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Outdoors blog

Archive for October 2011

Gregoire proposes more deep cuts for Fish and Wildlife budget

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Compensation to Washington farmers and ranchers for deer and elk damage to their crops would be suspended under the governor's latest proposal to slash state agency budgets even further.

And as many as six senior managers in the state Department of Fish and Wildlife would be let go .

Gov. Chris Gregoire announced the proposals last week as part of her grim task to begin inflict another round of deep budget cuts throughout the state government.

Fish and Wildlife officials say the agency already has lost 41 percent of its money from the state General Fund (if adjusted for inflation). Under the latest state revenue forecast, Gregoire has been suggesting they must cut the department's budget perhaps by another 5-10 percent — that's $3.45-$6.9 million.

  • Payments to counties in lieu of taxes for state wildlife lands would be reduced.
  • Another 36 staff positions could be cut.
  • Some fish hatchery operations could be curtailed.

The savings must be found somewhere.

This is all “preliminary,” Gregoire said. But unless the agency wins the lottery, more major cuts seem inevitable.

Andy Walgamott's Northwest Sportsman Magazine blog has details on the proposed budget cuts.

Budget information and documents from the Washington Office of Financial Management are available online.

Panhandle Nordic Club to consider Fourth of July trails

CROSS-COUNTRY SKIING — The Panhandle Nordic Ski and Snowshoe Club will discuss what needs to be done to continue developing and grooming the ski trails at Fourth of July Pass when it meets for this week.

The club's first meeting of the season will start at 7 p.m. Tuesday (Nov. 1) in the U.S. Forest Service Fernan Ranger Station (around the back and down stairs) at 2502 E. Sherman, Coeur d'Alene.

All interested persons are welcome! 

Oregon’s new wolf pack adopts Hells Canyon

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Oregon's newest confirmed wolf pack is roaming the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area and Wilderness along the Snake River bordering Idaho.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife used hunter reports and remote cameras to help them document at leat five wolves in the pack last week, including at least one pup.

The Snake River wolf pack is the fourth to be confirmed in Oregon since the mid-2000s, when wolves began filtering into the state from Idaho.

Earlier this month, ODFW radio-collared its first wolf (female pup) from the Walla Walla pack in Umatilla County, a pack first documented in January 2011. It roams along the Oregon-Washington border.

The current minimum known number of wolves ODFW can account for in Oregon is 23: the Imnaha pack (four), Walla Walla pack (six), Snake River pack (five), Wenaha pack (four), northern Umatilla County wolves (two) plus two dispersers from the Imnaha pack that remain in Oregon. 

Officials say it's likely that more than 23 wolves exist in Oregon, where they are still protected by the state Endangered Species Act along with the federal ESA in areas west of Highways 395-78-95.

North Idaho elk trend: more success, less pressure

HUNTING — Check station results indicate slightly more elk are being taken by a slightly smaller number of hunters this year in the Idaho Panhandle.

“In VERY general terms, bull elk success rates are looking decent at both check stations (Enaville and St. Maries), and hunter participation has been declining through both stations since about 1992,” said Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game regional wildlife manager.

Hayden says check stations are just one snapshot wildlfie biologists use for gauging wildlife populations. Because of the variables associated with check station results, he prefers the mid-winter aerial surveys for getting the best numbers on big-game populations.

Local walleye anglers thinking big at Roosevelt

FISHING — Mike Speer was fishing by the Goat Farm area of Lake Roosevelt last weekend with his friend, Steve Alexander, who hooked this 32-inch-long, 10-pound walleye.

Each of the two Spokane Valley anglers was trolling a perch-colored fly and a worm, nothing more, Speer said.

Hunters take few wolves on Panhandle, so far

HUNTING — Hunters are taking a few more wolves this season than in the first season of wolf hunting in the Idaho Panhandle. Wildlife managers say that trend along with this year's new tool in wolf management — trapping — should help get the wolf numbers under control.

Hunters reported killing seven wolves in the Panhandle during the Oct. 1-24 period in 2009.

During the same period this year, hunters have taken nine wolves, reports Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d'Alene.

“We also had an earlier opener this year (Aug. 30) with 6 wolves taken prior to Oct. 1.  If we follow the same pattern of harvest as 2009, we would have a final hunter harvest of about 40 wolves.  In general terms, this would take care of most, if not all of the expected reproductive increase.  Trapping should result in a decrease in the Panhandle’s wolf population.”

Silver Bow Fly Shop offers basic steelheading and fly-tying classes

FLY FISHING – Learn basics of fly fishing for steelhead Saturday, (Nov. 5)  9:30 a.m.-3 p.m., at Silver Bow Fly Shop. 13210 E. Indiana Ave.  $30.

A beginner fly tying class on how to tie six effective basic patterns, runs Nov. 14-15,  6-9 p.m.  $75.

Sign up: (509) 924-9998.

Veteran artist’s wood duck painting wins 2011-2012 Duck Stamp contest

WETLANDS CONSERVATION — Joseph Hautman of Plymouth, Minn., won the 2011 Federal Duck Stamp Contest on Saturday with his acrylic painting of a single wood duck.

Hautman has previously won the contest three times, in 1991, 2001 and 2007. His art will be made into the 2012-2013 Federal Duck Stamp, which will go on sale July 1, 2012.

The federal migratory bird stamp program has raised $750 million for wetlands conservation since its inception in 1934. The money has been used, among other things, to preserve 5 million acres of wetlands habitat important not only to ducks and geese, but also to a wide range of other wildlife.

See a video about the Duck Stamp Contest here.

I'll be writing more about the current status of the Duck Stamp program and why waterfowl hunters and other wildlife and wetlands cconservationists should be paying particularly close attention this year.

Have a blast watching Condit Dam go down

FREE-FLOWING RIVERS – The demise of Condit Dam on Washington’s White Salmon River is available for all to see online in photos and video.

The demolition crew used explosives to blow out the bottom of the dam on Wednesday (Oct. 26) to let water gush out and drain the reservoir. About 2.4 million cubic yards of sediment that has been collecting below the dam, built in 1913, began surging down through the 13-foot-high by 18-foot-wide drain tunnel created in the dam’s 90-foot wide base during August and September.

The PacifiCorp website carried the blast live. 

The White Salmon Time Lapse site has been capturing images and creating an album of progress, which will continue for months.     

Standing 125 feet tall, Condit is the second largest dam to be removed in the United States after being contested for its barrier to fish passage.  Biologist believe salmon and steelhead will take advantage of the new habitat they can reach upstream starting with next year's runs.

Only time will tell how the surge of water and sediment affects the salmon and steelhead fishing holes in the river and at the mouth.  Some anglers already worry that the fishing at the confluence of the White Salmon with the Columbia may be impacted for a long time.

Workers will begin removing he dam structure in spring 2012.

Idaho chinook harvest season closes Monday

FISHING — Salmon fishing in Idaho will be over for the year when the fall chinook harvest season on the Snake and Clearwater rivers ends Monday (Oct. 31).

The season opened Sept. 1 on the Snake River between Lewiston and Hells Canyon Dam and, this year, in the lower Clearwater River downstream of the U.S. Highway 12 Memorial Bridge in Lewiston.

As of Oct. 24, Idaho Fish and Game officials reported that anglers had caught 15 marked adults and 19 jacks and caught and released 51 unmarked fish in the lower Clearwater River.

On the Snake River, anglers caught and kept 151 adults and 375 jacks for a total of 560 fish. Hatchery-origin fish are marked with a clipped adipose fin.

This year, more than 25,000 fall adult and 19,000 jack chinook salmon crossed Lower Granite Dam.

Stateline bridge engineers pay tribute to kayakers

PADDLING – The new stateline bridge over the Spokane River, which is expected to open to traffic on Tuesday, features a railing with illustrations of an evergreen tree, symbolizing Washington, and a kayaker.

Give credit to state and county engineers for listening to paddlers concerns and recognizing the area’s importance to recreation:

Part of the bridge was reconfigured to avoid affecting Dead Dog Hole, a popular kayaking spot.

Returning home with loaded pickup

HUNTING — I'm on the road, returning from the annual cast and blast trip to Montana  — perfectly timed to avoid the Spokane Public Radio pledge drive. 

The pickup is loaded with a whitetail, a pronghorn, pheasants, Huns, sharpies, and a dog-tired dog.  Fishing waders are still wet. Life is good.  

Idaho has its own version of Lake Rufus Woods rainbows

FISHING —  Pigs. 

That's the best way to  describe the North Fork of the Clearwater rainbow trout that have tuned in to the feast of kokanee that come over and down through Dworshak Dam.

Read on for the story by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

Conservation lands generate billions of $ for national economy, study finds

CONSERVATION — The myth that “conservation lands” are locked up and useless to the public is debunked in dollars and sense by a new economic study  that documents how conservation, recreation and preservation lands support 9.4 million jobs and generate $1 trillion a year to the U.S. economy.

The study was funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

Let's hope that rational minds pore over details of these findings before succumbing to North Dakota's knee-jerk reaction to legislatively prohibit any “net gain” of protected lands.

This information needs to be considered by Congressmen attempting to water down laws protecting roadless and wilderness portions of public lands.

Read on for more details and comments from former public lands officials, the Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation and others.

National parks to offer 17 `free’ days in 2012

PUBLIC LANDS — For the third consecutive year, visitors will enjoy free admission to national parks on 17 days in 2012, the Department of Interior has announced. Some of those freebies include three-day holiday weekends and even a week-long celebration of National Parks Week.

National forests, national wildlife refuges and BLM areas that charge fees are offering a slightly reduced schedule of free admission days.

National parks and public lands serve as an economic engine for many local communities, supports jobs and driving tourism, he said.

National Park fee-free dates for 2012 are Jan.14-16 (Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend), April 21-29 (National Park Week), June 9 (Get Outdoors Day), Sept. 29 (National Public Lands Day), and Nov. 10-12 (Veterans Day weekend).

Other freebies: Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service will waive their entrance and standard amenity fees Jan.14-16, June 9, Sept. 29, and Nov. 10-12. The Bureau of Reclamation will waive standard amenity fees on Sept. 29 and Nov. 12.

