Hiking in the Ruby Valley

Snowcrest Trail is one of several hiking trails within a few miles of UCO.

One of the great advantages of Upper Canyon Outfitters’ location is that we are surrounded by thousands of acres of public land. For those who like to hike, this means you can pretty much just pick a direction and start walking.

As someone who moved to Montana from the east coast I was perplexed by that idea at first. Like most people I was used to driving to a trailhead and hiking a marked path.

We have several “official” hiking trails within a few miles of UCO if that is your preference. However, the option to blaze your own trail is a unique experience that is worth a try, and we are happy to give you some ideas and point you in the right direction.

Snowcrest Trail offers an incredible 360-degree view of the area.

Snowcrest Trail

From Romy Creek trailhead at the end of Lewis Creek Road you can begin hiking Snowcrest Trail. This is a great hike for anyone wanting to get an incredible 360-degree view of the area.

The trail starts off meandering in the timber but hikers will notice a gradual incline. As the trail breaks the treeline the switchbacks continue all the way to top ridge of Snowcrest Mountain, a great place to stop for a lunch break and enjoy the views.

The road to the trailhead can sometimes be difficult to navigate with a regular vehicle. Ask us about a road condition update before heading out, or opt for a guided hike and we will get you there in one of our 4×4 side by side vehicles.

Little Willow Trail is a moderate hike that leads to the remains of an old talc mine.
Little Willow Trail goes through thick timber.

Little Willow Trail

Little Willow Trail is an old road that leads to the remains of an old talc mine. The road is now overgrown and is only used by hikers and hunters.

It is a great option for someone looking for a more moderate hiking opportunity. The road goes for approx two miles through thick timber, with Little Willow Creek running alongside it.

At the end of the road you will reach a bare hillside which is worth hiking up as you gain a nice view of the Snowcrest Range. Access to this spot is easy and can be reached with most vehicles.

The Lookout

A UCO favorite, the Lookout is a beautiful spot easily reached by hiking right from the ranch. There isn’t an official trail. All you have to do is make your way up the mountain across the road from UCO until you reach the Lookout which is situated in a little “saddle” between two peaks.

From this spot you get a great, almost bird’s-eye view of UCO, the three mountain ranges that surround us – Greenhorn, Snowcrest and Gravelly – and the Ruby River meandering through the canyon, flowing down toward the valley. On a clear day you can even see Black Butte, an old volcano unique shape, and the highest peak in the Gravelly Range. (This is another hiking option to ask us about!)

The Lookout is in a saddle between two peaks just across from UCO.

To return to the ranch you can retrace your steps down the mountain or follow the prominent game trail to the other side and down the mountain to make a “loop.”

If you choose the game trail option, keep following it down the mountain until you reach the sage flat. From there the trail disappears but all you have to do is work your way back toward the main road which you can walk to back to the ranch.

Please remember that we are surrounded by wilderness and that wildlife is abundant in this area. There is a good chance you might run into some critters on your hike. Some of the animals you might see include elk, white-tailed deer, mule deer, moose, badgers, gophers, big horn sheep, antelope, a wide away of birds and occasionally a bear or mountain lion.

Grizzly bear sightings have increased in the area and we highly encourage everyone to carry a can of bear spray with them. We always have canisters of bear spray in the office so be sure to grab one before you head out.

Hikers can enjoy abundant wildflowers in the spring and into early summer. Be sure to take a field guide along. Some common flowers
include lupines, wild geraniums, and Bitteroots – which are Montana’s state flower.

There are several safety measures you should employ whether you are hiking on an established trail or exploring on your own. Always let someone in the office know where you are going and when you plan to be back if you are not using a guide. Be sure to stick to your plan or notify someone if you make changes to it.

What to pack

There are some basic items you should always pack when going out for a hike, even if you don’t plan on being out for very long. Packing these items can make a big difference if you find yourself in an unpredictable situation.

