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Outdoors blog

Archive for January 2011

Snowshoeing topic at Fernan meeting

WINTER SPORTS — Snowshoeing past and present will be the topic of the free program Tuesday at the Panhandle Nordic Ski & Snowshoe Club meeting. It starts at 7 p.m. at the Coeur d'Alene River Ranger
District office, 2500 E. Sherman in Fernan Village.  Park in the back lot and walk down the stairs to the meeting room.

Snowshoeing tips help you walk on (frozen) water

WINTER SPORTS — Working on an upcoming story on snowshoeing, I've compiled these tips to help you get started if you're thinking about heading up to Mount Spokane this weekend for the Women's Souper Bowl activities — or maybe you're just heading out on your own.

Snowshoeing tips

  • Take food and water when you’re snowshoeing. You can burn a lot of calories and easily become dehydrated, even on the coldest days. Hot coffee, tea or soup in a thermos is a great mood lifter to chase away chills.
  • Bring basic safety equipment in case of an emergency, including a map, compass, weatherproof fire-starter and a space blanket. A GPS and cell phone are other options, but cold weather can quickly drain batteries.
  • Get an early start. Daylight doesn’t last long in winter. If you start late, you’re more likely to wind up in the dark if something goes wrong. Let someone you can trust know where you’re going and when you expect to return.
  • Plan a route that heads uphill first. It will make your return trip quicker and less strenuous.
  • Watch the weather. Blizzards can cause whiteouts that erase your tracks and make route-finding difficult even on marked trails. Temperatures also can drop drastically during winter.
  • Dogs love snow, but it takes a lot of effort for them to get through deep snow. Plan the distance of your trip according to your companion’s ability. Frequently check for ice build up between their toes.
  • Your boots will be covered with snow, so make sure they’re warm and waterproof. Wear gaiters.

Birds show signs of spring fever

BIRDWATCHING — The ever-vigilant eyes of area birdwatchers are finding more to see every day.  Here's this week's report from Charles Swift in Moscow:
I had a smallish mixed flock of Bohemian and cedar waxwings on campus this morning. There might be more Bohemians around - there are several favored locations around campus that I haven't checked recently.
Also on Wednesday, the local pair of kestrels on the University of Idaho campus were copulating - presumably still pair bonding at this point but another sure sign of spring.
And with the lack of snow and mild temps, I bet there will be some early killdeer here on the Palouse any day.

Fishing seminars featured at Boat Show

FISHING-  Even without the boat displays, anglers can justify going to the Spokane National Boat Show just to sit in on the varied list of fishing seminars. The show is on today and running through Feb. 5 at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center.

Bass, walleye, trout, steelhead, salmon and more are covered by the local group of fishing experts. The seminars start today and run through Feb. 5.

Check out the entire seminar schedule.

Dine for birds with CdA Audubon

WILDLIFE WATCHING — If you have a love for birds, make time in your Valentines Day for the Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society's Midwinter Banquet, Feb. 14, at the Greenbriar Inn, 315 Wallace Ave., in Coeur d’Alene.

Cost: $35. Reservations due by Feb. 7 to Coeur d'Alene Audubon, P.O. Box 361, CDA, ID 83816.

Have a raffle item to donate? Contact Eula Hickam (208) 661-3228.

Last call to apply for Idaho’s “Big 4” rivers

RIVER RUNNING — Applications to get coveted permits for floating the Selway, Snake, Middle Fork of the Salmon, or wild main Salmon rivers for this coming season must be submitted online by Monday.

The shift by the Forest Service to online applications includes a few other new twists:

  • Reservations will be accepted only at the national public lands recreation website:
  • Each applicant must have a unique e-mail address to create an online profile.

Officials say the new system will be faster and allow applicants to file for more launch options. Safety alerts and notices can be sent to river permit holders as their trips draw near.

Boaters also can use the Forest Service website to make reservations for preseason and postseason launches for the Middle Fork and wild main Salmon rivers.

Shore still hot for Roosevelt rainbows

FISHING — Friends who trolled from a boat for trout at Lake Roosevelt Wednesday worked 8 hours and bagged only nine trout total for three of them.  Nice fish to be sure, but that's an unusually lean day at the lake's top trout fishery this time of year.

So I joined two of them this morning to see what the action was like from shore — or what there is left of it.  The big runoff the past 10 days has left the lake very high. Places we were fishing on the shore two weeks ago are well under water.

But the fishing was fantastic with a basic rig: sliding slip-skinker, swivel, 30 inches of leader, No. 2 hook baited with marshmallow and piece of nightcrawler.

The first in our group caught his limit in less than an hour.  We all were home before 11.  I had my five fish filleted and vacuum-packed by noon — saving one beauty for a fresh-trout dinner tonight, of course.

My rainbows ranged in length from 16 to 20 inches (15-19 inches fork length).  And that's using a tape measure for accuracy.

I was able to give the English setters a good run and still be back at work by 1:15 p.m.  Nobody missed me.  

Washington eyes parking solution to state park funding

OLYMPIA — With the governor's sobering budget proposal offering no state funding for Washington's state parks, adminstrators are looking under every rock for money — and they're also looking at every car.

A Seattle Times story, “Could Vehicle Fees Keep State Parks Open,” examines the problems state parks are facing at the Washington Legislature in this grim budget crisis year.

WA mandatory hunter reports due Monday

HUNTING — Washington hunters must file their season's hunting activity report by Monday for each black bear, deer, elk, or turkey tag they purchased in 2010.

Whether successful or not, hunters are are required to file the reports by phone or online or face a $10 fine, payable before a hunter can purchase a 2011 license.
Read on for details.

Fly-tying class geared to beginners

FLY FISHINGSilver Bow Fly Shop is offering the last chance before spring to take a beginner fly-tying class.

Learn to tie 6 reliable fly patterns with techniques that can be applied to many more.

When: Feb. 7-8

Where:  Silver Bow Fly Shop

Instructor:  Angela Morgan

Cost:  $75, includes all the tools and materials for use during class.  Discounts offered for tying gear after the class. Pre-register, 924-9998.

First salmon of season shows in Columbia

FISHING – It’s a harbinger of spring, or perhaps a harbinger of spring chinook salmon fishing.

An 18-pound lower river stock spring chinook was picked up in the lower Columbia commercial sturgeon fishery on Wednesday. The fish, checked by Oregon fisheries officials, is the first documented spring of a season that’s forecast to be good.

By the way, the fish sold for $16 a pound, fisheries officials said.

Idaho river rafting permit deadline Jan. 31

IDAHO RIVERS — Applications to get coveted permits for floating the Selway, Snake, Middle Fork of the Salmon, or wild main Salmon rivers for this coming season must be submitted online by Jan. 31.

The new shift by the Forest Service to online applications includes a few other twists:

  • Reservations will be accepted only at the national public lands recreation Web site:
  • Each applicant must have a unique e-mail address to create an online profile.

Officials say the new system will be faster and allow applicants to file for more launch options.

Safety alerts and notices can be sent to river permit holders as their trips draw near abouts.

Boaters also can use the Web site to make reservations for preseason and post-season launches for the Middle Fork and wild main Salmon rivers.

Where do the permits go?

The highest number of Idaho's coveted permits for the Selway, Snake, Salmon and Middle Fork Salmon go to the following states, in descending order:  

Idaho, Washington, Oregon.

Forest Service names new Palouse District Ranger

NATIONAL FORESTS — Susan Shaw, a Forest Service manager of planning, lands and minerals in Tennessee, has been named the new district ranger for the Clearwater National Forest's Palouse Ranger District headquartered in Potlatch, Idaho.

Shaw has worked for the agency in several locations as a forester, environmental coordinator, timber and silviculture officer, fish and wildlife officer and manager of  cultural and historic properties.

A district press release said Shaw enjoys windsurfing, whitewater rafting, skiing on water and snow, reading, and remodeling houses.

Hunting season’s over, bull elk know it

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A herd of more than 60 elk, mostly mature bulls, was photographed recently in Utah by a Uinta County Sheriff as he waited for the herd to cross the road ahead of him about 12 miles out of Evanston.

Hunting season is over, but the shed hunting seaons ought to be awesome in this area.


Winter-feeding is in full swing at the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's Oak Creek Wildlife Area 15 miles northwest of Yakima. Visitors are welcome to watch hundreds of hungry elk and bighorn sheep gather to dine on alfalfa hay and pellets — a program designed to keep them off of nearby agricultural lands when winter forces them down from the high country.

Oak Creek visitors can check the recorded message on the headquarters phone (509) 653-2390 for updates on feeding and elk-viewing tours. Tour reservations must be made at least 48 hours in advance by calling (509) 698-5106.

Click here for driving instructions and more info.


Helicopter pronghorn roundup caught on video

WILDLIFE — A helicopter's speedy pursuit and net capture of pronghorns in Nevada is captured on amateur video and posted on YouTube.  If you think helicopter net gunning is child's play, you need to watch this. 

Click here for one video showing the intensity of the helicoptering skills required. Listen for the two shots as the gutsy gunner — tethered by a cable out the door of the rocking ship — fires nets down on the speeing pronghorns.  The video above shows the netting done closer to the camera in the final frames.

On Sunday I ran a package of stories detailing the reintroduction of these unique critters to Washington.

The footage was shot by volunteers in Nevada during  the roundup of 100 pronghorns destined for the Jan. 15-16 re-introduction on the Yakama Indian Reservation in central Washington.

After the animals were netted, the volunteers raced out to untangle them and secure them so they wouldn't injure themselves before transport. The project was funded by Safari Club International.

Winter is Hurricane season at Olympic National Park

NATIONAL PARKS — Winter at Olyimpic National Park conjures up images of pounding surf on wilderness beaches.  But many people don't realize the Western Washington park also offers stunning winter alpine beauty served by the plowed road to Hurricane Ridge.

Bring your skis or snowshoes if you visit this winter paradise, which is served by a shuttle bus from Port Angeles in case you don't have the tire chains required in some conditions.

Get a weather preview via the Hurricane Ridge webcam.

Read on for details or click here for details from the Olympic Peninsual visitors association.

Did you know?
Mount Olympus receives over 200 inches of precipitation each year and most of that falls as snow. At 7,980 feet, Mount Olympus is the highest peak in Olympic National Park and has the third largest glacial system in the contiguous U.S.

See documentary on Skeena River woes

RIVERS — Whether you're a paddler or a steelhead angler, you've probably heard of British Columbia's Skeena River.  It's an iconic natural resource that's threatened, according to a documentary that will be playing in Spokane on Friday.

