All posts by Andy Walgamott

Nearly 200K Acres Of Private Timber On Oregon’s Central Coast Now Open For Year-Round No Fee Hunting

THE FOLLOWING IS AN OREGON DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE PRESS RELEASE

Over 190,000 acres of Hancock Forest Management (HFM) timberlands are now open for year round hunting access in the Trask, Stott Mt, and Alsea Wildlife Management Units along the mid-coast, (parts of Lincoln, Benton, Polk, and Tillamook counties). See a map at https://www.dfw.state.or.us/maps/access_habitat/Hancock_N_Alsea_Stott_Mtn.pdf

(ODFW)

While HFM properties have allowed hunting access before as part of the Stott Mt/N Alsea TMA, the lands were closed during fire season (typically July 1-Oct. 15). This new project is expanding no fee public access duringIndustrial Fire Restriction Levels (IFPL) I-III.

Green dot posted roads (see photos) under HFM control in this area will be open to motorized vehicle use to access larger blocks of their land when the IFPL is below level III. When the IFPL reaches III, only walk-in access is allowed. The only time the lands would close is when the IFPL reaches IV, a rare event that requires complete shutdown of forest operations by state rule.

Signs will be posted on HFM gates and roads to let hunters know if a parcel is open or closed for hunting. Kiosks will be in place on some of the green dot mainline roads into their ownership with maps for hunters’ use.

This new project is adjacent to the Stott Mt-N Alsea Travel Management Area Project and two geo-reference maps are available at ODFW’s website (https://www.dfw.state.or.us/maps/index.asp) for use on mobile or desktop devices.

This access project is being funded through 2021 by the Access and Habitat Program, which provides public hunting access and improves wildlife habitat on private land.

Hunters will face fire restrictions and/or closures on other lands, especially earlier in the fall hunting seasons. For example,Hancock Forest Management lands in northeast Oregon are currently closed to all public use and access due to extreme fire danger. It is each hunter’s responsibility to know access conditions and restrictions before heading afield. Here are some helpful places to find this information:

Private timberland closures, http://www.ofic.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/2018-Closure-Form.pdf

ODF Industrial Fire Restrictions (IFPL), https://gisapps.odf.oregon.gov/firerestrictions/ifpl.html

ODF Public Fire Restrictions https://gisapps.odf.oregon.gov/Firerestrictions/PFR.html  

US Forest Service, https://www.fs.fed.us/

Bureau of Land Management, https://www.blm.gov/oregon-washington

InciWeb (Current fires and fire-related closures in Oregon), https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/

WDFW Budget Panel Urges Commission To Revisit Fee Increase Proposal

Members of a WDFW advisory panel are asking the Fish and Wildlife Commission to revisit its decision last weekend to ask legislators for only a 5% license fee increase.

“That amount is far less then (sic)  just the effect of inflation since the last (2011) fee increase and we fear will be frowned upon by legislators and force the department into cuts that will harm our interests and our state’s natural resources,” reads the August 15th letter from 15 of the 20 members of the Budget and Policy Advisory Group.

A WDFW GRAPHIC SHOWS WHERE ITS BUDGET GOES, WITH FISH PRODUCTION AND MANAGING ANGLING OPPORTUNITIES ACCOUNTING FOR LARGE CHUNKS. (WDFW)

It was signed by Ron Garner of Puget Sound Anglers, David Cloe of the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, Rachel Voss of the Mule Deer Foundation, Butch Smith of the Ilwaco Charter Association, and Mark Pidgeon of the Hunters Heritage Council, among others.

WDFW staffers had brought a $60 million package to the commission that would have increased fishing and hunting fees by 12% to 15% or introduced a $10 annual surcharge on licenses to deal with an estimated $32.9 million budget shortfall in 2019-21 as well as enhance sporting opportunities and conservation needs.

According to the agency, two-thirds of the overall package would have been paid for through the state’s General Fund and one-third by license fees, a departure from recent history but a recognition of the benefits to local economies and the wider burden of WDFW’s mission.

The letter also states that through the group’s numerous meetings members learned “substantial and unanticipated” things about WDFW, including that it’s run efficiently compared to other fish and wildlife departments across the country (https://wdfw.wa.gov/about/budget/proviso/matrix_wdfw_final_report_1-11-18.pdf) that it is working for the public good but its budget is not holding up, and the increasing strain of its myriad missions warrants support.

“Our fish and wildlife resources and recreational opportunities are struggling because of the department’s immense challenges, not its shortcomings. The world is changing, and WDFW must be given the resources to evolve to meet these diverse current challenges,” it states.

Saying that they are “gravely concerned” about potential cuts, the letter signers vow to put aside their differences and work towards a common goal of helping WDFW.

“To succeed, the Department requires over $60 million above its present funding (not including expected orca needs), half to fix the shortfall created by the legislature in the last biennium and half to invest in the future by helping correct inequities and the damage caused by a decade of underfunding. This is a huge goal that is only likely to be achieved if its weight is shared. Our belief is that an appropriate breakdown is for at least 25% ($15M) to be covered by increased fees, challenging the Legislature to pass that fee bill and match it threefold from the General Fund. Perhaps a combination of a modest surcharge and modest fee increase (plus extending the Columbia salmon and steelhead endorsement authorization) would avoid hitting too heavily on either end of the customer spectrum. Any less than 25% risks a response from the Legislature that could leave the department underfunded, impose yet higher fees on sportsmen and women, or both. Strong leadership from the Commission is our best chance for success,” the letter urges the citizen oversight committee.

Others who signed the letter include Mitch Friedman of Conservation Northwest, Jason Callahan of the timber industry’s Washington Forest Protection Association, and Greg Mueller of the Washington Trollers Association.

