Author Archive

Native American Hunting and Fishing in Paradise

Written by Jim Huckabay on March 7, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

At the beginning of each conflict management class or “difficult people” workshop I teach, I quote Dale Swedberg. This wasn’t original with him, but I like how he said it: “Remember, whenever you deal with people, facts are facts, but perceptions are reality.”

Lately, I’m hearing such “realities” about Native Americans and their fishing and hunting on “usual and accustomed” ground. Some of us don’t get that these are God-given rights Native Americans retained back when they ceded land to the US, not rights that the treaty writers gave them. In Washington today, we have 24 Treaty Tribes with rights to fish and wildlife and their management. Too much of what some of my fellow outdoor nuts believe to be true is pure fantasy. I keep thinking about The Old Man – my father – when a friend would start making decisions and arguments over some made-up truth. I see his clear, hard stare directed into the eyes of someone who had one last final chance to restore himself to The Old Man’s good graces. In a soft, strong voice, he would say, “Alright… Cut the crap. What’s the truth?”

I still hear that Indian fishers are killing more fish than they can handle, leaving them to rot. (The guy swears it is true, ‘cause he heard it from a good buddy who saw it with his own eyes.) I am told that Indians net salmon before they can get into rivers, thus making it impossible for sport fishermen to catch them. (Says Homey: “You shoulda been there – nobody was catching anything. It had to be those %!$?# Indians and their nets!”) I hear that there are very few bull elk in the Colockum herd because the Yakamas and other regional tribal members are slaughtering them – probably hundreds a year – and selling the heads. (Homey’s reality: “Well, how else do you explain the lack of bulls? Everybody knows these guys just drive up into the hills and start shooting at any bull that moves.”)

Those salmon stories still go around, but today most of us just ignore them and go catch fish.

It took a while to get us here. Thirty years ago, Chinook salmon in the Yakima were kaput…gone. The state sued the Yakamas to stop traditional subsistence fishing, but ocean and non-Indian Columbia River fishing continued. The four tribes doing subsistence fishing in the Columbia System – led by the Yakamas – off and on voluntarily quit fishing to help rebuild stocks, while biologists argued that heavy commercial fishing, poor irrigation water management in spawning areas, and the last of the Columbia Basin dams were wiping out the salmon. In the ‘80s, the Yakamas sued to stop the Klickitat Irrigation District from essentially draining the Klickitat River for agriculture (wiping out another “usual and accustomed” Yakama fishery). Battles went on.

During the same time period, Cle Elum dam was shut down to preserve irrigation water.  The closure virtually destroyed the redds (salmon spawning “nests”) in the rivers, and killed any smolts (salmon young) trying to move down river. Bob Tuck, a fisheries biologist for the Yakama Nation, suggested that the Cle Elum could be kept open to protect the salmon redds and smolts, while other dams which did not hover over critical salmon habitat were closed off. The state and feds withheld salmon eggs – future salmon – and refused to consider water changes. The tribes sued, putting their tribal treaty rights on the line all the way to the Supreme Court.

Treaty rights of the Yakamas were upheld. Appropriate flows are now kept in the streams. Together, irrigators, power districts, sport fishers and Indians have restored much of this missing piece of the life web to our rivers. I will argue that, without the Yakamas putting their treaty rights on the line, and fighting for them, there would be few anadromous fish in the Columbia Basin. In 2014, we are looking at outstanding returns of Coho, and possible historic Chinook runs – we can all now go fishing.

On the other hand, those “Indians killing all the bull elk” stories just keep growing. Sadly, policy decisions about roads and closures are argued by some on the basis of keeping the Indians away from the elk. You will rarely see it in a written statement, since the Natives’ hunting and fishing rights are law, but you will hear it time and again in conversation. Even sadder, some of those making the arguments are people in whom I have vested trust to look after my grandchildren’s outdoor future. Now what?

Consider what we do know. People who spend large and regular blocks of time out among the elk on the public ground of Paradise report little evidence of Indian elk kills. The Colockum herd is a quarter to a third larger than management goals of 4,500 elk. Local Fish and Wildlife pros recently estimated 23 to 25 Indian killed bulls yearly, and DFW Sergeant Sprecher – who tracked the unreported Indian hunting as carefully as he could – was confident that the number was well under 50. Wildlife pros are now finding the large numbers of huge bulls which they missed for years. The herd is healthy and there are plenty of bulls to go around.

