Category Archives: Editor’s Blog

To Deer Camp And Back In A Saturn, Part III

I’ve always had this bizarre fantasy of going hunting in something like a late-1960s Lincoln Continental batmobile with fuzzy dice hanging from the mirror and suicide doors in back.

Pile six deer hunters in there and plow as high up into the mountains as the beast can be lashed, Pearl Jam or mariachi music blaring out the windows. Tag a mess of bucks and throw them all in the spacious trunk. Roll back into town.

Yeah, buddy.

My fantasies tend to resolve themselves in refracted ways, however.

I did indeed find myself hauling a muley home from deer camp last weekend — in the trunk of my mother in law’s four-door Saturn coupe, Obama sticker on the bumper, a Wagner opera in the casette deck.

Not exactly your typical deer-hunting rig, but when it comes to getting over to Winthrop, Wash., and back for opening weekend, I’ll take whatever I can get my hands on.

Most years that’s meant driving my own trucks, or riding along with Dad in his, but this fall, with Amy due in about a month with our second, taking our vehicle to deer camp wasn’t an option. So I’d taken the Saturn.

My mother in law had warned me she didn’t want any dead animals in her car, and I didn’t think that outcome likely anyway. The reports from the biologist were that the number of harvestable bucks in the upper Methow Valley was depressed due to poor fawn recruitment. There hadn’t really been any major snowstorms to drive deer out of the Pasayten so far this fall, plus there’s all them wolves running around the area.

So of course I was tagged out by 9 a.m. on the opener, and by 10 was scratching my head about how I was going to stuff a stiffening carcass in the Saturn’s trunk.

Have the legs stick out one side of the trunk, head and antlers on the other with the hatch covering up the ribs?

No doubt some anti-hunter would take a picture of that and the license plate as we putted back to civilization, post it on the Web and thoroughly ruin my mother in law’s reputation amongst the lefties/animal lovers down in Oregon where she lives.

For awhile it looked like I wouldn’t have to worry about it. Saturday afternoon it rained and rained. And as much as I’ve learned to love the rain when muley hunting in Eastern Washington, I HATE camping in it. Same goes for Dad. He was ready to pack up his trailer and drive home on Sunday if the drizzle continued and dense fog stuck around. We could just throw the deer in his rig.

But by 7 p.m., the clouds had passed and we could see stars. Dad was staying.

We hunted Sunday morning, saw 19, but didn’t add any more bucks to our game pole. And with me needing to be back in Seattle to send files to press on Monday morning, we decided what to do: Line the Saturn’s trunk with a tarp, cut the deer — now wrapped in game bags — in half, and toss the head in last.

Worked like a charm. Even got a pic of it, complete with the End This War sticker my mother in law thought might convince the deer we were pacifists.



Down at the Chewuch game check station, it didn’t seem like WDFW’s Scott Fitkin was expecting me to jump out of the coupe when I pulled up around noon, but he laughed as I popped the trunk, pulled aside the tarp and produced the buck’s head for him to take samples from.

While Fitkin’s among the most hated of game biologists among the state’s anti-wolf brigade right now, he became my new favorite when he told his helper to write the 2 1/2-year-old buck up as a 4×2, rather than a mere 3×2, thanks to an eyeguard on the left side.

After I mentioned the car was my mother in law’s, he went off to dig his camera out of his state rig.

We chatted a little more then I got rolling for the Westside. If I blazed over the North Cascades Highway and didn’t get stuck behind any Sunday drivers on the Mountain Loop Highway, I could be home and have the deer unloaded into the garage before Amy and my mother in law returned from a baby shower.

But I started worrying about smells. It wasn’t that warm and the deer had only been shot 27 hours before, but still … So I pulled over up near Klipchuck Campground and stripped a bunch of twigs off a pungent greenleaf manzanita plant and scattered them around the trunk.

