Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Bob Marshall Wildnerness: 2016

I guess I've waited long enough.  Life's been busy on the work front lately, but that doesn't mean we haven't been out fishing.

How many times have you discussed the topic of bucket list destinations with a hunting or fishing friend?  And how many times have you found certain places in common and said "one day" and then the conversation ends after that?

My friend Bob and I (follow along--this name might get confusing) were floating down a local river one spring afternoon and had this very same conversation.  Near the top of both of our lists was a destination we both agreed on:  The Bob Marshall Wilderness in northwest Montana.  Without much cooperation from the trout, the conversation soon went from the casual to more serious, and before we knew it plans were being made to make it happen.

"The Bob" as it's affectionately called spans some 60 miles along the Continental Divide and consists of some 1,009,356 acres making it the fifth largest wilderness area in the lower 48 States.  If you add in the other wilderness areas that it borders, it gets even bigger than that.  Besides the strong population of wild West Slope Cutthroat Trout that supposedly eat dry flies with reckless abandon and the ability to legally fish for Bull Trout, part of the allure is it's remoteness:  you either get in on foot, horseback or in some instances small airplanes.  No roads and no motorized vehicles with some very difficult terrain in and out limit the number of people who visit here.  Add to that the logistical cluster**** of getting stuff in, out, shuttling vehicles, 3 hour drives on 80 mile dirt roads,  having enough food to eat and clean water to drink,  taking all the right gear, high altitudes and constantly changing weather....... not to mention the Grizzly Bears that call this area home and you can see why this alone weeds out those who prefer more modern and comfortable amenities.

Did I mention this conversation took place almost three years ago and this trip was supposed to happen July of last year?   One long drought and some very large fires later and our 2015 trip was called off by our outfitter 45 days before we were supposed to leave.  Try explaining that one to the airlines.  So dates for 2016 were rescheduled and it was put off another year.

The amount of planning for a trip like this took on a life of it's own. Since everything would have to be packed in on horses and mules, space and weight became a huge issue and a reoccuring theme.  We made sure we were taking only what we needed to and had all  kind of redundancies built in as plan B, C etc.  Packing and unpacking our gear onto the two Watermaster Rafts we'd call home for the week built up the excitement for my son and I.  This wasn't just a show up and go kind of trip--every facet had to be carefully planned out and prepared for, because once you reached the end of that 26 mile horseback ride in and were dropped off for a week on your own- - -there was no turning back.

Early on we had it in our minds we would fly out to Montana.  Now, anyone who knows me knows how I pack for just a weekend trip, let alone one like this that would require the specialized gear we were required to take.  It quickly became apparent that unless we chartered the whole 737 ourselves driving would be the only way we'd be able to make it with everything.  As it turned out, having our trip postponed that first year became a blessing in disguise.

Added bonus:  2 1/2 hour 'sightseeing delay'
in Chicago on the way out
Departure morning arrives.  Bob pulls in with his two sons Chase and Clay and we begin to lay everything out in my driveway and garage floor.  Several "oh sh** moments later and we begin to wonder if we have entirely too much we repack the whole Chevy Tahoe again and somehow manage to load every crack and crevice in, on top of, and on the back of the vehicle with our gear without having to sacrifice a kid.  A straight through, fast food laden, caffeine induced put-the-cruise-on-80-and-forget-about-it-drive later and we were there.

Just that easy, although dodging those damn Pokemon's that Bob's kids said were all over the road was tricky at times.

We spent several days around Divide Montana visiting my friends John and Janet and fishing the Big Hole River and some local area streams.  Then it was a drive north/northwest to the Kalispell, Montana area where we would meet our outfitter the next morning and the adventure would begin for the next eight days.

First Morning:  Mantying up for the trip in

Next:  "What goes up must eventually come down"

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Just wanted to share a sketch my son made of our dog Duke, taken from a photo we have of him out in the field.  Now that firearms season is done here in Pennsylvania, it's time to get out a few more times in the late season and poke holes in the sky chasing some more grouse.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


Hello everyone, I'm Erik's son Bryce. There's a few pictures of me around here, most of them with a bird dog. I have 2 Brittanys, a three and a half year old orange and white male, Duke and a nine month old liver and white female, Jenny. We've spent a lot of time in the grouse woods this year chasing birds, and both dogs have been doing really well. With my older dog coming into his third season, with this being his second where he will be hunted only on grouse and woodcock, I had high hopes for him.

He had given me many opportunities on birds over his points throughout the first few weeks of the season but I was never able to connect. Until last weekend, when I hunted a cover I discovered earlier in the year. Within the first 5 minutes in this cover we had already flushed a bird out of a tree. I knew where an older bird was hanging out, as we had seen him around this same spot each time we hunted this cover. He was always able to evade us, and sometimes I'd see him flying away as we approached, with both the dog and I a good distance away. Duke approached the corner of the pasture that sticks out from the woods with a few apple trees and thorn bushes and went silent. As I made my way in from 50 yards I crawled under a barbed wire fence and when I stood I saw him standing there, with a high head and straight tail, only 15 yards from me. He’s on that old bird, I just knew it!  I hadn't taken 5 steps and the grouse flew out of the cover ahead of us from right to left, offering a perfect crossing shot. I swung and with my first shot the bird fell. It was a beautiful, with both a cinnamon colored band and ruffs. Not 30 minutes into the hunt and I was content with the dog work and my shooting so I decided to hold off on any more shooting that day. Duke pointed another bird on our hour and a half walk through that cover, topping off a perfect day in the woods.

Jenny has also made steps towards becoming a grouse dog. She was hunted a few times on pheasant when I took her out for the junior season, but since then she has been hunted exclusively on grouse. I am truly amazed how far she has come this year. Starting as a puppy that would leave me in the dust and go for a fun run in the woods, she has now pointed a few grouse. None of which were harmed. With the early season coming to an end soon we will try to get out for another hunt before we are kept out of the grouse woods until the late season

Ed Note:  With a new drivers license, Bryce was able to get out hunting on his own without me several times this season.  His first PA Grouse was done his way, on his own, by himself.   Really cool to see both he and the dog "grow up"! 

Potter County, PA from the week before