Elk is a staple here and hunting is a way of life. Whether it be bow and arrow or rifle, the stories abound. Our friend was telling us about a recent hunt he and his buddy did, across the valley and climbing into the hills. They looked back through their spotting scopes and saw a young hunter crossing a field. As they scanned across the valley, they spotted a momma grizzly and cub, running full out toward the hunter. It took a while until the hunter also spotted the grizzly headed straight toward him and he turned and started running for his life toward his car. The field was broad and the grizzlies kept coming. My friend told his buddy, “lets go help save this guy” and they started back toward the scene. As the grizzlies approached the hunter, they veered off at the last second and headed into the brush. My friend believes the grizzlies were probably spooked by a barking dog at the ranch and they started running away. The hunter just happened to be in their path. Whew! It’s a different life here.
The next day we had the opportunity to visit the first dude ranch in Montana. It sits about 10 miles from Yellowstone, up in the hills from where our friends live. We had met the caretakers when they came down for a barbeque. The ranch is in a state of preservation and not restoration. They only have the funds to keep it from falling down but not to rehab it to be used for visitors. We got toured through the lodge, the water-wheel driven electricity plant (first of its kind in the area), the bathhouse water boiler, and the cabins. This dude ranch was created in 1890 and was used until 1930. It was known as the OTO Ranch because it w those were the easiest letters to construct into a brand. The address was Dude Ranch, Montana and served people who came from the train, to the north, and were headed to Yellowstone. I think this is a great project for the DIY show ‘Barnwood Builders’. They do offer to let people come and stay to work on projects and a few take them up on it…serving them food and staying in the cabins for the week. This was quite a treat to see first hand.
We wanted to see bears so our friends took us to a field, out in the hills where there are huge ranches. The bears come down from the hills this time of year (mid September) to eat camas root. Fibrous and full of carbohydrates, they dig in the ground, pull up the root and gorge. Then they stand up on their hind legs and watch us on the road. Quite a few people know of this spot and come with cameras, binoculars and scopes. What a spectacle!
What we took away from our time here was a new respect for a different lifestyle. Hunting was an important element as was helping each other as in neighbors and friends taking time to help build, help fix, help with food, with shopping, with anything that is needed. They need each other to endure the long winters. It is a healthy lifestyle. And tourists are critical to the local economies.