Helena, MT—Big Hearts Under the Big Sky (Big Hearts), a program of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association (MOGA), proudly announces its first “family adventure” trip of 2024. Madisyn “Maddy” Bezdicek, 19, of Lolo, MT, and her family were treated to a memorable week at the Triple J Wilderness Ranch near Augusta, Montana, hosted by MOGA Outfitter Ernie and Kim Barker from July 7-12, 2024.

Big Hearts covers all costs for qualifying families to participate in these outfitter-supported trips. Since its inception in 2008, the organization has served hundreds of individuals and their families, donating over half a million dollars in outfitted services.

Maddy was nominated for Big Hearts through her community network. Diagnosed at age 17 with stage 3 intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma, a rare liver cancer, Maddy has faced significant medical challenges, including a full liver transplant and chemotherapy. Recently, new scans revealed nodules in her lungs, confirmed to be cancer cells, and she is currently undergoing chemotherapy.

Despite these obstacles, Maddy remains active and passionate about the outdoors, enjoying activities such as dirt biking, fishing, hunting, and hiking.

The all-inclusive trip offered horseback riding, fishing, hiking, children/teen programs, trap shooting, and access to ranch facilities. Evening entertainment included cookouts, campfires, cowboy poetry, and more. The Bezdicek family enjoyed a traditional steak dinner on the Sun River at the trip’s conclusion, joined by other guests and Ken Homan from the Big Hearts program. Bryan Gortmaker, Big Hearts Ambassador, MC’d the dinner.

Maddy was accompanied by her parents, Bryan and Jami, and her brother Garrett.

“Since returning home, I can’t stop talking about what an incredible week we had and what it meant to experience this trip together,” said Maddy Bezdicek. “Being able to do everything I love in Montana, alongside my family, was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that we will cherish forever.” 

“At Big Hearts, our focus is on the family experience,” said Mac Minard, Big Hearts Executive Director. “We know these conditions can become overwhelming for families, and it is our sincere hope that this experience creates life-long family memories in Montana’s great outdoors.”

About Big Hearts Under the Big Sky

Big Hearts Under the Big Sky is a program of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association. Unique in its approach, the program collaborates with qualified and licensed outfitters and guides throughout Montana to offer fully outfitted trips to military service members, children facing life-threatening illnesses, and women battling breast cancer.

The program emphasizes the family experience, covering all costs to ensure families can participate in these life-changing adventures. Over the years, Big Hearts has served hundreds of individuals and their families, with MOGA member outfitters providing the donated trips at no cost to the recipients.

Big Hearts Under the Big Sky will host its annual Banquet and Fundraiser on January 18, 2024, in Helena. Proceeds will support the next round of families as part of the program’s 18th year of service.


Are you one of the MOGA Member Outfitters who has NOT taken advantage of the help MOGA can provide to protect you, your business, and your family from unnecessary risk?  If so, please take a few minutes and take the steps necessary to get the protection MOGA fought hard to attain for you and your business. (read more…)

For more information and FAQ’s please click the link below:

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Did you receive your Big Heart’s Beat (Newsletter) in the mail? It’s a good one! Thank you, Celi Chapman, for all your hard work and dedication for creating this masterpiece!! If you have not received yours and would like a hard copy, please contact the office at (406) 449-3578.

Big Hearts Beat Winter 2023

Big Hearts Website


HELENA, MT— Montana Outfitters and Guides Association is proud to announce its generous donation of a fully outfitted youth deer hunt to be awarded to one of the ten winners of the Governor’s Annual Youth Hunting Story Contest. This guided hunting experience includes lodging and meals for one youth hunter and one non-hunting adult. The donated hunt will take place during the two-day Montana Youth 2024 hunting season.

“Montana Outfitters and Guides is thrilled to contribute to Governor Gianforte’s Annual Youth Hunting Story Contest and looks forward to playing a role in fostering a new generation of responsible and passionate outdoor enthusiasts,” said Mac Minard, MOGA Executive Director. “Everyone loves a good hunting story and this contest will hopefully launch a lifetime of good stories.”

“Hunting is a proud tradition in Montana that will be carried on by the next generation,” Gov. Gianforte said. “The Montana Outfitters and Guides Association recognizes that, and we’re thrilled they’ve generously joined the contest as a prize partner.”

To enter the contest, hunters must submit a story of no more than 500 words and a photo from their 2023 hunt. Hunters must be a Montana resident and a licensed hunter or apprentice hunter between the ages of 10-17. Eligible entries include the harvest of any legal game, furbearer animals, or birds in Montana. The deadline to enter the contest is Monday, November 27, 2023. The governor will select 10 hunters, five aged 10-13 and five aged 14-17, and announce the winners in mid-December. Winners will be invited to the Capitol to celebrate with the governor and receive their prizes in January of the new year.




