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SKWALHALLA – Why It Took 3 Years to Film

skwala hatch, skwala, skwalla, fishing, spring, bitterroot river, montana

This week we dropped our trailer for our film SKWALHALLA.  You can read more about the hatch and film HERE.  If you missed it here is the trailer:

We really started fishing the hatch in 2012.  New to fishing and eager to get out after a long winter, this hatch was a welcomed respite from worm chucking and turd swinging.  In 2013 we fished the hatch with more dedication, hoping to unlock the secrets of the hatch so that days could be spent catching fish on a dry and not just staring at foam float downriver for eight hours.  While some may claim this hatch is so easy to hit we’ve found it to be quite the opposite.  With a 2+month weather and water temp window these bugs can pop with little to no reason one day and be gone the next only to reappear three weeks later in the same spot.  An angler dedicated to seeing the hatch in all its glory often has to be borderline obsessed with time on the river the biggest factor in catching glimpses of the best days.  That year we filmed a few days but had relatively nothing to show for the effort.  2013 came around and we again set out to fish the hatch and were met with slightly better success.

skwala, skwala hatch, montana, fly fishing, video, film

Getting just the right drift was the ticket to catching this rainbow.

Again we filmed a bit but with no mission and no goal it was only worth added time spent behind the camera gaining valuable experience filming fishing.  2014 came and once again we walked banks searching for rising trout and skwalas crawling through the rocks.  A few epic days without the camera had us feeling more confident.

skwala, skwala hatch, skwalla, montana, spring, fishing, bitterroot

Travis with one of a handful of fish caught in a small stretch of river

Around this time I had become better friends with Josh Rokosch, a local of the valley and one knowledgeable skwala fisherman.  Growing up fishing the hatch meant he was a wealth of knowledge and in 2013 he had expressed his desire to make a skwala film called Skwalhalla.  The title essentially means Skwala Valhalla and we were right at the center of the best skwala fishing to be found.  Things didn’t work out to begin filming then or in 2014, but more groundwork was laid and a project was starting to line up.

skwala, skwala hatch, bitterroot, river, fishing, spring

Beautiful colors on a skwala eating cutty

As 2015 rolled around we agreed to begin filming Skwalhalla.  The film was meant to document the glory of the hatch and the epic dry fly eats associated with it.  No long, boring storyline, just good friends, good times and big eats.  We filmed 4 days that spring and got a few shots but far from what we needed to make a film.  With no funding of any kind this was going to be a personal project and that meant no real deadline.  With the ball slowly rolling we ramped up production in 2016 and filmed a total of 11 days searching for more eats and bigger fish.  That may seem like a lot of days but often film days never seem to be amazing fishing days.  Sure there are a few every once in a while but often if you get 5-10 really good shots in a day you’re crushing it.  Running a camera for 8 hours on a river can be tough and shots get missed, fish get missed, the exposure or focus was off, the audio was cracking, or something didn’t line up that made the shot just ok.  Again this is entirely self funded so if the fishing sucks and we’re sick of filming then the camera goes bye bye and usually someone catches a fish within 5 minutes haha!! Typical.

montana, skwala, skwala hatch, hatch, fishing, spring, film, video

Late afternoon riser

With lots of footage logged we were still missing a few shots that would round out the film.  One area which was lacking was high quality bug footage.  When you’re focused on catching fish and filming eats you’re not always looking to film the naturals crawling around on banks.  With plenty of eats in the bag we set out to find skwalas doing their thing, crawling out of the river, hatching, squirming on the water and flying off rocks and logs.

skwala, fishing, montana

A slow day but proof that things were about to heat up

Day one of 2017 and boom we hit it right on the money.  Skwalas were crawling all over the first log we pulled up to and we logged some awesome shots.  One thing to note is that we saw lots and lots of bugs that day but the fish weren’t keyed into them yet.  We fished hard but just didn’t get the eats.  The streamer actually got pulled out and turned up a few nice fish though.  The next day we switched systems and got into some amazing fishing.  With plenty of footage on the hard drives we made the gamble to go to a stretch of water that hadn’t seen much traffic and hoped we would be rewarded.  That choice paid off in a big way with a half dozen of our best eats of the film taking place on that float.  With so much success we decided to go back to the same spot the next day.  The weather was essentially the same and flows remained stable but the fishing was night and day.  The fishing had turned off and only a few eats were had.  It wasn’t how you’d hope to end a film trip but that’s the nature of the hatch.

fly fishing, log jam, trout, spring, montana, filming the skwala hatch

Side channel log jams. Fortunately we were able to pull the braces off and slide through

At the end of it all we had spent over 20 days filming for this movie and we’re damn proud of what we’ve created.  The final film is 21 minutes long and filled with over 70 dry fly eats.  The storyline is simple and it’s filled with good music and even better fishing.  Projects like this are big undertakings, but we hope they push the progression of fishing films in the right direction.  This is undoubtedly the best video documentation of the hatch to date and your support of this project goes a long, LONG ways in helping fund more content in the future (both free and paid).  At the end of the day we can’t do this without the support of our fans.  Please consider purchasing SKWALHALLA, it will get you stoked for spring fishing!!!

