About Coyotes

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 20, 2019. Posted in Uncategorized

I was attending to the Kittitas County Field & Stream Club’s co-sponsored photo contest booth at the Central Washington Sportsmen Show in Yakima’s SunDome over the weekend. For some reason – maybe because most of the photos captured wild critters doing what they do – homey after homey wanted to talk coyotes.

Initially, the stories were about winter and snow and coyotes and their prey. It surprised me how similar were our coyote tales – and how vividly we each remembered a particular time of being entranced by the wild dogs’ behavior.

On a wintry afternoon a couple decades ago, I was driving the old Roslyn Cemetery-Ronald Road, in Upper Kittitas County, when I noticed three coyotes across a snow-covered pasture. Through my old spotting scope, I watched three of them “dancing” for field mice or voles. They were oblivious to my presence. Each caught at least one small rodent with that funny stalk in the snow. First, the little wild dog would freeze, ears cocked to the ground. It would tip-toe a few inches, leap stiff-legged into the air, pin its prey to the ground, bury its face in the foot-deep snow, snatch it, toss it overhead and catch it. That remains one of the most vivid half-hours of my outdoor life.

There seemed some rich satisfaction as each entrée was properly crunched and swallowed. The whole process seemed somehow joyful to me. Even though I’d studied the little dogs for decades, that was the first time I saw that amazing, captivating, dance performed in snow. It made perfect sense to me; coyote has ears to match most any animal, a nose almost as good as a bloodhound and outstanding eyesight.

I deeply appreciate the pleasures of watching winter coyotes. Still, spring has long been “coyote time” for me. Maybe it’s remembering how the new pups always seemed so awkward and confused on our Colorado foothills driveway, then instantly off to play with some pine squirrel or bird. Or maybe it is all those hours spent watching them overturn rocks and wood for grubs, or dig for rodents to feed their babies. Or maybe it was watching those wild dogs of spring performing that rodent dance in the yellow matted grass of early spring. That became my coyote time.

You are aware, I’d bet, that “playfulness” has long been used by animal behaviorists as a measure of intelligence. Coyotes have often been observed using a “tag‑team” technique for chasing antelope and hares (deer, too). If you watch them much, you=ll see them playing with each other, and any nearby critter. How can we doubt their intelligence?

Coyote lives on mice, snowshoe hares, birds, or rabbits in rural habitats; or trash and small pets in downtown Seattle, Spokane or LA. Fruit, berries, melons, tomatoes and carrots are also food. Among wildlife, there are specialists and there are generalists. Coyote is the quintessential generalist, thriving about anywhere, in every habitat type in our state. An opportunist – a generalist – coyote will eat just about anything.

In keeping with the guidelines of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association Science Education Committee, I must tell you that coyote may reach 40 pounds and 26 inches at the shoulder, and live for 10 years in the wild. A coyote has superb senses of hearing, smelling and seeing. Mostly nocturnal, he is often seen in full daylight, and his scientific name is Canis latrans.

The common name we use comes from the Aztec “coyotl,” or “barking dog.” To the Yakamas, he is “Spilyi.” This animal is woven into the tapestry of North American human history, traditions and teachings. According to numerous writings, and several of my Native American friends, coyote is often the trickster. His “medicine” makes us laugh, even as we are made the fool. He challenges us to learn, to grow, as he exemplifies our good and bad qualities. In many ways, he is us.

Between 1915 and 1947, in the United States, bounties were paid on 1,884,897 coyotes. In recent decades, federal agents protecting livestock have killed hundreds of thousands of western coyotes. We shoot coyotes. We poisoned them. We have buried, drowned and blown up coyotes. We’ve trapped them. Yet, today, coyote numbers have grown and their range and habitat have spread.

Funny, how connected we humans are with coyote. We hate him. We laugh at him. We stop, mesmerized, as he and his family holler at the moon and the sunrise. And we feed him our pets.

I love watching coyotes. I am delighted when I see pups playing and learning to be coyotes. I’ve also seen what a couple can do to a flock of new lambs. And I’ve long wanted a bedspread of full-winter coyote hides, with a pattern of red fox in the middle. I admit to mixed feelings.

