The James Gang & Memorial Pheasant Hunt IV

Written by Jim Huckabay on March 21, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

You may recall that our buddy Jim Groseclose (J1) suddenly went home four years ago today – March 21, 2010. Two weeks before that sad day, Jim Davis (J2) and I (J3) joined J1 on a James Gang Pheasant Adventure on some of the Cooke Canyon Hunt Club ground. Our armed walk with J1’s beloved labs happened on a perfect almost-spring morning. There were pheasants everywhere, and the dogs were in top form. Since that day, J2 and I have been determined to honor his memory.

Groseclose, of course, was founder and leader of the James Gang, with Jim Davis and me being J2 and J3, respectively. Being part of that James Gang, chasing pheasants, ducks, quail and chukars with two great Labs and two true gentlemen added a richness to my life I had been missing since those decades-ago days with my big black Lab, Freebe the Wonder Dog. Whenever any of us were around J1, a sense of impending adventure hung in the air.

Perhaps that sense of impending adventure is why we carry on an annual pheasant hunt tradition on one or another of the pieces of ground that brought our gang so much pleasure afield. This year, J2 exercised the membership we purchased at last summer’s Chukar Run Banquet and booked The Fourth Annual Jim Groseclose Memorial Pheasant Hunt at Alice and Doug Burnett’s Cooke Canyon Hunt Club.

Once the hunt was set, anticipation grew, and I often found myself lost in thought about honoring those who made my outdoor time rich and memorable.

I can’t pass a black lab without saying a short prayer for Freebe – the best four-legged human with whom I ever shared time.

Last weekend, we dropped in on my 90-something Aunt Evy in East Wenatchee for one of our regular check-ins. We opted to take the south route back to Paradise, toward Quincy. That drive took us past the orchards where I hunted pheasants and quail too-many decades ago, and past the ponds where I learned to shoot fast enough for ducks and doves.

The house The Old Man and I built, and the orchard next door, are resting under Costco ground now. From the roof of that house, on a crisp fall day, I watched him climb down our ladder, get the shotgun and a couple of his mismatched shells, and go shoot a crowing rooster pheasant in that orchard. He handed dinner to my mom and we went back to our roofing work.

The Old Man coached and trained me in shooting and sportsmanship. He held the door open on crisp fall days, handed me his old J.C. Higgins bolt-action 12-gauge, filled my pockets with a mix of shotgun shell brands and shot size from whatever he’d had for ammo since his own youth, and said, “Bring us something for dinner.” To this day, I can’t go afield for birds without at least two different brands of shells in my pocket – a memorial of some kind, I guess.

Where were we?  Oh, yeah… Our Fourth Annual Jim Groseclose Memorial Pheasant Hunt. It happened on Tuesday. After all that wind and chill, Tuesday dawned clear and temperate and almost still. J2 and I were joined by Gloria Sharp, Honorary James Gang member and our photographer for the day. Homey Bill Boyum joined us, too, bringing his classic German shorthair, Maisy, to supervise our bird-finding.

Just to hear Jim Groseclose – in our minds’ ear, at least – chastise us for missing a shot, one of us fired a single warning shot. In honor of J1’s appreciation of working dogs doing the work they were born to do, Maisy took the lead under Bill’s quiet coaching. We connected with each bird she located, but there were moments when we forgot we were armed. Two or three times, Maisy slid smoothly into the wind and came solidly on point before some nervous rooster, and nobody moved. Something about a beautiful dog on a perfect point in perfect sunshine in that crisp air had us mesmerized. At some point, Bill might say, “Uh, Jim?” and one of us would get back to the task at hand.

After a few final pictures, a round of thanks to Maisy and Bill, and words on behalf of our absent and still-missed James Gang leader, we retired to the Cooke Canyon Club House. We cleaned our birds, shared a few (mostly) true tales of bird hunting in the Dakotas and in Paradise, and took our leave.

The Fourth Annual Jim Groseclose Memorial Pheasant Hunt was a success, in all the ways we had hoped it might be. Now, as J1 would often say after our final hunt of the season, it’s time to think about salmon fishing.