Words by Zack Boughton

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SKWALHALLA – All about the hatch and our upcoming film

skwalhalla, skwala, skwala hatch, montana, wild, film, video, bitterroot river
montana, spring, bitterroot river, bitterroot, skwala, skwala hatch, fishing

A large squall that narrowly missed us on a spring float.

Winter is long in most of the West.  Many fisherman have gone months without handling a fly rod and have either went into full hibernation or have been busy tying flies for the upcoming spring.  Late January and early February the temps start to rise and nymphing can be good, especially with the ever deadly San Jaun worm.  It works but it also gets old quick.  Fortunately the skwala hatch is just around the corner.  In limited spots across the West a medium sized stonefly called the Skwala (skwala americana) begins its emergence onto river banks, logs and other structure around the river.  Emerging from their shucks they begin to crawl around and eventually search for a mate.  After mating the females return to the water to lay their eggs and the lifecycle continues its cycle.

montana, spring, bitterroot river, bitterroot, skwala, skwala hatch, fishing

A male skwala stonefly

That’s a highly simplified version but the key here is that the trout start looking up in a big way.  Being able to toss a size 10 foam body dry fly in the middle of a snowstorm to a 20″ brown will absolutely change your perspective on spring fishing.  But that doesn’t mean the hatch is easy to hit perfectly.  Fishing a day here or there means you might not even get a glimpse of the potential and could very well think the hatch sucks and why would a guy waste his time throwing a dry when nothing eats it?  Given spring in Montana weather and water temps can drastically change as well as river flows.  The hatch can pop one day and be dead the next even without a significant weather/temp change.  It can be good in one five mile stretch one day and in an entirely different area the next.  Often a few bugs show up around mid-February and can last well into April.  Finding the right window on the right stretch is the tough part.  But when you hit it right it’s absolutely amazing.  Big fish and even bigger eats.

montana, spring, bitterroot river, bitterroot, skwala, skwala hatch, fishing, montana

A hefty cutbow that ate a skwala dry.

After a few years of talking about making a film to show the highlights of the hatch we finally decided to go for it.  That was 2015 and with no funding and no real plan we filmed 4 days that spring.  That year gave us just a taste of what was to come as only one of those days really worked as far as getting any good shots on camera.  We then filmed 11 days in 2016 knowing that we needed more good footage to really capture the eats we had hoped to show.  Filming fishing is always a tough gig.  You can almost count on the fishing to be worse the second the camera comes out, it’s just how it is.  Throw in missing shots, having the exposure or focus wrong or just not being in the right place at the right time and you’re lucky if you log 5-10 really great shots in a day.  We now had filmed enough eats but the bug footage was lacking.  Actually capturing the bugs hatching had been tough and we decided we needed one more year to round out the footage and add a few more good fish to the mix.  After three years and over 20 days spent filming we called it complete and got to editing.  A few long weeks in the edit bay left us with a rough cut and another week of polishing saw the film finished and complete.  Three years and lots of work, money invested, long days and even longer nights and we are proud to present the trailer for SKWALHALLA.  The full film will be available for purchase on Vimeo On Demand on February 1st and is now available for Pre-Order at this link > https://vimeo.com/ondemand/skwalhalla  Enjoy the teaser!

Please be sure to subscribe to our newsletter for the latest deals and news surrounding both this film and also our brand.  Trust me when I say it will be worth it.

-Written by Zack Boughton

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Spring Fishing 2017

spring fishing, brown trout

Another spring has almost flown by once again.  In a few short weeks runoff will be here and our spring fishing window will be shut down and we will be back in the mountains chasing bears and turkeys.  This spring we have gotten the privilege to wet a fly in eight different rivers here in Montana.  Although the fishing wasn’t as good as previous springs we still were able to find a healthy number of nice trout and beautiful Montana views.  Below are a few images from our spring travels around the state.

spring, fishing, montana, wild, flyfishing

Kicking off the early spring with a chucky bow.

spring, fishing, montana, wild, streamer, driftboat, green water

Pulling for pigs on a mud line.