Bike glove turn-signal invented for cyclists

CYCLING — An Oregon man is using the latest LED technology to develop a turn signal glove to give bicyclists, and those behind them, a safer and more visible way to turn, especially in low-light situations.

 Jack O'Neal, an Afghanistan war veteranmechanical engineering at Portland State University, is in the early stages of developing the product

There's no development and manfacturing deal — yet — but he's selling a $90 “field testing” model via email

Fishing rules proposed; Oct. 27 meeting set in Spokane

FISHING– The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department is taking comment statewide on proposed changes to sportfishing regulations.

A public meeting has been scheduled Thursday (Oct. 27), from 6 p.m.-8 p.m., in the agency’s Spokane Region Office, 2315 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley.

Current proposals related to Eastern Washington include:

  • Allowing anglers to fish with two poles on the Pend Oreille River and the lower Spokane River.
  • Removing northern pike from the state’s list of gamefish to allow more liberal management of their populations.
  • Changing the opening day of the lowland lake fishing season from the last Saturday in April to the fourth Saturday in April.

All of the proposed rules, which would affect various freshwater and saltwater fisheries around the state, are available on the agency’s website.

During the meetings, the public can discuss the proposals with WDFW staff. Written comments are due Dec. 30.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission will take more comments on proposals during its Jan. 6-7 meeting.

Check the commission’s website for the specific day and time.

The commission, which sets policy for WDFW, is scheduled to vote on the final sportfishing rules package Feb. 3 or 4. Adopted rules would go into effect in May 2012.

Vote online to boost wolverine study in Idaho Panhandle

WILDLIFE RESEARCH — The Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness are asking people to vote online before Oct. 28 to help them garner nearly $30,000 in grants from Zoo Boise that would be applied to wolverine research in North Idaho.

Visit the Zoo Boise projects website for details. Review the the wolverine proposal and the seven other finalists and then vote for your two favorites in each category. The four projects with the most votes will each receive a grants. One vote per person is allowed.

The Friends of Scotchman Peaks Wilderness has partnered with Idaho Fish and Game and the Idaho Conservation League on a proposal for an Idaho Panhandle Wolverine Study.

Wolverines (Gulo gulo) were recently classified as ‘warranted but precluded’ for listing as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Only about 35 breeding wolverine females are roaming the lower 48 states.

Read on for more details about the North Idaho project.

Paddler program features trip down Georgia’s Chattahoochee River

CANOEING/KAYAKING – Long-distance paddler Jim Payne will give a presentation on his trip down Georgia’s Chattahoochee River to the Gulf of Mexico on Monday Oct. 24, 7 p.m., at the Corbin Community Center, 827 W. Cleveland.

The free program is sponsored by the Spokane Canoe & Kayak Club .

Heading out hunting, keeping expectations in check

HUNTING —  It's the eve of Montana's rifle deer hunting season. I'm traveling back to my home state, game for action but keeping my expectations in check.

I've noticed some whitetail buck scrapes in key places in Eastern Washington and North Idaho, but all I've actually seen during daylight in those vicinities is small bucks.

That fits, said Jim Hayden, Idaho Fish and Game Department regional wildlife manager in Coeur d'Alene. “Often the early scrapes and rubs you see are just the work of young bucks fooling around and playing out roles they really don't know anything about, yet.”

Even though North Idaho deer season opened Oct. 10, hunters there are mostly focusing on their shorter window for elk.

Eastern Washington deer season opened Oct. 15, but check stations report a light turnout and harvest for the opening weekend.

It's still warm, with tons of colorful autumn leaves (see photo) on the trees and brush making hunting difficult. The best is yet to come.

Even in Montana, I have to be cautiously optimistic. The nine ranchers I've contacted before my hunt in central Montana all had various gloomy reports of the impact EHD had on the whitetails and antelope. One rancher is still finding dead deer in the creek bottoms.

But deer are plentiful in other areas and I'll be looking for them.

Great conditions for fall mushrooming

FORAGING– Mushroom foraging conditions have been near perfect with the recent rainfall followed by cooler temperatures and sunny days, according to the Seattle Times

“Shroomers are flocking to forests in search of Japanese matsutake (Armillaria ponderosa), known for their unique smell and excellent table fare,” says reporer Mark Yuasa. Other popular varieties among edible mushrooms are boletes and chanterelles.

The peak of this autumn’s foraging season appears to be a few weeks behind, but those who’ve ventured out recently are starting to see more mushrooms popping up.

Read on for more of Yuasa's report and a rule to note about harvesting matsutake.

National Parks take heat over reducing elk numbers

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — An annual elk hunt in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming and a volunteer-based “elk reduction” project in western North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park got underway this month amid public criticism, reports the Wildlife Management Institute

The issue is developing across several national parks as elk populations continue to grow.  It mirrors similar issues seen with deer populations in the East and even the new hunt — underway in its second season — at Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge near Cheney.

Critics contend that the culling programs are counter to the National Park Service and national wildlife refuge system mission to preserve wildlife within their units. 

However, the agencies contend that damage to native habitats that occurs when ungulate populations are too high warrants the culling operations.

Lower Hanford Reach salmon season extended through Oct. 31

SALMON FISHING — The fishing season for chinook and coho salmon will be extended in the lower Hanford Reach of the Columbia through Oct. 31, the Washignton Fish and Wildlife Department has announced.

 The extension affects the sport salmon fishery in the Columbia River between the Highway 395 Bridge at Pasco and the wooden power line towers at the old Hanford townsite.

The season previously was set to end Sunday.

Read on for details.

Washington panel to consider moving wolf meeting to Spokane

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The first agenda item for Friday morning's  Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission telephone conference call is to consider new locations for the last of four public meetings on the state's proposed wolf management plan.

The commission held the first meeting on the controversial plan in Ellensburg, followed by two meetings in Olympia.

The fourth meeting scheduled for Nov. 3 also is set to be held in Olympia.

But apparently the commission is at least considering the fact that one of the meetings ought to be in the region where most of the state's gray wolves roam.

Check the commission’s website for the answer.

Metalhead flick featured at Spokane TU gathering

FISHING — If you're a steelheading fly-fisher and you haven't seen the BC fishing flick Metalhead, now's the time. 

Even if you have seen it, the Spokane Falls Chapter of Trout Unlimited suggests joining them and having some fun and watching the film as they show the movie Monday (Oct 24) starting at 7 p.m. at the Magic Lantern Theatre, 25 W. Main Avenue in Spokane.

Metalhead is an exciting film from AEG productions. It features die-hard trout bums hooking up with impressive BC steelhead and having a dirt-bag adventure in the wilds of Canada's pristine steelhead country.

Cost: $7 bucks at the door - $5 bucks if you purchase beforehand from Silverbow, Swedes, Westslope or Castaway Flyshop out in Coeur d'Alene

Why: come have fun and support steelhead/trout conservation in Eastern Washington
Bring some cash for the raffle and join TU at the Saranac Public House from 6 p.m.-7 p.m. before the show for beverages (happy hour prices) and fishing stories.
Still have questions? Email me at

Senate approves allowing ski areas to develop offseason activities

NATIONAL FORESTS — A proposal that would allow ski areas to potentially expand activities to biking, zip lines and rope courses — legislation that likely would create jobs in mountain towns — passed the U.S. Senate late Tuesday and is likely to be signed quickly by President Obama.

The measure passed unanimously in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The proposed law would allow ski areas to apply to use national-forest land for activities in the spring, summer and fall. Though some areas already boast summertime activities on nearby private land, this bill would allow areas to apply to build whole summer activity parks on public land with National Forest Service approval.

Read more from the Denver Post.

Help needed for Gibraltar Trail construction

TRAILS — Mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians are gathering in November for another blitz to build an epic trail east of Republic, Wash., — and they can use more help.

“Last October, over a dozen volunteers from Conservation Northwest, Spokane Mountaineers, Washington Trails Association and the Ferry County Trails Association broke ground on the new Gibraltar trail,” said Derrick Knowles of Conservation Northwest. “The trail, the product of a five-year effort between recreation groups, conservationists and the Colville National Forest, will provide new recreation opportunities close to the town of Republic.”

The last two work parties of the season will be held Nov. 5-6 and Nov. 19-20.

E-mail to sign up or call 509-435-1270 for more info on what to bring, where to meet, and where to camp/stay.

Read on for more details about the trail.

Grizzly fishing explosive, even without dynamite

WILDLIFE — Montana wildlife photographer Jaime Johnson captured the power of a brown bear fishing for salmon during a recent visit to Alaska.

One fish escapes, but look closely underwater to see the big one that didn't get away from the bruin.

Idaho anglers asked to distinguish salmon, steelhead

FISHING — Idaho Fish and Game officials just posted this notice to holders of three-day salmon-steelhead permits fishing in waters and at times when steelhead and chinook salmon both are present and can be caught and kept:

Differentiate harvest of the two species on your permits.

The three-day permits are valid for both salmon and steelhead, and anglers get only the single permit. The intent with the three-day permit has been that it could be used for the salmon season or the steelhead season. Those two seasons usually don’t overlap, and only one species was recorded on a permit for the three days fished.

Read on for more details.

Luckless deer hunter counts his blessings

HUNTING — Former Spokanite Adam Lynn returns from the West Side every fall to hunt with friends on the opening weekend of Washington's modern rifle deer hunting season.  He routinely shows up everyone in his group with his uncanny instinct for where the game will be.  

But he's human.

Here's his report from last weekend:

Totals for four days of hunting: Four sunrises, four sunsets, 52 hours in the field, 28 bluebirds, 22 downy woodpeckers, 17 flickers, three owls, one kestrel, one northern harrier, six red-tailed hawks, too many crows, juncos, chickadees and other songbirds to count, eight coyotes, one praying mantis and 41 deer, not a legal buck among them.

My past has finally caught up with me.

According to Washington Fish and Wildlife Department check station reports, more than 90 percent of the hunters out for the opening weekend shared Lynn's inability to put their crosshairs on a legal buck.

I hope they at least had as much fun.

Wildlife biologists scope out Mt. Spokane ski runs

SKIING — Washington Fish and Wildlife Deparment biologists recently hiked through the sites on Mount Spokane where the State Parks Commission approved  new ski runs for the expansion of the Mt. Spokake Ski and Snowboard Park.

