Friday, February 24, 2017

The Bead Rig--Legal?

The Bead Rig--Legal?

Check out The Montana Dream Cast and follow the discussion as Scott and I debate whether or not this rig is legal in Montana.

We also talk about the gym, beer, music, new news on zebra muscles, and other things we like to talk about out here in Montana.

Also, check out this link if you're interested in joining the debate over provisions FWP may be enforcing in their efforts to prevent the spread of zebra muscles and other invasive species and parasites.

Keep 'em where they live...

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How Big was Your First Deer?

I spent a good part of the last couple Springs trying to get Cutter, my pooch, to find sheds. People make quite a bit of moola on sheds out here. Even if you only find a few, it's worth it. You get to spend time in the mountains, get some exercise and maybe make a few bucks. This was Cutter's first legitimate find. We were snowshoeing the other day and he came back with it hanging out of his mouth. It was a bit random and unexpected but it is a shed. It took a couple years and it's not very big but it's a start. What was your first buck?
FYI, Fish, Wildlife and Parks recommends giving the shed-hunting a rest until some of the snow melts in order to not put too much stress on the animals and the reality is, I doubt many of the bulls have dropped their antlers. This was obviously a young deer, which was probably a little premature.
Keep 'em where they live...

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The Making of a Podcast--Breaking the Rules

As many of you are aware, one of the big projects for The Montana Dream this past year was producing a podcast. We've had some ups and downs over the first year but I think it's going well and we've been receiving some great feedback. We're also having a lot of fun doing it so that says something. The inherent problem with producing something like The Montana Dream Cast, is finding topics and discussing things that are both interesting to those of us that are involved in the production as well as those folks listening. What Scott Hirschi and I try to do, is talk about things that guys and gals sitting around having a beer would want to talk about out here in Montana, which includes fishing, hunting, music, sports, beer, health, and yes; sometimes even politics and policies that impact our livelihoods and lifestyles.

This past week, Scott and I got into some topics, along with the everyday fun stuff like music and hunting, etc. etc., that can be quite controversial as we brought up legislation that has been proposed in this years Montana Legislative session. One of those proposals would eliminate the requirement for a permit to carry a concealed weapon. From that, the topic went into a more general conversation about gun control and gun violence and even this push to have guns in our schools. You can check it out by clicking the link below.

Breaking the Rules--Part A

It's definitely not my intention to use the blog as a way to defend myself after the fact but I do think there is an opportunity to share some of the resources and links that contributed to the discussion. That way, you guys can read for yourselves and come up with your own conclusions and maybe even decide to join the discussion, so here you go.

My stance has always been the more guns you have out there, the more likely bad things can happen. If you look at the studies that have been done, there is definitely support for this argument and in the podcast, I kept coming back to the fact that in the U.S., children from the age of 5 to 14 are eleven times more likely to either be killed or injured by a gun than any other developed country.
Here's where that came from:

It turns out, I miss-spoke. Children in this country are 17 times more likely to be murdered by a gun than in other developed countries...

Here are some of the other resources:

I referenced some of this article in the podcast about the NRA as well.

There are some more current articles if you're interested.

Now I know, you're probably thinking that all The Montana Dream is, is some liberal dude that is trying to take down the NRA. The reality is, is I don't have that much power and what I would really rather do is to bring up the discussion of how to make our country safer for our children and for ourselves. I do lean a little left and Scott, my partner in the podcast, leans to the right. We both hunt and fish and own guns and we both have children living in our homes. We both care about protecting them so when these discussions come up, we are both just looking for solutions and we both have an appreciation for the facts and for what the numbers show. We have a problem in this country and we need to be part of the solution as sportsmen and women and that's how we discuss these topics.

As for criticizing the NRA, my biggest problem with them is that they don't participate in any discussion for a solution other than what they feel is appropriate, i.e., educating and promoting gun ownership to kids, and pushing agendas that would put more guns on the street and into schools. Some might argue that's not their role but I feel by taking the stance they do, they definitely contribute to the problem.