It was addressed to the eight current commissioners. Jay Kehne of Omak resigned earlier this month after seven years of service to spend more time afield with his family and friends, he said.

Among advisory group members who did not sign on were representatives of Coastal Conservation Association of Washington and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

The deadline for getting budget proposals to the governor’s office is next month.

Wild, Scenic And Fishy

This fall marks the 50th anniversary of the Congressional act that now protects and enhances 3,000 miles of salmon-, steelhead- and trout-bearing rivers in the Northwest.

By Andy Walgamott

While fishing along the banks of Northwest rivers over the years, I’ve always kept an eye out for heart-shaped rocks, but I never found a good one till this past April.

(ANDY WALGAMOTT)

I was on the Sauk, hoping to hook wild winter steelhead after federal overseers finally approved a state season, the first time the Washington Cascades river had been open in spring since 2009. It was a glorious day, and I couldn’t have been happier to be back on the water at that time of year.

John Day River, Central Oregon; 248.6 miles of designated wild, scenic and recreational river. Chinook, steelhead, redband rainbow trout, bull trout, lamprey, smallmouth bass. (BOB WICK, BLM)

As I tried my luck below a riffle, two drift boaters worked a slot above it, and when they pulled their plugs in and headed downstream, I bushwhacked my way upstream to the stretch to hit it with my jigs and spoons.

Lower Klickitat River, Washington; 10.8 miles designated as recreational river. Spring, summer, fall Chinook, coho, summer and winter steelhead, rainbow trout, lamprey. (JASON BROOKS)

That’s when I stumbled onto the big, smooth granite heart. Pegging its base with cobbles, I propped it up on a boulder for a photograph next to one of my favorite rivers.

Grande Ronde River, Oregon; 43.8 miles designated as wild and recreational river. Spring Chinook, coho, summer steelhead, rainbow trout, smallmouth bass. (CASEY CRUM)

THE SAUK’S BRAWNY wild winters eluded me that day, but it was still great to be on several of the 12,754 miles of streams that comprise our National Wild and Scenic Rivers System. This fall marks the 50th anniversary of the Wild & Scenic Rivers Act, created by Congress way back in 1968 and signed into law by President Johnson.

North Umpqua River, Oregon; 33.8 miles designated as recreational river. Spring Chinook, summer steelhead, rainbow trout. (BOB WICK, BLM)

Though coming out of an era of increased environmental concerns – the Clean Air and Wilderness Acts preceded it and it was followed by the Clean Water, Marine Mammal Protection and Endangered Species Acts – it takes a notably less heavy-handed approach in its implementation.

Bruneau River, Idaho; 39.3 miles designated as wild and recreational river. Redband rainbow trout. (BOB WICK, BLM)

The act aims to “(protect) and (enhance) the values that caused [rivers like the Sauk] to be designated” through the “voluntary stewardship by landowners and river users and through regulation and programs of federal, state, local, or tribal governments,” according to Rivers.gov. “It does not prohibit development or give the federal government control over private property.”

Bruneau River, Idaho; 39.3 miles designated as wild and recreational river. Redband rainbow trout. (RANDY KING)

There are wild, scenic and recreational rivers in 40 states, and some of the fishiest in the Northwest are included.

Lochsa River, Idaho; 90-plus miles designated as recreational river. Spring Chinook, summer steelhead, bull, cutthroat and rainbow trout, mountain whitefish. (PAUL ISHII)

In Oregon, there’s all or portions of the Chetco, Crooked and its North Fork, Deschutes, Elk, Grande Ronde, Illinois, Imnaha, John Day, Klamath, McKenzie, Metolius, North Umpqua, Owyhee, Rogue, Smith, Snake and Wenaha, among many, many more.

Crooked River, Oregon; 17.8 miles designated as recreational river. Redband rainbow trout, mountain whitefish. (BOB WICK, BLM)

In fact, Oregon just might have the highest percentage of rivers of any state: 2 percent, 1,916.7 miles, of the Beaver State’s 110,994 river miles are wild and scenic.

Rogue River, Oregon; 84.5 miles designated as wild, scenic and recreational river. Spring and fall Chinook, coho, summer and winter steelhead, coastal cutthroat and rainbow trout, lamprey. (THOMAS O’KEEFE, RIVERS.GOV)

In Idaho, 891 miles, including much of the Salmon and its Middle Fork, the Middle Fork Clearwater, upper St. Joe and Owyhee, and Bruneau are listed.

Owyhee River, Oregon; 120 miles designated as wild in Oregon (continues in Idaho). Redband rainbow trout. THOMAS O’KEEFE, RIVERS.GOV)

In sharp contrast, only 197 stream miles in Washington have been designated – unusual when you consider that it’s the wettest state in the West.

Skagit River, Washington; 158.5 miles of designated scenic and recreational rivers. Spring, summer and fall Chinook, coho, pink salmon, winter steelhead, bull, rainbow and sea-run cutthroat trout. (CHASE GUNNELL)

Where listed rivers occur throughout most of Oregon, the Evergreen State’s are limited to the Cascades and include the upper and lower ends of the White Salmon, the lower 11 miles of the Klickitat, and the Middle Fork Snoqualmie and its tributary, the Pratt.

BUT AT THE northern end of the mountain range is one of Washington’s best watersheds.

I don’t know how many times state district fisheries biologist Brett Barkdull has answered my question about why the Skagit system is so productive for steelhead, Chinook, bull trout and other stocks by pointing to its headwaters.

North Cascades National Park; the Ross Lake National Recreation Area; the Glacier Peak, Henry M. Jackson and Noisy-Diobsud Wildernesses; the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Out of all that protected federal land flows the wild and scenic Sauk, Suiattle, Skagit and Cascade Rivers and Illabot Creek.

