Tag Archives: hunting

No Washington Budget By July 1 Means Large-scale Fishery Closures

Editor’s note: This is a developing story that is being updated, including that state House and Senate lawmakers appear to have reached a budget deal “in principle,” per Governor Inslee.

All salmon, walleye and trout waters shut down.

Delayed July fishing and crabbing openers.

WDFW boat ramps on the Skykomish, Cowlitz and Skagit rivers closed.

This morning, Washington sportsmen are being warned they could see those and more starting starting this Saturday IF — note the big if — lawmakers don’t pass a state operating budget by June 30.

“We are optimistic that lawmakers will resolve their differences and avoid a shutdown, but it’s possible they will not succeed,” WDFW Director Jim Unsworth said in a press release. “We are providing this information to inform the public of the potential effects of a shutdown, so they can revise their plans if necessary during the busiest recreation season of the year.”

Similar situations in 2013 and 2015 were avoided with late deals on budgets, and UPDATE it may again be the case in 2017 — a “deal in principle” is being reported as of 9:53 a.m., though there are no actual details of what’s being proposed, only confidence that it would get to Governor Inslee’s desk on time to avoid a shutdown.

To get the latest on the state of negotiations, monitor #WaLeg on Twitter, as well as state capital reporters , @RachelAPOly and, among others.

A SKYKOMISH RIVER FISHERMAN PREPARES HIS DRIFT BOAT FOR LAUNCH AT SULTAN, ONE OF MANY STATE LAUNCHES THAT WOULD BE CLOSED IF LAWMAKERS CAN’T AGREE ON A WASHINGTON BUDGET BY JULY 1. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

Legislators in the House and Senate have until Friday night to agree to a spending plan and get it to Governor Inslee to avoid the widespread consequences.

Everyone’s crossing their fingers Olympia politicians get the job done, and there are positive rumblings from the capital as I press publish on this blog.

But in the meanwhile the uncertainty is forcing WDFW to push its contingency plan for a state shutdown further into the open.

It’s held off doing so since late last week, because putting out those details comes with a risk — too much alarm could impact businesses in sportfishing-dependent places like Westport.

There, July 1 not only marks the salmon opener in the “Salmon Fishing Capital of the World,” with a larger Chinook quota, but coho are back on the menu this year after 2016’s closure for the stock.

But with DNR and Ecology posting warning notices on their websites last night, WDFW put out the word this morning.

A shutdown would leave just 70 of the agency’s 1,800 staffers on the job, too few to monitor and police fisheries, even every-day ones.

Asked last week which of his lakes and rivers would be affected, one Eastside fishery manager offered a blunt assessment.

“All of them.”

A Westside biologist told me the same.

“Everything is my understanding. So no salmon, no river fisheries, no lakes, nothing.”

The only exceptions, according to WDFW, would be Dungeness crabbing off the coast, because funding for it is not reliant on the legislature.

The shutdown would also leave no staff to write up potential emergency openers.

While about half of WDFW’s 83 hatcheries are required to stay open because they rear federally protected salmon and steelhead, the other 41 raising rainbows and nonlisted stocks might have to be gated.

“But we are exploring options to avoid closing any of them,” Unsworth said.

State wildlife areas would stay open, but restrooms would be closed.

WDFW would also stop processing hydraulic permit approvals, public disclosure requests and selling fishing and hunting licenses.

Its main and regional offices would be closed, and poaching reports would have to be dealt with by other agencies.

Again, this is NOT A DONE DEAL, but with negotiations coming down to the wire, it’s prudent to warn sportsmen about the possibilities.

We’ll be closely monitoring the situation and post any significant updates.

 

Elk Habitat Conserved in Washington’s Lewis River Watershed

The below is a press release from Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 22, 2017
MEDIA NOTE: For a high-resolution photo or more information,
contact Mark Holyoak, RMEF, 406-523-3481 or mholyoak@rmef.org
This news release is also posted here.

Elk Habitat Conserved in
Washington’s Lewis River Watershed

MISSOULA, Mont.—Nearly 4,500 acres of prime wildlife habitat in southwestern Washington are permanently protected and opened to public access thanks to ongoing collaborative efforts by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation and PacifiCorp, an electric utility company.

“This is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “This forestland is crucial habitat for Roosevelt elk. It’s now forever protected and conserved in a region where designation of the Mount St. Helens National Monument restricts management options.”

“Conserving and managing this habitat on the southwest slopes of Mount St. Helens, where elk are threatened by forage loss from forest succession and habitat loss to development is a just part of PacifiCorp’s ongoing commitment to environmental stewardship,” said Todd Olson, the company’s compliance director. “We highly value the partnership with the RMEF and the other parties that makes this possible.”

The just-completed 1,880-acre acquisition is the third phase of a project that previously protected an additional 2,590 acres of habitat in the upper Lewis River basin north of Swift Reservoir.

The combined 4,470-acre property was originally in a checkerboard ownership pattern. It is now blocked up and provides connectivity with state and federal lands to the north and is part of a 15,000-acre landscape managed as wildlife habitat by PacifiCorp. This management is conducted with input from RMEF, the Cowlitz Indian Tribe and resource agencies.

“Federal forests near Mount St. Helens are overgrown and contributed to the decline of what was once one of Washington’s most productive elk herds. This project greatly improves forest management which is a huge benefit for elk and other wildlife,” added Henning.

The landscape provides vital elk migratory corridors and is home to blacktail deer, black bear, mountain lions and a wide array of bird and other animal life.

With few exceptions to provide public safety, PacifiCorp wildlife lands are open to non-motorized public access including hunting and other recreation.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of more than 222,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 7.1 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.
Take action: join and/or donate.