At home, my plans to quickly unload the beast were thwarted when I realized I hadn’t brought my house keys. And since my neighbors are known animal lovers — both of their vehicles have those We Love Our Pets license plates — and I didn’t know how our landlords would react to news of a dead creature being hauled into their house, I decided against laying the chunks of carcass on the driveway.

Which meant the deer was still in the back of the Saturn when my mother in law, Amy and son arrived home soon afterwards.

Where was the deer, they immediately wanted to know. Ummmm … just move along, go inside, don’t look out the window for a little bit, OK?

A bit of blood had soaked through the game bags and tarp onto some sort of backerboard she was carrying around in the trunk, so I discretely set those aside in the garage and hoped she wouldn’t miss them. Then, a night later, after the manzanita had had time to soak in, I removed the leaves.

And that, is how the editor of Northwest Sportsman drove a very unlikely rig to deer camp and back.

TDCABIA Saturn, Part II

A word about how I found myself driving to deer camp and back in a Saturn sporting an Obama sticker on the bumper and a German opera in the cassette deck.

This past weekend, my mom held a baby shower for Amy, my wife. Her mother had driven up from Newport for the event, and that meant we had a second car available. And because I had to be back at work Monday morning to send the November issue of Northwest Sportsman to press – and Dad was staying in camp till late Monday morning – it was either zip into Okanogan County in an unlikely hunting rig or rent an Explorer from Budget.

Due to budget constraints, I chose the former – and got a lot of grief over that bumper sticker.

That wasn’t my main worry, though. It was getting the car into camp over a kelly hump in the road. No problem in the high-clearance pickups I’ve driven or ridden to deer camp for years, but for a Saturn … well, take it slow – and try not to scrape going over that rock!

I’d kidded my mother-in-law we’d be taking her car all the way up the nasty road to the top of the mountain, where there’s a big clearcut with lots of feed. That’s where I like to hunt in the afternoons. We’ve been hunting this area of the Methow Valley for around 10 years, and I think I’ve finally got the hang of what the deer are up to. I know where they’ll cross over the divide in the morning and evening, approximately when that will happen, where they’ll come up out of the creek, the trail they’ll take across the bowl, the spot to sit on top of the hill near sunset, the buck nests.

And while I’ve figured a lot out about the critters, what’s perplexing of late is the weather. Since October 2003’s monsoon, fall has seemingly turned a lot moister in the Okanogan. Used to be you could count on tinder-dry arrowleaf balsamroot and downed pine and fir branches giving away deer movements, but these days, not so much. Somewhere I saw a prediction that in the years ahead, most of Washington would be drier – except for Okanogan County, which would get wetter. And as we sat around the campfire on the eve of this year’s opener, rain began falling, so we retreated to the trailer for the evening.

The pitter-patter of rain and drops of it from the trees above reminded me of that night in 2003 when both sides of the state were absolutely soaked, but in the back of my mind was what happened that next morning. Despite the weather, I threw on a rain jacket and headed out to a crossing point on the mountain and waited. A buck had come through at what passed for shooting light, but I guessed wrong and he spooked. That and a couple other incidents taught me not to stay in camp when the weather’s bad. Indeed, as a coed at Wazzu once told our 400-level English class, if Washingtonians didn’t do things outside just because it was raining, we’d never do anything at all.

Which is why, this past Saturday morning, I left camp well before shooting light to find a spot on the ridge, a saddle I’ve watched dozens of deer cross over, some as close as 10 yards.

Shooting light came and went without any blasts, but around 7, a few shots rang out, though muffled. Fog lay across the valley, hills and mountains above Winthrop, and as morning wore on it only got thicker. Where I’d set up has 300 degrees of fair visibility in the best of conditions, but as clouds surged in, I could see only 40 yards at times.

That and the wetness of the ground led to the morning’s first surprise: A doe suddenly appeared out of the fog 30 yards away to my right. She crossed over the ridge within 20 yards and continued downhill. Lesson learned: Eyes more than ears will be the key today.