 November 21, 2023

NASHVILLE, TN – Tomahawk Charitable Solutions (TCS), an organization dedicated to supporting the Special Operations Forces, Military, and Law Enforcement communities and their families, proudly unveiled its latest partnership at an event in Nashville last week. TCS announced that Montana-based Big Hearts Under the Big Sky (Big Hearts) has been designated as a national partner.

Since its inception in 2017, Tomahawk has worked as a zero overhead address the immediate and enduring needs of our nation’s heroes and their families. Through events held throughout the year, TCS raises money to provide funding support for a number of carefully selected organizations. Each organization is vetted and must report yearly to show how charitable funds are being utilized. 

In the presentation announcing the Big Hearts partnership, TCS said they had seen first-hand the life-changing impact a Big Hearts trip can have on the families who have participated in the program. Nestled in Helena, Montana, Big Hearts operates as a program under the Montana Outfitter & Guides Association, offering fully outfitted trips to military service members and other individuals who have rendered extraordinary service to our nation. What sets Big Hearts apart is its unwavering commitment to the family experience, partnering exclusively with qualified and licensed outfitters and guides throughout Montana to serve individuals and their families. To date, Big Hearts, supported by MOGA member outfitters, has provided countless donated trips, all at no cost to the recipients.

Mac Minard, the Executive Director of Big Hearts, expressed gratitude for being chosen by Tomahawk Charitable Solutions. “We recognize that service to our country, particularly in times of war, exacts an immense toll on the soldier’s family. The Big Hearts program serves as a pathway back to the life they sacrificed so much to protect and preserve,” said Minard. “This new partnership enables us to extend our reach, uniting more families in the spirit of shared adventure, healing, and the creation of enduring memories against the backdrop of Montana’s rugged landscape.”





Hunters and outfitters say bills improve elk management and build trust
Montana hunters, outfitters, and policymakers are celebrating a package of six bipartisan elk management and hunting-themed bills that have advanced through the Montana legislature’s general transmittal deadline. 
The package of legislation was rolled out by the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition and Montana Outfitters and Guides Association during the “Elk Camp at the Capitol’ event in early January.  The package has been described as the first legislative agreement to bring the outfitting and hunting communities together since the 2007 legislature.
Representatives from the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition and Montana Outfitters and Guides Association say their package will collectively improve wildlife management, reduce non-resident hunter pressure, improve incentives for landowners to enroll in state-sponsored access programs to help resolve problematic concentrations of wildlife, and create more trust between landowners, outfitters, and hunters.
The bills that advanced through the general transmittal deadline are sponsored by a group of bipartisan lawmakers and have the support of the Governor’s office.  
During a press conference last week, Governor Gianforte recognized the collaborative efforts of the groups involved, stating, “Diverse groups are coming together like never before around this common mission. I want to particularly note the work that the Montana Outfitters and Guides is doing in conjunction with the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition. Together, they put forward a package of bills for sportsmen, outfitters and landowners…I say this often, but we have far more in common as Montanans than divides us. Common ground is always there if we are willing to look for it and work to achieve it.”
“These bills represent small but important steps forward to rebuild trust between hunters, outfitters, and landowners, and just as importantly, to broaden the management toolbox for elk and other species of wildlife,” said Kathy Hadley of the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition. “Not every organization gets everything they want with this kind of work, but that’s the nature of collaboration, and we think it sets us up to find more common ground in the future.” 
“We really want to thank the Governor’s office and the legislators who encouraged us early on to identify areas of consensus they could realistically advance to improve the future of elk management,” said Mac Minard, Executive Director, Montana Outfitters and Guides Association.  “These policy agreements are now advancing through the legislature with minimal conflict thanks to the work our respective organizations put in and thanks to lawmakers in both parties who are championing the results. This is a tremendous example of what can happen when diverse interests agree to sit down and find areas of common ground.”
A summary of individual bills is found below: 
Improve enrollment in Block Management.  SB 58, sponsored by Sen. Steve Hinebauch (R-Wibaux), will increase the annual Block Management payment cap for enrollees to $50,000. Prior to the legislative session there was broad agreement for this concept, which was ultimately endorsed by the Private Land/Public Wildlife council. 
Limit non-resident deer licenses to reduce hunter pressure. SB 281, sponsored by Sen. Pat Flowers (D-Belgrade), would reduce the sale of nonresident deer B tags to alleviate crowding on accessible lands.  The bill would instruct FWP to sell no more than two B8 antlerless deer licenses to non-residents who draw a big game combination license or nonresident deer combination license, and only allow one antlerless license to be held by other NR hunters. 
Improve access to GIS data for hunters. HB2, the state’s primary budget bill, sponsored by Rep. Llew Jones (R-Conrad) sets aside funding for a new FWP employee to improve the acquisition and distribution of public access data for use by the state and GPS-based mapping companies.   The position will ensure all landowner access agreements, the status of open/closed roads, navigable streams, and other pertinent access information is updated and available as cadastral information.  The position will improve the FWP Hunt Planner tool and collaborate with GPS companies. 
Improve hunter education. HB 243, sponsored by Rep. Marylin Marler (D-Missoula), would make an in-person field day with firearm safety training a requirement of FWP’s online hunter safety and education course.  This legislation was amended in committee to provide FWP additional time to comply with this requirement. 
Establish non-resident preference pool: HB 635, sponsored by Josh Kassmier (R-Fort Benton), would establish a non-resident landowner preference pool to encourage landowners to hunt their own deeded lands, incentivize them to enroll in state sponsored public access programs, and reduce hunting pressure on other publicly accessible lands. The bill would set aside up to 15% of B-10 combo licenses for non-resident landowners and family members to hunt deeded lands if they own 2,500 acres or more. The bill incentivizes public access in limited-entry districts where landowners must still apply for and receive a permit. Interested landowners will be able to purchase an additional bonus point for permit applications if they are enrolled in a state-sponsored access program.
Reform 454 access program: HB 596, sponsored by Denley Loge (R-St. Regis), would modify the 454 program to make it a more effective and equitable tool for managing problematic concentrations of elk on private lands.  The bill would create a new prescription for a “like” opportunity between the first tag holder and the first hunter selected for the 454 agreements. This bill would also give the commission more authority to negotiate and prioritize applications that offer additional public elk hunting, above the minimum 3:1 ratio.