It took many more questions of Barkdull to begin to understand that what looks like a mess – all the logjams, braids and big sunbaked cobble bars on the Sauk – is actually a good thing for fish.

They show a river largely unshackled by riprap and dikes, and allowed to meander as it has since for eons, a sign of a healthy river.

That not many people, farms and infrastructure line its banks make that more possible here, but I’d love it if in another 50 years, when the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act turns 100, more than just one-quarter of 1 percent of the nation’s streams are part of the system.

Mollala River, Oregon; 23 miles proposed as wild and scenic river. Spring Chinook, coho, winter steelhead, cutthroat and rainbow trout, lamprey. (BOB WICK, BLM)

WA Fish Wildlife Commission Gives OK To Take 5% Fee Hike Proposal To Legislature

WDFW PRESS RELEASE

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission approved budget and policy proposals for the 2019 legislative session at a meeting Aug. 9-11 in Olympia.

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW), also supported the agency’s long-term funding plan, developed with the help of a broad-based advisory group.

The commission approved the department’s 2019-21 operating budget proposal, which includes a request of more than $30 million to preserve the existing services WDFW provides and an additional $28.2 million to provide new or improved services, such as enhanced fishing and hunting opportunities and conservation work.

WDFW’s budget request would come from primarily state general funds augmented by a small recreational license fee increase. Commissioners gave the OK for the department to pursue during the upcoming legislative session an increase of 5 percent across-the-board on recreational fishing and hunting license fees.

The department’s presentation on its budget and policy proposals can be found on the commission webpage at https://wdfw.wa.gov/commission/meetings/2018/08/agenda_aug0918.html.

In other business, the commission approved two land transactions, including:

  • A donation of 94 acres to the department in Whitman County. Pheasants Forever is donating the land, which is adjacent to WDFW’s Revere Wildlife Area. Native grassland will be restored on the property, which supports mule deer, raptors, and game birds such as pheasants and quail.
  • The transfer of the Wiley Slough Pump Station to Skagit County. WDFW will transfer ownership, maintenance, and operations of the pump station, located in the Skagit Wildlife Area. The department used the pump station during a habitat restoration project.

The commission also heard an update from WDFW staff on wolf conservation and management, including the process for developing a post-delisting wolf conservation management plan. During the discussion, commissioners advised the department against changing its method for sharing information on the location of wolves with ranchers during the current grazing season.

Additionally, WDFW staff presented an overview of seals and sea lions in Washington and discussed the implications of recently proposed federal legislation to amend the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Commissioners voiced support for efforts to provide fish and wildlife managers greater flexibility in the management of seal and sea lion predation on salmon stocks.

New Book Tells Story Of Woman Who Co-owned Rivers Inlet Salmon Fishing Resort

Each December we feature the Real Women of Northwest Fishing, and recently British Columbia fishing resort owner Pat Ardley wrote a book about her many years running the lodge with her husband George.

Grizzlies, Gales and Giant Salmon: Life at a Rivers Inlet Fishing Lodge is “the story of a woman who overcame her fears and stepped far outside her realm of comforts, as well as a touching tribute to raising a family and life in BC’s secluded wilderness,” according to Harbour Publishing, which published Ardley’s book last month.

(HARBOUR PUBLISHING)

It is available through Amazon and elsewhere.

The following is excerpted by permission from Harbour Publishing.

by Pat Ardley

Our First Crossing

The front of the boat plowed into the huge swell of water, and the wave crashed over the bow, washed up and over the windshield and along the top. I was cringing in my seat, holding on for dear life. We rose up on the next swell and the water moved on, leaving our boat suspended in air. We crashed down into the hollow between swells and the entire thirty- foot length shuddered as it seemed to haul itself back up for breath. I kept wondering how long this boat could take such pounding. The waves were relentless. How long can I take this pounding? I’m sorry, Mom, kept going around and around in my head.

(PAT ARDLEY)

We were running the boat from Finn Bay to Port Hardy for John Buck. He had headed out in his smaller and faster speedboat and was possibly already in town. There had been a terrible storm over the last few days and the fifteen-foot swell was what was left of it as we headed out early in the morning. Because of the poor water condition, we had to go very slow, with the speed barely registering, and we had about fifty miles to travel across Queen Charlotte Sound, which was open water all the way to Japan. By the time we were almost halfway across, the wind started to strengthen and there was a large chop on top of the swells. I wanted to go back. George couldn’t turn the boat around or we would have been swamped between the swells. We were already going as slow as he dared to go but we had to keep some forward speed to control the direction of the boat and keep it from wallowing and possibly sinking. At this point I was thinking, If I die out here, Dad’s going to kill me! Wave after wave crashed over us, and the boat shuddered and shook, squealed and groaned. Or was that last part just me? I couldn’t tell anymore.

(PAT ARDLEY)

While I can’t say that George was exactly happy that we were in this predicament, he was very confident in his ability, and he viewed the waves and swell as a challenge. He has a profound sense that boats are made to float while I had simply acquired a pathological fear of boats and water and drowning. I could taste it. Salty and desperate and I’m sorry Mom, if I’d known this could happen I would never have agreed to be here! The water was a dark, angry grey, and now large whitecaps were forming on top of the waves on top of the swells.

When the waves washed over the top there was a feeling that the boat was going down. Tons of water held the boat like a huge hand pushing down on us. We didn’t talk, we couldn’t talk. The noise of the wind and waves was thunderous. The wind shrieked in the crack in the window that I kept trying to push closed but most of the time couldn’t coordinate with all the jerking and crashing. I kept trying because salt water was forcing its way in with each wave and I was getting soaked with freezing cold water. We pounded with every wave and now the tops were being blown off the whitecaps. Tops are blown off when the wind is over thirty-five miles per hour. “Please make this stop!” was now my mantra. I said it over and over, mixed with “Please send me a skyhook that can pluck me out of this boat and put me on dry land!”

