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Brad Tyer

Freezeout (with a third "e") Lake is part of the 11,349-acre Freezout (without the third "e" ... go figure) Lake Wildlife Management Area, which is managed by the state's Fish, Wildlife & Parks Department for waterfowl habitat and duck production. The primary recreational access is through hunting and birdwatching.

Spring and fall migrations can be spectacular, with as many as 300,000 birds resting on their ways to and from Canada's arctic coast, with the escarpment of the Rocky Mountain Front rising behind them. Hundreds of thousands of snow geese can congregate, depending on weather and other factors, and tundra swans can number in the tens of thousands. During such migratory layovers, well-timed birders can watch tens or even hundreds of thousands of birds rise together from the grain stubble they've been eating to flock in the lake for the night.

The best bird-watching is best just after sunrise and just before sunset. Take binoculars. Be prepared for wild weather swings in spring. Call 406-467-2646 for automated waterfowl updates.

Bird pilgrims can view the lake—actually a series of six ponds interconnected with Davis Lake and much-larger Freezeout Lake proper—via dirt roads and turnoffs along Highway 89 between Fairfield and Choteau. Interior roads through the wetlands are open to vehicles March 15 till the beginning of waterfowl season. Dike system roads closed to vehicles but open to walkers. Canoeing is viable. There's a campground at coordinates 47.669694,-112.015271.

Upland game birds and raptors are common in winter, with the former fair game for general-public hunting; hunting tundra swans is by permit only). Ducks and shorebirds dominate the summertime. You can apply for a permit to trap muskrat here. Or you can just listen for their splashes as you spend the day standing still, eyes on the sky.

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