The WDFW formally opposed the expansion of the new runs on the back side of the mountain because of their potential impact on wildlife habitat.

Indeed, Howard Ferguson, district wildlife biologist, reported the group found several of the runs as currently planned will require logging in and around wetlands, old growth and perennial streams. Extensive landscaping and backfilling will also be needed. 

“We saw a bull moose and also found a lot of moose scat, wallows and beds scattered through out the area,” he said.

The biologists will make a report with suggested areas the ski area managers should avoid and evaluate mitigation for potential impacts.

Work on clearing the new runs is likely to begin in 2012, ski area officials say.

Woman revisits site of mule deer attack with her rescuers

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A big deal is made of human encounters with predators such as bears and wolves.

But a wide range of wildlfie — including prey species such as deer — can become dangerous when conditioned to lose their fear of humans.

I blogged this story earlier in the month, but I thought you might want to see the photo of the father-daughter team that came to the rescue of Sue Panter of Whitney, Idaho  as she was being attacked by a young mule deer buck.

Panter was minding her own business on a walk near her home on Sept. 30 when the buck began ramming into her and goring her legs with its antlers.

Click below to read the story by Jennifer Jackson of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Misprint corrected in IFG waterfowl hunting time chart

WATERFOWLING — Idaho Fish and Game officials say the time chart on Page 11 in the 2011-2012 Waterfowl Seasons and Rules book has some incorrect times for five days in January in southern Idaho area.

The opening times on January 22 through 27 in the column for Ada, Adams, Boise, Canyon, Elmore, Gem, Owyhee, Payette, Valley and Washington counties and part of Idaho County, all in the Mountain Time Zone areas are off by three hours.

The correct opening times in those areas are: January 22 - 7:41 a.m.; January 23 - 7:40 a.m.; January 24 - 7:39 a.m.; January 25 - 7:39 a.m.; January 26 - 7:38 a.m.; and January 22 - 7:37 a.m.

The correct closing time for January 27 is 5:49 p.m.

The times for all other days are correct.

For a correct table, see the waterfowl rules on the Fish and Game Web site.

Black bear and four cubs — count them

WILDLIFE — A rare sight to behold:

A sow black bear and her four cubs take refuge in a tree near U.S. Highway 93 just south of Whitefish, Mont., on Monday. The family of bears quickly drew a crowd as both sides of the highway were lined with parked cars and people who stopped to take photos.

Idaho Fish and Game panel to meet in CdA

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission will meet Nov. 9, 10 and 11 in Coeur d’Alene.

A public comment period is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. Nov. 9.

The commission’s routine agenda includes appointing a commission representative to Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.

When a complete agenda is available, it will be posted on the Fish and Game Commission web page.

Steelhead ebbing in tide over Lower Granite

STEELHEAD FISHING — The fish are still running up the Snake and over Lower Granite Dam in numbers over 1,000 a day, but the number of new fish heading into Idaho waters is slowing.

The steelhead count over Bonneville Dam at the mouth of the Columbia had slowed on Sunday to just 127 fish a day, while 1,115 moved over Lower Granite Dam near Clarkston the same day.

The total number of steelhead over Bonneville since July 1 is 353,657 compared with 379,434
last year.

That helps confirm we're enjoying an above-average year.

The five-year average for this date over Bonneville is 384,339 and 159,215 over Lower Granite.

Opening weekend deer hunting effort down in NE Washington

DEER HUNTING – Apparently there was plenty of elbow room in northeastern Washington for the opening weekend of the general rifle deer hunting season.

A combination of the economy and the new four-point minimum restriction in Units 117 and 121 appears to be doing a number on the area’s hunting — and the number for hunter participation is clearly lower.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department check station at Deer Park recorded the lowest counts on record for both deer and hunters for the opening of the modern firearm deer season, reports Dana Base, district wildlife biologist in Colville.

Altogether 117 hunters were interviewed with 7 deer (antlered bucks only) including 6 whitetails and 1 mule deer.  Hunter success on whitetails was 5.9%.    Last year’s numbers were 226 hunters and 15 white-tailed bucks checked for a success rate of 6.6%.

Units 117 and 121 have traditionally been among the most productive deer hunting units in the state.  A Colville-area sportsmen's group petitioned the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission last year to enact the four-point minimum for whitetail bucks. State wildlife biologists advised against the rule, but the commission approved it, starting with this year's season. 

Deja vu: Wolf hunts challenged in court

PREDATORS — A group of wolf advocates has requested an emergency halt to wolf hunting in the Rocky Mountains.  Although the wolf hunting season has been open for weeks, the prime time for hunters being in the field begins Saturday, with the opening of Montana's big-game hunting season.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies, Friends of the Clearwater and WildEarth Guardians want to return the gray wolf to federal Endangered Species Act protection.

In doing so, they're going against the grain of wildlife management professionals, sportsmen and general public opinion that wolves need to be managed.

After Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, delisted the wolf with a congressional rider last spring, the groups challenged the action in U.S. District Court.

Read the full story from the Missoulian.

Record book confirms salmon fishing is catching on

SALMON FISHING — The record effort for salmon fishing in the lower Columbia River continues to grow, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department reports.

Through September, an estimated 27,490 adult fall chinook have been caught in the lower Columbia mainstem sport fishery from the Rocky Point/Tongue Point line to Bonneville Dam. 

The old record was 26,195 fish caught in 2003. 

The new record will increase after the October catch is added.  The records began in 1969. 

Pastor stays in character when confronted by herd bull

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — What would you say? 

Matthew LaGrange, a man of the cloth from Texas, was fishing near Estes Park with his friend Dan Scates of Longmont, Colo., as a bull elk slowly herded its harem across the Big Thompson River — directly at the anglers.

“I'm a pastor so I can't say what I was thinking but, It started with Holy,” LaGrange said after leaving the water.

It was his first time fly fishing.

—Joe Amon, The Denver Post

Pine beetle boring in on famous Canadian parks

NATIONAL PARKS —  Mountain pine beetles that have taken a high toll on the forests of British Columbia are poised to inflict major damage to Jasper National Park and possibly Mount Robson National Park, researchers say.

Read the update from the Edmonton Journal.

Razor clam digging seasons set to start Oct. 28

SHELLFISHING — Barring any bad news from marine toxin monitoring, Washington's first razor-clam dig of the season is scheduled to begin Oct. 28 on four ocean beaches, with additional digs planned through late December. 

Read on for details and the season schedule through December.

Pheasant Valley preserve owner in serious condition after ATV accident

HUNTING — Jerry Townsend of Pheasant Valley Shooting Preserve and Sporting Clays near LaCrosse, Wash., is in Sacred Heart Medical Center listed in serious condition after clients found him unconscious by his four-wheeler Saturday, according to Whitman County Sheriff's officials.

See our news story.

One-armed Everest climber debunks disabilities today at SCC

MOUNTAINEERING — Gary Guller, the first person with one arm to summit Mount Everest and the leader of the largest cross-disability group to reach the 17,500-foot base camp at Mount Everest Base Camp, brings his motivational story and message to Spokane Community College  on Monday (Oct. 17), 1 p.m.,  in the Lair-Student Center auditorium, Bldg. 6, 1810 N. Greene St.

The program is free and open to the public.

Guller, who lost his arm in a previous mountaineering accident, has continued breaking ground in outdoor adventures. He's led an expedition to the summit of world’s sixth highest mountain, Mount Cho Oyu, in Tibet and he's completed the Marathon des Sables, a six-day, 153-mile endurance race across the Sahara Desert.

Info: SCC student activities, 533-7081.

Deer hunter’s lament: One point shy of legal

BIG-GAME HUNTNG — “Too little. Dang it!” emailed my friend Adam Lynn on Sunday evening. The photograph was the only legal shot he could take at the fork-horn mule deer buck. It summed up his experience on the opening weekend of Washington's deer hunting seas.

In the Eastern Washington unit he was hunting, mule deer bucks must have at least three antler points on one side to be legal game for hunters.

Yellow on white: Snow greets fall colors in North Cascades

HIKING — Wear gaitors for hiking in the high country; sunglasses too.  The snow and the autumn colors are dazzling.

West Side hiker Rick Rocheleau said he had a fantastic hike Sunday to see the larches near Rainy Pass on the North Cascades Highway. (See his photo above).

“Perfect weather, spectacular scenery, great company.”

Youth pheasant hunt delivered limit of fun

HUNTING — The new non-toxic shot rules at Eastern Washington pheasant release sites was no deterrent to a few hunters out for the recent youth-only upland bird season.   Here's a report from Scott Kuhta, who gathered his sone and dog for a father-son outting on that special last-weekend in September season:

Quick thanks for the article on steel shot requirements for pheasant release sites. I took my son, Daniel, out to chase birds on the Sunday of the youth hunt weekend. If I hadn't read your article, I probably would have brought lead shells.  I think it is a good regualtion and it sure didn't affect his shooting.  Two years ago on our first youth hunt he went through a box of shells before coming home with two birds.  This year we were done in 45 minutes, hitting 3 out of 4 birds.  My dog flushed a dozen more on the way back to the car.
I don't know what Saturday was like, but we were the only people hunting Sunday morning.  We got there 20 minutes past first light and did not see another car or hear any other shots.  LOTS of birds that are now undoubtedly done for by coyotes.

Eastern Washington pheasant hunting release sites are detailed on the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's webpage.

The regular pheasant hunting season opens Saturday.

Sea kayakers’ program explores Antarctic waters, wildlife

PADDLING — Bill and Debbie Pierce of Spokane will present images the wildlife and culture they explored while sea-kayaking from a mother ship near the Falkland Islands and Antarctica Peninsula in a free program Monday (Oct 17), 7 p.m.,  at Mountain Gear Corporate Headquarters, 6021 E. Mansfield sponsored by the Spokane Mountaineers.

College kayakers live sheltered lives

CAMPING — Parents love getting notes from their kids indicating they're capable of dealing with adversity — especially when they maintain their smile while making lemonade from lemons, and inflict comfort and happiness on people around them.

Here's a recent email message from my youngest daughter, Hillary, who works with the Outdoor Program at Western Washington University.