(PAT ARDLEY)

There were no other boats out here. Everyone else must have listened to the weather report. No one crosses the sound when a storm is forecast, which is something I know now, but especially not in a slow boat. The weather can change a lot in the six hours that a normal trip would take. And it did. When we rose to the top of a swell I could just make out the lighthouse on Pine Island through the mist. I knew that just ahead of Pine Island was a stretch called the Storm Islands and then the relative safety of Goletas Channel. I had to hold on for a while yet. I dug down deep inside me and brought out more reserves of strength and determination and started deep-breathing to maintain control of myself so I didn’t end up a pool of jellyfish sloshing around on the floor of the boat. Then I started singing in my head. I was too worn out and still being slammed around to be able to sing out loud. I sang every word to every Christmas song and every folk song and every pop tune that I could remember, and then I sang them again. This deep-breathing and singing is what I now call my “safe place,” which I have gone to many times over the years to get through some pretty harrowing situations.

(PAT ARDLEY)

We were passing Pine Island very slowly, and we were making very little headway. But wave by wave we plowed our way forward and headed into what I hoped would be the relief of Goletas Channel. There is a lighthouse at Scarlett Point, right at the corner of Christie Pass, which leads into Goletas Channel, and as we passed it I could see several people waving encouragement to us from the deck of the tower. The water was different here, with very little swell, but the waves were higher and coming faster. I had hoped for a feeling of safety when we turned into the channel but we were still in danger. We were no longer dropping heavily between swells, but now we were crashing and crashing through the waves. The sky started darkening, and I felt my heart plunge again. How can we do this in the dark?

 

The last hour of the trip from the channel into Hardy Bay and finally to the dock was agonizingly slow. Every bone in my body was aching, I could hardly hold my head up and I was numb and chilled to the bone. I had not even been able to reach for anything to put over my shoulders to fight the frigid onslaught of spray. It was pitch dark until we turned the corner into the bay and could see the lights of Port Hardy, nestled safely onshore. George’s eyes were fried from focusing so hard on the water and his arms were ready to fall off. Later we discovered a blister that covered his whole hand from working the throttle for twelve gruelling hours. We finally tied up at the government wharf in Port Hardy and stumbled up the dock.

What kind of life had I gotten myself into?

Encounter With A Cougar

An Eastern Oregon bowhunter comes face to face with a lion during last year’s elk season.

By Dan Lyons

There is no way Dad is ever going to find me. If he can even make it up the steep, rugged ridge, it would surely take a host of others to find me, or my body. I hate that he will have a helpless feeling when I don’t respond to him hailing me on my handheld radio. He will be scared when I don’t show up at the truck and don’t come out of the woods.

My kids and my wife – he will have to call them and tell them I didn’t show up. They will be devastated. My friends, and hunting buddies too. They would all feel the pain that always accompanies loss and tragedy. So here I am, deciding at this instant between fight or flight, and having no idea of the outcome of either.

(TIM LAMBERT)

I’VE HUNTED AND been very passionate about it since I was 12. I love everything about hunting, though truth be known, I am not very good at it. I have killed a handful of decent mule deer bucks, a couple whitetail bucks and have a raghorn bull to my credit. Besides a muley that I paid big bucks for through an outfitter in Montana I have had very average success here in the great state of Oregon. Maybe my lack of success is due to the fact that I like the cold beer, the campfire, the relationships with my hunting buddies and the stories as much as I like the actual hunting.

Because it’s hard as hell to draw a good deer or elk tag in my state without waiting five years between opportunities, I figured it was time to try archery hunting. Most units in Oregon don’t require a draw for a bow tag, so you can buy both a deer and an elk tag over the counter. This is probably due to the fact that killing an animal with a bow and arrow is flat out hard. Despite the texts I receive each fall from smiling hunters holding up their bulls, the many stories I hear, and the videos that make it all look easy, it seems the cards are stacked against us trying to outsmart and outduel a cagey bull with a bow. Still, with no rifle tags on the horizon I decided to go for it and give archery hunting a try.

With no rifle tags on the horizon I decided to go for it and give archery hunting a try.

I basically broke the internet doing my research. I went into discussion forums, watched every YouTube video ever made and bought every Primos and Eastman’s hunting DVD in existence. I bought some calls, sprayed some elk piss on my boots, and was ready to rock.

My father has archery hunted for 25 years and although he’s come close many times, he has never been able to close the deal on a bull. But for sure, even at 73 he was fired up to get out there with me. He is the single best person I know and any time spent with him is a good time. Typically, I rifle hunt with six of my lifelong friends, so this trip had a different feel from the beginning, and I liked it. The plan was to leave Portland on Wednesday at noon, get over there, and hunt Thursday through Sunday and then get back to work and the family. A rancher friend rents a bunkhouse near our hunting area, so we hit the easy button and spent the $100 per night to not have to deal with a camp.

IT ALWAYS TICKS me off that most hunting articles never tell you where the author was, so I will tell you. We were hunting in Eastern Oregon, north of the town of John Day at the northern end of the Northside Unit and just south of the Middle Fork of the John Day River. This all went down on Sept. 15, 2017.

Thursday started and ended with results that I’ve become accustomed to. I walked for what felt like 10 miles over large mountains, through beautiful draws, and across what appeared to be perfect elk country, but besides a few does and fawns, we drove back to the ranch without seeing or hearing a single elk. I thought this time of year they bugled like crazy and all you had to do was locate, stalk, and get ’er done. I had, and have much to learn. A touch of whiskey, some great conversation and an early bedtime closed down Thursday and we were stoked to try a new area in the morning that I just knew, for sure, would hold some elk.

