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Outdoors blog

Archive for November 2012

Mt. Spokane downhill ski area expansion moves forward

WINTER SPORTS — Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park has moved up another administrative step toward developing a new ski lift and seven new ski runs on the west side of the mountain, on an 850-acre area known as the Potential Alpine Ski Expansion Area (PASEA).

The Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission has signed an amendment to the existing concession lease with Mt. Spokane 2000, allowing the non-profit concessionaire to proceed with the permitting process toward ski area expansion.

The newly signed amendment is on condition that the ski concessionaire provide plans for timber harvest and vegetation management and accommodate a State Parks archaeological survey.

The project then moves to the Spokane County permitting process, subject to review under the Land Use Petition Act. All necessary permits need to be obtained before actual work begins, possibly as early as late winter.

The proposal was submitted in 2010, and the Commission considered technical data and public comment.

In May 2011, the Commission allowed for potential expansion pending completion of environmental review under the State Environmental Policy Act.

See background information related to the land-classification decision.

See the lease amendment signed this week, which includes a plan of development for the ski area expansion.

See background information on Mount Spokane State Park planning.

Trapping banned in popular national forest area in Montana

PUBLIC LANDS — Traditional uses can be overpowered by heavy public use of popular public lands.

Agreement puts trapping off-limits in area of Montana national forest

The Bass Creek Recreation Area in the Bitterroot National Forest gets the second highest number of visitors in the forest in Montana each year. On Thursday, the 1,600-acre recreation area was officially declared a trapping-free zone.  — Ravalli Republic

Public should be loud in opposition to silencers on guns

HUNTING — Wyoming lawmakers will decide in coming months whether to follow a growing national trend and allow the use of silencers on hunting guns — a practice already permitted in 39 states.

See today's story here.

The law is being promoted by companies that make the silencers, and as you'd expect, they say there's no reason for a ban on silencers.

I beg to differ.

I've read and written hundreds of stories about poaching. A common thread in the successful prosecution of those criminals is that nearby landowners or witnesses were alerted to the illegal activity by hearing the report of the firearms. 

The story of a dog killed near Newman Lake recently help's illustrate the point.

 The public cannot continue giving poachers the edge on law enforcement and expect officers to hold the tide in the favor of wildlife.

Silencers are unnecessary for hunters, but for poachers, they're a dream come true.

Upper Columbia steelhead, whitefish season close Saturday

FISHING — Steelhead fisheries on the upper Columbia River will close one hour after sunset on Saturday (Dec. 1) from Wells Dam to the Highway 173 bridge at Brewster and on the Wenatchee, Icicle, Entiat, and Methow rivers.

Several whitefish fisheries scheduled to open that day will also close at sunset Dec. 1, including those on the Wenatchee and Entiat rivers, as well as on the Methow River downstream of the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop.

Jeff Korth, Regional Fish Manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said the closures are necessary to keep impacts on wild steelhead within limits established under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The closures will not, however, affect steelhead or whitefish seasons on the mainstem Columbia River from Rock Island Dam to Wells Dam, or from the Highway 173 Bridge in Brewster to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam. Those fisheries, plus steelhead and whitefish seasons on the Okanogan and Similkameen rivers, will remain open until further notice under previously published rules.

Read on for more details.

Cost of boots could take a hike under tax proposals

Outdoor enthusiasts may see footwear prices jump 30 percent

Unless Congress can negotiate with the Obama administration's opposition to outdoor industry duty suspension bills, the cost of footgear for hiking, biking and other outdoor activities that are manufactured overseas will increase prices nearly 38 percent, according to Outdoor Industry Association President Frank Hugelmeyer.

—Boulder Daily Camera;Nov. 29
  

Electronic decoy setups can rival Disneyland

WATERFOWLING — How crazy could it get if Washington had allowed electronic waterfowl decoys?

Check out this video.

Snow bikers get pass to ride Methow ski trails

WINTER SPORTS — The  Methow Valley Sport Trails Association is opening portions of its 120-mile groomed nordic trail system to bicycles this year.

 Skiers headed out on a few of the nationally celebrated nordic trails that had enough snow for grooming this week.

When more snow falls, several trails will be opened to “fat bike” enthusiasts who rely on mountain bikes with oversized low-pressure tires to keep from sinking into the snow and offer more traction.

See a promotional video for snow biking.

 “We are piloting fat biking with our eyes and ears wide open,” said James DeSalvo, MVSTA executive director. 

“We believe we can manage fat biking use so that it has no greater impact to our trail platform than that of our traditional skiing public,” he said, adding that feedback would guide the future of the program.

Also new this year on MVSTA trails:

  • Youths 17 and younger ski free.
  • A $5 daily pass is required for skiing with dogs on trails that are open for skijoring.

Fat bikes are available for rent at Methow Cycle and Sport in Winthrop.  Rack adaptors are available for customers so they can transport rental fat bikes to the riding area.

Fat bike demo days are scheduled in the Methow Valley Dec. 16 and Jan. 13.

Click here for info on these and other Methow Valley events.

Click here for the MVSTA grooming report.

Read on for the guidelines MVSTA has established for snow biking on the trail system:

Rabbits, bears, cougars must be well-cooked, too

HUNTING — While we're on the subject of parasites and other buggers in the meat of the fish and game sportsmen might bring home from the field, here are a couple of subjects I did not cover in today's outdoors column:

Rabbits should be well-cooked before consumption to avoid tularemia. See details.

Bear and cougar meat should be well-cooked before consumption to avoid trichinosis. See details.

Another snowy owl models for birdwatchers

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Here's the latest snowy owl sighting from Lincoln County:

At 3:09 p.m. Wednesday for about 30 minutes we had very close-up eye level views of a Snowy Owl sitting on a wooden fence post approximately 1.1 miles west of Hwy. 231 on the south side of Detour Rd. in Lincoln County. 

Marlene & Bob Cashen

Video: Officer frees bull moose tangled in swing

WILDLIFE — A moose was freed from a strange backyard entanglement this summer thanks to a brave Utah deputy and a pair of cutters.

Maybe you read the story about the bold and unusual rescue.

But the video above offers a clearer image. 

Anyone who's tried to handle deer, elk or moose for research or whatever can tell you that one lightning-fast kick can cause serious damage.

Good work, officer. 

Ospreys don’t stop fishing after leaving for winter

WILDLIFE WATCHING — While bald eagles have move into the Lake Coeur d'Alene area for a winter feast of kokanee, the ospreys that put on a fishing show all summer long in the area left the area by early November and are migrating to warmer climates.

Last winter during a visit to Mexico, I observed dozens of osprey perched near a village on the Pacific Ocean side of Baja.  Indeed, they find as much bounty in saltwater as they do in Inland Northwest waters.

The video above shows detailed and instructive footage of ospreys fishing, including the underwater sequence of an osprey taking a flounder.

Ospreys normally begin returning to the Inland Northwest in late March.

See eBird data for Idaho for Osprey.

See eBird data for Washington for Osprey.

(“WA data are probably biased toward the west side of the state,” says INW birder Charles Swift.) 

WHERE DO OSPREYS GO?

Here's a blurb from Out & About on the S-R Outdoors page, Feb. 13, 2005:
 
COEUR D'ALENE OSPREY IN CUBA
 
An osprey hatched along the lower Coeur d'Alene River is basking in the tropical warmth of Cuba this winter.
 
The osprey is one of 20 hatchlings that were captured last summer in North Idaho so they could be introduced to South Dakota. Wayne Melquist, a North Idaho wildlife biologist and osprey expert, attached GPS devices to four of the 20 birds before they were put taken out of state as part of a migration research project.
 
The birds were put in man-made nests, called hack boxes, and fed until they fledged on their own.
 
“These birds didn't have any parents to tell them where to go for the winter, but that's true no matter what, since the parents naturally leave for the winter before their young do,” Melquist said.
 
Of the four chicks with transmitters, one is in the New Oreleans area and one got to the coast and then made a beeline for Cuba. Melquist is not sure at this point whether the other two are alive.

Parasites are natural in ducks, fish; but they’re still nasty

HUNTING/FISHING — My outdoors column this week discusses some of the disturbing parasites waterfowl hunters and anglers have discovered in the ducks and fish they've harvested in the Inland Northwest.

They're natural; been around for a long time, and in most cases the game and fish are still safe to eat — as far as we know — as long as you cook the meat to at least 180 degrees.

But would I eat visibly parasitized meat?  What do you think?

  • Waterfowlers: The photo above shows a mallard infested with the sarcocystis parasite, better known as “rice breast.” 
  • Fishermen: Click on the document attached to this blog post to see the pamphlet “Common Parasites and Diseases in Washington Fish,” prepared by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
  • Hunters note that the meat of rabbits, bears and cougars also must be thoroughly cooked to prevent exposure to serious diseases: tularemia and trichinosis.

Documents:

Foggy memories of a pheasant hunt

HUNTING — If you were running away from your troubles, the Palouse was a good place to be pheasant hunting on Tuesday. Visibilty was minimal.  A good place to hide.

Hunting partner Torsten Kjellstrand caught a photo of me (photo above) through the fog cruising the edge of a wheat field trying to catch up to our dogs.

Unlike planes at the Spokane airport, pheasants have no trouble taking off in the fog, but we're using the visibilty issues and lack of instruments for our limited success in getting many roosters to “land” for our dogs to retrieve.

Sportsmen’s Act failure pegged to overspending

HUNTING — More details on the U.S. Senate vote this week turning down the Sportsmen's Act:

Alabama senator: Sportsmen's bill exceeded spending limits

The failure of the U.S. Senate to pass the Sportsmen's Act of 2012, sponsored by Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, came as a surprise to many who believed the measures contained in the bill enjoyed wide-ranging public support, but Alabama Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions said the bill exceeded spending limits passed by the Senate in 2011 to address federal debt, and for that reason alone, the bill failed.

Great Falls Tribune

See stories on the optimism the act would pass a day before the Monday vote.

See skepticism about the act on other issues posted last summer.

National symbols put on show for veterans at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The bald eagles didn't disappoint the two boat cruises full of dedicated veterans and active military and their families out on Lake Coeur d'Alene on Saturday.

Continue reading for the story from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Snowy owls showing up high and low

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Reports of snowy owl sightings have been coming in from all over.  Snowshoers reported two of the arctic migrants making a brief pit stop on the towers on top of Mount Spokane.

Another observer found one hanging out at Reardan Ponds at the town of Reardan.

The Mount Spokane High School bird is hanging around the school long enough to letter in some sport.

