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.’”

Dream Time and Surviving Winter Surprises

Written by Jim Huckabay on January 31, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

This has long been my favorite part of winter—Mid-Winter Dream Time.  Last weekend, I spent wandered around the Washington Sportsmen’s Show and Sport Fishing Boat Show at the fairgrounds in Puyallup.  Next weekend, I will drop in on the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show in Portland, gathering scuttlebutt about our wild interests and catching up with my friends from Safari Afrika.  In two weeks, we will all gather under the SunDome for the Central Washington Sportsmen Show—our annual local celebration of photos and all things wild in Paradise.  These events allay our anxieties as we await the prime fishing and hunting of our new year.  They also help us transform our dreams to reality.

The Washington Sportsmen’s Show in Puyallup was loaded, of course.  The Heads ‘n Horns Competition is big.  The fishing, hunting and care of wildlife seminars were full of eager learners.  Kids were lined up to fish, shoot, tie flies and get overwhelmed with outdoor possibilities.  The pros demonstrating magic on the “Steelhead River” showed us all a thing or two we had never considered.  I could say the same thing about the Camp Cooking demos.  The new event this year was the Fast-Draw Competition.  With old-West pistols, wax bullets and fancy timers, greenhorns lined up to shoot against the best.  I was struck by the quick hands of even new shooters—and then surprised by how far they were off the times of the pros who managed the shooting.  The whole tent was filled with fun and laughter and very serious safety.  Of course, one of my first stops is old friend and survival pro Peter Kummerfeldt in the Toyota Outdoors corner.

You probably recall that Peter was once son Tim’s survival instructor at the Air Force Academy.  These days, he’s a hot-shot speaker and consultant, worth every moment you can get with him.  He’s always refining his simple, take-along survival wisdom, kits, and books.  The seminars he has been doing over the last decade and more have been credited with helping dozens of people save their backsides.  His message is simple: “Use your brain wisely.  Be prepared and a night outdoors may be inconvenient rather than life threatening.”  A great deal of Peter’s teaching and writing is focused on what he calls “the psychology of survival.”

Given our very mild early winter in the high country—and the sudden heavy snow, cold, and traffic issues of our now-returning winter—I thought you might like a quick review of Peter’s “Spending a Night in Your Vehicle” handout.

Preparation.  Interestingly, Peter will tell you that those who simply accept that the unforeseen can happen are the most likely to prepare in advance for it.  Peter has a long list of emergency supplies, many of which are probably already in your car or with you—like your cell phone, tow strap, ice scraper, battery cables, knife, flashlight and batteries, a book, a shovel, kitty litter and your spare with a jack.  The next list is somewhat abbreviated for your consideration; it will likely cause you to think of other important items to carry.   Pack blankets and/or a sleeping bag, water, several dehydrated meals, peanut butter and/or high carb foods, toilet paper, a first aid kit, additional warm clothing, winter footwear, waterproof matches, emergency candles, duct tape and space blankets.  Now, keep that together where you can reach it and make sure you have enough for everyone who will be in the car.

Psychology.  If you get stuck, or trapped, don’t panic.  Take inventory of your supplies and stay with your rig—it is your best shelter and a big signal device.  Stay where you are—with all you need to be safe and comfortable.  Let the rescuers come to you.

Your vehicle as a shelter.  Think about how you will stay warm in the vehicle.  Quickly put on your warmest clothes.  Get into the blankets and/or the sleeping bag, with your feet off the floor (which cools quickly) and your head away from cold glass.  Run the engine, if possible, for up to ten minutes on the hour or less on the half hour—paying attention to venting a window on the lee (downwind) side to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.  The candle(s) will provide heat, too, with venting.  Use the space blanket and duct tape to enclose the smaller area you are occupying.  If you get out, dress to the max.

Signaling.  Call 911.  When the snow stops—in daylight—clean off the top of the car so that it can be seen better.  Use the mirror for signaling, and tie something to the antenna or a tree nearby.  Do whatever you can to draw attention to your situation.

Appreciate yourself for preparing—and stay with your dry, safe vehicle.

While you are preparing, get more details, and take a look at the other ways Peter can help you and yours stay safe.  Check out www.outdoorsafe.com.