About PacifiCorp
PacifiCorp provides electric service to 1.8 million customers in six western states. Operating as Pacific Power in Oregon, Washington and California, and as Rocky Mountain Power in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho, our goal is to provide our customers with value for their energy dollar through safe, reliable electricity.

Grant PUD offers free, outdoor recreation opportunities along the Columbia

New boat launch at Crescent Bar, with limited parking, opens May 26

Local residents and visitors will have a number of outdoor opportunities along the Columbia River this summer recreation season.

Grant PUD operates 19 recreation sites on or near the Columbia River. Recreation sites with boat launches include the Priest Rapids Recreation Area, Buckshot, Huntzinger, Wanapum Dam Lower, Wanapum Dam Upper, Vantage, Frenchman Coulee and Apricot Orchards. The new Chinook Park boat launch located off-island at Crescent Bar, will open to the public on May 26. Fuel will also be available at the Chinook Park boat launch when it opens.

Boaters should be mindful that, because of on-going construction in the Crescent Bar area, parking is limited at the Chinook Park boat launch. Those with off-site parking are encouraged to use that option.

The two-lane launch and boat dock is the first of several new and enhanced amenities that will be free and open to the general public visiting the Crescent Bar Recreation area. The new RV campground and other facilities, including parks, beaches and walking trails, are expected to open by late June to early July following several months of construction. The golf course is also now open throughout the season.

Grant PUD’s recreation sites offer day-use visitors free, family-friendly fun in the sun and are one of the many ways Grant PUD powers our local way of life. During the Memorial Day weekend, overnight camping, which requires a fee, will also available at four campgrounds: Priest Rapids Recreation Area, Sand Hollow, Rocky Coulee and Jackson Creek Fish Camp.  For information about Grant PUD’s recreation options, visit http://grantpud.org/recreation.

 

Grant PUD wants everyone to enjoy a safe time along the river by following these safety guidelines:

  • Water released from the dams can create hazardous boating conditions. Sudden water level fluctuations can impact the shoreline. Make sure your boat stays wet and anchor well off shore.
  • Safety barriers located above both Wanapum and Priest Rapids dams are there to keep everyone safe. Do not go beyond the safety barriers under any circumstances. If someone gets in trouble and goes beyond the barriers, call 911 immediately.
  • Check the weather forecast before starting out. Watch for any wave, wind and cloud changes that signal bad weather is heading your way.
  • Make sure water and weather conditions are safe before entering the water. Cold water reduces body heat 25 times faster than air at the same temperature. The Columbia River can be cold enough to cause serious harm. Wearing a life jacket increases your survival time.
  • There are no lifeguards on duty at our recreation sites. Please be careful.

Photo credit: Grant PUD

Established by local residents over 75 years ago, Grant PUD generates and delivers energy to millions of customers throughout the Pacific Northwest. What began as a grassroots movement of public power has evolved into one of the premiere providers of renewable energy at some of the most affordable rates in the nation. For more information visitwww.grantpud.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Final work is underway for the Chinook Park boat launch, parking lot and day-use moorage at Crescent Bar. The facility is expect to open on May 26.

RMEF Celebrates 33rd Anniversary

RMEF Celebrates 33rd Anniversary

The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation is commemorating 33 years of carrying out its conservation mission to ensure the future of elk, other wildlife, their habitat and our hunting heritage.

“We are deeply indebted to and grateful for men and women who had the foresight, energy and perseverance to establish this organization for the benefit of elk and elk country,” said David Allen, RMEF president and CEO. “They sacrificed much for a big game mammal that today is the thriving majestic symbol of our nation’s wild country.”

Founded on May 14, 1984, by four elk hunters in northwest Montana, RMEF began operations in a modest trailer in the middle of a field. At that time, there were approximately 550,000 elk in North America. Today, there are more than one million elk from coast-to-coast.

As of December 31, 12016, RMEF and its partners carried out 10,469 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects that conserved or enhanced 7,111,358 acres. It also opened or secured access to 1,105,667 acres. Additionally, RMEF assisted with successful elk reintroductions in seven states and one Canadian province.

RMEF now has more than 222,000 thousand members and more than 500 chapters across the United States.

“We appreciate our volunteers, members and partners as well as sportsmen and women who support the RMEF. It is because of them that we are able to accelerate our mission across elk country,” added Allen.

About the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:
Founded over 30 years ago, fueled by hunters and a membership of more than 222,000 strong, RMEF has conserved more than 7.1 million acres for elk and other wildlife. RMEF also works to open and improve public access, fund and advocate for science-based resource management, and ensure the future of America’s hunting heritage. Discover why “Hunting Is Conservation™” at www.rmef.org or 800-CALL ELK.
Take action: join and/or donate.

There She Is: Vancouver Hunter Aims To Make Mrs. America Pageant

First stop, Mrs. Washington Crown This Monty In Olympia For Jena Cook , Who’s Taking Hunting’s Message To Beauty Contests

By Chris Cocoloes

As the contestants for the Mrs. Washington America Pageant gather in Olympia for the May 20 event, every woman qualified for a chance to reach national stage will have her own backstory. Here’s a guess: Mrs. Vancouver, Jena Cook, has one of the most compelling.

Cook’s submitted platform – the pageant encourages participants to document what they’re passionate about – doesn’t mention desiring world peace but instead “focuses on the importance of ethical hunting conservation through wildlife and habitat management and restoration.”

HUNTER BY DAY, BEAUTY QUEEN BY NIGHT. JENA COOK WAS NAMED MRS. VANCOUVER AND WILL BE VYING FOR THE TITLE OF MRS. WASHINGTON AMERICA ON MAY 20 IN OLYMPIA. HER PLATFORM INCLUDES PROMOTING HUNTING AS A WAY TO “TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR WHERE MY PROTEIN COMES FROM,” AS WELL FOR ITS WIDE-RANGING CONSERVATION BENEFITS. (SHAUN COOK/STCIMAGERY.COM; JENA COOK)

“It’s definitely been a topic of conversation,” Cook says with a laugh about the potential shock value of sharing her views on hunting with the beauty pageant community.