They've been seen locally from Lincoln County to the Rathdrum Prairie.  

Feds back off big time on caribou habitat protections

ENDANGERED SPECIES — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has downsized its recommendation by more than 10 times for woodland caribou critical habitat in the Sellkirk Mountains. In a country accustomed to supersizing everything, this is a notable example of supershrink.

See story.

The map above shows the orginal proposal.

The final critical habitat designation is posted here.

See documents involved in this final designation here.

The announcement came Tuesday, just days after Bonner County filed a lawsuit challenging legal protections for caribou, but FWS officials say there was no connection.

Idaho's Congressional delegation lauded the federal agency's new light-size critical habitat designation.

The designation will be enacted on Jan. 30.

INFO: Go to the Federal eRulemaking Portal:  In the Keyword box, enter Docket No. [FWS–R1-ES-2011-0096]. In the Search panel on the left side of the screen, under the Document Type heading, click on the Proposed Rules link to locate this document. You may submit a comment by clicking on “Send a Comment or Submission.”

Meantime, the Idaho Conservation League offers points to ponder about this dubious decision and the precarious position it presents for this endangered species. 

Click “continue reading: to see the points:

Bald eagle numbers increasing at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The big start the annual bald eagle gathering got at Lake Coeur d'Alene last week — reported in this detailed blog post — took a big leap in the past seven days, according to the weekly count conducted today by Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist.

Hugo counted 88 adult bald eagles and 12 juveniles for a total of 100 eagles, up from 64 counted last week.

That compares with 76 eagles (63 adults and 13 juveniles) counted on Nov. 27, 2011.
 
The eagles return to the Wolf Lodge Bay area of the lake each year from November into January to feast on spawning kokanee.
 
Hugo said she found only one eagle on Higgens Point,” but there were 14 along the road between Boothe Park and Higgens Point,” she said, noting that 19 eagles were along Mineral Ridge and 32 across the Lake on the south shoreline. Beauty Bay and Beauty Creek had 21.
 
A record 273 bald eagles was counted at Lake Coeur d'Alene on Dec. 29, 2011.

Limits on lower Columbia commercial fishing proposed; comments sought

FISHING — A proposed plan to restructure salmon and sturgeon fisheries on the lower Columbia River is available for review on the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s website.

The recommendations, posted today, were developed by a work group of representatives from Washington and Oregon assembled in September at the request of Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber. The proposals have been forwarded the the Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife commissions.

Key provisions of the proposed plan, “Management Strategies for Columbia River Recreational and Commercial Fisheries: 2013 and Beyond,” listed by the WDFW include:

  • Prioritizing the recreational fisheries in the mainstem Columbia River and commercial fisheries in off-channel areas.
  • Transitioning commercial fisheries remaining in the mainstem to alternative gear, such as beach and purse seines.
  • Phasing out the use of gillnets by non-tribal fishers in the mainstem by 2017, while maintaining the economic viability of the commercial fishery during and after the transition.
  • Shifting a greater portion of current hatchery salmon releases to off-channel areas, and exploring options for expanding those areas for commercial fisheries.
  • Gradually increasing the catch share of salmon for sport fisheries in the mainstem by 2017, including 80 percent for spring chinook and 100 percent for summer chinook.
  • Requiring sport anglers fishing for salmon and steelhead in the mainstem Columbia River and its tributaries to use barbless hooks beginning 2013.
  • Considering catch-and-release only recreational fisheries for white sturgeon in the lower river, Washington’s coast and Puget Sound, to protect lower Columbia River-origin white sturgeon. Closing non-tribal commercial fisheries for white sturgeon in the lower river and coast also would be considered as part of this effort.
  • Reviewing the plan during the transition to ensure objectives are being met. If necessary, changes will be made to meet the established objectives.

The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to accept public comments on the recommendations at its Dec. 14-15 meeting in Olympia. An agenda for that meeting, when established, will be posted here.

Oregon's Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to consider the proposal Dec. 7. 

Kootenai County birders set Big Year record: 208 species

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A bird that migrated all the way south from the arctic helped Kootenai County birders break a record on Monday.

Coeur d'Alene Audubon Society members working on the annjual Big Year challenge for Kootenai County spotted a snowy owl — the 208th bird species verified in the county since Jan. 1.

The previous record was 207 species set in 2004, said Shirley Sturts, count coordinator.

Prompted by an unverified report of a snowy owl at Tubbs Hill earlier in November, Sturts joined Ed and Kris Buchler to scope out Rathdrum Prairie on Monday.

“We found an adult sitting on top of irrigation sprinklers on Huetter Ave north of Wyoming Ave.,” Sturts said.

“To get there go west from Highway 95 on Hayden Ave. to Huetter Ave. or east from Highway 41 on Hayden Ave. to Huetter Ave. Then turn north on Huetter, crossing over Wyoming. The irrigation sprinklers are in a field on the east side of Huetter, a short distance north of Wyoming Ave. Wyoming Ave. (running east/west) is on both sides of the airport. The Snowy Owl was west of the airport. Huetter runs north/south.

Grant County update“Matt Yawney of Ephrata, doing a county Big Year, has found 235 species in Grant County so far this year!” says Inland NW birder Charles Swift.

Boy Scouts get high adventure base at Montana ranch

OUTDOOR SPORTS —  A new partnership between the Boy Scouts of America and the Missoula-based Boone and Crockett Club could make Montana a premier destination for scouts from across the nation.

The Montana Council of Boy Scouts is assuming operation of a “high adventure base” at the Club’s 6,300-acre Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch near Choteau, Mont. The ranch adjoins the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area and serves as the center of summertime scouting activities such as trekking, backpacking, mountain climbing, shooting, wildlife watching and more.

Previously, Boone and Crockett managed the program in conjunction with the council.

The most noticeable difference in the new management is the council’s goal of better incorporating the ranch into a larger plan to draw even more scouts to “The Last Best Place.”

“The Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Ranch is one of only two nationally certified high adventure bases in the entire Northwest (the other is in Colorado). We want to make Montana one of the premier destinations for scout troops from all over the country,” said Chuck Eubank, Montana Council president.

Gordon Rubard, executive director of the Montana Council said, “There aren’t too many councils anywhere in the country operating their own high adventure base and associated programs, especially at a place where you can hike right off a private ranch and into one of the most rugged wildernesses anywhere. It’s a beautiful, special, interesting place.”

Another important difference in the new management of the high adventure base is a more streamlined process to get Boy Scouts on site.

Read on for more details, and info on the background of the Theodore Roosevelt ranch.

Elk hunter kills charging grizzly bear on a Thanksgiving to remember

Elk hunter in Wyoming national park kills charging grizzly bear

In what is being categorized as a first, elk hunters shot and killed a charging grizzly bear in Grand Teton National Park on Thanksgiving morning, according to the Jackson Hole Daily.

Sportsmen’s Act likely to pass; some groups unhappy

 Some components of 'Sportsmen's Act' concern environmental groups

Today, the U.S. Senate will vote on, and likely pass, Montana U.S. Sen. Jon Tester's “Sportsmen's Act of 2012,” a grab bag of bills dealing with hunting, fishing, conservation and public access measures, but environmental groups said there are problems with some of the measures, including one that would preclude the EPA from banning the use of lead in ammunition.

See stories:

Missoulian, Nov. 24, 2012

Washington Post, Nov. 25, 2012

Snake Pit owner, Joe Peak, dies

RIVERS — Joe Peak, owner of the Enaville Resort, a.k.a. the Snake Pit, on the North Fork Coeur d'Alene River, has died at 66.

No sign of wolves in former Wedge Pack area

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Washington Fish and Wildlife police officer Don Weatherman and biologist Jay Shepherd patrolled the “Wedge” area south of the U.S. - Canada border and between the Kettle and Columbia rivers last week  to look for wolf activity in the fresh snow. 

Report: Nothing detected.

The Wedge Pack was eliminated this fall after the wolves had been attacking cattle. 

WDFW officials expect wolves from Canada to move back into the area eventually.

How hunters wear out their welcome, Part 1

 

HUNTING — Last week my outdoors column pointed out the benefits and responsibilities of getting permission to hunt on private land.

A few days later, I noticed this report from the area Fish and Wildlife Police weekly activity summary. In case you don't get the point, most landowners frown on game hogs and illegal hunting activity even if they initially were generous enough to hunt on their land.

From Region 1 wildlife enforcement Capt. Dan Rahn:

 Officer Spurbeck received a report of three bucks that were shot legally but only the back-straps were removed from the carcasses.  Officer Spurbeck met with the reporting party who showed Officer Spurbeck the three carcasses.  The reporting party gave Officer Spurbeck the names of the people who were hunting on the reporting parties land with permission.  Officer Spurbeck contacted Officer Leonetti to interview the subjects in Pierce County. 

Whitetails mark holiday with Thanksgiving courtship

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Here's a rut report from eagle-eye Curlew resident Foster Fanning to go with his photo, above:

Pursuing passions in the wild…

Had a unique opportunity to watch a whitetail stag in courtship with a young doe Friday. A ruckus in the cottonwood grove across the Kettle River from my home caught our attention. Three whitetail deer were running, the does flashing the ‘danger’ signal they are named for. Watching for a moment we sorted out that a large four-point male was in pursuit of one of the young does.

They had dashed down off the river bank, splashing through the shallows and across the gavel bar. The doe managed to double back and before the buck realized and changed direction she had again jumped off the river bank and made her way under a hanging rootwad and rapidly dropped to the ground and went completely still and silent. The buck caught her scent and doubled back himself but ended up momentarily losing track of the subject of his lust. He walked the riverbank sniffing the air.

About that time I had set up camera and tripod in my yard across the river. The buck as well as pursued doe, now in hiding, took note of me. My presence wasn’t enough to throw him off the chase, but things slowed quite a bit.

I caught this image of the courtship, showing part of the story; the buck in pursuit, the doe in hiding and the proximity of their courtship. End of the story, as far as we could see was the doe springing to her feet and fleeing into the brush, almost tempting the buck with how close she passed to him. Of course, he took off in hot pursuit.

It will give me a pause to wonder when I view next year’s spotted fawns if maybe, just maybe…

Snowy owl hanging out near Mt. Spokane High School

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Local birders have been watching a snowy owl for the past few days in the Spokane Valley. After a long winter migration from the arctic, it's taken a shine to the Mt. Spokane High School area.

“The Snowy Owl on Mt. Spokane Rd continues to feed successfully in the field across from Mt. Spokane High School,” Terry Little said after his Friday outing, noting that the owl perched once on the school. “It is also beginning to perch atop a small silver barn behind the house across from the school.”