A wind came up and for a moment it seemed like it might blow the murk away, but then it came on thick. Dad came up the trail and we chatted briefly before he went back down to another vantage spot. To only see one deer on the opener here is really unusual, and I thought about climbing higher up, but with this fog, one spot was as good as another, I figured, so I stayed put.

Glad I did. Around 8:50 I spotted a deer coming towards me. It was a buck. I put the scope on him, but it was only a 2-point muley, not legal here.

However, another deer was behind him, and since I’ve never seen a buck leading does in this area, the odds I thought were good it was a second buck.

It was. And he had what looked like was a third point on the left side.

My heart started pumping hard as I tracked the two through the trees about 35 yards away. But was that really a third point on that second one, I found myself wondering?

The bucks switched positions, the 2-point now behind. Then they stopped and looked at me. In the trees, I couldn’t tell which was which; their small headgear was camouflaged too well.

Something was wrong, they could tell, and started moving off, one in front of the other. My chance of a shot was fading, I realized, so I put the scope up again, saw three points clearly silhouetted in the fog on the second buck, and fired the .308.

The buck piled up in 40 yards, a hole in his ticker.

And here I’d thought the only buck I’d harvest over the weekend would be hatchery steelhead in the Wenatchee and Methow rivers.

But it brought up an interesting question: With Dad staying till later on Monday, how was I going to get the deer to the butcher?

In the Saturn?

My mother-in-law had made it known I couldn’t put it inside her car, and though that didn’t preclude putting it up on the hood, like that gal who carried a Montana elk on the roof of her Dodge Colt, she got wise and barred that option too.

To be continued …

To Deer Camp And Back, In A Saturn: Part I

I’ve gone to deer camp in many different General Motors products, but never one so out of place as a four-door Saturn.

The gas mileage was pretty damned good, lemme tell you, but it just doesn’t match the manliness of pulling into Okanogan County in a black-smoke-belching Chevy Silverado HD diesel towing a boxcar-sized trailer.

And then there were the opera casette tapes on the passenger’s seat and the Obama, “End This War” and donkey stickers on the car’s bumper.

Not saying that there aren’t any classical music lovers or Democrats or liberals who hunt, but I’d warned my mother-in-law, who’d kindly lent me her Saturn for the weekend, it might come back from camp with bullet holes.

That was fine, she said, just as long as it came back all in one piece — and I didn’t haul any dead critters home in it.

No worries, I said, everyone knows the wolves ate all the deer in the Methow Valley, it’ll just be another armed hike — one that promised to be a wet one too with the rainy weather forecast.

Indeed, the only bucks I thought I’d see would be those in the Wenatchee and Methow rivers which I planned to stop along the way and fish for steelhead.

SO ON FRIDAY MORNING, I threw my float and spinning rods, waders and deer hunting gear in the car, and headed out for a cast-and-blast weekend. The fishing reports have been good, but the Wenatchee was pretty low and clear when I pulled aside below Tumwater Dam.

With brilliant fall foliage burning above, I took a few quick casts into a tailout and pool with big boulders with a spoon then a jig, then moved well downriver to Riverfront Park in Cashmere. I worked a riffle with a spinner then the slightly deeper water below with a marabou jig.

No takers tho (not counting the rocks, of course), so I continued east to the Old Monitor Bridge. The water immediately above the bridge looked interesting, but I didn’t give it much time. Dad, his truck and trailer were already up at deer camp and he could use a hand rousting up some firewood, so I peeled out of the WDFW access and headed north up the Columbia as fast as I could get the Saturn to go — which wasn’t all that fast.

At Pateros, I turned left and headed up the Methow, giving both rods a little workout here and there, but with nothing really to show for it (and even less gear than when I started).

Around 2, 2:30, I gave up on catching anything and cruised up Highway 153’s big sweeping curves along the river.

A little past Carlton, I saw the first buck of the trip.

Not an angler carrying a steelhead back to their rig — rather, the real deal, a buck deer in a field.