One of the policy issues on the Federal level that came up on the podcast was the rolling back of legislation that was pushed through by Obama. That legislation prohibited the sale of guns to folks that were put on a list as a result of being determined to not have the capacity to pick up their social security checks on their own. The argument was if they were deemed unable to handle the responsibility to manage their social security money than they also didn't have the mental capacity or weren't on a developmental level to practice safe handling of guns. Obviously, the NRA opposes this and thus, so does Trump even though according to polls, the vast majority of folks think this is a reasonable provision.

The discussion led to a more general discussion of the root of the problem, which to be honest, we don't really have a good answer for and is where you all can help with your ideas. Our culture is a violent culture. According to the statistics, we have way more violent crimes than most other developed countries. Our rates of gun violence is off the charts. Why?

Is it fair to compare the U.S. with other countries? At first we decided that Canada was the only country similar enough to make some comparisons but now I'd say yes, it is fair to compare other countries because what we are doing is trying to figure out what the differences are that make's us more violent. We know we are different on many levels. We have a way more diverse population than most other countries including Canada and we talked about that. The numbers also support that.

One of the other differences, however, is we also have the highest rate of gun ownership in this country--nearly 90 guns per hundred residence in the U.S. versus the next highest country of Serbia with 58.2. It is not true that the more guns that are out there, the safer we are. It just isn't. The U.S. has a murder rate 23 times higher than Canada and a gun ownership rate of three times theirs.

I did do some more research on some comparisons with Canada and came up with a few interesting articles:

In the article talking about immigration and comparing the U.S. to Canada, it is evident that Canada is way more accepting in policy and in public opinion for allowing immigration and seeing that as a benefit to their country. Although some people would like to tell you we are just letting anybody into our country, including terrorists, at a rate higher than any other country, that is just not true. And what I really want to point out here, is that it doesn't seem like diversity is determining factor but more how we view diversity and how we treat minorities because of that. There is a lot of anger in this country. There is animosity between racial groups and even between generations within racial groups that definitely contributes to a culture of violence. But can we really say it's because of cultural differences or is it our treatment of people that are different or don't share the same beliefs?

I know, this gets a little heavy and believe me, I don't want you to think that's all we focus on in the podcast or on this blog but it is pertinent to how we live out here in Montana and just in general, across the country. We know we aren't going to solve the world's problems but maybe we can incite some rational discussion over some of the things that really matter.

What I'd like to leave you with is a question I asked on the podcast. As a culture, are we ok with fighting so hard, this all or nothing sum to preserving our perceived Second Amendment Rights, knowing the risk that we are putting ourselves and our children in or can we come up with some reasonable and responsible solutions to addressing the problem that is actually based on truths?

Keep 'em where they live...

P.S. I forgot to mention the rule we broke. Scott and I were banned from talking politics on the podcast. Sorry Jill.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

The Montana Dream Kitchen: Sausage Party!

We obviously do a lot of hunting and fishing out here and we bring a lot of game to the freezer. You might ask yourself, "What do they do with all that meat?"

Well, we eat it. That's right. I don't waste the game I harvest and in fact, it's one of my biggest pet peeves. Just ask Jill or Patrick. You can leave the veggies on the plate and the fruit if you're full but DON'T WASTE THE MEAT!

Here's the deal, I work hard at the process of harvesting wild game. Part of me want's that to be respected but the bigger deal is respecting and honoring the animal that gave its life to support yours. If we waste the meat we are devaluing that animal's life and not recognizing the importance of what that animal gave or lost for us. It's like saying we don't really care that much about that animal's life.

The challenge can be making wild game taste and feel like what Patrick and other kids and even adults are used to in our overly packaged and overly produced world. That's why I decided to start sharing with you ideas for cooking wild game that will not only be edible, but your family will enjoy and even look forward to in a segment I'm calling, "The Montana Dream Kitchen."

I've made a video list on The Montana Dream YouTube Channel called, The Montana Dream Kitchen and will share videos of my ups and downs of processing my own wild game. The first video is my attempt to make sausages from start to finish. Like I said, there are ups and there are downs so check it out and maybe you'll be able to learn from my failures if you decide to take on this task. The sausages are delicious.