spring, fishing, montana, wild, rainbow trout

Mean muggin for the camera

spring, fishing, montana, wild, maddie sieler

Maddie with a nice streamer fish to start off a very windy day

spring, fishing, montana, wild, streamer, brown trout

Streamers saving a very slow day of dry fly fishing

spring, fishing, montana, wild, skwala, bitterroot river

Josh with a nice fish caught while filming for an upcoming project

spring, fishing, montana, wild, drift, boat, fish

Exploring some gin clear water before the snow started melting from the mountains

spring, fishing, montana, wild, rainbow trout

This fish was a serious moral boost on a slow day.

spring, fishing, montana, wild, brown trout, simms fishing

Travis fooled this great brown out of hiding in small pocket water.

spring, fishing, montana, wild, selfie, trout eye

Trout selfie

spring, fishing, montana, wild, brown trout, streamer

Warmer weather means more browns on the prowl

spring, fishing, montana, wild, brown trout, t-shirt

Travis product testing a new t-shirt. Appears to be working just fine

spring, fishing, montana, wild, sucker, fish

Josh stoked for days

spring, fishing, montana, wild, dry fly, skwala

The sometimes elusive spring dry fly eat

We now have a handful of new shirts and hats in our online store.  To see more and shop click HERE.

-Zack

My Montana Wild Internship

internship, outdoor, photography, film, video

Are you a young, motivated individual who is passionate about the outdoors, and filmmaking & photography? Are you looking for an internship to develop those skills? If so, look no further. Montana Wild is looking for interns for 2017, and you could be one of them. Follow along as I take you through my summer as an intern for the guys at Montana Wild!

montana wild, internship, hunting, fishing, photo, video

Taking a break from running the camera and throwing a salmonfly sure isn’t a bad gig.

As I approached my final summer as a college student at the University of Montana, I knew that I wanted to stay in Montana for the summer and work somewhere that’s directly related to media arts, which is what I’m studying in school. Shortly after making this decision, I saw a post on Montana Wild’s Facebook page that they were hiring, and also had internship positions available. From there I got ahold of Zack and Travis Boughton, and sent them my cover letter, resume, and portfolio. Shortly thereafter, I met up with the guys to talk about being an intern, and the next thing I knew, I had landed myself the sickest summer job around. I was stoked!

montana wild, internship, fishing, photo, video, smith river

Snapping photos, rowing, fishing, and camping on Montana’s Smith River.

What I didn’t know going into this internship was how many awesome places I was going to go while working. The major highlight of my internship for me was floating the Smith River and seeing first hand how important of a resource it is for Montana. Not only was it an awesome place to experience, but over the course of the trip I was able to shoot a wide variety of photos, and get to use some new gear for the first time. It gave me time to try new things, and ask questions that greatly improved my photography as a whole, but specifically fishing related photography and astrophotography. During that trip I also was able to see firsthand how the guys at Montana Wild work on a production. Being able work side-by-side with Zack and Travis helped shorten my learning curve greatly.

montana wild, internship, spring, summer, fishing, hunting, photo, video

Camping while on the job.

I also went on trips shed hunting, bear hunting, and a few days of salmonfly fishing/filming in SW Montana, where I was able to gain experience shooting on a cinema camera for the first time. Running a professional grade film camera allowed me to get a closer look at all the settings available to the filmmaker but also what it takes to make these cameras really shine. When you make that step up inherently you are going to make mistakes and being able to have a focused yet fun setting to make those mistakes was a great way to learn. After the shoot I had the opportunity to edit all my footage and work with high quality slow motion video for the first time as well. Aside from shooting and editing content in the field, as an intern for Montana wild you will learn the ins and outs of social media, advertising, brand and social promotions, and what it takes to run a successful brand and social media platform.

montana wild, fishing, internship, filming, summer

Running the Sony FS7 while Zack navigates some whitewater.

montana wild, internship, film, photography, outdoors, hunting

Chase packs out during a spring bear hunt.

Over the course of my internship I had the opportunity to work on a wide range of daily tasks that took me to some pretty incredible places. Daily tasks included the following:

  • Creating and scheduling daily social media posts
  • Creating focused, branded content packages for social media
  • Brainstormed photo/video content ideas
  • Shooting photo/video content
  • Editing photo/video content with Adobe programs
  • Coming up with blog post ideas. Writing blog posts
Montana Wild Internship

Developing skillsets, one click at a time.

If you are looking to become an intern for Montana Wild in the future, you should have some experience or be proficient with Adobe software. Specifically Lightroom, Photoshop, and Premiere. Having a strong grasp of the basics is a necessity of the internship but will really allow you absorb much more during your internship. The more you already know the better, but that brings me to my next point.