Arguing for road or wildlife area closures on the basis of a widely-repeated fantasy of Indians slaughtering all the big bulls is specious and disheartening. As The Old Man would say, “Cut the crap! Deal with the truth.”

DeVar and Dad and the Salt River Adventure – Concluded

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 28, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

We conclude DeVar Gleed’s story of keeping his dad outdoors, with the ever-present  companionship of the unexpected and family humor:

“At the Afton Hospital, the nurse, although very friendly, gave us a look of incredulous surprise.  Dad handed me his rubber-band-wrapped wallet of cards and health information. The doctor came in right behind the nurse and got the story. He looked at dad’s bloodied hand and asked if he took a blood thinner.  Dad promptly said, ‘No.’ The doctor responded, ‘Really?  Wow, this is really bleeding…’ Meanwhile, I was looking through dad’s cards, and there was a card with the name ‘Plavix.’ I said, ‘Isn’t it a blood thinner?’ The doctor looked at my dad. ‘Do you take Plavix?’ Dad said, ‘Well, yes.’ The doctor looked at us. ‘That’s a blood thinner. No wonder this doesn’t look as bad as I first thought!’

“After soaking and cleaning dad’s hand, the doctor gave him a shot. Dad was staring at his hand, mesmerized by the whole process. ‘Did that hurt?’ ‘Nope,’ dad said. He didn’t seem to feel anything. The only thing I could think of was – with decades of helping Uncle Ern ranching, spanking my older brother and me (I’m sure less often than I remember), and a lifetime of DIY projects – all feeling was gone in his hand! It was too funny, though. The doctor expected him to feel pain through shots and stitches – but nothing. Stitches done, the doctor asked dad if he intended to continue fishing. He knew the answer before he asked and reached for a handful of surgical gloves – large. He left us with dressings of gauze, tape and antibiotic ointment.

“As we stood in the lobby awaiting discharge, my phone rang. Dad asked who it was. I said mom. He must have seen the terror in my eyes, because he said, verbatim, ‘You won’t tell your mother about this if you want to live!’ I handed him the phone.

“He answered and told mom we were just taking a break from fishing and that all was well. After telling her he missed her, he handed me the phone and I told her the same thing. It wasn’t altogether untrue; we were taking a break – and at that point all was well.

“We returned to a familiar cutthroat hole. Unfortunately, our poor luck continued and we closed out the evening fishless. That evening we killed the rest of the flies and wasps that came alive in the balmy 50 degrees in the house. (Note to self: have new windows installed.)

“Day 2 was spent perusing private access areas, familiar holes with at least one nice fish in each.

“We drove through a cattle pasture in his early-2000 Buick as if it was a 4-wheeler, parking along one of those barbed beasts.  A group of 50 or so large grass fed steers slowly crept towards us. I looked at Dad. He said, ‘Don’t worry – they can’t follow us.’ We squeezed through an opening in the fence – the first of a few on the path to the river. I swear someone with the strength of Thor attached one gate; it took all dad and I had to pop it over the post (and even more to get it back)!

“I battled a few husky browns on my favorite Rapala lure. Testing each new river bend with hope of a big one, I was finally rewarded with a nice 4-pounder. I found an incredible, deep bend with a hole full of eddies and easy casting. I called Dad’s cell 3 times (he couldn’t remember which pocket he had it in) and told him to make his way over. He then had the time of his life catching and releasing a dozen beautiful Snake River browns. I finally told him whoever caught the next big fish was the winner – we had to go.

“When we returned to the car I noticed a large brown smudge on the hood. The driver’s side mirror had been pushed in somehow. I told dad and asked him what happened to his mirror. He looked up quickly and yelled, ‘It’s gone!’ ‘No dad,’ I said, ‘it’s just pushed in. But what happened?’  What looked like large dried swaths of saliva were all over. Turns out those steers had their way with the ‘ol Buick. They must have thought it was a giant salt lick after all those icy, salted highways. Dad might have been upset, but the visual of those steers having their way with the ‘ol Buick was just way too funny!

