Island Hopping through the Yes Island Chain

Written by Jim Huckabay on January 13, 2017. Posted in Uncategorized

Cousin Ron Tanquary taught me to catch the minnows needed to bring home nice messes of trout from the Naches River. We were eight years old and had walked the mile from his folks’ place to fish the river after WWII. In this current – and very different – day and age, we BS about today’s kids and having had the best of Washington’s fishing and hunting through our growing up years.

Ron and I still get out and we have a standing engagement at one or another of the regional sportsmen shows. He refers to these shows as “Fantasy Island” or “The Land of Yes!” The latter title popped up about two hours into the SunDome show some years ago. “Listen to us,” he said. We just said ‘Yes,’ ‘Yes,’ ‘Yes!’ at every booth we passed. Some girl or guy says, ‘You want to fish salmon in Canada?’ We say, ‘Yes…’ Or, ‘Wanna come hunt New Zealand?’ We say, ‘Yes…’ ‘Wanna win this brand new Ruger Model 77 or Remington or Winchester?’ and we say ‘Yes! Yes!’  Cousin, we are afield in The Land of Yes!”

Couple days ago, we chatted about the Washington Sportsmen’s Show in Puyallup, the Central Washington Show in Yakima, and the Pacific Northwest Show in Portland, over the next few weeks. Then, I allowed as how I had to go this week to Denver to work with Daughter Nicole on our new dog business – but would have to spend some time at Denver’s International Sportsmen’s Exposition. “So,” he laughed, “you have found a whole chain of ‘Yes’ Islands, and you are going island hopping…” I smiled. “Well, it is that time of year – what’s a guy to do?”

Let us consider the possibilities of the next few weeks. Truth is, the two local Central Washington islands most of us will hit will have plenty of chances to say “Yes!” to almost every outdoor fantasy you ever entertained. AND, our local shows will be focused on getting our youngsters and our families outdoors, too, with many new activities and features to help the kids and parents see themselves on the ground and in Nature.

First up is that island at the Puyallup Fairgrounds – the Washington Sportsmen’s Show – starting Wednesday the 25th and running through that Sunday afternoon. There are a number of things to anticipate finding on that Puyallup Yes Island.

Brutus – the 900-pound grizzly – will be on hand from the Montana Grizzly Encounter display to get folks thinking about bears, bear education, and the flavor they bring to the wild. Jim Burnworth (extreme archer and host of the TV show Western Extreme) will be talking big game around the world and sharing key insights into your future archery hunting.

Of course, Brett Stoffel will be visiting with kids and families –formally and informally – about survival basics and staying unlost (or getting unlost if it happens). Brett will also deal with a broad range of myths and misconceptions about survival in the outback.

There will be more than 150 hours of seminars for all ages, covering just about every outdoor leaning. The seminars cover everything from kids’ trout fishing, fly-tying, and successful salmon fishing to hunting for most every critter we hunt in Washington.

The “Tour of Northwest Big Game Animals” includes several local records and some breathtaking mounts. There will also be a head and horn competition, with current entries.

The Camp Cooking Demo Tent will be up again, with something for each of us to add to our cooking habits. Kids will have an archery range, free Yakima Bait lures, and the Kids’ Free Trout Pond (keep or release two fish each).

There’s much more, too, so check it all out at www.thesportshows.com/shows/washington/ and make the drive.

The Yes Island at the SunDome in Yakima (the Central Washington Sportsmen Show) is next, happening in five weeks between Feb. 17 and 19. Plenty of new stuff coming here, too, along with those favorites that keep us coming back. (See www.shuylerproductions.com.)

At the SunDome, start with “A Walk on the Wild Side,” an up-close look at a wide variety of animals from small to large and from cute and cuddly to venomous and slithery. Look for the Town Square Media Trout Races (Saturday), the 4-H archery and air rifle ranges, and the Kids’ Lunker Lake Trout Pond. Everybody gets excited over the Central Washington Dog Pull Competition and the amazing strength and enthusiasm of the dogs.

Of course, the daily hunting and fishing seminars and demos will be on (with a variety of very helpful pros), as well as the daily giveaways and gifts for the first people in the door each day.

Look for the annual horn and antler competition (and watch them being properly measured). Certainly you will want to see the photos (and winners) in the free wildlife and nature photo contest. (You have entered yours, yes?) Make this drive, too.