It was the funniest damned thing ever: The small muley was being chased across a field by a herd of gobblers. He’d wheel on them and they’d bring up reinforcements and his nerve would break and he’d run. I braked hard (the Saturn shook), turned around, fished my camera out of a sack and tried to take a picture. But the turkeys were so persistent that they chased the buck over a hill and out of sight before I could.


I drove on, and the closer I got to Winthrop, the more excited I became. Dad and I have been coming up here for over a decade, and while we haven’t had the best of luck, there’s just something about coming into this big broad valley as the aspen leaves turn from green to gold, and the town swaps its summer tourist trade for hunters.

While the car might have fit in more with the few folks out windowshopping the town’s boardwalks that afternoon, I crossed through and headed into the hills for camp.

The good news was that dad had already taken care of most of the problem of firewood with his chainsaw, but the bad was that the green pine rounds needed splitting, which is where me and my back came in.

But it wasn’t that bad, and it wasn’t long before we saw our first in-country deer — a doe and a yearling headed straight for camp. Dad saw them first, and they approached to within 20 yards before the younger animal got skittish and bounced away.

Later, telling my mother-in-law about that, she suspected that the deer saw her “End This War” bumper sticker and told the rest of the muleys in the woods not to worry about us, we were pacifists and wouldn’t shoot.

To be continued …


I will not be able to concentrate on getting the November issue of Northwest Sportsman out the door this week. I apologize, Brian, John and Mike, but my eyes are riveted on two things: snow falling at low elevations in North-central Washington, and Oct. 17, the opening day of deer hunting season.

WashDOT road cameras tell the story this morning. White stuff on the ground at Stevens Pass, Winton, Leavenworth, Peshastin and above Winthrop.



It’s not the earliest snow’s ever fallen on the east side of the northern Cascades, but it’s as low down the mountain as I ever recall at this time of year.

Over the past decade of hunting in the Methow Valley, there’s been snow only very rarely. Flooding rains have been more likely since 2003’s gullywasher that drowned a friend’s campsite after an all-night-all-that-day rain.

Right now, it’s coming down pretty good on the roof overhead here in Seattle. Reminds me that, yes, this is the Northwest, and it is fall, and in fall it rains.

Fall at Winthrop can actually be pretty dry. There have been many years when everything in the woods cracks and moving quietly is all but a lost cause. By more than one midday, I’ve found myself hunting in a T-shirt, layers of fleeces tied around my waist, stuffed in my pack or left behind at camp.

In a sense, though, that’s how I’ve developed part of my muley strategy: Find a spot where deer move over saddles, ridgelines or hills and just sit your butt down and wait. Can’t make noise that way. The deer will come.

The other half of my strategy, though, is to go out on those rainy, nasty days.

During that 2003 deluge, I was the only one who left the trailers at deer camp early on. Right after shooting light, a buck moved through below me, but I guessed wrong and he spooked.

A couple years after that, I was high on a cold, windy ridge with some sort of frozen chunks pelting me when the big boy stepped out of the brush.

Then last October, with rain again falling overnight on the trailer, I couldn’t wait to hump it back up the hill to where I’d seen deer moving through the day before. As light came into the woods through the gloom, sure enough, antlers appeared, and then a buck at incredibly close range.

Hunters moan and groan about how early Washington’s rifle hunts are. The timing is off and all we really get a shot at are the local bucks or very early migrators. Never the brute studs from the wilderness.

But snow can be the equalizer, that trigger that pushes them out of the Lake Chelan-Sawtooth and Pasayten for the season. The forage up there is already on its last legs, and according to WDFW sources, the third week of October is when the migration begins. Early snow might be that spur in the butt to get moving.

And this year, with such a “late” start to the hunt and a “late” second weekend — really, just due to the vagaries of the calendar — excitement builds with the snowfall.

Maybe the bucks will be stampeding out of the high country. Maybe they’ll be in the rut early. Maybe This Will Be The Year!

“Hell, yeah,” emails a friend when I send him links to the highway cams.

“We sound like a bunch of giddy school girls talking about Sally’s new hair do!” says one of my writers.

But Dad brings me back around.

