It's that time of year again: tourist season in Montana. Honestly, I like most out-of-state visitors and family campers as they tend not to leave several dozen beer cans in the campsite when they depart and actually use the outhouses in lieu of the nearest stream. On the other hand, there's Californians.
At any rate, here are a few questions sent in by some of our many fans asking advice in regards to their Montana vacation. As a service to you, I have drawn upon my vast redneck expertise to provide the definitive answers, so you needn't bother with those park and forest rangers or the local Chamber of Commerce.
Q: I am from California and considering moving to Montana. What can you tell me about locales which are close to wilderness areas yet still offer civilized amenities such as comprehensive public art collections, interpretive dance theatre, and organic arugula?
A: We don't have any of that crap. Montana sucks. Stay home and tell all your friends to do so as well.
Q: I don’t go anywhere without my darling Pomeranian, my dear little Foofy. How can she enjoy our vacation too?
A: Dogs like Foofy need not want for company. Packs of coyotes and wolves just love to frolic with their close domestic canine relatives, so Foofy will meet lots of new friends. Throwing Foofy’s fetchie into a geyser is also highly entertaining.
Q: I’ve been to over twenty different restaurants in Montana and I just can’t find one that has sushi. Any suggestions on where I could find some?
A: Try Bubba’s Bait Shop on Route 89.
Q: I worry about bear encounters. What is the proper use of those little “bear bells” the Park Service recommends?
A: Squash them with a hammer, then load them into a 3-1/2-inch Magnum 12-gauge shell with as much Federal powder and 00 buckshot as you can pack in there.
Q: How about pepper spray?
A: If you want, you can spray a little on the tip of each 300-grain flat-nose hardcast bullet in your .44 Magnum revolver; kind of adds insult to injury. If you insist on carrying pepper spray as protection against bears, check the expiration date, read the instructions and learn how to use it, keep it readily available on your belt not stuffed away in your pack, and be extra sure to finalize your last will and testament before leaving on vacation. If you drive a Hybrid, you may also wish to consider storing your bear spray on the dashboard in direct sunlight on a hot August day.
Q: I can’t figure out how to use these bear-proof trash cans and dumpsters. How do they work?
A: Ask a bear. They know how those things work.
Q: Why do we always see moose in streams and lakes?
A: A. alces shirasi, or Shiras Moose, are voracious predators who consume large quantities of fish; thus they are usually found near or in water. The dewlap or “bell” which hangs down beneath a moose’s neck is actually a crop like that of a chicken; the moose swallow small rocks and pebbles to grind up the fish bones in this crop so that the entire trout can be consumed. There is some concern about moose predation on the Westslope cutthroat trout, a species of concern, but biologists believe the problem will correct itself in another decade or so when the wolves will have killed and eaten all the moose.
Q: There are small, cute little animals that pop out of holes in the ground and stand straight up. The children think they are so cute. They are smaller than prairie dogs. What are these adorable little animals?
A: Although locally they are referred to as gophers or “Dak Rats”, in reality these cute little guys are a species of ground squirrel, (Urocitellus richardsonii). They fall into the family known as varmints, which is to say animals who occupy the “target practice” niche on the food chain.
Q: What should we do if we encounter a rattlesnake?
A: Personally, I like to give ‘em a couple rounds of CCI snake shot from my 4-inch Smith 629. If lacking said revolver, you may wish to have your male children smash it with big sticks and heavy rocks. It builds character, and may keep them from growing up to carry a purse and vote Democrat.
Q: At what altitude do the mule deer turn into elk?
A: Around 7,000 feet in Montana, but they require higher elevations in the Southern Rockies.
Q: Buffalo look like big cows. Can we pet them?
A: Yes, if you wish to spend the rest of your short life shaped like a potato chip.
Q: What is the best way to build a campfire?
A: From what I’ve seen in the campgrounds where I live, it would appear that one should burn a few paper napkins up against a green log at least 16 inches in diameter. Repeat until you run out of napkins, then switch to toilet paper. Then try to make S’mores with your Bic lighter and go to bed cold and early.
Q: I plan to wear my Bluestate Outdoorsperson Kampong shirt and Monongahela River cargo shorts on my camping trip, but I can't decide whether sienna glow or riviera blue will clash less with the local flora.
A: I'm partial to the German Army surplus flectarn cammo pattern, but the Disruptive Pattern Material is also quite fetching (the British Army S95 pattern, of course, not the Dutch imitation). When you accessorize, always remember leather pistol holsters; retro is in and nylon is passe and rather gauche.
Q: I am an enthusiastic fly fisherman. On my trip to your local Blue Ribbon Trout Stream, I intend to use my Tonkin split bamboo rod, a delightful little Dame Stoddard & Kendall reel coupled with 60 grain floating line, tapered leader, and traditional silkworm gut tippets. My dry and wet fly arsenal will of course include the classics; Royal Wulffs, Wooly Worms, and Royal Coachmen from Farlow’s of London. Do you have any recommendations for additional fishing gear I should consider including?
A: The Compleat Montana Angler should not be without an Ugly Stick, Zebco spincaster, Spiderwire, night crawlers, 12-pack of beer, and a cast iron skillet.