“I just got back from a wonderrrful kayak trip to Lummi Island, and I was an official leader so I even got paid 90 bucks! We saw  4 river otters frolicking today, as well as a PORPOISE and seals galore!
“We forgot the tent poles, so we had to be innovative and practice our tarpology skills… with the help of the throw ropes and some paddles, we managed to make a mansion out of rain flies and ground cloths! 
“My chocolate sea pudding with the Turkish washcloth seaweed thickener was a big hit :)

Woman bowhunter glad to have .44 mag when wolf came

HUNTING — A 55-year-old woman from Headquarters, Idaho, told a newspaper she was glad to be packing a .44 magnum to boost her confidence when a very large wolf responded to her elk cow call by trotting in to within 10 feet.

That was a fatal mistake — for the wolf.

Rene Anderson told the Clearwater Tribune of Orofino (read the story here) that she put down her bow and drew her Smith & Wesson handgun as the wolf jumped up on a pile of logs very close to her on Sept. 25. She dispatched the wolf, which reportedly weighed more than 100 pounds, with four close-range shots.

The wolf paid the ultimate price for being so bold. Top wolf scientists say hunters are doing a favor for society and the wolves themselves by eliminating bold wolves from the population before they hurt someone.

KXLY TV followed up with an extended report and video.

Incidentally, Anderson was alone on a ridge when the incident happened.  She called her husband to come an get her on his ATV, and then waited anxiously, on the alert in case other wolves were in the area.

No elk showed up.

Trawlers waste 104 tons of Alaska halibut — in one week

OCEAN FISHING — Last week I reported that Alaska is considering yet another cutback on the halibut limits for sportfishermen.

Here's part of the reason: one commercial cod fishing trawler alone had to dump 43 percent of its recent catch because it was halibut during a closed season.  That's just one boat in one week.

Read on for the Blog report by Anchorage outdoor writer Craig Medred.

Yakima region hunters have reason for high hopes in most areas

 HUNTING — Here's the latest Yakima region hunting update for deer, elk and birds, from Yakima Herald-Republic outdoor writer Scott Sandsberry.

REI’s ‘Diva Night’ focuses on getting women active outdoors

WOMEN OUTDOORS — The Spokane REI store is devoting an evening to providing women with information on programs and events designed especially for getting women active in outdoor activities.

Diva Night is set for Oct. 20 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at 1125 N. Monroe.   That's a week a way, but the first 30 women to pre-register for Diva Night will receive a complimentary gift bag of fun prizes!

Topics to be covered range from  health and wellness to camp cooking, backpacking, climbing and more.

 Participating groups include the Susan G. Komen Foundation, The Souper Bowl, Emde Sports, Belles & Baskets, Gals Get Going, the YWCA, Jazzercise, Fitness Center, Rossignol, Superfeet and Moving Comfort, Petzl, Columbia, Black Diamond, Asics and ZipFizz and Girl Scouts.

The REI climbing wall will be open for women to try out.

Hunters’ help sought for wildlife disease monitoring

HUNTING — As part of an ongoing effort to watch for Chronic Wasting Disease, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is asking deer and elk hunters to submit tissue from animals harvested east of the Columbia River.

The fatal illness of deer and elk has not yet been detected in Washington, but it has occurred in at least 15 other states and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. WDFW has tested over 5,000 animals in the state over the past 15 years in its CWD-monitoring efforts.

Hunters can submit their harvest for CWD testing in any of the following ways:

  • Stop at a WDFW hunter check station off Highway 395 near Deer Park or State Route 2 near Chattaroy on most weekends during deer seasons.
  • Deposit the head of the harvested animal in a marked collection bin at the laboratory building behind the Spokane Valley WDFW office, 2315 N. Discovery Place
  • Deposit the head of the harvested animal at the Inland Northwest Wildlife Council office, 6116 N. Market St. in Spokane during office hours (Mon.-Fri., 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.).
  • Arrange to have the sample picked up anywhere in Spokane or Spokane Valley by calling (509) 989-6224, or in the Tri-Cities area by calling (509) 531-2691.

Although there is no scientific evidence at this time that CWD can be transmitted from deer or elk to humans, hunters should always follow basic hygienic precautions such as wearing rubber gloves while field-dressing game, and thoroughly washing hands and equipment after handling harvested animals, Mansfield advised.

Read on for more details on what type of tissue samples are required:

Yellowstone officials kill wolf seeking handouts

PREDATORS — It looks as though someone has killed another wolf with food.

A ranger at Yellowstone National Park has killed a gray wolf that repeatedly had come close to people in recent months.

The first case of this sort occurred in 2009, when park officials carried out their new management plan to eliminate any wolf that showed aggressive behavior or even too much friendliness toward people.

Park spokesman Dan Hottle says the 110-pound male wolf had come within a few feet of visitors and park staff on several occasions since this summer. Efforts to haze the wolf away from populated areas had proved unsuccessful.

Hottle says a ranger killed the wolf with a rifle on Saturday. The wolf was estimated to be between two and four years old and Hottle says park staff were concerned it might demonstrate more aggressive behavior.

Hottle says the park staff never saw anyone feed the wolf but believed it was conditioned to human food because it was following people. Feeding animals is a violation of park regulations.

BLM’s Blackwell Island boat launch to close for season

BOATING — The end of the summer boating season on Lake Coeur d’Alene is in sight.  

The Bureau of Land Management’s Blackwell Island boat launch will closed for the season on Sunday evening (Oct. 16) .  The popular launch site, located on the south side of the Spokane River, has been in operation for nine seasons.

Blackwell Island recreation area will also be closed to day-use activities after Sunday.  The main gate will be closed for the season and toilet facilities winterized.  The site is a popular area for walking, picnicking and wildlife viewing during the summer season.   Blackwell Island typically opens in late May dependent upon lake water levels.

Deer hunters reminded that cougars are fair game, too

HUNTING – Washington’s most popular deer-hunting season opens Saturday morning in Eastern Washington, and the Department of Fish and Wildlife has made a point to remind hunters that cougars also are fair game anywhere in the state.

Under this year’s rules, deer hunters with a valid cougar license and transport tag can take a cougar during the modern-firearms deer season in all 39 counties – including Okanogan, Chelan, Ferry, Stevens, Pend Oreille and Klickitat.

That’s a change from recent years, when general cougar-hunting seasons in those six counties were delayed to accommodate a pilot program that allowed hunters with special permits to track cougars using dogs.

“In those six counties, we’re back to relying on general hunts to manage cougar populations,” said Dave Ware, WDFW game manager. “We can make that work, but it does present some different management challenges.”

Ware said permit hunters using dogs generally took male cougars, while those who encounter cougar during general hunts – without dogs – are less likely to discriminate between the sexes. Under state law, it is illegal to kill spotted cougar kittens or adult cougars tending kittens.

Using dogs to hunt cougars was banned by a citizens’ initiative in 2006, but later allowed by the Legislature under a pilot program in counties reporting increasing conflicts with the big cats.

More than 100,000 hunters are expected to take to the field this month for the modern-firearms deer season that runs through various dates around the state. Cougar hunting is open through the end of the year, although few are taken outside of the major deer and elk hunting seasons, Ware said.

Backpackers bask in golden autumn glow of alpine larch

HIKING — The alpine larch are putting on their annual autumn show of golden brilliance in the region's high country, from the North Cascades across the high Selkirks and Purcell Mountains of British Columbia.

The Alpine Lakes Wilderness has reputation for a sensational larch display, but local backpacker Tanner Grant just got back from a spectacle in the North Cascades where no special permits are required.

“We do a trip every year in search of golden alpine larch,” he said. “This year we went to Sunrise Lake high above the Methow River and it was spectacular.”

The snow was patchy around 6,300 feet and consistent above 7,000, he said, noting the hike to Sunrise is 13.5 miles round trip with a serious 3,700 feet of elevation gain

Larch  feature branches with needles that look somewhat like those on fir trees except that they turn color and fall off in fall like the leaves of deciduous trees. 

The western larch of the lower forests such as the Pend Oreille Valley and even Lookout Pass, are still about two weeks from prime time for yellow color displays.

But Grant says the alpine larch displays at higher elevations are likely to peak around this week.

Other favorite North Cascades spots on Grant's apline larch fall colors list include Cooney Lake, Eagle Lakes, Crater Lakes, Cutthroat Pass, Maple Pass, and Blue Lake for starters.

“Always check the forecast this time of year and plan for winter conditions,” he advised. “Any precipitation will fall as snow.”

Click here to see more of Grant's photos from his recent larch extravaganza.

Birders get detail how to distinguish cackling geese from Canadas

WATERFOWLING — Goose hunters have a lot of decisions to make, often in a split second in the dim light of early morning, with wind blowing and rain pelting their faces.

Bird identification is tough in good conditions.  Add these factors and …. well, it's really tough.

Daily limits of dusky and cackling geese are reduced to help protect their struggling populations, yet they often fly in groups with plentiful Canada geese.

Read on for some pre-season reading for conservation-minded waterfowlers.

Help nordic skiers clear trails at Mount Spokane Saturday

TRAILS — Join local nordic skiers to clear brush from Mount Spokane cross-country ski trails during a work party set for Saturday, starting at 9 a.m. at Selkirk Lodge.

Wear appropriate clothing; bring a lunch and water.

Details: Art Bookstrom, 368-3119 days, 624-9667 evenings.

Last chance to drive to summit of Mount Spokane

STATE PARKS — The gate for the summit road to the top of Mount Spokane will be locked Sunday evening, marking the end of the state park's summer season. 

That makes this weekend the last opportunity to drive to the top of the mountain until next June.

Hikers and bikers will still be allowed to use muscle power to the mountain's 5883-foot summit. And motor vehicles can still drive to several trailheads, the alpin ski area and the nordic ski trails.

Snow usually covers the top of the mountain by late November.

Video: Erin Bolster, Tonk wow crowd on The Late Show with David Letterman

Watch the video clip of Erin Bolster and Tonk on Late Night with David Letterman. The full segment will be broadcast tonight on CBS:

Fans of heroes, horses, wranglers and grizzly bears will get it all in one package tonight on the Late Show with David Letterman.

