Archive for October, 2017

All about Deer Season Openers

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

Hunting rules, dates and ways may be evolving, but opening day anticipation has continued unabated. There was a time when deer seasons opened across the West, followed by elk season, then upland birds and waterfowl – some variance from state to state, but each season had its set time, and deer was nearly always first. Today, in efforts to manage both people and big game in various places and conditions, we have big game archery season openers, black powder openers, antlerless season openers, and so on and on. Yet, there remains one premiere opening day – tomorrow – for our statewide general modern rifle deer season. This one attracts the largest number of hunters (right at 100,000 here in Washington) and causes the largest number of pre-opener sleepless nights.

That toss-and-turn excitement builds early. A couple days ago, I watched a handful of men and women waiting to purchase licenses, ammo and other gear at the counter in Bi-Mart. A hunter in camo hauled supplies to the checkout stand up front, while the small group waiting at the counter chattered excitedly about deer and their habits, about the pleasures of making delicious healthful meat, and about family traditions. These were scenes frozen in time.

Then, too, of course, several friends and homeys stopped me around town this week. We did all the normal catch-ups, passed a few words about gardens and projects and pet peeves, and eventually got to more serious business. “So… Where ya heading Saturday morning?” “Found a spot with any nice bucks?” “Thought about that area up the Umtanum? (Or Teanaway? Or Colockum? Or…?)” Literally translated, this is “Are you going deer hunting this weekend?”

One of my more literary-minded colleagues engaged me in a deep and philosophical conversation about one’s innate need for deer hunting. To reinforce his argument, I may have confessed to youthful conniving, feigning of illness and – yes – even lying to get out of work and go deer hunting. For a time-stopping moment, we delved into the deeper meanings of Will Shakespeare’s classic question “To be or not to be?” (There is no doubt in my mind that Will was a deer hunter, but not for mule deer.) Then there is the René Descartes (or somebody, no doubt) classic proof of existence: “Je chasse, danc je suis” (“I hunt, therefore I am”). This has been my mantra since childhood.

I still remember sitting in our under-self-construction house in East Wenatchee, Washington, (on ground now under a giant Costco store) when The Old Man finally told me that I was old enough for deer hunting up the Little Chumstick, out of Leavenworth. I would carry his old J.C. Higgins bolt-action 12-gauge. I’d been shooting birds and rabbits with it for years, but this was the big time; now it would be loaded with slugs and we’d hunt Uncle Ed’s place. I had crawled and hiked those canyons and hills as long as I could remember, and the thought of finally hunting them with my father and my uncle was too delicious for words. I could hardly sleep the night before, tossing and turning with intermittent dreams of big bucks stepping out of the brush and into my down-the-barrel bead sight. The taste of the predawn air of that first opener has never left me. We made no deer meat that morning, but finally I had stories of my own to share over lunch about the big buck somehow getting the slip on me in the deep box canyon.

Over the decades, I opened big game seasons with dads, uncles, cousins and buddies. I have missed very few of them – a couple when I was in the Air Force in Korea, and maybe another in Kansas at graduate school. As my own kids came of age, I watched excitement and anticipation eat away at them the night before their first trips as hunters. I still marvel at the awkward confidence they put on when they first stepped afield with a rifle slung over their shoulder. And I still toss and turn a bit the night before the first big game hunts of the fall.

Tomorrow is the first day of our general deer season. Around 100,000 of our closest friends will be afield at daybreak, in pursuit of the wily deer. Essentially, this means that 100,000 men, women, boys and girls across the state will be having trouble sleeping tonight. Through the entire history and future of hunting, I doubt that can ever change.

Speaking of not changing, hundreds and hundreds of us will find our way to the 30th Annual Hunters Breakfast at the Swauk Teanaway Grange on Ballard Hill Road (signs at SR 970 and Teanaway Road). Many of us will do a morning hunt, refuel on ham, eggs and hotcakes (with homemade apple butter, coffee and orange juice), then head out for the rest of our opening day afield. Busloads of seniors and adventurers from the West Side will be there, too, wishing us all well.

This is an important weekend; Je chasse, danc je suis. (Even Will Shakespeare understood that.)

