The 2018 Hunting Film Tour

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 23, 2018. Posted in Uncategorized

The Hunting Film Tour (HFT) is back in Paradise for a second year, thanks to Ducks Unlimited. This feature-length film showcases the finest short hunting films available. This is a celebration of the hunt – why we seek remote places, quiet times and wild critters. You are invited.

This year’s celebration happens next Thursday evening, March 1, at 6 p.m. We will convene at the SURC Theatre on the Central Washington University Campus here in Ellensburg. (All attendees will be in the drawing for a Yeti cooler.)

This year’s film features nine beautifully filmed hunting videos from across North America. These amazing videos have titles like Blue Collar, Arctic Red, Strut, The Zone, 3 Up 2 Down, and In Search of Reverence. Several homeys who attended last year’s 2017 film tell me they can still close their eyes and be carried away by those hunters’ experiences. This film is an intimate, honest celebration of hunters and hunting, wild places and wild things.

You will find previews and other info at huntingfilmtour.com/. Click on “Trailers” to see samples of breathtaking cinematography and the rhythms of our hunting lives.

Sportsman’s Warehouse is now the Official Retail Partner of the tour. The other sponsors and partners of HFT read like a Who’s Who of hunting, conservation and outdoor gear. Outfits like Sitka Gear, Yeti, RMEF, North American Wild Sheep Foundation, Vortex Optics, Traeger, CarbonTV, Spypoint, Mathews, Kimber and Kennetrek join Ducks Unlimited and others to make sure the films find their way into theatres across North America. This year’s film will be seen in hundreds of theatres across North America, with groups like the South Dakota Wildlife Federation hosting half a dozen showings in that state alone.

Bringing the HFT to audiences like us is clearly in line with the Ducks Unlimited mission statement, noting that it “conserves, restores, and manages wetlands and associated habitats for North America’s waterfowl. These habitats also benefit other wildlife and people.” This is OUR mission, as well; from the nationwide Hunting Film Tour sponsors to local outfits like our 99-year-old Kittitas County Field and Stream Club. We are all in the game of ensuring wildlife and its habitat for our children’s children and those who follow them.

Here’s a brief primer on Ducks Unlimited. It formed in 1937, combining early groups which grew from the Boone and Crockett Club in response to North America’s nosediving waterfowl numbers. It became the model for other successful wildlife conservation organizations which have made huge strides toward having wildlife for future generations. DU’s 700,000+ world-wide members have raised more than three and a half billion dollars since 1937 – more than 80% of that money going directly to conservation projects, enhancing waterfowl, wetlands and other critical habitats. Nearly 14,000,000 acres have been conserved across North America. No other conservation or environmental group matches DU for putting its money where its mouth is.

The wetlands producing most of our waterfowl also provide habitat for billions of land birds and animals. Much of that wetland ground is under constant development threat. International DU has been most successful at finding solutions protecting habitat and meeting human needs. This is why DU is supported by a broad range of sportsmen – not just waterfowl fans.

Restoring and enhancing quality habitat in key waterfowl areas is a game we play each time we commit to look after wild things and wild places. Eastern Washington is one of the top ten DU support regions in North America. In addition, more than 30,000 Washington residents buy federal duck stamps – a good many are non-hunters, seeing the duck stamp program as a way to contribute to the future of all bird life. Since its inception in 1934, this program has conserved 5.7 million acres and created or expanded 300 federal wildlife refuges. No matter how you look at it, waterfowl habitat conservation serves almost all the wild things in which we share interest.

Everything you want to know about waterfowl and the conservation of its habitat is at www.fws.gov/duckstamps/conservation/mbcc.htm, www.birdnote.org, or www.ducks.org.

In six days, we will convene in the SURC Theatre at 6:00 p.m. One of us will leave with a Yeti65 Cooler, a bunch of us will have hats, mugs and other swag, and all of us will enjoy a great film of hunters celebrating the lives we live – and dream of living.

Get your $10 ticket online at www.ducks.org/washington/events/51641/ellensburg-hunting-film-tour, at 509-423-3954, or at the door of the SURC Theatre (the SURC is at the end of Chestnut, just north of University Way).