By now you’re probably wondering, “So what am I going to get out of this internship?” other than a summer full of stoke, brown trout, camera gear and laughs. The answer is A LOT. Over the course of my internship I was able to improve my skills across the board from shooting photos and video, to editing said shots in Premiere, Lightroom, and Photoshop. When it came to shooting content, my technical skills improved drastically when it was time to set up gear, or quickly getting camera settings to desired levels to capture a shot. The more you do it, the easier it gets, and knowing how to use your gear to its fullest extent will greatly improve the content that you end up with. Subsequently, the content that I was shooting greatly improved as the summer went on. This was partially due to being out and shooting more frequently, but also because I had a resource to bring my work back to and be critiqued. Seems like a solid gig so far doesn’t it? Well it gets better yet. If you’re a college student, you more than likely will be able to receive credits towards graduation for your work over the course of the summer. In my case, I was able to get 6 credits, which meant less class and more time in the mountains come September!

montana wild, internship, hunting, film, photo

Spending time in the mountains with the guys meant more knowledge gained about cameras but also about hunting and backpacking.

Interested in working in the hunting and fishing media industry as a career? Not to worry, as an intern for Montana Wild not only will you build skills that will help you succeed in the future, but you will also have the chance to make connections by learning the ropes and insider tips from Zack and Travis. This will also allow you to meet other like minded people in the industry, and in today’s world, being talented at what you do, having job experience, and knowing the right people will get you far. Like what you see? If so send the guys at Montana Wild an email to info@montana-wild.com with the SUBJECT line: Montana Wild Internship.  Be sure to send a resume, cover letter and a portfolio of any photo/video work you’ve done.  Good luck!

Written by Calvin Connor

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Curiosity Killed The Bear

bear hunt, montana, spring

As I approached the start of Montana’s 2016 Spring black bear season I didn’t really know where to start. Growing up in Wisconsin, spot and stalk bear hunting was far from the ordinary. In Wisconsin it’s a waiting game. Ten years of applying for a tag, and you might get lucky. Even then you will have to get even luckier if you plan on killing a bear over five feet. With that being said, your odds of success and a guaranteed tag make Montana a much better option for the aspiring bear hunter. In Montana, Spring bear season runs from April 15th to June 15th (in most units). This gives you two months of time to stop tying flies, forget about your fishing withdrawals, and hit the hills of western Montana in search of a big old black bear.

bear hunting, montana, wild

With short notice, I quickly gathered as much information as I could from reading articles and talking to a few seasoned bear hunters, and prepared to hit the hills come mid April. During opening week of bear season I was fortunate enough to be floating Montana’s famous Smith River. This would not only turn out to be an awesome experience, but it gave me the opportunity to hunt bears on a section of remote National Forest land.

Stars, Bear Hunting, Smith River, River, Hunting

Smith River Stargazing.

After a mild hike from camp to the top of the ridge, we found ourselves in the snow. As we worked our way up the ridge, we cut a set of tracks, and shortly after Sam spotted another bear on the other side of the canyon in some of the gnarliest country imaginable. As we sat and glassed the bear for a few minutes we exchanged a wide range of opinions on the bear’s size and distance. The bear was too far away. We chose not to lob one across the canyon, and returned to camp empty handed, but it was an exciting adventure none the less.

Smith River, Hunting, Bears, Fishing, Bear Hunting

Snow covered cliffs along the Smith River.

As the season continued I went out in search bears in Western Montana. The rugged landscape combined with the green grass made for some of the best scenery my eyes have ever seen, but to my surprise I was having a lot harder of a time finding bears than I thought I would. It quickly became apparent that if I wanted to fill my tag, I was going to have to check out some new country, and gain a lot more elevation than I thought.

Rocks, Hunting, Bears, Montana, Mountains

Chance making his way up a gnarly rockslide.

After crossing two creeks and packing into a gnarly canyon, we quickly bumped a bear off of a dead deer, and shortly after we were surrounded by bear sign. We hunted hard the next couple of days, but to my surprise, I still had yet to have a shot opportunity at a bear.

Deer, Bear, Hunting, Conservation, Mountain

Chance checking out a fresh bear kill.

The following Wednesday I texted Zack asking him what he wanted me to work on that day. He quickly responded with “I want you to work on killing a bear today Calvin.” and so I went. Having already missed the prime hours of the morning, I headed into a spot that I was very familiar with, and that I had seen some bears in the past. After glassing a large clear cut for the better part of the morning, I was left scratching my head wondering “Who would have thought I would have this much trouble finding a bear.” Little did I know, that was all about to change. As the afternoon rolled around, I found myself working a logging road to a point where I knew I would be able to glass an entirely new section for the next couple of hours. After glassing and again coming up with nothing, I decided to work my way up the ridge.

