I am suggesting an actual line. If someone has gone overboard, or has fallen through the ice, quick decisions will determine survival.

Years ago, I was drifting down the Yellowstone with some clients. The young fisherman in the rear seat was having a bad day. Every strike he had was missed. Finally, he set the hook and hit meat! The fight was on. Not only did he hit meat, he was so excited he stepped out the back of the boat! Here we were in the middle of the Yellowstone River with a man overboard.

I quickly grabbed my homemade jugged safety rope. After fitting my hand into the loop, I threw the line toward the wet fisherman. He grabbed the jug and held on while keeping his rod bent as best he could.  Once hooked up, I towed him to shore and jumped from the boat to check on my wet angler. He was still fighting his first fish of the day. After netting a 20- inch cutthroat, I then grabbed some towels, and an old pair of overalls, to keep my happy fisherman warm.

That silly jugged throw rope saved the day and the fish. Making this throw rope is easy. Once you have an empty milk jug, tie one end of a 20-30-foot rope to the jug handle. Stuff the rope into the jug mouth. Tie a loop big enough to fit around your hand at the other end. The rope will play out smoothly and be protected by the plastic jug.

Practice throwing this rig before putting it into your boat, or ice fishing sled. The weight of the rope, and jug, will allow you to throw a length of safety line to a victim. If you add water to the jug, it will add weight to your throw. Reloading the rope into the jug is quick and easy, with practice.

Ice fishermen should also carry this simple rescue rig. If someone goes through the ice, you need a lifeline to throw to them. Make sure that your rope is small, but thick enough to smoothly pack into the milk jug. I use a smooth braided nylon 3/8-inch rope for the best results. Coarse, or cotton rope is too absorbent, and rough, for this application. You want to throw out the whole line. This Safety Throw rig is cheap, and light. Hopefully, you will never need it but…

If you must, you can also use it as a clothesline to dry out the wet clothes. Maybe it will also serve as the ultimate stringer for a great day of fishing. Either way, it is better to be prepared, than helpless when an emergency happens.

Tight Lines!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his website at www.montanagrantfishing.com.

“Did you get your elk?” This is a common question asked throughout Montana each season.

Families that hunt together, stay together. Great hunting companions, whether family or friends, are hard to find. The Stovall family is an example of what hunting heritage is all about. They hunt every season as if it were their last.

Kirk Stovall is the father of this crew. Reid and Jesse are members of this elk hunting posse. Each has their special skill whether as a marksman, bowman, caller, or tactician. Together they have been successful in “getting their elk” almost every season.

This season 3 bulls were harvested in 3 different locations. The boys tagged out using a bow. Dad, who is not as mobile these days, used a rifle.  There is plenty of meat in the freezer and plenty of bull to be spread after this successful season.

Hunting companions are special. Whether connected by blood or friendship, these relationships are thicker than blood. It is hard to find hunting buddies that you can trust, are honest, sharing, and safe. This Buddy will know where you are, follow the plan, share stories and tips, and always have your back. Hunting as a team is so effective and so much more fun.

In some ways, bulls have nothing to do with the goals of the hunt. Time spent together, stories, memories, and fun are the real trophies. Filling a tag is just icing on the cake. Teaching hunter safety, working with youth groups, and setting a positive and honest legacy are what great sportsmen do.

Montana is a state where this story is common. Our outdoors spirit and legacy are alive and well. Every season offers an opportunity to hunt, fish, ski, or simply experience the great outdoors. We only have so many seasons left! Don’t waste them.

Hunt often, and hard!

Montana Grant

For more Montana Grant, visit his blog at www.montanagrantfishing.com.

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 www.montanagrantfishing.com.

“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 www.montanagrantfishing.com.