“Awakening at the Skeena,” a film by Andrew Eddy, will be shown at 7 p.m. at the Magic Lantern, 25 W. Main Ave. sponsored by The Lands Council.  A donation to the cause is requested.

To reserve seats, call 209-2382.

For more info, check out The Skeena Watershed Coalition and The Wild Steelhead Coalition.

Spokane Valley to improve Barker Bridge access to Spokane River

RIVERS – At a meeting today, officials from the City of Spokane Valley pledged to improve the boater access to the Spokane River at the site of the new Barker Road bridge.

“The work will begin in March,” said Terry Miller of the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club. He was one of several people at the meeting of parties involved in overseeing the construction project.

Also at the meeting with city engineers were representatives from agencies such as Department of Ecology and state parks.

“They plan to hire contractors to knock down the hill, remove about 100 cubic yards of material, flaten the area and then come in with landscaping a trail down to the beach,” Miller said.

They also plan to move the barriers back about 20 feet so a vehicle can more easily back a raft or other light craft closer to the river, Miller said.

The $11 million project has been criticized for fouling the river with erosion and reducing rather than improving the critical access it has provided for paddlers and anglers.

Rathdrum man to represent West at Bassmasters Classic

PRO FISHING — A Rathdrum man is the only angler from the West to qualify for the 2011 Bassmaster Classic – the Super Bowl of professional bass fishing –  Feb. 18-20 at Bayou Segnette State Park in Louisiana.

Brandon Palaniuk, 23, a member of the Panhandle Bassmasters, is a heavy-equipment operator who’s earned $60,000 in his other career as a pro angler.

His ticket to the big stage was teaming with fellow Idahoan Bill Golightly to win the BASS Federation Nation Championship at Louisiana's Red River in October. Other than that, an ESPN report noted, “his pro record is completely blank.”

“Since the first time I was taken out in a bass boat when I was 8 years old, I have been thinking about making the Classic,” Palaniuk said at the awards ceremony. “And since I started fishing the Federation when I was 16, I started dreaming about winning one of these (annual championships).”

Palaniuk is among 15 rookies energizing this year's Bassmasters field.

Alabama leads all states at the Bassmaster Classic with 10 residents in the 50-angler field. Oklahoma and Texas each have five, Arkansas four, and Florida and South Carolina each have three.

P0’d woman assaults ice anglers with fish

ICE FISHING — This story out of the Muskegon (Mich.) News sort of dashed any romance I had about settling down in one of the traditional ice-fishing shacks that are so popular on the eastern half of the U.S.

Turns out you have to be careful about the neighborhood, even on the ice, as you can see from this story about a couple of guys minding their own tip-ups when a lady piddles on their plot of ice and starts whacking them with frozen fish.

Hunt accident story makes Landers see orange

HUNTING SAFETY —  A 35-year-old eastern Idaho man who lost his right lung and most of the use of his right arm after being mistakenly shot during hunting season last fall is in the news for stating publically that he’s frustrated the shooter is facing only a misdemeanor.

The Associated Press reports that Korby Hansen of Rexburg says his medical bills are close to $400,000 and that he expects those to increase after being hit with a 12-gauge shotgun slug fired by 57-year-old Mark Later of Rigby in October.  The two men were hunting whitetails in Madison County when the accident occurred near the end of legal shooting hours

Later faces a misdemeanor charge of injuring another by careless handling and discharge of a firearm. Hansen wants Later charged with felony aggravated battery, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Reading past reports on this accident, it’s staggering to consider how preventable it was.

Hansen was wearing camouflage in a firearms hunting area.

Later, who was hunting with another party, said he took a shot a late-day movement he thought was a deer.

Wearing hunter orange clothing, as is required in most states such as Montana, would have almost certainly prevented this accident.

And if it didn’t, Hansen would have had a better case to ask for an even stronger charge – attempted murder.

Fine proposed for skiing in dangerous areas

OLYMPIA — If the threat of getting snuffed out doesn't detract you from going for off-limits pow, maybe a stiff fine will do the trick.

Skiers who venture into dangerous areas that are closed to the public could be fined up to $1,000 under a proposal being considered by the state Senate.

S-R Olympia Bureau reporter Jim Camden says the bill, sponsored by Sen. Jim Kastama, D-Puyallup, calls for fines for any skier who crosses in to a marked area that has been closed because of dangerous conditions.

Those skiers aren’t just risking their lives, they’re risking the lives of ski patrol members who go in after them, Kastama said.

It does not prohibit back-country or off-trail skiing, he added.

Why fish for kokanee at Roosevelt?

FISHING — Frank Whitney holds up one of the reasons anglers might want to pursue kokanee at Lake Roosevelt

Whitney caught this beefy 23-incher — weighing 4 pounds, 3 ounces — while fishing over the weekend out of Keller.

His friend, Eldon Wagner, wasn't quite as lucky earlier in the week.

 “I went out with a neighbor last Tuesday and we caught two  nice rainbows from shore at Sterling Point Camp Ground and froze,” Wagner said. “I will take my boat the next time and anchor near shore and turn the heat on.” 

Spokane Boat Show has (safety) class

BOATING — Get more bang for your buck by multitasking at the Spokane National Boat Show, which opens Friday and runs through Feb. 6 at Spokane Interstate Fair and Expo Center.

The eight-hour America’s Boating Course, which satisfies Washington’s mandatory boater education requirements, will be offered during the show in two-hour segments on four consecutive days Monday-Thursday, starting at 5:30 p.m.

The classes will be taught by the Spokane Sail & Power Squadron. Cost: $48 or $40 for youths under 18.

Preregister to get free admission to the boat show. If you register at the show, you’ll have to  pay the first-day’s admission but will get in free the remaining days.

Contact: Jim Roeber, 328-6165 or the Power Squadrons club house, 929 W. Jackson Ave.

Washington's boating safety requirement schedule

Following is the phase-in schedule for Washington's requirement that boat operators carry a card showing they have passed a certified boater safety course.

Year  / Age group
2011 / 35 years and younger
2012 / 40 years and younger
2013 / 50 years and younger
2014 / 59 years and younger

After 2014, requirement applies to any boater born after Dec. 31, 1954.

Bill would give loons status against poachers

OLYMPIA — A bill has been introduced in the Washington Legislature that would, among other things, give loons and trumpeter swans some clout against a poacher's bank acount.

When a  Newport-area man senselessly killed a common loon at Yocum Lake a few years ago, Washington Fish and Wildlife authorities could do little more than write him a ticket for just under $300.

Senate Bill 5201 would increase the fine to $2,000 for killing a loon, ferruginous hawk, bald eagle, peregrine falcon; tundra swan or trumpeter swan.


Sportsmen-related bills entered in Olympia

OLYMPIA — Here' s a sampling of legislation of interest to sportsmen that's been introduced in the Washington Legislature and is up for major public hearings. It's a version reduced from a list being watched by the Fishing and Hunting Natural Resources Forum.

SB 5201 and companion bill HB 1248 regarding issues that impact the department of fish and wildlife: The bill has a variety of measures, such as increasing the prenalty for poaching protected wildlife such as eagles, swans and loons to $2,000.  The bill also would prohibit feeding bears, cougars and wolves.

Scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources & Marine Waters at 1:30 p.m. today.  House version scheduled for public hearing in Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 26.

 HB 1124 and companion SB 5356 establishing seasons for hunting cougars with the aid of dogs: sThe bill would extend the current pilot project to allow hound hunting for northern tier counties from Chelan across to Pend Oreille. It's being oppposed by groups such as the Humane Society of the United States. 

Referred to Agriculture & Natural Resources; public hearing held on Jan 18; scheduled for executive action on Jan. 25 at 10 a.m.

SB 5112 restrictions on firearm noise suppressors:

Scheduled for public hearing in the Senate Committee on Judiciary at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 26.

 HB 1095 Regarding payments in lieu of taxes for lands managed by the department of fish and wildlife:

Scheduled for public hearing in the House Committee on Agriculture & Natural Resources at 1:30 p.m. on Jan. 26.

 House Bill 1387 and companion Senate Bill 5385, increasing revenue to the state wildlife account: Would increase most hunting and fishing licenes fees, although a few would be decreased.

House bill is scheduled for public hearing the House Committee on General Government Appropriations & Oversight at 1:30 p.m. on Jan 27.

Fourth of July Pass ski trail holding snow

WINTER SPORTS — The Panhandle Nordic Club's annual Rock Soup event is set for Saturday at Fourth of July Pass nordic trails Panhandle Hut. Although the snow is thin on the trails, there's plenty for skiing.

“The ski up Skywalker from Skateway to Twisted Klister and beyond is great,” said club spokesman Geoff  Harvey, after checking out the trails this weekend.

A few places weren't so good.  Read on for Harvey's full report. 

Let winter get you down

WATERFOWL — These ducks are offering their free services as models to promote the effective qualities of down insulation as they hang out comfortably on the ice in below-zero conditions.

Down is the lightest most compressible and efficient natural insulator for cold weather clothing.

But the ducks stress that consumers should insist on clothing filled with 100 percent GOOSE down. 

Flying trapper shows his business class

OUTDOOR CHUCKLE — As a trapper boarded the airplane, the flight attendant asked what he had in the bag over his shoulder.

“It's a dead raccoon.”

“You can't bring a dead raccoon on the plane,” the attendant said.

“Sure I can.  It's carrion.”

Snowshoers making tracks this weekend

WINTER SPORTS — This has been a glorious and brilliant weekend for exploring the winter outdoors in the Inland Northwest, especially for snowshoers who absorb it all at a quiet pace that seems in step with the season.

Ice shrouded everything on top of Star Peak northeast of Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho, when a Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness group arrived on a snowshoeing daytrip Saturday.  The Idaho-based wilderness advocates lead numerous group snowshoe treks into the wild and unforgetable scenery on winter weekends. 

On snowshoes that kept him afloat over the ample snowpack, George Momany of Spokane marched through a winter wonderland under brilliant blue skies up to the top of Mount Spokane on Saturday.  I joined him. We saw numerous snowshoers up and down the mountain on treks short and long.

Sno-Park requirement at Mount Spokane

Snowshoers should make a commitment to visit Mount Spokane State Park more than once a season and take advantage of the bargan.  A one-time Sno-Park permit costs $20 per vehicle  while you can enjoy unlimited entry to the lower portions of the mountain by purchasing a $40 season Sno-Park pass.

If you want access to the upper snowmobile parking lot and Selkirk Lodge parking area near the nordic ski trails, and additional $40 groomed trail system season pass is required.

