As summer wanes, fall hunting season beckons

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I love summer. I love fishing with my boat. I donít know what is more challenging ó catching fish or trying to understand my electronic fish-finder.

My fish finder is probably tied with my cellphone for not being user-friendly. Perhaps being a senior citizen is part of my technology challenge. Iím sure many of you older readers can understand my frustrations.

Luckily I have granddaughters to tutor me. Anyway, summer fishing, swimming, family time at our lake cabin with the grandkids and spending lots of time outdoors are part of great Northwest Montana summers.

But our days are getting shorter, nights cooler and afternoon temperatures lower. This is a sure sign our summer is winding down. As much as I love summer, what comes after summer is even better. It is our fall season and hunting season.

In a few days, on Sept. 1, grouse hunting season opens. I donít know if I will be in the mountains of Western Montana hunting ruffed grouse and blue grouse or if Iíll be at my farm in Eastern Montana hunting sharptail grouse. But one thing for certain, my wife and I will be hunting grouse.

And I wonít be alone. Fish, Wildlife and Parks data indicate that about 50 percent of Montana men and boys hunt. For women, that number is 20 percent or more. My wife will be with me on most of my hunting trips.

Hunting is a tradition in my family. My grandfather hunted, my father hunted, all my brothers hunted, my son hunts and my wife hunts. I cut my teeth hunting bull frogs with my BB gun in Wisconsin. My mom fried those frog legs. Great eating!

Then I moved up to hunting squirrels, rabbits and grouse. Then I began hunting big game. Iíve been fortunate enough to have hunted in several states, Canada, Alaska and Africa. Lucky me! Now I am fortunate to live in Montana, with its endless hunting opportunities.

On Sept. 3, most hunting districts will open for archery hunting for deer and elk. If you have peeked into my backyard during the last few weeks, you would find me practicing with my bow, getting ready for archery hunting.

A few days after archery season opens, those hunters lucky enough to have drawn a moose tag, mountain goat tag or bighorn sheep tag will take to the mountains for fill those tags. Those seasons generally open about Sept. 15.

Last week I had a nice visit with a retiree from the west side of Flathead Lake. He was lucky enough to have drawn a moose tag in Hunting District 105. He recalled reading one of my columns about a successful moose hunt with my son, Michael. So he called for advice. We had a pleasant visit and I wished him luck in filling that tough-to-draw moose tag. Later in the season, I hope to hear from him about his success. And, oh yes, my wife and I would sure enjoy a good moose steak.

Last winter, Fish, Wildlife and Parks was gracious enough to award me an either-sex elk permit in Hunting District 700. This area essentially runs from Fort Peck Reservoir south to Montana 200.

It is one of the best bull elk areas in Montana, perhaps in all of the United States. Anyway, my entire fall will be dedicated to filling that tag with a great bull elk. My son, Erik, also got a similar tag, so we will have a good father-son hunt.

This tag is good for both the archery season and rifle season. Since my son is still working for a living, his hunting time is limited, so we probably will only hunt together during the rifle season. I have more discretionary time, so I will also hunt with archery equipment.

I will be hunting public land along the reservoir. But land access to this public land is mostly blocked by large ranches that have leased their land to outfitters. I have already received a letter from a rancher who volunteered to open his ranch to me, but for a several-thousand-dollar fee! Thanks, but no thanks.

I will access this public land via boat. I will launch at a public landing on the reservoir and boat to my hunting area. I will camp for a week or two and bow-hunt elk. I expect to see elk every day, but trying to get within a few yards of a big bull will be difficult.

I almost look at this archery hunt as an armed reconnaissance for the rifle hunting season. This will be a great hunt. Fort Peak Reservoir also has some great fishing, so I will take along my fishing rods. Hunt in the morning, fish in midday and hunt in the evening.

Can life get any better? I hope you enjoy Montanaís fall hunting season!

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