All posts by Andy Walgamott

2 Removals, Nonlethal Deterrents Appear To Yield ‘Intended Effect’ On Smackout Wolves: WDFW

An after-action report from Washington wolf managers says that taking out two wolves this summer along with efforts to prevent their pack from tangling with grazing cattle appears to have worked.

WDFW says that if the Smackout Pack doesn’t cause any more depredations through Sept. 30, their evaluation period will end and the lethal removal protocol will, in essence, reset to two in a rolling 10-month period. Four would be the new trigger.

But if an attack does occur before the end of the month, they may go back in for another round.

WDFW’S 94-PAGE FINAL REPORT ON A STRING OF CALF ATTACKS OVER 10 MONTHS BY THE SMACKOUT PACK OF NORTHEAST WASHINGTON INCLUDES DEPREDATION INVESTIGATION RESULTS. (WDFW)

The agency’s 94-page final report was issued yesterday — 53 days since the second removal and 61 since the last depredation by the Stevens-Pend Oreille County pack — and will add another data point to the ongoing debate over whether killing wolves helps to quell attacks on cattle and other stock.

“The collaboration between WDFW personnel and the livestock producers, the approach highlighted in the protocol of both proactive and responsive nonlethal deterrents, and the incremental removal, appeared to have the intended effect of changing the Smackout Pack behavior to reduce the probability of reoccurring depredations while continuing to promote recovery,” it states near the end.

At the start of this year’s grazing season, it was believed there were 13 to 15 members in the Smackout Pack, three of which had telemetry collars.

The pack has been the subject of heavy deterrence efforts over the years, but it was blamed for killing three calves and injuring two others belonging to three different producers in attacks in late September 2016 and July 2017.

Four of the five depredations were confirmed and one was probable.

WDFW’s report provides the usual graphic details from those investigations, as well as more about the two wolves that were removed after Director Jim Unsworth’s July 20 authorization.

The first was a 30-pound “young of the year” female that was captured and euthanized two days after a calf was injured on Forest Service land.

The second was a 70-pound adult female removed on July 30.

“Both removals occurred within the 14-day window from the time of depredation, thereby having the most impact on changing the behavior of the pack,” the report states, referring to a study coauthored by researchers in the Northern Rockies. “The removals occurred within a short distance (one mile) from the livestock in an effort to provide the greatest influence on pack behavior related to livestock interactions.”

However, subsequent to putting the pup down, WDFW made a decision to only kill adult wolves (the collared breeding female is off limits).

A third wolf was legally killed in late June by a range rider when it was caught in the act of “chasing and posing an imminent threat” to cattle in a fenced pasture, the first time that provision has been employed in the state.

The report notes nonlethal deterrence work was being performed in the neighborhood of the pack not only this year but in recent grazing seasons as well.

“For approximately four years prior to confirmed depredations in the Smackout wolf pack territory, WDFW had been working with producers on both public and private lands to deter potential wolf depredations. These efforts included increased human presence near livestock on large grazing allotments. Other deterrents measures utilized over the past several years included sharing Wolf GPS collar data including information on den and rendezvous locations with applicable producers, sanitation (removal of livestock carcasses), fladry, fox lights, WDFW field personnel working with USFS range personnel, and monitoring by WDFW personnel,” the report states.

In other Washington wolf news:

  • WDFW reports that all’s quiet on the Sherman Pack front following a series of depredations and one removal.
  • There may — or may not — be a new pack in Okanogan County. It’s unclear if two pups and an adult spotted on a trail camera southeast of Oroville are the nearby Beaver Creek Pack or an as-yet-to-be-determined group of wolves.
  • An ethics complaint has been filed by a public employees group against a state representative alleging the lawmaker used his position to withhold funding for a university over a researcher’s wolf work.
  • And an opinion piece out this week in High Country News and headlined “Rural communities can coexist with wolves. Here’s how” focuses on the collaborative approach to dealing with the recovery of wolves in Washington.

Snohomish Basin Rivers Closing For Humpy Retention

Pink salmon retention is closing after today on Snohomish system rivers due to a very low return so far.

“‘Whoa, where’s all the pinks?'” WDFW district fisheries biologist Jenni Whitney says she’s hearing from stream surveyors.

She says that in places like the Skykomish-Snoqualmie confluence, where in past years massive “crescents” of pinks gathered, this year they’re counting individual fish.

“They’re seeing 10s and 20s, not in the hundreds or thousands,” she says.

At another gauge for the run, Sunset Falls, just 904 have been passed upstream into the South Fork Sky.

At roughly this same time in 2011, 21,000 had.

In 2013, 46,000.

Whitney says this week and next is the typical peak of the run.

Perhaps they’ve been holding off from entering the river due to the lack of rain until this past Sunday, but a limited Tulalip directed coho fishery near the mouth turned up only a “handful” of pinks as well.

A minimal number were likely intercepted by recreational anglers in Puget Sound, judging by all the goose eggs in the pink salmon column, though closures of Areas 8 and 9 also affected that.

Whitney can’t say for certain how many are in the system, but says “it’s looking a lot less” than the escapement goal of 120,000.

So as of Friday, the Snohomish, Skykomish and Snoqualmie Rivers will close for the wild stock to try and get as many back on the gravel as possible.

ERIC BELL PREPARES TO RELEASE A PINK SALMON BUCK. (GREG OLENIK)

The closure follows on a similar one in the Nooksack Basin announced earlier this month.

Coho retention will remain open.

The Snohomish is historically one of Puget Sound’s strongest systems, but this year’s forecast of 171,000 pinks was the fewest expected to return since 1997.

You can trace this year’s poor showing back to 2015, when the odd-year salmon’s parents came in to spawn.

A reconstruction of that year’s run shows that the escapement of 91,000 was the lowest in nearly two decades. What’s more, those fish were undersized and less fecund.

As eggs, this year’s fish were hit by four large floods in fall 2015, starting with one on Halloween that flooded Sultan.

And then they entered the saltwater with the ocean still “hungover” from the Blob.

“Single events can knock them down hard when combined with marine conditions,” notes WDFW salmon policy analyst Aaron Dufault in Olympia.

To the north, Canadian salmon managers now expect half the forecasted Fraser pinks to return. Dufault says that pessimistic estimates for how well the run would survive at sea may not have been pessimistic enough.

Skagit system fisheries biologist Brett Barkdull has been out surveying his system and finding bad signs as well.

“We are past the peak now of spawning in the major tributaries like the Cascade River, Illabot Creek, Bacon Creek, etc., and the counts are the lowest I’ve seen — and I’ve seen the two record low escapements on the Skagit of 60,000,” he says. “The mainstem Skagit from Concrete to Gorge Dam had a live count of 17,000 total today. Just the fact that we could count live fish means that we don’t have very many. Usually on a year with even, say, 300,000, we don’t even try to live count. I don’t know, at this point if we don’t end up with a new record low escapement estimate on the Skagit I’ll be surprised.”

