Move here and try to turn Montana into the place you just came from.

Or move here and pretend you’ve always been a Montanan. A few years ago the population crested a million people—a sad point in Montana’s history. If you’re not coming here because Montana is Montana then please leave. Don’t try to turn Bozeman into Denver or Whitefish into Jackson Hole. If those are the places you like then move there instead.

Act like we’re stuck in the 1800s.

Yes, we have electricity. No, we don’t ride horses to school. We aren’t all cowboys and there are no Indian ambushes. The shootouts in Virginia City are purely for tourist entertainment—I wish my eight year-old self would have realized they were just pretending. Our toilets do indeed flush. Major bands tour through Montana and we even get to screen the latest blockbuster movies! We have all the modern conveniences you could ask for without the strip malls and congestion of other states. It isn’t called Big Sky Country for nothing.

Ask why so many people drive big trucks.

Many of these big pickups that are driven around Montana would give your average Texan a run for their money. But here they trucks actually pull heavy trailers and are used on ranches. Don’t be fooled if the truck looks shiny and clean because it is either brand-new or has just been washed for the first time in a year. We’re also probably going to drive a bit under the speed limit while pulling a livestock trailer so get off our ass and, really, wait until there is a passing zone to safely pass.

Be worried about people having rifles.

Yes, many Montanans own guns and some are sitting in the gun rack in trucks. But this state is probably one of the safest places you’ll ever be so stop acting shocked and worried because these aren’t the guns or the people you need to worry about. Our murder rate is consistently in the bottom 10 states so if you see a gun in someone’s vehicle I can all but guarantee that is isn’t there to kill you….unless you shrink down to the size of a gopher and scurry around a hay field.

Say there is nothing to do here.

Really? Have you looked outside? Go for a hike at Logan Pass in Glacier National Park or take a tour through Lewis & Clark Caverns or even stroll along the Clark Fork River in downtown Missoula. Go skiing at one of the 15 ski areas in the state. Catch a fish. Or simply enjoy the views. Once you walk outside you could spend a lifetime exploring just the places that are within your field of vision right now!

Fail to follow proper bear-country camping techniques.

There is a reason the signs and brochures say to not keep anything with a smell (yes, this includes sunscreen and chapstick), which might attract a bear, in your tent. Even in ranges like the Crazy Mountains where there probably aren’t any grizzly bears there are still black bears and their bites hurt just as much. Follow those rules and you won’t become a snack for a bear and the bear won’t have to be killed because it ate you. Honestly, we’re more worried for the sake of the bear.

Stop in the middle of the highway to take a picture of a deer or chipmunk.

Sure, that might be a really unique experience for you and I’m glad that you are excited to see wildlife, but all the other cars are going 80 mph right toward your rear bumper. This is not okay to do in Yellowstone or Glacier or on any road in the state. Pull off the road if you’re going to stop on the highway….all the way off the road.

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