On Saturday, Ron Dexter said the snowy owl was still hunting from the Highway 206 light and power poles right in front of the High School. “It appears to be a juvenile female—heavily barred on wings and front,” he said. “It is not disturbed by auto traffic. It is hunting a CRP parcel on the south side of the road.”

  

Winners named in Clearwater Snake Steelhead Derby

FISHING — According to unofficial results released Saturday (Nov. 24), a Clarkston man won the $2,000 grand prize at the the annual Kendall Subaru Clearwater Snake Steelhead Derby that's been held Nov. 17-24 based out of Lewiston and Clarkston.

But perennial prize winner Robert Bass of Deer Park once again was a top money winner, according to the preliminary results from the  Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce.

John White of Clarkston caught a  20.07-pound steelhead on Day 2 of the derby to claim the overall winner title. The fish topped a total of 245 steelhead weighed in during the eight-day event.

Bass  caught the second-largest overall steelhead — 18.6 pounds — on Day 1 of the derby, then another 18-plus-pounder to win the daily prize for Day 3 and a 14.8-pounder to with the Day 5 daily prize.

Fishing and fishing conditions deteriorated during a week of storms and participation fell off some during the big holiday weekend.  The number of fish weighed in steadily declined during the wee with a high of 65 fison on Day one to a low of nine fish on Saturday, the last day.

As I noted in a pre-event story, the derby was extended include the Thanksgiving holiday this year as well as being expanded to include Washington waters.

 

Giving thanks for wild turkeys

WILDLIFE — Wild turkeys adapted vigorously to introduction efforts throughout Idaho and much of Washington in the 1980s.  They're interesting, fun to hunt and delicious.  They're also fun to watch, as you can see in this short video from Idaho Fish and Game.

Hunters use muscle power to get out their game

HUNTING — Three of my friends this season showed how muscle power can be a workable alternative to horsepower when it's time to pack out big game from the  mountains. 

  • Click continue reading to check out all three photos:

Kyle Hanson and his father, Dan, use a canoe to paddle out a whitetail buck they bagged along a northeastern Washington stream.

Jim Kujala uses a game cart to help me haul out the elk I shot in early November in the Blue Mountains. We boned out the meat and loaded it into four bags along with the hide, proof of sex and spike antlers. We pulled the cart briefly cross-country to closed logging roads for two miles out to a main road.

Pat Behm has a new twist on a “bicycle rack” as he pedals out of the mountains on his  mountain bike.  Behm and his hunting partner, John Karpenko, boned out the meat, stuffed it into their packs and carried it all out down a gated road to a main road.

“The hunting area was open to all, you just have to work a little smarter to get there,” Karpenko said.

Talking wild turkey: snoods, wattles and the difference between white and dark meat

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The wild turkey is nothing like the fat, flightless Butterball you might be roasting today for Thanksgiving dinner.

Thank God.

The wild turkey is a fascinating survivor and a challenging quarry for hunters. It can run like the wind and fly with shocking power and speed. 

While it's delicious on the dinner table, it's a lean machine that must be prepared accordingly.

Get details about wild turkeys, including defininitions of snoods, wattles and the reason a turkey has white and dark meat on the eNature blog.

Schweitzer Mountain to open lifts Saturday

WINTER SPORTS — Schweitzer Mountain Resort above Sandpoint announced today that it will open two chairlifts for skiing this weekend.

The Basin Express and Musical Chairs lifts will be open Saturday and Sunday. The resort will close during the week, then may reopen next Friday if weather cooperates, the resort said in a news release.

The lifts will operate from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. both days. Lift ticket prices will be reduced to $40; children 6 and under will ski free. In addition, a lift ticket just for the Musical Chairs lift is available for $25.

The ski resort has 44 inches of snow and “forecasts before opening day are looking good for additional snowfall,” the release said.

On-mountain parking is free this weekend.

Info:  (208) 263-9562.

Silver Mountain Resort will be opening it's gondola Friday and Saturday for scenic rides and snowplay, but the runs are not year ready for skiing.

South Fork Salmon River targeted for gold mining


RIVERS — The Idaho Conservation League has petitioned the U.S. Forest Service, asking the agency to reconsider allowing more gold exploration near the headwaters of the South Fork of the Salmon River.

See the story:

Idaho group asks USFS to reconsider gold mining near Salmon River

Idaho Statesman (AP); Nov. 21

Proposed Jumbo Glacier ski resort wins another round

MOUNTAINS — The controversial proposal to build a massive ski resort in the Purcell Mountains up from Invermere, British Columbia, has gained another official step toward development.

See the CBC NEWS story.

This follows the approval the BC government gave the resort in March, as I covered in this post.

Divers enjoy CdA bald eagle attraction from down under

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Responding to my blog post and today's news story about the big start to the annual bald eagle congregation at Lake Coeur d'Alene, a member of Inland Northwest Divers said most visitors see only half the show.

Scuba divers love this annual event! We dive below the water to see the kokanee salmon below, so we see the action both above and below the water!

The photo above is one of several the divers have collected this year of the spawning kokanee that attract the eagles that attract thousands of visitors to the spectacle.  See  more photos on the group's Facebook  page.

Can felons hunt with archery gear?

HUNTING —  Idaho Fish and Game answers a question that's probably important to an share of my readers, the proportion of which we will keep to ourselves:

Ask Fish and Game: Archery for Felons?

Q.      Can a felon hunt with a bow in Idaho?

A.      It depends on the felony. Under Idaho law, anyone convicted of any of  36 felonies may not own, use or carry a firearm, which the law defines as “any weapon from which a shot, projectile or other object may be discharged by force of combustion, explosive, gas and/or mechanical means, whether operable or inoperable.” That would include a bow (and muzzleloader equipment).

The right can under some circumstances be restored, unless the crime was murder in the first or second degree, or if conviction included the use of a firearm in the commission of any the listed felonies.

(For a list of felonies see Idaho Code Title 18, Chapter 3, section 18-310.)

Bald eagles show up for annual congregation at Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING —  Wildlife biologist Carrie Hugo counted 64 soggy bald eagles today in the Wolf Lodge Bay area of Lake Coeur d'Alene.

Bald eagles from around the region congregate in the bay in November through December to feast on the spawned out kokanee salmon.

For years, U.S. Bureau of Land Management biologists have conducted weekly surveys to monitor the eagle congregation. The BLM joins with Idaho Fish and Game and local birding expers to stages an Eagle Watch information fair at Wolf Lodge Bay each year during the Christmas holiday break, which tends to coincide with the peak numbers of eagles visiting the area.

Eagle watching cruise boat tours can be booked out of the Coeur d'Alene Resort, (208) 765-4000.

Top viewing areas are from Higgens Point as well as south from the Wolf Lodge Exit off I-90 on Highway 97 around to Beauty Bay.

Today's count was Hugo's first weekly survey of the season. She counted 58 adult bald eagles distinguished by their white  heads, and six juveniles. That compares with a total of 12 bald eagles (six adults and six juveniles) on Nov. 22, 2011.

A record 273 bald eagles was counted at Lake Coeur d'Alene on Dec. 29, 2011.

“Because the hordes of people are not out yet, there seemed to be a quite a few at Higgens Point — 16 in fact, which is more than usual these last few years,” Hugo said this afternoon. “Visibility for juveniles on this rainy day was horrible so it is likely I missed quite a few of them.” 

Region’s steelheading briefly subdued by rain

FISHING — Rain has fouled most of the region's rivers, setting anglers back a bit until the waters clear.

But the fish were there over the weekend before the flows picked up, and there will still be plenty of fish around when flows ease.

The exception is the Salmon River near Riggins, which was running at ideal flows and 43 degrees this morning, says Amy Sinclair, riverescape@frontier.com, of Exodus River Expeditions.

Here's a weekend Grande Ronde river drift boat report from angler Jeff Holmes:

15 takedowns for 6 fish Saturday, 5 wild. Another fish, probably a big wild one, fried my drag and broke me off! Pretty good action on 8-pound average fish. Hatchery fish was a nice 8 pounder, too.

Dying spring chinook are VERY. Numerous, much more so than in past. (Washington Fish and Wildlife Department biologists) say there may be a season soon.

Meanwhile, at the Clearwater Snake River Steelhead Derby, only 28 steelhead were caught today, Day 4 of the event that runs through Nov. 24.  That's down from 62 on Saturday, the first day of the event, 50 fish weighed on Sunday and 35 fish on Monday.

By the way, angler Robert Bass of Deer Park, continues to be a regular fixture at the top of the daily money winners — as he has for years. He's already weighed-in two steelhead over 18 pounds. Bass is a steelheading stud. 
  

Idaho sockeye salmon recovery effort documented

SALMON FISHERIES — Sockeye salmon that make an incredible 900 mile journey from the ocean up the Columbia River system to reach their spawning areas in central Idaho's Sawtooth Mountains have a grim history of abuse.

They also are in the spotlight of a remarkable effort aiming at their recovery.

The Seattle Times has done a nice job of compiling the story and updating the status of a fishery that deserves our awe and respect.

Seattle Times

The extraordinary effort to save sockeye salmon

Why sockeye crashed: dams, poison and more 

Idaho’s backroad mountain passes closing for season

WINTER TRAVEL — Idaho backroads mountain passes that hunters, hikers, anglers and other outdoor enthusiass have been using since spring are shutting down for winter.

The Shoshone County Public Works Department issued this announcement regarding the status of mountain passes in the North Idaho area.

  • Forest Highway 9 Thompson Pass Murray to Montana Line- effective next Monday (Nov. 26). Pass will be closed for Winter and not maintained.
  • King Pass- Closed not maintained for the Winter (Effective 11/20/12)
  • Forest Road 456 Moon Pass Wallace to Avery not maintained for the Winter.
    (Effective 11/20/12)
  • FR-50 Gold Cr.@Red Ives to Montana Line Closed not maintained for the Winter. (Effective 11/20/12)

Season’s over for hunters, not for whitetail bucks

WILDLIFE — Most deer hunters retreated to the great indoors after the late whitetail buck hunting season in northeastern Washington closed on Monday.

But the bucks are still in the rut. Conceptions typically are peaking right around today.

Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson caught the buck (above) showing there's a lot of hard work to do out there maintaining the whitetail populations, but somebody's got to do it.

Said Johnson:

We managed to get into the whitetail pretty heavy today. We witnessed many bucks heavy in the rut. This guy was located in some pretty thick stuff. He decided to stop chasing the does long enough to… Let us get this image!