Get info and purchase Sno-Park permits online here

At least one bird dieoff mystery solved

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

WILDLIFE — Maybe it doesn't solve the case of 3,000 blackbirds that fell from the sky and died in Arkansas on New Years Day, but at least the people in South Dakota got to the bottom of a dieoff of starlings in the city of Yankton, SD.

David Thompson detailed in Nisbet talk

ADVENTURE — Historian and author Jack Nisbet of Spokane will give a slide presentation on “David Thompson among the Kalispel” this month in the cultural heart of the tribe's reservation.

Although the Lewis and Clark Expedition had garnered much of the publicity a few years earlier, the English-born fur agent and explorer had extensive dealings with tribes in this region in the 1809-1812 period Nisbet will cover.
The two-hour program will start Tuesday, Jan. 25, at 6 p.m. at the Camas Wellness Center, 1821 N. LeClerc Road in Usk. Admission is free, with a non-perishable food bank donation requested. Pre-register by calling (509) 447-2401 or emailing
Nisbet will trace Thompson’s journeys, try to understand his relationship with Kalispel people and look at the tribe’s influence on his large maps of our region.
Nisbet, a teacher and naturalist, has authored several works that explore the human and natural history of the region, including two books on Thompson and his recent book, “The Collector: David Douglas and the Natural History of the Northwest.”

Spokane River Water Trail discussed

RIVERS — Andy Dunau, Executive Director of the Spokane River Forum, will discuss the effort to develop the recreation potential of the Spokane River Water Trail in a meeting with the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club Monday, 7 p.m., at the Corbin Community Center, 827 W. Cleveland.

According to Dunau, the proposed trail incorporates the following principles:

  • Environmental river stewardship.
  • Honoring historic and cultural resources.
  • Supporting community development and healthy living.

Program to steady minds of rock climbers

CLIMBING —  Arno Ilgner author of The Rock Warrior's Way will be in Spokane Tueday to present a free slide snow on mental fitness for athletes heading out to hang on the edge.

The free program will beging at 7 p.m. at Mountain Gear, 2002 N. Division.

Ilgner speializes in teaching climbers how to take appropriate risks, prepare their minds and overcome limitations.

Read on for more details on the program and Ilgner's books.

WA wolf bills panned or ‘awfulness’

WILDLIFE LEGISLATION — A spokeswoman for an organization working on wolf, wildlife and wildland issues in Washington is panning a trio of Canis lupus-related bills introduced in Olympia last week, according to a report by Northwest Sportsman magazine.

“They are spectacular in their awfulness and in the way they distort the truth,” said Jasmine Minbashian of Bellingham-based Conservation Northwest about House Bills 1107, 1108 and 1109. The magazine had looked into the bills in a previous report.

She predicts a quick death for them.

One of her coworkers, Derrick Knowles, a Spokane hunter, is among the 17 members on the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife Wolf Working Group, which since 2007 has helped shape the state’s draft wolf management plan.  It is expected to be debated and approved this year.

Read on for more details.

Women’s Souper Bowl at Mount Spokane

WINTER SPORTS — Women and girls can earn an advantage in winning prizes by signing up early for the 6th Annual Women's Souper’ Bowl snowshoe and cross-country Ski event at Mount Spokane.

Use the handy new online registration option.
The event runs 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on Feb. 6, but if ladies who sign up before this Sunday get an extra ticket for the prize raffles.  Also, the first 100 to sign up get a free cloth shopping bag from REI.
The best part is the event itself, which includes snowshoeing lessons and treks (free rentals provided), a cross-country ski race and other activities, along with a  SoUPER lunch and prize drawings.
The event, designed for women of all abilities, supports the Women’s and Children’s Free Restaurant.
Minimum $25 donation requested.
Special Souper Bowl bus transportation to the mountain is available (saves the cost of a  Sno-Park permit).
Last year the event had SOUPER results. Tthe 245 participants skied, snowshoed, dined and raised $9,300 for the charity, organizers said.
Read on for more details.

Ski area rewards rainy-day patrons

WINTER SPORTS — Mount Baker Ski Area took a beating over the Martin Luther King holiday weekend as rain pounded the ski area during a weekend that's critical in a resort's bottom line.

How did the ski area respond to the hardy skiers who showed up rain or shine.

“They gave everybody a free poncho,” said my daughter, who's schooling at Western WA University.


Runners, photogs top grizzly targets

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — Runners are gaining ground on wildlife photographers as the most likely people to be mauled by a grizzly bear in the Northern Rockies.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s grizzly bear recovery coordinator says long-distance trail runners are approaching photographers as the backcountry group most likely to be badly hurt in an animal encounter.

Chris Servheen told the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee on Thursday that running in grizzly country at dawn and dusk is risky, but he is not interested in proposing regulations to restrict the sport.

The Missoulian reports that committee members expressed concern about structured races in bear territory, in particular the growing interest in competitive ultra-marathons that send runners 100 miles along mountain trails. Members cited blog posts from several runners who recounted their disorientation and punch-drunk condition as they headed into nightfall.

The committee is composed of federal officials and representatives of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Alberta and British Columbia.

Highest tide of year on Washington Coast

BEACHCOMBING — Washington beaches will see the highest tides of the year this weekend, peaking at 7:28 a.m. Sunday.

Unfortunately, the peak comes a bit late for the razor clamming season that runs today and Saturday.

The National Weather Service says the tide will measure 13.2 feet on Puget Sound in Seattle. Minor tidal overflow begins at 13.5 feet.

The highest tides of the year typically occur in January

Avalanche danger ‘considerable’ in many areas

WINTER S PORTS — The avalanche advisory issued by the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center this morning warns of “considerable” danger on many areas of the Inland Northwest.

Avalanche conditions for the Idaho Panhandle National Forest are rated as Considerable on wind loaded aspects above 5000 feet.  Natural avalanches are possible and human triggered avalanches are likely.  

Avalanche conditions are MODERATE on other aspects and elevations below 4500 feet.  Natural avalanches are unlikely and human caused avalanches are possible.

See the complete avalanche advisory here.

Read on for more details from this morning's advisory:

Hunting, fishing fee increase bill introduced

OLYLMPIA — Legislation was introduced Thursday for the first across-the-board increase in Washington hunting and fishing license fees in 14 years, according to a report by Allen Thomas of the Vancouver Columbian.


House Bill 1387 would result in an increase in revenue from hunting licenses of 7.3 percent, 12.6 percent from sport-fishing licenses and 51.4 percent from commercial licenses.


The measure was introduced at the request of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. A companion measure is expected to be introduced in the Senate.


“This legislation is our top priority for this legislative session,'' said Phil Anderson, director of the Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Its outcome will greatly determine this department's  ability to maintain fishing and hunting opportunities and move forward with conservation efforts around the state.'' 


Some West Side sportsmen's groups are not supporting the increass. And of course the bill is just another reason on the West Side to heat up the debate on commercial vs. sport fishing.


Read on for more details in the Columbian's story.

Big occasion for surfers in Hawaii

WATER SPORTS — The waves are rising to the occasion of an almost-annual event in Hawaii.

Surfers are catching massive waves this week on Oahu's North Shore. Organizers of the big wave surfing contest known as “The Eddie” say Waimea Bay's waves aren't consistently large enough to hold the event. But this year it's a go, and too timing if there there even just as a spectator.

The contest in memory of legendary Hawaiian surfer Eddie Aikau is held only when waves are at least 20 feet. 

The event has been held only eight times since it was founded in 1984.

Gear up for CdA kokanee fishing

FISHING — Take it from the record number of bald eagles that gathered to feast on spawning salmon this winter:  The kokanee have made a comeback at Lake Coeur d'Alene.

The turn-around has been dramatic, Idaho Fish and Game fisheries biologists say in a just-released report, and prospects for the 2011 fishing season are bright!
Read on for details.

DNR warns of moth outbreak in area trees

FORESTS — Inland Northwest landowners with woodlots are being warned to watch for signs of a tree-damaging caterpillar outbreak that's already affected at least 570 acres in eastern Spokane County and 8,500 acrees in North Idaho.

Defoliation from the Douglas-fir tussock moth was found in aerial surveys last year, the Washington Department of Natural Resources said in a press release issued moments ago.
Grand fir and Douglas fir are most susceptible to damage especially in the top third of the tree crowns.
Read on for more information and contacts.

NFL players get boost from deer antlers

WILDLIFE PARTS — If you bagged an early buck with velvet antlers, you might want to grind them up rather than hang them on the wall.

A New Zealand company is doing just that to make a “mouthwash” that NFL players are using to gussy up and enhance theri performace for the next game — without triggering positives in drug tests.

Read the latest in this Yahoo Sports column.

Avalanche workshops for all snowgoers

WINTER SPORTS — The next free avalanche workshop in Sandpoint for all snowgoers is set for Feb. 9.

The topic to be tackled by the team from the Forest Service technicians at the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center“What we can learn from 10 years of avalanche accident review in North Idaho?

The program starts at 6 p.m. at the Forest Service Building in Sandpoint.

Contact: Kevin Davis, (208) 265-6686,

In the Silver Valley, the next workshop is set for 9 a.m. on Jan. 22: It's billed as an interactive class focusing on avalanche dynamics.or class schedules

Contact: Dan Frigard, (208) 752-5130.

In Avery, contact Ed Odegaard, (208) 245-6209, for class schedules.

Group or clubs can contact the technicians listed above to schedule free avalanche classes.

Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow!

RIVERS — The huge runoff from recent thaw has prompted Avista Utilities to open all of its spill gats at Post Falls Dam, the utility announced moments ago.

In response to rising Coeur d’Alene and St. Joe River flows and Coeur d’Alene Lake levels, the planned drawdown at Lake Spokane — the reservoir created by Long Lake Dam — has been cancelled.

Coeur d’Alene Lake was roughly two feet above its summer full-pool elevation of 2,128’ today and river flows in downtown Spokane reached 21,000 cubic feet per second (cfs).

Dam operators are working to keep Lake Spokane slightly below full pool to help prevent flood conditions near the confluence of Little Spokane River and Lake Spokane, Avista said in a news release. As flows decrease, Avista will probably bring the Lake Spokane elevations up near summer full-pool levels. 

Weather conditions will dictate whether Avista procedes later with the planned Lake Spokane drawdown.

Wintering deer harassed by dogs

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — Washington Fish and Wildlife Deparment agents in the Spokane Region spent an unusually large amount of time last week responding to complaints about free-roaming dogs harassing deer.