But this is who Cook is and she won’t apologize for it to the politically correct/anti-hunting establishment. And this will also provide her – and by extension, Northwest sportsmen – an opportunity to explain what she does and why she does it to an audience that probably doesn’t have much background in this arena.

“There have been a couple of people who have been a little sour on the subject, because all they can think of is animal cruelty,” Cook, 27, says on how she’s been received among the pageant community. “The way I try to approach it is, I always say I’m a hunter who hunts for meat, and sport comes with that. It’s not about putting a rack on the wall.”

MAKE NO MISTAKE, Cook grew up embracing the outdoors, even if she wasn’t yet “in love” with hunting. The Vancouver native was introduced to fishing by her dad, Craig Meriwether, who hunted with her older brother. More comfortable with a rod and reel than a shotgun, Cook stuck to fishing, but as she got older, she began to embrace the idea of knowing where the protein she’d eat came from. Already having learned to shoot at a younger age, the reality that she was dating a hunter made it a no-brainer to give it a try someday. Finally, she and her boyfriend at the time went waterfowl hunting along the Columbia River Gorge. It didn’t go very well.

How bad?

“It was, and pardon my language, a sh*t show,” says Cook. “Of course, since it was duck hunting, the weather was sooo beautiful. I didn’t have the right gear and I was freezing. I was doing everything in my power not to complain so I wasn’t that girl that was dragged along.”

“I remember the dogs bringing back the ducks and I was fine watching the ducks get hit, come down and the dogs bringing them up and setting them down at my feet. And I thought, ‘I don’t know what I’m supposed to do right now. Is it like fishing? Do I bonk their heads?’ So my ex came up and said, ‘You’ve got to put them out of their misery,’ and grabs it and whacks it on a rock right in front of me. And it just sprays blood right at me and across my face. I happened to be standing in the right spot, so it went from my knees, up my torso and across my face – a perfect stream of blood. So that was my initiation into duck hunting.”

Cook ultimately kept dating hunting but not her boyfriend at the time. (“He’s an ex for a reason,” she quips.) And that she eventually fell in love with a longtime friend, Shaun Cook, who is also a passionate sportsman, only ensured that she would become just as obsessed with the sport.

They married in June 2015 and have shared, besides wedded bliss, numerous hunting adventures close to their Southwest Washington home and beyond, including memorable deer and elk trips to Wyoming, where Cook really fell head over heels for hunting, with a big assist from her husband.

“It was something he was really investing me – being his hunting partner, not so much that I was just along for the ride,” she says. “He expected me to pull my weight but I was there as an equal partner. Investing all that time together and bonding as a married couple, it was something that was so different. I feel bad for people who won’t get to experience that.”

Of course, they are husband and wife, so they’ll chirp at each other when they think one is making too much noise while searching out big game.

“He’ll tell me I’m the loud one,” Cook says, “and I’m like, ‘You’re delusional; you’re not the gazelle that you think you are.’”

JENA GREW UP FISHING WITH HER DAD, CRAIG, AND DID SOME HUNTING BEFORE MEETING SHAUN COOK, WHOM SHE MARRIED TWO YEARS AGO AND HAS GONE ON NUMEROUS TRIPS AROUND THEIR SOUTHWEST WASHINGTON HOME AND AS FAR AFIELD AS WYOMING. (JENA COOK)

ULTIMATELY, WHILE SHE enjoys the quality time with Shaun and the sport of the chase and the shot, Cook savors the idea of knowing exactly the source of what she and Shaun put on their table.

She’s also pregnant, and when she takes the stage at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts in Olympia, she’s going to be eight months into her term. Not only is there a good chance that she’ll be the only woman vying for Mrs. Washington who hunts, she says she’ll be the first in the pageant’s history to be visibly showing while she competes.

“That’s already an added kind of intrigue for me,” she says of her chances.

The Cooks even went out hunting last fall when Jena was in her first trimester, though the mom-to-be-admitted, “I could really feel the difference, fatigue wise; I felt bad (for Shaun) because I wasn’t the best hunting partner. I just got burned out.”

The endgame, though, is harvesting meat without fearing what chemicals or byproducts store-bought meat can contain. So now that she’ll be soon feeding the family’s new addition, the idea of hunting to fill the freezer is going to be even more invaluable to their cause. She found it fascinating that Gerber, the venerable baby food company, initially bottled leftover organ meat (such as liver and beef heart), which was considered to be heavy in nutrients and promote growth in infants.

“I was looking at in Native (American) cultures; when a couple was expecting or starting to try to conceive, they always would give that couple organ meat from animals to make sure they were getting all the nutrients,” Cook says. “And I took that really seriously because going into this pregnancy I’ve been trying really hard to get enough of these iron-rich and all-natural meats. And I want to make sure that’s what’s going into my baby.”

So the next edition to the Cook family – the couple is going to be surprised whether it’s a boy or girl – probably shouldn’t expect all Cheerios or a couple French fries as a snack when hungry. Meat pâté or some other semblance of protein is more likely.

“I want to know that, ‘Hey, that came from our elk from last season, and I know for a fact that it hasn’t been processed or filled with any hormones.’ It’s really satisfying, and you can take pride in that as a parent and provider. It’s a unique experience that we are kind of losing, culturally.”

SO HOW DOES a woman who clearly likes to get her hands dirty – not only does she fish and hunt but Cook was also a former high school wrestler on the boys’ team – also masquerade as pageant participant just a step away from competing for a Mrs. America crown?

First and foremost, when asked if she was OK with carrying around a tomboy moniker, Cook skewed more towards “offbeat” than simply just one of the guys.