On all these Yes Islands, I shall, for a sawbuck, add much needed firearms and gear (or at least a good chance to win them). …And probably an exotic fishing or hunting trip or two, as I walk the aisles and dream big. Back at home and office, I’ll wait for the phone to ring with instructions for picking up my newly won firearms, boat and fishing gear.

Perhaps then I shall be ready for another year of reality. You gotta love these Yes Islands.

The Battle for Children and Our Outdoor Future

Written by Jim Huckabay on January 6, 2017. Posted in Uncategorized

As we sit in this first week of 2017, looking ahead, I’m excited about the future for our kids and those who come after them. Senator Warnick’s office has been drafting the bill for our Washington Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights, and we are hoping that the bill can get through the State Senate and the House of Representatives by this spring.

This is important. We seem to be rising to the need for getting youngsters outdoors as a regular part of their lives. A number of us are excited about the dozens of new and recent “outdoor schools” being developed here in Paradise and across the state and nation. Many national hunting, fishing and camping organizations – Safari Club International, National Wildlife Federation, Audubon Society, Isaac Walton League, and dozens of others you will find with one Google search – have begun to fund efforts to get kids off electronic toys and into field and forest. The international Children and Nature Network seems to be making big strides across much of the world.

This movement is truly underway. Maybe we really will be able to reach enough youngsters to ensure that future generations will enjoy – and fight to keep – the outdoor heritage we have worked to preserve for them.

As is so often the case, however, while we work up front there are those at the backdoor working against us in subtle ways.

The Oxford Junior Dictionary has recently cut 50 words connected with nature and countryside. In response, 28 authors, including Margaret Atwood, Andrew Motion, Michael Morpurgo and Robert Macfarlane, called on the Oxford University Press to reverse its decision and, if necessary, publish a new edition of the 10,000 entry dictionary.

Homey Steve Douglas passed the following along, and I invite your thoughts. This is written by Doug Painter, editor-in-chief of the Boone & Crockett Club’s Fair Chase magazine. It appeared as his “From the Editor” column in the Winter, 2016, issue of Fair Chase, and was picked up by the online Sporting Classics Daily blog on December 6 (sportingclassicsdaily.com/afraid-to-go-outside).

In one of his recent op-ed columns in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman noted that Robert Macfarlane, in his 2015 book, Landmarks, made the point that a recent edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary (aimed at 7-year-olds) no longer includes words such as  ‘fern,’ ‘otter,’ ‘dandelion,’ ‘pasture,’ and ‘willow.’ It’s not that these words have somehow acquired improper or politically incorrect connotations. Not at all. Instead, as Macfarlane reveals, the editors of the dictionary deemed that such ‘nature words’ were simply less relevant to the lives of modern children.

So, what words or terms took their place? How about ‘broadband,’ ‘blog,’ ‘cut and paste,’ ‘MP3 player,’ and ‘voice mail.’ I suppose you could call this an example of editorial Darwinism, a system where only the fittest of the vocabulary survive. In books, as in nature, I guess there’s room for only so many to make the cut.

“Remember when Mom used to tell us, ‘Now, go outside and play’? Sure, she wanted us out from underfoot, but she also knew that’s exactly where we wanted to be. Outdoors is where we could build a fort, dam up a small creek, and skip rocks across the pond. It was fun, but we also learned that moss-covered rocks in a stream are slippery as all heck and shiny, three-leaved plants can give you an awful itch.

“As we got older, we came to understand the care and responsibility involved in carrying a rifle in the field, of knowing both the written and unwritten rules of the hunt, and how to determine when to take—or not take—a shot. And, over time, we came to appreciate the value of an honest effort in the field, even when we came home empty-handed. Nature is a great teacher, and I feel sorry for youngsters who were never given the opportunity to hunt or fish or, for that matter, to strap on a backpack or canoe down a river for a few days.

“A recent column by James Campbell of the Los Angeles Times is a stark reminder of how little time many of today’s kids and, indeed, many of today’s adults spend outdoors. ‘As a boy,’ Campbell writes, ‘I wandered the woods and fields unsupervised from morning until dark. Today, many children spend less than 30 minutes per week playing outside and as many as seven hours a day glued to TV screens, iPads, and video games. Their parents are no better: Adults pass 93 percent of their lives inside buildings or vehicles.’