At least five incidents showed up on the department's weekly report on enforcement officer activity. The cases were reported in Stevens, Lincoln and Spokane Counties.
In one Lincoln County case, loose-running dogs mauled a mule deer in the Mill Canyon area near Lake Roosevelt. The responding officer found the seriously wounded deer floundering in deep snow.  He dispatched the deer to put it out of its misery. Then he issued citations to the owner of the dogs.
Allowing dogs to harass wildlife is against the law.

No official comment on pronghorns released on Yakama Indian Reservation

WILDLIFE — Neither state nor tribal officials returned telephone queries today regarding the Saturday-Sunday translocation of Nevada pronghorns to the Yakama Indian Reservation.

As I reported in my Monday blog, pronghorns were extirpated from this region in the 1800s.

I called two Washington Fish and Wildlife Department big-game program managers today and they did not respond.  Wildlife biologists with the Yakima Tribe said they were awaiting authority to speak from the tribal council.

The Washington Cattlemen's Association was much quicker to say they are concerned about the potential for transmitting disease. Blood samples apparently were drawn from the animals in Nevada, but the pronghorns were released in Central Washington Saturday and Sunday before the samples could be analysed.

It appears the excitement of bringing back the sage-country speedsters is not unanimous.

Stay tuned.

Bill to extend hound hunting heard

LEGISLATING WILDLIFE – Washington lawmakers heard a mixed bag of testimony at a hearing today on continuing the pilot program that allows the use of hounds for hunting cougars.

HB 1124 seeks to extend the program in a portion of Klickitat County as well as in a swath across northeastern Washington from Chelan County east through Pend Oreille County.

The use of hounds for hunting cougars and bears was prohibited by passage of Initiative 65 in 1996.  But the sharp increase of cougar encounters with humans and domestic animals prompted the state to authorize a strictly regulated program to hunt troublesome cougars using hounds – the only effective way to target specific animals.

Groups such as the Humane Society of the United States say extending the pilot program would be an affront to the will of the people who approved Initiative 65. County commissioners, livestock owners and others testified that regulated hound hunting is needed control cougar numbers.

Wildlife officials confirmed that complaints about cougars have declined significantly under the program.

The bill is in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.

Today’s CdA bald eagle count: 64

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Bald eagles are dispersing from their annual gathering to feast on kokanee at Lake Coeur d'Alene, but they're not gone by any means.

Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, just returned from her weekly survey of the the lake's Wolf Lodge Bay region. She said she tallied 64 bald eagles — 56 adults and 8 immature.  

The count during this week last year was 46 total — 38 adults and 8 immature.

On Jan. 7, 2011, the count was 128 total, including 95 adult and 33 immature eagles. The 2010 count for the same week was 72 eagles — 66 adults and 6 immature, Hugo said

This season's peak was a whopping record count of 254 on Dec. 23.


Bird season ends in gale of excitement

UPLAND BIRD HUNTING — Rain was splattering on the windshield and the wind was blowing so hard up the Snake River canyon on Monday morning it rocked the pickup after I shut down the engine. 

That wasn't a good sign for two guys and a dog getting ready to head up the basalt-rock slopes in pursuit of notoriously wild-flushing chukars.

But it was the last day of Washington's 2010-2011 upland bird season, so we gave it our best.

My English setter, Scout, immediately raced up to a ridge and stuck a covey of Huns with a tail-to the-sky point he held for several minutes while we climbed up. The birds flushed fairly wild with the velocity of feathered bottle rockets.  Birds 1, hunters 0.

Throughout the rest of the day, Scout performed well, although the strong winds led to a few false points, or at least we thought so.  One time we walked down toward a point far below us with our eyes watering like faucets. No birds were there when we arrived but we weren't sure if they'd flushed. “I couldn't see my eyes were watering so bad,” Jim said.  And the howling wind would have washed out any sound of flushing wings.

Both of us were nearly blown off our feet a couple of times. We looked down on the Snake River to see the wind sometimes whipping up spouts of water at least 100 feet high.

A waterfall pouring down a basalt cliff from this week's runoff was occasionally reversed into a “waterup” by gusts that shot the stream toward the sky.

In the end, the partridges did not get a shut out on the three of us. But teamed with the wind, they definitely won. 

Pup sighting boosts Oregon wolf count

WILDLIFE — Oregon's count of gray wolves is up to at least 21 in two packs after two previously unverified pups were documented recenty by air and on video.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife officials say aerial surveys documented 16 wolves in the pack, which would mean six pups, instead of just four observed this summer.

Combined with the three adults and two pups in the Wenaha pack, that brings the count in Oregon to at least 21.
The department posted a new video taken Dec. 30 and linked above. Wolf Coordinator Russ Morgan says the alpha female and two pups from the Imnaha pack came within 10 yards of biologist Roblyn Brown, who was out looking for tracks, according to the Associated Press.
The Imnaha pack is hanging out in an area with a wintering elk herd, and there were no reports in December of attacks on livestock.

Felt waders could get the boot in Oregon

FISHING — Felt-soled wading shoes — long used to give stream anglers traction on slippery river bottoms — could be off store shelves in Oregon next year and banned statewide in 2013, a casualty in the war against invasive aquatic species, according to the Mail Tribune in Medford.

The Oregon Legislature this session will consider a bill to phase out the felt soles on wading shoes, which can spread fish-killing viruses such as whirling disease, “rock snot” and other organisms.

Studies in Montana have directly tied angling activity to the spread of invasive organisms, and absorbent felt soles are among the most likely of any angling equipment to transport them.

I sized up the threat, and how some wading shoe companies are adressing it, in Giving Felt the Boot, a story published in The Spokesman-Review in 2010.

Read more about the Oregon debate in this recent story by Mark Freeman of the Medford Mail Tribune.

Washington gets pronghorns from Nevada

WILDLIFE — Pronghorns are back in Washington.

After years of negotiations and miles of red tape, a herd of about 100 pronghorns (also known as antelope) from Nevada were released into Central Washington over the weekend,  according to a just-filed Northwest Sportsman online report.

 The sage-country speedsters were released Jan. 15 and 16 on the Yakama Indian Reservation by members of Safari Club International's Central Washington Chapter.

The project was sponsored by SCI with the cooperation of wildlife agencies from both states and the Yakamas.  Failing to get authority from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife over years of trying, SCK members said the tribe was receptive to bringing in pronghorns, which were extirpated from Washington in the 1800s.

The WDFW completed an Assessment of Pronghorn Habitat Potential In Eastern Washington in 2006, but it apparently has been removed from the agency's website.

  Fast Facts

From Naional Geographic and Rich Landers
NAME:  Pronghorn, a uniquely North American mammal. (Although often called “antelope,” pronghorns are closely related to goats)
SIZE: Head and body, 3.25 to 5 feet; Tail, 3 to 4 inches
WEIGHT: 90 to 150 pounds
GROUP NAME: Band or herd
The pronghorn is the second fastest land mammal in the world, after the cheetah. It can attain speeds of 50-60 mph. However, unlike the cheetah, the pronghorn also has the marathoner's ability to throttle back to half speed and continue for many miles.

Pronghorn size relative to a 6-foot tall man:

Illustration: Antelope compared with adult man

Paddler shares Hangman Creek scouting report

PADDLING — Spokane paddler and guidebook author Dan Hansen couldn't find a scouting report for a stretch of Hangman Creek at high water, so he set out  by foot on Sunday to find out for himself.

Hansen hiked the 10-mile stretch from the Qualchan Historical Monument site downstream to Valley Chapel Road and found excellent paddling water — with a few big rapids to be aware of — at a flow of 3,500 cubic feet per second.  Hansen figures skilled paddlers could negotiate that stretch of Hangman Creek down to about half of that flow.

“This time of year, Hangman Creek generally flows at less than 200 cubic feet per second. But rain on snow can make the water spike, presenting an opportunity for paddlers,” Hansen said.
When last week's rain-on-snow event caused the creek's flow more than double to 4,000 cfs in just a few hours the evening of Jan. 13-14, the river was particularly dangerous as it spewed ice chunks up on to the banks and into fields.  Two days later, it was muddy by good for paddling.  In a few days, the rush will be over.

See Dan Hansen's Facebook page video report of Hangman Creek at 3,500 cfs.

Fisher gives rare photo op

WILDLIFE — Idaho Fish and Game Department researchers used bait and a motion-activated remote camera to photograph the fisher shown above.  Seeing these critters in the Inland Northwest is very rare without taking such lengthy measures.

These large, quick members of the weasel family are common in the Northeast and Midwest, but rare in the Northern Rockies and Northwest, where they are one of the rarest carnivores.  A reintroduction project has been underway for several years on Washington's Olympic Peninsula.

In all my outdoor travels, I've seen a fisher only three times.  The most recent was shortly after I began hiking the Goose Creek Trail to Goose Lake in the Clearwater National Forest just south into Idaho from Hoodoo Pass.

Fast Facts

Length: 3 feet (including 15 inch tail).
Weight: 12 pounds (males); 8 pounds (females).
Lifespan: About 7 years.

A fisher has a long, slim body with short legs, rounded ears, and a bushy tail. Fishers are larger and darker than martens and have thick fur. Fishers are agile and swift and are also excellent climbers.

—Defenders of Wildlife

2010 a record-book year for climate

CLIMATE CHANGELast year was a climatological wonder, with figures indicating that 2010 was not only the wettest since record keeping began in 1860, but the year also tied with 2005 for the hottest, according to a story in The New York Times.

Critters carry on during winter

WILDLIFE — While some ground-dwelling creatures snoose away the winter, others are up for everything from hunting to major construction projects.

Badgers, the middle linebackers of the weasel family, aren't timid about winter when bare ground is available.  Badgers normally eat ground squirrels, gophers and mice, which they often catch in  burrows or tunnels by using their powerful legs to excavate dirt with the efficiency of a backhoe. Badgers also eat birds, carrion and even rattlesnakes.

Washington photographer and guidebook author Alan Bauer of Falls City posted the photo above on his Facebook page as a flashback to a wildlife moment he had on this weekend two years ago.

“Two years ago today I saw my first badger (of the season) out in the late afternoon daylight and spent 30 minutes crawling up a slope from the truck as it kept peeking out of it's burrow after it had retreated there. A great memory from the L.T. Murray Wildlife Area near Wenas, WA! ”

Join the avalanche warning team

WINTER SPORTS — Anyone winter snow traveler who sees avalanche activity in North Idaho or the adjoining areas of Washington and Montana can boost the safety of other snowgoers by reporting their observations to the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center in Sandpoint.

“We would appreciate hearing from anyone who happens to observe any recent avalanche activity while out in the backcountry or just wants to let us know what is going on in their area,” said Kevin Davis, hydrologic technician.
Contact: Kevin Davis (208) 265-6686,

We survived another week

SURVIVAL — It's been a rough week on the Outdoors beat, but I'm still holding my head high.  

