Ask Maxine

Monday Jul. 1st, 2024

Dear Maxine:
I recently moved here from Florida, and I’m trying to get to know the community. Bozeman is very different from what I’m used to, in every way. I see people on Facebook and the NextDoor app ripping into people who don’t know “the rules,” as it were, and I’m trying to avoid being one of them. What are some things I should know about being a respectful Montana citizen, as we settle into summer?

~Never Seen Rivers Run Through Anything

Dear Never:
There are many things you can do to enjoy Montana’s summertime beauty without enraging the locals. The first step is asking, and I’m so glad you did. Aside from what we all hope are the obvious (don’t litter, smile back at people, etc.), I have some answers.
First, don’t feed the wildlife. Entering Yellowstone Park will drive this message home, but the same applies here in city limits and everywhere in between. As Bozeman expands, the space between wild animal habitat and human occupation is overlapping at an alarming rate. Therefore, we have more bears, for example, wandering into people’s yards, and even into cars and homes. Resist the urge to whip out some bread crusts for those cute deer, ducks, foxes, birds, and occasional weasels that may cross your path.

Second, fully extinguish all sources of fire (matches, cigarettes, campfires, contained fires in those snazzy Solo Stoves, everything). Our beloved Bridger Mountains caught fire a couple summers ago, allegedly due to someone tossing a cigarette butt onto the trail up the M, resulting in the loss of 28 homes. You’ll find that a popular summer activity in these parts is overnight camping trips up Hyalite, along the Madison, any number of spots. It’s real swell that you can show up, collect firewood onsite, and proceed to party with s’mores and weenies. But please, heed Smokey the Bear and treat Montana like “ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT WILDFIRES.”

Another common mistake is fishing in the wrong place. While many landowners don’t mind you fishing in water that crosses their land, you should always ask (and then take off, if the answer is no). Also, educate yourself. Looking for trout? Don’t set up shop in a thermal area. Are you on a lake renowned for its huge Mastercraft boats blasting Pitbull songs as they cruise up and down? Maybe troll for bass in a different body of water. With a little forethought, you can learn which of these are full of drunken jet-skiers versus those which inspired Robert Redford to make a movie about Norman Maclean’s bestselling novella.

It’s mostly about taking the time to understand where you are. Are you Jeeping on private property? Did you just haul your motorized water toy to a no-wake lake? Are you blasting music in your tent after 10 PM? If the answer to any of these is yes, a haggard-looking woman may confront you and threaten to name you in her next column. 

Maxine is a lifelong Montanan with a background in both language and unsolicited advice-giving. She spends her free time doing field research and writing critiques on American culture, ideologies, psychology, and relationships, and is happy to provide solicited advice to our community’s questions. To submit your question to our advice column, put “MAXINE” in the subject line and send your email to