Glassing, Hunting, Bear Hunting, Bears

“Where da bears at?”

After hiking a few hundred yards up the ridge, I found myself surrounded in fresh bear sign. Although the wind was blowing my scent directly uphill, I decided to get settled in a patch of timber, and start calling. Not 30 seconds into my call sequence and I spotted a bear no more than 300 yards away standing on a log looking directly at me. Before I could get my rifle settled for a shot, the bear started running directly towards me as I kept screeching on the call.

Rifle, Gun, Hunting, Bears, Montana

Ready to roll.

With my heart racing, I quickly realized that this bear was going to get a lot closer to me than I had hoped. As the bear got to 50 yards at a dead run, I screeched one last time, stopping the bear. I settled my crosshairs, squeezed the trigger, and just like that I had harvested my first black bear.

Hunting, Brass, Guns, Bears, Montana

Bear, Hunting, Bear Hunting, Mountains, Montana

Bear Down!

A quick phone call later and I had help on the way to get my bear off the mountain in one trip. Gus and Tex quickly made their way up the mountain, and the work began. We made quick work of the bear, quartering out the meat, skinning the hide, and heading back to the truck with full packs.

Bear, Hunting, Meat, Conservation, Montana, Spring

The work begins.

The best kind of text message to send after a day on the mountain.

Hunting, Bears, Stoked, Bear Hunting, Montana, Mountains

 

– Calvin

 

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The Spring Fish Window

big, brown, trout, montana

May is one weird month for fishing here in Montana.  The weather is warming up and the rivers tend to be all over the place.  Some years your only real option is the Missouri.  Other years you can fish in town the entire month of May with exceptional fishing.  It’s a month where staying local with the ability to hit the river at a moments notice can really pay off big.  This spring we had a big push of water come through for a few weeks.  Rivers were up with okay fishing if you knew all the right spots to target.  The Missouri was the obvious choice for many anglers.  It was crazy busy at times, but exceptional dry fly fishing could be had when the conditions lined up.  This past week though, all the local Missoula rivers dropped hard over the course of a few days.  Cold temps up high shut down runoff momentarily and the fish took note.  When Josh called saying I needed to fish tomorrow I listened.  Over time I’ve learned that when Josh says we need to fish he’s almost always right.  We met up early the next morning and took the raft out for a rip.

brown trout, bucknasty, montana, missoula, fishing, streamers, spring

The brown trout were on the prowl.

brown trout, bucknasty, montana, missoula, fishing, streamers, spring

More aggressive browns.

brown trout, bucknasty, montana, missoula, fishing, streamers, spring, wild

Montana Shark

brown trout, bucknasty, montana, missoula, fishing, streamers, spring, wild

Chunky dude. Going into summer strong.

brown trout, bucknasty, montana, missoula, fishing, streamers, spring, big

Patience with the fly allowed Josh to hook this beast and a wild rodeo ensued. Fortunately he found the net.

We made an extra long float and I’m glad we did.  The action wasn’t consistent throughout the day.  The morning was hot and then things tapered off.  Sticking to the gameplan and fishing hard through the cold water kept us in the game and at the end of the day we’d definitely caught a healthy number of big brown trout.  Life is good!

Written by Zack Boughton

Images by Josh Rokosch and Zack Boughton

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Bear Camp 16

bear camp, montana, hunting

Bear Camp, a most underrated event.  Montana bear hunting has to be, hands-down, one of the most fun hunts we go on each year.  You get the opportunity to test out new gear and work on fixing parts of your system that failed you the previous year.  You get to hone in your hunting skills and senses after a few long months off.  You get to lace up the boots and start busting you butt back into mountain shape and the things you see rarely disappoint.  The icing on the cake is tagging a bear and helping out the local ungulate population.  This year bear camp was going to be a little different than last year’s inaugural camp.  You can read all about why bear camp is so badass in our post > 10 Reasons Why Spring Bear Hunting Is The Cat’s Ass.  For 2016 we’d be a small trimmed down crew of three hunting in a new, more rugged location.  This year we’d be hunting the mountains and looking for those small pockets of green amidst a sea of dark timber and scree fields.

montana, bear hunting, spring, wild, black

Heading up the first canyon of the trip.

Camp started with a flat tire, rain, snow and general poor conditions.  With only three and a half days penciled in to get it done we knew we’d need to hunt hard and put some miles on the boots.  The first full day was spent driving and hiking into various locations we’d scouted on Google Earth and seeing if they translated in real life.  All the areas we hunted looked like they could hold bears but nothing screamed “hunt here!” The second afternoon was spent glassing green hilsides when the fog and rain allowed.

spring, bear hunting, montana, wild, mountains

A necessary hike up the scree revealed more of the opposite hillside.

