Hunting in Montana

The Culture and Lifestyle of a Montana Tradition

Hunting is as much a part of the Montana lifestyle as cowboy boots and buffalo. It is a fundamental weave in our social fabric and considered a rite of passage by most Montanans. Imagine businesses closing to accommodate their employees’ hunting habits, and schools being more lenient about being tardy and missing days during hunting season.

A quick glance at the bumper stickers and license plates on the trucks in Montana, and you will quickly understand the love for this pastime.

Not being limited to merely deer hunting, stalking the wily game in Montana offers a nearly unending supply of choices, and encompasses a wide variety of animals such as moose, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, buffalo, Canada goose, pheasant, wild turkey, grouse; the list goes on and on.

Hunting Season

Those who plan it right can legitimately hunt from September through November. They take advantage of this option by taking up bow hunting in addition to the traditional rifle or shotgun  hunting. There is an added appeal to bow hunting in Bozeman mainly because it starts in early September when the weather is a little more bearable. The rifle hunters will generally have to brave below freezing temperatures and fresh snow. But, in fact, the snow gives them an added advantage in tracking. So those souls asking for an early snowfall in Montana are undoubtedly hunters or skiers.

Bird Hunting

A friend of mine is strictly committed to bird hunting. He will shoot any kind of fowl he can get his sights on, be it duck, Canada goose, pheasant, grouse or wild turkey. He is, however, more discriminating in what he will eat. He prefers pheasant over anything else. When I asked what he does with the birds he doesn’t like to eat, he so eloquently stated, “I give them to friends and family.” How noble. His wife doesn’t care for eating any kind of wild fowl, so that presents its own brand of discord among his household. Still, most Saturday mornings he is guarding the banks of the river, shotgun in hand, waiting for the unwary bird to wander by. He has a place outside of Miles City where the pheasant hunting is just as good as South Dakota.

Big Game Hunting

Big game hunting is more all-consuming for the big game hunter. Early in the season, many hunters will pass on perfectly good kills, waiting for the perfect game. I have my suspicions as to whether they are actually holding off for the ‘big kill’ or simply milking the hunting excursions for all they’re worth. The spouses at home are referred to as ‘hunting widows’ while they patiently wait for their other half to get it out of their system every year. As soon as the magical phrase is uttered, “This is your last weekend! Don’t come home until you get something,” they somehow, miraculously, bring home an animal, be it elk or deer or moose or whatever is required to fill their hunting tag. The animals are probably more nervous towards the end of the season as well. Always on the lookout for the hunters who haven’t filled their tags yet.

Different Preferences in Meat

Everyone has their meat preferences. Most of my friends do not care for venison, preferring elk or buffalo to deer. They have different ways of preparing things, and interesting ways of disguising the more gamey-tasting meat. When my father came for a visit, I made him a genuine Montana Moose Meatloaf, which he touts as one of the highlights of his trip. Some of my friends even brag that they have not had to buy red meat at the store for years.

But, I think this is what makes hunting in Montana great. Is everyone has their own style and they have their own taste for what they like.

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