Hurry to get your huckleberries

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The mountains are calling and huckleberries are on the march as pickers swarm to grab some sweetness this season. (Photo sourced Google images)

Huckleberry season is once again upon us, and with the weather coming just right they are ready to pick, if you can find them.

For Montanans, it’s not just the thrill of the hunt that gets them invigorated to head into the mountains and find a huckleberry bush, but it’s also the sweet reward of filling up a bucket and keeping them on hand to make some delicious sweet treats.

If you haven’t made it out for the annual berry hunt, here are some tips to strive for to ensure your first time is fun and successful:

Scouting out the ‘best of the best’ bushes

Although you can find them [huckleberry bushes] all over in a range of places, you want to get out early and start scouting to find a picking spot.

Many seasonal pickers will have selected their own spots, and if you’re new to the hunt you want to follow suit and find more than one place to pick.

Of course, you may get there and someone else has taken all the berries from the spot you thought was a winner. This is why you want to ensure you have a few spots and continue to check regularly.

‘Pick’ your day

Most tip sites on the Internet will encourage pickers to avoid picking on the weekends.

They say the crowds will all converge to the many sites, and the best time to ensure you get a good amount of berries is to head up to your spots mid-week.

Be prepared

So you’re going to go out and grab some natural sweetness and you may think a bucket to carry your load would be suffice; however, you will need a few more items to ensure you stay safe in the wilderness.

Investing in a hiking pack can really help. You can load it with a number of items that you can use over and over again while out hiking or enjoying the great outdoors.

HERE ARE some important items to make sure you are set and prepared for your pick:

— A bucket to load your huckleberries in

— Storage containers and/or cooler

— Plenty of water

— A packed lunch

— Bear spray

— A basic first aid kit

— Inspect repellent

— A hat

— Some sunscreen

— A belt, in case you need to secure your bear spray in a handy spot

— A forest map; you don’t want to get lost

— Have good hiking shoes and long pants on when you get ready to begin

BEFORE YOU head out, you know where you are going, but a good idea to adhere to is to also provide a second map to someone who isn’t going with you to let them know where you are headed.In case something happens and you don’t return at your expected time, you want to make sure you can be found.

Early morning and late afternoons are of course the cooler parts of the summer days. And be aware that animals do love the almighty huckleberry as well, and sticking with these cooler hours means there is a larger opportunity of running into them.

Another few quick tips that come from some pickers is to carry a couple of Ziplock bags with you to transfer the berries into occasionally.

Sometimes, depending on where your hot spot is, it could be on the side of a mountain, or if you accidentally drop your bucket you could lose what you have picked.

Remember these berries are tiny and delicate so you want to handle them with care — even when picking off the bush. Take care and don’t rip them.

Once you make it back to your vehicle, transfer your berries into the cooler that you brought. On hot days, if you have some in the Ziplock bags, you could end up cooking them before you even leave.

If for some reason you aren’t as adventurous to get out in the mountains to pick your own berries, you can always keep an ear and eye out for others who will sell them at local stores, or pickers can stop along the roadside.

Though the big tip in buying: Don’t wait too long as they sell fast.

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