Advertise Your Business with a Banner Ad on the
MOGA Website

MOGA Banner Ad Exchange Program allows members to promote their business and start receiving traffic by simply a joining the MOGA Banner Ad program. By placing an advertising banner on the MOGA website, you are encouraging visitors to your website in a very cost-effective way.

Our new system designates four areas on the MOGA website for randomly-rotating ad banners. A click on your banner provides our viewers with a direct link to your products and services, or company website, while also providing brand or service name attention. It is FREE for MOGA Members, cheap for Non-MOGA Members, reliable and effective Advertising!

This is a terrific and efficient way to advertise MONTANA BACK COUNTRY ADVENTURES or FALL HUNT SPECIALS and COW ELK HUNTS!!

(read more…)

Big Hearts Under the Big Sky Banquet – a packed house

A evening of fellowship, celebration and active bidding with a sold-out crowd, the Big Hearts banquet was something we should all take a moment to be proud of. The mission of the organization is alive and thriving in its 15th year. 

Former Montana Attorney General Tim Fox mc’d the evening, where former trip recipients Jason and Alex Allman and Matt Duker spoke through tears about what the experience meant to them and their families. 

Last Saturday night we celebrated 15 years of service and recommitted ourselves to the Mission of Big Hearts under the Big Sky in the future” said Mac Minard, MOGA’s Executive Director.

Through the generosity of many sponsors, donors and Banquet attendees, fundraising goals were shattered.  During the event, an announcement was made that Big Hearts had received a commitment from an anonymous donor to match all funds raised that evening.  Thank you for attending the Big Hearts Banquet and Auction. 

See you at next year’s banquet and auction on January 13, 2024 at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Helena Colonial.




January 24, 2023

Hunters and Outfitters Unite at ‘Elk Camp at the Capitol’
Roll out legislative agreement to improve relationships and wildlife management

More than one hundred hunters and outfitters participated in “Elk Camp at the Capitol’ on Tuesday at the Helena Capitol building.

The event was hosted by the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition to facilitate conversations between hunters and lawmakers active in the 68th Montana Legislature. Speakers at the event, including Governor Greg Gianforte, reinforced the need for unity and collaboration between hunters, landowners, and outfitters to help resolve contentious wildlife policy debates.

“Hunting and our outdoor heritage are part of who we are as Montanans,” Governor Greg Gianforte said. “Coming to the table together, the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association and the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition have found common ground and built broad consensus among hunters, landowners, and outfitters. We look forward to working with them closely this session.”