“Awkward and gangly – yes, but I did love messing with my hair and dying it every color under the sun. I wore everything from 1950s sock-hop attire to punk rock to country girl stuff,” she says. 

And sure enough, when she was young – fifth and sixth grade – Cook entered a couple smaller pageants around the Vancouver area. (“What little girl didn’t want to be a part of that?” she muses.) Her parents offered this stipulation: If you want to do it, you have to fundraise yourself to help pay the fees. So Jena went door to door around local businesses to secure sponsor dollars so she could enter.

“I did my last pageant when I was 16 in a local event. But it wasn’t about the fun of it or the sisterhood of the community,” Cook says. “These girls had an eye on the prize and saw themselves as the future Miss America. It was a totally different ballgame. But even though I was competitive this was just supposed to be a super-fun experience.”

When she realized that fellow competitors were channeling their inner Mean Girls by attempting to sabotage each other in various ways, Cook seemed done for good. But now that she’s a married adult, the Mrs. pageants that are held around the state and the country don’t seem to breed such cutthroat competition. They’re more about showcasing what young women have accomplished in their lives already.

“I WANT TO SHOW THAT EVERYDAY NORMAL PEOPLE CAN TAKE PRIDE IN HARVESTING THEIR OWN MEAT AND EXPERIENCING NATURE,” JENA SAYS. “CONSERVATION IS A LEGACY AND SOMETHING I TAKE SERIOUSLY BECAUSE I WANT TO PASS THIS ONTO FUTURE GENERATIONS.” (JENA COOK)

And if you can assume she may have the most unlikely of passions among her peers vying for the crown of Mrs. Washington, this is a golden opportunity to put hunting in a positive light. When she interacts with other pageant entrants, Cook will ask if they eat meat, then query them on what they know about where that piece of beef or pork came from. It seems like a fair and viable request, doesn’t it? Cook understands that such a potentially volatile and controversial passion will “either help me or hinder me.”

“I tell them, ‘I simply decided to take it upon myself to take responsibility for where my protein comes from. And then I give back with my conservation efforts to make sure that the resource remains available,’” she says. “When they say, ‘I couldn’t go out and kill something,’ nobody is asking them to. So why is it a bad thing that somebody is OK with accepting that responsibility to take it upon themselves with what they are eating?” NS

Editor’s note: To request appearances or if interested in sponsorship opportunities for Mrs. Vancouver Jena Cook, email Mrslisajacobsvancouver@gmail.com. For more on the Mrs. Washington America Pageant, go to mrswashingtonpageant.org.

2017 Idaho Spring Turkey Prospects: ‘Fair-to-good’ Numbers

THE FOLLOWING IS A PRESS RELEASE FROM THE IDAHO DEPARTMENT OF FISH AND GAME

Spring turkey hunting outlook: fair to good; general season opens April 15

Tuesday, April 11, 2017 – 11:46 AM MDT

 

Winter decreased some flocks in southern Idaho, but Panhandle and Clearwater should have good hunting

General turkey season opens Saturday, April 15, and you can see units that have general hunts in our turkey hunting rules , as well as details about the seasons. Hunters will find most general hunting opportunity in the Panhandle, Clearwater and Southwest Regions, and beyond that most areas are limited to controlled hunts. 

(Idaho Fish and Game)

Higher-than-normal snowfall in much of the state likely decreased turkey populations in some areas, but hunters should still find fair-to-good turkey populations depending on the region. 

“In Southwest and Eastern Idaho we anticipate populations to be down based on field reports, turkey populations remain good in the Clearwater and Panhandle regions,” said Jeff Knetter, upland and migratory bird coordinator. 

Knetter explained turkeys typically cope with winter differently than big game. They typically seek out feed from agriculture operations, such as feed lots and feed lines for livestock. 

In areas where that’s not an option, they can have difficulty surviving winter if they’re unable to get natural food off the ground. Fish and Game in cooperation with the National Wild Turkey Federation fed some birds during winter the Cambridge, Council and Garden Valley areas to help them get through winter. 

Hunters are also warned that many areas have experienced flooding during late winter and early spring, so they should double check access to their favorite hunting spots. They might also encounter lingering snowdrifts that block them from their hunting spot. 

turkeys, spring, Southwest Region

(Photo by Roger Phillips/Idaho Fish and Game)

Fish and Game’s regional wildlife managers give an overview of what’s happening with turkey hunting in their regions. 

Panhandle Region

Turkey season in the Panhandle is looking quite good despite the snow that accumulated in the lower elevations this winter. Wintering turkeys are typically associated with agricultural land, often around livestock feeding operations, so food is usually available.  

Although the region had at near-normal winter snowpack, the winter did not begin in earnest until mid-January and snowfall in December and early January was below normal, so turkeys were not stressed for a long period. Things are now opening up and we’re seeing a very nice spring greenup due to the abundant moisture. 

A challenge for turkey hunters this year might be access due to poor road conditions due to flooding, but there should be abundant turkeys. During the spring season, hunters may purchase and use up to two turkey tags; only toms may be harvested in spring. As always, remember to respect private property, and ask first before you hunt there. 

Wayne Wakkinen, Panhandle Region Wildlife Manager

Clearwater Region

Last fall was warm and wet and early winter and snow pack was below average. This winter has seen what would be historically more normal snowpack, but valley snow levels were above normal. Despite this, turkeys in the Clearwater appear to be doing well. Snow at lower elevations came off relatively early and turkeys have had the advantage of spring green up.

The largest challenge to Clearwater turkey hunters this year will also be access. Warm weather and rain on snow events have caused flooding, road washouts and slides. Additionally, snow is gone at lower elevations, but some hunters will find it difficult accessing some valley hunting spots because of snow drifts on roads at higher elevations.  