At Last! Fantasy Season!

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 13, 2019. Posted in Uncategorized

It was one of those way-off-Reecer Creek meetings of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association. A couple displaced homeys and I were wandering the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show at the Portland Expo. At one point, the conversation drifted to the seasons around which our lives have long unfolded. In short order, we identified the seasons of fishing, gardening, crabbing, summer camping, hiking, mushrooms, huckleberries, harvest and hunting, preparing and preserving, and the holidays. “And let’s not forget this one,” I suggested, “the time of these outdoor and sportsmen’s shows – our Fantasy Season!”

As you are quite aware, I’ve been following these shows for decades. I know that somewhere in each show is the answer to just about any outdoor fantasy I ever had – somewhere down one or another aisle is something to make my life complete. You gotta love this season and the outdoor shows where we celebrate it.

How owners and managers keep the shows evolving and interesting – thus keeping us coming back – has long intrigued me. Of course, I want to know what’s new and exciting in our outdoor avocations, and how we are recruiting future generations, but I am always interested in asking exhibitors about which of the many dozens of shows across the country they follow – or don’t – and why.

Among the exhibitors at the Puyallup and Portlland shows over the last few weeks, four western shows (among several across the country) were consistently on “We’re probably not going back…” lists. Those were in Denver, Sacramento, Salt Lake, and Phoenix. Reasons given for slumping interest in those shows range from poor maintenance and management, unbalanced mixes of booth offerings, and falling attendance. In a couple eastern U.S. shows many spaces were empty this year, and half or more of the booths were from Africa. The number of sold booths at a couple shows has fallen so far that reps from only-weeks-away shows were on the floor of the Portland Expo last week trying to get exhibitors to shift their remaining schedules around. A balance of outfitters, retailers, manufacturers, education and entertainment is critical for a successful show for both exhibitors and attendees

Admittedly, the two shows I’ve recently poked around have been O’Laughlin productions. Still, I have yet to hear a grumble from an exhibitor, and I consistently hear their shows – and those smaller regional shows in Central Washington and rural Oregon – described as well-managed, well-planned, well promoted and “always fresh, with a smart diversity of exhibitors.” So, how is it that we here in Washington live amidst several of the freshest and best “sportsman” shows in the country?

I asked Trey Carskadon, PR Director and mouthpiece for the O’Laughlin Trade Shows, for the secret. He just smiled and started rattling off his “here’s what works” list.

“It starts with our O’Laughlin show staff – we are all lifelong outdoor nuts, living our fishing and hunting dreams and carefully tracking attendees and their interests. We try new things and keep improving them – like our live kokanee tank. We start marketing and brainstorming in April, reviewing possible new speakers and approaches discovered by staff or attendees – like these youthful speakers who just blew people away this year. We’re finding women leaders to help us support the growing desire for women to take their places outdoors. We work on new sponsorships conttantly – new things and ideas. Certain things are in all our shows, of course, but we take several unique approaches to each community.

”At Puyallup this year, for example, we moved access around to more easily open up parts of the show. Our new kayak fishing pavilion was very popular in the area, and our big outdoor cooking competition drew popular pros from across North America – it went viral!

“This Portland show features a big new walleye tank, with our “Walleye Alley” and is stirring even more local excitement than we expected. We cranked up our Backcountry Hunting Area of preparation and displays, with the “Born and Raised Outdoors” section. Here, at this Portland venue, we really feature Leupold Optics and Gerber Knives – we have them in other shows, of course, but each has a unique mix of retailers and manufacturers.

“All these things are at the heart of successful long-term relationships among outdoor exhibitors, speakers, and our communities. We all love this outdoor expo business and we work to have it here for those who come after us!”

I can say that, so far this year, I have seen more youngsters and more groups of young women wandering the shows than in years past. I’m feeling ever more optimistic about our outdoor future.

The Shuylers keep our Central Washington Sportsmen Show in Yakima fresh and fun, too. It kicks off Friday afternoon and runs through Sunday. See you at the SunDome.

It’s Fantasy Season.

Your Free Outdoor Photo Contest

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 6, 2019. Posted in Uncategorized

You, or a close friend or family member, got a camera for Christmas.