“This is about working together to set the stage for new directions and further the conversation about elk and wildlife management in Montana,” said George Bettas, of the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition, who emceed the event.

During the event, the Montana Citizens Elk Management Coalition and the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association shared a consensus package of legislation they say represents the first legislative agreement to bring the outfitting and hunting community together since the 2007 Legislature.

The legislative package includes reforms to landowner preferences and the 454 program, strengthens trespass and hunter harassment rules, provides some limits to non-resident hunting tags to reduce pressure on public lands, improves hunter education, and doubles Block Management payments.

They say the agreements are part of ongoing conversations to find common ground and improve relationships between hunters, landowners, and outfitters.

“Managing Montana’s elk population is a complex challenge,” said Mac Minard, Executive Director, Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, “Realistic solutions require diverse interests working together to identify areas of consensus and advocating for policies that will shape the future of elk management. We are honored to be working with the Coalition and leading conservation groups in the state on these policy agreements.”

Participants at Elk Camp also discussed the need to establish a permanent trust account that would dramatically expand the pace and scale of stewardship and restoration treatments across the State.

Although the idea has not yet been introduced as legislation, Senator Jeff Wellborn, R-Dillon, says the proposed ‘Montana Legacy Trust’ deserves a fair shot at a hearing because it’s an investment in rural Montana.

“At the end of the 2021 session, I asked for people to bring solutions forward that unite, rather than divide,” said Wellborn. “The elk coalition has spent the better part of a year bringing the affected interests together. I’ll help whoever it is that carries this legislation.”



Hunting Experiences Hosted by Montana Hunting Company and Montana Outfitting Company

Nov 1, 2022

Clancy, MT – Big Hearts Under the Big Sky, a program of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association (MOGA), has completed the sixth “family adventure” scheduled for the year. The latest recipients were Nate Jensen of Westby, Master Sgt Jesse Edinger of Helena and Sgt Patrick Wickens originally of Denton.

Big Hearts under the Big Sky covers all the hard costs for qualifying families to participate in outfitter-supported trips. Since 2008, the organization has served hundreds of individuals and their families and donated over half a million in outfitted services.

As Big Hearts under the Big Sky’s trip recipients, all were granted trip-of-a-lifetime elk hunts. The Jensen and Edinger families were led by Outfitter Rod Arnaud, of the Montana Hunting Company at the West Creek Ranch in Paradise Valley, MT and the Wickens family were led by Chris Faber, Montana Outfitting Company on the Big Spring Ranch in Lewistown, MT.

“It was a privilege to host Big Hearts Under the Big Sky for the 9th year at West Creek Ranch,” said Jon Martin, CEO of AMB West, the parent company of West Creek Ranch. “This year’s recipients, Nate and Jesse, along with their families, were a pleasure to take care of; and were an inspiration to our team members. West Creek Ranch is honored to support Big Hearts under the Big Sky and their model of providing deserving recipients and their families a unique, positive, and fulfilling experience. Our team considers this program one of the most rewarding weeks of the year.”

“Big Spring Ranch and the Jones family were honored to be part to the Big Hearts under the Big Sky’s trip for Sgt Patrick Wickens,” said Roy Paulson, General Manager, Big Spring Ranch. “The Jones family has a deep commitment to conservation and service to others making this relationship in complete alignment with the Big Springs Ranch mission.  We look forward to partnering with Big Hearts again.”

Sgt Wickens, a combat wounded Purple Heart recipient, qualified for the donated HD 454 permit as part of the Fish Wildlife and Parks 454 program.  Big Spring Ranch generously donated the permit to Wickens in recognition of his service to our Nation.


 About the Recipients

Nate Jensen of Westby, MT, participated along with his parents and brother. Nate is 19 years old and lives on the family farm. Born with spina bifida, Nate has undergone 11 surgeries and been challenged by multiple medical issues.

Master Sgt Jesse Edinger of Helena, MT, was joined by his wife Sunwoo (Sun), his two daughters and one son. For 20 years, Edinger has served his country proudly and has honored the lives of more than 1000 Montana veterans. His wife, Sun also serves in the Montana Army National Guard.

Sgt Patrick Wickens is originally from Denton, Montana and was joined by his youngest son Carter and his parents Judy and Keith Wickens of Denton. Wickens joined the US Army one month before the attacks of September 11. Wickens was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) during an ambush near Mahmudiyah, Iraq and lost his right leg above the knee and sustained shrapnel wounds and burns on his left leg.


