The Quickening

I have a ritual where I clean and sharpen all of my blades. Gutting knife, skinner, axe and bone saw are ready to go, fresh and unscented. Extra batteries for the GPS, range finder and headlamp are tucked in with the latex gloves and Purell. Clothing has been mended from last year’s run-ins with sagebrush and willows.

Rifle loads have been meticulously developed over the course of the year, and the 35 Whelen will get a fouling shot tonight to make sure she hits right where I tell her to on the first, cold shot. She wears an old Bausch and Lomb scope, circa 1958 or so. A 250 grain round nose Hornady bullet is ready to plow through bone and gristle. These are my tools. They are necessary in order for me to be successful in the hunt. 

Now we have a new tool, one that will enhance my hunting statewide. We unveiled the Montana Sportsmen’s Atlas yesterday, and so far we've had nothing but praise, and a few minor technical glitches. I spent the better part of this week scouring the map and satellite image of where I’ll be opening morning. It’s a high ridge on a Roadless Area that holds a lot of elk and wolves. The Atlas has helped me locate areas where elk should be, especially in a warm, dry fall like we’re having now. Springs, wallows and the beginnings of creeks in protected cool areas mean if I am successful, my legs will burn as I haul that elk out of the hellhole I find them in.

The Atlas has all the layers I want, and a few extras. Satellite, USGS topo maps, landownership, and Block Management Areas all pop up easily, giving me an easy hunt planner to coincide with what I see on my GPS. The other thing that we’ve put into this Atlas is the Land and Water Conservation Fund Projects that are so important to access geeks like me. Over 70% of all Fishing Access Sites in Montana had LWCF funding attached to them.  LWCF has become a political football lately, but the value of LWCF is so much more than just a line item in a politician’s budget. This program opens thousands of acres of prime habitat to hunters, and thousands of miles of streams to anglers. Without it, we’d be poorer by many degrees.

I've dropped 7.5 inches of fat over the last couple of months preparing for this season. I've spent countless hours at the gun range ensuring my bullet finds its mark. With this atlas, I've discovered new routes into secluded areas where the elk will hole up. Last year at this same moment in time, I was nervous, not sure I could run ridges looking for a nasty old bull elk.

This year, I am ready.

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Hellgate Hunters and Anglers
Our Mission is to conserve Montana's wildlife, wild places, and fair-chase hunting and fishing heritage.