• Northern Lights near Shepherd. Photo by Jullie Powell

    Northern Lights wow sky watchers across Montana

    The Northern Lights made a stunning appearance throughout the western skies earlier this week, including a rare appearance in the southern portions of Montana and down into South Dakota.

    Luckily for all of us who slept through the show, a handful of Montana Magazine readers snapped photos and sent them in.

    Here are a few for your viewing pleasure:

    Northern Lights over the Bitterroot River near Hamilton. Photo by Tatum Haines

    Northern Lights over the Bitterroot River near Hamilton. Photo by Tatum Haines


    The moon lights up the sky before the Lights. Photo by Jullie Powell

    The moon lights up the sky before the Lights. Photo by Jullie Powell


    The Northern Lights near Rapelje. Photo by Regina Rigby

    The Northern Lights near Rapelje. Photo by Regina Rigby

  • Documentary filmmaker Jan Thompson, right, chats with Ben Steele, 97, a local artist and survivor of the Bataan Death March, and Lexi Winkelfoos, 18, left, a recent high school graduate that corresponded with Steele for years after writing a book report about him. Photo by Hannah Potes

    At 97, Montana war hero and artist gathering quite a fan base

    If you’re unfamiliar with Ben Steele’s story, it’s almost unbelievable. Certainly one of the most inspiring you’ll ever come across.

    The WWII veteran who was born in Roundup and survived the Baatan Death march and lived to become one of the Big Sky state’s greatest artists, is still making art at 97.

    Ben Steele, circa 1940.

    Ben Steele, circa 1940.

    As Jaci Webb of the Billings Gazette found out, his spirit (and work) means his fan base is still gaining followers as well.

    Lexi Winkelfoos traveled more than 1,000 miles to hear Ben Steele’s laugh.

    Winkelfoos, 18, of Mount Gilead, Ohio, said reading about the horrors that Steele endured on the Bataan Death March left her with one desire — to hear Steele laugh and know that he found happiness.

    Winkelfoos is one of a growing legion of the Billings artist’s fans. Those fans include actress Loretta Swit, who played “Hot Lips” Houlihan on the TV show “M.A.S.H.,” actor Alec Baldwin, who narrated a film about Steele and other POWs, and filmmaker Jan Thompson.

    Winkelfoos discovered Steele when she read Michael and Elizabeth Norman’s 2009 book “Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath,” and wrote a book report on it for her sophomore history class. Her teacher mailed that paper to Steele, 97, and a friendship was born, although the two are almost 80 years apart.

    On Thursday at a Billings assisted living facility where Steele lives, Steele kept chiding Winkelfoos, who is on her second trip to Billings to see Steele. He told her to watch out that she doesn’t fall off a horse and land in a yucca patch out at his daughter Julie Jorgenson’s Musselshell County ranch. Wilkelfoos teases him right back about his own riding days when he used to jump the fence to get to Will James’ place.

    “I don’t jump fences, or anything else, these days,” Steele said.

    Winkelfoos knows right where Steele keeps his latest sketch book and retrieves it when visitors come around. Steele’s eyes shine when Winkelfoos tells their story.

    Read the full story here

  • A storm and setting sun. Photo by Kayla Sandru

    Top reader photos: First-day-of-summer edition

    It’s that time again: Time to highlight some of the best Reader Photos we’ve gotten in the past weeks.

    This edition brings more than a hint of summer – which is appropriate because today marks the first official day of summer. We’ve got summer skies and summer wildflowers

    Hogeland, MT. Photo by Yvonne Moe Resch

    Hogeland, MT. Photo by Yvonne Moe Resch

    Enjoy! And if you have summer photos from around Montana you’d like to share, email editor@montanamagazine.com.

    Packers Meadow full of wildflowers. Photo by Ken Stolz

    Packers Meadow full of wildflowers. Photo by Ken Stolz


    Beargrass near Perma. Photo by Robin K. Ha'o

    Beargrass near Perma. Photo by Robin K. Ha’o

    National Bison Range. Photo by Jeff Nelson

    National Bison Range. Photo by Jeff Nelson

    Thanks to all who shared images. Happy Summer!