About Big Hearts Under the Big Sky

Big Hearts Under the Big Sky is a program of the Montana Outfitter & Guides Association. While there are many organizations throughout the country that host “wish” trips for deserving participants, Big Hearts Under the Big Sky is unique in that we work with qualified and licensed outfitters and guides throughout Montana to serve both individuals and their families.

The program is dedicated to providing fully outfitted trips to military service members and others who have provided extraordinary service to our country and for children who face life-threatening illnesses. Our focus is on the family experience: “Making a difference, one family at a time!”

Big Hearts Under the Big Sky covers all the hard costs for families to participate in outfitter-supported trips and experience the healing beauty and power of Montana. Over the years, the organization has served hundreds of individuals and their families, with MOGA member outfitters providing the donated trips, all at no cost to trip recipients. 

Big Hearts under the Big Sky will host its annual Banquet and Fundraiser on January 14, 2023, in Helena at Delta Hotels by Marriott Helena Colonial.  Proceeds will be applied to serving the next round of families as part of the 15th year of service. 



Nov 2, 2022

Clancy, MT –  Announced last week at the 95th National FFA Convention and Expo in Indianapolis, IN, Choteau’s Carson Crary was awarded the National Agricultural Proficiency Award in Outdoor Recreation – Entrepreneurship/Placement.

Agricultural Proficiency Awards honor FFA members who have developed specialized skills that they can apply toward their future careers.

“I am very excited and honored to be awarded 1st place in the nation for the FFA Outdoor Recreation proficiency,” said Crary. “Through this proficiency, I have honed my historical outdoor skills, stockmanship, critical thinking, management and communication skills.  Being part of a team that guides guests in a traditional wilderness setting can be challenging, yet very rewarding.  I am thankful to live where I live and to have grown up in my family’s outfitting business where a strong work ethic is expected and necessary. I am grateful for this life style and for all the help along the way.”

“Carson’s well-deserved national recognition brings awareness to the important role of outfitting in outdoor recreation,” said Mac Minard, Executive Director, Montana Outfitters and Guides Association. “Not only does outfitting provide career opportunities for our young people, but also creates once-in-a-lifetime experiences for clients, supports small businesses across the state and brings millions in additional revenue into Montana.”  

Carson is a member of the Choteau FFA Chapter in Montana and works for his family’s guest ranch and outfitting business, 7 Lazy P Outfitting. Taking guests on authentic backcountry adventures into Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness is their specialty.  Guests ride horses and all the gear for a full camp is mantied and packed on mules.  The traditional trips allow guests to unplug and get refreshed in the mountains of Montana.

Crary is supported by his parents, Danelle and Dusty. Dusty Crary currently serves as president of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association.

More information and an interview with Carson is available at:

Interview with Carson

June 21, 2022


Guides, Outfitters Need Immediate Alternatives to Operate on Public Lands Due to Catastrophic Flooding 

HELENA, MT- In a letter [link] sent to the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service, Montana Senators Tester and Daines urged flexibility in the permitting process to avoid severe economic damage to Montana’s rural communities and small businesses impacted by last week’s catastrophic funding in the Yellowstone region.

Mac Minard, Executive Director of the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association, supports this effort and underscores the need for expedited permitting to allow for flexibility as the busy summer season begins.

“Montana’s outfitters and guides continue to hemorrhage revenue daily and are scrambling to come up with alternatives to be able pay staff and service their clients,” said Minard. “Rafting guides have identified new access points, backcountry guides are looking for alternative trailheads, fishing guides need new put-ins and walk in options.  While they are coming up with creative solutions to try and save their summer season, it’s up to BLM and USFS to allow for the temporary permitting changes.”

Patrick Sipp, of Flying Pig Adventures, is one of many guides working on an immediate solution to benefit his business as the rest of the Gardiner community.

“Flooding has left us unable to access our typical take-out for our half day rafting trips,” said Sipp. “While we are actively refunding customers, we are hoping to be able to run trips again soon and salvage a portion of the summer. To do this, we need to be granted immediate, temporary access to other take-outs until we identify another viable alternative.”

In addition to calling for permitting flexibility, MOGA is advocating to reopen the Yellowstone River for public use and is hopeful this is a top priority of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

The Mission of the Montana Outfitter and Guides Association is to protect, enhance, and effectively represent the Montana Outfitting Industry in all its forms.  MOGA is proud to include more than 700 of Montana’s professional licensed outfitters and guides with operations that span the state’s regions. With years of experience guiding hunters, fishermen, horseback riders, skiers and snowmobilers, our outfitters will show you the best of Montana in a vacation that’s personalized to your needs.

2021 11th Avenue, Ste. 12
Helena, MT 59601
Ph: (406) 449-3578 /