Trail riding guide Erin Bolster and her horse from Whitefish, Mont., are being featured on the CBS talk show after a Sept. 18 Spokesman-Review feature trotted the duo into the national spotlight.

“How can you not love this story?” Letterman says as he introduces Bolster in a show taped earlier today. The host praised the 25-year-old wrangler who leveraged her own bravery as she convinced the horse to save a child by charging a grizzly bear head on.

Bolster had been acquainted with the leased horse from the Swan Mountain Outfitters stock pool for only two months.

“Our first guest showed remarkable courage when she and her horse, Tonk, rescued a young boy from a 750-pound grizzly bear – 750 pound grizzly bear: that’s like (all the people in) Row 2,” Letterman says, pointing to the audience.

In the interview, Bolster says Tonk initially “didn’t want to be there” when the grizzly ran into her group of eight trail riders.

The bear was chasing a deer. But when the deer escaped in the pandemonium of panicking horses, the grizzly continued its pursuit – bearing down on a fleeing horse carrying Ian Turner, an 8-year-old guest from northern California.

Horse experts have marveled at Bolster’s ability to get Tonk to overcome his natural instinct to run away from the danger. With Bolster’s heels in his ribs, the large Percheron (draft horse) mix, wheeled around and charged the bear three times before driving it away from the boy and the other horse.

“Erin was just awesome,” said Greg Turner, the boy’s father. “I can't say enough good things about her.”

Tonk reacts similarly when Letterman introduces him to the nation on tonight's show. That is, when the studio audience roars with applause, Tonk initially wants to head for the barn.

“Must be a bear on 53rd Street,” Letterman says as the huge white horse pivots and moons the crowd.

But Bolster composes the horse, holds his head tight to her shoulder and confirms that she bought Tonk after his heroic performance against the bear.

“He’s my boy now,” she says, to the crowd’s approval.

“Lovely story,” Letterman says. “And take good care of this guy.”

“Wow. That was awesome,” Bolster said in a Facebook post after taping the show this afternoon. “Tonk tried his very hardest to be a good boy. He was so cute… love him.”

Dad praises wrangler who saved son from grizzly

Ian Turner, 8, of northern California is pictured here on a horse named Scout on July 30, 2011, shortly before they were chased by a grizzly bear on a trail ride with Swan Mountain Outfitters near Glacier National Park. Wrangler Erin Bolster and her horse, Tonk, rode to his rescue, challenging the bear until it ran off. 

Here's what Ian's dad has to say, as posted on the Swan Mountain Outfitters Facebook page:

My name is Greg. My son Ian is the unnamed 8 year old. Erin was just awesome. I can't say enough good things about her. Even aside from her chasing down Ian and Scout, you could not do better by having Erin as your guide. Although, could someone tell Scout not to be chasing bears? :-). Thank you again Erin, you are awesome. Someone was watching out for us all that day.

Gutsy wrangler and horse that took on grizzly taping Letterman Show

GREAT STORIES — If you like heroes, horses, blonde horse wranglers and grizzly bears, tune in to the Late Show with David Letterman tonight.

My Outdoors feature story last month, “Gutsy wrangler, huge horse, save boy from charging grizzly” struck a chord with Spokesman-Review readers –and then spread to readers across the continent like jet-propelled stallions.

The news didn't escape Letterman, who owns a Montana ranch near Choteau. Letterman's handlers shipped both the wrangler and the horse from Whitefish to New York. Tonk was chauffeured on a five-day expedition in a comfort-controlled van with breaks every three hours or so.

The 25-year-old wrangler and her horse are scheduled to be taping two segments today for the show that airs tonight. Bolster and her huge Percheron mix horse will be sharing the show with actor Matthew Broderick (Ferris Bueller's Day Off).   

The story of Erin Bolster and Tonk riding herd on a grizzly bear near Glacier National Park went viral on the Internet, capturing the hearts of a country with an appetite for heroes, horses and potential tragedies with happy endings – for both the people and the bear.

The family of the 8-year-old California boy Erin rescued from the bear posted high praise for the Virginia-born wrangler on the Swan Mountain Outfitters Facebook page:

My name is Greg (Turner). My son Ian is the unnamed 8 year old. Erin was just awesome. I can't say enough good things about her. Even aside from her chasing down Ian and Scout, you could not do better by having Erin as your guide. Although, could someone tell Scout not to be chasing bears? :-). Thank you again Erin, you are awesome. Someone was watching out for us all that day.

Nearly 100,000 people a day were viewing the story on The Spokesman-Review site alone in the few days after it was published after Google added the link to its News Spotlight list. Now the story has all over North America and readership is in the millions.

Click here for the follow up story after her appearance with Letterman.

Notes from previous blog posts:

“It’s been crazy,” said Bolster from her home in Whitefish, Mont., noting that she’s been interviewed by numerous publications, TV and radio since the S-R story went wild.

She’s also received marriage proposals, job offers and made a lot of new Facebook friends.

She’s set up an account for the many people who’ve offered to chip in for Tonk’s winter boarding, since there’s no bigger hero in this story than the burly white Percheron mix. I've attached it to my Sunday story.

At first, she said she was going out and giving Tonk a carrot every time something new and good came back as more people read the story.

But at the rate it's been going, Tonk was goingto get fat and the pasture was going to be full of orange muffins if she didn't scale back.

Oh, no! Even dead grizzlies are hurting people this year

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — This strange year for grizzly bear encounters with humans is going toward bizarre, as you'll see in this story that just moved by the Associated Press.

Man gets shock after poking dead bear on live wire

LIVINGSTON, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a bowhunter suffered serious injuries from an electric shock when he poked a dead bear lying on live wires.

The Park County sheriff’s office says Edward Garcia of Emigrant came across a badly decomposed bear carcass Sunday in the Beattie Gulch area north of Gardiner.

Garcia was shocked when he poked the carcass with a knife, suffering injuries to his torso, head and hands.

The sheriff’s office says Garcia walked two miles to find help. He was flown to a burn center in Salt Lake City, where he was listed in critical condition on Tuesday.

Eugenio Garcia tells the Livingston Enterprise that his brother is in good spirits. He says Edward Garcia helps his family run a salsa business, Montana Mex, in Livingston.

Walla Walla man oldest to climb Kilimanjaro

MOUNTAINEERING — A man from Washington state has set the world record as the oldest person to summit Mount Kilimanjaro on foot, according to a KING 5 TV report.

Richard Byerley, 84, of Walla Walla, summited Kilimajaro with his two grandchildren, Annie, 29, and Bren, 24, just before sunrise on October 6, after a six-day trek on the Machame Route.

Kilimanjaro, elevation 19,340 feet, is in northeastern Tanzania near Kenya.

Byerley didn't suffer any altitude sickness on his journey, but he did say his hands were cold when he reached the summit.

Byerley spends time between Sun Valley and Walla Walla, Wash., where he owns an alfalfa farm. He trained for the climb by hiking mountains in both Washington and Idaho, bicycling, running and occasionally moving 40-foot pipes in the fields on his farm.

Read on for more details from the KING 5 report.

Local falconer’s Audubon program connects hunting, conservation

WILDLIFE — “Falconry and game hunting, a conservation alliance,” is the title of a program to be presented by Spokane falconer Doug Pineo on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

The program is sponsored by the Spokane Audubon’s Society which meets at Riverview Retirement Community, Village Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave. near Upriver Drive.

Pineo's involvement in falconry dates back decades, and he was involved with the movement that brought the peregrine falcon back from the brink of extinction.  He recently retired a shoreline specialist with the Washington Department of Ecology.

Brian O’Keefe details NW steelheading in Spokane program

FLY FISHING – Brian O’Keefe, an Oregon-based outdoor photographer and fly-fishing ace, will present a free program, Northwest Steelheading. Wednesday, 7 p.m., at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy, hosted by the Spokane Fly Fishers.

• O’Keefe will teach a two-hour fishing photography seminar starting at 4 p.m., but class size is limited. Cost: $5.


Steelhead moving as rain cools rivers

FISHING — Rain has cooled water temps in the Snake River system, causing fish to move and expand their range upstream.

Here's the report from Amy Sinclair of Exodus Wilderness Adventures in Riggins:

The fishing report for Riggings, Idaho, iSteelhead Fishing is underway on the Salmon River. Fish are being caught as the season gets started here in the Riggins area. Last weeks rain was both a blessing and a nuisance; the rain brought the river level up, the water clarity down and the water temperature down.

Current water level is 5800 CFS, about 1000 CFS more that last week at this time. Water color is olive green with about 2 feet of visibility and best of all water temperature is dropping fast and as of this morning we are at 51 degrees, about 8-9 degrees cooler than this time last week. That is sure to bring those fish into the Salmon River and start filling all of your favorite holes.

Pikeminnow angler’s earnings DOWN to just $59,034

FISHING – Talk about a down economy:  Even the pikeminnow anglers are seeing their earnings decline.

A Gresham man, Nikolay N. Zaremskiy, is the top earner for 2011 in the northern pikeminnow sport reward program, having caught almost 7,500 fish and cashing them in for $59,034.

While that’s not bad for a six-month season, it pales to his record performance in 2010, when Zaremskiy caught more than 10,000 fish and earned $81,000.

Of course, the bounty-hunting fisherman still has more time. The reward season on the Columbia and Snake rivers lasts through Sunday.

Zaremskiy is no stranger to cashing in on pikeminnows. He set the previous earning record of $58,000 in 2008.

State officials released the list of top 20 earners through Sept. 29.

No. 2 for the 2011 season is David R. Vasilchuk of Vancouver with 6,127 fish and an earnings of $55,598. Vasilchuk has caught 16 tagged fish, which are work $500 each.

After Zaremskiy and Vasilchuk, the earnings drop quickly. No. 3 is Thomas H. Pabst of Oregon City with $35,226. The No. 10 angler, Ralph Fontana of Cascade Locks, has earned $14,654, while No. 20, Russell McKee Sr, of Molaga, Wash., has earned $9,974.

The program pays $4 for the first 100 fish, $5 for fish Nos. 101 through 400 and $8 per fish after 400. It ends for the season on Oct. 16.

So far, 928 anglers have participated this season. Only 79 have reached the $8 per fish level, while 212 have two fish or fewer and 469 have 10 fish or fewer.

