Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Montana -- Finding My Last Best Place

I've been thinking about today -- October 30, 2012 -- for some time.  It's my 70th birthday, and I've got some unfinished business on my bucket list (list of to-dos before I die).  My family history doesn't give long odds on my living beyond another ten years, and my body isn't cooperating very much either.  I've already had several surgeries just to keep legs and arms working.  I figure I'd better get the more physical hunting, fishing and canoeing to-dos over before another five years are gone.

Elk Hunting

A couple of weeks back I decided one of the things I wanted to do before I cash-in is to go elk hunting.  I spent many years visiting Cody, Wyoming where I got acquainted with several outfitters who guide elk hunters.  I've been on several trails ride with them, and I've heard their wonderful tales about hunters, hunting camps, pack-horses and grizzly bears.

Last week I made the first move to prepare for an elk hunt.  I ordered a new 30-06 bolt action rifle and scope.  Then I started searching for the best deal on a guided elk hunt.  What a wakeup call that was -- I never dreamed it would cost me in the neighborhood of $6000 (all chips in) to go on a 7-day hunt.

At first I figured I just wait another year (to save the dinero) and make it a 2014 elk hunt.  The thing is I've never been very good at waiting for something I want to do, so I started considering other options.  

Then it hit me -- for $6000 I could probably make a down payment on a piece of Recreational Land and have a permanent hunting cabin.

Recreational Land

My wife and I have had a running line of banter for years about my moving to Montana after she dies.  It's always been a dream, and maybe even a bucket list item -- to live in Montana before the end.

I spent this past weekend surfing the internet -- looking for Recreational Land in Montana.  

Recreational Land for those who don't know is a rural parcel of land near hunting, fishing or skiing areas.  It's sometimes very remote, and often with few or no utilities.  A place to build a rustic cabin -- others might call a vacation home, mountain hideaway, off-the-grid cottage or survival cabin.  I guess what you call it depends on the utilities available and the political condition of America.

I was surprised to learn Montana has plenty of undeveloped land in the $1000 to $2000 per acre range.  Yes, I could actually make a down payment on a lot in Montana for the cost of one elk hunting trip.  I even found a few parcels larger than 50 acres for less than $1000/acre.  Now I just need to find the right one for me.

Finding the right piece of land won't be easy.  Land that has utilities or is close to town is pricey.  Land with timber costs more than sagebrush prairie land.  Steep mountain property is usually cheaper than a gently sloping mix of pasture and trees.

1903 Creston Montana cabin -- 14x24 with a loft

My ultimate goal will be to build a 200-400 square foot rustic cabin in Montana for hunting and fishing trips a few times a year -- realistically maybe just a few weeks between May and November.  I'd also like a place where -- if things change -- I could turnout our five horses and watch them graze.  My primary focus will be finding land close to national forest or BLM for hunting land and close to good trout fishing in a lake or river.  The right land must allow RV camping, have water (an existing well, full time creek, or river), a mix of pasture and trees, electricity, and cell phone access.  It will most likely be 7 to 10 acres, but could be more or less depending on location and other amenities.  It cannot be too isolated and should be within 30 minutes of medical help.

So, follow my blog as I search for my little piece of the last best place (Montana), design a rustic cabin, improve the land, and build my second home.  It will be a great adventure to carve a home out of the Montana wilderness -- just as my granddad did 100 years ago.

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