By Montana Grant

Posted: August 18, 2022


Now is the time to get yer pickin gear on and head out for some Huckleberry High Mountain Fun. These unique and tasty berries are ripe and ready for wild picking! Berries ripen in late July through early September.

 Huckleberries are not easily grown or cultivated. Nature seems to know best on how and where these high sugar treats need to thrive. These berries are full of antioxidants, iron, vitamin C, and potassium. They improve heart circulation and are used to treat pain, infection, and help adjust to higher altitudes.

Most folks are familiar with blueberries. Huckleberries are more common in the Northwest US. This tasty fruit is Idaho’s official state fruit, and Montana’s unofficial state fruit. Huckleberry Hound was a cartoon character that only Boomers would remember and have nothing to do with huckleberries. 

The phrase” I’ll be your Huckleberry!” was used in the movie Wyatt Earp, by the actor Val Kilmer, who played Doc Holiday. This popular phrase is actually incorrect. What he should have said was “I’ll be your Huckle Bearer.” Since he was about to shoot the rival cowboys, he was saying how he would be their Huckle Bearer or coffin bearer.

Huckleberry products also abound. These tasty berries can be made into jelly, syrup, ice cream, jams, vodka, pies, and cobblers. Native peoples often used them to flavor their Pemmican bars and other foods. Locally made and labeled products are the best.

Picking Huckleberries requires some special gear and protection. You will need personal protection from briars, bugs, and other native pickers. These pickers may include bears, coyotes, wolves, and every berry eating critter on the mountain. Long pants and sturdy boots help you stay on your feet and help to wade into the berry bushes. 

Make sure that you know what a huckleberry is. They are often intermixed with raspberries, choke cherries, Buffalo berries and some berries that can make you sick. Ripe huckleberries are a deep purple color.

Making noise is a good thing when berry picking. Sing along and scare off the critters. Wear bright colors and maybe a bear bell. It is still smart to carry some bear spray or a personal carry weapon. Your hands, arms, clothes, and gear will also get stained from berry juice. Wear some thin gloves to avoid the Purple Rain/ Haze stain. 

You can also use a berry rake to swipe the berries into your container. Carry a bucket that can have a lid. You want a handle that will not swing and dump out your berries. Create a berry container that hooks onto your belt or a harness to allow two handed picking. Plastic bags seem to smash and bruise the berries easily. 

Take along a basic first aid kit for small cuts and allergy issues. Maps are useful to help navigate and return to your truck. Most mountain berry honey holes do not get a cell signal. Having some drinks in your pack is also important.

Focus on a few prime patches and stay together. Dogs and pets can alert you to danger, but coyotes and wolves may also be interested in your pets. Timing is critical. Early scouting can help you to plan a window for prime picking. You want purple berries, not gray or green.

Avoid picking huckleberries in the early mornings and late evenings. This is when bears and wild critters hit the berry patches. Weekends can also become crowded with other competing pickers. Look for more open forests and pathways that allow more light onto the forest floor.

Be Berry, Berry Careful and have fun!

Montana Grant

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