The author and his father.

Public Lands in Montana Create Lasting Memories for this High School Student

Jack Johnson is a sophomore at Jefferson High School in Boulder, Montana.

Outdoor activities have always been an important part of my life and a prominent tradition in my family. We have always enjoyed spending time together outside hunting, fishing, hiking, and playing together. Many of these activities happened on public lands whether it be fishing on the Sun River or wolf hunting in the mountains.

I shot my first grouse on public lands near Great Falls in 2018. My dad, grandpa and I parked at an interstate rest stop and hiked to a small slot of public land. My grandpa got the scoop about this place from one of his friends who said that there were loads of pheasants in this spot. At first, we had a rough go of it: the snow drifts had built up and were difficult to walk through. We slipped and stumbled as our dogs Boomer and Lucky raced ahead of us playing in the snow and probably announcing our presence to every bird in the area. When we cleared the drifts, we began to circle a wheat hoping to jump some unsuspecting pheasant. As we pushed farther around the wheat field, my hopes began to sink. Not only had we not seen any birds, but the only wildlife we encountered was a porcupine which quickly climbed a sapling when it saw us.

Finally, as we reached the end of the field, we got our first action. A small group of grouse jumped up ahead of us but they were out of range. I wasn’t paying attention and they got away unscathed. As we stood at the spot where they had been in the field I noticed something strange: a duck was flying directly towards us. It wasn’t until a few seconds later that I realized it wasn’t a duck but a grouse flying right towards us. Unfortunately, we got excited and my grandpa shot the grouse too soon, downing it on the ice of the frozen-over Sheep creek, where we couldn’t get to it.

Now feeling totally discouraged and dejected, my dad convinced me to retrace our steps back to the truck while my grandpa walked the dogs straight to the truck. When we were almost off the land, I heard my dad call up ahead of me. I looked up and saw a grouse about to fly parallel with me gliding a few feet from the ground. I didn’t hesitate and brought him down. The hunt had been a success.

To this day my family loves the outdoors and will continue to utilize Montana’s public lands as long as we can.


This essay was part of an assignment for students in Anne Jolliff’s outdoor literature class at Jefferson High School in Boulder, Montana. We’ll be featuring essays from her class all week.

Would you like to write about public lands that you cherish? Please email Mary Jo Brooks at for guidelines. You’ll get a cool “public lands lover” sticker as a thank you.



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National Wildlife Federation — Our Public Lands

National Wildlife Federation — Our Public Lands

The National Wildlife Federation public lands program advocates for our public lands and waters, wildlife and the right of every American to enjoy them.