A Bighorn for Brian – Part I

Written by Jim Huckabay on January 27, 2017. Posted in Uncategorized

In Washington, as in most states with bighorns, there are long odds against being drawn for a hunting permit. Relatively few permits are issued; in the 2016 special permit drawing there were 14 ewe permits and 26 ram permits statewide. If you draw a tag and harvest a ram, you may no longer apply in Washington. Each year I apply unsuccessfully, I get another preference point. Some of us have two dozen or more points. This increases our odds, but anyone can draw. We are all optimists; we pay a few bucks to throw them into a drawing with up to 6,000 others hoping to draw one of two or three permits available in a specific unit.

In the Lower 48, we have three subspecies of bighorns: Rocky Mountain, Desert and California. In Washington, we have a handful of Rocky Mountain bighorns and a fair number of California bighorns. Our local sheep are the California subspecies.

Some decades ago, I somehow drew two licenses over three years for a Rocky Mountain bighorn in Colorado. With those two licenses, I hunted some 25 days before I took my lifetime Colorado ram. Talk to enough sheep hunters and you find out that is pretty much the norm.

Now, let me introduce you to Brian Talbott. We grew up together in East Wenatchee, and spend odd moments hanging out, talking family, hunting and fishing. Brian’s been applying for sheep for many years, too, but only submits an app when he knows he won’t be out on business – which he has happened most sheep seasons. He figures he had four or five preference points.

My hunting season always starts in spring, when I apply for everything I am eligible for. Of course, I know the chance of receiving a draw is slim at best. However, part of the fun is to be able to call my old classmate Jim Huckabay to see if he was drawn. He would always say ‘This will be our year!’ Then we would wait for next year. This year when I heard the drawings had taken place, I immediately picked up the phone to call Jim. Midway through the dialing I stopped as I realized the first thing Jim would ask me was ‘Well what did you draw?’ I jumped on the Internet and checked.

“Lo and behold! There it was, a once in a lifetime Bighorn Ram Sheep tag. I was stunned and immediately called Jim to see how he had done, share my good luck and seek his assistance since my draw was in the Selah Butte Unit in the Yakima Canyon. Of course, Jim was excited about my tag – even as he muttered about ‘not drawn’ – and offered to help in any way he could.

“As usual, work was causing a lot of traveling around the country. In addition, I had a moose hunt in October with Babine Guide Outfitters out of British Columbia. Before I knew it, November was just around the corner and I called Jim to ask for his help. He had been talking to people, so get back to him and we would do some scouting. Once again, time ran out and I called Jim in the first week of November, only to catch him and wife Diane on a genealogy search across the country. He had, however, made access arrangements for my hunting on the Eaton Ranch through Joe Rotter (Jim calls Joe one of his ‘outdoor heroes’) at Red’s Fly Shop on the Yakima River.

“I called Joe. He said if I came over on Friday, November 11th, he would show me how to access the area. He said to arrive mid-morning. Now ‘mid-morning’ to me meant 9 or 10 a.m. I arrived around 9:15 and asked at Red’s Fly Shop if Joe was available. They said, ‘Not unless you’re Brian Talbott… He’s about two miles away watching some sheep. He has a big 4×4 truck and he should be looking through a spotting scope.’ Joe had been spotting sheep since daylight, according to the guys at Red’s. …Not exactly mid-morning!

“I headed down the Yakima for my day of scouting before I would get really serious about my hunt (which ran until the end of the month). Sure enough, Joe was along the river, with an outdoor photographer, watching four California bighorn rams way up on the mountain. I introduced myself and he showed me the rams. Since I had never hunted sheep they all looked nice to me. After a while Joe suggested we look at how to access the area. I quickly realized Joe was a skilled hunter with a great eye for game. We drove around behind closed gates, watching several bands of sheep and looking around the top of the ridges. I learned it wasn’t easy judging the various rams’ horns.

“Joe mentioned he needed to get back to work, but kept putting it off as we both got more interested in sheep. After we had explored for a while, we agreed to go back and see if the four rams from the morning were still around. We could look them over, and I could be on my own.

“The rams were still in the same place – busy fighting now that a ewe had joined them. As we watched, we could hear the noise of butting heads ricocheting off the rock walls. I was totally enthralled by how they pushed each other around, trying to see which ram would dominate. It became obvious how much Joe’s high-powered spotting scope helped; even my 10×42 Swarovski binoculars were not nearly as clear.