  • Glasgow resident Andrew McKean has authored and edited a new book titled “How to Hunt Everything.”  Photo by Max Gauthier

    Montana author pens book about how to hunt everything

    Our friend and contributor Andrew McKean has written a new book – and it’s taken on quite a monolithic topic.

    All things hunting. 

    As Billings Gazette reporter Brett French explains, it’s a big book by true Montana outsdoorsman.

    McKean has been the editor-in-chief of Outdoor Life magazine for five years, the perfect venue for launching such an extensive book. Outdoor Life used to have a publishing arm that churned out a variety of sporting books, and McKean is hoping to revive some of that tradition. Future titles could deal with fishing and cooking.

    In 60 chapters, “How to Hunt Everything” covers traditional North American game animals, like bighorn sheep and elk, to oddities like aardwolves — an insect-eating relative of the African hyena — and the Marco Polo argali sheep of Central Asia. Rather than break the sections of the book down by species or continent, though, McKean decided to tackle the animals by latitude, more befitting of the naturalist approach the book takes into exploring the different species.

    He also wanted the book to be a bit unpredictable, strange and intriguing to keep readers engaged. Chapters include such specifics as suggested firearms and loads, calls, clothing, field judging different animals’ size and even tips on hunting from a boat for Alaskan moose. None of the stories are very long, making for much quicker reading than it would initially appear for the 300-page hardcover book, and a vast array of full-color wildlife, scenic and hunting photographs provide aspirational fodder.

    Andrew McKean

    Andrew McKean

    McKean, who lives in Glasgow, wrote about one generous Montana hunter who donating his menagerie of trophies to the local children’s museum. It’s a truly wonderful Montana story.

    • Read the full story by McLean here

    As for McKean, his new book details personal stories about hunting in some more exotic locations.

    His most difficult and ceremonious hunt was in Germany. Dogs were used to push roe deer through the forest. He was only allowed to shoot a doe, a fact made very clear by the “autocratic leader” of the hunt, but the bucks had already lost their antlers, making it hard to quickly distinguish a buck from a doe. Luckily, McKean was able to fill his tag. Here’s a portion of that story, taking place after he made his shot, as it is recounted in the book: “First, the jaeger who picked me up cut a green twig and placed it in the dead animal’s mouth. This letzer bissen, or last meal, is a formal thanks to the game for giving its life to the hunter. Then the jaeger dipped another twig in the animal’s blood and stuck it in my hatband before delivering a stiff salute: ‘Weidmannsheil!’ The hunter is duty-bound to respond with an equally hearty ‘Weidmannsdank,’ the scripted congratulations and thanks for the hunt.”

    Read French’s full article here.


  • national park buses

    TBT: Remember these summertime stories?

    It’s that time of week again: to for a little Throwback Thursday action.

    In honor of the first day of summer on Sunday, we’re pulling up a few of our most popular stories from the summer of 2014.

    Montana State Parks guide by Kristen Inbody and Erin Madison.

    Montana State Parks guide by Kristen Inbody and Erin Madison.

    First, this awesome feature on the 75th anniversary of Montana state parks – which are really great places to play during the summer. There are 54 state parks in Montana.

    Here’s our feature from the May/June 2014 issue. It includes an interactive map so you can see where you might want to go this summer. Need a little more info? Here’s a post about a book all about the parks.

    And we can’t forget Glacier and Yellowstone when we’re talking about summer. Here’s a story on a great way to see both the parks: In vintage cruiser buses. Yellow in Yellowstone and red in Glacier.

    The feature by Ednor Therriault is posted here. And for a list of even more stories about Yellowstone, click here.

    To get our most recent dose of summertime stories, subscribe today!

    Happy summer!