In keeping with my dual responsibilities as Contest Encouragement Chair for the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association and as Prize Procurement Officer of the Kittitas County Field and Stream Club (KCFSC), I have a suggestion – a suggestion for anyone within email of Central Washington.

Perhaps the biggest photo contest held in our region is almost over, but you can still play.  The contest, in association with Shuyler’s Central Washington Sportsmen Show in Yakima, is co-sponsored by the 100-year-old Kittitas County Field and Stream Club, which provides ribbons and prizes. This year’s prizes include ribbons for all classes, winners’ photos printed on stretched canvas and gift cards. You have until Midnight Saturday to enter your digital wildlife and wild places photos and help others to enter theirs.

Prizes will be awarded to winners in adult and kid categories. The two age groups are kids (16 and under) and adults (17 and older). This is a great opportunity to get folks of all ages psyched about, and started on, outdoor photography.

Deadline for entry of your digital photo (.jpeg format) is February 6 – you have clear through Saturday. (Did I mention that it is free?) All photos will be continuously displayed during the Central Washington Sportsmen Show, in the SunDome, February 15, 16 and 17. Prizes will be awarded around Noon on Sunday, the 17th.

You have plenty of time to splash through the photos you are already thinking about entering, with time left over to get out into the valley and take photos of the wildlife all around us. The actual entering of your digital photos will take only a minute or so.

I am, herewith, providing a general overview of the contest, but for official instructions and rules, go to www.shuylerproductions.com and click on “Photo Contest.” Your .jpeg photos must be uploaded by midnight 9 February.

The entries must be photographs, not visual or graphic art manipulations. You must be the original photographer, and hold copyright to all photos submitted. Photographs of living fish and/or wildlife may include one or more people, and camp site scene photos are invited.  Photographers may not excessively alter or change photographs with photo editing software. No print/film submissions will be accepted, and, of course, no profane language, violence, nudity, or personal attacks on people or organizations is allowed. You agree to indemnify Shuyler Productions for a mess arising from any violation of trademark, copyright or whatever in your photo. Shuyler gets to use your photo (with proper credit) as it sees fit, although you retain full ownership and copyrights. There are a few more details, but you’ll see them when you enter your photo. It is easy and straightforward.

Prizes and ribbons will be awarded on the basis of the judges’ decisions, and all decisions of the judges and/or the Photo Committee are final. Awards will be in two age groups, adult (seventeen and older) and youth (sixteen and younger). First and second place (and honorable mention) ribbons will be awarded for adult and youth photos and one “best of show” award will be given. Each winner will also receive a stretched canvas print (8” by 10”), suitable for framing, of his or her winning photo. Other prizes include appropriate gift cards.

All photos entered and accepted into the contest and exhibit will be displayed on a large flat screen TV during this week’s 2019 Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show (early entries only, obviously) and at the Central Washington Sportsmen Show in a week and a half. The entry deadline is 9 February and prizes will be awarded during the show in the SunDome.

It’s free and fun and easy and you can enter from anyplace. And you still have days yet. Go to www.shuylerproductions.com and click on the photo contest, and click on the link for all details. To enter your photos, simply send an email, with .jpeg photo(s) attached, to Dennis Marquis@shuylerproductions.com. In the email, include: a) photographer’s name, address and phone number; b) age group (16 or under/17 or older) c) name of the .jpeg photo (specify a series of two or more photos); and d) title of photo if it has one. That’s all there is to it.

Did I mention that it is free, easy, and a great opportunity to get a kid of any age excited about wildlife and outdoor photography?

We’ll be looking for your winning photo at the Yakima SunDome this weekend.

About Skiing

Written by Jim Huckabay on January 16, 2019. Posted in Uncategorized


A couple days ago, almost-four-year-old grandson Jonas and I took a drive out to Joe Watt Canyon to check out the elk and the sledding. Jonas found the elk to be “big and interesting,” but our two hours there was devoted to flashing down the few inches of snow on the hill, (mostly) intentional tumbles and a great deal of fresh air and laughing. As other family groups arrived, I started thinking about my decades of snow play.