Volunteers needed for Sheep Creek Campground project

CAMPING — The Washington Department of Natural Resources and the town of Northport are co-hosting a volunteer work party on Saturday, (Oct. 15)  9 a.m. to 4 p.m., at Sheep Creek Campground near Northport. 

Two years ago, the town of Northport took over managing the campground for DNR. This successful partnership has allowed the campground to remain open during tight economic times and provide recreation access for the public.

The day’s work activities will include installing and upgrading picnic tables, installing an ADA-accessible barbecue, cleaning the viewing deck, maintenance work on fire pits and the group shelter, painting signs and outhouses and disposing of brush.

Volunteers can earn vouchers toward a complimentary Discover Pass.

Contact Lon Emmett, DNR, 509-684-7474, or Northport Mayor Mike Lamb, 509-732-4450,

Wetlands declining, report confirms

CONSERVATION — America's wetlands declined slightly from 2004-2009, underscoring the need for continued conservation and restoration efforts, according to a report issued last week by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

This is merely affirmation of an old story. The federal agency's Status and Trends Wetlands reports from previous decades have documented a continuous albeit diminishing decline in wetlands habitat.

Read on for more details.

A clear vision for the future of paddling

CANOEING — Finally, we're getting transparency in the sports of canoeing and kayaking.

Denver based See Through Canoe offers the clear alternative to your canoeing and kayaking needs with the Transparent Canoe/Kayak.

Comprised of transparent Lexan the Transparent Canoe/Kayak from Denver, Colorado based See Through Canoe is 11 feet long, weighs 40 pounds and can carry two people snuggly.

The manufacturer says the Transparent Canoe uses the same clear polycarbonate used in jet-fighter cockpit canopies and is fastened to a lightweight anodized aluminum frame that helps keep the weight down.

Cost: $1,475 with two double-headed paddles, water bailer, and two polyurethane floatation bags. Bikini-clad model not included.

But you'll have no place to hide in this see-through canoe if you hit a rock and rip a hole in the bottom.

Salmon moving to upper sections of Hanford Reach

SALMON FISHING — Washington Fish and Wildlife Staff staff interviewed 796 anglers in 339 boats with 410 chinook salmon adults, 95 jacks and 1 coho last weekend, according to a report filed today. 

Vernita and the Waluke boat ramps had the majority of the catch.

Effort on the lower river has seen a decline in the past two weeks as fish moved have into the middle and upper sections of the Reach.

South Hill bluff forest thinning started; comments requested

CITY TRAILS — While most people were relaxing or playing on Sunday, two dozen volunteers thinned ponderosa pine trees and trimmed branches on the South Hill bluff in a demonstration project for reducing fire risk.

“The idea is to manage the forest so a fire would be limited to burning grass and brush on the ground rather than blowing up into a crown fire that would destroy lots of trees and put neighborhood homes at risk,” said Erik Sjoquist, WSU-Spokane County Extension forester.

The bluff below High Drive to Hangman Creek has a system of trails prized by hikers and mountain bikers.

The popularity of the trails helped spawn a group called Friends of the Bluffs, which is working on several issues related to the trails, including trail maintenance, weed control and fire safety, not to mention dog-dropping containment.

The group is looking for more volunteers to complete the demo project on Sunday, Oct. 16, starting at 1 p.m.

Comments requested

Before proceeding with more fire safety efforts, the Friends of the Bluffs want High Drive area trail users and neighbors to check out the forest thinning demonstration project below High Drive just west of Manito Boulevard.

Email comments to

For info on becoming involved with Friends of the Bluffs, contact Diana Roberts,

REI grants $20,000 to local outdoor efforts

CONSERVATIONSpokane’s REI store, celebrating its 25th anniversary, has recently awarded grants totaling $20,000 to non-profit groups that will leverage the money with volunteer work at several key area outdoors features in the Spokane area:

Spokane River Forum,$10,000 – for improving the river access at Mirabeau Point for paddlers and rafters and advancing the concept of a Spokane River Water Trail.

Friends of the Centennial Trail, $5,000 – to support the spring Unveil the Trail event that organizes community volunteers to clean and maintain 37 miles of the trail from the stateline to Nine Mile Falls.

Dishman Hills Natural Area Association, $5,000 – to support volunteer projects for stewardship, including the annual service day, trail maintenance, brochure creation and habitat restoration.

Humor: hunter reveals his fall priorities

OUDOORS HUMOR — Four guys have been going to the same deer camp for many years. Two days before the group is to leave, Ron's wife puts her foot down and tells him he isn't going.

Ron's friends are very upset that he can't go, but what can they do?

Two days later, the three get to the camping site — and they find Ron sitting there with a tent set up, firewood gathered and dinner cooking on the fire.

“Dang man, how long you been here, and how did you talk your wife into letting you go?”

“Well, I've been here since yesterday,” Ron explained, popping open a cold one. 

“Yesterday evening, I was sitting in my chair and my wife came up behind me and put her hands over my eyes and said, 'Guess who?' I pulled her hands off, and she was wearing a brand new negligée. 

“She took my hand and pulled me to our bedroom. The room had candles and rose petals all over. On the bed she had handcuffs and ropes! She told me to tie and cuff her to the bed, and I did.

“And then she said, 'Do what ever you want.'

“So, here I am.”

BC’s Elk River continues to be worth the trip

FLY FISHING — Although British Columbia has set extra fees on alien visitors, and even though the stream is sometimes swarming with guided anglers, the trip up to the Fernie area is still a winner, especially this time of year when the fall colors can be stunning.

Here's a trip report from Dwight Tipton of the Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club;

We just returned from the Elk and in all my years of fishing that river I don’t think I’ve ever seen it better. I’d strongly recommend that if you are having even a notion of heading up there, now’s the time to pack your ditty bag and get in a few days fishing before it turns to winter—a dose of which we had during our stay.

Idaho hunters required to stop at check stations

BIG-GAME HUNTING — Good luck to all you hunters heading out Monday for the opening of Idaho's general rifle deer hunting season.

Whether you bag a deer or not, be sure to stop when you come a cross an Idaho Fish and Game Department hunter check station.  Your stop helps them manage wildlife better for all of us.

All hunters and anglers are required to stop at check stations, whether you have any game animals or fish in the vehicle or not. You must stop if going to their hunting or fishing spot or returning home from their hunting or fishing.

Idaho law requires sportsmen stop even if they have been unsuccessful.

Climber goes big, no strings attached, on 60 Minutes

ROCK CLIMBING — Pro climber and soloist Alex Honnold appeared on CBS's 60 Minutes last Sunday — and he scared the crap out of just about everyone who hasn't already voided after seeing his free-climbing exploits in the Banff Mountain Film Festival.

Is he the next big thing in modern climbing or a suicide mission in sticky shoes?

Climbing writer David Roberts addresses that question in this Outside magazine report.

Passions run high at latest Washington wolf plan meeting

ENDANGERED SPECIES —  Passions continued to run high in Washington about the growing wolf population as the state Fish and Wildlife Commission held a special meeting on a proposed wolf management plan Thursday in Olympia.

The commission and state Fish and Wildlife Department officials held the  22nd public meeting about wolf management before a capacity crowd in the large meeting hall from morning until evening, according to a report by Tom Banse of the NW News Network.

The Commission is scheduled to adop a wolf plan in December, although groups called for delays in that decision during Thursday's meeting.

Wildlife biologists have confirmed five wolf packs and that total about 30 wolves in Washington. They are scattered from the North Cascades east to the Selkirk Mountains, with newpacks emerging in the Blue Moutains.

Ski season’s greetings: Colorado resort opening Saturday

SKIING — Wolf Creek Ski Area near Pagosa Springs in southwest Colorado says it plans to open for skiing Saturday and Sunday, after a storm left 3 feet of snow.

Ski area officials will probably decide Saturday whether to keep going daily for the rest of the season.

This is the earliest Wolf Creek has offered skiing.

Loveland was the first ski area to start the season in Colorado last year when it opened for daily operations Oct. 24.

Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Fest starts tonight in Sandpoint

OUTDOOR FILMS — The largest environmental and adventure film festival in North America, is coming to the historic Panida Theatre in Sandpoint tonight and Saturday, sponsored by the Clark Fork-Pend Oreille Conservancy.

The festival’s award-winning environmental and outdoor adventure films were chosen from among the favorites at the annual film festival held in the Sierra Nevada foothills each January.

Event raffle prizes include items from sponsor organizations and a grand prize donated by Boulder Hut Adventures — a trip for two valued at $2,000.

It's a great Canadian mountains getaway, assessed in winter by helicopter… I've been there!  Check out my video of the backcountry skiing ops provided by a Sandpoint family that operates Boulder Hut.

Get tickets in advance online here or at REI Spokane at 1125 N Monroe.

Hunters warned to be prepared for bear encounters

HUNTING — Regardless of what species they're stalking, hunters heading into bear, wolf and cougar country — which it just about everywhere around here — should be prepared to deal with a close encounter.  That means thinking about it before hand and being equipped with pepper spray in many cases.
Wildlife agencies are trying to get the word out on bear awareness as hunters continue to have run-ins.
Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) Bear Management Specialist, Jamie Jonkel, says that the moment hunters start to think about heading afield is also the time to plan on how to react in the case of an encounter with a bear. 
The first thing to consider, Jonkel says, is that the very act of stalking game, such as deer and elk, in the fall increases a hunter’s chance of bumping into bears.
“This is the time of year when bears are out and about in constant search for food before winter, and hunters are being quiet and often travelling in areas with dense cover where bears are feeding and bedding and can be surprised at close range,” Jonkel said. “Harvesting an animal also elevates the risk of drawing in a bear, especially grizzlies, so hunters need to be extra cautious.”
Read on for some good advice to ponder before the next hunt.

When a grizzly steps on your face…

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WILDLIFE WATCHING — Jaime Johnson, a professional photographer from Montana, recently put a video camera on the bank of an Alaska river where brown bears were frequently walking in search of salmon. The result gets my stomp of approval.

Let’s just say the camera got a very, very close-up view of the grizzly. It’s what you would see if a grizzly were about to walk over your face.