“A fifth ram showed up – bigger than the other four. It had an orange tag in its right ear, which seemed a little strange. After watching them all I said, ‘Boy, that ram really looks nice.’”

…To be concluded.

 

(Joe Rotter Photos 11/11/16)

From Our 2017 Outdoor Writing Contest

Written by Jim Huckabay on January 20, 2017. Posted in Uncategorized

You still have a little time to get your own outdoor adventure submitted. In the meantime, the judges have unanimously awarded sets of sportsmen show tickets to two local writers, Dwight Bates and Ed Marshall. Each of their stories offers insight into the interweaving of human and nature.

Dwight Bates submitted “A B-17 Airplane Saved My Life.”

“On a fire in Wyoming in 1964, I was told by the fire leader to take my crew down into a canyon to put out hot spots. I told the inexperienced fire leader that the canyon was a death trap if the wind came up. (I had been on 40 fires by then.) The fire leader said, ‘Take your 30 men down there or I will send you home.’ I put my men in the canyon but climbed to the rim of the canyon to watch for the wind coming up – which it did.

“I ran down into the canyon and yelled to my men to throw down their tools and run for it. The fire crowned to about 100 foot flames and chased us all the way up to our vehicles. One guy was walking slowly until I told him to look behind him and see the flames. He then ran like hell to the top. At the vehicles, all 30 of my men panicked – one after the other. One guy even tried to drive off with people under the truck before we could grab the keys away. We called on the radio for any fire bomber in the area to drop fire retardant on us as it was our only chance; we were surrounded by fire.

“A B-17 said he was near us with a full load. We said drop in as soon as possible without a ‘bird dog’ guide airplane and gave him directions. Then I yelled for my men to take cover and looked up into the bomb bay as the retardant came out. It hit all of us but no one was hurt. It knocked a gap in the fire and we quickly drove out. You could later tell all my men in the food line because they had red backs.

“In 1992, I did the MRB Engineer work on a B-17 I was helping restore at Boeing. The stringers in the bomb bay were corroded so I knew it had been a fire bomber. I called the Greybull, Wyoming, firebase with the hull number but it was not the B-17 that saved me. They said that B-17 was in a museum in Chino, California. It would have been a good story if I was restoring the same one that saved me. (It saved me and now I was saving it!) But it was not to be. Find photos of the brick I put in the Wild Fire Fighter Memorial in Boise, Idaho, on Wikipedia. The brick says ‘A B-17 dropped on my crew saving us in the Wheatland, Wyoming Fire in 1964.’”

Ed Marshall’s introspective piece is “In Awe of Nature: Dog Ethics.”

“Quite a long while ago, I was walking out of the field, head down and empty handed except for my cold, unused over-and-under, following a weekend of bird hunting in Eastern Washington.

“Eastern Washington has a big sky and lots of public land. No houses or trailers or barns or anything but sage and marshland and crops within a 360° view of where I was taking my retriever for this late Sunday afternoon walk in the sage.

“It was getting close to the official daily end of shooting. I was alone with my dog and she clearly was finished hunting for this day. The sky was fading into dark blue as the sun had gone below the horizon. It was cold and totally silent, getting on into twilight. Everything below the horizon was dead, brown or tan, dry and still.

“Gently, a very subtle noise in the sky grew increasingly louder with occasional high bird voices and wing beats as a thin and twisting horizontal tornado of birds randomed its way over my head at about 500 feet. It was a migratory string of redwings that had lifted out of the thousands and thousands of acres of cattails and marshlands and crop lands long before I was aware of it. The black rope stretched from one horizon to the next and it was growing in size with redwings subtly lifting off in the distance – but within my view – from the enormous marshland all around me.

“I saw no beginning nor end to the bird tube for however long it took me to finally walk out of the field (maybe a half-hour or more) and back to my truck and on until dark. The tube of birds varied in thickness as it passed overhead but was never smaller than ten or fifteen feet in diameter. Stragglers or newcomers held together the occasional breaks in the uniform density of the serpentine.

“As the tube wiggled around and passed overhead many times, I could hear the bird droppings, like raindrops, following their wanderings.

“Pause. Reflect. Consider.

“No, I didn’t shoot at those birds. My dog would have disowned me.”

