Thursday, June 13, 2013

Welcome to Montana. Now go home.

We don’t mean it as an insult. Just a suggestion.

When I travel to other states, especially those smaller and more densely populated ones (which is almost all of them), I enjoy striking up a prepping conversation to learn what my fellow citizens in other parts of the country think they will do when TSHTF.

Strangely, the end of the line for many folks is a complete bugout to the high country that includes my home of Montana. Yet these folks speak of Montana as if there is nobody already here, and the lush deer-filled mountains surrounded by crystal-clear trout-rich streams are there for the taking. Well, I don’t know how to break it to you all, but we are already here.

You know that dirt road you were going to camp next to? It’s actually my driveway.

And that nice creek you plan on fishing. Well it crosses my land.

And that inviting mountaintop in the distance. It’s actually a great place to get hit by lightening.

And see that No Trespassing sign? That is your one and only warning.

Just because you don’t see anyone around doesn’t mean we’re not here.

Imagine me driving my BOB vehicle into another state. Any state. At 80mph, there are all kinds of great looking places to go and stake out a new life if only for a while, but just like when you pull off the pavement to pee, people were/are everywhere whether in person or as toilet paper and beer can trace evidence of their recent visit. If you are alone, you won’t be for long.

So after rolling into your neck of the woods, I now stake out my perimeter and fortify my space. The problem is it is not my space, but yours. Imagine waking up and seeing me camped out in your backyard. Your first thought would be WTF? And you second thought would be which long gun would draw the best bead on this situation.

Well, the same is true for Montana. Pull out a map and point to a spot. Any spot.  Pretend that is your hypothetical bugout location (BOL). Guess what! Someone either lives there or plans on going there who already lives around here. Sure there is a lot of room in Montana, and we do consider ourselves a rather hospitable folk, but the Montana ethos is clear; you can do what you want, where you want…as long as it doesn’t affect me. Parking your BO rig at my fishing hole –even if on state land—affects me. And if you happened to lack the foresight to affix Montana license plates to your outfit in a token attempt to fool us, don't expect us to toss a welcome mat at your feet. Or lower the shotgun barrel when in range.

Now unless you happen to have a unique skillset beyond what we all have around here, like, like say you are a brain surgeon or Navy Seal or MacGyver, then you will quite possibly be considered a liability rather than an asset. So spill the details quickly.  I don’t mean to burst your BOB bubble, but my home is not your BOL just as I expect you don't want me treading on yours.

Katrina was a wakeup call to BOLs in action. Although most were unplanned or just rough concepts, it was kind of the folks in surrounding states to graciously absorb the displaced masses. But the stresses did add up, and next time (and there will be a next time) the accommodations won’t be, well, so accommodating.

You see we here in Montana are not simply placeholders building out a mild infrastructure for your bugout dreams. We have the small country stores because we like and patronize them. We left the trees standing and the game running because that’s the way it needs to be for us to survive. We like the weather. We understand that the potholes keep the vehicle speeds down reducing impacts with animals. And we don't anyone to swoop in and save us when things go south whether by flood, fire or famine.

Enough dense-staters have moved in around here only to plant lawns where they don't belong, drain wetlands, build high fences to protect their invasive flower garden from wildlife, changed migration patterns by building right in the middle of ancient routes, then banning hunting causing an overload of charismatic megafauna on lands never designed for such carrying capacity. They build palatial structures requiring massive amounts of electricity, water and asphalt. They argue with locals. They complain about the unplowed roads in the winter, the wildfires in the summer, and the bears in their garbage. 

Basically, they behave as the spoiled children of wealthy parents they are. Since most of them are so dysfunctional as families and humans, it is only a matter of time before they implode and move away leaving a chunk of land so valuable it goes into disrepair because no one in their right mind would buy it.  Of course the taxes of surrounding properties also bear the scars of the viral infections of conspicuous consumption where greed carved its way deep into the generations-old Montanans who now own the land- the same land you think you are going to bugout onto.

Have I made my point clear?