This film – and the others past and yet to come – are the celebrations of the devotion we carry to our hunting heritage and a forever future for wildlife and those who come after us. Remember that our children are the emissaries we send to a time we will never see; what do we want them to take?

See you next Thursday evening.

Outdoor Adventures and Closure

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 16, 2018. Posted in Uncategorized

Dwight “Lee” Bates has submitted several stories to our writing contest over the years. Lee is a professional engineer with long experience with shipbuilding, auto manufacturing, and aviation – which I think holds the lion’s share of his fascination. His work directly with students, stirring their interest in math and engineering, along with the book (Due Diligence – Memoirs of the Life of An Engineer and Outdoorsman) he wrote for them, is widely recognized. He built and flew his own Light Sport Aircraft. Lee often reminds me that “outdoor adventures” are not just about hunting, fishing and camping.

Here is Lee Bates’ tale of wild places, family, and a man’s closure.

“I was looking around online and found a story that caught my eye on a website, www3.gendisasters.com, for airplane crashes.

“The story was about a guy whose father died in a 1946 DC-3 crash. He was trying to get closure by visiting the crash site on Elk Mountain, not far off I-80 in Wyoming – a site which I climbed up to on the mountain twice to find. This guy wrote, ‘I am taking a trip next week to Elk Mountain to be where the plane crashed ending my dad’s life. I was only 7 months old and I am now 68 years old. But need to finally get closure on saying goodbye to the dad I never knew! I plan on leaving him a letter on the mountain top.’

“So I posted the following on the website: ‘I read your trip report on the crash of a DC-3 on Elk Mountain in 1946. I found the crash site twice in 1960.

Elk Mountain, Wyoming (Dwight Lee Bates photo)

It was to the West of the lookout by two huge broken off trees. I first went to it with a friend of mine I hayed with, and later with my cousin Rod. I think they would have not crashed if they had not hit the two big trees. Each tree was about 3 foot in diameter. They were only about 50 feet from the top. Most of the parts were just beyond the 2 trees to the South East. I found a DC-3 access cover to the gas caps there, verifying it as a DC 3. When I showed it to my Uncle Robert, he also identified it.’ He said: ‘I recognize the access cover to the gas caps since when I have flown on a DC 3, I have seen those access covers flopping in the wind when they forget to close them.’ ‘I heard that a rancher took his pickup to the top and hauled the metal to the scrap yard to sell. This is probably why the crash site is hard to find today. Also I heard they used the electric starting motors from the DC-3s engines as electric winches for their trucks. Please call me.’

“Well, the guy called me and said he visited the crash site of the DC-3 on Elk Mountain in 2013 to get closure. He said a rancher with ATVs took him to the site, where he left his letter. He said they used a road made by the University of Wyoming to access their cloud seeding building on the top of Elk Mountain. He said that he took a picture of the crash site, but there was not much metal left. I said there was not much metal also left in 1960 when I visited the crash site. I can verify that this is the crash site since I can see the two broken off trees that they hit far in the distance in a photo of the mountain. Also I remember this is what the crash site looked like when I found it twice. I told him I had just talked to my Uncle Fred that day who helped bring the bodies down after the crash in 1946.

“I am glad that the guy who lost his father found closure. I asked him if his dad was the pilot but he would not tell me. My uncle said they could not find the pilot’s body for quite a while until they dug through the snow drifts. He was thrown clear of the wreckage through the windshield. My uncle said the stewardess who was found in the tail section did not have a scratch on her – she may have survived the impact only to freeze to death. It was January so it was hard to get to the wreckage in the deep snow. They slid the bodies and themselves off the mountain and used dog teams to retrieve them. The DC 3 was flying alongside another DC3 that belonged to the same airline. The pilot of that DC 3 tried to raise the other plane after he saw a flash of light coming from their direction. When he did not get a response, he knew they hit Elk Mountain. I think that the airliner was supposed to use the Cheyenne ADF [Automatic Direction Finding] to avoid hitting Elk Mountain at night but he must have wrongly used the Laramie ADF which put him off course. Evidently the pilot could not see the other DC3 running lights to warn him.”