Hunting app helps deer hunters keep, share diaries

BIG-GAME HUNTING — A new smartphone app for iphone and Android could be a boon to hunters tracking their hunting success with hunting diaries.

 “Deer Diary, the App for Hunters,” is partnered with a companion website,, which synchronizes information with the app.

“Deer Diary” lets the hunter capture details about a hunt, including weather, photos, notes and, much like Foursquare, allows hunters to “check in” at their favorite tree stand or other hunting spot.

The app travels with the hunter into the field, allowing him or her to access and record information and tap into the shared knowledge of fellow hunting enthusiasts.

Back at camp (or living room), hunters can relive their hunts and learn from past successes and failures, gleaning knowledge and tips from other hunters who have left notes in the app.

“Successful hunters know their surroundings and understand the conditions that make for the best hunts. With ‘Deer Diary,’ it’s easy to record these conditions, see patterns and ultimately become more effective on the hunt,” said the app’s owner and creator, Gus Saucerman.

“Deer Diary” is available now in both the Android App Market and Apple’s App Store.

Lower Granite Dam open for vehicle crossing on Monday

OUTDOOR TRAVEL  — While dams operated by the Corps of Engineers generally are off-limits to vehicle crossings since the 9/11 attacks, Lower Granite  Dam over the Snake River is scheduled to be opened for vehicle traffic Monday as a special Columbus Day treat.

Read on for all the details from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Groups urge wolf delisting in Washington

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Two groups put the pressure on the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department this week by filing a petition urging the state to strip endangered species protections from gray wolves in the eastern one-third of the state.

The petition was filed with the state Fish and Wildlife Department just before today's special commission meeting in Olympia to discuss Washington's proposed wolf management plan.

Read on to see why state livestock growers and one hunting group is not pleased with the way the wolf plan is going.

Click here to see the proposed wolf plan, including recovery objectives that would allow the state to eventually remove wolves from protection lists.  

Helpers sought for tree South Hill bluff tree pruning effort

TRAILS/ENVIRONMENT — The Friends of the High Drive Bluff on Spokane's South Hill are coordinating a tree pruning clinic 1 p.m.-4 p.m. on Sunday (Oct. 9) to help generate more helpers to reduce fire danger on the bluffs and improve thee quality of the bluff trails.

Participants on Sunday will create a fire risk reduction demonstration site.
Anyone interested in joining a team to maintain fuelbreaks along the Bluff trail system is welcome to participate.

Please RSVP by Friday to Erik Sjoquist  of the Spokane County/WSU Extension, phone 477-2175, email

The project will involve physical work on steep slopes.
Meet at the trailhead 20 yards south of the intersection of Bernard and High Drive. Bring water to drink, work gloves and wear sturdy boots. If you have any of the following, please bring them also; pruning saws, loppers, axes, and hard hats.  

Mountain grouse moving to high country

BIRD HUNTING — I've been hiking a lot of miles of trails the past few months and I've clearly seen the progression of dusky grouse into higher elevations.

Males tend to be at higher elevations earlier in the year, while the hens with their broods don't move up until mid September or so. 

Yesterday I hiked (in the rain) on a couple of high mountain ridges in northeastern Washington where I'd seen only a couple of scattered grouse a few weeks ago.  This time I saw two broods of grouse — an adult an 3 and 5 chicks in each group.

The chicks were not full grown. They were about the size of chukars.  I'll give them another week or two before heading out with the shotgun and English setter.

Nevada courts bird hunters to enjoy excellent chukar season

BIRD HUNTING — Looking for a bird-hunting adventure destination this season?   Nevada is putting out the word that it has record-high numbers of chukars in some — not all — portions of the state for a season that runs through Feb. 5.

Read on for the report from the Nevada Division of Wildlife.

Elk on stage at CM Russell Wildlife Refuge

WILDLIFE WATCHING — One of the best wildlife viewing stages anywhere in September and early October is the cottonwood bottom along the elk viewing area in the C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge60 miles north of Lewistown, Mont., (my hometown). 

Even though the elk are in the rut, they know exactly where the elk viewing area boundary is… where archery elk season hunters lurk. Yet the elk come out and put on a show of bugling and mating as if on a stage in front of cars lined up along the dusty refuge road for more than a mile.

Soon the action will disperse, and the show will be over.

Looking up, staying up provided ‘highlight’ to Montana visit

SKYWATCHING — Let's say this photo illustrates a highlight of my recent visit to the C.M. Russell National Wildlife Refuge north of my hometown — Lewistown, Mont:  

After hunting and wildlife viewing, I sat in the grass until after midnight one night last week snapping photos of the Northern Lights over one of the largest intact grassland prairies on earth.

Do you see the Big Dipper?

Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol gearing up for Ski Swap


SKIING — Start taking inventory on what you need to acquire and swap for the ski season: The 47th annual Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol Ski SWAP is set for Oct. 28-30.

The swap is set to expand into another bay at the Spokane Fair and Expo Center to offer more room.

Read on for more details.

Hours, pay not worth the stress, many Montana game wardens say

WILDLIFE ENFORCEMENT — There's nothing lucrative about the life of a Montana game warden, and that's only part of the reason there are job openings.

In the past five years, 24 game wardens in Montana — about a third of the force — have left their jobs, and most said the long hours, relatively low pay and the inability to get away from the job for just a couple of days all played a role in their decision to leave.

See the story by the Helena Independent Record.

Salmon River anglers expecting steelhead surge

STEELHEAD FISHING — The march is on for steelhead making their way up the Snake and then up the Salmon River into the Riggins area.

More than 360,000 steelhead have crossed Bonneville Dam in the lower Columbia.  More than 130,000 of those fish have made it past several dams, gillnets and many hooks to cross up and over Lower Granite Dam on the Snake downstream from Lewiston.

Now the fish are moving up the Clearwater, Snake and Salmon rivers.

Prime steelheading in the Riggins area generally is from mid October until early December, said Amy Sinclair of Exodus Wilderness Adventures

Prime winter steelhead fishing on the Salmon River in the Riggins area is from late January-early February to early March, she said.

 The daily limit is three hatchery steelhead.

Area bird hunting outlook ripe with hope

UPLAND BIRD HUNTING —Hunters chilled at the thought of what the cool, rainy spring was doing to nesting pheasants and quail in June.

 Indeed, the pheasant hatch isn’t anything to crow about, but it’s not as bad as hunters may have feared in some areas.

In Whitman County, the first hatch for the most part was wiped out, said Joey McCanna, WDFW upland bird specialist. “I have heard good reports of re-nest attempts from landowners harvesting wheat,” he said last week.

In the Columbia Basin, wildlife biologists are reporting the best pheasant hatch since 2005, McCanna said. “Hunters will need to concentrate on good cover adjacent to food.”

In the Snake River region of Idaho, Fish and Game Department biologists indicate quail and Hungarian partridge had modest reproductive success and pheasants did better than the did last year, although last year’s hatch was pitiful.

 Idaho partridge populations are down slightly from 2010 and long-term averages. Pheasant numbers are up from last year, but still be low the averages.

Volunteers untrash Spokane River

CONSERVATION — The 8th annual Spokane River Cleanup last weekend was a big success. 

There's no official report yet from the Friends of the Falls regarding the amount of garbage the hundreds of volunteers collected to spiff up the river through Spokane Valley down  to the gorge.  But some trash talk is ciculating.

For example, pictured above are the second-place award winners in the “Most Spokane Piece of Trash” cateogory with their impressive “River-Bogged Phonebooth.” 

The proud garbage collectors —  representing — had to haul the heavy hunk of vandalism litter up a steep bank. began 3 years ago as a “science experiment” in a Gonzaga University entrepreneurship class. With the vision of Josh Neblett, a Gonzaga University graduate of the class of 2008, and the guidance of his ad-junct professor, Tom Simpson, the company has grow to over 40 employees. A large focus has been placed on fostering young, local talent with an average age of 24. Themission of the company from the beginning has been to provide environmentally friendly products, at competitive prices, while giving back to the community. We hope you find these pictures helpful in telling the great story of the Spokane RiverCleanup 2011 and would be honored if you passed our story on to anyone and everyone. 


Bull elk takes heat at Hanford

BIG GAME — We don't think of elk as being creatures game for hot weather, but the elk enjoying the sanctuary of the near-desert conditions on the Handford Nuclear Reservation are doing just fine, thank you.

Erika Holmes, who works at the Hanford Site, snapped this photo of a bull and his harem last week. 
The bull had at least 23 cows in his harem in sight of salmon anglers fishing the Hanford Reach of the Columbia, she said.

Hikers disturb wildlife in parks, study says

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — A study done in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks in Alberta and British Columbia found that even one hiker an hour on trails in those parks sent predators and prey scurrying.

However, elk and other herbivores were not as deterred by hikers as were wolves.

Read the Toronto Globe report.

Time to treat fuel in boats

BOATING — Check with your mechanic, but most are recommending that you treat your boat gas with at least a water remover, says Anton Jones of Darrell and Dad's Family Guide Service at Chelan.

“Especially now when boats are likely to set idle for longer periods of time, it is a good idea,” he said.

“The lower performance that comes with the ethanol added to most gasolines has been responsible for some mechanical issues. It is an especially good idea to fill the tank and treat the fuel if you are putting your boat away for the winter.”

Kokanee rebounding in Lake Pend Oreille

FISHERIES —  Kokanee numbers in Lake Pend Oreille are rebounding, helping placate worries that flooding this spring would put a dent in the coveted game fish's population.

The landlocked salmon is showing the highest spawning numbers since 2004, according to an Idaho Fish and Game Department report summarized by the Associated Press. Current estimates show there are as many as 382,000 spawning kokanee in Lake Pend Oreille tributaries.

Fishing for kokanee once again has moved from a dream to a possibility, department officials said.

The flooding in the 1990s was sudden and intense, while this year's flooding was spread out over weeks.

That likely means the kokanee didn't get flushed out of the lake during spring floods.

“This year's runoff wasn't exceptionally high, but it lasted several weeks, which is a different scenario than the very high-magnitude, but short-duration floods of 1996-97,” said Jim Fredericks, Fish & Game's regional fishery manager.