  • First aid kit
  • Survival items such as matches, an emergency blanket and whistle
  • Bear spray
  • Adequate food and water. (Pack more than you think you need.)
  • Map
  • Communication device that works with no cell service (Garmin InReach/radio)
  • Extra layers of clothing
  • Rain gear
  • Headlamp/flashlight and extra batteries

Other items from a more comprehensive list may prove to be helpful.

How to dress

“Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it” are good words to live by when preparing your pack. The weather in the mountains can change quickly and extremely. It is not uncommon for a day to start out warm with clear blue skies only for a thunderstorm to develop during the afternoon. You have to be sure to be as prepared as possible when going hiking since all you have is what you bring with you in your pack and your vehicle or the lodge can be miles away.

The most important thing is to dress in layers and bring additional layers for warmth and rain protection. When storms roll in temperatures can drop, even in the middle of summer. If you’re not adequately prepared you can be at risk for hypothermia.

Wherever you decide to go hiking be sure to let someone know where you are going, which trail you plan to hike and when you are expecting to return. And stick to that plan.

Whether you decide to stick to the established trails or decide to forgo those and pick the less beaten path, we can point you in the right direction, or better yet, set you up with one of our guides

A message from Montana

As a past, present, or prospective guest with Upper Canyon Outfitters (UCO), you’re a part of our family.You should know we always take the health and safety of our guests and staff very seriously. For 34 years, UCO has been sharing the joy of life-enriching adventure travel. We’ve been through a number of difficult times. We recognize that the current situation with COVID-19 is one of them and is unsettling. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to anyone who has been impacted.

As a family owned and operated company, we are doing our best to make sound decisions that are fair and in the best interest of everyone.

Currently we plan to run all trips as scheduled. Our trips are scheduled to begin in June, which is past the CDC’s and other guiding organizations’ travel-restricted timeframes. Fortunately, the nature of our vacations is built around social distancing. We work hard to give our guests a remote experience that allows them to reconnect with nature, get out on the rivers and trails and into the fresh air. We rarely have more than 25 guests – and usually fewer.

As you know, this is a rapidly evolving situation and our response may change as we learn more. We are taking a number of immediate steps:

  • For now, we are updating our deposit return policy to be more flexible to give peace of mind to our clients.
  • We continue to strongly recommend you purchase travel insurance. We have partnered with the Dude Ranch Association and the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association to offer you a choice in travel Insurance. The Global Rescue’s Signature Travel and Signature Plus (Cancel for any reason) insurance allows you to insure all your expenses and covers all activities. While a Travel Insurance Policy can be purchased at any time, purchasing a policy within 20 days of making your initial trip deposit gives you the widest range of policy options specifically canceled for any reason. Ask an agent about a rider that covers for “Fear of Travel” We hope this helps you book with confidence.
  • We have always followed the CDC’s recommendations for sanitation standard operating procedures – the current Coronavirus prevention protocol
  • We have hand sanitizers on all trips
  • Each guestroom is supplied with hand sanitizers and antibacterial soap.
  • Our food handlers adhere to strict guidelines for food preparation and clean-up. All surfaces are sanitized.
  • We are implementing even more frequent sanitization of surfaces in the lodge and cabins.
  • Every cabin and room are laundered and deep cleaned between guests.

We will take all additional steps necessary based on the most current information with the goal of keeping clients and staff safe and vacations running smoothly. Please take comfort in knowing that here at UCO our team is working extra hard to ensure we meet or exceed sanitation guidelines.

We will continue to tap into our values, our strengths and lean on one another with compassion in the coming weeks and months. We will continue to update our protocols as the situation evolves and as more information becomes available.

We will face this challenge as most Americans will, with an undefeatable spirit, tenacity, common sense and compassion. We thank you for navigating these difficult times with us.


Donna and Jake McDonald
Upper Canyon Outfitters

Nutrition is key when prepping for western hunts

Physically training for your hunt is not going to be as effective if you don’t fuel your body with the right foods.

Proper nutrition is critical to get your body to perform to its optimal potential. Nutrition is something you need to focus on no matter the time of year, whether its during your training or during your hunt.