Clay Hickey, Clearwater Region Wildlife Manager

Southwest Region

Turkey populations have been increasing steadily the last several years. However, this past winter was hard on turkeys in places experiencing prolonged deep snows. Turkeys along the lower Boise River appear to be doing well. Unit 38 and a portion of Unit 32 are controlled hunts and hunting in low country along waterways often requires landowner permission. The Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area in Unit 38 is open to turkey hunting for controlled-hunt tag holders. 

Units 33 and 39 are general hunts with small turkey populations scattered throughout.

In the northern part of the region, the National Wild Turkey Federation provided feed to private landowners in several areas, which helped turkeys come through the harsh winter pretty well. Access will be limited at higher elevations until sometime in May.  

There are turkey populations at Cecil D. Andrus Wildlife Management Area near Brownlee Reservoir. Motorized travel is restricted on the Andrus WMA until May 1, but walk-in hunting is open.

Hunters can also find Access Yes! properties with turkey hunting opportunities near Indian Valley, and north of New Meadows. 

Rick Ward and Regan Berkely, Southwest Region Wildlife Managers

Magic Valley Region

The region has a limited number of turkeys in Unit 54, with most residing on the west side of the unit. Turkeys are limited to controlled hunts only in the region, and normal survival is anticipated after the winter. 

Daryl Meints, Magic Valley Region Wildlife Manager. 

Upper Snake Region

In general, the Upper Snake has small populations, and the bulk of these turkeys are associated with the South Fork of the Snake River and Snake River riparian areas. Those areas likely had some winter mortality to further depress these limited populations. I would anticipate turkey densities to be slightly below what we have experienced over the last number of years. Hunting is limited to controlled hunts across the region.

Curtis Hendricks, Upper Snake Region Wildlife Manager

Southeast Region

The region has severe winter conditions from late December through March, and anecdotal reports indicate that some winter mortality on turkeys occurred in isolated areas. We anticipate turkey densities to be lower than in previous years. However, turkey numbers were extremely high this past year, and despite some winter mortality, there should still be robust turkey populations for hunters to enjoy. During the early period of the spring season, hunters might find turkey distributions to be slightly different due to lingering snow at higher elevations. 

Zach Lockyer, Southeast Region Wildlife Manager

Salmon Region

The region has low turkey densities, about 400 in Custer County and about 125 in Lemhi County. There are very limited controlled hunts for those birds.  The region likely had some winter mortality to further depress these limited populations and hunt success. Where the turkeys occupy lower elevations in the region, access will not be a problem due to snow.  

Greg Painter, Salmon Region Wildlife Manager

Bullpacs Hunting Packs

bullpac-ridgerunner

 

dayton-2013-038

An interview with Sam Kolb of Bullpacs hunting packs.

By Steve Joseph

Steve Joseph How did Bull Pacs get its start?

Sam Kolb About 20 years ago, some elk hunters out of Lewiston, Idaho, packed out an elk on some rickety old aluminum pack frames and swore there had to be better equipment out there for the job. Their search left them empty-handed, and since they ran a machine shop they decided they’d make their own. After several years and countless hours, they finally fine-tuned a frame that was super strong, pretty lightweight and much more comfortable for those long packs out of the mountains loaded with elk.

Though they weren’t really interested in making that part of their machine shop production, they had the production aspect all figured out. Their mother, Janice, moved back to Lewiston and was looking for work when the business idea was born; the shop would manufacture Bull Pacs and Janice began sewing the components, assembling packs and shipping orders. In 2014, Janice decided she wanted to retire from pack production, and after months of training and passing of the baton, our family moved Bull Pacs to Vancouver, Wash., where we have continued with pack production and started working on new accessories and ideas to go with the Bull Pacs.

axe-mount

 

SJ What sets Bull Pacs apart from the other packs?

SK We’ve always had a passion for good, solid hunting gear. When I first laid eyes on the Bull Pacs, the solid design and workmanship definitely stood out. Once I tried it on, I loved the way it fit and was convinced it could comfortably handle any load I was able to shoulder. I couldn’t wait until the next season to try it out with a load of elk meat! That was 14 years ago and I have packed thousands of pounds of game on my original Bull Pac, with very few signs of wear and tear. I was actually surprised at just how tough and comfortable Bull Pacs really were, whether packing out elk quarters or just hiking the backcountry in pursuit of the next big adventure!

SJ What about accessories that are available?

SK We have started producing a number of new accessories to outfit new or old packs. Our most popular addition is the rifle mount, which mounts securely to the Bull Pac frame and provides hands-free use when hiking or packing meat, but still allows quick access to ones rifle without removing the pack. We have also developed a decoy extension that allows a person to securely strap on super-tall loads that are otherwise unwieldy to haul around.  We have started carrying RAM Mount accessories to facilitate attachment/use of flashlights, Go Pro cameras, spotting scopes and cameras or other similarly threaded electronic equipment. We have a couple different sizes of game bags for bone-in quarters or boned-out meat. We also have Bull Pac Straps for quickly cinching download on the pack frame for hauling meat and/or gear. And we are just finishing up an axe mount similar to the rifle mount to facilitate safe axe hauling. We have several other ideas we are working on, with things to come in the future.

amber-and-avery-packing

SJ  Speaking of, where do you see Bull Pacs heading in the future?

SK We are excited to continue the company’s legacy that’s built on quality, durability and personal customer service that Bull Pacs has provided to the outdoor community for years. While we love the Bull Pac, we are also working on a number of accessories and other innovative adaptations that will make your Bull Pac useful in a number of different applications.  We hope to continue to grow as a grass roots pack company that represents solid, no-nonsense gear that gets the job done and doesn’t let you down, for the everyday hunter.

SJ You have a lifetime warranty. How important is that for your customers?