Island Hopping through the Yes Island Chain

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

Cousin Ron Tanquary taught me to catch the minnows needed to bring home nice messes of trout from the Naches River. We were eight years old and had walked the mile from his folks’ place to fish the river after WWII. In this current – and very different – day and age, we BS about today’s kids and having had the best of Washington’s fishing and hunting through our growing up years.

Ron and I still get out and we have a standing engagement at one or another of the regional sportsmen shows. He refers to these shows as “Fantasy Island” or “The Land of Yes!” The latter title popped up about two hours into the SunDome show some years ago. “Listen to us,” he said. We just said ‘Yes,’ ‘Yes,’ ‘Yes!’ at every booth we passed. Some girl or guy says, ‘You want to fish salmon in Canada?’ We say, ‘Yes…’ Or, ‘Wanna come hunt New Zealand?’ We say, ‘Yes…’ ‘Wanna win this brand new Ruger Model 77 or Remington or Winchester?’ and we say ‘Yes! Yes!’  Cousin, we are afield in The Land of Yes!”

Couple days ago, we chatted about the Washington Sportsmen’s Show in Puyallup, the Central Washington Show in Yakima, and the Pacific Northwest Show in Portland, over the next few weeks. Then, I allowed as how I had to go this week to Denver to work with Daughter Nicole on our new dog business – but would have to spend some time at Denver’s International Sportsmen’s Exposition. “So,” he laughed, “you have found a whole chain of ‘Yes’ Islands, and you are going island hopping…” I smiled. “Well, it is that time of year – what’s a guy to do?”

Let us consider the possibilities of the next few weeks. Truth is, the two local Central Washington islands most of us will hit will have plenty of chances to say “Yes!” to almost every outdoor fantasy you ever entertained. AND, our local shows will be focused on getting our youngsters and our families outdoors, too, with many new activities and features to help the kids and parents see themselves on the ground and in Nature.

First up is that island at the Puyallup Fairgrounds – the Washington Sportsmen’s Show – starting Wednesday the 25th and running through that Sunday afternoon. There are a number of things to anticipate finding on that Puyallup Yes Island.

Brutus – the 900-pound grizzly – will be on hand from the Montana Grizzly Encounter display to get folks thinking about bears, bear education, and the flavor they bring to the wild. Jim Burnworth (extreme archer and host of the TV show Western Extreme) will be talking big game around the world and sharing key insights into your future archery hunting.

Of course, Brett Stoffel will be visiting with kids and families –formally and informally – about survival basics and staying unlost (or getting unlost if it happens). Brett will also deal with a broad range of myths and misconceptions about survival in the outback.

There will be more than 150 hours of seminars for all ages, covering just about every outdoor leaning. The seminars cover everything from kids’ trout fishing, fly-tying, and successful salmon fishing to hunting for most every critter we hunt in Washington.

The “Tour of Northwest Big Game Animals” includes several local records and some breathtaking mounts. There will also be a head and horn competition, with current entries.

The Camp Cooking Demo Tent will be up again, with something for each of us to add to our cooking habits. Kids will have an archery range, free Yakima Bait lures, and the Kids’ Free Trout Pond (keep or release two fish each).

There’s much more, too, so check it all out at www.thesportshows.com/shows/washington/ and make the drive.

The Yes Island at the SunDome in Yakima (the Central Washington Sportsmen Show) is next, happening in five weeks between Feb. 17 and 19. Plenty of new stuff coming here, too, along with those favorites that keep us coming back. (See www.shuylerproductions.com.)

At the SunDome, start with “A Walk on the Wild Side,” an up-close look at a wide variety of animals from small to large and from cute and cuddly to venomous and slithery. Look for the Town Square Media Trout Races (Saturday), the 4-H archery and air rifle ranges, and the Kids’ Lunker Lake Trout Pond. Everybody gets excited over the Central Washington Dog Pull Competition and the amazing strength and enthusiasm of the dogs.

Of course, the daily hunting and fishing seminars and demos will be on (with a variety of very helpful pros), as well as the daily giveaways and gifts for the first people in the door each day.

Look for the annual horn and antler competition (and watch them being properly measured). Certainly you will want to see the photos (and winners) in the free wildlife and nature photo contest. (You have entered yours, yes?) Make this drive, too.