“It’s always a fond farewell as we climb southbound Hwy 89 up the Bridger-Teton National Forest – bidding adieu to the beautiful Star Valley. We made a pit stop in Evanston to gas up at the least expensive spot west of the Rockies. I came out from the facilities and saw dad with a six foot long truck window washing squeegee in his hands and the entire car covered in soapy suds.  He said, ‘We’re not going home with the car like this,’ as he finished washing the entire car. We should have sprung for the $10 car wash – that ‘brown’ smudge never did completely come off.

“Pulling into the driveway back at Layton, mom’s sweet smile greeted us from the door. I looked at Dad and went to the back of the Buick to retrieve the cooler. I was hoping the sight of those fresh cool and clear water caught trout would ease the call I heard coming. As she looked at Dad’s bandaged hand, it was ‘DEVAR???!!!’”

The family that plays together…

DeVar and Dad and the Salt River Adventure – I

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 23, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

We were admiring the photo contest entries on the big screen TV at the Central Washington Sportsmen Show in the SunDome. Cousin Ron and I were chatting with Homey Incognito, one of the judges for my outdoor adventure writing contest. The subject on the floor was our fathers and the ways we had worked to get – and keep – them outside. Somewhere in there we shifted to our own sons and daughters keeping us outdoors, and the love and respect which underlies these relationships. We may have touched on the role of the unexpected and family humor.

Homey looked at me and smiled. “Use that DeVar guy’s story,” he said. “It’s just what we’re talking about here.” Enough said. Here is Part I of DeVar Gleed’s generational tale.

“In October, my Dad and I decided to make another trip to our favorite Wyoming trout stream. We would try to coax angry, reckless browns and hungry, fattening cutthroat to our net. Mom threatened to accompany us unless I guaranteed my dad would not go near the water. I reminded her that this was a fishing trip, but told her I would make sure he was safe. (The last time I was able to control my dad – well – I’ve never been able to control my dad!)

“We left Layton, Utah and wove our way through northern Utah, Southeast Idaho and eventually into Western Wyoming’s Star Valley (home of elk hunters, hardened fishermen and Butch Cassidy’s one-time hideout).

“We started with the obligatory stop by the small tackle shop in Afton, WY. The day’s hot tip was that the recent cold snap and low water had kept the browns down near the reservoir. We grabbed a few overpriced $10 lures and headed for the Grover homestead. On the way we stopped by to check on access to our secret spots. The old timer cattle rancher that managed the property was out moving cattle. I reached out to shake his well-worn hand. He greeted me in his Western Wyoming drawl and granted us access to holes otherwise inaccessible – with instructions to close all gates behind us. As I retrieved my hand it had a nice swath of cow manure across it.  Unintentional, I’m certain, and a small price to pay for access to private property!

“Grover, WY has a post office, city park, Mormon Church and not much else. It is our base camp – my mother-in-law’s childhood home – visited in the fall by only the most hardened of fishermen. My dad especially enjoys the mid-60s feel of everything in the house. We settled in, equipped with a few space heaters to beat the low 20s temperatures (the old coal hopper hasn’t worked for years) and plenty of mom’s quart jars of bottled soup, fruit and grape juice.

“Day 1 started out following the tackle shop’s advice and heading north to the mouth of the stream (the Salt River flows north off the Continental Divide, eventually joining the Snake at Palisades reservoir). I read the water and knew that I shouldn’t do what I did – cast my brand new $10 sinking Rapala lure into shallow rapids.  I lost it on cast #2. We spent about an hour getting skunked – except the giant sucker fish dad caught – and left for one of the more familiar holes.

“As I was gearing up and searching for my net (lost at the first hole), I noticed dad heading off towards the familiar bend. Remember the still small voice that tells you things you should do – that more often than not gets ignored?  Yeah – that one. It was telling me to call out and tell dad to wait for me. Instead, I got my gear and hurried after him. I walked about 50 yards, looking down to miss the many cow pies in my path. I looked up to see my dad standing on the other side of the barbed wire fence with blood running down his hand!

