Labor Day weekend marked the opening of bow season here in Montana. Shane had an opportunity to hunt on Shanley Creek BMA (Block Management) and I decided to join him for a weekend of camping and hunting. Block Management is a cooperative program between private landowners and Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Block Management helps landowners manage hunting activities and provides the public with free hunting access to private land, and sometimes to adjacent or isolated public lands. For the 2015 hunting season, approximately 1,220 landowners have enrolled about 7.3 million acres of land in the Block Management Program.
The Shanley Creek and Dick Creek BMA are comprised of more than 6,000 acres northwest of Ovando, Montana and hunting on these BMAs is provided by private landowners and the University of Montana (Forest Conservation Experiment Station). These BMAs offer hunting opportunities for white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk, black bear and wolf.
For more information on BMA hunting in Montana’s Region 2 visit Montana’s Fish, Wildlife and Parks website and download the BMA guide located there.
Shanley Creek BMA is located right next to and surrounding the Upsata Lake campground. On Friday, we put all our gear together and prepped food for the weekend, loaded it up in our Honda Pilot and drove to the site which is about 50 miles northwest of Missoula. It’s pretty amazing to realize that in less time than it used to take me to drive from downtown Austin home, I am now able to be camping and hunting in one of the most completely preserved mountain ecosystems in the world, the kind of Wilderness most people can only imagine: rugged peaks, alpine lakes, cascading waterfalls, grassy meadows embellished with shimmering streams, a towering coniferous forest, and big river valleys.
The Bob Marshall Wilderness runs for 60 miles along the Continental Divide, with elevations ranging from 4,000 feet to more than 9,000 feet. The Bob Marshall Wilderness is the last holdout habitat south of Canada for the grizzly bear and provides critical habitat to the endangered gray wolves as well. Elk, whitetail and mule deer, Canadian lynx, bobcats, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, black bears, wolverines and cougars also make their home in the Bob, along with smaller mammals such as beaver, river otters, snowshoe hares and marten. There are dozens of bird species that call this area home, especially in the summer. Bald eagles, falcons, hawks, owls, grouse, and woodpeckers to name a few. In camp areas, like ours at Upsata Lake, you’ll find Steller’s jays native to this area. Although here in the northwest we refer to it as a blue jay, it is a distinct species from the blue jays of the east coast. Stellar’s jay is the only crested jay west of the Rocky Mountains and their were hundreds of them flitting about the campground all weekend.
The temperatures had dropped on Friday and it was overcast and a bit drizzly when we arrived at Upsata Lake campground. We had just enough time to get our food supplies into the RV before it began to rain. What at first appeared to be the perfect hunting weather turned into rain, rain, rain all night long.
By morning it was still raining and I opted to stay in the RV and enjoy coffee and knitting while Shane braved the rain. After lunch the weather was clearing up a bit and I followed through with my promise to get out hunting with Shane.
The views were stunning and within half an hour I decided that I loved the slow paced stalking quite a lot. The utter quiet and stillness of the landscape with the occasional bird or squirrel had a definite calming effect. However, knowing that we were in an area known for having bears, I was a little nervous too.
The skies continued to look ominous and eventually we found ourselves taking cover under the trees along the marsh area and rigging up a tarp in order to stay dry in a quick moving storm that took us by surprise. Once the storm passed, the skies cleared more than they had in the previous 24 hours. In the distance you could see the snow that had fallen in the higher elevations.
Sunday morning’s weather was much nicer. The cloud cover had lifted to reveal blue skies but the temperatures will still low enough that it was a more than pleasant day to be hunting. We hadn’t been out very long when we bumped a black bear.
We saw plenty of sign and bumped several does, but never got a good shot on anything so we made out way back to have some lunch.
We went out late afternoon and found the place where Shane had seen the two bucks the night before. We got ourselves in position taking up opposite sides of a tree and waited. Me with my bear spray, just in case, and Shane with his bow. The time passed and nothing came through the area except a squirrel who ran across my lap. Shane nor I could believe I was sitting so still and quiet that a squirrel ran across my lap!
Eventually we walked out and Shane decided to call it…loading up and decided to head home and relax the rest of the weekend. The 2015 hunting season has only just begun.
Data and information regarding BMA’s etc. found on Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks website. Click Here