Hunting Season is Upon Us

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A gorgeous spot near Bozeman

An awe inspiring view near Bozeman

Observations on Hunting by TRG’S Nick Esposito

This coming weekend will mark the beginning of this year’s deer/elk hunting season in Montana. Unless you possess the prowess to wield the mighty Bow and Arrow, in which case you will have already gotten a leg up on the season. Unfortunately for me, I am at best a mediocre archer, as I have distinct trouble hitting fairly large stationary targets at close distances, let alone smaller moving targets at further distances.  Before I can confidently stalk through the woods in search of prey I have much ground that I must cover. I mean this quite literally, as it seems that mother-nature is rather fond of stealing half my quiver of arrows each time I commit to “practicing”. With rifle season days away it seems that I will yet again be shelving this year’s quest to be Robin Hood.

Growing up in Vermont I was exposed to hunting various forms of woodland wildlife. Wildlife that ranged from various birds, to elusive whitetail, even the occasional patch of soft moss from which I could hunker down and deduce great wisdom from the insides of my eyelids(or as my dad refers to as napping). Yet, it wasn’t until three years ago that I set out on my first expedition into the rugged hunting lands of Montana. It couldn’t have gone much better (which was both a curse and a blessing), as a dear friend granted me access to a stellar stretch of land, from which my household of college cohorts was able to reap generous rewards. I wouldn’t be so lucky in the following years… No in fact, I was skunked the next two years, which is partially to blame on my final charge through my college career, and everything that entails. Ideally, it would have been great to have a freezer swollen with meaty delights for those last years of malnutrition (or college as some call it), but alas it wasn’t to be. Honestly though, I can’t say I am that disappointed, as the true trophies from hunting season are of the stories of horror, humor, and companionship. Be it a man-eating-beaver (or so my dad would have us believe), a snoozing bear, or the simplicity of spending a day in the woods with great company. It’s always these hunting memories that will be remembered and recounted at family gatherings years down the road, especially the man-eating-beaver.

A picture of what could be a man-eating-beaver

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Moving forward, with only a handful of days left before the hunting season starts, I realize that I still haven’t purchased my tags, my hunting gear is in disarray, and more importantly the absence of properly vetted out wildlife encampments. Yup, sounds about right. I also find myself wondering if this late season heatwave can hold much longer (mostly hoping that it won’t). The last four or five days have been hovering around the seventies, typically at this time of year I would expect at bare minimum a dusting of snow on the ground. Heat of this nature isn’t particularly good for anyone, especially the wool-clad man trudging around the back-country in the sweltering heat. Granted the flip-side of the coin is that it could be twenty below and windy enough to freeze even the most monumentally mountainous of men. However the end result is always the same that no matter the conditions, it’s game time, pun intended!

Perfect Hiking Weather in Bozeman, MT

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The high yesterday, ninety degrees, that will be summer’s last stand (well most likely). Without doubt these are the last dog days of summer, as we begin the decent into the longest season in Bozeman, winter. However, we aren’t quite there yet, we still have a few weeks of interim (known elsewhere as fall). Whatever you want to call it, it is a pleasant mixture of conditions siphoned off of the annual battle between scorching heat and mind-numbing cold. Personally, I find it the perfect time to finish off the summer season with some mountain frolicking. Requirements are as such: one or more hiking companions, an excitable canine(this can count as the hiking companion), hydration, one canned great-success beverage, food (chocolate, always chocolate), a camera or smartphone (for shameless selfies to blast Facebook with), and a well laid out plan. Hold on, don’t forget this. That book might as well be my autumn bible, and is a great place to find inspiration for the location of your next hike. Speaking of which, here are some of my favorites.

Pine Creek – Just South of Livingston

The view from Pine Creek lake Livingston, MT

Looking north from the pool just before Pine Lake

The entire adventure that is this hike is just darn awesome! From forest to waterfall to mountain lakes, the Pine Creek hike certainly has it all. The trail will even wind you through the charcoaled remains of a forest that was thrashed by a blaze. The greatest prize of this hike is at its apex, where you will find Pine Creek Lake, the awe of which must be seen in person.

Lava Lake – Betwixt Bozeman and Bigsky

Lava Lake in Montana

Shameless selfie at Lava Lake

Easily one of my favorite hikes in the surrounding area is Lava Lake. It is equal parts easy hike, quick drive, and stunning views. It’s a rather quick hike to the top at only three and half miles, and well worth it. The serene beauty of this mountain lake is hard to contain in a simple photograph. Granted, if you don’t mind hiking with a little gear the perimeter of the lake presents awesome opportunities for swimming, camping, fishing, and yodeling.

Sacajawea Peak – Bozeman’s Highest Peak

Sacajawea Peak Bozeman, MT

Gregg Cummings looking down the spine of the bridgers

Memory is a fickle beast, and I can’t remember if this was my first hike here in Bozeman, but I think it may have been, either way an optimal choice it is. From atop this peak is the perfect perch for a panorama of the Crazies to the east, the Absaroka’s to the southeast, the Gallatin range to the south, and even the Tobacco Roots tucked away to the southwest. After you catch your breath, perhaps you dare walk the ridge down into town, or jog it.

Windy Pass – Also Betwixt Bozeman and Big Sky

windypass

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Opposite the side of the highway that Lava Lake hails from is a nearby hike known as the Windy Pass. This hike is also splendid as it puts you on top of the western side of the area commonly associated with Hyalite canyon. Aside from the amazing views there are some nifty rocks to clamor around on, and if you are lucky you might happen upon a field of mountain flowers. Care to extend your stay, you can rent out a cabin near the summit of this hike, check it out here.

The Wind Rivers – Wyoming

Wind Rivers Mountain Range Wyoming

Jason taking in The Wind River Range

This mountain range will cure your soul of any ailments, guaranteed. The word “epic” barely begins to illustrate the supreme excellence of this mountain range. I think I recall reading somewhere, that native american’s regarded this mountain region as the ascension to the afterlife. Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to explain it myself, it is otherworldly.