“I asked dad what happened, since the hole we fish is another 50 yards. He said he knew, but wanted to fish this stretch here (motioning to a nice, deep cut bank). He described how his boot caught on the fence, he tripped and instinctively grabbed for the top wire. Unfortunately it was full of barbs and made a mess of his hand. I helped him back through the fence and I told him we needed to get to the doctor, but he insisted I fish the hole. I said no, we need to go. My objections went unheeded as he proceeded to the hole, his hand wrapped in a tourniquet of toilet paper he always kept in his pocket (now bright red) and pressed tight with a small stick. He watched while I fished the hole. I asked every cast about his hand, and he assured me it was fine.

“I got skunked, and we hiked to the car – stopping only to look for dad’s Rapala (he wasn’t about to leave a $10 lure on the river). He spotted it, I crawled through the fence to get it, and we headed to the car. It was a fast trip to the Afton hospital…”

To be continued…

All about Fantasy and Winter Dream Time

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 15, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

Last weekend, we braved blizzards, freezing rain and ice to hang out with my Safari Afrika buddies at the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show in Portland – a chance to think ahead about this summer in South Africa. I also had a little more quality time with Peter Kummerfeldt, America’s survival pro. It was a great show, of course, and got me really psyched for our Central Washington Sportsmen Show (now happening in the SunDome of Paradise).

Cousin Ron – who taught  me to fish the Naches River when we were seven and six – refers to our trips to the SunDome as “journeys to ‘Fantasy Island.’” I can’t argue the point. Each aisle holds answers to one or another of your fishing, hunting, camping, shooting or outdoor fantasies. Look closely and there will be small adventures, or pieces of information, which will change how you manage your outdoor life and the lives of those with whom you share it.

Let me show you what I mean. Following are some of the nuggets I discovered at the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show.

More and more of us are carrying camcorders, cameras and action cams on our hunts. One of the coolest new tools I found was Solvid’s “Film It Yourself” CamStrap. This is a simple and relatively inexpensive head strap which enables very stable photography or footage while the hunter is stalking or shooting. Remarkable, really, the footage I saw. Take a look for yourself at one of dozens of Film It Yourself hunting videos at www.SolvidFIY.com.

You, too, can be a professional fisherman. The 2014 Northern Pikeminnow Sport-Reward Fishery on the Columbia could be your dream. Earn big bucks again this year for removing these fish from the river. Find your dream job at www.pikeminnow.org.

Have you ever heard of Youth Outdoors Unlimited? Yeah, me too. It’s an up and coming outfit headquartered in Moses Lake, focused on making hunting and fishing dreams come true for young people diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and/or a physical disability. This is a tax exempt 501(c)3 corporation doing some remarkable things for kids who really need something remarkable. I expect that we will get them to Paradise for an evening with you and the Field and Stream Club one of these months soon. In the meantime, check out www.YouthOutdoorsU.org or read some heartwarming stories in the January/February issue of Horns & Hooks Magazine.

How often do you get out into the Columbia Basin? Virtually every sportsman’s show I wander, I find a team of folks inviting me to Grant County and Eastern Washington.  In the Basin is fishing for warm or cold water species, playing on spectacular trails or expansive golf courses, and hunting for most anything from varmints to upland birds and waterfowl or big game. I write about this stuff, and I still forget the amazing variety of options for outdoor nuts in the country just an hour or so east of us. As I walked around a corner at the Portland Show, there again were almost-homeys handing me a map, a magazine, a list of fishing lakes and coaching for playing in Grant and Adams Counties. They had lists of people willing to help me find my outdoor playground. What do you need? Take another look at new options for you or your gang at www.Ephrata.org.

I hung out for a time with a couple instructors at the Oregon Hunter Education Program booth. Hunter ed has been a hot topic in Paradise for the last couple years. Our Kittitas County Field and Stream Club – since 1919, the oldest organized group of sportsmen and women in the state – has offered hunter education classes and firearm safety training for nearly 60 years. Our instruction team stopped offering classes a year ago, when DFW changed the game; a big push for classes taught online, no actual firearms were to be used in the classroom, and live fire could no longer be required of students. As you might hope, in the interest of safe outdoor recreation, our folks simply refused to certify anyone they had not seen handle a firearm safely and shoot it accurately. There may be some fixes coming, but the Oregon guys found the whole thing a bit amusing. Before the turn of the last century, Oregon required all hunter ed students, even those taking online classes, to demonstrate proficiency with a real firearm before they could be turned loose with a hunting license afield. “Funny,” one of them smiled, “your wildlife guys are going the other way.  What are they afraid of?  …Oh, yeah, that all happened about the time Washington legalized marijuana, didn’t it?”