Just a note about the video. Although educational and funny at times, it was definitely done on a "B" movie budget...maybe in C or D or let's not kid ourselves, W,X,Y, and maybe Z. The lighting is bad. The sound is bad and it's a bit long but I lost all the video files in production in the process I was using as kind of a practice edit, so this is what I am left with. Although it could have been done better, I think you can still take something from it. Check it out and tell me what you think.

Keep 'em where they live...

Thursday, February 9, 2017

PKX Found in the Big Hole--What's the Solution to the Spread of Disease

We talked about the listing of the Big Hole on the dreaded PKX positive map on this week's episode of The Montana Dream Cast and I just want to share some info that's a little more informed and accurate. You can click the link below for the CBS News story. (BTW, a big thanks to Stephen Caldwell for forwarding the link to me.) They don't say much about it but do offer a little hope as the FWP biologist is hopeful the winter we're having out here will kill the parasite that has led to Proliferative Kidney Disease, a disease that has killed off a number of fish in a few of the streams out West in previous years. The most notable being the Yellowstone last August.

If  you look at the Snotel report, the water situation looks pretty good for now, which should help with the PKD situation. I know other people like to look at the reservoirs and other indicators and we all have our thing but for right now, I'm liking the snow-pack. We need more but this is a lot better than what I saw a couple weeks ago. Now, it's still way too early to predict what the summer is going to look like as we've seen years where we get almost no precip from now until June and we've seen years where we get dumped on.

Here's the deal about PKD. There are a couple thoughts on how to combat this as well as other invasive species that are infiltrating our streams. First of all, we have talked about it at length but just to reiterate, PKD comes from a parasite that infects a fish's kidneys and when the conditions are such to put stress on the infected fish, the disease takes hold and the fish usually dies. So to prevent this, naturally we would want to keep those conditions more favorable to the fish and not the parasite, which means plenty of cool, oxygenated water.

Efforts are being made to work with landowners and water rights to address the de-watering issues we have that does contribute to the PKD outbreaks. We all have an opportunity here, in that we can establish relationships with landowners and be good stewards of the resources as well as stewards of our industry. We can help improve the perception we have in some communities as guides and commercial users of those resources and hopefully, open up dialog to help improve the conditions of some of the rivers we see in late summer due to de-watering. But is that enough?

There has been, and continues to be, a lot of effort being made by FWP to educate people so that these diseases and invasive species don't travel from one system to another. Washing our gear seems to be the only method being discussed for prevention but I'm not sure that's enough. What I think we need to focus on is mitigating risk, which means acknowledging we're not going to completely eliminate the chance these things can spread but we should do whatever it takes to significantly reduce that chance. What I brought up in the podcast, that has been discussed before, is the home waters restriction for commercial users.

Now hold on. I realize the impact this would have on the guiding community and I am sympathetic to those folks that go from river to river and need to, to make a living. Where the mention of the restriction led to was an idea from Scott Hirschi, my podcast co-host, that might actually be viable and would allow for people to jump from river to river as conditions dictate. What Scott suggested was potentially using a sticker on your boat that you'd receive when you jump from one river to the next that verifies your boat is clean. I'd like to maybe take that a step further.

After the podcast, I thought about this quite a bit. How would it work? Who would oversee it? How would we pay for it? If you were coming over from Missoula to fish the Missouri, where would the sticker come from and how long would it last? A day? A week? What if you went to the Missouri for a couple days and then the Blackfoot cleared up and on day three, you call an audible and decide to head over there? Would you need to get another sticker? By the end of the year, you might have 50 stickers stuck to your boat.

Here's what I'm thinking and I know this sounds outlandish but give it some thought before totally poo-pooing it. What if we had a punch-card system and every Fishing Access Site had a punch machine, kind of like the time cards employees use to punch in and out? On every stream, there would be a centrally located check station where an FWP agent was stationed to check boats and give the ok to fish a river. Once you got the ok, your punch card became valid for that river and remained valid until you went to another river. Every time a boater went to put their boat in, they would have to punch their card or register their boat into the system. If they haven't gotten the ok from the check station yet, the machine wouldn't let them register. Or maybe, all this could be done using your cell-phone? That way, every morning when you decided where you were going, you'd just have to check in on an app. If your boat hasn't been cleared for that river, your boat gets flagged. And if you get stopped on a river you haven't check in on, you get a ticket.