2012 Outdoor Book Awards spotlight top titles

OUTDOOR READING — Stunning underwater photography.  A coming-of-age story of three women.  Wonder and magic in a small patch of forest.  Nail biting adventure and a desperate self-rescue from a crevasse on Mount Rainier. 

These are some of the themes found among the winners of the 2012 National Outdoor Book Awards (NOBA),  said Ron Watters, awards program chairman.  The annual awards program recognizes the best in outdoor writing and publishing.

The judges also pegged some top natural history and adventure guidebooks produced this year.

“A masterpiece,” is the term the judges used to describe photographer David Hall's  “Beneath the Cold Seas,” a collection of photographs taken in the underwater world of the Pacific Northwest. 

A total of 15 bookswere honored in this year's awards.  The awards program is sponsored by the National Outdoor Book Awards Foundation, Idaho State University and the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.

Among the winners is “Almost Somewhere: Twenty-Eight Days on the John Muir Trail” by Suzanne Roberts.  It is one of two winners in the Outdoor Literature category. 

“Almost Somewhere” is about a backpacking trip that Roberts takes with two other women.  It's outdoor adventure from a feminine perspective.  Roberts obsesses with her weight and grapples with conflicted views of sex and relationships.  One of the other women on the trip struggles with bulimia.

“It's an introspective and honest narrative of their journey,” said Watters.  “What emerges from the book is a revealing and insightful coming-of-age portrait of women of the post baby boom generation.”

 

The other winner of the Outdoor Literature Category is “The Ledge” by Jim Davidson and Kevin Vaughan. It is the true story of Davidson's desperate attempt to escape from a crevasse on Mount Rainier. After he falls, he finds himself caught with his pack wedged between two walls of ice. Below him is an abyss.

“I promise,” said Watters. “'This is a book that will keep you turning the pages. Davidson must dig deep into his inner physical reserves, all the while, struggling internally with a range of emotions that alternate between hope, despair, and terror. It's a spellbinding account.”

Read on for more highlights from this year's judging and a complete list of the award-winning books for you to consider.

Moose doubles as Minnesota Clydesdale?

CRITTER STUFF — OK, I can't verify this, nor do I need to.  But the story of the photo goes like this:

Only in Nordern Minnesnowta! 

This guy raised an abandoned moose calf with his horses, and believe it or not, he has trained it for skidding logs and other hauling tasks. Given the 2,000 pounds of robust muscle, and the splayed, sure-grip hooves, he claims it is the best work animal he has.

He says the secret to keeping the moose around is a sweet salt lick, although, during the rut he disappears for a couple of weeks, but always comes home.

For the record:  I new this was a fake when I posted it.  But I didn't know there was an authentic photo of a moose being harnessed as a beast of burden. Thanks to a reader, check it out here.

Stevens Pass Ski Area to open Tuesday; first in state

WINTER SPORTS — Stevens Pass ski area is celebrating its 75th Anniversary by being the first to open in Washington for the 2012/13 season.  With more than 24 inches of snow in the past 24 hours, resort officials say the lifts will open at noon on TUESDAY (Nov. 20)!

Mount Baker and Crystal Mountain resorts plan to open Wednesday.

Stevens Pass operating hours will be noon to 4 p.m. tomorrow and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday.  Tickets will be $20 for guests on opening day and free for visitors who show their season pass from any other Washington resort. 

Up to three lifts will be available accessing an assortment of beginner to intermediate terrain and the resort will start with a 28 to 31 inch base.  Terrain park staff is working hard as well and expects to have several terrain features in place by tomorrow with up to 10 features by Wednesday.  

Resort amenities will be limited but by Wednesday Stevens Pass expects to have lessons, rentals, retail, and expanded food & beverage facilities operating.  Tickets will then be offered at the discounted rate of $39 through the weekend. 

Two Wheel Transit moves to South Perry

CYCLING — Spokane's venerable Two Wheel Transit bicycle shop has moved to the South Perry Neighborhood from its former location on First Avenue at the west end of downtown.

See the S-R story.

North Cascades Highway closed by snow, avalanches

TRAVEL — The Washington Transportation Department closed the North Cascades Highway at noon today because of heavy snow and avalanche danger.

Three slides occurred and more than 4 inches of snow fell within 90 minutes, according to a department media release.

At this point, the closure is temporary, but the section of Highway 20 over the North Cascades typically closes for the winter this time of year.

Playboy names fly rod the “catch of the day”

FLY FISHING — Playboy magazine named Freestone fly rods its “catch of the day: power with ultrasensitivity.”

OK, let's move on.

Commisions consider eliminating gillnets on lower Columbia

FISHERIES — A work group comprised of Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife commissioners on Thursday agreed on recommendations that would change state management of lower Columbia River fisheries by eliminating the use commercial gill nets by non-tribal fishers on the mainstem lower Columbia River.

A report in the Columbia Basin Bulletin says commercial fishing advocates testifying during a meeting of the work group in Seaside, Ore., said such a decision would be the death knell for the industry and the businesses it supports. They said it would pull salmon from the mouths of non-anglers who buy their salmon in the market or order it at restaurants.

Sport fishing interests said the move is necessary to buoy conservation efforts aimed at reviving wild, protected steelhead and salmon caught indiscriminately in fish-choking nets.

Level I avalanche class offered in Spokane area

WINTER SPORTS — A 28-hour Level I avalanche class geared to  ski patrol, search and rescue and backcountry skiers/snowboarders is being offered over the next three months starting next week.

Arch Harrison, local search and resecue and ski patrol veteran, will teach the classroom portion at the Mountain Gear retail store in Spokane in three 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. sessions: Nov. 28, Dec. 5 and Dec. 12.

The on-snow field section will held on Jan. 26 and 27 at Silver Mountain Ski Resort.

Cost: members of ski patrol or searcher rescue organizations $100; general public $175. Tuition includes books and for non-ski patrol members associate membership in national ski patrol.

Participants should be intermediate skiers/snowboarders, all participants will be required to carry an avalanche transceiver, shovel, probe for the field portions of this class. Transceivers for the field portion of this class all need to be multi-antenna transceivers.

Space is limited. Pre-register by contacting Arch Harrison at: catandem@comcast.net (please put avalanche class in subject line) or all (509) 998-9384.

Even experts hesitate to guess age, sex of snowy owls

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Getting personal with wild birds is tricky.

Verifying whether a swan is male or female requires a hands-on fairly invasive peel-it-back and look.

Western Washington raptor biologist Bud Anderson offers these observations to people he's heard declaring the age and sex of snowy owls that are migrating into Washington and catching attention:

Here is some recent information on ageing and sexing snowy owls from www.frontierscientists.com, an Alaskan website. Note the article by Mat Seidensticker.
 
“Birders usually want to know: Is it Male or Female? Denver Holt, an owl researcher who has spent the last 20 years studying the Snowy Owl up in Barrow, is cautious about identifying the sex.
 
“The more experience you get the more questions you have,” Holt says. Yet the Journal of Raptor Research Dec 2011, Vol. 45, No. 4: 290-303 has just published an article “Sexing Young Snowy Owls” by lead author Mathew T. Seidensticker, co-authored by Jennifer Detienne, Sandra Talbot, and Kathy Gray, and Holt.
 
Seidensticker and fellow researchers based their paper on a study of 140 owls from 34 nests (at Barrow). Specifically they looked at a secondary flight feather #4 on the left wing. Then they compared their predictions with blood tests. The model that correlated their data said they were 98% correct, actually they were 100% right. In short what the secondary feather #4 told them was: the female owl had a marking that they called a bar because it touched the feather shaft, while the male had a marking they called a spot or blotch that did not touch the feather shaft.”
 
So I think that it is really important to understand how challenging it can be to age and sex these birds in the field. If Denver Holt is cautious, I would be too.

Snowy owls could once again be common sights

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Birders have been reporting more and more observations of snowy owls showing up in Washington. Although they routinely venture this far during their winter migration from the arctic, Last year's big number of snowy owls across the northern tier of states was recognized as an irruption.

It could be happening again this year, experts say.

Read on for insight posted on Inland Northwest Birders by raptor biologist Bud Anderson in Western Washington:

By popular demand, a second boat to sail for Veterans eagle-watching cruise on CdA

 

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Local veterans and military personnel can sign up starting at noon Monday for a free cruise boat tour on Saturday (Nov. 24) to view the start of the annual bald eagle congregation on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Local veterans and military personnel are allowed to bring up to five immediate family members on the boat that will tour Wolf Lodge Bay with a wildlife biologist aboard.

The first Veterans Eagle Boat Cruise offered last week filled in a couple of days, said officials with the Bureau of Land Management, which coordinates the veterans cruise along with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

Priority seating will be given to veterans and active military personnel who have not previously been aboard the cruise

Reservations are required and will be taken via telephone.

  • Call Suzanne Endsley of the BLM at (208) 769-5004 during the business hours, starting at noon on Monday to 4:30 p.m.
  • The current status of available seating will be posted on the Coeur d’Alene Field Office’s website.

Boarding for the second two-hour cruise will begin at 12:30 a.m. on November 24 at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Lake Cruises boat dock located on the east end of the Resort. Participants are encouraged to dress warmly and bring binoculars and cameras. Food and beverage are available for purchase aboard the ship.

Spokane filmmakers have role in Banff Festival film

OUTDOOR ADVENTURE – The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour will continue its three-day, sold-out run tonight at the Bing Crosby Theater, featuring a series of two dozen outdoor adventure films brilliantly displayed through the Bing’s new, just-installed, state-of-the art projector and $12,000 viewing screen.

(Coming this month: a new $50,000 surround-sound audio system).

The eclectic assortment of outdoor films has displayed some stellar adventures, including the chilling drama of a kayaker nearly drowning as a wild river pinned him and his boat to a boulder in Flow Hunters, and unbelievable skills, such as mountain biker Danny MacAskill riding obstacles through a steel plant in Industrial Revolutions.

The biggest loser film from the Friday night offerings might be 5 Races, 5 Continents featuring prolonged interviews (largely unintelligible) with ultra-runner Kilian Jornet through the 2011 running season to some of the world's most demanding races, none of which were explained.

If I had not hiked the 110-mile Tour du Mont Blanc in France, Italy and Switzerland this summer, I would not have had any idea what this film was about.

Best quote from Friday night's films came from disabled rock climber Pete Davis of The Gimp Monkeys:

“The right attitude and one arm will beat the wrong attitude and two arms any day.”

