Dispute over huckleberry patch ends in gunfire


KALISPELL, Mont. - It's huckleberry season and many are spending their days out picking. But, an argument between two people over an area of land in a huckleberry patch has left people in shock.

Two men were out picking near the North Fork of the Flathead River. One of them claimed the other was picking too close, and picking in his territory. He then fired gunshots in the air, but nobody was hurt.

NBC Montana wanted to find out why pickers are becoming protective over huckleberry patches.

Sheri Mallard is the manager of a local produce store that buys huckleberries from local pickers. She was shocked to hear what happened.

"You have to worry about bears, not people," Mallard said.

Mallard has been picking and selling huckleberries for 15 years, and has never heard of a fight over a huckleberry patch ending in gunfire.

Until she had heard about the fight from one of the guys who was involved, the one who says he did not fire the gun. He came to her store to sell the huckleberries he picked that day.

"He was still a little upset, he had explained what had happened, that somebody shot at him because he was apparently picking in his area" said Mallard.

Everyone's been out picking, and they often times like to be secretive as to where they pick.

That's why when Mallard hears stories of people following other pickers, finding the popular spots to huckleberry pick, people get angry and protective.

That's exactly what happened in this disagreement.

"The argument apparently started over whose territory was whose. One of the individuals didn't want somebody picking in what he considered to be his area. It was public land, and it escalated from that point," said Flathead County Sheriff, Chuck Curry.

Nobody was injured, but the Curry tells NBC Montana that this was a situation that could have escalated, leaving someone hurt or even dead.

"This certainly does seem like a fairly minor incident to involve some gun fire, but people are protective over their huckleberry patches they're protective over a lot of things," Curry said.

They're protective because everyone is picking to make money. Huckleberries can be bought from pickers for $40 a gallon.

Other huckleberry pickers say that because everyone is out there trying to make extra money, it's important to maintain picking etiquette. In other words, try to avoid the areas where people are already picking.

This may help people keep an eye out more for bears, than people.

This case will be turned over to the Flathead County Attorney's office for the possibility of charges.

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