Our quest to provide you with the tools you need to prepare for your hunt led us to a local Montana business. Ivory Nutrition , based out of Bozeman, is run and managed by Alishia Zemlicka, a native Montanan and avid hunter and outdoorswoman. Alishia is a certified nutritional coach who focuses on proper nutrition and tailoring programs specifically for hunters.

Her philosophy of “We train hard to hunt hard, we hunt hard to eat good, we eat good to train hard” really resonates with most hunters who spend hours and days in the field to fill their freezer with wild game meat. We met with Alisha to get some tips for the best nutrition practices hunters can utilize in their preparation for their hunt.

What is a good place to start with changing your nutrition habits? First thing you should implement?

The first thing is to start cutting out as much processed food as possible. A good plan to strive for is to eat 80 percent whole foods and 20 percent processed, but if you can get to a point where you are eating 90 percent whole, and 10 percent processed that’s even better.

The Mayo clinic website has several more tips for cleaner eating:

  • Limiting highly processed, packaged foods with a long list of ingredients, most of which are not natural. Ingredients listed on the food label should mostly be foods that you recognize.
  • Cutting back on foods with added salt, sugar or fat.
  • Avoiding foods that are drastically altered compared with their natural form, such as apple juice versus a whole apple, chicken nuggets versus a fresh chicken breast, or vegetable chips versus fresh vegetables.
  • Also, frozen fruits and vegetables are OK because they are minimally processed and can sometimes contain more nutrients than fresh varieties since they are frozen at their peak.
  • Preparing and eating more foods at home. Start with simple meals to help you get into the habit

She also mentioned that you can’t forget to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water, preferably a gallon a day.

As you begin changing your habits you should also start looking into portion guides which advise you on how much of each food group you should consume in each meal, this ensures that you are not eating too much or too little, and helps give you a guideline to stick too.

Our bodies needs differ from one another depending on our lifestyles and goals, you should consider having your caloric needs assessed and find out what your macro numbers are and follow a food plan that fits your specific needs.

What is proper nutrition while hunting to keep your body fueled and have energy?

While we are out hunting in the mountains our body uses up a lot of energy and we have to keep fueling it in order to be able to feel good, energized, and performing to our optimal level. The best way to do that is to focus on consuming carbs and fats. Protein is great as well and you shouldn’t count it out but it will not provide the same source of energy, so don’t focus on consuming large amounts of protein.

Alishia recommends starting the day off with a carb dense breakfast – a bowl of oatmeal with peanut butter, or a sweet potato with eggs and bacon are some ideas.

Throughout the day it is a little harder to consume whole foods. Apples, nuts, and seeds are good options. Additionally there are lots of snack options available out there, some specifically geared for hunters and backcountry use. Alishia also mentions that you should plan ahead for energy, for example if you know you have a big climb ahead try eating a couple energy chews before you tackle that climb. Don’t wait until you are climbing and feel depleted because at that point it’s too late.

Lastly, she stresses, don’t forget about proper hydration. If you are not a fan of plain water or even for just an extra boost try mixing in hydrate powders.

Clients who are interested in having a customized nutrition program planned for them can contact Alishia, who is happy to work with you whether you are local to Montana or you are out of state.

Come prepared for your Montana hunt

Hunt in Montana's Ruby Valley with Upper Canyon Outfitters.
When hunting in Montana, it’s best to come as prepared as possible – especially when it comes to fitness.

The six P’s of hunting with UCO

Have you heard about the 6 P’s?

Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

We are strong believers of this simple yet straightforward saying here at UCO as it applies to many of the daily aspects of our life, and elk hunting is no exception.

The moment you have been waiting for is here, you have all your gear packed and ready to go. You can already feel that anticipation for the first day of the hunt, the hunt you have been dreaming of and preparing for for months, if not years…

But are you as prepared for it as you should be?