In King County, biologist Aaron Bosworth is waiting for fall survey data to come in to say anything definitive.

“The forecast for Green River was 100,000 to 150,000, a low pink return relative to previous pink years. Seems like the run may have been below this forecast, though. We’ll count them on the spawning grounds over the next month or two and get a better sense for what came back,” he says. “Seems like anglers had a hard time catching them and folks think there may have not been very many around.”

Back on the Snohomish, Whitney says fishermen are asking the same questions as her stream surveyors: “‘Where are the pinks? We’re not catching pinks.'”

But everyone knows that closing humpy retention is in the best interest of conserving the stock in hopes of an eventual return to those “happy days,” as Whitney calls them, when the river’s banks are lined with anglers “hooping and hollering” and fighting pinks on little pink fishing rods.

It took Skagit pinks six years, or three runs, to recover from October 20, 2003’s whopper flood.

In Praise Of Partridge: USFWS Bio/Hunter Shares Love Of Huns

Editor’s note: Dan Magneson, a supervising fishery biologist at the Quilcene National Fish Hatchery in upper Hood Canal, wrote the following twopart tribute to one of our less-well-known upland game birds, the Hungarian or gray partridge, for National Hunting and Fishing Day, which is coming up this Saturday, Sept. 23.

By Dan Magneson

You’ve hunted all day for the Hungarian partridges you know just have to be here somewhere in this general area: after all, you’ve seen them in good numbers after sunrise and before sunset along the adjoining gravel roads, and you’ve seen them hunkered down amongst the snow drifts in the winter. So they’ve just got to be here somewhere.

You’ve already spent this otherwise-splendid afternoon hunting every area that looks the least bit “birdy” but to no avail. What gives?

AL SCHULTZ SHOWS OFF A HARD-WON HUNGARIAN PARTRIDGE TAKEN NEAR VALIER, MONTANA, SEVERAL SEASONS BACK WITH HIS BROWNING SIDE-BY-SIDE SHOTGUN. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Nearing dusk, you throw in the towel and take a shortcut back to your car, cutting across a fall-plowed field, the bared earth there virtually devoid of any vegetative cover.  When you are out in about the middle of it, a large covey of Huns burst simultaneously skyward, those characteristic rust-colored tail feathers fanned and flared outward, filling the air with the fast and flapping fury of wingbeats and excitedly uttering in machine gun-like unison those rick!-rick!-rick! calls.

They quickly maneuver to turn that ceaseless prairie wind to their tails and transform into blurs.

And just like that, in not much more than a blink of the eye, they’ve already disappeared again.

Welcome to the challenging world of hunting – or should I say trying to hunt? –the seemingly-inexplicable gray partridge, that feathered lightning whose swift, strong and sure flight makes it the cheetah of our upland gamebirds.

I once had a friend who remarked, “pheasants are where you find them.”  I knew what he meant, but that statement is far more accurately attributed to the Hun, who – due in large part to their very minimal need for cover – are the least predictable gamebird we have in terms of figuring out just where they are apt to be.

As a passionate upland gamebird enthusiast and an ardent hunter, I just live for the thunderous bedlam of these covey rises, accompanied by those vocalizations that sound to my ears somewhat squealing, but which at the same time are not unmusical, having even a melodious quality about them.  The Hun has the most exciting flush of all of gamebirds.

Formally known as the gray partridge, Perdix perdix, this Eurasian bird was imported from various countries in its European range, with the country of Hungary being chief among them, and thus the common nicknames of “Hun” or less commonly “Hunkie” came into widespread use reflecting the ultimate origin of so many of these birds.  They are on the smaller end of being a medium-sized gamebird, being usually a little over a foot long in length, and a little over ¾ lb. in weight.

A PAIR OF GRAY PARTRIDGE HUNKER IN COVER NEAR A NORTH DAKOTA MARSH. (KRISTA LUNDGREN, USFWS)

Like virtually everyone else, I’m awestruck by the eye-popping iridescent and vivid coloration of a drake wood duck or a rooster pheasant.

But there is room in my heart for the others having a more understated beauty, with the drake pintail duck being a personal favorite; the pointed polar white streak extending up the sides of their brown necks, the fine gray herringbone suit, and the neatly-accented “windows” of slate blue on the sides of their otherwise-black upper bills combine to give them a subtle and highly attractive beauty.

So it is with the Hun, though they are perhaps even more conservative, all demurely done up in those flatter, more muted pastel earth tones that are so handsomely overlain with the chocolate-chestnut horseshoe-shape emblazoned upon their breasts and also arranged in a dramatically-barred pattern down their sides.

My favorite physical description of the Hun is taken from Discover The Outdoors:

“…The male is mostly gray with a distinct “U” shaped, rust colored, brand on its lower breast. It’s face and throat is tinged with burnished orange and the breast is stamped with minute bits of a darker gray. At the demarcation of upper abdomen to belly, the feathers lighten to almost white and pale beige. The upper back is an almost non-discernable blend of brown, gray and white, shifting to mottled dark brown wings. The male partridge’s tail is a dark, chestnut-brown. Female Hungarian partridges are similar…”

Little wonder that the plumage of the Hun is so highly prized by anglers who tie their own fishing flies!

The feathers of the “shoulder” area of the folded wings near the body is where you go to definitely determine the sex of the Hun:  males have only a blond mark along the central shaft of the feather, whereas the females have this exact same mark, but also with the addition of blond crossbars at right angles to the central shaft; this pattern on the female bird represents the so-called “Cross of Lorraine.”

AUTHOR DAN MAGNESON DESCRIBES THE HABITAT BEHIND THIS SIGN IN SOUTHWEST IDAHO NEAR THE OREGON BORDER AS “PUBLIC LAND WHERE THE ELUSIVE ‘HUN’ MAY SOMETIMES BE FOUND. OR NOT.” (DAN MAGNESON)

But there are Hun stories out there just as colorful as a rooster pheasant.  I read of one describing a World War I soldier in central Europe, who was crawling about one night in that “no man’s land” between the two entrenched and opposing armies.  He accidentally placed his hand right smack dab in the middle of a snoozing covey of a dozen Huns.   In that split second before he came to his senses, he’d thought he had set off a landmine and was then on his way toward knocking on those Pearly Gates.  I myself recall driving down a seldom-used North Dakota gravel road one night well after darkness, and a covey of Huns who had roosted right in the center of the road flushed through the headlight beams.

On a heart-warming holiday note, one man notes how the lyric “and a partridge in a pear tree” from the song The Twelve Days of Christmas reminds him of the Christmas mornings of his childhood.  He goes on to describe how his siblings and he, at his father’s behest, carried a bucket of grain just far enough away from their prairie farmhouse that the partridges felt secure.  They would then retreat back into the house and tiptoe up to the window and peek out to watch the Huns come down to enjoy their very own Christmas presents.