“Researchers, Campbell points out, say a growing number of Americans suffer from biophobia, a fear of the natural world. In children especially, a mere ‘flock of birds or a strong wind’ can provoke surges of anxiety, triggering the same fight-or-flight response that evolved to protect us from deadly threats.

“Not surprisingly, Campbell reaffirms evidence suggesting that time spent outdoors boosts kids’ self-esteem, problem-solving skills, cooperation, focus, and self-discipline.

“That’s a scary and sobering thought. Here’s another: In 50 years, will many of today’s 7-year-olds care? It’s up to us to help them understand why they should.”

This is important. Paraphrasing Jodi Larsen, Upper County Rotary: Children are the emissaries we send into a time we will never see – what do we want them to take along?

All about Handling a New Year

Written by Jim Huckabay on December 30, 2016. Posted in Uncategorized

2017? Wow, how does that happen? I’ve been talking with homeys and am intrigued by their responses to the thought of another “new year.” They’ve ranged from “Big (censored) deal… It’s just another year of same old same old, Jimbo…” to “Cool, huh? I can’t wait to get my hands on that fresh start, and away from the messes of 2016!”

New Year’s Resolutions? Some do and some don’t.

So, what will it be for you? What resolutions might you make this year that will last past January? Will you start socking away money for that out-of-state or out-of-country hunting or fishing trip? Will you drive or fly? What licenses will you need, and what resolution will get them for you? Will you get the family (or yourself) out more often to see wildlife and breathe the fresh air of Paradise? Spend a little more time helping a friend? Plan special events for kids? Work to get our Washington Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights through the Legislature?

I have buddies who swear by their New Year resolutions – and even manage to bring some into reality. Still, the whole “resolution” thing just isn’t my gig.

You may recall my comment that I stopped making such resolutions in late January 1981, after The Old Man went home. On the way to his funeral, it dawned on me that I’d already failed to keep most of my resolutions – and one of them had been a vow to keep at least one resolution.

As I sat, waiting to give his eulogy, I remember weighing the genuine pleasure of getting complete with things in my life. After my father died, I had a deep emptiness inside. At the same time, I felt complete with him; there just was nothing I had left unsaid or unheard. The summer before his passing, we spent a week talking about anything and everything either of us ever wanted to know about the other. By the time I left his funeral, I was pretty sure that “completions” were more important for me than “resolutions.”

In the decades since, I spend the waning months of each year freeing up my mind and heart for the coming one. Zeb, my mountain‑man mentor, once said, “If you’re loaded down with yesterday’s baggage, you don’t stand much chance of getting today’s gifts – or accepting ’em with a whole heart.” I don’t know that I really understood, but I got the part about clearing up unfinished business before the new stuff shows up.

I probably start asking myself a regular set questions about the time deer season wraps up. I have questions like these: “Who did something this year that changed my life (preferably for the better) or changed the way I did something or managed some old habit?” “Who got me out fishing or hunting or hiking outdoors when I really needed it?” “Who smoothed out an impossible day with a kind word or a pat on the back just when I needed it?” “Who showed me a new fishing hole, or some new technique for fishing one of my old ones?” There are others, too, of course. New questions seem to pop up every day, as I try to spend an old, used, year-end freeing up the shiny start for the New Year. You likely have questions of your own.

Admittedly, it is sometimes almost impossible to clean up lost and failed agreements, no matter how good my intentions might be. I often end up with a couple leftover hang-nail agreements. Still, I get a deeper satisfaction from working on completions than I ever did trying to manage resolutions – some of which seemed like great ideas in the company of good friends and a malt beverage over ice.

Over the last weeks of 2016, I have scheduled some very cool activities. Cousin Ron and I have a day set to drown worms in a remote little creek we fished when we were boys – one of the few streams untouched by changed regulations over nearly seven decades. I need the long conversation (missed last summer) with geographer and mentor Richard Stevens (retired from the University of Colorado), and we will sit down next week. I finally pulled together the draft of a book we’ve been working on for a couple years, and Reecer Creek Publishing is beginning to mean something.

All that as it may, we stand at the threshold of a new and potentially momentous year. What will it be this time? Which actions will we take to make this 2017 one for the books – one to shape our lives as we would have them shaped? High in my mind at this time is a recurring question about how my fishing or hunting or outdoor interests (and what I might do with them) will make the world a better place for those coming up behind me.

