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BOOK RELEASE PARTY – Smoke Elser – “Hush of the Land – A Lifetime in the Bob Marshall Wilderness” An evening of campfire storytelling – 3/11 – University of Montana Davidson Honors College

March 11 @ 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

Join us for an evening of storytelling, reading by co-author Eva-Maria Maggi, and book signing with the authors. Come and grab a cookie and coffee and celebrate the Hush of the Land.

Open to the public. Books for sale at the event by Fact & Fiction bookstore.


This inspirational memoir chronicles the six-decade quest of packer and outfitter Arnold “Smoke” Elser to protect wild lands by bringing thousands of people deep into the mountains of Montana on horseback. With limited financial means and while still in college, the young man from Ohio decided against a promising career in forestry and chose instead to share his love of wilderness with city dwellers by working as a professional outfitter.

Based on hundreds of hours of interviews, Hush of the Land tells the captivating story of Elser’s early days as a packer in the Bob Marshall Wilderness and Bitterroot Mountains. Share the joys and thrills of summer rides, harrowing grizzly bear encounters, fishing in clear mountain streams, and many nights around a campfire within some of the West’s last wild lands. In this lively narrative, Elser recounts how his testimony for the Wilderness Act, and the fight to preserve and expand Montana’s wilderness lands, influenced his career as an outfitter and educator and gave him a voice at the center of Montana’s conservation movement.


The Authors

ARNOLD “SMOKE” ELSER is a legendary packer, author, teacher and U.S. conservationist who traveled each trail of the 1.5 million acres Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex in Western Montana on horseback for sixty years. As a professional wilderness outfitter, he provided a once-in-a lifetime experience deep in the mountains for thousands of people of whom many sat on a horse for the first time. The U.S. Navy Seals, U.S. Army, U.S. National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service as well thousands of civilians and college students took his famous “Horse and Mule Packing Class”. He is co-author of the leading textbook on horse and mule packing “Pack’in on horses and mules”. His skills, life and persistent work to preserve our public lands and wilderness for future generations was featured in the PBS documentary “3 miles an hour”, National Geographic, the Guardian, New York Times and Washington Post among others. Smoke is the recipient of many awards among them the 2023 Distinguished Alumni Award of the University of Montana, Distinguished Citizen Award of Boy Scouts of America, the Lifetime Conservation Achievement Award by The Conservation Roundtable and the Backcountry Horseman of America. He is honored to be the only inductee of both the Montana Outdoor and Cowboy Hall of Fame. He lives with his wife Thelma, dog Spunky, horses and mules in Missoula, MT.

EVA-MARIA MAGGI is a writer, teacher, and packer. Her book “Hush of the Land” with and about outfitter, conservationist and packer Arndold “Smoke” Elser is coming out in Spring 2024 (Bison Books). She holds a Ph.D. in political science and teaches Wilderness Policy and Packing at the University of Montana, Missoula. Her research on Europe and the Middle East was published as the book “The Will of Change” (2018, Springer) and in several academic journals. As a Montana Master Naturalist and Interpretive Guide, she loves writing about being outside. Before moving to the U.S., she grew up in Germany, and lived in Italy, and Morocco and speaks four languages. She lives with her husband, kids, dog and horses in Missoula, Montana.


March 11
6:00 pm - 8:00 pm

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