All about Trophy Hunts

Written by Jim Huckabay on January 24, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

Last weekend, homey Bill Boyum and I spent some profitable hours touring the Yakima Training Center.  We went to track down some troublemaking elk that could not stay off private cropland out in Badger Pocket.  We settled, however, for accomplishing a pretty thorough study of the depth, density and tenacity of the fog which had settled over Paradise for a week and more.  Somewhere in there, we settled several of the major issues facing hunters today.

On our drive  back through the Canyon to Paradise, Bill spoke of an older friend who—after many years of applying—had drawn one of those precious Yakima Canyon bighorn ram tags.  The guy hunted long and hard, and finally took a legal, but not huge, California bighorn ram.  At that point, and for some time on, his son harassed him for not taking one of the monsters in that herd of sheep—a ”trophy.”

The whole conversation left me mulling over two experiences in my hunting life: my Quilomene deer tag and the day Bert Widhalm told me about a “trophy hunt.”

Back in ’01, after years of applying, I finally accumulated enough preference points to draw a permit for the late “any buck” season in the Quilomene.  In the eyes of various homeboys around the valley, I had a ticket for a true “Trophy Buck Mule Deer Hunt.”

In the minds of many, the legendary bucks of the Quilomene are among the biggest muleys in the state.  Time after time, it was, “Betcha want one of those big busters, huh?”  “So, have you done your scouting?  There are some monsters out there..”  “You’re not going to settle for some little buck are you?  You’re not just meat hunting are you?”

Over the 30 years I lived in Colorado, before returning home to Paradise, I managed several really big muleys.  I certainly would not have minded making a couple hundred pounds of fine venison again, but I wanted the permit for the peace of the hunt.  With limited numbers of licenses, and the number of deer in that wonderful sage and bitterbrush country, I figured I could really be alone with my hunt—and with the place.

Long gone now, Bert Widhalm was an old-time Colorado game warden.  With little or no college, he worked his way up to win the Saguache District in the San Juan Valley on guts, ability and smarts.  He was one of those wardens whose stare was legendary—not unlike Bill Essman.  Bert could ask me a question while staring right through me.  I’d have a sudden urge to confess sins I hadn’t even committed.

Bert took flack for not being a “biologist,” but no one knew bighorn sheep better.  His Saguache herd was one of the healthiest in the West.  Hundreds of sheep had been trapped and transplanted to start new or augment herds in good habitat in several states.  They were his sheep.

One hot afternoon in the mid-1980s, over a malt beverage crisp from a tooth-chilling spring, I asked him what made a “trophy” bighorn.

“Well,” he said, “I always figured a trophy was a big old ram…  One year in the ‘70s, this kid—maybe 32 or 33—drew a tag for my herd.  He was tough.  He scouted and scouted.  He took the whole season off work and hunted hard.  I knew I’d finally see one of my big old rams up close…  Anyhow, he never found the one he wanted.

“A couple years later, the ‘kid’ drew another tag for a once-in-a-lifetime sheep.  This time, I knew the kid would find the oldest, biggest, craftiest ram in my mountains.  He kept me updated.  He hunted most every day of the season.  At the very end of the season, he brought his ram in to me for the required exam and measurement.

“I was flabbergasted,” Bert said.  “It was a barely legal half-curl ram.  …And that damned kid just smiled at me.  ‘I know what you think,’ he told me, ‘but you gotta get this, you crusty old bast…  I found rams no one has ever seen.  I hunted my tail off.  I passed on shots I didn’t like.  I have been rained on and blown around and cold and hot and you name it.  Then, I saw this ram bedded on a high, rocky, wind-swept ridge.  I crawled to point-blank range.  Through the scope, I could see the wind whipping the hair on the back of his neck.  When I squeezed the trigger, he just laid his head down.  Now you think what you want, Bert, but this is the trophy of my lifetime.  I’ve had a trophy HUNT!”

With that Quilomene deer tag, I hunted my solitary fanny off.  Sunrise, sunset and mid-day, I wore the sage and the bitterbrush, and tasted the desert air of fall.  Sun at my back (or close), patiently working into the wind, I gently poked and prodded remote draws and breaks across the upper Quilomene.  I looked over a hundred does and fawns, and passed on immature bucks.  Not once did I find another hunter in my path.  At most, I heard two sets of shots in one day.

With a little coaching, I finally found a young buck willing to give itself to my sustenance and good health.  Only then did I place a finger on the trigger of my rifle.  I often thought about what Bert might have said.  Somehow, I knew he’d get it; I had experienced one of the best trophy hunts of my life.