So, how does your 2017 shape up? How will your love of nature help ensure forever outdoor connections for the people of Paradise?

Like fresh snow awaiting our tracks, this year lies undisturbed before us.

Happy 2017.

All about Last Minute Christmas Gifting

Written by Jim Huckabay on December 23, 2016. Posted in Uncategorized

Last minute? Well, not exactly – you have a good 24 hours yet. Let us consider possibilities.

In my mind, any outdoor gift – last minute or not – ought to make or represent a connection between the giver and getter. A real gift acknowledges that connection and the people on both ends of the exchange. Such a gift, given freely and joyfully, may become priceless, and may not even have a price tag.

I learned that lesson a long time ago. You’ve probably heard this tale before, but the experience changed my life, and I’d like to hear it again.

On a warm summer afternoon in Denver, some four decades ago, eleven-year-old son Tim wanted ice cream. I was mildly preoccupied with chores, but it seemed like a good day for the three mile hike. We told his mom what we were doing and set out. Along the way, we studied clouds and plants and bugs and a dead cat and a soil horizon and plant roots exposed in a road cut. We laughed and questioned and felt wonder. On the way home, in this space of wonder we had created together, we ate our ice cream and studied it all again.

Then (also once upon a time), some months later, during a tough work week, I had a five-evening stretch of hauling Tim all over Denver to pick up scouting uniforms and paraphernalia.  Wherever we went, it seemed, they had just sold out what we needed, and sent us elsewhere. That weekend, I was short-tempered and in a paper grading marathon, when he complained that we never spent any time together. With the young man temper The Old Man had left me, I snarled at him about spending our evenings all week – together – chasing scouting stuff. He wrinkled his brow and looked at me, clearly confused. “Nahh,” he said thoughtfully, “We haven=t spent any time together since we did that ice cream and bugs hike, dad.”

From that eye-opening moment, a block of time to be happily spent doing something the kid wanted to do became a part of gifting. To this day, my Hucklings rarely remember toys, or stuff, but nearly always recount times we spent joyfully doing their thing.  It works for adults, too.

One of my favorite outdoor holiday family “activity” gifts has to be wildlife watching and photography. There is a great, free and instantly-available, e-book guaranteed to stir the wildlife photography blood in you and your gang. It’s author is famed wildlife photographer Tony Bynum – once a graduate student in Central’s Resource Management Program. Simple: go to Tony’s beautiful web site, www.tonybynum.com. At top of page click on the banner “Read Tony’s ‘Wildlife Photography Essentials’ E-book,” and fill out the simple registration to get your password for this stunning little primer. You can read it online, print it, or download it (or all three). This will change the way you and your family watch and record wildlife.

Once you have the book, grab the kids and whatever photo devices they have – or pick up some of those little disposable cameras – and go look for wild critters. Take binoculars and spotting scopes, and hot chocolate, coffee, cookies, sandwiches or whatever else your gang needs to make an outdoor adventure memorable. Each time you see a deer or elk or sheep or coyote, or whatever, discuss the picture possibilities. Then bring it all together by loading the images into a family photo file or scrapbook. (If some of you shoot film, get it to a one-hour processing joint in town, grab your prints and digital images and then load them as needed – together.)

Here in the valley, wildlife is all over. Lower Cooke Canyon, Coleman Creek, Reecer Creek or Manastash Road will get you into wintering range for seeing deer and possibly some elk. Bald eagles are scattered around the valley and in the Canyon. Elk are most likely up Joe Watt Canyon and scattered over to the Heart K Ranch at the mouth of the Taneum. Down the Yakima Canyon are deer and California bighorn sheep (watch traffic and both sides of the road).

Drive to the elk feeding site at Oak Creek Wildlife Area or the California bighorn site on the south side of Cleman Mountain. Both sites are near the point west of Naches where Highway 410 and Highway 12 split. At the intersection, turn north onto the frontage road and follow it to the bighorn sheep feeding site. You can’t miss the fencing and the signs. For the elk feeding, turn south onto Highway 12, and look for the signs (and elk) on the right. Critters are now showing up. It is worth the drive, and kids of all ages get very excited about being the first to spot one critter or other.

