I’m just putting the finishing touches on my signs. Do you like them? They say “Trespassers will be shot without warning.” I think that gets the message across. Don’t you?
So I’ve heard you are thinking of bugging out to Montana when the SHTF. Is that right? Well, I’ve got some advice for you: The first thing to remember is that Montana is already filled with people. Not as many as most other states, but still, there are many of us here whether you saw us or not the last time you took a family trip through Montana. Yeah, we are a big state filled with rivers, lakes, mountains, and wide open prairies, but those waterways and lands are not yours for the taking just because things have gone downhill for a while. But since we are all Americans, I’ll let you in on a secret. You can bug out to Montana, but you just have to know how.
First a little geography lesson. Montana is the fourth largest state, or rather the third since Alaska messes up all comparisons. But size is not quite everything. Montana is roughly rectangular and borders four other states as well as two Canadian provinces. But there’s more to that picture. The US states flanking Montana are, on the south and west, mountainous and wild with few roads. And to the east, huge expanse of openness across the Dakotas. To the north lie Saskatchewan and Alberta, both wild lands rivaling Alaska in remoteness and low population. In other words, Montana is buffered by some pretty significant geographic and geologic challenges meaning that unless you are already nearby, not only are you multiple-gas tanks away, but also at the whims of the weather since all access points into Montana present significant driving challenges at least four months out of the year.
And speaking of driving, you might want to take a hard look at a Montana road map. The paved entry points are few, and only two interstate highways, one east/west, the other north/south. And that’s for a state with nearly 2,000 miles of border! Many of the other paved access points into Montana are over passes including one stunning 10,000 climb that as you might guess opens late in the year and closes early. Additionally, there are many bridges as the roads wind through the mountains meaning there is only one way through the area and it has a significant constriction point. In fact my town of Missoula has the Hellgate Canyon and you can even go to Hellgate High School here. The name Hellgate describes the such a constriction point so named after the unfortunate results some early travelers experienced as they were forced into the mountain gauntlet on the east entrance to our fair city. Our city is close close to paradise, but to to reach it from the east, you will need to pass through the gates of hell.
Flatlanders and those with a head full of television shows and movies are used to options when approaching a roadblock. Around here, there might be a mountain to your right, a river and a mountain to your left, and a hundred miles of nothing behind you. You won’t be racing around or over any of our road blocks. And whether by design or luck, most of our towns are surrounded by plenty of constriction points. Take a stroll around Google Earth to see what you are up against when bugging out after the SHTF. And summer vacations do not qualify.
However, I’m happy to report that Montana is home to many fine people who will be quick to welcome new faces as long as those faces are attached to skilled individuals and not just another whiny mouth to feed. Surviving, and even just living in Montana is work. Glorious work, but still work. Unlike cities where convenience rules and internal combustion does the all the heavy lifting, we in Montana are accustomed to the arsenal of nature. Whether blizzards, wildfires, floods, or angry animals, Montana has them all. Drowning and falling are two popular check-out methods tourists use in Montana, and yes, we do feel bad, but just because there is no sign warning of the dangers in the river, or the crumbling edge of the cliff doesn’t mean it’s safe. Every year we lose many visitors to gravity or water with plenty of other deaths we never know what happened because we cannot find their bodies. Strangely, the same things we do here for recreation are the same things that kill city dwellers.
World class hunting and fishing are two of Montana’s exports. I’ll admit that yes, there is game everywhere. Some Montana cities are even culling the city deer herds because the numbers are just too high. And Montana is quick to capture and prosecute poachers and others who violate the rules and laws of hunting and fishing. You must understand why we have those rules and laws in order to appreciate them. Historically, humans took what they needed when they needed it. But that all changed when hunting became a source of financial income, and cities demanded more food, especially birds, big game with big antlers, and weighty fish. No longer were hunters subsisting. They were now in the business of volume and sales. It didn’t take long to deplete the game supply, and worse, the reproductive patterns of the animals were disrupted to the point that the few viable offspring were not enough to sustain the species. While the commercial hunters just moved on to different game in different places, the residents were left with nothing but scorched earth. So hopefully you can see that we are a little reluctant to loose sight of you while hunting. Unless you live around here, we have no reason to think that you truly appreciate what we have, and will take appropriate action if necessary. You are welcome take that however you want.