One of the biggest obstacles faced by our clients is underestimating the physical demands that are required for hunting in the mountains of Southwest Montana and there is nothing worse than traveling all this way for your hunt, starting your week out, only to end up realizing that your body is struggling to the point where you end up spending more time taking recovery breaks than actually hunting.

So what can you do to prevent that from happening? The biggest thing is: Get in the best possible shape before you arrive for your hunt.

Most hunters will find out if they were successful at drawing a tag by mid-April, giving them almost six full months to physically prepare for their hunt. Hunters who take the time to train and get their bodies in shape increase their chances of success as it allows them to go farther into the mountains where others don’t and they will have the stamina to hit the mountains hard, every day, rather than losing energy a few days into the hunt.

Upper Canyon Outfitters is situated at 6,000 feet of elevation and we hunt anywhere from 6,500-8,500 feet, which means that throughout your week here you can expect a lot of elevation gain, often over challenging terrain, and at altitudes you may not be used to.

Preparing your body to meet this challenge is not something you can do overnight. We urge you to start preparing now. You will not regret it.

Aside from the preparation to be in good physical shape you also need to prepare yourself mentally for the hunt.

Hunting is tough, and hunting in Montana in particular presents a lot of challenges you may not have encountered before. The days are long, the weather is not always favorable, you will get tired, uncomfortable, and perhaps discouraged – but you can’t let any of these things stop you from believing that you can achieve what you came out here to do.

Our head hunting guide, Aston Boone, touches on the mental toughness aspect when he reminds clients every week that you absolutely cannot lose your motivation to keep going, even if you haven’t seen an elk in three days, even if you had a missed opportunity, even if you are as tired as you’ve ever been. You have to hunt hard from the first day to the last. To him, your motivation shouldn’t solely rely on harvesting an animal. Rather, you should focus on the fact that you are in a beautiful place, chasing wild creatures, and that you should remember to have fun, and enjoy your time in the mountains. Harvesting an animal is a bonus.

What are the most important things to focus on in terms of fitness in preparation?

The most important thing is to start now. Don’t put off your training until the last minute. You cannot prepare for the demands of mountain hunting overnight.

You also don’t have to go all in right away. Start gradually and work up the intensity and duration of your exercise.

Since you will be doing a lot of hiking, leg exercises are very important. You should focus on your calves, quads, hamstrings and lower back. Including some HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) to build up your cardiovascular capacity is really important, especially since you will be hunting in higher than normal altitude.

As you progress in your training you should consider incorporating the gear you will be using on your hunt. For one, it is a good way to test it and make sure it’s comfortable. Improperly fitting boots will make you miserable if you have to wear them 14 hours a day for a week. Same with a pack that doesn’t fit right. With added weight to your pack (try packing it with the items you plan to have with you) and the added weight of your boots, you will surely increase the difficulty of your exercise but the result will be increased strength in the areas that you need to focus on, and it is a good way to overall simulate similar conditions to the ones you will encounter while hunting.

For hunters who may not have access to a gym, what are some effective workouts they can do at home to prepare for their hunt?

You don’t need a gym to get in good shape for your Montana hunt. One thing to remember is that anything you do now towards getting in better physical shape is better than not doing anything at all. Train at your own pace and don’t push yourself to the point where you might get injured.

Below are a couple links to websites that offer training tips and plans- be sure to discuss your needs and expectations with a professional before embarking on a training regimen in order to prevent any injury.

Getting the most from your UCO fishing time

Guest Post by Rick Rice

Upper Canyon Outfitters in Montana has been my favorite place to get away and fish since my brother and I first visited the ranch in 2003. From the moment of our arrival, we felt welcome and knew we were in good hands. Those feelings have grown stronger during more than a dozen visits with friends and family over the last 15 years. Owners Donna and Jake McDonald and their excellent staff provide exceptional experiences for all ages and skill levels.

Montana, particularly the Ruby Valley, is beautiful and the ranch is a great place to get away and relax. There are many choices of activities, from fly fishing to riding, hunting, hiking and more. They even have a Build Your Own Adventure option!

