Posted September 25, 2008 in Adventure Journals by Jim Markel
Howard Gray. packed everything he needed in his trusty Mini Ruck Rucksack for a 3 day weekend out on the plains of Montana. Let’s see what all the fuss is about being in this "500 Club."
I recently returned from my outstanding 4th of July Holiday and I wanted you to know I used only my Mini Ruck backpack for all my stuff. Following your advice about packing light, I chose the bare minimum in clothing.
The Mini Ruck gobbled up 2 pairs of undies, 2 pairs of socks, my Army jacket, a camera, toiletries, hiking boots, a box of .223 ammo, mini binoculars, camp knife, bug spray, sunscreen, camo pants, extra T-shirt and some fireworks. I’m especially fond of all the exterior compartments. This makes it super easy to organize things and find them quick. The zippers are the best I’ve ever encountered and I also like the quick pull closures for the main compartment. Sleek and fast.
Headed out to visit with friends on the 4th in Shepherd, Montana for their annual party. Arrived as everyone was sitting down for the feast. Karl is the king of BBQ. I flopped in the cool pool to chill out as it was nearly 100 degrees! At dark the fireworks commenced. I topped off the evening with a dip in the hot tub.
Next morning I bid adieu and rolled up to central Montana where I was to meet a team for an annual prairie grassland range conservation project. The guys also like to enjoy some long range target shooting and chronographing as it’s very isolated. And I mean isolated. I drove one stretch of road and didn’t see another car for 30 miles!
Central Montana is mostly prairie grassland and usually one thinks of it as rather barren and empty, a wasteland of sagebrush. This year Montana had an unusual amount of moisture. Rich green hills and valleys that are usually brown and tan. Haven’t seen it this green in a long time.
I found the Hill Oasis Bed and Breakfast and guest ranch run by former county commissioner Phil and Delores Hill. Sadly my timing was such that I walked in on them as they were finding their little poodle, dead of old age in the yard.
My friend drove up rescuing me and we headed out. Every year, a team comes up here to do conservation work for the local ranchers. In the early 90’s the prairie was described as the "surface of the moon" from washed out erosion. Since then, the grasses are coming back in full swing. We’re way out in the middle of nowhere. You can see to the horizon, so it’s also a fun time for long range target practice. In fact, one of the chaps on the team is from the U.K. So needless to say, he enjoys exercising the gun rights he doesn’t have in England.Follow the yellow brick road!
After a wonderful classic "family ranch meal" and a few stories about the Montana Freemen Phil had to deal with a dozen years ago, we all retired. The ranch is an ideal location for a complete getaway. No cell phone here! The seven room ranch has a comfortably cool basement, a pool table, and satellite TV for those needing to escape to tubeland. They’ll provide dinner and breakfast upon request and have extraordinarily reasonable rates. In fact, it was a downright steal!
Arising "ranch hours" early the next morning the team enjoyed another spectacular breakfast of hot coffee with biscuits and gravy. One of the team members is quite a funny fellow. A tall "alpha" male with opinions as big as the sky outdoors. Not exactly PC, but this is central Montana! Another guy on the team is a retired police officer, a spitting image of Kirk Douglas. He brought the chronograph and a collection of hand-loaded target ammo. Also on the team is the English Chap, a welder from California and my friend, an ex-Marine, just like you Jim. What does this mixed group have in common? A love of target shooting! Much morning merriment and we were off. Finished with our conservation work, it was time to do some long range target shooting.
Joining the 500 Club
We drove way out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by stunning "Gold" as far as the eyes could see (see image below). Sweet-clover was proliferating unlike the locals had seen in many years. When we got to our shooting range, we drove down a road that could only be described as “the Yellow Brick Road” as there the old road was covered with gold sweet-clover, the rest around us was green (see image!).
We set up the targets at 100 yard intervals and commenced shooting. Finally, near the end of the day, I scored my first 500 yard hit. Now I was in "the 500 club!" The drive home was uneventful zigging and zagging up and down on a dirt road in Montana’s prairie country. When I got home I unpacked my Mini Ruck, admiring how I’d managed to stuff it so full and how it did its duty throughout the weekend.
Thanks Jim and the staff at Red Oxx! Your gear is the best. In fact, I might be sneaking that Gator I gave my Dad back (he doesn’t use it) and take that along for packing my pistols next year.
Howard C. Gray
Congratulations on pegging a shot at that distance. You realize that’s 5 football fields! I wouldn’t want to be on the other end of that shot! Well done.
Jim Markel, CEO