“That’s cool. Most likely will melt, though,” he says.




OK, yeah, it probably will. It’s just a skiff of snow, and the report from Chelan is that it’s now raining and the snow level is climbing back up into the mountains.

But at least the woods won’t be so danged dry for this weekend’s opener!

Ramseys Tag Out In OR; Next, In WA

If you had a “What the …?!” moment when you read Buzz’s October column in Northwest Sportsman because, well, it didn’t deal with springers, summer Chinook, URBs, coho, hatchery steelhead, wild steelhead, winter-runs or summer-runs — or plugs, drift bobbers, spinners or herring for that matter — well, join the club.

I was a wee bit surprised to get an article and pics on long-range shooting from the Northwest’s swami of salmonids.

Shooting, as in with rifles, as in poking deer and antelope with holes at far distances.

Last I checked, deer and antelope weren’t anadromous species, didn’t live anywhere near flowing waters and did not respond well to shrimp- or krill-based scents.

Then again, the columns I got for October were all over the place.

Tim Bush found some East Coast surf-fishing sharpie who had tips for Puget Sound salmon AS WELL AS how to fish for alpine lakes trout with bass techniques.

Workman, our usual gun guy, was explaining his “two-inch rule” and, of course, Bryce Molenkamp, he of the Tupperware boat, was continuing to demolish the notion that Northwest salmon and steelhead and bass and trout and crabs and saltwater species, etc., are only catchable from aluminum.

Plus I brought a fly guy on board, and his subject matter from the get-go was crooked, err, Crooked, I should say (redband rainbows in the Central Oregon stream).

Bub, this will be your last issue as editor, I worried.

But it was about this time last year that Buzz started sending me pics of he and Wade, one of his two sons, and their hunting trips.

If you don’t know, Buzz is actually an avid mule deer hunter.

He’s been hunting Oregon’s Fossil Unit since 1977, drawing into it pretty regularly.

And Wade’s been coming along with a gun since 2007. He’s bagged two bucks there, as well as one in Klickitat County with a 355-yard cross-canyon shot last fall.

This last weekend, the Ramsey’s passed on a couple smaller bucks hoping for “Mr. Big,” says Buzz, “but didn’t expect one quite as nice at what Wade found Sunday morning.”

It’s a 4×4 at least 21 inches wide.



“It was nice and tall and heavy,” says Buzz of the rack.

Wade took it with a 100-yard going-away shot. It headed downhill, towards the Ramseymobile.

Buzz also tagged out — with a 200-plus-yard shot — but had a little more work finding his buck as light fell, and then with the haul back to the rig.



He says that he and Wade will be hunting this weekend as well in Washington’s Klickitat County, where deer season opens Oct. 17.

And as far as I’m concerned, I’m looking forward to another Buzz hunting article next fall.

‘A Year To Remember’ At Tillamook

If you’ve ever logged onto Ifish or spent time at Buoy 10 or Tillamook Bay, you’ve probably run into a guy going by the name “AndyCoho.”

As the name implies, Andy loves coho.

He’s made this Andy love coho too.

AndyCoho, also known as Andy Schneider, took yours truly out to the CR Buoy in mid-August for some of the madness.

So it was kinda amusing when I got an email over the weekend from the Portland-area writer with the words to the effect that the coho became something of a pest at times last week.

That’s only because AndyCoho turned AndyChinook for five days, spending it with family and friends on his beloved Tillamook Bay.

“I’ve had a tradition of spending a week in October on the Northern Oregon Coast for as long as I can remember,” he wrote in an email to me and others. “This year the family and I opted for the first week of October and it turned out to be a wonderful week. Weather, fishing, crabbing, family and friends truly made October 2009 a year to remember and compare following years to. ”

“We fished lower Tillamook Bay and the ocean with herring, upper Tillamook Bay with spinners and tidewater with FlatFish all in hopes of finding a Chinook or two. My dad was able to fish with me for all five days and was lucky enough to get two of the biggest fish landed on my boat all week — a 37.6-pounder and a 33-pounder! My friend John Lacarno joined us from Forest Grove and found himself a nice, big Tillamook Bay hen too.”