On all these Yes Islands, I shall, for a sawbuck, add much needed firearms and gear (or at least a good chance to win them). …And probably an exotic fishing or hunting trip or two, as I walk the aisles and dream big. Back at home and office, I’ll wait for the phone to ring with instructions for picking up my newly won firearms, boat and fishing gear.

Perhaps then I shall be ready for another year of reality. You gotta love these Yes Islands.

The Battle for Children and Our Outdoor Future

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

As we sit in this first week of 2017, looking ahead, I’m excited about the future for our kids and those who come after them. Senator Warnick’s office has been drafting the bill for our Washington Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights, and we are hoping that the bill can get through the State Senate and the House of Representatives by this spring.

This is important. We seem to be rising to the need for getting youngsters outdoors as a regular part of their lives. A number of us are excited about the dozens of new and recent “outdoor schools” being developed here in Paradise and across the state and nation. Many national hunting, fishing and camping organizations – Safari Club International, National Wildlife Federation, Audubon Society, Isaac Walton League, and dozens of others you will find with one Google search – have begun to fund efforts to get kids off electronic toys and into field and forest. The international Children and Nature Network seems to be making big strides across much of the world.

This movement is truly underway. Maybe we really will be able to reach enough youngsters to ensure that future generations will enjoy – and fight to keep – the outdoor heritage we have worked to preserve for them.

As is so often the case, however, while we work up front there are those at the backdoor working against us in subtle ways.

The Oxford Junior Dictionary has recently cut 50 words connected with nature and countryside. In response, 28 authors, including Margaret Atwood, Andrew Motion, Michael Morpurgo and Robert Macfarlane, called on the Oxford University Press to reverse its decision and, if necessary, publish a new edition of the 10,000 entry dictionary.

Homey Steve Douglas passed the following along, and I invite your thoughts. This is written by Doug Painter, editor-in-chief of the Boone & Crockett Club’s Fair Chase magazine. It appeared as his “From the Editor” column in the Winter, 2016, issue of Fair Chase, and was picked up by the online Sporting Classics Daily blog on December 6 (sportingclassicsdaily.com/afraid-to-go-outside).

In one of his recent op-ed columns in the New York Times, Thomas Friedman noted that Robert Macfarlane, in his 2015 book, Landmarks, made the point that a recent edition of the Oxford Junior Dictionary (aimed at 7-year-olds) no longer includes words such as  ‘fern,’ ‘otter,’ ‘dandelion,’ ‘pasture,’ and ‘willow.’ It’s not that these words have somehow acquired improper or politically incorrect connotations. Not at all. Instead, as Macfarlane reveals, the editors of the dictionary deemed that such ‘nature words’ were simply less relevant to the lives of modern children.

So, what words or terms took their place? How about ‘broadband,’ ‘blog,’ ‘cut and paste,’ ‘MP3 player,’ and ‘voice mail.’ I suppose you could call this an example of editorial Darwinism, a system where only the fittest of the vocabulary survive. In books, as in nature, I guess there’s room for only so many to make the cut.

“Remember when Mom used to tell us, ‘Now, go outside and play’? Sure, she wanted us out from underfoot, but she also knew that’s exactly where we wanted to be. Outdoors is where we could build a fort, dam up a small creek, and skip rocks across the pond. It was fun, but we also learned that moss-covered rocks in a stream are slippery as all heck and shiny, three-leaved plants can give you an awful itch.

“As we got older, we came to understand the care and responsibility involved in carrying a rifle in the field, of knowing both the written and unwritten rules of the hunt, and how to determine when to take—or not take—a shot. And, over time, we came to appreciate the value of an honest effort in the field, even when we came home empty-handed. Nature is a great teacher, and I feel sorry for youngsters who were never given the opportunity to hunt or fish or, for that matter, to strap on a backpack or canoe down a river for a few days.

“A recent column by James Campbell of the Los Angeles Times is a stark reminder of how little time many of today’s kids and, indeed, many of today’s adults spend outdoors. ‘As a boy,’ Campbell writes, ‘I wandered the woods and fields unsupervised from morning until dark. Today, many children spend less than 30 minutes per week playing outside and as many as seven hours a day glued to TV screens, iPads, and video games. Their parents are no better: Adults pass 93 percent of their lives inside buildings or vehicles.’

“Researchers, Campbell points out, say a growing number of Americans suffer from biophobia, a fear of the natural world. In children especially, a mere ‘flock of birds or a strong wind’ can provoke surges of anxiety, triggering the same fight-or-flight response that evolved to protect us from deadly threats.