The story of how the Hun came to North America begins with the unregulated overhunting and destruction of their historic habitat that decimated so many of our native upland gamebird species.  Faced with these steep declines and eager to find a replacement species, Americans naturally turned to the Old World gamebirds already familiar to so many of the newer immigrants from Europe.

Like the bobwhite quail, Huns are sociable and gregarious birds, coalescing into a basic and cooperative social unit termed a “covey’” which in turn is largely comprised of birds which are related to one another.  They feed together, keep watch for and sound a warning indicating the presence of predators, and often sleep overnight in a rosette or ring in which all the tails are pressed inward, their bodies are hugged against the other birds on both sides, and all heads and thus eyes are facing outward and covering a 360 degree field of view.  The benefits of roosting this way are two-fold:  body warmth is conserved and predators are observed.  And just as with a covey of bobwhites, if a covey of Huns is ever scattered apart, they will employ a unique call with which to reunite themselves again.

These imports reached their pinnacle from the late 1800’s through the early 1900’s, abruptly ceasing in 1914 concurrent with the start of World War I.  Numerous entities were stocking Huns:  various state game agencies, private hunting clubs and even independently by wealthy and well-heeled individuals.  Those releases along the Atlantic seaboard were generally failures, but as one progressed west, and especially in the west-northwest and northwest compass directions, the birds began to take hold.  Not surprisingly, this occurred in those areas of North America that were similar to the Hun’s own native environment, and at similar latitudes, where the annual precipitation fell within a band of somewhere between one to two feet and where the grasses were often no more than knee-high and the distance between the standing stems rather sparsely-spaced.

The stunning success of introducing the ring-necked pheasant into Oregon’s Willamette Valley by Judge Owen Denny is a well-known story, but less well-known is the story of particular Canadian attempts at stocking the Hun in the early 1900’s.

Like a droplet of oil falling onto the surface of water or a lit match tossed into gasoline vapor, these birds explosively stormed across the prairie at a rate calculated at 28 miles per year and enduring for a full 400 miles, spilling over into the adjacent northern U.S. states along the border and augmenting their own attempts at stocking Huns.

Further leveraged by the penetration of the railroads ever deeper into the northern prairie, it may well have represented the most successful attempt at stocking an introduced gamebird anywhere in the world – ever.

In the state of North Dakota alone, it was estimated that by the early 1940’s the Hun population had already reached its all-time peak of 8 – 10 million birds.

Today the grain belt of the northern Great Plains and the semi-arid sagebrush steppe of the Columbia Plateau and the northern Great Basin high desert areas of the Intermountain West remains the Hun’s biggest stronghold in the United States.  Being a fishery biologist, it isn’t lost on me that good Hun range east of the Rocky Mountains coincides with good northern pike range, and in the Pacific Northwest it coincides with the farther upstream reaches of historically good salmon range. And all of it is jackrabbit country to boot.

Requiring not much more than a wide open sky overhead, one can be hunting sparsely-vegetated and sparsely-peopled prairie and high desert habitats (photo above) for individual species as diverse as pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, sage grouse, chukar partridge and California quail and still have an excellent chance of stumbling across some Huns as well.

And during certain longer-term periods of persistently favorable weather patterns (which in the case of Huns means dry and droughty), the southeasterly fringe of Hun range may even briefly blend with the northwesterly fringe of bobwhite quail range and thus you might possibly encounter both of these species on the same hunting trip.

For example, there was an extended period of a generally droughty-dry and rather persistent weather pattern in Iowa from 1977 – 1989. It was within this same time period that large areas of farmland acreage were enrolled and thus idled for long periods in the newly-created Conservation Reserve Program, often being planted to grassy cover.  This created a coupling of conditions distinctly positive for Hun reproduction and their further range expansion, and in some cases they were subsequently found all the way south to the Missouri border.

Today in Iowa, with the return of wetter conditions and fewer CRP lands, Huns have largely receded and retreated back to their historic stronghold in the northwestern quarter of the state.

Probably no other American gamebird rubs shoulders with so many other species of upland gamebirds across such a wide range – and wide range of varying habitats.

But like a buckeye tree, they usually are never particularly thick anywhere, and so mostly represent “targets of opportunity” and are taken by the wingshooting public more as a “bonus” or “filler” gamebird, taken incidentally while primarily hunting the aforementioned more popular species; relatively few hunters specifically key in on Huns.

Yet if you were going to pursue Huns specifically, what is their general life history, and what are their seasonal patterns of habitat use along with their related behaviors, and how might one adapt their hunting strategy to better boost their odds of success?

Seasons of the Hunt: Part II of our Series on the Enigmatic Hungarian Partridge

SPRING

The covey has disintegrated, with the young from the previous year having paired off and formed strong monogamous bonds with Huns from other coveys.  If they are both still alive, the original parents will stay together and start yet another new family.  If one has since died, however, the survivor will readily form a pair bond with a different mate.

If the Hun is like a feathered cheetah when it comes to speed, then they are like a feathered rabbit when it comes to reproducing themselves!

The nest site is usually chosen in sparser dried stems of taller grass intermixed among the stalks of broadleaf weed cover consisting of the previous year’s dead growth and thus creating a light canopy overhead; hay and alfalfa fields that received mowing the previous year are virtually never chosen as a nesting site.  Huns have a decided propensity for nesting in strips of cover along fencelines and in wide ditches along roadsides, possibly a function of their spending so much of their time along the edges of the adjacent fields.

Depending somewhat on the latitude, the great majority of the nesting will take place from around Memorial Day to the first day of the official start of summer at the solstice; both the male and female are devoted parents and will actively defend the nest.

The female constructs a simple ground nest while the male stands guard.  That task completed, she will typically lay from 16 – 18 buff-olive eggs (although there are occasionally white specimens) and sometimes as many as 22 eggs, by far the most of any gamebird in North America and in fact among the most of any bird on earth.

This, coupled with and enhanced by extremely good early brood rearing conditions, explains what enables the Hun to generate such steeply-sharp population spikes in certain years and explains why coveys may then be unexpectedly encountered in areas where you traditionally have never seen them.

Normally, the Hun is much less subject to mortality from predation during winter weather than are most other upland gamebirds – except predators can and often do exact a heavier toll during horrifically-bad winter weather of exceptionally long duration.

But they have an even greater Achilles Heel, whereupon their numbers really take it on the chin: above and beyond anything else, especially extended periods of cold and wet conditions early in a chick’s life can be deadly and very severely depress Hun numbers in the coming autumn; the importance of warm and dry conditions to the very young one-and-a-half inch tall chicks cannot be emphasized enough.  So please, no rain dances now!

As the chicks continue to grow toward maturity, they become less and less associated with cover that has a canopy overhead.

Outside of this acutely-vulnerable period of their lives, I would expect that Hun populations would do better in dry and droughty years in the more easterly portions of their North American range, and conversely do better in moister than normal conditions in the generally more arid westerly parts of their range.