SK We do our best to produce products that will provide decades of worry-free use. What good is a warranty if it craps out on you in the bottom of the canyon? However, as we all know, anything mechanical can break. If you have something break, slip and land on a rock and bust a weld or have something you don’t think held up as it should have, we will happily take care of it and make it right! We pride ourselves on customer service that’s second to none.  We treat our customers how we’d want to be treated and don’t make excuses if an issue arises. More people like a company that stands behind their product, and we make sure our customers feel appreciated and are well taken care of!

Bullpacs.com (208) 798-3299

Dri-Z-Air: Interior Motorhome And Boat Dehumidifier

Dri-Z-Air dehumidifier system is designed to prevent condensation, musty odors and mildew in your boat or motorhome’s interior, without any electricity or moving parts.

It uses nontoxic salt (calcium chloride) to reduce cabin moisture quietly and with little monitoring. It’s a simple solution that is ideal for use while your boat or motorhome is in storage. Dri-Z-Air reccomends using one Dri-Z-Air unit for every 10-foot by 10-foot space. A 35-foot motorhome or boat will use three to four units during winter lay-up.

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Spring’s Other Hunt

With millions of acres burned around the Northwest in 2015 and the past few years, this season could provide a bumper crop of morel mushrooms.
By Jeff Holmes

Spring comes more quickly to Southcentral and Southeast Washington than to the rest  of the Inland Northwest, and most of the Northwest for that matter. Longer days, more sunshine and higher nighttime temperatures warm the earth and water and awaken the land. Sporting opportunities compound as the weeks progress through April and further into spring, creating a welcome conflict: What to do?
As April begins, water temps awaken species like walleye and bass; catfish and sturgeon respond too. On trout lakes the longer days and warmer water mean hatches of increasing intensity and correspondingly intense feeding behavior. As the month moves along, eyes turn to dam counts as upriver-bound spring Chinook move through the Columbia Gorge and eventually into four distinct zones on the lower Snake: Ice Harbor, Little Goose, Lower Granite and Clarkston.
On the 15th, thousands also take to the hills for the general turkey hunting opener, where they might stumble across some early morel mushrooms emerging amid a chorus of gobblers, pileated woodpeckers, ravens and wild canids. As the month moves toward its final week, the symphony of opportunity reaches a near crescendo. Spring Chinook fever afflicts an army of anglers everywhere there is a legitimate retention opportunity. Meanwhile bass and trout fishing get even better, crappie move shallow, and turkeys strut near almost every fishery. Millions and millions of dollars worth of morels erupt on timbered and burned-forested hillsides throughout the region’s mountains. The final week of the month is one of my favorite times of year. While I don’t often take part in the trout opener anymore, it once was the biggest event on my angling calendar, and it’s surely the single biggest event in all of Northwest angling. Hundreds of thousands of kids catch trout, many for the first time, on the fourth weekend of April: It’s a big deal!
There are too many options to engage in everything, and it’s also easy to spread one’s focus too thin; it’s my specialty, in fact. Nonetheless, I just can’t be the guy who locks in on one way to enjoy the outdoors when so many special things are happening. My burning passion during the last week  of April will be to catch and eat spring Chinook, I know that going in, so I’ll make sure to already have a few from the Lower Columbia and Willamette in the freezer. That’ll help clear the way for me to do some cool stuff this late April into early May without getting the shakes from springer withdrawal. Those activities will include some trout fishing with a friend near Cheney and float trips down the Walla Walla and Yakima Rivers for smallmouth bass and channel catfish, but what I’m most looking forward to is combing the woods for delicious and valuable morel mushrooms.

Before you head afield, be sure to check how many mushrooms you can gather. The limit varies by jurisdiction, so call local national forest, state forest or other government offices to find out. (JEFF HOLMES)

Before you head afield, be sure to check how many mushrooms you can gather. The limit varies by jurisdiction, so call local national forest, state forest or other government offices to find out. (JEFF HOLMES)

WITHOUT A DOUBT, this is an underappreciated activity, although plenty of people pick for themselves, like me, or commercially. Still, I’m amazed  at how little competition I find in the Blue Mountains for morels, and I’m pleasantly surprised when I enjoy picking more every year. Morels can be found just about everywhere there are mountains east of the Cascade Crest. The fire-ravaged landscapes from the last couple years should produce great picking, as should older burns. Use websites such as inciweb.nwcg.gov and geomac.gov to view  past fire perimeters. Generally, morels become steadily less abundant as years pass after the couple/few-year boom right after a fire. I’ve enjoyed very good picking in unburned landscapes too. Scouting for mushrooms is the key until you find good numbers that are in good shape. They come on later at higher elevations, so starting low and working high to find them is a preferred technique for pickers.
Fishing and hunting are my passions, but so is morel picking these days. Walking out of the woods with several pounds makes me very happy. I dry morels, freeze morels, fry them fresh, make soup, and sautee and blend them with butter for freezer storage as “morel butter.” This substance is dangerous because it’s been known to make me sick from overconsumption. Mashed potatoes made with morel butter can’t be beat, nor can morel butter in air-popped popcorn or on rice. Along with being some of the  best eats on the landscape, morels inspire the act of slowly searching the Earth at a slow, micro level. It lends a different perspective and is a great opportunity to bring along field guides for wildflowers and other plants. If you haven’t picked before, my story may illustrate how easy it is to start.