You have time, also, to consider the merits of homemade gifts. I have hand-knitted scarves and sweaters, an ammo box made by a close friend and an old leather “possibles” pouch for small things that like being kept together. Each of these gifts has become a treasure lasting far longer than the time it took some special person to make it.

In 1955, I asked Grampa Minshall about a scarf he wore every single time we went into a cool outdoor day. He said Grandma made it the first hunting season they were together. He wore it on wintry 1899 mornings in Fort Collins, Colorado, when he and his chums made a few bucks market hunting ducks and geese. The scarf looked that old, too. He smiled and patted it every time it went around his neck.

Last-minute Christmas or other gifting is simple, I think. Whatever you give, imbue it with joy.

Merry Christmas…

Kids, Nature, Hunting and Life

Written by Jim Huckabay on December 16, 2016. Posted in Uncategorized

Outdoor kids were the topics of several conversations this week. Most of those confabs revolved around the value of our children learning to integrate earth and nature and life through outdoor connections.

On Monday, our 13th Legislative District Delegation was in town. We had a brief moment to talk about the Washington Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights we’ve been working to establish for several years. Senator Judy Warnick is drafting the proper legislation and Representatives Manweller and Dent have committed their support. We will discuss it in this space in coming weeks, but suffice it to say it will greatly encourage a wide variety of outdoor family activities.

We talk about these things all the time – and I certainly saw them as my Hucklings learned to hunt and shoot and fish – but I’ve not seen a better summary. In my Northwest SCI (Safari Club International) fall newsletter was an interesting piece titled “Benefits of Teaching Children to Hunt” (said to come from ammo.com). I thought you might find it interesting.

“Keeping the sport of hunting alive isn’t the only reason to teach kids how to hunt. From being in the woods to building character to learning to fend for themselves, there are endless benefits to hunting.

“Here are just a few.

“Self-reliance: When children know how to hunt, they’ll always have a way to feed themselves, even if the unthinkable happens. They will not be stuck, relying on others to obtain food.

Food cycle: When kids learn to hunt, they gain an understanding of the food cycle. Without hunting, many children never connect the meat on their dinner plate to a living, breathing animal.

Love of the outdoors: If hunting does anything for a child, it instills a love of outdoors and a wonder at the majesty of nature. It teaches them to respect and appreciate the woods, water and fields.

Rite of passage: For many hunting families, learning to hunt is a rite of passage. It may be the first time a child’s allowed at hunting camp during the rifle season or that he has his own hunting gear. It’s an easy way to show a child you recognize he’s growing up and ready for more responsibility.

Conservationism: Although non-hunters don’t realize it, hunters by their nature are conservationists. By exposing children to hunting, they learn about the balance of animals in the space that hosts them and the idea of taking only what you need. This protects the land and ensures game remains for the future.

Bonding: When you’re teaching children to hunt, it’s more about being together than hunting. You’re building memories, enjoying days spent together, and having experiences that can’t be found within city limits.

Health benefits: Hunting gets you outdoors and spending time in nature does great things for both your body and mind. It’s known to reduce stress, decrease blood pressure, and lead to more mindfulness.

Fitness and exercise: While you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to enjoy hunting, you do have to be relatively physically fit. You have to walk distances, climb through brush and up mountains, and drag large game. Getting children involved in hunting shows them the importance of staying fit and creates a fun way to exercise.

Food safety: When it comes to what’s in commercial meat, it’s scary. Artificial preservatives, hormones, and antibiotics just top the list. But when children provide themselves with meat from a hunting harvest, they’re getting nothing but naturally fed meat.

Life skills: Hunting is more than sport; it’s a lesson in life. It helps youth develop character strengths such as discipline, patience, confidence, and endurance. It also teaches children how to deal with disappointment and move on to try again.

Passing on traditions: For some, hunting has been passed down from parent to child for generations. There may be a family hunting cabin or trips out West, and for many, hunting’s rooted in family traditions.

Unplugged: In this high-tech world, children are constantly plugged in. Hunting gives children an escape from electronics. It allows kids to unplug and just be.”

Then there were several questions about the Valley Rifle and Pistol Club’s 16 week Light Rifle Class League. This training in safe and fun family recreational shooting is certainly a start on getting kids checked into the outdoors. Mel Goudge (509-925-4285) or Hal Mason (509-962-3002) may still be able to get you into this winter’s league.

There may even have been some discussion this week about New Year’s Resolutions and getting kids connected outdoors.