Top films to show tonight (Saturday) include:

Crossing the Ice (Winner of Grand Prize, People's Choice and Best film on Exploration and Adventure at the 2012 Banff Mountain Film Festival)

REEL ROCK: Honnold 3.0 (The festival's Best Film on Climbing)

On Sunday, viewers will see a documentary, Wild Bill’s Run, about an adventurous 1972 snowmobile expedition — and crime caper — that attempted to cover 5,000 miles of snow and polar ice between Minnesota and Moscow.

Director Mike Scholtz emailed me this information about a local connection:

“Four people from Spokane helped me shoot and edit the film. Chris White and Michael Pickering of Comrade Studios and Clint Janson and Matt Vielle of Hamilton Studio.

“Chris White, in particular, was invaluable. He composed the score on a Moog synthesizer (befitting the film's 70s setting) and did the sound design and final edit for the Banff World Tour.”

See the lineup of World Tour Films in the Spokane event.

See the always exciting World Tour trailer here.

Film lineup announced for Banff Film Fest World Tour in Spokane

ADVENTURE — The lineup of films for the three-day run of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour in Spokane has been decided — just hours before the first films will be shown tonight starting at 7 p.m. at The Bing Crosby Theater.

Friday and Saturday night snows are sold out.  Only a few tickets remained for Sunday at last check.

See the always exciting World Tour trailer here.

Note: The new owners of The Bing have just installed a new state of the art projector and larger screen to debut with this weekend's film festival showing. Also, for the first time, alcoholic beverages will be sold during the festival event.

World Tour host — better known as the World Tour road warrior — Charla Tomlinson and her traveling partner Lorraine Fung from Canmore, Alberta, met with Phil Bridgers of Mountain Gear at Northern Lights Brewery this afternoon to work through the options.  Several films Bridgers wanted to show still were not licensed and a couple more were hung up in U.S. Mail. 

But they came up with a good lineup of shows for each night.  This is the second week Tomlinson and Fung have been on the road.  They'll log 60 hours of driving and 4,000 kilometers of travel from Nov. 8-Dec. 10 to show the World tour around the region.

Read on for the lineup in Spokane, subject to minor modifications.

Banff Film Fest trailer gets adrenaline flowing for weekend shows at the Bing

ADVENTURE FILMS — The trailer for this year's Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour has been released (above) and, as usual, it doesn't disappoint.  The action you see in this trailer will be played out in Spokane on a bigger screen in this year's World Tour weekend at The Bing — tonight, Saturday and Sunday.

The shows for tonight and Saturday are sold out but tickets are still available for Sunday.

The Mountain Gear staff is meeting with the Banff World Tour host at noon to begin the task of selecting the available films for each night. The decisions are based on film lengths, diversity of films and what films have been licensed to show on the road to get a good mix of different films for each night.

I'll post the lineup as soon as the decisions are made.

See you at the shows!

Grande Ronde steelhead dwarfs typical fish

STEELHEAD FISHING — The S-R's Fishing-Hunting Report this week notes that steelhead fishing has been good on the Grande Ronde River this week.

But angler Jeff Holmes puts an exclamation point on that report with these photos and this assessment of his recent driftboat outing, which includes the thrills of seeing bighorn rams along the shores.  

A ferocious fight resulted in the eventual netting of this Grande Ronde goliath (I) caught above Boggan's Oasis while backtrolling a metallic blue size 35 Hot Shot trailing a 1/0 Gamakatsu Siwash on double split rings. 

With this being such a special fish for the Grande Ronde, stretching a hair over 34 inches and weighing 14 pounds, I thought it only appropriate to have a normal-sized human photographed with this fish, per the previous advice of WDFW's Chris Donley. 

Thanks, Teddy Schmitt, for holding this fish for me, and for outfishing me by putting three big hens in the net, including a 28 1/2-incher just moments before this one bit.

In case you don't get his humor, Holmes is a large man. He didn't want to make his huge fish look dinky in comparison by holding it for the photo. 

Holmes said Chris Donley, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife inland lakes manager and steelheading expert, said he's seen only one hatchery steelhead larger than this fish come out of the Ronde.

See my column on a new steelhead fishing book that will giving you insight on how to catch more steelhead in the region's rivers.

Deer killed near Painted Hills; officers seek tips

POACHING — Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers are seeking information about a Spokane-area spree killing involving at least three deer.

The poaching incident occurred last week near the intersection of Madison and Thorpe Roads near the Painted Hills Golf Course.  Three white-tailed deer were shot from the road in a “no-shooting” area at about 6:30 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 10, says Madonna Luers, department spokeswoman.

Two of the deer were left injured and paralyzed in the field.  One of the deer was taken.

Anyone with information about this crime is encouraged to call the Spokane Regional WDFW Office, (509) 892-1001 and ask for Officer Douglas King. 

Information can also be called in to the WDFW poaching hotline at 877-933-9847, or texted to TIP411.

Persons providing information that leads to the arrest of the person(s) responsible for these poachings may be eligible for a reward and may remain anonymous.

Snowy owls brightening the Washington landscape

BIRDWATCHING — The first snowy owls of the season are being reported in Washington as their annual winter migration from the arctic is underway.  The mostly-white owls have been spotted from Seattle to Asotin County this week, bringing back memories of last year's “irruption” of birds that saw snowy owl sightings soar across the northern tier of the United States.

Birder David Woodall found a snowy owl in Asotin County Thursday morning off Halsey Road near a stubble field perched on a “Hunting by Permission” sigh.  When he posted the sighting, Keith Carlson pointed out that's a hot spot for the birds each year.

“There is something magic about this location,” he said. “The first Snowy of last year's Asotin County irruption was in this same location. On 31 March of 2007, we found a Snowy at this location.”

The Davenport area of Lincoln County also is a perennial host for snowy owls.
  

Veterans to be honored with eagle cruise on Lake CdA

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A special cruise boat is being reserved for veterans to tour Lake Coeur d'Alene on Nov. 24 to view the annual congregation of bald eagles that come to feast on spawning kokanee.

The Bureau of Land Management, in cooperation with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, is offering a Veteran’s Eagle Watch Cruise on Wolf Lodge Bay — a free event focused on recognizing veterans, active military and their immediate families from the North Idaho area. 

In the past the agencies have been able to offer two cruises; however, this year due to leaner budgets they are only able to fund one cruise, which will accommodate up to 150 participants. 

Veterans and active military personnel that have never before taken advantage of the opportunity will have first priority for seating.  A total party of up to six immediate family members will be accommodated, including the veteran or military personnel.

Reservations are required and will be taken via telephone.

  • Call Suzanne Endsley of the BLM at (208) 769-5004 during the business hours of 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 
  • The current status of available seating will be posted on the Coeur d’Alene Field Office’s website.

Boarding for the two-hour cruise will begin at 9:30 am on November 24 at the Coeur d’Alene Resort Lake Cruises boat dock located on the east end of the Resort.  Participants are encouraged to dress warmly and bring binoculars and cameras.  Food and beverage are available for purchase aboard the ship.

Winter Knights snowmobilers stock warming cabin

WINTER SPORTS — About a dozen volunteers from the Spokane Winter Knights Snowmobile Club convened at Mount Spokane State Park recently and rolled up their sleeves to get the CCC Cabin near Mount Kit Carson ready for winter.

The group  takes on the annual event to cut and split firewood and neatlyh stock it into the shelter, which is used by a wide range of snowmobilers, skier and snowshoers.

Where can you find wood ducks by the hundreds?

WATERFOWLING — Some North Idaho hunter cried fowl when their duck hunting season opened a week later than usual, giving wood ducks and teal another week to get out of the area unscathed.

However, I found a wood duck bonanza today Wednesday while waterfowl hunting and tourng Ducks Unlimited wetland conservation projects near the Tri Cities.

Hundreds of wood ducks poured in to the Wallula Unit habitat area at the mouth of the Walla Walla River.  I'm talking about a flight of perhaps 500 woodies that dropped into the area in just a few minutes.

Even the DU habitat biologist I was with said it was an outstanding sight to behold.

Learn to tie flies, build fly rods at evening classes

FLY FISHING —  Sign up is underway for evening classes being offered by Spokane fly fishing shops:

Rod building, Nov. 21, 28, by Steve Moran. Cost: $75. Sign up at Swede’s Fly Shop, 1611 N. Ash St., 323-0500.

Beginner fly tying, Dec. 3, 4, by Mark Poirier. Cost: $50. Sign up at Silver Bow Fly Shop, 13210 E. Indiana Ave., 924-9998.
  

Fisheries reform may not boost upper Columbia angling

FISHING — Our recent report on the reaction to drastic changes proposed for Columbia River commercial and recreational fisheries has prompted a heads up for anglers in the upper Columbia River.

The comment on lower Columbia River fisheries reform being debated by Washington and Oregon comes from Paul Lumley, executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission:

A recent story in The Spokesman-Review paints the Columbia River’s Lower River Fisheries Reform process as a potential boon for fishermen in the upper Columbia. Certainly a boon for fishermen in the lower Columbia, the proposal has yet to pass the sniff test.

At this point, the “boon” for Eastern Washington fishermen is little more than wishful thinking. The states have not provided any credible harvest impacts analysis to their peers in federal and tribal governments, nor to the public.

If the region wants to increase recreational fishing opportunities we need to be working together to rebuild abundance. The region has demonstrated that cooperation can rebuild abundant naturally spawning fall chinook in Hanford Reach, which now support fisheries from Kennewick to Ketchikan. 

By all indications, the proposal is not about conservation, it is about providing even more to an already voracious lower river recreational fishery. Real conservation will come from us working together and restoring salmon passage in the upper Columbia Basin. This, along with other actions, will rebuild abundance. Abundance allows everyone to go fishing, not just fishermen in the lower Columbia 

State spent $76,500 to eliminate Wedge Pack

ENDANGERED SPECIES — Killing seven members of a wolf pack that repeatedly attacked a Northeast Washington rancher’s cattle cost about $76,500, according to preliminary state figures, according to today's story by S-R reporter Becky Kramer.

The amount includes all hunts targeting the Wedge Pack, which is believed responsible for killing or injuring 16 calves last summer belonging to the Diamond M Ranch in Stevens County.

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates it has spent bout $376,000 this year on wolf management, including the $22,000 spent to hire a helicopter and use aerial gunning to eliminate the Wedge Pack.

Volunteers clear tangled timber from Big Lick Trail

TRAILS — A skilled group of skilled youths and other volunteers have prevailed after putting a week of sweat into the seemingly hopeless task of clearing blowdowns off the Big Lick Trail in the Kettle River Range.