SUMMER

The female carefully conceals the eggs with vegetation whenever she briefly departs, and by now the last of the later clutches will hatch out in July, and insects are of paramount importance to the hungry chicks at this time of year; the high protein levels are necessary to fuel their rapid rate of growth and development.

AUTUMN

In the dryfarmed prairie regions, such as North Dakota, to be consistently successful in the early hunting season look for the birds along the grassy fringes between the wheat stubble and neighboring Siberian elm and Russian olive shelterbelts, or back-and-forth along the margins of other relatively-light cover types bordering the wheat stubble.  The Hun coveys will be comprised mostly of inexperienced and naïve young-of-the-year birds, affording you closer shots and more opportunity to flush them again since they generally won’t go very far before landing.  Their early season behavior always reminded me a great deal of hunting bobwhites along the osage-orange hedgerows back in my native southwest Iowa.

Composed at its core of immediate family members, falling in with this central covey along the way are otherwise-unpaired adult Huns.

Besides watching them in order that you can go pursue them again, there is another reason – if you have shot at them.  Sometimes a bird you thought you had missed or barely “tickled” suddenly drops from flight deader than yesterday’s news, or you see a bird land short of where the rest of the covey put down.  You owe it to your quarry to try to get these otherwise-wasted birds into your bag.

Huns will commonly feed early in the morning and again late in the afternoon; food is plentiful, so it doesn’t take them long to get their fill.  Then they will loaf during midday in the vicinity of the edges of the fields.  In wheat country, their diet may be almost entirely comprised of the kernels of this grain, along with sprouts of volunteer plants.

Like a big ol’ trophy bucket-mouthed bass near an old submerged stump, Huns seem to orient to certain features in an otherwise homogenous landscape.  That elevated knoll or hillock or that lone bush or rock pile out in the wheat stubble are good spots to focus your efforts upon, as are abandoned farm machinery and implements in old ranch junkyards and the like.  I remember once hunting an ocean of wheat stubble, and the only feature different was an old Christmas tree that had been dumped out there.  And that was right where I found a big covey of Huns.

You may be able to flush the same covey twice or maybe three times, and very rarely four times.  Huns really stick together, and the first flush is likely to be straight toward some landmark familiar to that covey.  The second flush will likely see them veering in something of an arc.  The countryside may look fairly featureless to you, but rest assured it is not to them.  If you flush them a third time and at the limits of their home range, they might well turn and come right back over your head in order to return to familiar turf – which is quite often the same spot you originally found them, or near to it, and thus demonstrating that they really are rooted or anchored to a certain home range.

If you do succeed in fragmenting the covey into singles and doubles, these are the birds to pursue because they will likely hold much tighter and subsequently flush at much closer range than is likely with the remaining bulk of the covey.

WHITMAN COUNTY, WITH ITS WHEATLANDS, PRODUCED WASHINGTON’S MOST GRAY PARTRIDGE IN 2016, 485, ACCORDING TO STATE DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND WILDLIFE STATISTICS. NEXT BEST WAS DOUGLAS (458) FOLLOWED BY ASOTIN (446). (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

In the sagebrush country of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and the far northern portions of Nevada and Utah where irrigated agriculture is more the rule, again look for Huns in areas adjacent to stubble fields of wheat, rye, barley and other small grain crops.  Much of the time this will be along the steeper foothills next to the flatter cultivated farm fields.  Mostly grassy cover interspersed with dots of occasional sagebrush is ideal, and don’t forget to check the grassy heads of basins and especially the deeply sun-shielded and sometimes surprisingly-moist creases between hills, and especially on the very warm days of the early season.  The Huns can find cooler shade among the broader-leafed shrubbery, and the damp conditions are conducive for attracting insects and also for growing succulent shoots and tender grass tips; Huns are always partial to a meal of fresh salad greens, no matter what the season.

I like best the places where the border along the sagebrush and wheat stubble fields really weaves and wanders a lot, where the wheat is surrounded on three sides by sagebrush and grass or conversely those lone and long fingers of sagebrush and grass protruding far, far out into the wheat stubble.

Keep an eye peeled for the places the Huns take dust baths, and the odd loose feather or two confirming that.  And look for piles of droppings indicating where they have roosted; the individual droppings are pointed at one end and broad at the other, looking like a miniature green sugar cone with a scoop of white vanilla ice cream.

If you shoot a double-barreled gun, a fast 20-gauge with a #7 ½ load in a barrel choked improved cylinder and the other barrel choked modified with a #6 load should do a fine job in most instances.

Insects such as beetles, grasshoppers, crickets and ants will continue to be taken by Huns, but the carbohydrates and lipids found in grains have by now begun progressively making up more and more of the diet as the overnight freezing-frosty temperatures causes the insects to die off for the year.

But there are those coveys of Huns who live out their entire lives never once feeding on cultivated, domesticated cereal grains from farm fields.

In the Sawtooth National Forest south-southeast of Twin Falls, Idaho I used to hunt mule deer in a rather pristine, broad valley that was, as best I recall, either entirely ungrazed by cattle or else only very lightly grazed.  I probably put up more coveys of Huns down there more often than anywhere else I’ve ever been, and they were miles and miles from the nearest agricultural areas. They were absolutely thriving out there in that desolate country.  So don’t ignore those vast holdings of public lands that are managed by the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, the public lands adjacent to the big western reservoirs managed by the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and those portions of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-managed National Wildlife Refuges which may be open to hunting.

There are often steep hills associated with these wilder areas, and the birds usually flush downhill and then hook off one direction or the other towards the end of their flight.  I don’t think it is a deliberate and diabolical attempt on their part to better elude your finding them again; instead I think they are just trying to reduce their air speed in order to make a soft and easy landing.  Don’t be too surprised if they subsequently start to slowly work their way up another hill.  You can use the rough terrain to plot a quiet and more concealed approach and if you have a partner, one hunter can start working downhill from above them while the other starts working up the hill from a point just below where they originally landed.  Watch especially any stragglers that flush late behind the main body of the covey; these birds often cut corners and take shortcuts to catch up, giving you a better idea of where they’ve landed if the flight of the main covey has been obscured by an obstacle.

But I’ll tell you, when it comes to pursuing opportunities to make multiple flushes in steeper country, don’t be surprised if the Huns wear you out before you’ve worn them out.

As autumn grows long in the tooth, the Huns will have wised up considerably, becoming in many cases ultra-wary and hyper-alert. It is about now they begin to start flushing so wildly, far out of shotgun range, and start showing you just how well they can twist and turn on a dime once in flight.  Oddly enough, Huns do tend to generally hold well for a pointing dog – provided it doesn’t press them too closely.  The ideal Hun dog is one with the endurance of the Energizer Bunny, and that casts to-and-fro across the field very widely, but is solid as a statue when it goes on point, allowing you plenty of time to get there.  But don’t dilly-dally with these now-skittish Huns!   Hunt the dog into the wind, and don’t be afraid to experiment if need be:  circling far out to the side and around the covey, then coming in directly at the dog, sometimes perplexes the Huns just long enough for a decent shot at them.  A hawk whistle may help freeze running birds in their tracks; to imitate a hawk, some hunters will go so far as to tie a dark helium balloon to their belts in hopes of likewise helping to pin the Huns down into place.