An aside: “Jim, I believe you know Elk Mountain from your Antelope hunts. My cousins own four 30K acre cattle ranches in Elk Mountain area. My uncle is still alive. The ranchers in Wyoming are strong people and will go out of their way to help someone, and have helped me a few times. My grandfather’s dad, my great grandfather, was killed in a 1902 gunfight in Medicine Bow, Wyoming. The fight was over a woman. We recently cleaned up that great grandfather’s grave in Medicine Bow.” Lee Bates

 

Jack O’Connor, His Legacy, and the Wild Sheep of Today

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 9, 2018. Posted in Uncategorized

A couple weeks back, we found ourselves in Reno, Nevada. A senior family member had passed on after a long illness, and Diane needed to help her brother get a few Veterans Affairs and other details managed. You gotta love a happy coincidence. Somehow, that just happened to be the same week that the North American Wild Sheep Foundation Convention was held in the Reno-Sparks Convention Center. It also just happened that my South African buddies, Richard and Ruth Lemmer, had their Safari Afrika booth there. And – Lo and Behold! – Less than 30 booths away were folks from the Lewiston, Idaho, Jack O’Connor Hunting Heritage & Education Center – a critical part of protecting and sharing an important writer’s legacy.

Born in Arizona in 1902, O’Connor grew up in the Sonora Desert country, nuts about the outdoors and wildlife – and desert bighorn sheep. After stints in the Navy, and several southern universities, he settled into teaching English. In 1934, he joined the University of Arizona as its first professor of journalism.

He wrote widely and well about wildlife, natural history and hunting, and sold a number of fictional short stories. His work was published in virtually every magazine of the time, from Redbook and the Saturday Evening Post to Sports Afield, Field and Stream and Outdoor Life. In 1939, he became a regular columnist and editor for Outdoor Life. He left academia in 1945 and moved to Lewiston in ‘48.

Honored as the “Dean of Outdoor Writers,” Jack O’Connor was a cornerstone of Outdoor Life, the most popular sportsman’s read during his long tenure. With humor and personal anecdotes, he could help the average guy master most any technical idea. He could pack more information, entertainment and excitement into one sentence than any writer I’ve ever read. In addition to decades of monthly columns, he wrote dozens of books and publications about experiences with firearms, hunting and natural history. Much of it was about his beloved wild sheep.

Huge numbers of us learned to read with his monthly columns and books – with flashlights under the covers – after we’d been put to bed and told to sleep. (I have long thought we were learning to write, too, at the same time we were messing up our young eyes.) Jack O’Connor changed the way we thought about firearms, hunting and wildlife and the ethics of dealing with all of them. He retired from Outdoor Life in 1972, and on to his Happy Hunting Ground in 1978.

At the Wild Sheep Show, I helped Richard and Ruth move a few souvenirs and invite a few folks to an adventure of a lifetime in South Africa. Somewhere in those days, I also found time with volunteers and a board member or two from the O’Connor Center.

The Center is focused on Jack’s legacy, with outdoor education and activities to help ensure that our grandchildren’s children still have an outdoor legacy to support – and keep. It is also a museum, housing a sizeable part of his wildlife and big game collection, and several favorite firearms. Youngsters are always a focus of education efforts; it is now sponsoring a Youth Hunter Education Challenge Program for youngsters 11- 18 in eight events (check it out at www.jack-oconnor.org.) My conversations with folks in the booth centered on our proposed Washington Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights, getting kids into outdoor adventures, and then recording – writing – them. We discussed several ideas about getting kids excited about writing up their own great adventures. Can it be done these days? What will it take?  Standby…

We also enjoyed some “supposings” and “wonderings” about how O’Connor might have reacted to the incredible diversity of booths, perspectives and possibilities at the convention. In the hall were many hundreds of booths and thousands upon thousands of visitors. Among the booths were several groups or businesses promoting extreme long range shooting (taking animals from more than 1,000 yards, for example). Scattered across the acres of booths were somewhere around 1,000 mounted wild sheep – maybe a couple dozen different species. Wander enough and you could find anything from Mexican desert bighorns to European mouflon to any of the various subspecies of the giant argali of Mongolia, Central Asia and the Himalayas. O’Connor preached careful long stalks and good shooting from reasonable distances – he was a wild sheep nut of the first order. He was a crusty about these things, and did not suffer fools gladly. Those of us who knew him personally, or from his writing, could only imagine his reaction to the preaching of ultra-long range shots and the stunning number and variety of sheep on display.