The maze-like tangle of downfall had rendered the historic route impassable before volunteers from Kettle Range Conservation Group and Curlew Job Corps forestry students put in a herculean effort requiring seven days and 366 person hours to clear 5.5 miles of trail. The hundreds of blowdowns in some locations were piled into twisted trunks and branches more than 7 feet deep, said Tim Coleman, KRCG director. 

“That’s a tremendous amount of hours and work, but thanks to the volunteers that organized work parties and the Curlew Job Corps crew that completed much of the heavy lifting to reopen this trail, the task got done this year,” said Eric McQuay, Recreation Program Manager for the West Zone of the Colville National Forest.   “Without help from groups such as these, we simply couldn’t keep trails such as Big Lick maintained with the Forest Service’s limited trail maintenance budget,” he said.  

Big Lick Trail is a historic Ferry County trail along North Fork St. Peter Creek and traversing the Kettle Range between Mt. Leona and Profanity Peak. It links the western side of the Kettle Range to the Kettle Crest / Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail and to Ryan’s Cabin Trail and S. Fork of Boulder Creek on the range’s eastern flanks. Historically, this route was used by fur trappers, market hunters, ranchers and prospectors, but more recently its use is primarily for backcountry recreation.

Read on for more details about this effort that serves everyone who uses and appreciates trails.

Appalachian Trail proposal seeks link to Gulf of Mexico

HIKING — A proposed extension of the Appalachian Trail could add add a few hundred miles of foot trail — and possibly a canoeing option — to link the trail all the way south to the Gulf of Mexico.

The nonprofit organization Trust for Public Land has been working for years to acquire land along the Chattahoochee River in the southeastern United States, where the Appalachian Trail (AT) ends at its southernmost point. The organization intends to make this land available to the National Park Service and other partners for an extension of the AT that would lead all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Currently, the 2,184-mile AT begins in the middle of Maine and ends in northern Georgia. It crosses the Chattahoochee River’s uppermost headwaters. Curt Soper, the Georgia-Alabama state director of the Trust for Public Land, told ABC News that the non-profit envisions Appalachian hikers being able to continue on a trail down along the river to the Gulf of Mexico at the shores of Florida.

Vehicle emergency kit cheap insurance for winter travelers

WINTER TRAVEL — Slippery roads this week are a reminder that drivers should be prepared for mishaps that might catch stuck, stranded or off the road in winter conditions.

A bag of items stashed in your vehicle could spell the difference between comfort and misery if not — in the worst case scenario — life and death. 

Carry a survival kit in your vehicle.

  • First-aid kit
  • Blankets or sleeping bags
  • Cellular phone and charger
  • Windshield scraper with snow brush
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Extra winter clothes including shoes, hats and gloves
  • Compact shovel
  • Traction aids (bag of sand or  cat litter) and tow strap
  • Emergency flares
  • Jumper cables
  • Non-perishable food and bottled water
  • Road map
  • Candles, matches, non-liquid firestarter.
  • Special-needs items vehicle passengers may require.

Sad story about dads taking daughters hunting

HUNTING — Normally we're uplifted by parents who take their kids hunting.

Not this time.

No one was injured, physically at least, but a Western Washington hunting incident described by this weekend story in the Olympian might be one of the grimmest stories I've read about parental responsibility and the sport of hunting.

Read on.

Snow closes Rainier highway passes for season

PARKS — The Washington Transportation Department has closed two passes on the east side of Mount Rainier for the winter.

Chinook Pass on Highway 410 and nearby Cayuse Pass on Highway 123 have been closed by recent snow and avalanche danger, department officials announced today.

Outdoor retailers want Obama to designate Utah monument

PUBLIC LANDS — The Outdoor Industry Association and more than 100 outdoor-related businesses are asking President Barack Obama to designate 1.4 million acres of federal wildlands surrounding Canyonlands National Park as a national monument, according to a report by Brett Prettyman of the Salt Lake Tribune.

The group is sending a letter to the president today asking for the protective designation.

The Greater Canyonlands area includes geologic landmarks such as Labyrinth Canyon, Indian Creek, White Canyon, Fiddler Butte, Robbers Roost, Lockhart Basin and the Dirty Devil River, the story says.

The area is under increasing pressure from what monument proponents say is off-road-vehicle abuse, proposed mining and oil and gas development.

The OIA is the retailers group that brings to Utah its annual summer and winter markets, the state’s largest conventions, which draw more than 46,000 visitors and $42.5 million annually to the local economy.

For months OIA has been at odds with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert over the state’s bid to reclaim more than 30 million acres of federally-controlled public lands. If it succeeds, Utah plans to sell or lease some of that land for development.

Pro angler to speak at steelhead derby opening ceremony

FISHING — Anglers registered for the annual steelhead fishing derby on the Clearwater and Snake Rivers will be given food, prizes and information at the opening ceremonies on Friday (Nov. 16) in Lewiston.

Activities that formerly were split at the beginning and end of the derby will combined in the opening event of the 2012 Kendall Subaru Clearwater Snake Steelhead Derby, organizers say.

As this advance story revealed, the event itself has a pair of new twists that will please traveling anglers, especially those from Washington.

Prizes, including a guided fishing trip and a $1,000 Cabela's gift card, will be awarded Opening Ceremony, which starts at 6 p.m. Friday at Kendall Subaru. Registered anglers also get dinner and they can purchase additional meals for their non-fishing guests.

Chevy USA is flying Pro Angler, Dion Hibdon, from Missouri to speak on fishing techniques.

Derby registration forms are available at Tri-State Outfitters, Camp, Cabin, and Home, Riverview Marina, at the Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce or online.

Anglers will receive a complimentary Mag Lip 3.5 lure when registering for the derby.

Info: Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce,509.758.7712.

Woodpeckers topic at Audubon program

BIRDING – Wildlife biologist Jeff Kozma, who specializes in cavity-nesting birds with the Yakama Nation, will present a program on the reproductive ecology of the white-headed woodpecker in Washington’s ponderosa pine forests on Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. at Riverview Retirement Community, Village Community Building, 2117 E. North Crescent Ave.

The program is sponsored by Spokane Audubon.

Click here for directions to the meeting location.

Target shooters wear out welcome on DNR land near Newman Lake

STATE LANDS — Shooters are creating a safety hazard and trashing a section of state land near Newman Lake, Department of Natural Resources officials say.

Complaints from area landowners have prompted more enforcement and citations for littering, using motorized vehicles in closed areas and failure to have a Discover Pass, said Loren Torgerson of the agency’s northeastern Washington staff.

The property– section 36 off Koth Road just northeast of Newman Lake – has been promoted as a good place to shoot in blogs and brochures left at gun shops, including Cabela’s, Torgerson said.

“Most shooters are responsible, but a subset of that group isn’t being responsible,” he said. Shooters have been using garbage as targets and leaving the trash as well as using semi-automatic weapons to blast and “saw down” cedar trees, he said.

Washington Fish and Wildlife police and Spokane County Sheriff’s Department have been assisting the DNR’s one enforcement officer covering seven counties, he said.

“Citations have been written and we’re starting to see a reduction in the number of bad actors up there,” he said.

Improving barriers to driving off the main road is helping with the problem, he said.

DNR has been working with the county’s shooting area advisory committee to consider a petition that would close the area to shooting, he said.

“We certainly want holistic view of the issue. We know that closing one area to shooting simply moves the problem somewhere else,” he said.

“Ultimately the community needs to look at the options.”

Whitetail bucks active in rut, winter conditions

HUNTING — Reports have been coming in for two weeks that whitetail bucks are actively scraping, sparring and now they're pursuing does.

Rattling is a good hunting tactic in the early portion of the rut.

The late season for whitetail bucks opened in select northeastern Washington units Saturday and the season runs through Nov. 19

Nate Krohn photographed this bruiser with his trail cam at a baited plot on Nov. 6. He also had remote photos of sparring bucks.  He was planning to be out this week rattling to help his wife put a tag a nice 6x4 pointer he's been following.

“I have his sheds and mounted them on a skull and he scored out in the low 170's,” Krohn said.

  

Banff Mountain Film Fest flicks coming to The Bing

ADVENTURE — When they talk about “action films,” these are the real deal.  The Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour has hit the road and the next stop is the Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane. 

About two dozen films will be shown in Spokane over the three-night run at the Bing, including Crossing the Ice (above), which won the Grand Prize, Adventure category prize and the coveted People's Choice Award at the recent nine-day film festival in Banff, Alberta.

Here's the schedule for this year's tour in this region.

Spokane: Friday and Saturday (Nov. 16-17) starting 7 p.m., and Sunday, 6 p.m., at The Bing. Different films at each showing. Tickets $15 a show or $40 for all three sessions, from Mountain Gear, 325-9000 or mountaingear.com.

Sandpoint: Jan. 24-26 at Panida Theater. Info: Mountain Fever, (208) 661-3857.

Coeur d’Alene: Jan. 27-28 at Kroc Center, 1765 W. Golf Course Road. Info: Mountain Fever, (208) 661-3857.

Pullman: Jan. 29 at Washington State University. Info: Outdoor Recreation Center, (509) 335-1892.

Spokane film lineup to be announced

Since licensing is still underway for films pegged for the World Tour version of the Banff Mountain Film Festival, the features to be shown this week in Spokane won’t be selected until Friday afternoon.

Outdoors editor Rich Landers will be at Friday afternoon’s the selection meeting to post the film lineup for the three-day event online at www.spokesman.com/blogs/outdoors

Dog owners beware: wolf trapping season to open

PREDATORS — For the second year, wolves will be join furbearers as targets during Idaho’s winter trapping season.

Although trappers must take a course in safe techniques before they can purchase a wolf-trapping license, bird hunters and other people who let their dogs run freely in the wilds of the Idaho Panhandle should familiarize themselves with techniques for releasing a pet from a foothold trap or neck snare.

The wolf trapping season is set for Nov. 15-March 31 in most of Idaho's Panhandle zone. The exception is that wolf trapping is prohibited in hunting units 2 and 3, which generally includes the region from Priest River and the west shore of Lake Pend Oreille south to the Coeur d’Alene area.

The rules are fairly liberal for wolf trappers:

Trapping regulations prohibit traps from the center and within 5 feet of center line of all maintained designated public trails and from the surface and right of way of all maintained designated public roads. Ground traps are prohibited within 300 feet of any designated public campground, picnic area and trailhead.