“When the Chinook bite slowed, the coho would keep us busy…almost becoming a pest at times. What? Wait, did I just say that coho were becoming a pest? On second thought, coho are a good ‘problem’ to have!”

Salmon fishing wasn’t all the Schneider clan did either.

“While fishing we soaked crab pots in the ocean in 40 feet of water north of the bay entrance.  Crabbing was beyond expectations and huge Dungeness crabs were standard and ‘keeper’ crabs were sent back to the ocean floor. After just two days of crabbing we had enough crab to satisfy our family and our friends families.



“Joanna Fenner and my wife Missy teamed up for a day of crabbing and fishing on a extraordinary calm day on the Pacific, Joanna had some previous crabbing experience and it payed off pulling traps and sorting crabs.  The Dungeness didn’t seem to have a preference for bait — albacore scraps, salmon carcasses and tender index fingers (it still hurts!).”

“Tillamook Bay 2009, a year to remember….and the season is just starting!!!”

3 Strange Things

Item #1: You know that post a little below this one, “Brother, can you spare a red plug”? It’s a little story about how my buddy Chris Spencer of Longview, more of a spinyray fishermen in recent years than a salmon guy, has been using his deep-diving plugs to catch coho in a Columbia slough.

It was completely by accident. He actually started out trying to catch walleye when that first silver bit.

So typical for Spencer.

Anyway, yesterday, he reported that a guide boat with six clients aboard pulled up on the school in Carrolls and proceeded to do pretty good casting plugs for silvers.

Well, a little further up the Columbia and a reggie up the Willamette, bass anglers throwing plugs are apparently also catching coho.

That according to a Bill Monroe blurb yesterday in The Oregonian.

Bill Egan, information coordinator for the Oregon Bass and Panfish Club, says his members are finding lots of coho above the falls this fall as the state’s latest exploratory salmon run begins colonizing new tributaries in the Willamette Valley.

Daily limit is three coho above the falls and in various tribs.

Item # 2: Speaking of bizarro bites, Northwest Sportsman’s own bass troller — yes, troller — Brian Lull will be out dragging plugs along Lake Washington’s shores for smallmouth tomorrow.

He reports that with still-warm water but shorter and shorter days, they’ll be hitting aggressively.

He says he and a client landed a 17-incher and several smaller ones last weekend before the Huskies’ game cut their day short.

Lull will be taking his wife, Gina, out; she apparently loves trolling for bass.

Trolling for bass? So untypical.

Item # 3: Completely unrelated, but the last week I’ve been tearing my house apart trying to find my hunting gear. It was all in a green pack, last I recall.

“It” would be knives, .308 cartridges, hunting vest and hat, two-way radios, first-aid kit, etc.

Need to find it for the start of Washington’s rifle season two Saturdays from now. Dad and I plan on heading back to Wolfville, err, Winthrop for the opener, maybe even the second weekend if I can talk my pregnant wife into it.

She didn’t know where my green pack is either, and in desperation I fired off several emails to dad and a friend in recent days: “Hey, did I leave my green backpack at your house/that DNR gate/deer camp? Could you look for it?”

Neither have seen it.

Meanwhile, yesterday Dad sent me an email. Seems there’s a buck in the backyard ripping up one of his willow trees.



Reminds me of the time, a couple years ago, that Dad and I got to deer camp 189 miles from the house and I checked my voice mail. Mom had left a message, something like, “Hey, there are three bucks in the backyard, including a one-, two-, three-, four-pointer.”

So typical.

Course, Mom won’t let us hunt the homestead.

Speaking of home, my hunting stuff? It turned up last night. In my garage.

So typical.

Go, Ro!

I was pretty proud the winter day I filled the back of my pickup with trash I collected along the banks of the Skykomish at Monroe, but Rosendo Guerrero’s got me beat — by a dumpster load.