You probably owe it to yourself and the hunters and sportsmen who come after you to appreciate Jack O’Connor and his work. Check out the Jack O’Connor Center at www.jack-oconnor.org/ (208-743-5043). Then, take a drive to the Center at Hell’s Gate State Park in Lewiston.

How will we lay out a sustainable outdoor future without understanding how we got here?

Seasonal Rites and the March of Time

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 2, 2018. Posted in Uncategorized

This week’s column is submitted by SeaDeVar Gleed. The judges selected this one and at least one more from entries to my outdoor adventure writing contest. DeVar will receive passes to the upcoming Central Washington Sportsmen Show in Yakima. (By the way, you still have a few days to send your story to me…)

DeVar’s story is really a tale that touches each of us – or will be at some point in life. This is how he tells it:

“One of the constants in this life is change.

“My favorite rite of passage into fall was me and dad’s annual trip to Star Valley, Wyoming. We hunted big browns cruising up out of Palisades Reservoir to spawn in the clear, cool Star Valley streams at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. There’s something special about fishing a meandering stream at 6,200’ elevation in late fall. We typically had the river to ourselves. The trip to Star Valley from northern Utah takes us back and forth through Idaho, Utah, and Wyoming. Elk camps with horse trailers were a common scene as we neared Afton, home of the world’s largest elk horn arch. We typically had the river to ourselves as hardy locals sought a much bigger quarry. Dad is a cutthroat trout whisperer. While I love pitching Rapalas seeking big brown bruisers, he always seemed to find a deep bend holding beautiful, Snake River fine-spotted cutthroat willing to take the half worm he threaded on his hook. I’d try to convince him to go down the river with me but he seemed content to ply his trade in a deep bend, fitting a nap or two in between hits.

“I knew the day would come when our adventures would end.  Nothing goes on forever.  Each year, I would convince my wife that the expense was worth it. ‘You never know when dad will be gone’ I would say. I really didn’t need to convince her – she’s never stood in the way of me and my fish

DeVar’s Dad on the Salt River

ing rod (as long as it didn’t interfere with more important things in life – of which there are few). I never imagined it would be mom who came closest to death and would change the course of my rite of passage into fall.

“She’s a strong woman. She survived open heart surgery at age 31 and proceeded to bear her 5th and 6th children here in Paradise. 44 years later scar tissue from that open heart surgery would save her life, staving off blood flow from an upper-aortic aneurysm, allowing her time to get life-saving treatment. Her ginger steps back home four months later were nothing short of a miracle.

“I’ll never forget our August 2016 visit. ‘Well dad, have you been thinking about Star Valley at all,’ I asked?  He went into pensive thought. A faint smile came as he remembered the deep memories we made at each bend of the Salt River, and the evening chats at the old homestead talking up our fishing prowess. We developed a strong bond during those times – one that will not soon be broken. With his next words, I knew the end of this fall rite of passage had arrived. ‘Son, I’ll never leave your mother’s side.’ I could see it in his eyes – that moment when one realizes how fleeting this mortal life is.

Nicholas and DeVar on the Columbia

“But with each inevitable end, there is always a new beginning.

Nicholas and Andrew with a Columbia River king

My son Nicholas and I began a new rite of fall passage – one much closer to home. The powerful upper-Columbia River king salmon migrate from the treacherous Pacific Ocean, past the multiple dams along this mighty river, to spawn and end their lives where it all began. Son Nicholas and I started catching these wonderful fish from the banks near Wanapum Dam right here in Kittitas County. There are not many things that rank up there with netting a 15-pound king salmon yanking at the end of my son’s fishing rod!

“Those half hour drives home along old Kittitas Highway, with Mt. Rainier in the distance and tales of the one that got away, are creating new memories and bonds that will strengthen with time. (By the way, the milkshakes and fries at Blustery’s in Vantage are still awesome!)”

DeVar Gleed

The Land of Yes

Written by Jim Huckabay on January 26, 2018. Posted in Uncategorized

I love these shows.  I guess I’ve been attending them for as long as they’ve been around. Right after each New Year, I start thinking about the Washington Sportsman Show in Puyallup, our neighborhood Central Washington Sportsmen Show, and others I can attend.