“Not surprisingly, Campbell reaffirms evidence suggesting that time spent outdoors boosts kids’ self-esteem, problem-solving skills, cooperation, focus, and self-discipline.

“That’s a scary and sobering thought. Here’s another: In 50 years, will many of today’s 7-year-olds care? It’s up to us to help them understand why they should.”

This is important. Paraphrasing Jodi Larsen, Upper County Rotary: Children are the emissaries we send into a time we will never see – what do we want them to take along?

All about Handling a New Year

Written by Jim Huckabay on December 30, 2016. Posted in Uncategorized

2017? Wow, how does that happen? I’ve been talking with homeys and am intrigued by their responses to the thought of another “new year.” They’ve ranged from “Big (censored) deal… It’s just another year of same old same old, Jimbo…” to “Cool, huh? I can’t wait to get my hands on that fresh start, and away from the messes of 2016!”

New Year’s Resolutions? Some do and some don’t.

So, what will it be for you? What resolutions might you make this year that will last past January? Will you start socking away money for that out-of-state or out-of-country hunting or fishing trip? Will you drive or fly? What licenses will you need, and what resolution will get them for you? Will you get the family (or yourself) out more often to see wildlife and breathe the fresh air of Paradise? Spend a little more time helping a friend? Plan special events for kids? Work to get our Washington Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights through the Legislature?

I have buddies who swear by their New Year resolutions – and even manage to bring some into reality. Still, the whole “resolution” thing just isn’t my gig.

You may recall my comment that I stopped making such resolutions in late January 1981, after The Old Man went home. On the way to his funeral, it dawned on me that I’d already failed to keep most of my resolutions – and one of them had been a vow to keep at least one resolution.

As I sat, waiting to give his eulogy, I remember weighing the genuine pleasure of getting complete with things in my life. After my father died, I had a deep emptiness inside. At the same time, I felt complete with him; there just was nothing I had left unsaid or unheard. The summer before his passing, we spent a week talking about anything and everything either of us ever wanted to know about the other. By the time I left his funeral, I was pretty sure that “completions” were more important for me than “resolutions.”

In the decades since, I spend the waning months of each year freeing up my mind and heart for the coming one. Zeb, my mountain‑man mentor, once said, “If you’re loaded down with yesterday’s baggage, you don’t stand much chance of getting today’s gifts – or accepting ’em with a whole heart.” I don’t know that I really understood, but I got the part about clearing up unfinished business before the new stuff shows up.

I probably start asking myself a regular set questions about the time deer season wraps up. I have questions like these: “Who did something this year that changed my life (preferably for the better) or changed the way I did something or managed some old habit?” “Who got me out fishing or hunting or hiking outdoors when I really needed it?” “Who smoothed out an impossible day with a kind word or a pat on the back just when I needed it?” “Who showed me a new fishing hole, or some new technique for fishing one of my old ones?” There are others, too, of course. New questions seem to pop up every day, as I try to spend an old, used, year-end freeing up the shiny start for the New Year. You likely have questions of your own.

Admittedly, it is sometimes almost impossible to clean up lost and failed agreements, no matter how good my intentions might be. I often end up with a couple leftover hang-nail agreements. Still, I get a deeper satisfaction from working on completions than I ever did trying to manage resolutions – some of which seemed like great ideas in the company of good friends and a malt beverage over ice.

Over the last weeks of 2016, I have scheduled some very cool activities. Cousin Ron and I have a day set to drown worms in a remote little creek we fished when we were boys – one of the few streams untouched by changed regulations over nearly seven decades. I need the long conversation (missed last summer) with geographer and mentor Richard Stevens (retired from the University of Colorado), and we will sit down next week. I finally pulled together the draft of a book we’ve been working on for a couple years, and Reecer Creek Publishing is beginning to mean something.

All that as it may, we stand at the threshold of a new and potentially momentous year. What will it be this time? Which actions will we take to make this 2017 one for the books – one to shape our lives as we would have them shaped? High in my mind at this time is a recurring question about how my fishing or hunting or outdoor interests (and what I might do with them) will make the world a better place for those coming up behind me.

So, how does your 2017 shape up? How will your love of nature help ensure forever outdoor connections for the people of Paradise?

Like fresh snow awaiting our tracks, this year lies undisturbed before us.

Happy 2017.