Rosendo’s the 45-year-old Federal Way angler who organized a clean-up on the Puyallup last Saturday, an effort which brought together 80 volunteers including fishermen, People for Puget Sound, a City of Puyallup work crew, a City of Puyallup council member, WDFW enforcement officers and community members.

A photo on a Facebook page he created for his group Sportsmen for the Preservation of our Rivers and Streams shows the mountain of garbage — a ton’s worth — that everyone helped haul off the river that day.


A fan of the Puyallup, Ro was distressed with the crowds who descended on the river as pinks and kings ascended it this summer.

He emailed Jeffrey Mayor of the Tacoma News Tribune that he and others were “irate over the way what we call the Johnny-come-latelies (are) coming to our river and leaving their trash.”

Mayor got a mess of other emails from other anglers who felt similarly, including Stan Elliott who wished he knew where the trash dumpers lived so he could leave it at their house.

Garbage and poop left behind by anglers were the subject of several late-summer TV reports. The misdeeds of a few cast a bad light on sport fishing as a whole.

But that image is being cleaned up and repaired now, thanks to Rosendo and others like him.

“I’m just an angler who enjoys and respects nature and will not let these idiots destroy the beauty of our natural rivers and streams,” he wrote to me via email last night.

And in addition to angler trash, there was plenty of other junk that was removed from the Puyallup last weekend — tires, furniture, bikes, clothing and other debris that probably wasn’t left behind by slob fishermen.

Others involved in the cleanup included Murrey’s Disposal of Fife which supplied the dumpster, and Walmart, Sportco, Wholesale Sports, Starbucks, Johnny’s Bar & Grill, Mama Stortini’s, McDonalds and People for Puget Sound all made donations to the cause, according to WDFW.

Rosendo’s planning another river day, this one Oct. 24 on the Skykomish in Monroe.

“We’re gonna rock that place!!!!!” he wrote on his Facebook page earlier this week.

If you’re interested in participating, contact Rosendo at (253) 861-8964 or

ODFW Closed Oct. 16

Note to self: Do not call Jessica Sall, Eric Schindler, Michelle Dennehy, Todd Alsbury, Todd Lum, Brad Smith, Vic Coggins, Shannon Hurn, Keith Kohl, Rick Swart, Rick Hargrave, Tim Bailey, Rick Boatner — or any other ODFW biologist, supervisor or flack — next Friday, October 16.

They ain’t gonna be in the office that day.

Nor will they be in Nov. 27.

And forget about reaching them on March 19, April 16, June 18, Aug. 20, Sept.17 and Nov. 26 in 2010.

As well as March 18 and May 20 in 2011.

I’ll have to get last-minute quotes, run forecasts, catch tallies, secret spots, etc., before or after.

Those dates are required furloughs for ODFW and other state employees.

Knock all you want at the door of the field offices in Lakeview and Enterprise, pound as hard as you want at the big house in Salem, they ain’t gonna open.

In the short term, for elk hunters, it means that with Oct. 16 being the deadline to purchase a general season Cascade bull tag, you will need to instead buy your tag online or at a license sales agent that day. If you want to exchange a Cascade bull elk tag, that must be done at an ODFW office by 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15.

For Sauvie Island waterfowlers, it means that Nov. 27 is a no-go day. The Portland wildlife area will be closed for hunting.

Elsewhere, hunters will still be responsible for checking in and out of wildlife areas using the self check-in process, according to ODFW.

For fish lovers, hatcheries will be open to visitors on Oct. 16 and other furlough days, but staff won’t be around to yap about what’s in the big tanks, why the fish are so colorful, whether they get any marlin back to the facility, etc.

The furlough days were ordered by Governor Kulongoski due to the current budget squeeze. It’s anticipated the state will save between $2 million and $2.5 million in payroll per day.


Brother, Can You Spare A Red Plug?

UPDATED 8:55 a.m. FRIDAY: Pity my friend Chris Spencer. He lost his last hot plug, and the coho won’t hardly bite anything else.