There was frost on Friday and it was flat out cold. After a long hot summer, it felt like the first touch of fall. My research had told me that when the temperature starts dropping, these cold mornings really fire the bulls up, so I was eager to get into the woods. They were going to be bugling, fighting, and chasing cows, making it way too easy for us. I was where I wanted to be, at the time I wanted to be there.

A slow, steady, and quiet hunt coupled with a few perfectly executed cow calls on my Hoochie Mama resulted in zero elk seen and zero elk heard, and from what I could tell, there had never been an elk in this area, ever. The only excitement came when a grouse flushed up 5 feet from me, which resulted in only a minor heart attack. Otherwise, it was back to the truck to regroup for an afternoon hunt.

Although still in decent shape, Dad is perfectly satisfied driving the truck around as the pick-up man, maybe walking up the draw and patiently waiting for his opportunity, and he is not beyond a midday nap. After a lifetime of hunting and experience, his passion for killing a bull has waned, but his passion for being out there and being with his son are still on point.

FRIDAY AFTERNOON BROUGHT some wind and some smoke began settling in the valley from a host of wildfires across the state. After seeing a few other hunters in the area, I figured it was time to go to my secret spot, one I was confident no other hunter possessed the required grit needed to get there. Although a difficult hunt that required a straight-up assault of a mountain, the top offered a thicket that I had actually seen elk in before. Of course, that was during deer season, but there had been a good bull in that group, so I figured this mountaintop thicket was what they were calling home. It was on.

I loaded my fanny pack and lined Dad out as to where I would be coming out. I told him I would check in on the radio when I got up there and that it would take three to four hours before I was out. He asked if I wanted to take the .380 pistol to scare off bears and cougars and, because I am a genius, I said no. “I don’t want that extra weight,” I thought.

The mountain was no match for me as my excitement and adrenaline got me to the top. I sat for about 15 minutes, sipped some water, and got myself rested and calm to still-hunt this perfect piece of country and stake my claim on a 330-inch-class bull with a whale tail, huge eye guards and massive antlers that reached to the sky. My cow call was going to be too much for him to resist and I imagined him running in and offering me a perfect broadside shot at 20 yards. In my new camo, although way too small for me, I blended into the landscape better even than the trees and bushes. My dreams were about to come true.

When the temperature starts dropping, these cold mornings really fire the bulls up, so I was eager to get into the woods.

It was hot and hard to be quiet. At 6-foot-7 and 255 pounds, I don’t think I was exactly walking without sound, but I entered the thicket and tiptoed toward my destiny. The trees swayed with the wind now and there was just enough smoke to slightly alter the air and visibility. I snuck into some windfalls. A few game trails crisscrossed the area and I could see a good 30 yards into this elky-looking patch of earth – a perfect spot to sit, work my cow call, and wait. It was playing out exactly as it had in my mind a million times. I backed into a bush, sat down, and blended in perfectly. I nocked an arrow and let the cow call sing its song and bring in my bull. On all the videos I’d watched, the bulls just came rolling in to the hunter, all the while signalling their excitement with loud shrieks of intent.

Nothing. No retorts to my cow call, no snapping of limbs from an approaching bull, no bugles. Nothing but the wind and the eerie calm of this elkless thicket. Thirty minutes was enough, or at least all that I could handle, so I moved my eyes right and carefully scanned my view to see if I could catch a bull sneaking in before I moved on. I scanned center, down in front of me, and slowly scanned left. This is when it all got very real, and it got real quick.

TO MY DIRECT left on the same trail I had walked up and at what I estimate to be 25 to 30 feet sat a cougar, or mountain lion. Whatever you choose to call it, I noticed this one was an adult, it was large, and it scared the absolute sh*t out of me. I’d seen prints, once, but never in my 44 years had I seen a cougar, and now one was standing a pounce away. I was in his domain and from the first instant I knew that he was in control.

Yet for the time being it had no idea I was there. It was sitting like a Labrador with his butt on the ground and both front feet planted firm out in front of him. He was broadside to me and had his eyes fixed up the draw. He no doubt smelled me, or had heard my incredible cow calling skills, or maybe he was out for an afternoon stroll, but either way he was right there and for a few seconds I was frozen. If he turned and continued on his trail, he would run directly into me. Time to make a choice. Only a decent-sized windfall separated us.

With a cougar tag in my wallet I drew my bow back, but because I was sitting, I couldn’t get high enough over the log or one of its large branches that separated me and Mr. Cougar. No shot. It was time to stand and see how this tale would unfold. My eyes didn’t leave the cat as I started to stand. I believed that when I stood he would see me and hightail it out of there and go back to being a ghost.

This is not what he did.

I stood, he squared me up and dropped down, with his belly hugging the ground and his chin maybe an inch off the ground. His eyes were green and they stared right at me. Besides his oddly twitching tail he was perfectly still. To me, he was ready to do what cougars do, which is pounce, grab, bite, rip and kill. It was a good old-fashioned stare-off for 10 seconds and I made the decision that it was time for me to take action versus wait and let him make the first move, which, in my mind meant him ripping my jugular vein out and dragging me to his lair. He was not leaving, he was not scared, and with one pounce I would be dealing with 150 pounds of asskicker and I didn’t see that ending well for me.

I drew my bow back and held the 20-yard pin below his chin. Without a 10-yard pin I had to guess more than I would have liked and due to a slight angle down to him, my only shot was his face or neck. While I want to believe I was holding steady I doubt that was the case. When I squeezed my release, the arrow left the bow and immediately the cat raised his body very slightly. He raised his right front paw and the arrow snuck under his right foot, under his body and skipped safely past his back legs with no contact. A clean miss.

Now I was in trouble.