Idaho’s point of view is that hound hunters, hunters with bird dogs and other pet owners have a responsibility to keep track of and maintain control of their pets. Perhaps a good pair of wire cutters should be on your belt, too.

Releasing a pet from a snare trap can be tricky. Dog owners should bone up for the possibility.

This website has the best information I've found.

Conservation groups challenge Idaho roadless rule in court

PUBLIC LANDS — A coalition of environmental groups made arguments before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Portland, Ore., today in an ongoing effort to repeal the Idaho roadless rule and replace it with one adopted under President Bill Clinton.

The Wilderness Society, Greater Yellowstone Coalition, Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council contend the Idaho rule, crafted in a collaborative effort led by former Gov. Jim Risch, is weaker than the 2001 rule that is now in force on most national forests outside of Idaho, according to a report by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune.

Read on for the rest of Barker's story.

Spawning kokanee create wildlife viewing spectacles

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Kokanee provide two notable spectacles in this region for anglers and nonanglers alike:

Bald eagles flock to the Wolf Lodge Bay area of Lake Coeur d'Alene to feast on spawned out kokanee starting this month and peaking around Christmas. The spectacle attracts thousands of visitors to the Higgens Point are and the Wolf Lodge exit off I-90.

Sullivan Lake kokanee are running up Harvey Creek to spawn, providing a notably accessible viewing point from the bridge area at the south end of the lake.

I'll have much more about the eagles as they begin their congregation.

Read on for more details about the Sullivan Lake viewing opportunity that started this week.

Lake Pend Oreille kokanee fishing to be revived in 2013

FISHING — For the first time since 1999, anglers will be allowed to harvest kokanee in Lake Pend Oreille starting in 2013 under a fishing regulations adopted Thursday by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission.

The popular fishery has rebounded enough under a fisheries recovery program to allow anglers to keep up to six kokanee a day.

The kokanee increase will allow a move back toward trophy rainbow trout management. A size and bag limit will be reinstated for rainbows: six rainbow trout, only one more than 20 inches long.

The $15 per rainbow angler incentive will no longer be in effect, but the $15 bounty remains in place for lake trout. 

The new rules will go into effec Jan. 1.

Elsewhere in the Panhandle Region, the kokanee limit was lowered to six fish in Priest and Upper Priest lakes. In Lake Pend Oreille anglers are allowed to harvest six kokanee and six rainbow trout – only one more than 20 inches long.

Clark Fork river and tributaries; Pack River and tributaries; and Grouse Creek and tributaries will be closed to trout harvest from December 1 to the Friday before the Memorial Day weekend.

BLM names citizen advisors for CdA District

PUBLIC LANDS — Six new members have been appointed to the Bureau of Land Management’s Coeur d’Alene District citizen-based Resource Advisory Council. 

The appointees will serve a three-year term and advise the BLM on public lands issues.

“I want to welcome our new and reappointed RAC members and commend them for their commitment to public service,” said Coeur d’Alene District Manager Gary Cooper.  “Their counsel will serve the BLM well as the agency carries out its multiple-use mission.”

The RACs, composed of citizens chosen for their expertise in natural resource issues, help the BLM carry out its stewardship of 245 million acres – the largest land portfolio of any Federal agency.  The BLM has established 29 RACs across the West, where most BLM-managed land is located.  Each RAC consists of 10 to 15 members with an interest in public land management, such as conservationists, outdoor recreationists, ranchers, Tribal officials, state and local government officials, academics and others.

The newly appointed and reappointed members of the Coeur d’Alene District RAC, and the area they represent on the committee, include:

•  Linda Rider, Grazing Industry

•  Douglas Boggan, Dispersed Recreation

•  David Uberuaga, Environmental Organizations

• Jerry Shriner, Wild Horse and Burro

• Tommy Stroschein, Public-at-Large

•  Chris Goetz, Public-at-Large

 Info: 208-769-5004.

Photo: Mission Mountains in fall transition

PUBLIC LANDS — The calm before the storm that brings on winter.  Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson reminds us why we love mountains with this scene of the Mission Mountains captured a few days ago.

Late whitetail buck season opens Saturday

HUNTING — The whitetail deer mating season — better known as “the rut” — is the best few weeks of the year to tag a big buck. 

The rut in Eastern Washington will be reaching it's peak just about the time the late buck season closes on Nov. 19.

Photo: Sinlahekin Wildlife Area in fall transition

PUBLIC LANDS — The last gasp before winter.  Justin Haug of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife captured this photo of Forde Lake in the Sinlahekin Wildlife Area of northcentral Washington in October.

Clearwater-Snake Steelhead Derby returns to Thanksgiving

By popular demand, the annual Kendall Subaru Clearwater Snake Steelhead Derby will be held Nov. 17-24 to allow anglers to take advantage of a national holiday — Thanksgiving.

In addition, the 2012 Kendall Subaru Clearwater Snake Steelhead Derby will include Washington waters.

Adding miles of new water should help boost entries in the event organized by the Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce. Chamber officials obtained a permit from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department to make the change.

 The fishing contest will extend westward and include the portion of the Snake River that’s solely in Washington. In past years, anglers were allowed to fish only in Idaho waters. That rule eliminated popular spots west of the confluence of the Snake and Clearwater rivers, such as the mouth of Steptoe Canyon, which is known for harboring large fish.

 The old boundaries also spawned rumors of some anglers cheating by entering fish that were caught downriver.

Adding Washington waters allows The Waters Edge tackle shop in Clarkston to participate as a weigh station.

“I bet you see participation up 200 to 300 people from what it has been the last three years,” Randy Krall, owner of the Lewiston tackle shop Camp, Cabin and Home, told the Lewiston Tribune. “We think the chamber has done a really good job and we appreciate them listening to our concerns.”

Information about the tournament is available from Lewis Clark Valley Chamber of Commerce, (509) 758-7712.

Local hunter rallies to salvage non-residents’ botched guided hunt

HUNTING — It's buyer-beware when paying money to an outfitter for a big-game hunt, especially when the deal is made online and payment is in person without going through a safety net such as PayPal or a credit card.

I give examples of hunters who say they've been burned by a Spokane-area man who advertises a hunting service on eBay in today's outdoors column.

  • Note: since my column was published, Sean Siegel's eBay ad for a 2013 7-Day Eastern Washington Elk Hunt has been removed.

One of these disgruntled hunters was able to salvage his trip from California through the generosity of a local man who heard of his plight at a restaurant.  I din't have room in the column for “the rest of the story:”

In 2012, Jeff Hunt of Modesto, Calif., and a friend booked a five-day bear hunt. First problem: Local hunting facilitator Sean Siegel had promised that for the price of $1,000, he would set the hunters up with a place to hunt, complete with tree blinds.

“I have it in writing,” Hunt said. “But he sets us up in a ground blind. I'm glassing through the trees at daylight and I see lady doing dishes through her kitchen window. There’s a road right there. Another house. A school bus. I have a .300 Win. Mag and I’m afraid to shoot the thing.”

The clincher: Siegel later gave the men directions to timber company land on Mica Peak, but he never told them they were required to have an Inland Empire Paper Company access permit. A company security guard caught them, booted them off and called Fish and Wildlife police.

”We went to a restaurant, and we’re all pissed off about getting ripped off by this hunting guide, and somebody we don’t know from Adam hears us and offers to take us hunting,” Hunt said.

“The next morning he drives us all the way north near the Canada border and we saw several bears. We didn’t shoot one, but at least we saw some. The best part of our hunting experience was through a guy who wouldn’t take a dime for what he did for us.”

Should you be feeding hummingbirds this winter?

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Supposing you could keep it from freezing, would leaving a nectar feeder out in your yard in late fall tempt hummingbirds into staying around when they should head south for winter?
 
Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologists say most research on whether feeders of any kind keep birds from migrating indicates that the impact is insignificant.
 
It's possible that a few individuals might linger longer, maybe even be stranded in winter conditions when they should be someplace else. The photo above shows an Anna's humming bird hanging around this area in December 2011. But for the most part, birds that migrate seasonally will do so, even if feeders are left out.
 
The agency says biologists agree that a greater long-term impact on bird migration is probably climate change and associated changes in available natural habitat across the landscape. Birds have many triggers that drive them to migrate, not the least of which is changing daylight hours.
 
Biologists also agree that feeders of any kind are not necessary for any birds, they simply make viewing birds easier for us. For most birds, feeders are bonus food troughs but not necessarily food traps.
 
“We need to support natural winter processes,” said WDFW biologist Chris Anderson of Mill Creek, “and that includes shifts in foraging areas for migrating species like hummingbirds. Taking nectar feeders down at this time of year is probably more natural and avoids the potential for keeping birds dependent on them when they should be moving on. Wild birds are not pets that need to be taken care of through feeding. But if you want to maintain feeders, be responsible and committed to it. Keep those feeders clean, filled, and heated with lights if necessary.”

Did sportsmen give Tester edge in Montana senate race?

ELECTIONS — Sen. Jon Tester has been re-elected in an intense campaign battle — heavily funded on both sides from outside sources. 

Who gave Tester the edge? 

Sportsmen, says backcountry hunter and writer Ben Long of Kalispell in this High Country News piece.

Idahoans overwhelmingly approve hunting rights amendment

ELECTIONS — Idaho voters have overwhelmingly approved an a measure upgrading hunting, fishing and trapping from traditional privileges to rights protected by an amendment to the state's constitution.

Tuesday's vote was about 78 percent in favor of H.J.R. 2aa - The Right to hunt, fish and trap measure.

While the intent seems sincere from a sportsman's perspective, one always must consider the legal ramifications of a constitutional amendment.  There's some concern this measure may have consequences for wildlife habitat – and therefore to hunters and anglers — down the line.

The issue has been pointed out in this Idaho Statesman column by Rocky Barker — http://www.idahostatesman.com/2012/10/28/2326090/right-to-hunt-fish-trap-goes-to.html.

Also before the election, a retired Idaho Fish and Game Department fisheries biologist expressed his concerns here.

Idaho group drops lawsuit over Salmon River dredging

RIVERS —  An Idaho conservation group has dropped its lawsuit challenging state approval of a plan to dredge a stretch of the Salmon River for gold, according to the Associated Press.

The Idaho Conservation League backed away from its lawsuit last week mainly because the Mike Conklin of Grangeville also scrapped his plans to dredge the river.

ICL sued days after the state approved a mining lease for Conklin. In September, Conklin was awarded a five-year lease by the Idaho Land Board for exclusive access to a half-mile stretch of river downstream of Riggins.

