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Mountain High

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On Oct. 24, outdoor enthusiasts will add flying bullets to the standard arsenal of ways of getting offed in the woods, like getting lost, or hypothermic, or breaking a leg, or even getting mauled by some cantankerous bear. These risks are a stimulating part of the outdoor experience that provide us with a commanding awareness of just how soft and fleshy we are, as well as where we sit on the food chain.

For hunters, such awareness is an asset, one that easily outweighs the dangers, drawing us into the woods in a quest for experience, adventure and, ultimately, meat.

It was in this spirit three years ago that elk hunter Tim Hilston was field dressing his freshly killed bounty in the Blackfoot-Clearwater Wildlife Management Area. While preparing the meat for his freezer, a mother grizzly bear and her two cubs arrived, presumably seduced by the odor of fresh meat. The mama bear attacked Hilston, leaving him to bleed to death.

Never before in “trouble” with the law, the 400-pound sow and her two cubs were accordingly captured and slain by wildlife managers—standard procedure for all human-killing bears.

Hunters understand that killing an animal as large and elusive as an elk in griz country requires a massive logistical effort—the skill to find and approach the animal, the speed and knowledge to clean it quickly, and the strength to get the meat out before always-scavenging grizzly bears follow their noses to the source. We know this as we pore over maps and choose where we’ll go for the fall harvest.

But last week, Hilston’s widow, Mary Ann Hilston, sued state and federal wildlife managers for failing to inform her husband that an “aggressive” bear was nearby, protective of her cubs and diligent about supplying them with food.

She seeks unspecified damages Meanwhile, last week, a camera-toting Texan was within 10 feet of a booty-crazed bull elk in Yellowstone National Park when the rutting animal turned on him, goring the 60-year-old in the back. Park rangers responded by cutting off the 700-pound bull’s 6x7 antlers, leaving him weaponless in the middle of the fall rut. Six cars and a park ranger were also damaged by the animal.

Fortunately for lawsuit-funding taxpayers, park regulations are prepared for this kind of absurdity, stating explicitly that: “All wildlife are dangerous. It is unlawful to approach within 100 yards of bears, and within 25 yards of other wildlife.”

When asked by the Independent if charges will be filed against the freshly poked shutterbug, Yellowstone Park spokesman Al Nash said, “No, I think the elk taught him a lesson greater than any citation.” One can always hope.

On another front, the Salish/Kootenai Fall Mack Days Fishing Event runs Oct. 1–17, with anglers catching the most—or biggest—lake trout eligible for up to $6,000 in prizes. Learn more by calling 883-2888 ext. 7294, or log on to www.mackdays.com for more.

The Montana Wilderness Associa-tion, along with Montana writers/photographers/wilderness advocates Rick and Susie Graetz, will host a reception and slide presentation on Oct. 4 at the Crystal Theater, titled “A Photographic Trip into The Bob,” about Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front and Bob Marshall Wilderness. These prolific and compelling artists will be discussing ways to prevent international mining interests from corrupting the Front’s wildness. Food and beer at 5:30 p.m., slides at 7 p.m.

Join the Rocky Mountaineers (Steve Schombel, 721-4686) for a spectacular autumn-colors jaunt to Turquoise Lake on Oct. 3. Count on a semi-annoying stroll through what might be the flattest, least-productive series of switchbacks in the state, but after multiple backtracks you’ll find yourself singing praises unto the highest as you meander through red and gold alpine meadows surrounded by the snowcapped Mission Mountains.

UM’s Campus Rec. is also heading into the Missions Oct. 2–3, departing from the same trailhead as above but overnighting at the similarly mind-blowing Heart Lake. For $20 ($45 includes camping gear) you can count on a mellow 11-mile roundtrip and prime fall colors. Call 243-2802 for details.

The New Rocky Mountaineers are heading up the 9,356’ Holland Peak on Oct. 3, an excellent on- and off-trail adventure with invigorating exposure. Count on great views unless the weather turns. Call Gerald Olbu at 549-4769 for more information.

The 21st annual Blue Mountain Clinic “All Women’s Run” has it all—a half-marathon, 10K, 5K, 2-mile, centipede race, a costume contest and a “Family Fun Run” for self-defined families that can, for the first time ever, include men. Running from Blue Mountain to Big Sky High School, these fund-raising races have an abundance of start times and registration costs, so log on to: www.bluemountainclinic.com to get the scoop.

Cyclists looking for a proper ass whooping should rally for the Missoulians on Bicycles 28th annual Western Montana Hill Climb Championships on Oct. 3. This four-mile, something-for-everyone race has categories for all ages, as well as tandem, recumbent, tricycle, unicycle, handcycle and high wheel categories. Register the night before (Oct. 2) at Big Sky Cyclery from 5–6 p.m., or the next morning from 7:30–9 p.m. at the same location. Bring a prize of your choice; call 543-3331 for the details.

Press fallen leaves in a hardback book, then send your recreation schedule to: photo@missoulanews.com

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