How about  you?

Remember, the snow slopes are unstable as we head into the weekend. The ice is weakening on the lakes and the rivers are surging with brown runoff from this big weather change.

On the other hand, the roads down to recreation areas such as Lake Roosevelt at Porcupine Bay and Seven Bays finally are ice-free and easier to drive.

Have a safe weekend where ever you go out there.

Hunter haunted by local shooting comment

OUTDOOR ETHICS — During a public meeting Tuesday in Spokane attended mostly by hunters and anglers, Washington Fish and Wildlife Department Director Phil Anderson was asked why the state isn't more aggressive about killing wolves.

Anderson explained the recent federal court ruling that returned the gray wolf to the endangered species list. He said gray wolves were under federal jurisdiction at this time, leaving states few lethal control options to manage wolves.

To that, a man in the audience blurted out, “Why don’t we shoot some legislators?”

Several people gasped. Anderson stood speechless at the front of the room.

A few men quietly commented “That’s not funny,” and “You can’t say that.”

Bravo to those who didn't let it slide. 

But It seemed that one hunter should have stood up, commanded everyone’s attention, and said, “Excuse me. Before we continue, it’s important to point out that comment was deeply disrespectful to all elected officials and just as deeply offensive to anyone who calls himself a sportsman.”

More of my thoughts on this incident are in coming Saturday on the newspaper's op-ed page.

Meantime:  Your thoughts?

Dining out in the duck blind

WATERFOWLING — A friend told me today that his fingers were cramping shut after plucking waterfowl from a productive hunt. Been there, done that.

Nowadays I tend to breast-out most of my waterfowl.

A fun way to use duck legs is in the blind itself.  Bring along a small barbecue and briquettes. After your group acquires a few ducks, remove the duck legs, sprinkle with Cajun seasoning or whatever suits your taste; then wrap in bacon using a toothpick to fasten it on.

Enjoy the warmth from the grill, the aroma and a great mash-shore snack while waiting for the next round of incomers.

Oregon to charge for wildlife area access

PUBLIC LANDS — The Oregon Fish and Wildlife Commission has approved an expanded permit program for state wildlife areas starting January 2012.

The program will require either a $7 daily parking permit or a $22 annual permit, and will be phased in over three years at several wildlife areas. 

As in Washignton, the permit would be included at no additonal charge with season hunting and fishing license fees.  A Washington wildlife lands parking access permit costs $10 for people who do no have hunting or fishing licenses.

Idaho Department of Fish and Game has considered a similar fee for its wildlife management areas, but it has never been enacted.

Yellowstone elk numbers drop suddenly

WILDLIFE — The Yellowstone National Park elk herd, the most observed and photographed elk in the country, declined by an astonishing 24 percent in December.

The annual aerial survey counted 4,635 elk last month, compared to 6,070 elk counted at the same time last year.
“We’re perplexed,” Yellowstone National Park senior wildlife biologist Doug Smith told the Jackson Hole Daily. “It’s been stable for five or six years, then we get a 24 percent drop in one year.”
Read on for details, theories and research findings.

Kid inspires with his zest for fishing

FISHING — Out of Montana comes a rare story of a youngster whose life revolves around something as age-old as fishing.

Joe Hagengruber, a 10-year-old from Helena — an angler who lets his fishing rod do most of the talking —means every word when he says, “I really like fishing.”
Bruce Auchly, a columnist with Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks, says this kid has an uncommon passion. Having landed 38 species, Hagengruber is well on his way to completing his goal of catching all 86 species of fish that reside in Montana, Auchly said.
“That kid really has fish on his brain,” said his uncle, Jim Hagengruber, a former Spokesman-Review writer whom I queried by e-mail in Bosnia. “I never met anybody quite like him, except perhaps his old man.”
Joe has time and determination on his side.  I'm betting on him.

Conservation a priority on some BLM lands

PUBLIC LANDS —Conservation got an edge in management considerations on a portion of western Bureau of Land Management areas under an order signed late last year by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Salazar's order clarifies that the Bureau of Land Management should treat conservation as a top priority in managing the 27-million acre National Landscape Conservation System. The bureau also promotes grazing, energy development and tourism on the total of 245 million acres under its jurisdiction.

Some BLM lands, such as Washington's Juniper Dunes, already have the strict protections of wilderness designation. But other choice BLM lands have less secure protections.
The Clinton administration created the NLCS in 2000 to protect and restore nationally significant landscapes, mostly in the West. Congress formally approved the landscape system last year.
The National Landscape Conservation System includes more than 886 federally recognized areas and approximately 27 million acres of national monuments, national conservation areas, wilderness study areas, wild and scenic rivers, conservation lands and national scenic and historic trails, including BLM segments of the Pacific Crest Trail.
In Wyoming, for example, the BLM manages 42 wilderness study areas (575,000 acres), five national historic trails, the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center and one national scenic trail — the Continental Divide Trail. All are considered units of the National Landscape Conservation System.
In Idaho, the BLM manages NLCS units that encompass approximately 3.5 million acres of public land.
Montana's NLCS lands include the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument and 39 wilderness study areas.

Avalanche danger rated high region-wide

WINTER SPORTS — Joining the Idaho Panhandle's warning posted on Wednesday, the Washington State Avalanche Center is warning of a high avalanche danger today in the Washington Olympics, Cascades and the Mount Hood area of Oregon.

The center says winds and rains could weaken layers of snow.

The danger should lessen Friday but increase again Saturday with more warming, winds and rain in the forecast, the center says.

The warning covers backcountry terrain and does not apply to ski areas.

RVer’s kick off outdoor show season

The boat, RV and sportsmen’s show season is under way, giving outdoor enthusiasts a chance to see the latest products from manufacturers and learn sporting techniques at seminars.

Two notable shows won’t be in area the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area lineup this year:

  • The Outdoor Sports Expo sponsored by Christian groups at the Bonner County Fairgrounds for two years had been cancelled.
  • The Great Western Sportfishing Show. After a three-year run at the Spokane Convention Center, show promoters announced last year that they would not be back to Spokane in 2011.

Some pro anglers and dealers who would have attended the sportfishing show are joining other events, such as the Spokane National Boat Show.

Read on for a regional list of top upcoming shows:

Angler do-it-yourself on Yakima River

FLY FISHING — Jeff Mayor knows the advantages of fishing with guides, especially in a drift boat on unfamiliar stretches of river.  But he and two buddies had a great time recently fishing on their own in a rented drift boat on the Yakima River. 

They even caught some trout!

Here's the cheat sheet from the outdoor writer's Tacoma News Tribune story to help other anglers do the same.
Where: Yakima River
Costs: At Red’s Fly Shop, south of Ellensburg, drift boats are $169 per day, rafts are $159 per day and pontoon boats are $60 per day. Note that the pontoon boat fee does not include shuttle service.
Preparation: Give yourself plenty of time. That means beginning at the shop to take care of paperwork. Also, allot enough time for being on the water. A popular float is from the Ringer ramp to Red’s, about 10 miles. That will take at least eight hours, including time to do some wade fishing.
While not required, it’s not a bad idea to end your trip at the shop. All you have to do is tie off the boat to a post and head home, giving you more time to spend fishing. Otherwise you have to arrange for a time to meet the shuttle back to the shop.
Load: A drift boat only has so much cargo space, so combine as many gear bags and coolers as you can.
Timing: Rivers flows are lower in the late fall to spring, making it easier to row. But you also might hit some low spots. Summer flows are raised for downstream irrigation. That makes for faster water and faster trips.
Information and reservations: Red's Fly Shop, (509) 933-2300.

River runners rev up to soggy forecast

PADDLING — The rain-on-snow event that's making Inland Northwest roads and landscapes a mess is an opportunity to behold for paddlers and rafters. 

E-mails were buzzing today with the possibility of a rare opportunity this weekend to run boatable flows down Hangman Creek and the Palouse River.

If the forecast hold true, the rivers will be running big, brown and ugly with runoff, perfect for skilled paddlers properly dressed in dry suits and PFDs.

Avalanche bulletin: Danger rated high

WINTER SPORTS — The Idaho Panhandle National Forests has issued a warning that avalanche danger is rated as high in many areas as a storm and changing weather conditions engulf the Inland Northwest.

Mountain visitors are urged to check weather and avalanche reports, and use caution when skiing, snowshoeing, or snowmobiling in the national forest, officials said in a press release issued today.
Here's a summary report issued by the Panhandle Avalanche Center.
Current and predicted heavy storm activity is increasing the avalanche hazard in the Inland Northwest to HIGH. According to the American Avalanche Association, “Natural avalanches are likely; human triggered avalanches very likely.”
Based on current analysis, the underlying snow pack conditions are an ideal running surface for avalanches at all elevations.  Winter recreationists should beware of slopes greater than 30 degrees. As the week progresses, avalanche danger is expected to increase due to wind loading and warm temperatures turning to rain.
The center will release its next compelete avalanche forecast Thursday afternoon or Friday morning.

National parks waive entrance fees

PUBLIC LANDS — National parks will be waiving entrance fees this weekend as an incentive for families to enjoy the outdoors and national heritage.

The parks will be waiving fees for a total of 17 days in 2011, including National Park Week (April 16-24), the first day of summer (June 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 24) and the weekend of Veterans Day (Nov. 11-13).

Fee-free days have been offered the past two years as a cost-friendly family vacation option in the economic slump.

Palin’s Alaska ending despite its cable success

OUTDOORS TV“Sarah Palin's Alaska” concluded Sunday with the final episode of the eight-part documentary series showing the former governor and her family having assorted adventures in their home state.

The show appeared ripe for a second season on the TLC channel after attracting an average of more than 3 million viewers per episode.

That's why the end of the cable TV show is generating online buzz regarding the reason it won't continue.

Canadian Ski Marathon weeds out weenies

NORDIC SKIING — You don't have to leave North America to participate in one of the longest, toughest nordic skiing events on the planet, but it might help to brush up on your French.

The annual Canadian Ski Marathon involves skiing 100 miles over two days in Quebec while carrying a 30-pound pack and camping out overnight in temperatures that can drop below zero.

Participation peaked at about 3,500 people in the '80s and organizers expect about 2,000 entries for the 45th edition on Feb. 12-13. Many skiers take on only a portion of the route each day. Those who want to ski all 100 miles enter the Coureur des Bois category, which is named for the woodsmen who skied and snowshoed between the traps they set in the region's streams and forests.