It was alpine racing that wiped out my knees for a couple decades. In the 1950s – before effective release bindings – I skied on the Eastmont High School team, in East Wenatchee, Washington. On a fast, but fateful, meet day at Stevens Pass, at the last gate on my best run of the day, I caught a tip and lost it. Both feet were pointing more backward than forward by the time my old WWII Army skis came off my boots.  No surgery in those days; just be patient and give my joints time to heal. Thirty years later, my knees no longer hurt after a day’s walk, but I still skied and raced every chance I had.

Through my TV and radio weatherman days in the Denver, Colorado, market, I took most of the annual Press Cup races. When I returned to Paradise late last century, I had largely lost the downhill bug. I still recommend skiing for kids and families, although sometimes I forget how much I have loved skiing – and even the word itself.

Skiing. The word slides from the mouth the way a skier lifts off a chairlift at the top of the day’s first run.

Skiing. The sound of skis clawing at the snow through a sharp turn.

Skiing carries magic, really, for earthbound souls who discover skiing’s freedom and for those who instruct them.

I once signed up for an instructor’s clinic at Colorado=s Copper Mountain. I wanted to downhill ski with the big kids, and took the clinic for training and a cheap weekend on the slopes. It changed my perspective on teaching, and on how some kids find magic in their lives.

Not long after that clinic, type-A skiing buddy Tom had his eleven-year-old daughter for part of winter break. She would come along on a day trip for alpine skiing at Loveland Basin. She was awkward, a bit overweight, angry, behind in school, and running out of friends. The girl needed a break; we were it.

At the bottom of our first run (“tumble” was more appropriate for her) down a long intermediate trail, she was angry, frustrated and doing her best to not cry. As I saw it, the problem revolved around a general lack of self‑confidence, very little skiing experience and a father who demanded that she keep up. We managed to get her on the chairlift, and as we rode up to the top of a run she had no business skiing, my heart went out to her.

At the top, I fumbled with my boots and told her dad to head on down. We’d meet at the bottom or up here again. As he tore off down the hill, she stared down the high intermediate slope, trembling. “Well, what’ll it be kid?” I asked. “You want me to get you to the bottom, into the lodge, or you wanna learn to ski?” In the most trembly little mouse‑voice I ever remember hearing, she said, “I don’t want to fall down anymore…”

I took her poles and we started with the most basic of basics – on a hill not meant for newbies.  The first 100 yards took ten or fifteen minutes. Each step went faster, as she gained balance and confidence. The last couple hundred yards, she was on her own, giggling so hard she had tears in her eyes. The rest of the day she couldn’t wait to get to the top of a run – any run. She said she felt the way birds must feel when they fly.

We took her up three or four times, as I recal. A few weeks later, Tom=s ex‑wife wrote that his daughter was doing her best ever in school, and seemed to be attracting friends like a magnet.

Anybody who loves to ski has these kinds of stories. And Nordic (cross country) skiing instructors like Glenn Bandy, Carey Gaziss and Jeff Hashimoto can tell them all day long. I think it has something to do with the magic tucked inside the word “skiing.”

I was never the Nordic skier that Jeff, Carey and Glenn are, but I enjoyed it enough to compete a bit (I once beat Governor Dick Lamm in the Colorado Governor’s Cup 10K). Mostly, I loved moving across winter’s snow with an ability to control my speed and direction.

You can play, too, of course. No doubt, you read the recent Ellensburg Daily Record article about Jeff and Carey and their ten-year-old Ellensburg Ski Team program for youngsters from seven to 18. The kids who come to play have a wide variety of choices in cross-country practice or competition. Find our more at eburgski.blogspot.com.

Glenn, of course, is a long-time cross-country instructor at the Nordic Center of Summit East on Snoqualmie Pass – one of those instructors who has no bad days on the snow. If one happens, he just refuses to remember it. (If the snow melted away under his slats, he might just smile, with “Well, we had three great weeks..”) For info or private instruction call Glenn at 509-962-8084.

It’s winter out there. Go play.