Cousin Ron Tanquary insists that each show is a journey to “The Land of Yes!” That started a couple decades ago, after we had wandered down several aisles of the year’s first. I remember the look on his face as he chuckled “Listen to us… We just keep saying ‘Yes,’ ‘Yes,’ ‘Yes!’ at every booth we pass. We wander all these paths, lost in some brochure, mounted fish, antlers, photos, videos or sales pitch. Some girl or guy says, ‘You wanna salmon fish in Canada?’ We say, ‘Yes…’ ‘Wanna hunt New Zealand?’ We say, ‘Yes…’ ‘Wanna win this new Ruger or Kimber?’ and we say ‘Yes! Yes!’  Cousin, we are afield in The Land of Yes!”

Thus, I prepare to wander The Land of Yes for the next couple months. I look forward to the SunDome and Portland in February, and enough adventure to handle another year of reality – maybe. To that end, I shall this weekend journey to The Land of Yes (Washington Sportsmen’s Show) at the Puyallup Fairgrounds. (Check out www.thesportshows.com/shows/washington/.) I have things and people to see there.

Having never fully recovered from being owned by Freebe the Wonder Dog, I’m hooked on Labs and hunting dogs. I look forward to visiting with trainers and owners, and to watching kids with pups, as they realize that a dog is the only true friend that can be bought.

I will check in with survival pro Brett Stoffel. He will either be in his comfortable Toyota camp (warming himself and friends with stories around a small stove) or at one of his daily survival seminars. Brett has helped many folks and families overcome the odds, and survive tough conditions off the beaten path, using simple tools as lifelines.

I expect to learn a few things on the Indoor River, as two of my heroes, Joe Rotter and Shane Magnuson maybe get through my thick skull what it takes to coach a trout out of a tight spot.

That brand new, specially-built kokanee tank is a must. This is the first time kokanee have ever been raised to this size in a hatchery environment for display and demo purposes. Pros from Mack’s Lures will cover kokanee fishing under every condition and in every season.

Having managed to hunt an entire late bull elk season without finding a bull, I need to see the “Northwest Tour of Big Game Animals.” It features a remarkable collection of record-setting bulls (and deer and other critters), and it may help me remember what they look like. There will also be that huge whitetail buck – biggest on record in the Northwest – and the recently-taken heads and horns being measured in this year’s competition.

No doubt, I will watch youngsters fishing at the Baxter “Kid’s Free Trout Pond” for a while. There is just something ancient and timeless about watching a boy or girl hook and land a trout, and their excitement about bringing home a fresh fish for the family.

Certainly, I will follow my nose to the Camp Cooking Demo Tent. The Haugens, Bethy Rossos, and others will show me – as they have every year – a game cooking technique or two to make my life better.

There is so much at these shows to which one might say “Yes!” Still, overall, education is always a major draw. During the five days of the Washington Sportsmen’s Show & Sport Fishing Boat Show, there are more than 200 hours of seminars with experts on every sort of hunting and fishing found in Washington. When I ask folks why they come to the shows, these learning opportunities are always near the top of their list. We all fantasize about being the best at something, and it starts with expert mentoring.

Concurrently with each of my visits to The Land of Yes, there will be held meetings of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association. The primary agenda item for this year’s meetings will be work underway in our Washington State Senate to create a Washington Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights. On future banners we hope to see “The children of Washington have the right to discover and experience the outdoors through the following activities: Create an outdoor adventure; Explore a trail; Camp under the stars; Go fishing; Go hunting; Discover nature; Ride a horse; Explore Washington’s heritage; Go on a picnic; Play in a park, in the water, in the snow, on the rocks.” Join the conversation.

Over this weekend, I expect to win firearms and new gear. In my pocket will be winning tickets for a fishing trip out of Westport or Ilwaco, a fully outfitted 17-foot water sled and a safari in New Zealand. I know I will win all these things, I just hope that – this year – they remember to call me when my name comes up.

Take the drive to The Land of Yes in Puyallup, Washington. Every hunting, fishing or getting outside adventure to which you want to say “Yes!” is awaiting you there. Then plan your visit to the Yakima SunDome in a few weeks. These are the pleasures that get us through winter.