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COLUMBIA FALLS - An "aggressive deer" prompted a Glacier National Park visitor to brandish her handgun June 12, the first armed incident there since a new rule went into effect allowing tourists to carry loaded firearms in national parks.

The deer was not injured, the woman was issued a warning, and park managers are again reminding people that pepper spray - properly used - is a more effective wildlife deterrent than a pistol.

According to Chris Peterson of the Hungry Horse News, the woman was walking along Going-to-the-Sun Road June 12 when she encountered what she called an aggressive whitetail. She used her pepper spray, but apparently from too great a distance.

When the deer did not leave, she "pulled out a .357 magnum handgun and fired it into the ground," Peterson wrote.

The deer took cover in some bushes, and a ranger issued a written warning to the shooter. Firing a gun in the park is illegal, unless a person expects "imminent" danger, Peterson reported.

Since the new rule went into effect early this year, a grizzly was shot and killed by a visitor in Alaska's Denali National Park. Peterson reports that in Glacier, "it is not uncommon to run into armed hikers, most of whom are carrying pistols on their hips."


New hot-air balloon flies over Stevensville

STEVENSVILLE - It wasn't a bird, or a plane, or even the Great Pumpkin. The mammoth red thing floating above downtown last Saturday during Western Heritage Days was the latest addition to Mountain Butterfly's fleet of hot-air balloons.

It came from Spain, and it carries eight to 10 people, Mountain Butterfly owner Michael Rees told the Bitterroot Star.

Another balloon on its way from Florida can carry a few more people. Mountain Butterfly, based in Stevensville, offers flights in the Bitterroot Valley for $180 per person, or $150 per if there's nine or more passengers. Call for reservations at 777-3858 or 777-0520.

Rees has piloted balloons since 1982, and in January 1992 made the first recorded balloon flight across the Bitterroot Mountains.


Hydroplane championship may move to Trout Creek

TROUT CREEK - For races that had all the makings of a disaster, last weekend's Trout Creek Regatta may have been an unqualified success.

The Sanders County Ledger reports that even though drivers were kept off the course for two of three days due to heavy rainfall and debris in the water, everyone was impressed with the location. So much so, that the executive director of the American Outboard Federation suggested moving the national championships from Washington to Trout Creek this fall.

"I really like this place," Rick Keller told the Ledger. "You could have it (nationals) here if everything can be put into place."

That, after high water and debris forced cancellation of Friday's tune-ups. On Saturday, the first boat out struck a small branch that punched a hole in the hull, and that was the end of that day's racing. But many other drivers hauled their boats - nearly 40 had shown up - to the Naughty Pine Saloon, where spectators had a chance to inspect them up close and talk with owners and drivers.

On Sunday, the water was clear and the drivers who stuck around got in a full day of racing.

They're already looking at rescheduling a race at Trout Creek in August, in addition to the possibility of nationals being moved here.

"It may not have turned out as well as we'd hoped, but for the first time in Montana we had a good turnout, the fans were pleased, the racers loved the course and the setting, and we did the best we could with what Mother Nature dealt us," said Teresa Phillips of Thompson Falls, who helped hydroplane racing return to the area for the first time in half a century.

"We're sure we'll be back."


Eureka triathlon a laid-back affair

EUREKA - No registration fee, no prizes, no stress.

Just pedal, paddle, run.

According to Krista Tincher of the Tobacco Valley News, the folks up in Eureka are gearing up for their decidedly laid-back annual triathlon. Participants can jog, Tincher reports, or they can stroll.

Last year, Peggy Jane Ousley teamed up with her son and a friend for the Fourth of July Challenge, and declared "it was just really a lot of fun. I didn't feel pressured at all."

Some who turn out for the triathlon consider themselves competitive athletes. Some move at a more leisurely mom-and-pop rate.

Pedal from Riverside Park to the mouth of the Tobacco River. Paddle Koocanusa Reservoir to Rexford. Run, or stroll, through the waterfront campground.

Some race it fast. Some take all day.

Last year, 63-year-old Ken Inzano shared a kayak with a friend, but was forced to wait when the friend got turned around on the bike route. This year, he said, he's using his own kayak.

"We had a blast," Inzano said. "It's fun for every type and age. You make what you want out of it - it can be competitive, or just be a fun outing."

Be at Riverside Park 8 a.m. Independence Day, for a kayak shuttle before the race.


Girl reels in biggest fish at Seeley children's tourney

SEELEY LAKE - There's a photo of a brightly smiling young girl named Kate Jenkins on the cover of this week's Seeley Swan Pathfinder. She's holding up a fish that's almost half her size, its razor-sharp Northern Pike teeth aren't smiling so much.

The caption reads: "First-time fisher Kate Jenkins won first place for biggest fish with this northern pike."

A nice debut into the angling world. The question now: Is Kate hooked on pike fishing?

There's also a shot of young Justin Thomas, the total catch winner of the annual

Seeley Lake Kids Fishing Tournament, held on a sunny day last Saturday at Big Larch Campground. Tristan Withrow finished second in both total catch and biggest fish.

Gary Ikerd and Martha McManus coordinated the tournament, and volunteers provided the boats. More than 30 youngsters participated in a morning of fishing and a hearty lunch, followed by games and coloring contests. Afterward, prizes were passed out, and everyone who took part received a plaque.

Weeklies Reader is compiled by reporters Michael Jamison, Vince Devlin and Kim Briggeman.


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