With a few hours left we split up into two groups to try to locate a bear.  That evening turned up a sow and two cubs and a few elk and sheep.  With little to go off we trudged our way back to camp and fired up the wood stove to dry out and refuel for the next day.

wood stove, montana, canvas, riley stove, wall, tent, hunting

The wall tent is always welcome when the weather is bad.

Our goal for our last full day was to head up into a long draw I’d spent some time looking at back home on the computer.  It appeared about 3 miles up the canyon a few large avalanche shoots opened up and would be a nice, secluded spot to find a mature bear.  5:30 A.M. came quick and a look outside the tent showed us that the visibility had dropped overnight.  With our prospects of glassing looking dismal, we decided to sleep in till 8 and then see if the forecasted sun would start to burn off some fog.  By 9 we were in the truck headed off to find our trail winding up a thick canyon.  As we pulled off the main dirt road we found our access road covered in trees.  I mumbled a few comments that I’ll keep to myself and fired up the chainsaw.  Two trees out and we hopped back in to head up the road.  Around the next bend lay a group of about 10 more trees draped over the road.  As I was cutting Brandon informed me my pull cord had frayed and was laying on the ground.  Well that’s just peachy.  I now had to keep the chainsaw running until we hit our trail.  After cutting the visible trees out I jumped on my tailgate and keep the chainsaw humming while Brandon quickly navigated my truck up the mountain.  Eventually we made it to our trail, a small, grown-in trail that seemed like a bad idea.  We contemplated the options from the comfort of the truck and decided we didn’t cut all those damn trees out for nothing.  We’d start bushwacking up the wet canyon and see what we thought in an hour.  What started out as a decent trail soon faded into a trail that appeared it hadn’t been cleared in 8-10 years.  We navigated wet and snowy brush and downfall for two and a half hours before breaking out into our first big opening.  Within seconds I’d put my binos on a suspiciously black spot and we had spotted our first bear of the day.

spring, bear hunting, montana, kimber, mountains, sitka gear

Brandon sizing up the first bear of the day.

black bear, montana, bear, hunting, snow, mountains

An epic spot to see a bear but this one had cubs and eventually moved off.

Brandon quickly had a pack down and his gun lined up on the bear staring down into the valley as a light snow fell through the valley.  The encounter was surprisingly calm.  Brandon explained he wasn’t sure how big the bear was and he was going to watch it for a bit.  I snapped away on the camera enjoying the wild mix of conditions.  As Brandon examined the bear two small black cubs came crawling up the mountain navigating the boulders twice their size.  We both were glad we hadn’t rushed into taking a shot at this bear.  It’s a hard thing for new guys and even experienced guys to do when bear hunting, but watching a bear and determining its sex and if it has cubs is a necessity.  We watched mom lead her cubs up through the timber and we threw our packs back on and continued up the canyon.

bear hunting, montana, spring

Brandon picks his way up the canyon among snow covered downfall and an almost non-existent trail.

Soon we had climbed into the next avalanche chute and it was looking good.  Snow was still slowly filtering down and the upper half of the mountain was fogged in but we were starting to see the kind of habitat we were looking for.  After examining the side of the creek we were on we slowly worked out into the bottom of the clearing when Brandon spotted a bear across the creek.  Living in a small alder choked chute in the hill was a black bear, completely unaware of our presence.  Brandon quickly got a good rest on his pack and settled in for a good broadside shot.

montana, bear hunting, kimber, mountains, spring

Patiently waiting for the right shot.

As bears will do they seem to feed in all the right spots that don’t offer a good shot.  We waited in position for about 20 minutes as the bear feed amongst the alders and then climbed the cliff up next to some pine trees where she rubbed her back on a dead tree.  Finally she worked downhill and stood quartering to the right.  Brandon eased into the trigger and the Kimber rang out through the tight canyon.  The bear dropped like a sack of potatoes.  We were jacked!!  We gathered our gear and set out to attempt to cross the creek that was swollen by runoff.

bear hunting, montana, spring, creek, crossing

The second crossing creek crossing. This one was slick!

bear, hunting, montana, spring, wild, mountains

Bears living in crazy zones.

We were able to track down two different logs and made it over the river in one piece.  A scramble up another scree field and up through the alder choked chute led us to a cliff edge and Brandon’s bear laying feet from a 75′ cliff.  A little work and we got the bear off the cliff and down to a safer place to skin and quarter the bear.

montana, spring, bear hunting, wild, black bear

Finding a good spot to make quick work of this younger, dry sow.