If you take this even further, every boater could be required to use this system regardless of whether they are commercial users or recreationists. Centrally located check-points could be available in places like Bozeman, Missoula, Livingston, Helena, Craig, etc. etc. so that folks wouldn't have to go too far out of the way and we already have the check points set up on many of the rivers throughout the summer where a system like this could be implemented.

This would take some commitment from FWP and money and it would also be a little bit of an inconvenience to boaters and the guiding community but isn't it worth the effort? We are seeing the potential of zebra mussels being spread throughout the West. We keep adding rivers to the map of PKX positive rivers in Montana, hoping Mother Nature will take care of it. We blame landowners for de-watering but are we willing to do our part as well? I say we bite the bullet, spend a little money, and be proactive in order to preserve our waters for the future. Just a thought.

Keep 'em where they live...

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Check It Out

Here is a sample of Scott Hirschi's artwork. Go to is Facebook page to learn how to purchase this critter.
Also, check out The Montana Dream Cast as Scott and I discuss music, the Super Bowl, PKX and other Montana news.
Keep 'em where they live...

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Shane and the Turtle

I ran into a friend of mine last week at the Lewis and Clark Brewery. He asked me how it was going and then let me know he had been reading my blog and liked my writings. He asked me if I ever thought about doing anything more with it. I thought for a second and replied with some comment about not really having the opportunity but I've been thinking about it now for a few days and since there isn't a lot going on right now, have decided to share some stories from the field. Maybe you'll see some value in them.

This is a short story I've told on The Montana Dream Cast and sometimes share with clients when the work I used to do comes up. (Quite often folks ask what I do in the off-season so I tell them of the work I did with a non-profit in Helena.) It's about a boy I used to work with the first few years I guided. He is autistic. His name is Shane.

Shane and the Turtle:  I worked with Shane as a Direct Care Provider for a non-profit in Helena that paired folks like me with developmentally and cognitively delayed children who needed a little help fitting in. My job was to take Shane out into the public and work on habitation goals. Part of that included just getting him out to have some fun and experience things he might not ever experience because of the lack of opportunities.

Shane loved turtles. He talked about them all the time. Even in the winter, he seemed to be obsessed with them and at times, it could get a little annoying.

"Hey Shane, you want to go fishing?" I would ask.

"Can we catch a turtle?" Shane would ask.

"No, Shane. It's winter time. Do you see all the snow out there? And the ice on the pond? Turtles are hibernating right now. That means they burrow down into the mud at the bottom of the pond and they sleep."

"You have a shovel?"

"You're right, Shane. I do have a shovel but wouldn't you like to catch a trout? If you catch one I'll take a picture of you with it and you can show your friends at school!" I said.

"No. I want to catch a turtle."

Shane and I would go out on the little pond I lived next to up in the mountains just south of Helena, Montana and explore and learn about nature. It was only a couple acres in size and was just a short walk from the little cabin I lived in. The cabin wasn't much--a guest cabin really, that was nestled into a grove of trees that protected it and the pond from wind and other elements and also created one of the most beautiful backdrops one could imagine. It was a hidden little gem and turned out to be a valuable resource when working with the kids and families I worked with.

The pond was stocked full of hungry trout. It was nothing to go out and drill a hole in the ice and catch a number of twelve to fifteen inch rainbows. I not only brought Shane out there but also other kids and even an adult I worked with who had a special needs child just to give them the opportunity to do something they might not ever experience. Although some of them couldn't quite wrap their heads around the concept of ice-fishing or where these fish were coming from when they came flying up out of the hole, they were completely jacked to catch a fish; that is, all of them except Shane.

"Can I catch a turtle now?" he would ask as a trout wriggled on the ice.

"Shane! The turtles? They're sleeping!"

Shane and I spent a good portion of the winter in that cabin near the pond and would venture out from time to time with similar results; me asking if he wanted to fish, him wanting to catch turtles. I'm not sure why it was so important for me to get him to understand why he couldn't catch a turtle in the winter but I kept trying and kept failing. I guess he felt that if these trout were coming up out of a hole in the ice, why couldn't a turtle? He didn't really care as much about it as I did but for some reason, I thought the lesson was worth the fight. Maybe that says something about my own character.