Idaho's wildlife agency also says its work eradicating lake trout and rainbow trout that prey on kokanee is also helping.

More than 115,000 lake trout, introduced to the lake in 1925, have been removed from the lake through netting and angler incentives between 2006 and 2010. The number of kokanee that spawn has increased annually since predator-removal efforts started.

In 2000, kokanee fishing was closed in the lake as the fish's population dwindled. Since then, the kokanee's numbers have risen.

“If the upward trend we are seeing continues, I'm optimistic that we'll have a real shot at re-opening the kokanee fishery again within the next couple of years,” said Andy Dux, a principal Fish & Game biologist working on the lake.

Newman Lake boat ramp closed for repairs

BOATING — The public boat ramp at Newman Lake will be closed for repairs starting Wednesday (Oct. 5), the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced this week.

The public access remains open, but no boat launching will be possible.

The agency does not yet know how long the closure will continue. 

Newman Lake is open to fishing year-round.

Wenatchee, Icicle and Methow rivers opening for coho fishing

SALMON FISHING — With a strong run of coho moving up the Columbia, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has announced a coho fishing season that starts Wednesday (Oct. 5) on the Wenatchee, Methow and Icicle rivers, expanding fishing opportunities already under way in those waters.

Predicting a strong return of coho to the upper Columbia River system, state fishery managers scheduled coho fisheries through Oct. 31 on all three rivers.

Read on for the details.

Latest salmon, steelhead fishing reports

FISHING — Here are the latest salmon and steelhead reports from around the region:

Yakima River Fall Salmon Fishery Report Sept. 26 - Oct. 2 (From WDFW):

Angler effort and harvest for fall Chinook and coho continues to rise on the lower Yakima River. This past week there were an estimated 887 angler trips on the Yakima River for salmon.  WDFW staff sampled 147 anglers with 11 adult Chinook, 5 jacks, and 1 coho.  Anglers averaged one Chinook for 25 hours of fishing.  Estimated harvest for the week was 91 adult Chinook, 50 jacks, and 8 coho.  For the season an estimated 142 adult Chinook, 115 chinook jacks, and 8 coho have been harvested. 

Hanford Reach Sport Fishery Summary Oct. 2 (WDFW):

Staff interviewed 479 boats last week with 513 adult Chinook, 126 jacks, and 2 coho.  Anglers averaged slightly better than one salmon per boat. An estimated 2,608 adult Chinook, 641 jacks, and 5 coho were harvested this past week.  There were an estimated 6,070 angler trips this past week.  This past week was likely a record for both total angler trips and Chinook caught in a week for the Hanford Reach area.  For the season, 5,705 adult Chinook, 1,259 jacks, and 37 coho have been harvested.

On September 30, the in-season return estimate for the Hanford Reach was updated. The  adult return estimate is now predicted to be 64,361 adult Chinook (not including hatchery returns).  The in-season estimate dropped 6,000 adult Chinook from the previous estimate (9/23) but WDFW is still predicting a strong return.

Methow River steelhead  (from Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service):

Fly fishing is king, but jig and bobber guys can do well too.  If you’re fly fishing, drift a glo bug under a strike indicator.  If you’re a “swinger”, throw big wooly buggers and leeches.  Jig and bobber guys can choose between Mack’s Lures Glo-Getter jigs or Worden Lures Maxi Jigs.  Try the brightest colors you can get.  Fish the same jig and slip bobber combos in the mainstem of the Columbia, but bait them with a chunk of shrimp cured with Pautzke’s Fire Cure.  Remember wild steelhead release rules are in effect.  Pinch those barbs. 

Upper Columbia salmon (from Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service): 

It's the tail end of the salmon season above Brewster.  Fish Super Baits and Plug Cut Super Baits behind big rotating flashers until the season ends Oct. 15.  The fish are getting uglier, but they are big and pull hard.  An extra bonus is their meat is still good. 

Corps cutting back on Dworshak Reservoir services

CAMPING — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will rely largely on volunteers and dramatically reduce services to keep many of its recreation sites open, including Dent Acres Campground on Dworshak Reservoir.

The agency’s Walla Walla District is facing a 9 percent cut in its recreation budget and will close some of its sites, convert others to day use only and eliminate services like trash collection and bathroom cleaning, according to a report by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

The money-saving measures won’t affect any of the agency’s sites along the Snake River in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley. But other sites on the lower Snake River and on Dworshak Reservoir will feel the pinch.

Read on for more of Barker's story.

Discover Pass can be purchased when renewing vehicle license tabs

STATE LANDS — Drivers have a new option for buying the $30 annual Discover Pass required for acces to all state parks and most state lands.  The Department of Licensing is authorized to accept payment of the Discover Pass when renewing vehicle license tabs.

The pass is available for purchase by those with a vehicle registration expiration date on or after Oct. 1, 2011.

The Discover Pass was created by the 2011 Legislature. Since spring, the pass has been required, with some exceptions, for vehicles entering parks or recreation lands managed by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources.

Vehicle owners may purchase the pass at DOL vehicle licensing offices or when renewing tabs online.

Buyers of the pass through the DOL process receive their passes in the mail from WDFW within 10 business days of renewal and purchase.

Transaction and dealer fees ($5) are not charged for annual passes purchased directly from DOL.  However, if you buy the pass from a hunting and fishing license vendor, the fees are charged.

The Discover Pass also can be purchased in person from nearly 600 vendors across the state, by telephone (866-320-9933) or online.

In addition, the Discover Pass can be purchased from state parks (for $30) when staff is available.


Climber’s skills help him avoid aggressive grizzly

WILDLIFE ENCOUNTERS — “A bear coming at you is way more scary than an avalanche, thunderstorms, crevasses,” said Barry Blanchard, a top Canadian alpinist noted for pushing the standards of highly technical, high-risk alpine climbing in the Canadian Rockies and the Himalayas.

But last week near Lake Louise, Alberta, Blanchard had to climb very high in a tree to avoid a grizzly that never heard the rule that black bears climb trees but grizzlies don't.

Read the story in the Calgary Herald.

Each to his own when it comes to kid fishing

FISHING WITH KIDS — Take it from a pro who sees a lot of families fishing:

“Tailor your young children’s fishing activities to their interest,” said Anton Jones of Darrell and Dad's Family Guide Service out of Chelan. “I’ve got grandkids all over the spectrum. Some like to catch fish. Some like to hook the fish and hand it off. Others just like to play in the guts when everybody else catches the fish…I didn’t say they were normal.”

Trail of the Coeur d’Alenes open

A map of the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes that ran in the Sunday paper was inaccurate. Here's the corrected version. Read the story here.

Idaho steelheading still a marvel to behold

STEELHEAD FISHING — A couple of tidbits to ponder:

  • Idaho's state record steelhead was 30 pounds, 2 ounces and was caught in the Clearwater River in 1973.
  • Idaho is the only inland Western state with ocean-run salmon and steelhead.

It’s write time for young authors with outdoor theme

It's time for high schoolers to begin thinking about fame, fortune and the great outdoors.

The Spokesman-Review once again is joining the Outdoor Writers Association of America in sponsoring a contest for youth outdoor writing.

The contest is open to high school students from the newspaper's circulation area.

Entries must be on the general topic of “outdoors.” This includes subjects such as hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, boating, nature and conservation. Any literary style - including humor, fiction, letters or poetry - is acceptable.

Other contest rules are as follows:
  • Contestants must be in grades 9-12 and from the newspaper circulation area in Eastern Washington or North Idaho.
  • Stories must be original and may be no longer than 1,000 words.
  • Entries should include the writer's name, school, grade, home address and telephone.
  • Stories should be typed.
  • Entries must be received by 5 p.m. Nov. 18.
  • Limit is one entry per student.

E-mail entries (preferred) to Receipt of all e-mail entries will be acknowledged.

Entries also can be mailed or delivered to Youth Outdoor Writing Contest, Sports Department, The Spokesman-Review, 999 W. Riverside, Spokane 99201.

Newspaper writers and editors will pick the best entries and award one $50 first-place prize and at least two $30 runner-up prizes.
The winning entries will be published in the Sunday Outdoors section and entered in the national OWAA Scholastic Writing Contest.

The national contest offers awards of up to $200 for the best outdoors articles published by high school students in 2010.
In 25 years, 39 finalists from The Spokesman-Review contest have won national awards.

Cold water a major safety factor for waterfowlers

WATERFOWLING — Water does not have to be near freezing to kill, it only has to be colder than a person to cause potentially fatal hypothermia.

With the waterfowl seasons about to open, Idaho Fish and game officials are urging waterfowl hunters who hunt from boats are to wear life jackets and take necessary safety precautions when on the water.

Nationwide last year, 15 hunters lost their lives in boating accidents. Eleven victims drowned because they were not wearing life jackets, the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation reports. Overloaded boats and failure to wear life jackets are leading reasons Idaho typically loses a couple of waterfowl hunters every year.

Cold water wicks body heat 25 times faster than air at that same temperature. A hunter who falls in has only a few minutes before the cold renders numb numb and unable to swim.

Most boats float even when capsized or swamped, so get in or on the boat to get as far out of the water as possible. Wearing a life vest is a must. It will help preserve body heat and keeps even an unconscious person stay afloat. Get to shelter, change into dry clothing and warm up slowly.

Read on for more timely tips:

Gutsy griz wrangler and horse on Letterman Show Oct. 11

GREAT OUTDOOR STORIES — Here's latest update from Erin Bolster, the wrangler who rode her horse to the rescue of a boy being charged by a grizzly bear:  

The David Letterman Show has postponed her appearance until Oct. 11 so they can bring her hero-horse, Tonk, to New York for the program.  
Bolster has become a national hero, too, after the S-R revealed the story of how she and her horse went head to head with the big bear on July 30 near Glacier Park.
 Here's the scoop in Erin's words.

I just wanted to let you know, Letterman has been moved to the 11th. They decided they really wanted Tonk out there and they want to make him and me a bigger feature. So, in order to allow Tonk a more relaxed 5-day trip to NYC (in his own climate controlled van no less) and to schedule me on a date when they could allot me two segments, the producer set us to film and air on Oct. 11th. I'm quite excited and I think Tonk will be a real treat on camera.

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About this blog

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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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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