Catching a brown trout on the Ruby River with a UCO guide.
UCO guides work hard to make your time on the river fun and productive, and always make your day better.

My first love is fly fishing on the Ruby River (though I did enjoy horseback riding at the ranch for the first time last year, and will probably do it again sometime). One of the big reasons I enjoy fishing so much are the guides at the ranch. They work hard to make your days on the river fun and productive, and they’re helpful without being intrusive.

Every UCO fishing guide is experienced, licensed and trained in first aid, and most have been at the ranch for several seasons. They’ll bring plenty of water and other drinks, a streamside lunch, and probably, whatever you forgot! They always make your day better.

UCO also has private access to some of the best fishing spots. While there is plenty of river with public access for fishing on both the upper and lower sections of the river, there are some special stretches of the river where you must have a UCO guide to fish. UCO has an arrangement with landowners along these stretches that allows fishing with a guide and a rod fee (included with the guide fee). These private stretches are amazing, and since the access is limited, the fish are usually plentiful. You really want to spend some of your time casting in those private stretches.

Over my years at the ranch, I’ve been joined by people with fly fishing skills ranging from beginner to expert. UCO always does a great job matching them to the right guides.

If you’re new to fly fishing, the UCO guides can help you learn to cast or improve your casting. They’ll suggest what flies are right for a particular part of the river and the conditions, and help you rig your flies. They’ll also show you likely places where the fish are holding, and tell you where to start your fly in the water so it reaches the fish in a natural way.

By fishing with a guide, you’ll begin to understand how to read the river and identify where the fish are holding for yourself. It’s sometimes helpful to use a hopper-dropper rig where one fly floats on the surface with a nymph below the surface. The guide will set up the rig for you, help you realize when a trout has taken the nymph (it’s surprisingly subtle), and tell you when to set the hook.

A healthy Ruby River brown trout.
The Ruby River is nuanced, but holds a healthy population of brown and rainbow trout, along with a number of other species.

When you hook a fish, the guide will help you land it in ways that are safest for the fish and – after your victory picture – make sure the fish is healthy and properly released.

And, when the inevitable tangle or snag happens, the guide will help you fix the problem and get you back to fishing as quickly as possible.

For the experienced angler, the two sections of the Ruby River are very different experiences. (Here’s how another frequent guest has described the Ruby.) Both sections look pretty straightforward at first, but have plenty of nuances.

If you prefer to head out on your own, a guide can take you to the public sections of the river and show you the most productive rigs and flies for the area, plus share local experience. With that inside knowledge, you’re sure to have a much better day.

Below the Ruby Dam, there are three public access points before you get into Alder, Montana, which is 24 miles northeast of the ranch. Each fishes a bit differently and local knowledge can really improve your results when you fish on your own. A few miles up the river from the ranch, the Ruby River flows through national forest land that also offers some great fishing. A UCO guide can show you places you can park, where to access the river, and the best techniques and rigs for those parts of the river and some of its tributaries.

Even after years of fishing both public and private waters, I continue going out with a guide on most days. There are many advantages, including getting current knowledge about that year’s conditions, having the guides manage lunch, and keeping the day rolling along if there are problems. I also like that I’ve fished with the same guides before, and enjoy the chance to slow down and catch up with them.

Of course, if you want to fish on your own, UCO will set you up with a lunch, point you in the right direction, and the guides will answer any questions you have on fly selection or rigging before you go.

One final, important note… tipping your guide is not something the UCO staff talk about, and they won’t say much about it if you ask at the ranch. In addition, many anglers are confused about whether they’re supposed to tip and how much. I say it’s just like tipping your server 15 to 20 percent of your bill at a nice restaurant. Guides provide a valuable service and like I do with other service providers, I tip them for their excellent work and think this should be standard practice. I have settled on giving my guides 20 to 25 percent of the daily fee because I believe great service and hard work always should be acknowledged.


Most of our clients here at UCO are repeats guests. We are thankful and blessed to have so many loyal people return to our home year after year.