From our new vantage point we could see the entire other hillside and new that we had found a nice pocket that definitely held a number of bears.  We pulled out our knives and began the process of skinning his bear and deboning the quarters for the pack out.  An hour later we were finished and I moved off next to an alder to take a piss.  Mid way through I noticed a very tan shape moving on the opposite hillside.  I instantly knew it was a bear and when I could finally put my binos on the spot I knew it was a good one.  I quickly rushed to grab my gun and pack and had to scramble down in the scree about 30 yards to find a boulder big which was high enough to get behind and get a rest to shoot uphill across the canyon.

bear, hunting, montana, spring, mountains

Set up and waiting for a cross canyon shot.

My first range on the bear had him at 630 yards.  I practice to 700-800 consistently out in the field and knew anything shooting for 700 or less was fair game if I could get a good solid rest and settle down.  The bear offered two opportunities for a shot in the first few minutes but I couldn’t settle into a good rest and my adrenaline was keeping me from holding steady enough to feel comfortable taking a shot.  I knew the bear wasn’t going anywhere and we watched him as I tried to find an ideal rest and wait for a better shot.  Over the next twenty minutes the bear fed up the hill offering no clear broadside shots.  It was frustrating to say the least.  Finally the bear popped up on top of the large cliff and began traversing across it.  It was a cool moment to watch a big bear cross a cliff like that in such an epic setting and made the whole trip worth it right there.  We knew he was headed to the next avy chute over and I ranged and got settled in for a shot opportunity.  My shot yardage would now be in the 650-670 range.  I had now settled down considerably and found a solid rest.  As the bear came out in the next chute he began moving downhill.  He wasn’t really feeding and wasn’t stopping much at all.  Finally he cleared some brush and stood broadside.  I slowly squeezed the trigger and my .300WSM barked.  I lost sight of him as my gun kicked my scope off the bear’s location.  I reloaded and quickly was back on the bear.  I didn’t know if I’d hit him but sent another shot at him as he slowly ran uphill straight away.  The second shot had good elevation but missed just a foot right.  I was pretty upset.  My track record with a rifle has been pretty much spotless on big game over the past three years and this was my first flat miss.  We knew we’d see that bear on the hillside and we held our spots.  Soon we saw the bear running left through the timber and picked him up again as he hit the next scree field.  At that point we lost sight of him.  We vigilantly scanned the hillside for the next ten minutes without any sign of him.  I was sitting there with my eyes looking for movement when I noticed a bear crossing a lower clearing and this time he was headed towards us.  My binos revealed it was the same bear!  He was going to cross below the cliff he had earlier crossed and the new range was 470.  I spun my turret to 500 and got ready for the boar to hit the rock field.  As he hit the center of the rock field Brandon whistled and somehow the bear stopped.  This time my shot was perfect and I saw the bear spinning holding and biting at his off shoulder.  A quick minute later the bear lay dead in the rock field among a few sparse aspen.  Emotions were extremely high as we’d just had an epic double unfold in some of the most beautiful and rugged country either of us had hunted bears in.  We quickly loaded up Brandon’s bear and set out across the canyon.

blood, trail, montana, bear, hunting

Who says bears don’t bleed?

When we got to the bear it was apparent the bullet had made quick work of this bear.  A quick kill is what we strive for and after my initial miss I was glad I pulled it together and made a great shot on my second opportunity.  As we looked the bear over we both noticed the size of his paws.

black bear, paws, hunting, spring, montana

Big ole smackers.

I’ve killed some 6’+ bears in the past but this one had the biggest paws of any I’d shot.  He was a beautiful chocolate color with thick forearms and a big round head.  A bear any sportsman would be happy with.  This day had quickly turned into one of the sickest hunting days either Brandon or myself had ever had.

black bear, spring, montana, zack boughton

Zack breaking into the color phase club.

With a nasty two hour hike out ahead of us we knew it would be advantageous to not hike out in the dark.  With the day quickly fading we decided to skin and quarter the bear quickly and then hang it in the nearby aspen trees and retrieve it in the morning.  We made quick work of the second bear and soon had the quarters hanging and hide safely hanging in the trees.  We shouldered Brandon’s bear and set off back down the trail.  Two hours later we emerged from the forest at the truck and went back to camp to drink a few celebratory beers, fuel up and get some needed rest.

black, bear, hunting, montana, zack boughton, brandon purcell, stoke

Resting after a long hike in.