MOST OF MY life I fished trout hardcore every spring, and I spent little time in the woods in April and May. That changed when I took up turkey hunting years ago, and while chasing gobblers I found my first few morel mushrooms on Mica Peak near Spokane and in Ferry County north of Republic. They were delicious, and I made a mental note to one day go on a dedicated morel hunt. Well, several Aprils ago during the peak of springer fishing on the Snake, two friends and I drove to Little Goose Dam towing my 15-foot boat despite a less-than-nice forecast. As we neared the river, paralleling it near Texas Rapids, we watched the wind pick up river water  and spiral it in great water spouts, high in the air. For that to happen it has to be blowing over 40 miles an hour, so we took it as an omen to look for a back-up option. There’s probably not a better place to see turkeys in Southeast Washington than in the open country near the Tucannon River and in the  foothills of the Blue Mountains to the south, but we didn’t have shotguns or calls with us and were towing a boat.
Nowhere fun to fish exists when it’s blowing 40 and gusting higher, but the woods are always fun, and morels sprung to mind. It had been several years since the School House and Columbia Complex fires of the mid-2000s charred many tens of thousands of acres of timber and timbered foothills on and above the Tucannon. Morel spores are of course activated by the fire cycle, and I’d heard rumors of good picking somewhere in the vastness of one of the Blues’ largest watersheds, but where to start? A boat would be a hindrance to our search,  so we grabbed all of the beer and food out of it, along with two backpacks and some plastic bags, and we left it in Starbuck, at Darver Tackle.
Giant salmonflies exploded on my windshield as we drove through the Tucannon River farmland into the green, flowering foothills and pines of the Wooten Wildlife Area, home to the Tucannon Lakes. This little collection of stocked impoundments was created as mitigation for the loss of sporting opportunity from the damming of the nearby Snake and offers fair to excellent fishing for rainbow trout, including some nice holdovers. The lakes are designed to be fished from shore, and there’s ample room and an ideal setting for kids or people with mobility issues. We drove past the many dispersed campsites, near the lakes and almost hit a whitetail doe eating regenerating browse from the fires. Unsure where to start looking,  we started low on the valley floor near some old-growth cottonwoods mixed with firs. I’d heard morels grow near cottonwoods, and I’ve since found that to be true sometimes, but not this time. The ground seemed dry, and the mushrooms we saw were dried out and definitely not morels. So we jumped in the rig and gained elevation and made a few more forays into the woods on foot, slowly scanning the forest floor, checking different forest types and slopes of southern and northern exposure, and in between.
We climbed still higher into the mountains with melting snow in sight several hundred feet of elevation above us. My friends and I decided to do a long, boom-or-bust hike, so we loaded all our beer, food and water into backpacks and set off uphill on a partially burned hillside with some big pines and firs. I spotted one right away, and a friend spotted one, and another friend spotted one. We kept finding singles as we worked our way up and  along a hillside, and then my addiction  started. Inside of a hole from a burned-out root ball was a cluster of 11 morels! Soon we were on our hands and knees filling up bags with the precious little honeycomb-capped beauties; they were everywhere! Morels are worth a lot of money, sometimes as much as $30 to $50 a pound, much more for dried mushrooms. We grew drunk on the wealth this beautiful hillside was providing and ran smack into a cow moose with two large calves. Moose are relative newcomers to the Blues, but they are expanding their numbers rapidly. This big cow bristled her mane at us, and we detoured well around her with dogs on leashes.
I’d end up seeing the cow in almost exactly the same spot for four more years, with seven different calves! One of those sightings was disturbingly close and frightening, my closest call with a big herbivore. I had my English setters at heel because there were morels everywhere in the moss under some degenerating firs. I was on hands and knees and had stopped paying attention to my surroundings until my female dog growled low. The hair went up on my neck. I looked up and saw that big cow inside of 50 feet with her neck flat and ears pinned, staring at me. I firmly whispered, “Heel!” with urgency my dogs felt, and we backed out of there for a long time.

Author Jeff Holmes has many uses for morels – drying or freezing for later use, frying them fresh, in soup, and sauteing and blending them with butter to make “morel butter.” (JEFF HOLMES)

Author Jeff Holmes has many uses for morels – drying or freezing for later use, frying them fresh, in soup, and sauteing and blending them with butter to make “morel butter.” (JEFF HOLMES)

You likely won’t have moose trouble, but carrying bear spray is wise, especially if you bring dogs that could bring a rampaging critter back your way. Don’t forget that dogs also often snap off morels you could have picked. Mine are trained to stay somewhat calmly at heel when commanded. I let them run most of the time and share IPA drinks with my female dog, Alice.

THE BIGGEST SAFETY concern, other than getting drunk enough in the woods to drink beer with a dog, is obviously relative to mushroom identification. Definitely eat mushrooms at your own risk, and do your research first! Thankfully the morel is very distinctive with its honeycombed cap, both blonde and brown phases. Its mildly poisonous cousin, the false morel, looks quite a bit different and could really only be confused with  an inky, expired morel rather than anything that should be picked and eaten. Getting a book and doing some Internet research is advisable but not always necessary. Here’s a handful of lessons that have served me, and I recommend them to anyone just getting started morel picking:

  • Don’t look for a long time in one place if you’re not finding morels;
  • Start lower in elevation and work your way up to where they are fresh and to your liking;
  • Pay attention to where you’re finding them and try to replicate your success – location matters;
  • Look for places with filtered light and shade, like forest edges;
  • When you find one morel, stop and look around it in widening circles –always assume there are more;
  • Big grand firs very often hide morels in their shade;
  • Leave the really decomposed ones behind to spread spores, and place the ones you keep in a mesh bag to distribute spores as you walk and pick;
  • Take good care of your mushrooms and get them home and sort into classes by freshness and size. I take many of the oldest morels I pick and combine them with primo fresh morels to make morel butter. The pretty morels meet a variety of culinary fates. NS
A pair of morel mushrooms grow beneath a burned log in the northern Cascades. The fungi are found throughout the Northwest, and though mainly associated with recent wildfires, can pop up elsewhere. True morels are honeycombed on the outside, hollow inside. (PFLY, FLICKR)

A pair of morel mushrooms grow beneath a burned log in the northern Cascades. The fungi are found throughout the Northwest, and though mainly associated with recent wildfires, can pop up elsewhere. True morels are honeycombed on the outside, hollow inside. (PFLY, FLICKR)

3 Ways To Grind Out May Gobblers

This story was originally posted in the May 2015 edition of Northwest Sportsman Magazine

The back half of spring season is tougher hunting, but there are ways to notch that tag this month.