We believe that there are a few distinct reasons people return to our hidden gem in the Ruby Valley. One is the fishing. We offer a unique opportunity to have an intimate fishing experience in which you can catch anything from a rainbow trout to a grayling, all while enjoying the serenity of Montana.

Our horseback rides offer some of the most breathtaking views a person can imagine, and people never leave the dinner table hungry.

But another reason people come back year after year, is the people at UCO.

We like to say that UCO is “where here feels like home,” and we mean that. We want people to feel as though they are part of the family as soon as they walk through the front door. One of the people that have made many lasting impressions is Jake McDonald.

Jake is Donna’s partner in business, marriage and shenanigans. He is often in the background of UCO, keeping things running smoothly. Not all clients have the opportunity to spend time with him, but those that do tend to remember him for the long term. So, in honor of Jake’s birthday coming up on January 22nd, we thought we would write a blog about some of his Jake-isms.

  1. Awesome. According to Jake, this is the most overused word in the English language. There have been countless times that a guest will be admiring the beauty of the Ruby Valley and will say with a an awestruck expression, “This is awesome!” This phrase is quickly followed by Jake’s response of, “well I wouldn’t say that. It’s nice, but not awesome.” He believes that the word awesome should be reserved for miracles, great acts of bravery, and perfectly baled hay.
  2. Outfit. If Jake tells you that he likes your outfit, don’t be flattered by your meticulously put-together, stylish, western-influenced ensemble. Instead, he will be referring to whatever vehicle you drove in with. In Montana, we have our own way of referring to things and calling vehicles outfits is one of those vernacular tendencies. Another reference Jake made up is one he reserves for rangers and 4x4s and that is Noodlebuggy. No one is really sure of the origin of this nickname, but it has stuck. So when you are at UCO and request a 4×4 tour in a ranger, don’t be alarmed when your guide tells you they are going to run and get a Noodlebuggy.
  3. Nicknames and horse names. Jake, with very little effort, has managed to rename every employee and horse that has graced UCO. So if you are assigned to ride Cherokee, our trusty herd leader, and Tymbre, our head wrangler, goes to get him for you, don’t be alarmed when Jake tells you, “Here comes TSS (T-Double S, Tymbre) with Camanche (Cherokee). If you are given a nickname by Jake, know that it is one of the highest honors at UCO.
  4. Handshakes. Along with nicknames, Jake has created a unique handshake with many clients and staff. Some of these handshakes have reached levels of complication, that would require an instructional YouTube video for an outsider to learn. Jake manages to remember them all with little effort.
  5. Don’t Panic. Anyone that has spent any amount of time with Jake has learned his number one rule: Don’t panic. Jake applies this rule to every situation. Are the horses out and headed to Alder? Don’t panic. Is a noodlebuggy rolling down a mountain? Don’t panic. Jake can be heard asking people around the ranch, “What is the number one rule?” The correct answer here is: Don’t panic.

Upper Canyon Outfitters is a guest ranch in Montana that offers some incredible activities and experiences, but we would be nothing if not for the people that helped create us and continue to work hard to make us the best we can possibly be. Please feel free to share any of your Jake-isms that we may have missed.

A new type of resolution for 2019

Planning and preparing for an exciting Montana adventure can inspire life-long healthy habits that not only create a better vacation experience, but create a healthier and happier version of yourself.

Are your fishing waders feeling a little tight? Perhaps your riding pants are not buttoning as easily as they once did? This time of year often inspires well-intentioned, but fleeting commitment to strict diets and extreme exercise routines. Often times this pledge is followed up with throwing in the towel after a couple of slip ups due to fear of failure and guilt.

Why not try something new this year? Rather than throwing yourself head first into a new lifestyle, why not plan an adventure that will promote health and happiness throughout the entire New Year?