Somewhere in May, the ice on the pond softened and turned into what we'd describe as honeycomb in Minnesota. It was too soft to walk on but it signified quite a change in events as the ice would melt and the pond would open up to other recreational activities. There was a dock we could hang out on and stashed in the woods, a canoe.

One day I asked Shane if he'd like to go for a canoe ride. He agreed but knowing Shane had never been in a canoe, I really didn't know what to expect. Some autistic kids don't like new things and are afraid to try activities outside their comfort zone. Sometimes they don't even know they are afraid until they are in the middle of the pond and can't see the bottom of the lake or just the feeling of floating is so foreign that they can't handle it and still other autistic kids have no fear and don't grasp how dangerous a situation can be if they don't behave appropriately and because of that, will take risks that you or I might not.

Shane wasn't really a risk-taker and he was generally not a fearful kid either so I figured we would be ok. He is, however, completely focuses at times, maybe to the point of obsession and once an idea gets in his head, it's hard to detract.

We pulled the red fiberglass canoe out of the weeds and slid it down the bank and into the still water. We loaded ourselves into the canoe. Shane sat on the floor in the middle, a friend of mine sat on the seat in front and I steered the canoe from the back. All we had were life-jackets, two paddles and a fishing net with us.

The net was a little random because we didn't have rods and weren't really all that motivated to fish. We just wanted to paddle around for a little while and see how Shane would react but the net had been stashed with the canoe so we decided to keep it all together as to not lose anything.

We paddled around for a little while and then approached some logs that had fallen into the pond. They crisscrossed each other with one extending further out than the other, about 15 feet from shore. The other log closer to shore was propped up on the outside log, which made a perfect perch guessed it; a turtle sunning itself.

As we got close to the outside log I whispered, "Hey, Shane. Do you see that turtle?"

Shane didn't respond. He just gazed forward as we drifted closer.

I leaned in and in a half whisper, half shout said, "Shane! Do you see it?"

Again, nothing from Shane but then I witness something pretty amazing. Shane slowly reached down and grabbed the net. He lifted it up, not making a sound and as the canoe slowly drifted closer and closer to the outside log, the turtle got nervous and made his move. It slipped into the water and as it did, Shane propped up on his knees and thrust the net into the pond.

Having to maneuver over the outside log as it made its escape, the turtle swam right into Shane's net and with an exuberant, "I GOT HIM!!" Shane lifted the net and sure enough, he had got 'em.

Shane caught his turtle.

He dumped the turtle out onto the floor of the canoe and yelled, "I got him! I caught the turtle!!"

Trying to escape, the turtle scratched its way towards the front of the canoe, which completely freaked out my friend and with nowhere to go, she just about jumped out of the canoe and into the pond.

Without even thinking that the turtle could bite him, Shane grabbed it and lifted it up for everyone to see while shouting, "I caught the turtle!!"

"Yes, Shane! You did! Now you have to sit down! You're going to tip us over!" I sternly said.

"But I got him!" he yelled.

I paddled us to shore as quickly as I could. Shane jumped out with the turtle still in his hands, holding it out as it took quick snaps with its pointed beak, trying to defend itself. My friend ran up the bank and quickly put a safe distance between the turtle and herself. It was a painted turtle so not all that dangerous but still, snapping like it meant business and its business was wanting to be let go back into the pond.

As things started settling down, Shane asked, "Can I take him home?"

(Remember when I said Shane sometimes focuses a little too much on some things? Maybe a bit obsessed at times?)

"But Shane, the turtle has a home and a family here. Don't you want it to be with its family?" I asked.

"But I'm his family now," as the turtle kept snapping.

"What if someone took you away from your family?" I asked.

"A turtle?"

The battle over what to do with the turtle lasted much longer than I would have wanted but we did eventually get the turtle back into the water and back with its family and I think Shane was ok with that. It's hard to tell what he will remember most about that little trip on the pond but I hope it had something to do with the accomplishment of catching the turtle and maybe more-so, the fact that the turtle was alive and happy being back with his family. Knowing Shane the way I do, I'm sure he's still telling his story of how he caught that turtle. I obviously am.

Keep 'em where they live...