I’d stick with all #6 loads now, and consider moving up to a 12-gauge shotgun.  You never know for sure what Huns might decide to do on a given day, whether to flush nice and close or way out there beyond gun range.  But I think I’d lean more toward a modified or full choke, though, as it is more likely to be the latter case.

WINTER

I used to go to college in Bottineau, North Dakota, which is located in the far northern (and central) part of the state.  A blizzard would be howling and wind-driven snow would be coming in thin, powdery waves across the ground, the mercury standing at far below zero.

Yet the Huns would be out scurrying around and feeding right in the midst of it, so impervious that they seemed imbued with immunity to bitter cold.

MAGNESON WITH A BRACE OF HUNS TAKEN EARLY IN HIS PARTRIDGE HUNTING CAREER. (DAN MAGNESON)

For such a small bird, the winter survival skills of the Hun border on the incredible; they are absolutely unfazed by the same ferocious blizzards that can lay waste to an entire population of pheasants.

Their habit of forming a warm roosting ring is part of it: with snow lingering on the ground, one author spoke of repeatedly finding different overnight roosts used by the same covey of nine Huns.  They had always very consistently packed into an area smaller than what a single pheasant takes up.

But unlike either pheasants or bobwhite quail, if conditions get bad enough, then the Huns will use the blanket of snow itself as insulating cover, readily burrowing down into it to escape especially severe and otherwise deadly conditions.

The wind may whip up some big snowdrifts, but other areas are commonly kept largely snow-free by the very same winds, which gives the Huns a place to forage for food.

But if there is a fairly uniform and persisting cover of snow of four inches or more, the Huns will start to utilize woody cover, as Aldo Leopold noted in 1931:  “Hungarians come nearer being able to get along without cover than pheasants or quail, but during snow they do require some heavy grass, weeds, or standing corn.”

In the northwestern quarter of the state of Iowa, it’ll be wild plum thickets for certain any time there is one in the Hun’s home range, just like with the bobwhite quail in the bottom two tiers of that state’s southernmost counties.

In the Dakotas, it will likely be stands of lilac and caragana.

Out here further to the west, it’s going to be shrubs such as snowberry, hawthorn, chokecherry and buffalo-berry.

Mimicking fox hunters is a viable option, whereupon you don white coveralls and wrap your gun in white tape.  You might consider packing binoculars tucked down inside your coveralls to keep them from fogging up or flopping against your chest.  Neither food nor length of daylight is as plentiful now, so looking even out into the very middle of fields such as wheat stubble becomes more worthwhile as the Huns are now generally spending a greater proportion of the daylight hours feeding.  One thing that will help you after a new snow is that now there are fresh Hun tracks with which to betray their presence.  Scanning far ahead will help you plot an ambush; if you don’t see the Huns actively moving about, then look for “dirt clods” sitting out there and protruding up from the snow.

Also don’t forget the effects of the wind chill factor. Look for Huns to escape the cold winds by locating themselves on the lee sides of hills, steep and sheer protective creek banks, and also man-made structures such as abandoned farmstead buildings as well as lone grain bins and machine sheds.   If such areas also receive warming rays of sunshine and the thinner areas of snow melts off to boot, so much the better.  The wind can work to your benefit by better masking your approach, but bear in mind that the now-nervous Huns will compensate by relying on their vision just that much more when conditions diminish the effectiveness of their sense of hearing.

As in all seasons, if there is a spring or seep where sprouts continue to grow from the unfrozen mud, they are worth checking out for Huns.

I definitely would go with a 12 gauge shotgun in the winter, and preferably one with a PolyChoke as you again never quite know at just what range at they will choose to flush on any given day.  I usually like a more tightly-choked barrel with a #6 shell in the chamber, and I follow that up with #5 shells in the magazine for successive shots at probable longer ranges.

But if the snow is especially deep and worse yet covered by a thick glaze of ice for a prolonged period, the Huns will become desperately hungry, and then begin approaching gravel roadsides, livestock feedlots, silos, and farmsteads in general, searching for barer ground anywhere where they might locate some food.  But no ethical hunter would ever exploit such a pitiful plight.

Late in the winter, after the season closes and the weather warms and the snow melts off,  the males will begin squaring off with one another and engage in ritualized fighting, with the victor getting to stay where he is and the vanquished bird having to leave.

Female Huns are more aggressive during this period than the females of most other gamebird species, and will decisively lower the boom on any other females caught flirting with their chosen mate.  And which male Huns are the favored mates? The ones seen as leaders within the covey and also those who seem to maintain a state of heightened alert.

The cycle of a new Hun generation is beginning anew.

SUMMING IT ALL UP

Coupled with the topography, the direction and the angle and the intensity of the sun along with prevailing weather and wind patterns combine to create a seasonally-changing mosaic of different plant species and ultimately plant communities of varying density.  This in turn provides the Huns a home range in which they can capitalize upon the best opportunities for their continued survival and perpetuation of their own kind.

For you to be a consistently-successful hunter of these birds, you’ll need to develop the ability to discern these differences and how they interact; that in turn will get you pointed in the proper direction and better narrow things down to just where the Huns are likely to be found on any given day during the changing seasons.

And all of this is alluring to a hunter, or should be, creating a charismatic aura and enticing you to try to take apart and figure out just what makes these birds tick.

The upside to learning in this big outdoor classroom is the generally grand and glorious scenery, the stunningly-spectacular sunrises and sunsets in this otherwise-austere landscape, the wild and sometimes surreal cloud formations, the weird and grotesque rock formations, the sego lily and Indian paintbrush, that old corral with those giant and golden cottonwoods, and all the solitude to be found in the American Outback that is Hun Country.

It’s a classroom in which you will never become bored.

Best of Luck to you the reader during this hunting season and in all in your future Hun endeavors!

Oregon, Washington Wardens Bust Netters Illegally Fishing Deschutes Salmon Sanctuary

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OREGON STATE POLICE

As a result of numerous complaints of illegal gillnetting on the Columbia River at the Deschutes River Sanctuary, Oregon State Police in conjunction with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Enforcement, conducted a nighttime river patrol on the night of September 18th, 2017.

(OSP)

Troopers located a boat operating without required lighting in the sanctuary with 3 persons onboard. They also discovered the boaters had an 1100+ foot gillnet deployed in the water in violation of restrictions. In addition to this being a closed area to gillnetting, the length of the gillnet, which extended beyond the sanctuary boundary, exceeded state limitations of 800 feet maximum length allowable. Gillnets are prohibited in the Deschutes River Sanctuary throughout the entire year. Two adults were detained along with their juvenile minor child on the water and subsequently taken to the Celilo State Park for further investigation.