Now I don't want to blame the victim, but when watching the wildfires situation unfold in Colorado, primarily the Black Forest Fire (got to love those inadvertent puns), it is obvious that the interface between wildlands and those tracts of property domesticated through the decades were blurred. Many dream of a BOL that is entirely within the wild side of that interface yet little of the prepping involves the realities of living in the wild. If you plan on shooting any four-legged threat with the same prejudice as those dangers on two legs, well, I'll let you in on a secret; you will be perceived as a threat to our way of life in Montana, and trust me, in an actual WROL, that is a capital offense.

But I’ll be nice and let you in on another secret. Seven of them actually. Here are the rules to bugging out to Montana:

1.    Visit Montana. Not just the parks and cities. Do you homework. Appreciate what's here beyond the tourist destinations.

2.    Be nice. Be humble. Make as little impact as possible. Invisibility is considered a quality trait here in Montana.

3.    Never ever assume you are entitled to be here. Yes, Montana is one of the United States, but I've seen what you've done with your state, and frankly, I'm not impressed.

4.    Ask permission. And accept the answer. We're not stupid, we're quite. And good shots.

5.    Ditch the bling. You cannot impress us so don’t try. If we wanted your lifestyle, we would not live in Montana. Plus after a few rough days, the bling will be removed for you anyway.

6.    Never judge us by our clothes, cars, or trucks. We operate under a different set of indicators here, and unless you are authentic, you will come across as silly as the endless supply of actors who play big city types in movies who are trying to fit into small towns. I know all about you from just a cursory glance at your choice of shoes and tires. 

And last and most important…

7.    If you want to be truly prepared to bugout to Montana, then already be here.

The Montana Boarder Patrol has very few roads to block so unless you are going to try and sneak into Montana over the mountains, have a plan B. Look at the map. Notice the over 1700 miles of state line with only about two dozen roads penetrating the border. This is a very well designed state with excellent buffer states fortifying all points on the compass.

But hey, I’ve heard Texas is nice. 

Carrry on.


  1. I live in Michigan, but feel EXACTLY the same about this topic !!!

    Every suburban mall ninja wants to "bug out to the country", but it just so happens that I am already here.

    My property is posted and I patrol regularly, but every deer season I run off "lost" hunters (poachers) and I have had quads and snowmobiles running up my driveway because they thought it was a public trail (in spite of the mailbox).

    In general, most people seem to have very little respect for landowners and consider any large piece of land to be a public park for their enjoyment.

  2. I enjoyed your article. Ironically, this has actually been a conversation between my family and I for several months running.

    My dad wants me to move away from the East Coast. He worries about the big cities, DC, and the bases being too close. Government at the back door.

    One of my sons says I should think of going back to Alaska. (We lived in a remote village for 2 1/2 years until my contract was up. 3 hours from Anchorage by plane only. 40 below in winter and moose stew on the wood stove. Loved it!!!)

    My other son says I should move closer to the military bases for my protection. (Both my sons are in the military.)

    The whole time, I am arguing that bugging in would be best since everyone else will be bugging out. (Plus, no one looking at me ever thinks automatically that I was in the Marines, that I can defend myself, or that by having worked in an Alternative middle school for the past 8 years I have gained a great insight into the inner city mindset of the "it wasn't my fault" crowd.)

    I believe that hiding in plain sight may be the better option since everyone will be heading into the mountains. If you ask anyone, even people who are not prepping, they all say they will head for the mountains for hunting and fishing - even if they have never hunted or fished a day in their lives!!! I always say I will be all by myself out by the tobacco fields when everyone bugs out! Who would think to look for a prepared person here? All you can see for miles is tobacco, soy, and squash plants surrounded by forests.

    Plus, I agree that you will be swamped with rude, offensive, unprepared people who will think you will share because they said so. Hopefully, your first winter will take care of your pest problem!!

  3. Hey now, don't dis Texas. I actively avoid the giant metropolitan areas in my state. We also have the same problems as Montana in our rural regions. Texas is HUGE. Extensive stretches of "uninhabited" land, from grasslands to forests. People cluelessly wander around on private property because they don't have the brains to read a sign or understand the meaning of a fence.