You, Your Family and Amateur (HAM) Radio

Written by Jim Huckabay on January 9, 2019. Posted in Uncategorized

It was another off-Reecer Creek meeting of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association – this one in partnership with the regular meeting of the Rodeo City Radio Club and members of the Upper Kittitas County Radio Club. The agenda item around which most discussion and planning revolved was the demand for more trained amateur radio operators (HAMs) in light of increasingly urgent preparation for emergencies across Washington and much of the rest of the country.

Emergencies for which law enforcement, communities, agencies and citizens are preparing include fires, floods, severe storms and weather extremes, earthquakes and “The Big One” (that massive earthquake which lies ahead of us at some unknown moment in the Pacific Northwest).

Amateur radio operators have long been key to successful communication during such events. In recent years in our part of the world, HAMs provided critical communication around the power and communication overloads and losses following the Oso disaster, during wind storms and massive wild fires, search and rescue operations and local issues.

A number of law enforcement agencies across the country count on amateur radio operators to fill in communication gaps during emergencies and hold regular drills or exercises to train and maintain readiness. Indeed, in many rural areas of America, HAM radio folks ARE the emergency communication network. Here in Paradise, several mock disaster exercises have included amateur radio operators at key locations around the valley. You may recall that mock “mustard gas disaster” at the Fairgrounds a few years back, when more than 400 people from across the state polished skills and successfully responded. That was arguably the biggest mock disaster exercise in Eastern Washington history, and 18 HAMs were in the middle of it all. Over the past year, several regional emergency communication trainings/exercises have been held in eastern Washington. More are coming – next is 19 Jan. – to expand the response network and sharpen communication with Emergency Operation Centers on both sides of the Cascades.

As emergency trainings and preparations increase, HAM clubs across the state and elsewhere have various activities for members and families to remember the sheer pleasure of “playing radio.” Field days and providing communication for community events and runs (such as the Cascade Crest 100-Mile Run, the Yakima Canyon Marathon and the Teanaway Country 100) keep radio skills and knowledge of FCC rules sharp as participants enjoy tracking racers and keeping them safe.

I have often suggested that the single most important thing a family might do to take care of itself – once enough emergency supplies were laid in to last at least two or three weeks – was to get trained, licensed and geared up for amateur radio, to become an active HAM family.

I often get the response: “HAM radio? That’s your idea for keeping a family safe? How does that work?”

There is no shortage of quiet examples related to flooding and fires right here in Paradise over the past decade. You might hear about them one-on-one from a family member or rancher who was cut off from communication but got what they needed because they or a neighbor had radio communication. How many search and rescue operations – or days temporarily misplaced in the backcountry – could have been prevented if every group or person planning an outback adventure carried a pocket-sized radio and the training/license to use it? A licensed HAM always has a backup plan when stuck most anywhere.

HAM radio is decentralized. Take your radio and equipment into your yard, to a shelter or onto dry ground, set up your antenna, plug it into your radio and find whoever you need. You may have a mobile setup in your car. In most any emergency, there will be other HAMs helping. After some pretty basic training, a licensing exam, and a little practice, you will be able to reach out to other licensed HAMs in your neighborhood and across the planet.

Anyone can get a license and a call sign and be able to work radio contacts. There are three levels of licensing: technician, general and extra. We have two radio clubs in the county with regular monthly meetings. Similar clubs will be found almost anywhere you might go, with coaches, classes and plenty of opportunities to play HAM radio.

Cost varies, but you can be into a decent handheld radio and antenna for around a hundred bucks. For bigger bucks, you can set up a home station and antenna tower. Check out gear at Amateur Electronic Supply (www.aesham.com) or the Ham Radio Outlet (www.hamradio.com). You will also find books and CDs for any level of license study. ARRL (www.arrl.org) has a wealth of info about classes, online sample tests, clubs and much more. Our local clubs will be offering a licensing class soon (info from Bob Davis at 509-674-3972). Practice/coaching sessions and several opportunies exist for you to polish “playing radio” skills.

Club breakfasts are first Saturdays, 8 a.m. at the Copper Kettle in Ellensburg. Whatever other town you may occupy has a nearby HAM club, just ask around. Then come a meeting and learn more.

Your family can be far better prepared for what lies ahead. It’s fun, too.