The following morning we came back up the canyon to retrieve the second bear. After two and a half hours we made it back to the kill site and began the process of deboning the quarters and divvying up the load among the three of us.  The weather was beautiful and with no other bears spotted we headed back down the canyon.  As with every kill the sweet weight of success hung on all our shoulders as we bushwacked our way out of the tight box canyon and ended our bear camp for the year.

bear, hunting, packing, out, meat, hide, montana, wild

Better be able to handle the bushwack back in this canyon.

Words by: Zack Boughton

Photos by: Travis Boughton, Zack Boughton, and Brandon Purcell

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BUSTED – Spring Bear Hunting Film

bear, hunting, montana, spring, video

With spring bear hunting in full swing here in the West we are releasing BUSTED.  This film, shot in 2013, follows Zack as he looks to arrow a black bear in the mountains of Western Montana.

Supported by: Bear Archery

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Spring Is King

fly fishing, montana, rainbow trout

A lot of people ask us when our favorite time to fish is and while summer may provide warmer weather and more options to fish, spring is king in our book.

river, fly fishing, montana, spring, bitteroot, river

We simply mark spring as the time when the rivers lose their ice and temperatures start hitting the low 40s. The fish take note and if you can handle cold feet and hands, you’ll most likely land some of your biggest fish of the year.

brown, trout, fly, fishing, montana, spring, wild

Spring fishing is a tough bet if you’re not a local considering weather patterns this time of year can vary a ton! Those weather patterns also have a big impact on flows and river temps. If you live here though you’re in luck. Watching the weather will pay off and many beautiful days can be found in February, March and April. Having a flexible work schedule helps a lot as well.

fly, fishing, montana, spring, casting, back lit

Nymphing is going to be your big producer from February through mid March. If you’re not a purist throw on a worm and another nymph matching a local food source and you’ll be in business. It’s not flashy but it plain works. If you’re feeling a bit bolder, a streamer will pay off big time if you can push through the slow days that exist this early in the year.

brown, trout, fly, fishing, montana, streamer, spring, sitka gear

Anytime of day, any water type and any retrieve can and will pick up fish but a slow twitch or swing through slow 3-6’ of water tend to pick up the most fish this time of year. As the river temperature starts to tick upward the streamer bite can be off the charts and other than fall this is our favorite time to streamer fish.

streamer, brown trout, montana, spring, wild

Once we get into the last couple weeks of March we start to see the skwala stonefly emerge. This hatch brings the big boys out of hiding and fishing big dries this early in the year is very hard to beat. Expect crowds once the word is out, but if you know where to look you can still have some banner days under the Big Sky tossing a dry and getting some vicious eats.

spring, fishing, montana, sunny, trout, missoula

As we move into April we see some absolutely great fishing across the board and the weather is typically much nicer between spring storms.

rainbow, trout, fly fishing, montana, spring, simms, skwala

Typically runoff starts showing up in late April and early May and from then on we wait until things shape up in June. This spring has already shaped up to be one that we won’t quickly forget and we’re only half way through it. Expect to see more from this spring in the future!

river, yellowstone, spring, montana

brown trout, fly fishing, montana, spring

-Zack

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Monday Meetings

The winter here in Western Montana has been mild to say the least so far.  Temperatures through January and now February have been well above normal and conditions resemble spring.  This has been frustrating for hunting coyotes but a blessing to all the fisherman who have had enough of winter already.  After the F3T recently toured through Missoula I’m sure most anglers have been out on the water ripping lip.  It was so warm the river had bumped 1100 cfs in a day and we were riding out the flat before it dropped again.  The forecast was looking gloomy with a strong likelyhood of rain throughout the afternoon.  We weren’t super sure if today would be the best day to float. We quickly decided that given it was Monday, what other way would be a great way to kick off the week, so we hit the road and met up with our good friend Josh Rokosch.  The boat hit the water and a few bends in the river later and Travis had a solid rainbow.

fly, fishing, montana, river, spring, rainbow, trout, day, float

The next couple hours were full of hookups mainly by Travis.  I bet he had me beat 10 to 0 at one point!

fly, fishing, montana, wild, spring, day, float, skwalla

And yes vibes were solid all around.

montana, wild, fly, fishing, trout, spring, bitteroot, river

The fishing was surpassing our expectations for what one would think fishing in February would be.  There was a short period of time where I almost tied on a skwalla just to see what would happen.  I didn’t but the rest of the day was full of plenty of laughs and a few more trout.

montana, spring, fishing, river, trout, missoula

fishing, fly, montana, rivers, spring, skwalla, wild, photo

Stoked to get back out and see what this spring has to offer!

 

Bully Decals are now in stock! You can purchase them here> http://montana-wild.com/store/shop

-Zack