It's a classic event with emphasis on the cross-country skiing roots of adventure and camaraderie.

First run in 1967 as part of Canada's centennial celebration, the world's longest ski tour follows a route just north of the Ottawa River in Quebec's Western Laurentian Mountains. The course is broken into 10 sections, five each day, of approximately 10 miles each.

Get more information on the Canadian Ski Marathon in this Associated Press story.

Other great North American ski marathons closer to the Inland Northwest include:

Wildlife officials discuss agency cuts tonight

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Washington Fish and Wildlfie Department Director Phil Anderson is scheduled to discuss legislative proposals for budget cuts and agency mergers during a public meeting tonight starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council, 6116 N. Market in Spokane.

Deputy Director Joe Stohr and Spokane regional director Steve Pozzanghera likely will join Anderson in explaining how the agency might change under Gov. Chris Gregoire’s budget crisis plan.

Anderson will be meeting with his agency’s regional staff in Spokane on Wednesday.

Hawks higher than a kite

WILDLIFE — Hawks aren't fond of competition in their territory, as we see in this photo of a bird attacking a hawk-shaped during the International Kite Festival in Ahmadabad, India, on Monday. Kite-flyers from 36 countries are participating in the festival. No word on how many hawks joined in.

Wildlife officers keep eye on cougar hunters, snowmobilers

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers kept busy with the usual wide range of efforts last week, but they gave special attention to the opening of the cougar hound-hunting season in northeast Washington and they wrote tickets for snowmobiling violations ranging from missing registrations and Sno-Park permits to riding in prohibited areas.

They made 29 stops at Mount Spokane to help educate snowmobilers about the changes in where snowmobiling is allowed this year. Three citations were issued.

Read on to see a few other highlights that caught my eye from the weekly wildlife enforcement report for this region:

Roosevelt: Better than fishing a hatchery

FISHING — If you haven't heard about how good the fishing has been the past two months at Lake Roosevelt, you're probably not an angler.

Here's today's report from Spokane Valley angler Jim Kujala, who has a boat but decided to cut costs and hassle because a boat just isn't necessary right now.  He was fishing nightcrawlers and marshmallows off the bottom from shore in the Seven Bays vicinity.

Arrived at 0600, started fishing at 0605, first fish at 0615, last fish at 0655, waited til (my partner's) limit was filled at 0725 , left for home at 0800 arriving in time to fillet fish, and made it to the blood bank for 1100 appointment.

Skijoring debuts at Sandpoint Winter Carnival

WINTER SPORTS — The 37th annual Sandpoint Winter Carnival is adding some horsepower to its 37th annual event, which runs  Wednesday through Sunday between venues from Sandpoint to Schweitzer Mountain Resort.

Skijoring — horses towing skeirs on a loop track and over jumps will debut in the activity lineup on Saturday and Sunday at the Bonner County Fairgrounds.

“Sandpoint has a great culture — a good mix of horse people and a great ski mountain — and this time of year most people aren’t doing much with their horses and many skiers are looking for a new challenge,” says Matt Smart, owner of the local trail ride company Mountain Horse Adventures.

Read on to see the schedule of other events and activities including food tasting, rail jams, firedancers, torchlight parade, poker skiing, K9 Keg pulls, snowshoe treks and more.

Learn basics of fly tying in two days

FLY FISHING — Winter is prime time to learn fundamentals of fly fishing before the spring waters warm and the bite is on.  Here are two local opportunities:

Jan. 24-25, Begining Fly Tying Course at Silver Bow Fly Shop:  Learn to tie six reliable fly patterns that feature techniques that can be applied to tying many other patterns. Instructor:  Angela Morgan. Cost:  $75, includes tools and materials. classes run 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Pre-register: (509) 924-9998.

March 10-April 28, Spokane Fly Fishers Fly Fishing School:  Classes held Thursday evenings in North Spokane along with three Saturday casting classes and two pontoon safety classes. Cost $100for current non-members over 17 years of age, $60.00 for members and spouses of members, as well as for youths between the ages 12-17. To enroll send check made out to Spokane Fly Fishers, along with name, address, phone number, age if youth, and e-mail address to R. Mike Melmoth, 417 E Shore Rd., Nine Mile Falls, WA 99026.

Two ways to tune in to area’s nordic skiing

NORDIC SKIING — Two great ways to meet up with the area's cross-country skiing community are coming up:

  • Snow Ball Potluck and Moonlight Ski Tour, Jan. 15, starting at 5 p.m. at Selkirk Lodge on Mount Spokane. Bring potluck item and headlamp for the skiing, which will start about 6:30.  Sponsored by Spokane Nordic. RSVP:  Jack Benedetto
  • Spokane Langlauf 10-kilometer classic style citizens race, the largest nordic skiing event in the region, Feb. 13, at Mount Spokane. Pre-register at Fitness Fanatics or online.

Wilderness and fly-fishing programs set for Wednesday

OUTDOOR PROGRAMS — Outdoors enthusiasts have a choice of two interesting programs to consider attending in Spokane on Wednesday evening.

Fly fishing – Pat Dorsey, who’s been named an Orvis Guide of the Year, will
present a free program on fishing tailwaters, at the Spokane Fly Fishers
meeting, 7 p.m., at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy.
Wilderness — Derrick Knowles of Conservation Northwest will present a slide program on the Columbia Highlands Initiative his group is proposing to protect forest lands in northeastern Washington while opening some lands to timber management, 7:30 p.m.,  at the Riverview Retirement Community, Village Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave.

Video: BBC puts words to critter antics

WILDLIFE — Critters' actions usually speak for themselves, but they're even more humorous when the British put words in their mouths.

Avalanche workshop for snowmobilers

WINTER SPORTS — Free avalanche workshops for snowmobilers are being offered in North Idaho in the next few weeks by the state Parks and Recreation Department and the Idaho Panhandle National Forests avalanche experts.

The schedule:

  • Jan. 14-15, based in Coeur d’ Alene.
  • Jan 28-29, based in St. Maries.
  • Feb. 11-12, based in Bonners Ferry.

The workshops include indoor and outdoor sessions.

Info: Idaho Parks and Recreation Department or call Marc Hildesheim, North Region trails specialist, (208) 769-1511.

New-year deer feel light-headed

WILDLIFE — It's the shedding season for the area's deer, elk and moose.

Even the biggest bucks and bulls are getting rid of their head-gear and looking a lot like the girls.

In early December, Hal Meenach, a landowner south of Spokane, reported seeing the first buck of the season shedding antlers for the winter. The buck had lost only the antler on one side of his head to stand out as a lop-sidded example of the season that runs into February.

The antlers of deer, elk and moose are are shed and regrown usually in larger proportions each year. In a marvel of nature, a big bull moose or elk can sprout more than 40 pounds of antler “bone” in about four months.  In comparison, the horns of bighorn sheep grow on the rams each year without being shed.

Collecting shed antlers has become a popular and profitable hobby as gatherers sell the antlers for cash.

Shed hunting has become so competitive, wildlife agencies are concerned the collectors are having a serious impact by disturbing big-game animals while they're still in a weakened condition on their winter ranges.

Search for rough-legged hawks

BIRDWATCHING — The big rough-legged hawks Inland Northwest birders are used to seeing perched on power poles along roadways during winter seem to be in short supply this season.

In some years it's been common to see a the eagle-like hawks on almost every other telephone pole along Mount Spokane Road or I-90 in areas such as Tarkio as they look for rodents.

But this year, while the numbers seem lean in some areas, they seem more abundant in others, such as near Moscow Mountain, where eagle-eyed birder Terry Gray  of Moscow spotted eight in a short drive Wednesday morning, “and one was in my yard.”

The bird generously posed for the photo above.

Still plenty of eagles at CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — BLM wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo just returned from her weekly winter survey of bald eagles at Coeur d'Alene's Wolf Lodge Bay.  The count:  128 total, including 95 adult and 33 immature eagles.

The number is down from the whopping record count of 254 on Dec. 23, but it's still far above this time in 2009. Last year's count on Jan. 8 was 72 birds — 66 adults and 6 immature, Hugo said.

Elsewhere, birdwatchers seem to be finding bald eagles scattered throughout the region where they have access to water or roadkill.

On the Spokane Christmas Bird Count on Jan. 2, Kim Thorburn's team counted 29 bald eagles around the Little Spokane in the fish hatchery area.

Joyce Alonso counted 6 bald eagles in the Hangman Creek area.

All of the other teams whose areas included river counted bald eagles, as well.

BLM approves CdA citizen advisors

PUBLIC LANDS — Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has announced new appointments or re-appointments of four members to the Bureau of Land Management Coeur d’Alene District’s citizen-based Resource Advisory Council.

The 15-member panel, composed of members with diverse interests and backgrounds, advises the Bureau of Land Management on public land issues.
Newly approved members are:
  • Kimberly Rice Brown, Archaeological and Historical Interest representative.
  • David Brummer, Procurement Manager for Stimson Lumber Co., Commercial Timber representative.
  • Keegan Schmidt, Lewis-Clark State College associate professor, GeologyAcademia representative.
  • Kimberly Friend, business owner-operator, Commercial Recreation representative.
Read on for the list of other members on the BLM CdA advisory council:

Avalanche forecast a soggy mixed bag

WINTER SPORTS — The weekend avalanche advisory is out for the Idaho Panhandle region and the word for the wise: Caution.
While it rained in the valleys overnight, the precip was in the form of snow at higher elevations above 4,000 to 5,000 feet.
But that could turn to heavier snow or rain today, said Kevin Davis, hydrologic technician with the Forest Service Avalanche Center in Sandpoint.
Avalanche conditions are rated from low in portions of the Selkirks and Cabinets to considerable in the St. Regis Basin and St. Joe Mountain area.
Appreciable amounts of new snow will fall across our forecast region with the most forecasted to accumulate in Shoshone county, which already has picked up the most 24 hour accumulation,” he said in today's avalanche report.  Watch for instability in the new snow layers and be suspect of deeper instability in the event of persistent rainfall.  We're watching that decomposing crust at about 2-3 feet deep.  To the north we received a thin ice crust that will give us some concern for new snow loading so watch shears above and below this thin crust.
Read on to see the full report.

Recent bird kills tip of the iceberg

WILDLIFE — While recent reports of 3,000 blackbirds falling to their deaths from the sky in Arkansas generated international publicity, that number is but a tiny fraction of the birds killed each year from human causes, according to American Bird Conservancy.