26 year old Lane Meanus and 24 year old Ashley Leslie, both residents of Celilo Village, were arrested for multiple criminal acts.

LANE MEANUS. (OSP)

Meanus was lodged at NORCOR on charges of Commercial Fishing Closed Waters and cited for Operating a Vessel Without Required Lighting.

Leslie was given criminal citations for Commercial Fishing Closed Waters and Taking Fish Without Tribal Identification on Person.

The investigation discovered there were 85 Chinook Salmon and 1 Steelhead taken with a current market value of over $3500.00.

Fish and Wildlife preservation is crucial to the sustainment and healthy population management efforts to the entire Pacific Northwest. The Oregon State Police and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife encourage anyone witnessing or with knowledge of fish and wildlife violation to report it via the established tip line.

Invasive Euro Crab Found On Whidbey’s Western Shore

The first invasive European green crab has been found inside the mouth of Admiralty Inlet, the unwanted species’ furthest advance into Puget Sound so far.

The small male was captured at Lagoon Point on the west side Whidbey Island, Washington Sea Grant reported yesterday.

(WASHINGTON SEA GRANT)

Volunteer monitors have been keeping an eye on that location for the past two seasons but this is the first one they’ve spotted.

It follows on the discovery of a female in Sequim Bay last month, and a colony on Dungeness Spit in midspring. However, another in Padilla Bay showed signs of having been preyed on.

The Lagoon crab is believed to be part of this year’s cohort. Sea Grant’s crab team is talking about doing more surveys in the area before the season’s work wraps up till next April.

The worry is that if green crabs establish a sustaining population, they could damage eelgrass pastures — so important for our salmonids and other fish — and clam beds.

A WSG map shows dozens upon dozens of locations in Puget Sound and Hood Canal south of Lagoon Point with a high or moderate suitability for the species. About 16 are monitored.

To learn how to spot green crabs and differentiate them from juvenile Dungies and red rocks, as well as find out more about the efforts of WSG’s Crab Team, go here.

The Story Behind That Huge Lingcod Speared Off Oregon Sunday

Imagine you’re holding your breath 40 feet down off Oregon’s chilly Central Coast and the ginormous lingcod — one with a toothsome smile as big as your head — that you’ve just shot with your speargun pulls you backwards.

Into its cave.

That’s the situation Josh Humbert found himself in last Saturday.

HENRY BRIAN CHAMBERLAIN EMERGES FROM THE OREGON SURF WITH A 42-INCH-LONG LINGCOD HE SPEARED ON THE LAST DAY OF THE 2017 BOTTOMFISHING SEASON. (PHOTO BY JOSH HUMBERT, INSTAGRAM: @JOSHHUMBERT)

Humbert is among the Beaver State’s elite free-diving spearfishermen, as well as a photographer, and his images (@joshhumbert on Instagram) graced a July feature in Northwest Sportsman on the tight-knit community.

How that struggle between man and sea beast nearly 7 fathoms below the surface might have played out we’ll never know because as the lingcod thrashed, pulling Humbert towards its lair, the small barb or “flopper” on the pole spear he was using pulled through the ling’s cheek, and the fish was lost.

“If it had been a full-sized [barb] (about 2 inches), as well as being far enough away from the tip, it would have held for sure,” Humbert says.

But that is not the end of the story.

The next day, Sunday, the final day of Oregon’s bottomfish season, Humbert and friend Brian Chamberlain returned for another go at the ling.

With a slightly higher tide and 8 feet of visibility, they had to make numerous dives of up to a minute and a half as they searched for more than half an hour to find the ling and its cave.

“We were diving an offshore reef with no nearby land bearings to line up on, so just locating the cave was a small victory,” Humbert wrote on an Instagram post.

Eventually they rediscovered it and Chamberlain speared the ling on his first dive.

Chamberlain’s “fish of a lifetime” and “biggest lingcod any of us has ever seen,” as his friend said, taped out at 42 inches, which would put it around 31 pounds, according to one chart.

That’s definitely on the upper end for Oregon lings, which on rare occasions grow to as big as 4 feet. ODFW’s Eric Schindler says that of 63,564 randomly sampled by his crews since 2008, only 97 have been bigger, and he notes most anglers release those that big.

According to Maggie Sommer, the agency’s marine fishing manager, the state’s lingcod stocks are considered healthy and are being fished at nowhere close to concerning levels. She says the biomass is at 58 percent of “virgin,” or unexploited levels, and says that it could be fished down to 40 percent and still provide enough for sustainable fisheries and ecosystem functions.

“There are plenty of big, spawning females. That’s the reason there’s no upper size limit on lingcod,” Sommer says.

ODFW closed bottomfish season as of this Monday after quotas for black rockfish, yelloweye rockfish — which inhabit similar habitats and eat the same things as lings — and cabezon reached their quotas due to excellent fishing this year.

There is no quota on lingcod and they’re otherwise open year-round with a daily limit of two 22 inches or larger.

As for Humbert’s initial shot on the ling, a mere flesh wound.

“We saw the wound from the previous day on the fish and couldn’t believe how well it had closed up,” he noted.

Responding to comments on our initial Facebook post of the photo of Chamberlain and the ling, Humbert said he planned on eating “a big piece with friends this weekend.”

Bon appetit, you guys earned it!

Southwest Washington Fishing Report (9-20-17)

THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION WAS COLLECTED BY ODFW AND WDFW STAFF AND TRANSMITTED BY JOE HYMER, PSMFC

Lower Columbia mainstem sport update

Last week on the lower Columbia, anglers made 15,120 trips and caught 6,350 adult Chinook (5,765 kept and 585 released) 358 adult coho (188 kept and 170 released) and 165 summer steelhead (123 kept and 42 released)..

Salmon/Steelhead

Cowlitz River – From the I-5 Bridge downstream:  12 boats/42 rods kept 13 adult and 2 jack Chinook and released 42 adult and 4 jack Chinook.  5 bank anglers had no catch.  No anglers were sampled upstream from the bridge.

ANOTHER GREAT OUTING OFF DRANO LAKE FOR WILLIAM AND HIS DAD, CLAY HULL. THEY WERE AGAIN FISHING WITH JOE MCCARL AND REPORT GOING TWO FOR FOUR. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Last week, Tacoma Power employees recovered 188 fall Chinook adults, 20 fall Chinook jacks, 18 summer-run steelhead, 62 spring Chinook adults, two spring Chinook jacks, 65 coho adults, two coho jacks, and 14 cutthroat trout during five days of operations at the Cowlitz Salmon Hatchery separator.

During the past week, Tacoma Power employees released 40 spring Chinook adults, one spring Chinook jack, five coho adults and one cutthroat trout into the Cispus River near the mouth of Yellow Jacket Creek and they released 16 spring Chinook adults, one coho adult and one cutthroat trout at Franklin Bridge in Packwood.

