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Articles written by Bruce Auchly


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  • Tales and Trails: The color of magpies

    Bruce Auchly, Montana FWP|Updated Feb 11, 2020

    Some of the hardest questions to answer start with why. Why will fish bite one day and not the next, or even stop biting when they were having a feeding frenzy a minute ago? Why did prehistoric people use a particular cliff face to draw a petroglyph? Why can I not win the lottery? Okay, scratch that. Just the other day, an acquaintance asked why magpies are black and white. First, magpies are not just black and white. Their colors include shades of gray, green and blue. In...

  • Montana Tales & Trails: For some, Elk Hunting is like religion

    Bruce Auchly, Montana FWP|Updated Dec 4, 2019

    Bless me father for I have sinned. My last elk hunt was several years ago. In Montana, elk hunting is akin to religion. You don't have to be a true believer, but a day spent chasing elk, following tracks in the snow, or even sitting in the woods and watching the natural world unfold can be as beautiful as time spent in a cathedral. Why, then, would someone renounce that? Good question. This is not to belittle anyone's beliefs in an afterlife, a Creator or sacred writings. Rath...

  • Tales and Trails: The Strange Power of Antlers

    Bruce Auchly, Montana FWP|Updated Jun 5, 2019

    What is it about shed antlers that annually turns grownups into raving lunatics? Apparently, there is a lure, a special power that emanates from shed antlers: those racks of bone that each spring and early summer grow on the heads of male members of the deer family, fall off in the winter, only to regrow and repeat the cycle. How else to explain the crowds of people that show up each year for the noon, May 15 opener at Fish, Wildlife and Parks Wildlife Management Areas. The granddaddy of which is the Sun River WMA west of...

  • Tales and Trails: Get out the Fishing Gear

    Bruce Auchly, Montana FWP|Updated May 15, 2019

    Montana's rivers are running high, wide and muddy right now and things typically won't improve much for maybe two months. That all depends on rainfall and snowmelt. A cool, wet spring will prolong runoff into mid-June; a hot, dry period will clear up rivers and streams faster but not bode well for fisheries later in the summer. So, what's an angler to do to catch fish? Better yet, what's a fish to do to find food? We might give up dry flies and switch to worms. Fish will...

  • Tales and Trails: Fly-tying for the aged

    Bruce Auchly, Montana FWP|Updated Apr 17, 2019

    Several years ago, an old man, who I really didn't know, died and his wife gave me a grocery bag full of his fly-tying material. And for a long time, it sat untouched in the corner of my office. Over the years I've tied a few miserable-looking flies, but eventually my hobby quietly disappeared into a basement corner. Fly-fishing took the next bus out of town. Then, last week I stumbled across a cheap, metal and plastic desk headed for the dump and something clicked. Now, it's...

  • When winter ends

    Bruce Auchly, Montana FWP|Updated Mar 6, 2019

    Winter will end. Trust me. But what will we see when all that white stuff disappears? A landscape green from melting snow littered with dead deer? Probably not. Yes, February was brutal for much of the state, but let's not lose our perspective. This is winter. This is Montana – a northern latitude state. And for the memory deprived last year was worse or at least longer. This year, few ranchers so far have complained of deer in their haystacks. Nothing like last year. That's p...

  • Tales & Trails: An essay on a bird feeder

    Bruce Auchly, Montana FWP|Updated Dec 27, 2018

    It seems to take a while after sunrise now for birds to gather at the bird feeder by the kitchen window. On winter mornings like those recently, when the temperature struggled to rise much above zero, the chickadees, house finches, and English house sparrows didn't show up until half an hour after sunrise. I don't blame them; winter mornings are meant for sleeping in. All animals that spend at least part of their lives in Montana, inside those man-made boundaries we call...

  • The Magic of Birds

    Bruce Auchly, Montana FWP|Updated Jul 4, 2018

    If this Universe has a Creator, she must have been having a good day when she created birds. They are colorful and dull, helpful and ruinous. They eat bird seed, harmful insects, even our garbage. They will also ruin your clean car and carry off your cat at night. They nest in trees, on the ground and even underground. Yes, even underground. A friend called a couple of years ago excited that a pair of burrowing owls had taken up residence in an abandoned gopher hole on her...

  • Montana Tales & Trails

    Bruce Auchly, Montana FWP|Updated Jun 6, 2018

    You don't have to be an ancient mariner to see we have plenty of water around us. People are filling sandbags, checking flood insurance policies or waiting for fields to dry up so they can plant. From a recreation point of view, too much water makes it difficult, impossible or downright dangerous to boat or float or fish. That leads to a lot of grumbling about something we have no control over. Life underwater is exciting, too, but sometimes in a good way and for different...

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