  • Estimates from various studies show that up to one billion birds may be killed each year in collisions with buildings.
  • Another billion may die from predation by outdoor cats.
  • Up to 50 million may die in collisions with communication towers.
  • Perhaps 15 million die annually from pesticide poisoning.
  • Investigation is still underway regarding bird mortality caused by the burgeoning wind industry — but it's significant.
Bird deaths from pesticides have been dramatically reduced by regulations, but even more scrutiny is needed, said ABC Vice President Mike Parr.
Read on for other potential bird-saving policies under consideration.

Oprah gives hunting positive ink

HUNTING MEDIA — Stories about hunting are routine here in The Spokesman-Review's Outdoors coverage, but a hunting story in Oprah's O magazine is significant news.

The December issue of O includes an article by Kimberly Hiss, who detailed her challenges and emotions in deciding to bag her own wild turkey for the holiday dinner table.

“This is a really big step for hunting,” said Brent Lawrence, public relations director for the National Wild Turkey Federation. “Many mainstream media outlets, particularly women's publications, shy away from positive hunting stories. This wonderful article gives a voice to millions of hunters and provides valuable insight to non-hunters.”

“For every turkey wrap or club sandwich I'd ever eaten, something had been killed for my benefit - I'd just never done the killing myself,” Hiss wrote. “The deer hunt invitation seemed an opportunity, a challenge even, to reclaim my place in the food chain by assuming responsibility for the meat on my plate.”

Hiss, who endured cold and snow last December on the hunt near Kearney, Neb., used virtually every part of the bird. She made table decorations from the tail feathers and donated the remaining feathers to the NWTF's feather distribution program for Native American tribes.

To read the article, click here.

Schweitzer offers free nordic lessons

WINTER SPORTS — North Idaho cross-country skiers don't have to head to the annual Winterfest at 49 Degrees North this weekend to find free nordic skiing lessons. Schweitzer Mountain and the Sandpoint Nordic Club are offering free classic and skate-skiing lessons plus equipment demos on Saturday.

Trails will be groomed specifically for beginners and free rentals will be available at “The Roundabout” on a first-come first-served basis.

Schweitzer ski instructors conduct classic and skate sessions at 10 a.m., 11 a.m., noon and 1 p.m.

Freebies include hot chocolate and snacks, plus a coupon that entitles lesson-takers to a free Nordic Trail Pass to use at Schweitzer another day!

Hunter makes grim impression on teen

HUNTING — A Darby, Mont., man is going to court for illlegal hunting, but his worst offense might be leaving a teenage volunteer with a negative hunting memory she'll never forget.

According to The Ravalli Republic, prosecutors say James E. Robinson, 58, told a high school volunteer at a state game checkpoint that the buck was shot in an adjoining district. The girl became suspicious because there was no way to get to that district from the check station.

A few days later, Robinson allegedly yelled at the girl in an attempt to get her to change her story.

Robinson is charged with felony counts of unlawful possession of a game animal and intimidation.

Time to apply for master hunter program

HUNTING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's Master Hunter Program is accepting applications through Feb. 15.

Applicants who complete the requirements and skill testing and demonstrate a commitment to ethical hunting practices qualify for special hunting privileges. 

The agency offers Master Hunters special big-game permit drawings and enlists Master Hunters to participate in controlled hunts to remove problem animals that damage property or threaten public safety.

Applicants must pass a criminal background check, sign a Master Hunter Code of Ethics form and provide at least 20 hours of volunteer service on projects that benefit the state’s wildlife resources. They must also pass an extensive written exam based upon the program’s curriculum.

To enroll in the Master Hunter Permit Program, download and fill out the Master Hunter Permit Application form. Mail the completed application, with the $50 application fee payable by check to: WDFW Master Hunter, to the address listed on the application form.

2010 a lethal year for grizzlies

WILDLIFE — Grizzly bear deaths neared record levels for the region around Yellowstone National Park in 2010, but government biologists said the population remains robust enough to withstand the heavy losses.
The Associated Press reports that an estimated 75 of the protected animals were killed or removed from the wild, according to a government-sponsored grizzly study team. That equates to one grizzly gone for every eight counted this year in the sparsely populated Yellowstone region of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho.
The deaths were blamed primarily on grizzlies pushing into inhabited areas, where bears get into trouble as they search out food in farmyards and from the big game herds also stalked by hunters, AP reported.
Despite those conflicts, researchers recently reported the population topped 600 animals for the first time since grizzly recovery efforts began in the 1970s.

“The population will continue to grow with the mortalities we’re seeing now,” said Chris Servheen, grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Read on for the rest of the AP story, which put's the 2010 grizzly year into perspective.

Winterfest has new events at 49 Degrees

WINTER SPORTS — Paintball biathlon at the nordic ski trails joins the traditional telemark ski race, gear demos and other activities on the downhill slopes for the annual Winterfest events Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 49 Degrees North.

Also new is the family snow-sculting contest. Avalanche tranceiver training clinics are available, plus snowshoeing clinics, nightime ski and snowshoe tours and much more.

Friday's events include cross-country skiing clinics and an evening Avalanche Awareness class.

Saturday's featured events include cross-country classic, skating and telemark skiing clinics and a telemark race.

Sunday's featured events include the EPIC ski ascent and descent,  (originally called the Puke Your Guts Out race) on the downhill slopes and paintball biathlon on the nordic trails.

Winterfest is sponsored by Eastern Washington University, 49 Degrees North and Mountain Gear

Backcountry skier logs 2 million vertical feet by muscle power in 2010

BACKCOUNTRY SKIING — Canadian backcountry skier Greg Hill, 35, must feel like a million bucks after completing his goal – with a day to spare – of logging 2 million vertical ski-touring feet, all self-propelled, in 2010.

And get this: He counted only the uphill elevation gain in his quest, usually with up to 40 pounds of gear on his back.
That means his round-trip elevation gain and loss for the mission was a whopping 4 million vertical feet without the use of a tram or ski lift!
The effort, sponsored by, required 266 days of climbing and skiing backcountry terrain in Canada as well as Chile and Argentina to take advantage of the winter in the Southern Hemisphere.
He completed the quest on Dec. 30 at Rogers Pass near his hometown of Revelstoke, British Columbia, according to the wrap-up story.
Joined by his wife, mother, stepfather, two brothers and a crew of friends for his final push on a bitterly cold day, Hill’s wristwatch GPS device eclipsed 2 million at 1:30 p.m. on Bonney Moraine – a special place for Hill, with impressive mountain views and untracked powder.
“The toughest part of this challenge was the continuous need to always be on it – averaging 38,500 feet a week every week for a year,” said Hill. “Any time off meant extra huge days ahead. December was my biggest month where I covered 238,000 feet.” sized it up: “Hill averaged 7,570 feet per day, scaled 71 peaks (including a handful of technical first descents) and powered through 77 days where he logged more than 10,000 vertical feet.”
That’s equivalent to a yearly total of :
  • running more than 200 marathons or
  • climbing Mount Everest 69 times and skiing back down or
  • taking the stairs up the Empire State Building four times and Eiffel Tower five times a day for 365 days.

For more about Greg Hill's 2 Mil check:, Vanity Fair, ESPN and Globe and Mail.

Jackass Day a deal at Silver Mountain

WINTER SPORTS — Friday is Jackass Day at Silver Mountain as they pay homage to the resort's humble beginnings and its less-than-delicate original name.

The lift tickets are less, too:  Only $9.45 plus tax, if there are any taxes left in Idaho.
On Saturday, the resort will play host to the first sanctioned boarder/skier cross event of the season.
Lookout Pass also has a list of good deals to consider, including the resort's traditional Free Ski School.

Food lures WA bears from hibernation

WILDLIFE — Eastern Washington's arctic cold snap has had one advantage you might not have considered:  It's kept the bears in their dens.

In the milder climate of Western Washington, an unusually high number of bears are staying active into the winter and causing problems for homeowners, according to Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials.
Unfortunately, it appears as though the bears are being lured from their normal winter respite by human food.
Read on for details from an Associated Press story.

Crystal Mountain gondola a hit

WINTER SPORTS — People began lining up an hour before sunrise on Saturday to be among the first to ride the state’s first enclosed ski lift that takes skiers and sightseers to the top of the Crystal Mountain ski area.

The new Mount Rainier Gondola opened after a 10-day delay due because of the weather and a cable that stretched more than expected, according to The Olympian. A mid-December press release from the ski resort said it’s typical for new cables to stretch but engineers wanted more time to address the issue.

Construction of the $5.5 million gondola began in April.

Before the skiing day ended Saturday, the gondola carried more than 3,000 skiers and sightseers on the 9-minute, 39-second trip from the ski area’s 4,400-foot elevation base to the 6,856-food Summit House. The restaurant and mountaintop gathering place has a panoramic view of Mount Rainier.

Kellogg comparison:  Idaho's Silver  Mountain Gondola lifts passengers 3,400 feet over 3.1 miles from the base village at Kellogg to Mountain Haus upper terminal.

Ski resorts offer deals for beginners

WINTER SPORTS — Cheap “Learn to ski and snowboard” packages are being offered this month at Silver Mountain, 49 Degrees North, Mt. Spokane and Lookout Pass.

Check out the EZ Ski and Ride 1-2-3 packages, which includes three lift tickets, three rentals, and three
lessons. Cost: $89 - $139, depending on the mountain.

The promotion is being offered by resorts in 30 states. Read on to see the specific offerings from Inland Northwest ski and snowboard resorts.

Another large blackbird dieoff reported

WILDLIFE — After reports of thousands of dead red-winged blackbirds falling from the sky in Beebe, Arkansas on New Years Eve — along with reports of a massive fish kill in the same area — raised eyebrows across the nation, another bird kill is being reported near Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Reports the Baton Rouge Advocate:

State biologists are trying to determine what led to the deaths of the estimated 500 red-winged blackbirds and starlings on La. 1 just down the road from Pointe Coupee Central High School.

The discovery of the dead birds — some of which were lying face down, clumped in groups, while others were face up with their wings outstretched and rigid legs pointing upward — comes just three days after more than 3,000 blackbirds rained down from the sky in Beebe, Ark. … In Louisiana, biologists with the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries spent part of the day Monday scooping up some of the birds in Pointe Coupee Parish to be sent for testing at labs in Georgia and Wisconsin.

Officials in Arkansas say the thousands of dead birds and fish discovered there over the weekend died of natural causes, possibly from shot as New Year celebrants touched off fireworks. As you might expect, others are insinuating that something more sinister is going on.

Product gives Smartphones satellite GPS link for world-wide emergencies

ADVENTURING — The SPOT messenger that gives adventure travelers the security of being able to send distress messages that pinpoint their locations anywhere in the world now can be activated through smartphones.