ALL Kids Have the Right to an Outdoor Adventure

Written by Jim Huckabay on March 14, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

If you missed the Monday night meeting at Hal Holmes, you missed something special.

First of all, we were celebrating the 95th anniversary of the Kittitas County Field and Stream Club.

The club was organized in March of 1919, as the Ellensburg Sportsmen Association. It organized with 75 charter members. …And dues of 50 cents a year. President Austin Miers and Secretary-Treasurer J.H. Van Gusen presided over a dedicated group of men (mostly) and women who hosted bird dog trials and wildlife meetings, sent delegates to the Washington Game Commission and reached out to wildlife groups across the state and nation.

In 1946, the Club incorporated as the Kittitas County Field & Stream Club. Today, as you likely know, the Club is a non-profit corporation promoting public access to public lands, effective conservation, good sportsmanship, and environmental and outdoor education of youth. Great effort goes into improving and increasing outdoor recreation opportunities – especially hunting and fishing.

The rich chocolate anniversary cake was delicious, by the way, and helped us appropriately celebrate 95 years of “Working Today for Tomorrow’s Wildlife.”

At another level, the evening was about our fervently held and shared belief that all kids have the right to enjoy outdoor activities. To wit: our proposal that “The children of Washington have the right to discover and experience the outdoors through activities including the following: Create an outdoor adventure; Explore a trail; Camp under the stars; Go fishing; Discover nature; Explore Washington’s heritage; Go on a picnic; Play in a park, in the water, in the snow, on the rocks; Go hunting; Learn to be safe around firearms and other outdoor tools.”

Our first guests were Glenna Maskal and son Grant, leaders in our local On-Target 4H Shooting Sports Program. We have supplied the program with a trailer and certain supplies, and they were bringing us up to date on the number of kids in the program, the various types of shooting activities with which they are involved, and the growing demand for a safe family-oriented marksmanship program. It has been a good partnership, and we look forward to a long run.

Our main program went right to the heart of our kids’ outdoor bill of rights. Joe and Cindy Carpenter drove over from Moses Lake to give us some first-hand information about their Youth Outdoors Unlimited (Y.O.U.) program. This is a tax exempt 501(c)3 corporation focused on making hunting and fishing dreams come true for young people diagnosed with a life-threatening illness and/or a physical disability. The program, started by a spark from a Mississippi program in 2010, is already doing remarkable things for dozens of kids who really need something remarkable.

Twelve kids are already approved, or in the application process, for camps and hunting or fishing trips this year. Fishing trips are for anything from warm water spiny-rays to salmon over 30 pounds. Hunting may be for turkeys, white-tail or mule deer or bears, with other possibilities. The youngster who successfully lands fish or harvests game gets the meat processed, the critter mounted and a photo record of the experience. There are fishing derbies and old-fashioned hunting camps, where the kid picks the menu. All outings are with established guides. Whatever the hunter or fisher needs for gear – from clothing to a special chair or custom-fitted rod or firearm – is provided by the program and its sponsors.

After only four short years, the Y.O.U. sponsor list reads like a who’s who of regional, national and international hunting, fishing and gear outfits. Start with Cabela’s and Wholesale Sports Outdoor Outfitters and work your way to Horns & Hooks Magazine, Vortex Optics, Gunwerks and Brothers ‘N Arms. Add in a couple dozen custom clothing or equipment manufacturers contributing to a disabled kid’s ability to suddenly be abled, and you have a flavor of what Joe and Cindy have started.

Most of our guests were too manly to show it once the lights came up, but the Y.O.U video we saw put laughter and joy in every heart, and tears in most eyes. Check out www.YouthOutdoorsU.org. You will find heartwarming stories about these amazing youngsters and their adventures in every issue of Horns & Hooks Magazine. You are welcome to help, too.

We are working on bringing Joe and Cindy back to town for a community-wide presentation of their work. Stand by.

All kids have the right to outdoor adventures.

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…