Tacoma Power released 137 fall Chinook adults, 19 fall Chinook jacks, four coho adults, one coho jack and nine cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

River flows at Mayfield Dam are approximately 2,720 cubic feet per second (cfs) on Monday, September 18. Water visibility is 13 feet and water temperature is 54.9 degrees F. River

Lewis River – No report on angling success.  On the mainstem and North Fork Lewis rivers, any Chinook, adipose fin clipped or not, may be retained effective September 23.

Drano Lake – 33 boats/75 anglers kept 33 adult Chinook and adult coho and released 3 steelhead.  There were 65 boats were here last Saturday morning.

Bonneville Pool – 18 boats/43 anglers kept 22 adult Chinook.  Last Saturday morning there were 75 boats off the Klickitat, 40 off the White Salmon, and 30 off Drano Lake.

Lower Columbia, Gorge Pools Fishing Report (9-20-17)

THE FOLLOWING MATERIAL ORIGINATED FROM TANNA TAKATA, ODFW, AND WAS TRANSMITTED BY JOE HYMER, PSMFC

Salmon, Steelhead and Shad

On Saturday’s (9/16) flight, 939 salmonid boats and 10 Oregon bank anglers were counted from Tongue Point to Corbett; and 196 Oregon boats were counted at Buoy 10.  Anglers at Buoy 10 averaged 0.12 Chinook and 1.62 coho caught per boat.  In the gorge, boat anglers averaged 1.10 Chinook caught per boat, while anglers fishing in Troutdale averaged 0.44 Chinook and 0.01 coho caught per boat.  In the Portland to Westport area, boat anglers averaged 0.74 Chinook, 0.05 coho and 0.01 steelhead caught per boat.  In the Bonneville Pool, boat anglers averaged 1.67 Chinook, 0.02 coho and 0.02 steelhead caught per boat, while anglers fishing in The Dalles Pool caught 1.24 Chinook and 0.06 coho caught per boat.  In the John Day Pool, boat anglers averaged 0.17 Chinook caught per boat.  Bank anglers fishing in the Portland to Westport area averaged 0.44 Chinook and 0.11 coho caught per angler.

FALL SALMON ARE MOVING UP THE COLUMBIA. WITH A LITTLE HELP FROM DAUGHTER CASSIDY, 13 MONTHS OLD, AUSTIN BOWEN SHOWS OFF A FALL CHINOOK HE PICKED UP LAST WEEKEND FISHING A PRAWN SPINNER BEHIND A FISH FLASH. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Gorge Bank: No report.

Gorge Boats: Weekend checking showed 32 Chinook adults and two Chinook jacks kept for 29 boats (81 anglers).

Troutdale Boats: Weekend checking showed 74 Chinook adults, four Chinook jacks and one coho adult kept, plus two Chinook adults and one pink released for 172 boats (383 anglers).

Portland to Westport Bank: Weekend checking showed one coho adult kept, plus four Chinook adults released for nine bank anglers.

Portland to Tongue Point Boats: Weekend checking showed 154 Chinook adults, three Chinook jacks, five coho adults and two steelhead kept, plus six Chinook adults, one Chinook jack and five coho adults released for 215 boats (489 anglers).

Estuary Boats (Above Tongue Point): Weekend checking showed four coho adults kept, plus one coho adult released for one boat (two anglers).

Estuary Boats (Tongue Point to Buoy 10): Weekend checking showed 161 coho adults kept, plus 20 Chinook and 101 coho released for 162 boats (486 anglers).

Bonneville Pool (Bonneville Dam upstream to The Dalles Dam): Weekly checking showed 158 Chinook adults, 14 Chinook jacks, two coho adults and two steelhead kept, plus six Chinook adults released for 98 boats (234 anglers).

The Dalles Pool (The Dalles Dam upstream to John Day Dam): Weekly checking showed 21 Chinook adults, three Chinook jacks and one coho adult kept for 17 boats (47 anglers).

John Day Pool (John Day Dam upstream to McNary Dam): Weekly checking showed no catch for three bank anglers; and five Chinook adults and one Chinook jack kept for 29 boats (54 anglers).

STURGEON

Lower Columbia River (below Bonneville Dam): Closed for retention. Weekend checking showed four sublegal and eight legal white sturgeon released for two boats (seven anglers).

Bonneville Pool: Closed for retention. No report.

The Dalles Pool: Closed for retention. Weekly checking showed three sublegal, one legal and five oversize sturgeon released for one boat (two anglers).

John Day Pool: Closed for retention. No report.

WALLEYE

Gorge:  No report.

Troutdale: Weekend checking showed no catch for one boat (two anglers).

Portland to Tongue Point:  Weekend checking showed one walleye kept for two boats (three anglers).

The Dalles Pool: Weekly checking showed 24 walleye kept, plus one walleye released for three boats (nine anglers).

John Day Pool: Weekly checking showed no catch for one bank angler; and 53 walleye kept, plus 16 walleye released for 15 boats (28 anglers).

Here Are Some Of The Fishing Regs WDFW Wants To Simplify

With today’s announcement that WDFW is looking for comment on ways to simplify the @$%@$ confusing as @%$@ fishing @#$@$# regulations, here’s a look at the first round of specific proposals the agency is floating:

Chumming

Action: Eliminate the prohibition of chumming and allow it statewide.

Justification: Provides opportunity for the public to use this method where desired.

IT’S BECOME LESS OF A JOKE AND MORE OF A REALITY TO WANT TO HAVE AN ATTORNEY ON HAND TO PARSE THE FISHING REGULATIONS, BUT WDFW IS PROPOSING WAYS TO SIMPLIFY THE RULES GOVERNING ANGLING IN THE STATE’S WATERS.

Eastern brook trout

Action: Standardize fishing regulations for eastern brook trout statewide by requiring no daily limit and no minimum size.

Justification: This change is intended to help increase harvest of Eastern brook trout, which are a non-native trout species that hybridize with native bull trout and compete with other native species in Washington waters.

Eliminate mandatory steelhead retention

Action: Remove mandatory steelhead retention requirements.

Justification: Creel information in the mid-Columbia indicates that the rule has had limited additional benefits.

Eliminate pan fish special limits

Action: Remove daily limits for pan fish species, such as bluegill and pumpkinseed, on specific waters.

Justification: Special limits are not showing benefits to populations.

Possession limit

Action: Change the game fish possession limit to apply when in field or in transit, aligning the regulations with the definition of the general possession limit rule.

Justification: Provide consistent language for possession limits.

Removing duplicative landowner rules

Action: Remove fishing regulations in WAC and in the pamphlet that are duplicative of local landowner rules and regulations (e.g., county ordinances stating “no use of a floating device equipped with an internal combustion motor.”)

Justification: This will reduce the complexity of regulations in the pamphlet and rely on local landowners to post access regulations on site.