Get the scoop on a product that's just now being shipped to dealers in Stephen Regenold's Gear Junkie report.

Slip-sliding along the Snake River breaks

BIRD HUNTING — The temperature was 18 degrees this morning when I started hiking up a ridge toward the top of the Snake River canyon.  Somewhere between the river and the rim I expected to find chukar partridges hunkered down and waiting for me to give them a little winter exercise.

I was not disappointed. Scout had six covey-finds while I was with him, and probably several more when I couldn't find him.  English setters are like that.

But the ground that was frozen and firm in the morning became greasy in the afternoon sunshine, even though the air temps never got above 24. And there's no such thing as flat ground in chukar country. 

I did a mud glissade down a steep slope to flush one covey Scout had pinned.  I think I heard them laughing as they locked their wings and glided to the next ridge.

I've climbed mountains from the Cascades to McKinley without finding footing as treacherous as the ice, grass, mud and basalt scree where chukars roam.

I'm signing out for the day and looking for a beer in the refrigerator.

Scout has been watered and fed and praised for a job well done, and now he's buried in his pillow bed, dead to the world, with three of his legs sticking out making it look as though he's being sucked down a drain. He's snoring. 

It won't be long before I'll be joining him.

State agencies swap East Side land

PUBLIC LANDS — The Washington departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife swapped thousands of acres in a deal signed today.

Generally, the trade helps each agency consolidate lands. It gives DNR more land to put to work for the benefit of state schools while Fish and Wildlife will take control of lands better suited to wildlife management.
The properties that WDFW receives will become part of the Asotin, Colockum, Cowiche, Klickitat, Methow, Oak Creek, Sinlahekin, Skookumchuck, Quilomene and Wenas Wildlife Areas.
DNR will receive properties located in the L.T. Murray, Oak Creek and Sinlahekin landscapes.
Read on for details and maps.

Error in new Idaho fishing regs

FISHING — Idaho Fish and Game Department officials are trying to get word out about an error in the new 2011 state fishing regulations. It affects anglers who fish the Coeur d'Alene River.

The published rule reads as follows:
Coeur d’Alene River and Tributaries (to the confluence of the North Fork and South Fork)
  • Trout limit is 6, no harvest of cutthroat trout.
  • No bait allowed, barbless hook required.
“Unfortunately, that's not correct,” said Jim Fredericks, Panhandle Region fisheries manager.
“There are no gear restrictions in that area, and the second bullet should be stricken.  No rule changes were made with regard to that area.
“When we do the second printing in a few months, it will be corrected.”
The agency plans to send out a press release to note mistakes, but it's holding off a few days in case any other mistakes are detected.
“In the meantime,” Fredericks said, “please be aware there are no gear restrictions in the Coeur d’Alene River from the mouth to the South Fork.”
And stay tuned.

Update on eagle rescued from river

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WILDLIFE — Much like some people you might have seen on New Year's Eve, the immature bald eagle was grounded, wings spread with its head face-down in the snow along the Little Spokane River.

It was rescued after an ordeal and it's still alive Monday evening in the hands of veterinarians.

The Michaelis family spotted it on their land on Dec. 31 just before sunset. They called local birding enthusiast Tina Wynecoop and said they could tell the large bird — they weren't' sure of its identity at the time —  was still breathing.

Wynecoop and her husband, Judge, grabbed bath towels, a quilt and leather gloves and responded in their car.

“On our way we called all the numbers of all the wildlife rescue people we could - what an evening to try to find someone home and available to handle the situation!” Tina said.

Read on for the story and the latest report on the eagle's status.

Schweitzer reports hot start to season

WINTER SPORTS — Maybe the outdoor economy isn't all doom and gloom.

Schweitzer Mountain Resort today reported solid increases in visitation for December and the holidays that grace the early snow season.

Overall visitation for the month of December was up 18.9 percent, while up 7.3 percent for the holiday period, the resort said in a press release. 

It helps that  the resort has recorded 129 inches of snow in the village already this season, nearly half of its average annual snowfall of 300 inches.

All of the region's ski resorts benefited from the early onslaught of winter and record snowfall for the Month of November in the Spokane area.

“Our lodging occupancy for the holiday period  was up 9.1 percent, while rental and retail enjoyed an 8.4 percent increase,” said Tom Chasse, Schweitzer’s President and CEO. 

The December holiday period is one of three key times for area ski resorts.

The Martin Luther King weekend in January as well as President’s week in February also are critical to their bottom line.

East Side fishing worth the trip

FISHING — Sometimes it's healthy to assess our Eastern Washington bounty from the perspective of Western Washington anglers.  Here's a few out-takes from the most recent fishing column by Wayne Kruse of the Daily  (Everett) Herald:

“It's too bad that winter tends to be so cold in the Columbia Basin, because some of the best fishing opportunity of the year is available now… However, you can catch beaucoup steelhead on the Columbia, between Pateros and Bridgeport; triploid rainbow to 20-plus pounds above Chief Joseph Dam, and double-digit Mackinaw in Lake Chelan. That might be a trifecta worth freezing your fern.

“One of the traditional upper-Columbia steelhead drifts is “the rocks,” below the mouth of the Methow. Put your boat in at Pateros, rig with float and jig, and drift along the edge of the rocky shelves below town.

“Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service in Chelan said Mack's Glo-Getter jigs in pink and orange, or eighth-ounce Worden's Maxi-Jigs in Calypso, tipped with red-cured shrimp, should do the job. Jones said 10- to 15-fish days have not been that unusual.

Rod Hammons of R&R Guide Service in Brewster (509-689-2849) said the excellent steelhead run this year has featured the largest fish in seven or eight years. “They actually look like steelhead instead of trout,” Hammons said.

“Winter is big-fish time on Lake Chelan, Jones told Kruse, citing catches recently of Mackinaw to the high teens.

“While the good ol' days of triploid rainbow trout fishing in Rufus Woods Reservoir have dimmed, and it's a lot more work now to nail a limit or find one of the big guys, it's still worth a traditional winter shot,” Kruse reported.

“Jones suggests casting black or green eighth-ounce Roostertails to shoreline points and rock structure, or run up to the net pens and fish bait.

“Jones said to remember that when fishing bait for the trips, the first two fish landed are your limit, whether you release them or not. If fishing artificials, you can catch and release.

Jones is glad to answer fishing questions at (866) 360-1523.

Video report: Birds fall dead from sky

WILDLIFE — The Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said is still investigating why around 3,000 red-winged black birds fell from the sky  and died in Beebe, Ark.

The agency said its enforcement officers began receiving reports about the dead birds about 11:30 p.m. Friday.

Lightning or some other atmospheric phenomenon were suspected, but officials are gathering more evidence to indicate the congregated birds were shocked and disoriented in the dark by the late night volley of fireworks set off by New Year celebrants.

In addition, the same area has had a mass dieoff of more than 100,000 fish.

See it to believe it: A CNN video report about dead fish and dead blackbirds:

Skiers chill out in warm cabin

NORDIC SKIING — Waterbottles left against the windows froze overnight, and there was no dilly-dallying on the round-trip runs to the outhouse. 

But zero-degree temps couldn't deter my annual New Year's Eve family ski trek that requires a six-mile uphill ski to overnight at one of the six Rendezvous Huts high in the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association's groomed trail system near Winthrop, Wash.

The Koeske family this year joined the Landers family for our 15th annual retreat from cell phone coverage, electricity and plumbing to bask in the warmth and comfort of a wood-heated cabin. The views are worth a million bucks, yet the cabins rent for $175 a night and sleep 8-10. The cabins are  has accessed by  meticulously groomed cross-country  trails, which extend for as far as one could ski. 

Quality family time in a bit of nordic heaven.

Cold days prime for wildlife viewing

WILDLFIE WATCHING — Todd Klement, who lives in Spokane west of Highway 195, bought himself a pair of snowshoes for Christmas, and this morning was prime time to try them out in 9 inches of fresh powder and 0 degree temperatures.

He didn't have to go farther than the edge of town to find a national-park-like wildlife watching experience.

Snow and bitter cold have a way of making wildlife more available to our viewing pleasure as the animals congregate in lowlands near food sources.

In a few hours of hiking, Klement saw white-tailed deer, fresh moose tracks, numerous birds and a porcupine.

“I know the porcupine picture is blurry,” he apologized in an e-mail, “but have any of you tried to get a porcupine to stop when he doesn't want to pose for a picture? Very uncooperative.”

OR takes almost-bold hunter safety step

HUNTING — Young hunters in Oregon will stand out a bit more in the crowd in 2011.  But just a little bit more.

The new hunter-orange clothing requirement approved in Oregon for youths under 18 that kicks in during this year's fall seasons was a compromise after hunters protested any infringements on their rights to be shot and not seen.
Indeed, the measure was watered down even further in the final wording that requires youths to wear “either” a bright orange upper garment “or” hat while using a firearm to hunt game mammals and upland birds, except turkeys.
The first proposal to make hunter orange clothing mandatory for all hunters originated after a youngster was shot and killed in an accident that could have been prevented if he’d been wearing the fluorescent clothing required of hunters in 40 other states.

Centennial Trail groomed for skiers

NORDIC SKIING — Cross country skiers are enjoying the rare treat of groomed trails in the city.

Mike Aho of Spokane Parks and Recreation saw the gift of snow and cold weather coming before the New Year and  used a snowmobile to groom tracks and a skating lane on the Centennial Trail in Riverside State Park from Seven Mile to the Bowl and Pitcher overlook.

Enjoy the fun while it lasts!

Washington lead restrictions advance today

ENVIRONMENT - Washington is taking another step today in giving lead the boot in the state's hunting and fishing circles.

Although pheasant releases won't resume until next fall in Eastern Washington, hunters technically will be required to use nontoxic shot at the specified pheasant release sites starting today.

The nontoxic shot rule that's been in effect at refuges and release sites for several years in Western Washington was set to phase in to the East Side in 2011.

The boundaries of those nontoxic shot zones have not yet been defined, said Madonna Luers, Fish and Wildlife Department spokeswoman.

Last month, the state Fish and Wildlife Commission unanimously approved rules restricting lead fishing tackle at 13 northern Washington lakes frequented by nesting common loons.

It was a federal rule that banned lead shot for use in waterfowl hunting starting in 1986.


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News, field reports and insights on the Great Outdoors.

Rich Landers – hunter, animal lover, hiker, paddler, angler, naturalist and conservationist – has been covering the outdoors beat for more than three decades. His versatility and field research as a trails and waterways guidebook author help him connect issues to a wide range of interests.

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About Rich

Rich Landers (@SRoutside) Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.

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