I love these trips to Fantasy Island.  See you at the SunDome.

Yellowstone Adventures and Kid Fishing Memories

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 8, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

We have many outdoor and shooting and hunting and fishing issues to discuss.  This weekend, I shall depart from my faculty representation duties in Olympia long enough to hang out with my Safari Afrika buddies at the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show in Portland.  I expect to collect even more food for thought as we chew on these issues.

In the meantime, I thought maybe we might lighten up a bit today, and consider a couple fishing adventures.

Lee Bates submitted a never-to-be-forgot reminiscence of fishing on Yellowstone Lake, near its outlet and the world-famous Fishing Bridge.  The judges for our outdoor writing competition liked it, and it got me thinking about my own once in a lifetime Yellowstone fishing adventure.  I can still taste the air of that morning.

When my older kids were still too small to do much fishing—sometime in the early ‘70s—we spent time camping in Yellowstone.  I still vividly recall a first-light morning on Yellowstone Lake in July.  It was one of those mornings when I felt totally alive, when the colors in the morning sun were deep and rich, and the air gently flowed through every cell of my being.  I stood at the edge of that clear, cold lake casting for cutthroat trout, knowing that if this was my last morning on earth, it would be okay.  I was even catching a few of those famed 14 and 15 inch cutthroat trout.

Just down the beach was another early fisherman.  Fiftyish, I guessed, a bit older than most men with young kids.  He commented about the morning and how badly he needed to be fishing again, and hurriedly, almost nervously, rigged his gear for a first cast.  Then I got it; down the trail behind him came a woman and two little all-dressed-to-fish-with-daddy girls.  Six or eight year-olds, I though.  His peaceful morning of him-versus-cutthroat was all over.  The guy smiled bravely as he got them rigged.  While they were casting, he would turn to his own rod.  One time he even got to squat next to his rod once, as a fish played with his bait.  Then cries of frustration over tangled lines, hooked limbs (the girls’ and/or one lone shrub’s) or lost bait drew him away from his own moments.  I can still see him in my mind’s eye, and I remember thinking something to the effect of “That sucks…”

At some point, though, his wife hugged him tight and offered to remove his girls so he could relax and fish.  He was quiet for a moment, wrinkled his nose, and said, “No.  Thanks… I need to relax, yeah, but what I really need is you guys.”  He put his gear away and taught his girls to fish.  As I brought in my last cutt of the morning, he was grinning ear to ear, helping the younger one unhook a fat trout.

Now I’m thinking about our passel of Grandhucklings… and some kid fishing in Yellowstone.

Funny the memories people save from their Yellowstone adventures.  To wit: Lee Bates’ “Fishing Bridge.”

“When I was 16—in 1959—we went on a family trip to Pinedale, Wyoming.  My dad said we had a choice to fish around Pinedale or Yellowstone Park.  We all voted for Yellowstone.

“We stayed in the village near the falls.  We were told the fish were biting near the Lower Falls in the Yellowstone Canyon, so we climbed down into the bottom of the canyon.  …And caught nothing but little fish.

“So the next day we went to Fishing Bridge, and rented a row boat.  We rowed up the river, under the bridge and out onto the lake.  At some point, my brother hooked into a big trout. He played it for about 10 minutes before the line broke.  Since we got to see the fish roll, and how big it really was, we were heartbroken.

“While we were rowing to a different area, one of our oars broke.  When the day was over, we had to somehow row back to the boat rental area.  With one oar.  In the current, we missed the clear boat opening under the bridge, and found ourselves headed for the impenetrable mass of lines from the people fishing off the bridge.  One of the lines come over the edge of our boat.  And the lure snagged into my dad’s shirt.  My dad let out a big yell as the line broke.  We then, somehow, crashed our way down the shoreline back to the boat rental area.  We were pretty much out of control and caught in the current.

“As we were about to drift past the boat rental dock—heading faster and faster for the falls—the rental guy managed to snag our boat with a boat hook.  As we meekly got off the boat, the guy who lost the lure came running up, asking for his lure back.  I pulled it out of my dad’s shirt, handed it to the guy, and said, ‘Let’s get out of here.’”