  • The bar at the Montana Brewing Co. Photo by Casey Page

    Montana brewers among the best-of-the-best

    Here’s breaking beer news for your Wednesday afternoon: Montana microbreweries are kicking butt nationwide. 

    Breweries from across Montana won huge awards at the North American Beer Awards in early June. The awards included a gold medal for Montana Brewing Co., out of Billings, in the American lager category.

    “The crowd went wild because all the craft brewers love it,” (Montana Brewing’s Greg) Layman told the Billings Gazette. “The brewers really like it when you beat the megabreweries.”

    Montana breweries were well represented at the national competition and won 31 medals, including 12 gold at the NABA contest.

    “We’ve always had a lot of quality-conscious brewers and a lot of well-educated people bringing a lot of knowledge to Montana,” Layman said.

    KettleHouse Brewing Co. owner Tim O’Leary. Photo by Kurt Wilson

    KettleHouse Brewing Co. owner Tim O’Leary. Photo by Kurt Wilson

    In fact, the 31 medals make Montana the top state per capita in terms of awards, according to the Missoulian.

    KettleHouse Brewing Co. in Missoula won silver in English-style summer ale for Fresh Bongwater, silver in California Common for KettleHouse Kommon and gold for Biere de Garde.

    What’s your favorite Montana beer? Or do you prefer to make your own


  • Madalyn Schovaers, 4, inspects the interior of a teepee erected at the park. Photo by Michael Gallacher

    Learning to camp like Lewis and Clark

    Montana played a huge role in the epic trip Lewis and Clark took across the country, in a quest to explore the unknown frontier and perhaps find an all water route to the Pacific.

    Travelers’ Rest was one point where they stopped and made their mark. The camp is preserved today and open for guided tours. But it’s not usually open for camping.

    • See a slideshow of the campout here

    That changed for on night last week. Here’s the story by the Missoulian’s Dillon Kato:

    LOLO – “We’re mainly here to try to cure the nature deficit disorder,” Angela Miller said.

    While they go on plenty of day trips, Miller said she and her two sons, Aaron and Alex, have only been camping once since their dad passed away, a short trip with another family outside of Sula.

    The Millers were one of more than a dozen families at Travelers’ Rest State Park over the weekend for the annual Corps of Discovery Campout.

    Kathryn Miller, 5, looks on as her older brother Robbie, 7, pounds a tent stake to secure the family home for the night. Photo by Michael Gallacher

    Kathryn Miller, 5, looks on as her older brother Robbie, 7, pounds a tent stake to secure the family home for the night. Photo by Michael Gallacher

    “This is a good way to get out in a controlled, safe environment with some additional support,” Miller said, sitting with her sons on camping chairs in front of their tent. “This is camping training wheels for me.”

    Travelers’ Rest is not usually a campground, and the annual campout weekend is one of the only times of the year that campers are allowed to stay overnight, said Molly Stockdale. Stockdale is the executive director of the Travelers’ Rest Preservation and Heritage Association, the nonprofit partner of the park. The Corps of Discovery Campout is designed as a overnight stay in the park to teach new and novice campers some of the finer points of how to have a successful camping weekend.

    Read the rest of the story here.

    For more Montana all the time, subscribe to Montana Magazine today! 

  • MM_Park2Park 500x500 teaser

    Come with us from Park-to-Park: Glacier to Yellowstone

    All week we’ve been taking you to place we think are some of the best stops on any journey from Yellowstone to Glacier.

    We’ve been to fishing towns and museums, and to places where the scenery will stop you in your tracks.

    • Stop 1: Where buffalo roam (downtown
    • Stop 2: More than a fly fishing Mecca
    • Stop 3: A beautiful place of refuge
    • Stop 4: A brief detour to Going-to-the-Sun
    • Stop 5: Charlie Russell’s home town
    • Stop 6: A huckleberry haven

    In our May/June feature, you can view the entire trip, both our eastern and western routes. There’s more must-stop suggestions too. 



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