Backcountry Blog

A blog about issues affecting the backcountry, secret spots (maybe) and hunting and fishing in wild places by traditional means. If you are interested in posting something to the blog, please email your submission to the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Also, to help spread the word about BHA, please feel free to “like” or “share” entries via the integrated facebook links below each entry.


Your Must-Do List for the Off-Season

Joel buck 2015 webThe following article by BHA Co-Chair, Joel Webster was originally posted on the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership's blog.

If you’re like me, you live for the fall. But now that the meat is cut up, packaged, and stacked high in my freezer, I’ve entered the post-big-game-season lull. My bow, rifle, and other gear have all been cleaned and put away. I’ll likely get out this winter to call in a few ducks and pull some fish through the ice, but my heart is in the mountains, and I’m still daydreaming about high-elevation basins full of bucks and bulls.

But a true big-game hunter should never stop preparing for the hunt. Here’s what I consider to be the key elements of the off-season:

Staying in shape. Climbing ridges and mountainsides is hard work, and it will wear you down if you keep skipping your workout. I like to stay on top of my fitness regimen throughout the year. If I need a break from the gym during the winter and summer months, I get outside and glass for deer and elk. It’s actually a great way to stay motivated—you literally keep your eyes on the prize.

7 Principles to Leave No Trace

The concept of leaving no trace of your passage through an outdoor area has been around for centuries. Native Americans would move from one location to another while leaving as little evidence of their passing as possible. Many of these methods still are taught by the Boy Scouts today.

No Trace 11. Plan Ahead and Prepare - This step is key to a successful outing, whether you are hiking, backpacking or camping.

    1. Do the research to find out if there are any regulations you must meet for the area you will be visiting.
    2. Be prepared for weather changes. Some areas can have extreme fluctuations in a short period of time.
    3. Try to avoid high traffic times for your trip.
    4. Smaller groups are easier on the environment.
    5. Have backpacking rations available or repackage your food to eliminate all unnecessary packaging.
    6. Use a map and compass for navigation – not paint, bark scars or rock scratches.
    7. Select your outings carefully to ensure members have enough time to travel between sites and select campfire locations to minimize damage to the environment.

Duck Haven

This is the third of a three part series entitled the Public Land Beak Seekers, a celebration and journal of an eight day journey through the fields of Montana and North Dakota.   In search of public land game birds, the Beak Seekers would find both sweet success and stinging disappointment—learning much about both along the way.  This series is sponsored by First Lite Performance Hunting and Traeger Grills. All Photos by ChaseMillemanPhotography.com

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 Welcome to your club.

“The thing that most hunters simply forget is that ducks just don’t care if land is public or private.  And by virtue of pressure and traffic, a lot time ducks prefer private water for breeding habitat.  So that makes our relationships with both private and public entities very important.”   We had wasted no time in grilling Dr. Johann Walker, Director of Conservation in the North and South Dakota for Ducks Unlimited and a very accomplished ecologist.  “That’s what makes those Duck Stamps so incredibly important.  Sure some funds from them do go to administration, but most of that money actually goes to both conservation and access programs.  It’s truly remarkable how many water fowlers don’t know that the Federal Duck Stamp is vital to the conservation of waterfowl in a time when habitat is rapidly disappearing.” 

Pheasant Country

This is the second of a three part series, the Public Land Beak Seekers, an eight day journey through Montana and North Dakota. In search of public land gamebirds, the Beak Seekers found both sweet success and stinging disappointment. This series is sponsored by First Lite Performance Hunting and Traeger Grills. All Photos by ChaseMillemanPhotography.com

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How many bars do you get in Malta, MT?

The town of Malta, Montana, was originally a rail stop on the Manitoba (later to be the Great Northern) Railway. Encompassing roughly 1 square mile, Malta has a rich Western history complete with railway robberies and burgeoning rangeland cowboy culture that still permeates the town today. It is also known for pheasant hunting. Our first hotel stay of the trip confirmed this fact as not one, not two but eight trucks at the motel were obviously there for the same reason we were. A quick chat with the gal at the office confirmed that fact. “Lots of birds here. You’re in the right place.” Finally. 

After an eventful night of exorcising our demons at the Stockman’s restaurant and bar on Main Street, we were somehow up early and on the road by daybreak. Heading north out of town, we drove toward somegiant BMAs that ran along a tributary river. The short drive out there got the blood pumping – there were pheasant in several folks’ yards along the road. The public access parcel was so big that we dropped off Chase and Jason a few miles away at one entrance and drove to another entrance with a designated meeting point in the middle. Bryan and I worked the two griffons through some grasslands, again jumping sharpies comically far out in front of us. We wrapped through a drainage and ended up in a “No Shooting Zone” with barbeque pit, outhouse, picnic tables and – wait for it – a lot of pheasant.  We watched in disbelief as both Judy and Edna pointed roosters and hens while we were powerless to reward them.  Meanwhile, Jason and Chase worked their way up the tributary and were rewarded with a single rooster complete with the sort of tail that you only get in true pheasant country. “We’re on the board,” Jason remarked. Yup, we were on the board but nowhere near satisfied.

The Beak Seekers

This is the first of a three part series, the Public Land Beak Seekers, an eight day journey through Montana and North Dakota. In search of public lands gamebirds, the Beak Seekers found both sweet success and stinging disappointment. This series is sponsored by First Lite Performance Hunting and Traeger Grills. All Photos by ChaseMillemanPhotography.com

First Lite 1There is a special place in the heart of those who choose to wander the outdoors, a place that can most readily be reached when the scenery and experience that greet us live up to what previously resided in the mind’s eye. It might be a stretch of remote mountain peaks and vistas, startling us as we gain a ridge. Maybe it’s an alpine lake or serpentine river bottom lit by golden orange evening sunlight – a view that makes you stop what you’re doing and take stock of where you actually are and whether or not it’s really happening. Regardless of our own personal Shangri Las, the wonderful thing about the backcountry is that if you’re willing to put in the effort and time, it almost certainly will deliver. 

For those of us whose passion revolves around beaks, admiring wildly colored flight feathers and counting the bars on a mature rooster, few opportunities compare to the rolling hills, winding two-lane highways and small agricultural towns of Montana and North Dakota.  Whether that deliverance comes as you crest one of the endless prairies, pick your way through the cattail bottoms or watch your dog strike a backlit point on the edge of a bramble thicket, your moment will come – when everything before you delivers all you were hoping to experience.  

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Backcountry Hunters & Anglers seeks to ensure North America's outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters.

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