There are two forms of motivation: Extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic motivation is being motivated by external forces, something outside of oneself. This type of motivation includes things like wanting to look better, winning an award/trophy, or getting praised for looking like America’s Next Top Model. This form of motivation does not often result in long term changes, as it is difficult to keep striving for something that is outside of oneself. Intrinsic motivation is more correlated to long term changes. This is being motivated by something inside oneself. To be intrinsically motivated means you want to accomplish something because of personal satisfaction; the reward comes from inside oneself.

Climbing a mountain is a great example of both extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. You may be climbing the mountain so you can show off your rippling muscles as you pose for a photo on the summit; that would be an extrinsic motivator. On the other hand, you may be climbing the mountain to celebrate the fact that you have the health and stamina to climb a mountain and be present in nature. These would be intrinsic motivators.

So how do we create this shift in mindset? One way would be to plan a long term goal based on what creates happiness for you. Perhaps you are motivated by the thought of casting a fly rod in the small intimate Ruby River and reeling in a Grayling, or the excitement of landing a big rainbow trout on the larger, faster-flowing Lower Ruby. Maybe it is the adventure of backcountry horseback riding and seeing the rugged mountain ranges and wildlife of Montana that moves your soul. It could be reaching the summit of a Rocky Mountain peak and feeling like you’ve conquered the world.

Whatever it may be, planning and preparation for an exciting Montana adventure can inspire life-long healthy habits that not only create a better vacation experience, but create a healthier and happier version of yourself.

May 2019 be a year full of happiness and adventure.

5 reasons to book a Montana hunting trip early

Montana hunters pack out after a successful high-mountain harvest.

It is December and the chill of the winter has finally set in. It is easy this time of year to embrace the warmth of your home and the comfort of the holiday season, but there is something else that should start to spark in the back of your mind. It is the perfect time to start the booking process for a hunting trip in Montana. Here are 5 reasons why now is the perfect time to book your big hunt:

  1. In order to secure a hunting license in Montana you must meet a strict deadline. It depends on what game you are hunting, but if you plan on hunting elk, mule deer or white-tailed deer during archery and rifle season, you must have your application in by March 15. to the Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. The hunting application can be a time consuming and confusing process, which is why Upper Canyon Outfitters will take care of applying for you. As soon as you book your hunt, we get all the necessary information from you and we take it from there. Last year, we had a 100% success rate for the elk/deer combination license draw.
  2. The sport of hunting appears to be on the upswing. More people are becoming interested in this authentic experience, and with that comes more bookings. Upper Canyon Outfitters is about three-quarters booked for the 2019 season and half booked for the 2020 season. We are striving to keep the number of hunters we book to a limit so that we can continue to offer the best possible experience, but that means that space is limited. So if you are thinking about booking, now is the time.
  3. While the sport of hunting may be one of the oldest activities known to mankind, the gear for hunting is evolving at a rapid pace. Booking now will allow you time to research the best products to make your hunt a great experience. Upper Canyon offers 15% off all Sitka gear and we have professional guides that love to discuss the latest and greatest gear with you.
  4. Hunting comes with a great ethical responsibility to make a great shot when the time comes. The more time you have the practice target shooting, the better. Upper Canyon Outfitters suggests you have an intimate knowledge of your gun before you get here. Upon your arrival, our guides take all our guided hunters out to our range to fine tune and dial in their gun, but we expect you to have prepared and practiced shooting long before your arrival.
  5. When it comes to hunting there is no guarantee of a harvest, but there is a guarantee of hiking and majestic views. The earlier you start training for your high altitude hunt, the better your experience will be. Cardio and weight training are great. We have even had hunters hire a personal trainer in preparation of a great hunt. It is best to start now to increase your likelihood of a harvest. Being in good physical condition also allows you to enjoy your hunt, as you are ready for the big climbs and long days.

X-tra Bonus: You know what to add to your Christmas list, you can never have to many hunting gadgets. Happy Holidays from all of us here at Upper Canyon Outfitters.

Ready to book? Call or email UCO today.

The Ruby: One River, Many Rivers

Guest post by Steve Alber



Somebody asked me, “What’s so special about the Ruby River?”