Separate trout and steelhead rules

Action: Provides separate daily limits and sizes for trout and steelhead. Would allow both limits to be retained daily (e.g., two trout and three steelhead). Modify the definition of trout to: “rainbow trout (except steelhead).”

Justification: This will help anglers better understand the daily

catch limits and allow them to retain the daily limit of trout and the daily limit of steelhead.

Standard regulations (apply to lakes, ponds and reservoirs unless listed as an exception)

Action: Reduce the number of seasons and regulations that apply to lakes, ponds and reservoirs.

Justification: Simplifies seasons and regulations for lakes, ponds and reservoirs.

Seasons:

  • Year-round (default)
  • March 1 through September 30
  • March 1 through November 30
  • Fourth Saturday in April through September 30
  • Fourth Saturday in April through October 31
  • Friday after Thanksgiving through March 31

Catch limits and minimum sizes:

Species Daily limit Size restrictions
Trout 5 None
Trout 2 14 inch minimum
Trout 1 18 inch minimum
Trout None Catch and release
Kokanee 10 None
Largemouth bass 5 Bass less than 12 inches or greater than 17 inches, no more than one over 17 inches daily
Smallmouth bass 10 No more than one 14 inches or greater in length daily
Walleye 8 Minimum size 12 inches only 1 over 22 inches
Channel catfish 5 None
Tiger musky 1 Minimum length 50 inches
Panfish None None
Burbot 5 None
Whitefish 15 None
All other gamefish None None

Action: Standardize language regarding eligible participants to allow juveniles, seniors and disabled anglers.

Justification: Provides consistency regarding who can fish at these waters.

Statewide standards (apply to all rivers and streams unless listed as an exception)

  • Gamefish Season: Open Saturday before Memorial Day through October 31 unless listed otherwise.
  • Wild trout, except brook trout and dolly varden/bull trout: Daily limit 2, minimum size 8 inches.
  • Dolly varden/bull trout: Closed.
  • Brook trout: No daily limit, no minimum size. Open when open for gamefish or salmon.
  • Hatchery trout: daily limit 2, no minimum size. Open when open for gamefish or salmon.
  • Bass, channel catfish, and walleye in rivers and streams: No daily limit, no minimum size. Open when open for gamefish or salmon.

Action: Modify language to allow the retention of hatchery steelhead in freshwater statewide when open for game fish or salmon.

Justification: Allows for broad implementation statewide. Currently incidental retention of hatchery steelhead is only allowed in Puget Sound and on the coast.

Action: Standardize statewide the annual season for rivers, streams and beaver ponds to the Saturday before Memorial Day through October 31.

Justification: Currently there are three dates around the start of June. Reducing this complexity to one season will provide predictable fishing opportunities.

Action: Eliminate provision that states all trout caught are counted as part of the daily limit whether kept or released.

Justification: Provide opportunity for anglers to continue fishing for the day.

Action: Provide consistent standard seasons for fisheries only open to white fish.

Justification: Maintain predictable seasons for fisheries only open to white fish that are consistent with wild steelhead protection.

High Hunters Find Bucks, Crowded Conditions Due To Fires

The heights were crowded and smokey, but some High Buck hunters came down with nice muleys as Washington’s early rifle season kicked off.

KEN GRAHAM NOTCHED HIS TAG DURING WASHINGTON’S HIGH BUCK HUNT WITH THIS NICE MULEY. (MIKE QUINN)

Dale Wick at Icicle Outfitters in Leavenworth reports that one party of four, including hardcore High Buck hunter Stan Weeks, all tagged out after spotting more than a dozen legal bucks the day before the Sept. 15-25 season began.

VETERAN HIGH BUCK HUNTER STAN WEEKS GOT ANOTHER GOOD ONE, THIS MULEY. ACCORDING TO DALE WICK OF ICICLE OUTFITTERS, WEEKS TOOK IT ON THE SECOND DAY OF SEASON AFTER PASSING ON THREE OTHERS. (STAN WEEK)

But he confirmed that with closures due to the Diamond Creek, Jolly Mountain and Jack Creek Fires, as well as uncleared trails in the recently reopened upper Entiat, more hunters were crowded into portions of the Henry M. Jackson, northern Alpine Lakes and southern Glacier Peak Wildernesses his company runs drop camps in.

SMOKE TURNS THE SKY A LURID RED OVER WASHINGTON’S NORTH CASCADES DURING THE HIGH BUCK HUNT LAST WEEKEND. (MIKE QUINN)

Freelance hunters had mixed results. Mike Quinn said that before recent storms rolled in, bucks had been bedding before daylight and not risking exposing themselves till after dark.

“We had to roll a couple of large rocks down the slope we were covering, and lightly blow on a predator call to get the bucks curious about what was occurring in their bedroom/kitchen,” said Quinn. “It worked. Fifteen minutes after the last stone rolled down the hill two four-points came slinkin’ out of their bedding sanctuary and the larger buck paid the ultimate price for Ken Graham. We let the other four-point go as he was probably only 2 1/2 years old and small.”

IT WASN’T JUST STAN WEEKS (RIGHT) TAGGING OUT — THREE OTHER MEMBERS OF HIS DROP CAMP ALSO SCORED BUCKS DURING WASHINGTON’S HIGH HUNT. (STAN WEEKS)

Writing on The Outdoor Line’s blog, Jason Brooks reported a couple chances lost after other hunters fired on bucks.

Chase Gunnell was solo hunting 6 miles up a trail in falling snow when he spotted a nice four-point in a burned area, taking his first buck in his third year participating in the historic High Hunt.

“Between the crowds of hunters and the weather, the deer seemed to be less active in the open alpine slopes and meadows compared to past years, and what I saw scouting just a few weeks ago,” he reported.

CHASE GUNNELL TOOK HIS FIRST HIGH HUNT BUCK, THIS CHAR-ANTLERED FOUR-POINTER. (CHASE GUNNELL)

Like Quinn and Graham, Gunnell had to switch up tactics to succeed.

“After a few fruitless early mornings and evenings glassing the basins, I got my buck still hunting meticulously through some steep timber where I figured they were bedding. Felt more like a general season strategy than the usual spot and stalk high hunt approach, but it paid off,” he noted.

The High Hunt has been around more than 50 years and is open in select North Cascades and Olympic Peninsula wilderness areas, as well as the Lake Chelan National Recreation ARea.

This week’s snowier, colder weather could help hunters out for the second and final weekend. Already it’s led to the reopening of Harts Pass Road and portions of the western, southeastern and eastern sides of the Pasayten Wilderness due to moderating fire behavior. For more, see Inciweb.

“Success rates and hunting opportunity in Washington may not compare with some other Western states, but the chance to put your time in and hunt public land as truly wild and rugged as what we have here is something worth savoring,” says Gunnell. “I know I was relishing it the entire brutal pack out, and will be for many meals and stories to come.”