A Last 2017 Salmon Hurrah

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

There are things one simply must do. Former homey Kirk Johnson and I scheduled a couple days of end-of-September fishing to the mouth of the Klickitat River. We’ve fished this section of the Columbia River a couple times in past falls, always catching some nice fish. Then, too, my best salmon ever was a 2001 fall fish I hooked with buddy Earl English. That day on the big river, at the mouth of the Wenatchee, a sure snag on a passing boat turned into a half-hour battle with a 47-inch long 40-pound king. Everything considered, Kirk and I decided that a couple fall days of fishing would be a step toward evening up some missed salmon trips over the eighteen months.

We would fish the Columbia River aboard a couple of the sleds Shane Magnuson operates in his Upper Columbia Guide Service (509-630-5433). Last Friday, we fished with Chinook Whisperer Cody, and on Saturday climbed onto Shane’s sled to celebrate his final 2017 day of fishing the Bonneville area of the big river, before moving up to the Hanford Reach. We’d never fished with Cody, but we were pretty sure that, if he was working for Shane, he knew his business. Anyhow, the way Kirk and I had it figured, you can’t beat time on a boat with a couple good friends for a great last hurrah for the 2017 salmon fishing.

Then, too, there is always that stuff about never missing at least one chance a year to fish with Shane. I’ve been fishing with the guy since he was a mere boy, working at Hooked on Toys in Wenatchee. During our first trip – catching lake trout (lakers or mackinaw) on Lake Chelan – the kid was in the midst of an inner debate about whether to accept a full-boat golf scholarship to the University of Arizona or follow his heart into the fishing business. We have a history.

Edward, last of the Hucklings, through many annual 3:30 a.m. “Shane” trips down the Icicle or onto the Columbia, practically grew up fishing with him. On one of those Icicle trips, Shane and Edward literally called each fish we caught moments before it took our bait or lure. That morning, we had our limits of Icicle Chinook and were off the river before 8. Edward, now a full-blown stuntman in LA (among other gigs, he doubles teenager Chip on Fox’s “The Mick”), still laughs about that morning and always sends regards to “Big Brother Shane.”

Over the twelve and more years, various friends and family members and I have caught dozens of lake trout and kokanees off one or another of Shane’s boats on Lake Chelan – and nearly as many salmon and steelhead on one or another river. Once, when he was tied up, he arranged a salmon chase on the Columbia for me and 13-year-old semi-adopted son Jonathan – Edward’s kid brother – with beer-drinking Blue-Pill Rick. Until I suggested he change the subject, Rick spent our early trolling time on the Columbia below Wells Dam bemoaning the fact that his wife would only allow him one-half a Viagra tablet at a time. We caught some nice fish, and Jonathan and I and his dad (my old buddy Jim) enjoyed some later educational and humorous conversations about that never to be forgotten trip. (Shane’s working relationship with Blue-Pill ended that day.) With a history like that, you just have to go hang out with Shane.

Thus, on Thursday a week ago, Kirk and I set up my pop-up tent camper at the Lewis and Clark RV Park near Bonneville Dam.

Friday at 6:15 a.m. we shook hands with King Whisperer Cody and climbed aboard his sled. We were quickly out onto the Bonneville Pool to share the salmon chase with a hundred or so of our new best friends, in boats of almost every size and description. Among the boats was one guide in a drift boat rowing-trolling for his two clients (apparently he’d planned a float down the Klickitat, but there were no fish there and this was Plan B). By 6:30 we were fishing. Former Homey Kirk was first into fish, quickly landing a shiny king. Shortly thereafter, I caught one. And so it went until we had our four fish, ranging from 20 to 20 pounds. (Drift boat guy was finding fish, too.) By 9:30, the three of us were having breakfast at the little mom and pop Café in town, talking life and fishing.

6:30 the next morning we scrambled aboard Shane’s sled for a fish chase just below Bonneville Dam. As we joined the flotilla – 20 or 30 other boats of eager fishers – the rain fell as expected. Undaunted, Shane dodged raindrops and other boats as we patiently worked the slow bite. Kirk had the warmest hand. While we lost a couple nice fish, we were only a fish or so short by late morning. In the on and off rain showers, we laughed and talked and caught up on our lives and fished. Wet or not, it was a fine day on the river.

By 1:30, we had the fish we came after and headed back toward a dry vehicle, and the take-down of a wet tent trailer. Shane went off to secure his boats and gear for his (by now) fishing the Hanford Reach, and Kirk and I headed for our homes.

We had a great couple days, and a terrific last hurrah for our 2017 salmon fishing. Now, if you will excuse me, I have to handle some last-minute prep for deer and elk hunting seasons.

You gotta love fall – and the abundant blessings of our outdoor life in Paradise.