He took three stealthy steps toward me, his chin still an inch off the ground. While his tail twitched maniacally, I recall very clearly that his body flat out did not move. Rather, this thing floated up the trail toward me, stealthy, quiet, and in control. He was ready to go and he appeared to me ready to kill.

I figured this mountaintop thicket was what they were calling home. It was on.

He took those three steps and stopped. He tucked his ears back, showed me his teeth and hissed like a house cat. He was fierce. It’s important to note that while I am calling him a he, I have no earthly clue if he was a he or a she. Either way, for the first time ever in my life I was scared. I assessed the situation quickly. I was 8 feet away from this son of a gun, holding a bow with no arrow, and absolutely nothing else to fend off this apex critter. With my options limited, I accepted the fact that I was going to, simply put, fist fight a cougar. The odds weren’t good, to say the least.

If I was going down, I was going down fighting, so I yanked an arrow from the quiver and held it in my hand. If he pounced, I could stab the arrow into him and then scream, kick, bite, punch, spit – whatever I could to make him not end me.

He held his ground, which bought me some time. I waved my arms. I yelled, “Get out of here!” three times. He didn’t twitch or move an inch. I pulled my mesh camo mask down from my face so he could see my eyes. He took another slight step toward me. As he showed me his teeth, I remember thinking, “I wonder what he last ate with those things?”

I nocked the arrow and was prepared to pull it back and get one into him on his advance. I just didn’t want to shoot again at this close range because if he pulled his Matrix trick again and dodged my arrow a second time, I felt he would for sure have no choice but to attack. I waited, and I stared back at him, ready for his pounce, and ready for a fight.

I DECIDED TO take a small step backwards. He returned the favor by taking one stealthy step toward me. I took another step back and he obliged again. I knew he was keeping me within a one-pounce distance. I took a third and arrived at a large pine tree. I stepped behind it quickly and peeked around it like you might when playing hide-and-go-seek and he remained in that position, ready to go. I got behind the tree to where he couldn’t see me and hoped like hell he would forget about me. I waited and carefully peered around the tree again. Still there.

I got behind the tree at an angle that he couldn’t see me, then backed up to try to create some space. I picked up a good 10 yards and then looked back toward my new friend. Still there, but now he was standing and no longer in that godforsaken horrible killer pouncing position. I continued to back up and was thankful I could create some space between us.

The angle I’d chosen didn’t allow him to see me, so I decided my time to fight was over and it was time for flight. I put my arrow back in the quiver, turned the other direction, and ran as fast as I possibly could up the trail. I had no idea at the time that the absolute last thing you do when you see a cougar is run. I jumped logs and sprinted uphill, and kept looking over my shoulder, sure he was chasing me. I got a decent distance away and stopped, turned around and again prepared to fight. Back down the trail the cougar was still there, staring at me, standing calmly. I imagine he was laughing at me; my heart was racing at 787 beats per minute, but I could tell his was not. I renocked an arrow. He flicked his huge tail twice, turned to his left and bounded down the canyon, away from me and into the abyss of my thicket. I noticed that his first bound was much longer than the distance that had separated us just moments earlier.

As he showed me his teeth, I remember thinking, “I wonder what he last ate with those things?”

With adrenaline still pouring through me I regrouped and again ran as fast as I could up the trail to the top of the mountain, where it opened up. I might have set a land speed record while doing so, but I remember clearly that I was not tired. My lungs did not burn. I was focused and I was acutely aware of my surroundings. Adrenaline had taken over and offered me some juice I had surely never felt before. I now believe the stories of mothers lifting cars to save their children. There is within us a superhuman element that, as far as I’m concerned, I don’t ever need to experience again.

ONCE I CALMED down and came off the adrenaline rush, I was shaking very badly. I don’t know if I was in shock, or just scared out of my mind, but I remember having to kind of wrap my arms around myself to stop the shaking. I gathered myself and called Dad on the radio.

“How about it, Dad, you down there?”

“Hey Dannyboy! You bet, just having a cold beer, and I found some cool rocks out for a walk.”

“Awesome, Dad, I will be down there in about 20.”

“Sounds good, son, I will have a cold beer waiting for you”

“Copy that, see you in a few”

As I stepped out of the woods he immediately asked, “What the hell happened to you?”

I guess my skin coloring was still somewhere back in my thicket.

We cracked a cold one and sat on the tailgate and I told him every detail of my story. In a way that only a father can, he made me feel comfortable, safe, and he calmed me down without even really trying. Since that day we have talked about it a few times and I can tell it bothered him. I just cannot imagine the pain it would have caused him if that son of a gun had attacked me. I am thankful for Dad every day and thankful for what he has taught me about hunting, and life.

I had no idea at the time that the absolute last thing you do when you see a cougar is run.

When I got home I sat my family down and told the story. My 11- and 9-year-olds were on the edge of their seat. It upset my daughter and my son is still pissed that I missed the one shot I had at the cougar. My wife was also scared, and appropriately did find some humor in it.

A quick google search told me that there has never been a reported cougar attack of a human in Oregon. The article said if you see one in the wild, you should look big, show it your eyes, and yell at it. It went on to say that no matter what, never run. Oops.

In the end it was an experience I guess I am thankful for. It is a hell of a story, one I will tell forever, and I did feel something I have never felt before. Was that cougar really going to attack me? I thought so, but maybe I just surprised him the same way he surprised me. The truth of the matter is, I will hunt that thicket again and I can’t wait to get back in there. When I do, I can promise you just a few things. First and foremost, I will be carrying my 7mm Mag and not a damn bow and arrow, and second, if I do get lucky enough to see a cougar again, I won’t run! NS

Togo Pack Attacks More Cattle, WDFW Reports

THE FOLLOWING IS A WDFW STATEMENT

On August 8, 2018, WDFW was contacted by the wildlife specialist employed by the Stevens and Ferry County sheriff’s offices about a potential wolf depredation on a U.S. Forest Service grazing allotment in the Togo pack wolf territory in Northern Ferry County, near Danville.  Later that day, WDFW staff documented a deceased adult cow.  During the investigation, staff documented bite lacerations with associated hemorrhaging, signs of a struggle down a steep hill and around the cow carcass, and recent wolf activity in the area.  Based on that evidence, they confirmed that the death was a depredation by one or more wolves from the Togo pack.