By Chris Gregersen

Let’s face it: Chasing late-season turkeys can be a grind. But just because the birds in your area have wised up to hunters or calmed down from the excitement of the breeding season doesn’t mean you can’t be successful as the spring hunt draws to a close this month.

Chasing gobblers in May can be tough for many reasons. Hunting pressure over the first couple weeks of the season not only thins out the most eager birds, but after a few weeks those toms have heard just about every call out there, as well as seen all sorts of decoy ploys. Chances are that by this time turkeys have already been pushed out of their normal routines, putting them even more on edge when it comes to aggressive calling approaches. Also, as the late season rolls around, those gobblers’ interest and aggression towards calling will start to decline as flocks of hens break up and transition to nesting.

But while there’s no doubt it can be a challenge to bag a late season tom, there’s no reason to hang up the decoys just yet. Here are a few clutch tactics that might save your season.
LESS IS MORE
If the birds are acting shy and wary, nothing will put them off even more than the sounds of an overly eager hen. If you want to bring in a wary late-season bird with calls, you’ll need to sound like, well, a wary lateseason bird. Patience is key at this time of the season, so start by setting up and settling in as close as you can to where you expect a tom to be working through.

When using this approach, you’ll want to call far less often than during the early season, while sticking with your set-up for longer as well. I’ll generally stay put for a couple of hours if I know there are toms in the area. Rather than employ the long, drawn-out yelps that you might use often in the early season to evoke frantic gobbles from hundreds of yards away, tone your calling down to soft and short clucks and purrs. Turkeys have excellent hearing, so don’t worry about broadcasting the sound. At this time of season, it’s more important to focus on finesse than worrying about whether or not you’re being heard.

Aside from calling, lightly raking leaves or other ground clutter to mimic feeding in conjunction with soft purrs and clucks is also a good way to mimic a shy turkey. Be persistent and attentive with your set-up. Toms this time of year will usually take their time coming to
your calls, and more often than not they won’t make a sound as they approach.

THE AMBUSH
When calling approaches and decoy set-ups aren’t working, it’s time to get creative. Setting up an ambush takes preparation and tact, but can be very successful if you’ve done your homework. Start by locating and patterning a tom or two; while this may mean foregoing a hunt to simply observe the birds from far away, it will pay off in the end.

Spotting and stalking may be more associated with fall turkey hunting, but that’s how Emily Pawul took her first gobbler. While far fewer hunters will be afield in May, it’s still important to make sure you don’t bust someone else’s set-up on a bird when using this tactic. (CHRIS GREGERSEN)

Spotting and stalking may be more associated with fall turkey hunting, but that’s how Emily Pawul took her first gobbler. While far fewer hunters will be afield in May, it’s still important to make sure you don’t bust someone else’s set-up on a bird when using this tactic. (CHRIS GREGERSEN)

First, you’ll want to know where the birds are roosting. Chances are you’ll already know where this is, but if not, it usually isn’t difficult to find. You can get a general idea of what area they use by observing their morning and evening activity from a good vantage point – turkeys tend to make quite a bit of noise when going up and coming down from a roost. Then hone in on exactly where they’re roosting by looking for fresh droppings near the bases of trees.

Next, see where the birds are going to feed when they come down. Turkeys feed throughout the morning and late afternoon, so knowing what food sources they are keying in on will help you stay one step ahead. As turkeys feed to and from roost, pay attention to their travel routes; they often follow defined features such as field edges, shrub lines and ridges.

Once you have an idea of the travel routes and feeding areas turkeys are likely to be using, set yourself up in a well-concealed area well before daylight and wait. Hold off on the decoys and focus on keeping your set-up as inconspicuous as possible. Be careful not to approach roosting areas too closely, as the birds’ keen eyesight and hearing can blow your cover before you know it. With some preparation and a little bit of luck, an ambush is an excellent way to tag a wary old tom.
SPOT AND STALK
Though many seasoned spring turkey hunters look down on the spot-and-stalk approach (probably because sloppy attempts have ruined many a set-up of those who have done their homework and were otherwise patiently working a bird) there’s no doubt it can be effective when done right. This technique is all about strategy and implementing a well-devised plan to outsmart a wary late-season tom after patterning and calling have failed. I rarely use the spot-andstalk approach as a go-to technique, instead using it as an opportunistic late-season backup plan when the chance presents itself.

To execute a successful spot-and-stalk, you’ll need both appropriate terrain and cover to sneak within range, as well as an idea of the turkey’s behavior. Keep in mind, most turkeys you’ll “spot” aren’t appropriate for this technique. You’re looking for calm birds close to or moving towards some terrain feature that you can use to your advantage. Turkeys can cover miles in a day, so you’re also looking for birds that are slowly feeding or posting up for a mid-day break.

When the right opportunity presents itself, you’ll want to close the distance as fast as possible, while being especially respectful of other hunters in the area. Approach from any way you can to keep the bird from hearing or seeing you. Using terrain like a ridge, creek draw or steep bank is the best, since it will both block your appearance and sound. Turkeys are very good at evading ground predators, so use the same care you would if stalking a deer.

Spring turkey seasons in the Northwest run in excess of six weeks – through May 25 in Idaho and May 31 in Washington and Oregon – so there’s no need to limit yourself to the times when toms are most susceptible to calling. By adding a bit of variety and strategy to your approach, you can find late-season success when most others have all but given up. NS