• Cactus the horse, Jack Ballad and his son Micah revel in the mountain view while transporting the meat from a cow elk to camp. Photo by Lisa Ballard

    Top 10 elk camp essentials

    Montana hunters have some of the best traditions of any group around – many of rooted in the quest to hunt elk. We gave readers a glimpse into one tradition in our Nov/Dec issue, when writer and photographer Jack Ballard gave us a look inside his family’s elk camp.

    Home Base” tells of the tradition and the memories created at the Ballard camp – which has been hosted hunters for more than 50 years.

    Ostensibly, the purpose of the elk camp is to facilitate elk hunting, the goal of which is most simply defined as killing an elk.

    But the camp likely plays a much more complex role in the lives of the hunters, at least in bivouacs with a long history, such as that which surrounds my family’s camp.

    In 2003 my uncle Tom celebrated his 50th consecutive year of hunting elk from the same camp, with the ridgepole of the cook tent fastened to the same wind-scarred lodgepole pine.

     “That old guy must really be into killing things,” a cynical soul of the nonsporting public might conclude. Such a simplistic conclusion ignores the fact that for at least the last decade before his silver anniversary, Tom spent precious little time hunting, preferring instead to hone his culinary skills in the camp kitchen and pass many precious hours reading, tinkering or surveying the broad, untrammeled view of a yonder mountain range perched on a folding metal chair outside the cook tent.

    The Ballards have created many lifetimes worth of memories at its elk camp in Montana’s southwestern wilderness where the scenery is epic and the tents are warm. The annual fall ritual that brings hunters together through stalwart tradition creates a place that, Ballard says, is more like home than most houses.

    But what makes camp so comfortable? Ballard’s top 10 elk camp essentials include:

    1) Wall tent
    2) Tent frame
    3) Tent fly
    4) Wood-burning stove
    5) Firewood
    6) Chainsaw
    7) Cots
    8) Real sleeping bags and pads
    9) Outhouse (luxury option No. 1)
    10) Elk (luxury option No. 2)


  • Grand Prismatic spring from the sky. Photo by Tom Murphy

    Mapping magma in the Sept/Oct issue out this week

    You’ve probably heard of the supervolanco that lives under Yellowstone National Park. Researchers recently discovered it contains 2.5 times more magma the previously thought and reported their findings in a study released just as a swarm of small earthquakes hit the park. But is it a thing to fear? We’ll tell you in the September/October issue of Montana Magazine.

    Our cover image, by Tom Murphy, is a shot of some of the mystical and almost other worldly geological features created around Yellowstone by the supervolcano and volcanism of the past.

    Writer Jack Ballard writes about how scientists map magma and catalog quakes in his great story about the supervolcano.

    Funny enough, our other Yellowstone-focused story takes a look at one of the most gentle creatures inside the park. As writer Corinne Garcia tells us, an artist with a love for winged bugs is helping hoards of park visitors learn more about butterflies.

    Spoiler alert: There are a lot of butterflies inside Yellowstone.

    An autumn morning looking south from the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Cathie and Gordon Sullivan

    An autumn morning looking south from the Lee Metcalf National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Cathie and Gordon Sullivan

    You’ll also need to see the spread of gorgeous photos by Cathie and Gordon Sullivan, who are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and Sen. Lee Metcalf’s role in its passage with their “In the Name of Nature” Portfolio.

    That’s accompanied by a another great story by Jack Ballard about how the lands protected by the Wilderness Act continue to draw tourists and support Montana outdoor-based businesses.

    As always – we hope you enjoy our most recent issue.