Let me tell you.

The Ruby River isn’t terribly well-known, which is either good or bad, depending upon how you look at it. It’s not a particularly large stream compared with its storied neighbors: The Madison, The Jefferson, The Beaverhead and The Big Hole. But the Ruby, which flows down a long, broad valley is aptly named: it’s a gem. And like a gem, it has many facets.


Upper Ruby River
Upper Ruby River

The Ruby rises a few miles below the Continental Divide, where a central stream converges with two smaller ones and flows northeast for 50-odd miles to join The Bighole. Along its length, the Ruby is at once a tail-water fishery, a mountain stream, a rushing torent, a narrow channel. It cuts ox bows through high desert, piney and deciduous forest, broad meadow. It’s broken roughly in half by the Ruby Dam, about 12 miles above Alder, Montana … so sited to store irrigation water for the farmlands below. All in all, a splendid example of what man and nature can accomplish and leave for posterity.

Below the Ruby River dam and the beginning the Lower Ruby River
Below the Ruby River dam and the beginning the Lower Ruby River

In this diversity of purpose and habitat lies The Ruby’s secret glory, especially as it applies to trout fishermen. Because this one trout stream embodies the best of all trout steams: it’s rife with riffles, pocket water, back eddies, undercut banks, deep holes, fallen timber, plunge pools, natural jack dams, calm flats. Couple these with thriving and fecund aquatic and terrestrial insect populations, and you have a virtually unparalleled habitat for trout, attested to by their numbers, health and size. Here are populations of browns, rainbows, cutthroats, cutbows, brookies (found mostly in small tributaries) whitefish, and arctic grayling. Collectively, they’re hungry, feisty and not particularly picky when it comes to a well-presented dry fly, nymph or streamer: show them what you’ve got, and chances are, they’ll eat it. Which isn’t to say that this is a stream only for novices. The Ruby lures (pardon the pun) serious and seasoned anglers with its unique combination of diverse habitat and technical challenges. But because it’s the lesser-known brother to its larger siblings, it remains uncrowded.

Lower Ruby River just above Alder, MT
Lower Ruby River just above Alder, MT

In fact, parts of the Ruby are downright empty, as is meanders through miles of national forest. Since some of the Ruby runs through private property where access is tightly controlled, many anglers are unwilling to make the trek up the Ruby Valley … which reduces the pressure on the stream and gives trout a chance to multiply and thrive undisturbed.

But these are merely words on a screen. You have to fish The Ruby to find out what makes it special … and unique… and diverse … and mostly, ethereally beautiful. Upper Canyon Outfitters is a great place to start. Here you can stand by yourself in some of the most beautiful water you’ve ever seen, cast to rising fish and watch a solitary eagle patrol the sky above. And like the eagle, you’ll find the solitude, silence and peace that come with a brief stay in a small piece of heaven.

Steve Alber
August, 2014

Part Three: A Summer Week at Upper Canyon Outfitters

Guest post by Les Kodlick

“Stellar Experience”

A full moon over the ranch illuminates the cabins on an early morning before guests wake up. The friendly, professional staff are up early fixing a hearty breakfast, packing lunches and getting the fishing gear and vehicles ready for another successful day of fishing.


Donna and Aaron talking while guests fill their plates
Donna and Aaron talking while guests fill their plates


An added bonus for Upper Canyon Outfitter guests was faint views of the Perseid meteor shower, one of the brighter meteor showers of the year. The bright, full moon prevented a good look but it was still exciting and everyone was talking about it. the meteor Shower occurs every August, peaking around August 9-13. Consisting of tiny space debris from the comet Swift-Tuttle, the Perseids are named after the constellation, Perseus. This is because, their radiant or the direction of which the shower seems to come from lies in the same direction as Perseus. The constellation lies in the north-eastern part of the sky.combined with a full moon perfectly poised over the lodge. (Astronomical info from timeanddate.com)

Full moon rising Monday night
Full moon rising Monday night


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