A WDFW MAP SHOWS WHERE THE TOGO PACK IS BELIEVED TO BE CENTERED IN NORTHERN FERRY COUNTY. (WDFW)

Due to the remote location and rugged terrain, the cow carcass was left on site.  Meanwhile, the livestock producer and his range rider pushed the cattle to a different area of the allotment.  The cow had been turned out as part of a cow-calf pair, but the producer and range rider were not immediately able to locate the calf.  They are continuing to search.

Throughout the grazing season the producer has used a variety of deterrent measures to protect the livestock. He delayed turnout until late June so the calves would be larger and used Fox lights on his private pasture to deter wolves. Following turnout, he has removed sick or injured cattle from the allotment and deployed one or more range riders each day to help the producer check the cattle. They have moved the cattle when necessary.

On August 9, at about 9:30 p.m., the department was contacted by a WDFW-contracted range rider about another potential wolf depredation in the Togo pack area that injured a 350-pound calf owned by the same producer. The producer and range rider moved the injured calf, and the cow that accompanied it, from the allotment to a holding pen at their residence.

On August 10, WDFW staff and the two counties’ wildlife specialist examined the cow and calf. The cow did not appear to have any injuries, but they documented bite lacerations to both of the calf’s hamstrings and left flank, and puncture wounds and associated hemorrhaging to the left hindquarter and stomach.  Based on the evidence and related factors, the investigators confirmed that the calf’s injuries were the result of a wolf depredation. The cow and injured calf were kept at the holding pen for monitoring.

The latest incidents bring the total number of confirmed depredations by the Togo pack to five in less than 10 months, including two in November 2017 and one in May 2018. Those incidents were reported in earlier WDFW wolf updates. In four of the five incidents, producers had used at least two pro-active preventive strategies to deter wolf predation as called for in the WDFW wolf-livestock interaction protocol.

The Department first suspected the presence of the Togo pack in 2016, and the depredations in November 2017 provided further evidence of a pack in the area.  The pack was confirmed during the department’s 2017-18 winter surveys and was named in March 2018.  The pack’s discovery is discussed in the department’s August 2, 2018, update, available online at https://wdfw.wa.gov/conservation/gray_wolf/updates.php.

Based on the winter survey results and recent trapping activities, the department has documented at least two adult wolves in the pack. The pair produced an unknown number of pups this spring.  The Department captured an adult male on June 2, 2018, and fitted it with a GPS collar which provide location data that has been shared with livestock producers and county officials. WDFW has also received reports of a third adult wolf with the pack, but has not confirmed its presence.

Due to uncertainty about the number of adults in the pack, and the importance of receiving ongoing location data from the collared adult male, WDFW Director Kelly Susewind directed the staff to work through the weekend to attempt to confirm the number of adults and learn as much as possible about the pack’s activities before he considers further action.

WDFW will provide another update early next week.

Central Coast All-depth Halibut Fishing OKed For Aug. 17-18

ODFW PRESS RELEASE

The central Oregon coast all-depth halibut fishery will open Friday and Saturday, Aug. 17-18 fishery managers announced today.

A little over half of the allocation (27,193 pounds) for the central Oregon Coast subarea remains available for harvest and the fishery could open every other Friday and Saturday until Oct. 31, unless the remaining quota is caught first.

The central Oregon nearshore season is open seven days a week, and about 29 percent (7,503 pounds) of that allocation remains.

In other halibut fisheries:

  • Both the all-depth and nearshore seasons in the Columbia River subarea are closed as the full quota has been caught.
  • South of Humbug Mountain the season is open seven days a week with over 71 percent (6,404) pounds of the subarea allocation still remaining.

How To Catch Rogue Mouth Chinook

By Buzz Ramsey

If the predictions are correct, and depending on how many Chinook were harvested in the ocean before now, there could be as many as 400,000 Rogue-bound salmon returning to this famous Southern Oregon river. That’s a lot of fish for a river this size, one that originates in the mountains south of Crater Lake, flows past the outskirts of Medford and through Grants Pass before continuing its journey through the Rogue Canyon to the Pacific Ocean at Gold Beach.

With a big forecasted Chinook return this year, the Rogue Bay at Gold Beach should be on your radar. Anglers troll from just above the Highway 101 bridge down to the jetties for salmon holding in the cool, ocean-influenced waters. (WILDRIVERSFISHING.COM)

And while Rogue River kings come in all sizes, a few lucky anglers take home 40- to 50-pounders every year. I’m reminded of our son Blake, now in his mid-20s, catching his very first salmon in late summer many years ago here. After a tussle that included his reel falling off the rod and realizing we had no landing net (somehow it blew out of the boat) we ran our craft into the shore where Blake finally beached the fat salmon. Excited, we thought it was 40 pounds; as it turned out, it was 35. Not bad for a boy just 6 years old!

AS YOU MIGHT imagine, the waters of the Rogue get warm in the summer, so warm (it can reach 70-plus degrees) that it mostly stalls the upstream migration of fall Chinook. This causes the salmon to linger in the Rogue Bay, where they wait for temps to cool before beginning to move towards the river’s headwaters.