Montana is also filled with dirt roads and places where not roads are allowed. Those roads do go somewhere, and just because you managed to drive all night and cross into Montana unobserved does not mean you now own the land wherever you park your bug out vehicle. When a bug out location seems perfect, even too perfect to be true, it is probably part of someone else’s plan, or perhaps even the landowner’s. Federal land is considered up for grabs as long as you don’t infringe on another camp whether by presence, activity, or upstream effects, and that you respect the resources. You are not allowed to cut down trees to build a cabin. At least not right away. America is a great nation and we Montanan’s will not allow our wild resources to be looted, stolen or destroyed simply because of your poor planning, stupidity, or greed. Remember, Montana is what America used to be, and we will be keeping it that way. Capisce?
Sadly, it is a common occurrence here under the Big Sky to have out-of-staters throw their weight around thinking they own the place. Sure, some do when they buy large tracts of real estate and then upend the local ecosystem. We usually can wait until their dysfunctional lives implode, marriages fail, and the FBI moves in to commandeer their possessions and land. But in a SHTF scenario, we won’t wait for the FBI. Arrogance is a danger to us all so we just might have to eliminate or at least temper the arrogant threat. Sorry, but I think you understand.
So how does one come in peace to Montana? One way is that you are welcome to purchase your own bug out acreage and homestead it as you please, but that still requires you can get “home.” Nothing greases the wheels of a roadblock like being a landowner. But you will have to answer some questions first, so brush up on your trivia about where your supposed land is located. And there is always the relationship angle leveraging friends, family and acquaintances who have already exercised a previous Montana option. But of course this is America, and we Montanans are also Americans. We do not want to take up arms against our countrymen, but then again, we are expecting a certain level of appropriate behavior from our visiting brethren, and our rights have not ceased to exist just because your neck of the American woods is a little complicated at the moment.
Let’s assume you have successfully driven your BOV through the buffer states and now find yourself humming along the desolate roads of Montana (which are often desolate even when things are great which is how we like it). You come face to face with your first roadblock. It is a handful of old trucks (of which we have plenty) completely blocking the right of way 100% across and two or three deep. Let’s also assume it is summer, daylight, and the SHTF event is more economic then viral. As you slowly approach the obstruction, with your hands on the wheel and tinted windows rolled down (We’d hate to have to lower them ourselves from the outside), you notice the road behind you now has an obstruction as well. Yes, you are trapped. As you have nothing to hide you have no need to worry. But you must understand that we too have families that need protection. We simply cannot let anyone wander into what we have tried so hard to maintain, and that we believe to be worthy of preservation as representative of what makes America great.
Our questions for you will be simple. Who are you? Where did you come from? Where are you going? Once you pass that test, we would love to pick your brain for news about what’s going on in other places. In fact, depending on your experiences, you just might be the hero of the day joining us for dinner. Didn’t see that one coming, did you?
I told you we up here in the north are good folk. We have nothing against you, and if you belong here, then welcome home! However, if we detect that your motives are not pure, and you could be a liability if not an outright danger, then we may give you the option to turn around and try your luck in Wyoming, Idaho, or South Dakota, or just handle it ourselves in the old fashioned but effective ways early Montana settlers are famous for.
Let me give you a couple other tips. I can tell an awful lot about you from your choice of footwear. The reason I am telling you this is to help you be honest. You can no more pretend you belong here as you could blend in while wandering the streets of New York City. You can fool yourself, but you cannot fool us. Everything about you is telling. The way you drive, where you walk, how you handle tools including firearms, and of course your reaction to what nature dishes up whether wind, wildlife, water, or whatever. Everything from your choice of hat to vehicle tires screams information about you. As does your knife, your backpack, even your water bottle. So don’t even try to lie. Honesty goes a long way around here.
While it is imperative that you roll with nature’s punches in Montana it does take some practice. Sorry to generalize, but most city folk are soft. They are too sensitive to temperature. They are not used to walking (and I mean miles), and they have lost their nature smarts. They do stupid things. They miss clues and cues. In a nutshell, they want things to be a certain way that nature has no intention of accommodating. You know what folks? Sometimes it is just plain freezing out. And sometimes mosquitoes and flies are annoying. And sometimes you lose your game to the bears, wolves, coyotes, (insert predator name here). Sometimes it rains and you get wet. And sometimes you are cold and miserable. And hungry. And tired. And sore. And concerned. And lost. But after a while living like this, it grows on you. You want it. Or maybe it’s more that you don’t care because the good outweighs the bad.
Bugging out to Montana is not like in the movies. I’ll admit that there will be many successful impromptu bug outs to Montana, but those first arrivals will set the stage for everyone else. The moment we Montanans feel threatened or used, then overnight Montana will be the hostile land that it once used to be.
Please don’t take it personally, but if you really want to bug out to Montana, you really need to already be here [when things fall apart.]