Since late September, the Longview, Wash., angler has been doing pretty good in the Columbia’s Carrolls Slough where he’s been dragging a metallic red Hot Lips around. But after his last plug snapped off the line yesterday, fishing’s gone downhill markedly.

Oh, the coho are still there — and how.

“On my depthfinder, there were huge numbers of coho,” Spencer moaned as he drove home from the river this afternoon.

And that’s where the fish will likely stay until Luhr Jensen gets another shipment of the size 18 divers into Bob’s Merchandise or other tackle shops within driving distance of Longview.

“There are none in Cowlitz County,” the angler reports.

After his first report to me Sept. 22, he stocked up on the plugs, but either his knots are suspect or this year’s fish are extra strong, because he burned through his supply in three trips.

“There are three fish out there swimming around with my Hot Lips,” Spencer emailed me last night. “If anyone sends in a report of an extra lure with their fish, let ’em know I want my lures back!”

While he’s gotten a bite or two on similarly colored plugs and seen other anglers catch salmon on big orange inline spinners, he insists it’s that particular lure’s beady yellow-and-black eyes that makes the coho crankiest.

But without any more of ’em, he says he’ll be reporting back to work tomorrow.

POSTSCRIPT: Early today, Wednesday morning, I got a call from Spencer. Didn’t sound like he was at the job site. Instead, he was heading off to scour the tackle shacks in Portland for his favorite lure.

POSTSCRIPT 2: Somewhere in the afternoon, Spencer called again. His hunt for The Plug had taken him clear down to Portland where he scoured a pair of Targets (no luck), back to Vancouver where he ran through a Walmart and then to the parking lot of Wholesale Sports. Along with 30 others, he waited for it to open at 10 (“Don’t they get it that we get up early?”). It paid off with six plugs for slightly under $30, and he was on the water by noon. However, fishing was pretty slow in the afternoon; he reports only one landed, but says he’ll be out again today.

POSTSCRIPT 3: Just got my morning report from Spencer. He and his pops just got out on the top end of Carrolls Slough, and though he reports a gillnet boat leaving the scene, he says he just landed his first coho — yep, on one of those much-searched-for plugs.

It came immediately after he saw an ironworker friend of his land a “big freaking fish” as well as another coho go over the gunwale of third boat.

Spencer says there are about six boats on the slough, with more of the fleet out in the mainstem Columbia anchored up for sturgeon.

Carrolls is just downstream from Kalama, on the Washington side.

We’ll probably have another update this afternoon.

POSTSCRIPT 4: This is so typical Spencer luck: He drove all over the place yesterday to find THE hot plug and guess what? Another color and brand has taken over as THE hot plug today.

Spencer, who’s still on Carrolls as I write this, reports that his buddy the ironworker has caught three today, all on an orange Wiggle Wart.

He says that other trollers have also picked up a fish apiece, and that some guide with a large sled pulled up on the school and then instructed his boatload of clients to start pitching plugs at the coho.

“They boated 12 in an hour,” Spencer says.

What!?! The hell didn’t you and yer pa do the same?

He muttered something about the guide making the rest of the boaters a little cranky.

Actually, the reason Spencer just called was to say that he’d put a second coho in the boat.

“He’s freakin’ huge, twice the size of the others I’ve been catching. Out of the blue, bam, she hit,” he says.

And that piggy did bite one of those brand-new lures he got yesterday.



POSTSCRIPT 5: “Freakin’ huge”? Spencer? Well, I’ll give this one to you since you’re still dialing in actual coho sizes, but in the meanwhile, I’ve worked out a correction factor for your adjectives.

Big = 7 pounds

Huge = 8 pounds

Freakin’ huge = 8 1/2 pounds

Monster = 9 pounds

Gargantuan = 9 1/2 pounds

The biggest coho I’ve ever seen in my whole entire life (three exclamation marks) = 10 pounds

Get the camera, call Walgamott, where’s the weigh station, I think I’ve got a new state record = 11 pounds