The fish typically move upstream on the flood tide, but once they encounter the warm river water at the head end of the bay – just upstream from the Highway 101 bridge – they put on the brakes and retreat back into the lower bay, and likely into the ocean, as the tide ebbs.

Blake Ramsey, now in his mid-20s, earned a Rogue River Chinook Salmon Club pin after catching this 35-pounder as a 6-year-old fishing off his dad Buzz’s boat near the bay’s mouth. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

Each daily tide, especially big ones, add more and more Chinook to the massive salmon school accumulating in the Rogue Bay. It’s this concentration of fish that results in an annual sport harvest of more than 5,000 fat salmon and draws anglers from around the region to take part in the bounty.

For trollers, the hottest action starts at the jaws when the tide is out, and progresses up the bay as the water floods eastward. The peak bite usually occurs two hours before full flood tide, right in front of Jot’s Resort, which is located on the north side of the river just downstream from the bridge.

Many guides and anglers troll upstream when tides are flooding and downstream as the tide ebbs. Others troll both directions, up and down the bay, when the tide is flooding and back-troll when a big tide causes the current to run. According to guide Sam Waller (541-247-6676), it’s pretty much anything goes when it comes to trolling direction.

The typical trolling outfit consists of a free-sliding weight set-up, flasher, 18-inch weight-dropper-line, and 5- to 6-foot leader with an anchovy, herring, spinner or spinner-and-anchovy combination on the end. The most popular spinner sizes consist of a CV 7 or equivalent size 4 or 5 Hildebrandt and/or 5½ Mulkey or Toman.

Anchovies are king in this fishery, and the baitfish is best rigged with a size 4 spinner blade and trolled so they spin tightly. (WILDRIVERSFISHING.COM)

As for spinner blades used in combination with an anchovy, a size 4 Hildebrandt in genuine 24K gold plate finish is the most popular and many believe the most productive. In most cases 2 to 3 ounces of weight is what works. If the tide is running hard, you may need 4 or 5 ounces.

For best results keep your speed medium to fast and, if possible, troll in a zigzag pattern with your gear just off the bottom, which is where the coolest water and most biting salmon are found. If the bay is crowded, zigzag trolling may not be possible, even though there are times it’s the most effective.

UNLIKE MANY SALMON fisheries in the Northwest, where herring is the most popular and productive bait, most Rogue anglers fish anchovies. The fact is, there are some days the fish prefer herring over anchovies but still the overall ratio is about 90 percent anchovies.

If you fish an anchovy, you may increase your success by rigging it in combination with a spinner blade. Although there are several presnelled rigs available, you can rig your own.

The components you will need for this include a selection of size 4 spinner blades, beads, plastic clevis, old-style paper clips, and selection of single (sizes 1 and 2) and treble hooks (sizes 1 and 2). The single hook is normally snelled as a slip-tie, so you can place a bend in your anchovy causing it to spin; the trailing treble is half hitched to a loop at the end of your leader. The idea here is to use a threader to pull the loop end of your leader through the bait, reattach the treble and place one prong of the treble into the spine of the bait near its tail.

According to professional fishing guide and longtime local angler Andy Martin (206-388-8988), it’s important to angle the head and tail of your anchovy downward when trolling, as doing so will yield the tight spin these kings like best.

The small single hook, rigged as a slider, is then inserted into the head of the anchovy from the bottom up. Some anglers will hold the mouth and gills of their anchovy closed with a thin rubber band, while others use an old-style paper clip reshaped into a “U” to keep the mouth of the bait closed. It’s then that you close the distance between the hooks such that the bait will have a slight bend so it will exhibit a tight spin when trolled. For best results your bait should spin once every second or second and a half.

Many anglers have switched from employing a wire spreader to a free-sliding weight dropper set-up so that if your sinker becomes tangled in the net, the fish can take off without breaking the line.

The Rogue’s known for putting out big kings, though most average 15 to 25 pounds. The fall fishery kicks off in July and has peaked in August in recent years; in 2016, the last year harvest data was available, the river below Elephant Rock just upstream of the bridge yielded 5,078 Chinook. (WILDRIVERSFISHING.COM)

IF YOU HAVE a boat capable of trolling, even a cartopper, this is a fishery you can easily handle, as the water is calm compared to larger rivers and saltwater. The public ramp’s on the ba’s south side, at the Port of Gold Beach; $3 covers launching and parking.

While you may catch a fat Chinook weighing in at 50 pounds or more, most average 15 to 25 pounds. If you do land a fish over 30, take it to Jot’s Resort where they will award you a Rogue River Chinook Salmon Club pin. Our son Blake got one after weighing in his 35-pounder taken near where the Rogue enters the ocean.

For fishing tackle, bait, guides, and local info, contact the Rogue Outdoor Store (541-247-7142) or Jot’s (541-247-6676). NS

Editor’s note: The author is a brand manager and part of the management team at Yakima Bait. Like Buzz on Facebook.

WDFW Fee Hike Proposal On Pause: Report

WDFW’s proposals to fill a projected $32.9 million budget shortfall by increasing license fees or instituting a $10 annual surcharge have been put on pause, according to a report today.

 (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

The plans were brought before the Fish and Wildlife Commission at yesterday’s meeting with the possibility of a decision on Saturday.

But according to thelens.com, members were hesitant to move forward with a recommendation to state lawmakers to pass a bill during the legislative session next year over fears of a backlash from Washington hunters and anglers.

“This could be perceived as the wrong time. Is there ever a good time to ask for a fee increase? Probably not. What I would be afraid of is we get people worked up into a fever opposing the fee increase. There’s no easy answer to this, obviously, but I think timing is critical,” Commissioner Bob Kehoe said, according to the report.

For more, see http://thelens.news/2018/08/10/fish-and-wildlife-pause-on-fee-hikes/.