In its lawsuit, ICL argued the state needed to approve a reclamation plan before approving suction dredge leases.

ICL officials say they also won state assurances that if Conklin changed his mind, he would have to go through the entire lease process again.

Turnbull trumpeter swans come and go; another cygnet missing

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Life has been more complicated for this year's brood of trumpeter swans at Turnbull National Wildlife refuge.

In the three years since Solo the geriatric trumpter finally found a mate after decades of lonesomeness and revived trumpeter family life at the refuge, cygnet survival has been good.

This year, two of five cygnets did not live long enough to fledge.

A third has been missing this week.

Here's the latest report from refuge wildlife biologist Mike Rule:

We have been seeing migrant swans moving through the area mostly Tundras. Several have been on Philleo Lake and a small pond north of Rupp Road just off of Cheney Spangle. Although we do get some trumpeters there are usually less than a dozen.

The seven that (refuge visitors saw last week) may be this year's brood and their parents and sub adults from a previous years brood. I have only been seeing the two cygnets with the adult nesting pair recently. The third cygnet fledged, but it did much later then the first two, and it was straggling when I saw them all together two weeks ago.

We are going to try and get a full count of swans on the refuge this week.

  

Fresh wild turkey, duck or razor clams available for Thanksgiving

HUNTING-GATHERING — While most people head to the supermarket for their Thanksgiving fixings, some sportsmen head to the field.

Washington's late-fall wild turkey hunting season opens Nov. 20 in portions of Eastern Washington.

November is also prime time to hunt ducks, geese, deer, pheasant, forest grouse and a variety of other game around the state.

Late modern firearm general white-tailed deer hunting season runs Nov. 10-19 in northeast Game Management Units 105, 108,111, 113, and 124 for any buck. GMUs 117 and 121 are also open for the late buck hunt, but are under a four-antler-point minimum rule.

Waterfowl hunting usually picks up around the middle of the month, when the wet and windy weather starts pushing more migrating birds into the area from the north,” said Don Kraege, waterfowl manager for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
 
Rather serve shellfish? Most areas of Puget Sound are currently open for crab fishing, and two multi-day razor clam digs are scheduled at various ocean beaches in November.

Lodge addition debuts at Mt. Spokane open house

WINTER SPORTS — The main lodge at Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park is about a third larger after a $320,000 expansion project complete with a large deck for winter and summer activities.

The most significant improvement at the ski area in decades, as Brad McQuarrie general manager put it, will be revealed Saturday (Nov. 10) during an open house celebration. 4 p.m. to 6. p.m.

Clean Water Act to be explored Wednesday by Spokane panel

ENVIRONMENT — Local experts will discuss “The Clean Water Act at 40” and its implications to the Spokane River in a public panel discussion Wednesday (Nov. 7), 6 p.m. at The Community Buildling, 35 W. Main St.

“In October of 1972 Congress signed in to law a historic piece of legislation that to this day continues to help clean up and protect the Spokane River,” says Spokane RiverKeeper Bart Mihailovich, sponsor of the event. 

The discussion and public Q&A opportunities will be moderated by Rick Eichstaedt, executive director of the Center for Justice and a Clean Water Act expert.

Three panelists from Avista and local and state agencies will discuss a Fishable, Swimmable and Drinkable Spokane River.

Read on for details about the local panelists — and the REFRESHMENTS that will be available.

Battle continues for Montana stream access ruling

FISHING — Montana sportsmen continue to watch an eight-year court battle that could have serious implcations to fishing access on the state's fabled trout streams.

Here's the latest in this story from the Montana Standard.

Legend of Aahhh’s skiing into Garland Theater

SKIING — Greg Stump, the ski film pioneer made his mark in extreme skiing his 1988 classic Blizzard of Aahhh’s, will premier his latest film, Legend of Aahhh’s, Nov. 11 and 12 at the Garland Theater.

The film features interviews with Warren Miller, Dick Barrymore, Otto Lang, John Jay, Klaus Obermeyer, and white-knuckle skiing by some of the best pros in the business.

 Skiing Magazine named Stump one of the Top 25 most influential people in skiing.

Advance tickets are $7 online.

Inland Empire teen wins Junior Bassmaster World Bass Championship

TOURNAMENT FISHING — Nik Autrey of Spokane’s Inland Empire Bass Club won the 15-18 year old division of the 2012 Junior Bassmaster World Championship in the 15-18 year old division on Oct. 27 in Alabama.  

Autrey, 19, won the one-day event with 10 pounds 3 ounces of bass out of Wilson Lake near Decatur, Ala., topping a group of six junior anglers who advanced to the JWC through qualifying rounds on the local, state and divisional levels.

Autrey will be looking spiffy next time he goes fishing in his prize: a 16-foot Triton boat package with a Mercury outboard, MotorGuide trolling motor and Lowrance electronics.

To qualify for the Bassmaster event, Autrey had to win the Washington State title, then win the Western Division at Flaming Gorge.  

From there he went to the world event against the five other Federation Nation/Bassmaster Division Champions to win the championship, which included one junior from South Africa.

Joel Nania of Spokane, who watched his son, Joey, step to the world podium as a teenager a few years ago before going pro, offered this insight on the caliber of Washington's youth anglers:

“Since the Junior Bassmaster inception in 2004, of the 18 available titles (nine in the 11-14 age group and nine in the 15-18 age group) kids from Washington State have won four of them, more than any other state!”

(Joey Nania 11-14 in 2005, Joey again 15-18 in 2008, Jake Cook from the Tri-Cities 15-18 in 2009 and now Nik in 2012).  

Not bad coming from a state that tends to be all about salmon and trout! 

See the Bassmaster story here.

See more photos here.

Repairs temporarily close Centennial Trail segment near Barker Road

TRAILS — The Spokane River Centennial Trail is closed between miles 7 and 9 through Nov. 24 as workers  repair the erosion damage to the trail west of Barker, reports Kaye Turner of the Friends of the Centennial Trail.

The detour flows from the Walt Worthy building bollards (near the basalt water fountain; east of Sullivan and Krispy Kreme) out onto Indiana Parkway.

Progress east through the new round-about onto Flora going north until it curves right, east, onto Montgomery. 

At the “T” intersection of Montgomery and Riverway, turn right heading slightly south then east to the “T” intersection with Barker. 

Turn left, north, onto Barker. The Barker Trail Head is on the right before the bridge.

Jess Roskelley climbs new Alaska Range route

MOUNTAINEERING — Jess Roskelley of Spokane teamed with John Frieh of Portland in late October for a three-day “smash and grab” outing to pioneer a new route on Mount Wake in the Alaska Range. 

Roskelley, the son of Spokane mountaineering veteran and county commissioner candidate, at one time was the youngest American to summit Mount Everest.

Timing the recent Alaska Range trip with a great weather forecast, Frieh and Roskelley flew by ski plane to the Ruth Glacier, got right to business to scale a route they've named The Cook Inlet (4,500′, V AI4 M4). They were back at their skis 15 hours after leaving and flew out the following morning.

“Autumn ascents in the Alaska Range are unusual, but if you can put up with the reduced daylight and deeper cold of post-equinox climbing, you may be rewarded with less avalanche danger and, of course, no crowds,” says climbing writer Dougald MacDonald in this report on the climb.

Hunter shares fruits of elk hunting camp with wife

HUNTING — I'm easing back into the swing of civilization after being in a Blue Mountains elk camp for more than a week.  Bittersweet.

I couldn't tell whether my wife was more excited to see me return Saturday or whether she had her eye on the leftovers in the coolers.

We don't starve at elk camp, and everything is pre-prepared for fast food service when we return to camp after a hard day: Stew, pasties, spaghetti bricks, sausauges and salmon for the grill, salads, homemade pies…. 

Saturday and Sunday's meals were ready to go onto the dinner table back at home. 

Whitetail rutting activity picking up

HUNTING — While elk hunting in the Blue Mountains last week, I saw whitetails at elevation 5400 feet — and I also saw several scrapes.

But Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson saw more than that on Thursday.

We spent most of yesterday chasing whitetails. We noticed several does with roughed up back hair. We also saw several bucks whose necks were swollen and witnessed several jousting. It was raining off and on, but we stuck with it and ended up with over a hundred good images!

The large buck was pretty messed up – he was kicking everyone’s butt. We affectionately called him Duke (he walked sideways like John Wayne and didn’t take crap from anyone).

Westslope Fly Shop closes after two years

 FISHING —  “We are pretty proud of the store we designed and built all of the store fixtures and displays,” said Jesse Clark in November 2010.  
 
He and his son, John Clark, had just opened Westslope Fly Shop in the Riverwalk building at1003 E. Trent, next to Northern Lights Brewery.
 
Just 23 months later, the economy had consumed their efforts.
 
 “We closed the shop on Oct. 24,” Clark wrote in an email while I was on a hunting vacation the past two weeks.
“We just couldn't make it. The economic situation just kept hammering us. With the uncertainty of the economy on everybody's minds the willingness to spend money on a hobby got weaker and weaker.
 
“We enjoyed the time we were in business, made a lot of friends and worked with local clubs to improve fishing opportunities in the area.
 
“A mention of our appreciation in one of your columns would be appreciated.”
 

Idaho panel to consider fish management plan

FISHING — Idaho's statewide fish management plan will be considered by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission Nov. 7-9 in Idaho Falls.

Agenda items include approval of a 2013-2018 statewide fish management plan and approval of the fishing rules brochure for 2013-2015.

Commissioners also will hear updates on the Mule Deer Initiative, the upcoming legislative session, the Idaho Land Legacy Trust Initiative and brucellosis management.

Hunters must file big-game hunting reports

HUNTING — Sportsmen in Idaho and Washington are required to file online or on-phone reports on whether they filled their big game tags.  The information is critical to wildlife biologists trying to manage big-game herds.

IDAHO requires hunters to file a report on their deer, elk and pronghorn hunts within 10 days after harvest or within 10 days after the end of the hunt if they did not harvest.

Hunters are required to file a report for each tag they bought whether they went hunting or not.

Idaho Fish and Game has a 24-hour, toll-free phone line to speak to a live operator when filing reports. Call (877) 268-9365 to file reports 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Or go to the Fish and Game Website to file a report online.

The information from past years is available online to help hunters plan their hunts.  See the following web pages for the Idaho data.

WASHINGTON requires hunters to submit a hunter report for each big game or turkey transport tag and special hunting permit acquired for the previous hunting season by Jan. 31.

Get the details for online reporting here.

Hunter Reports also can be filed by toll-free phone, (877) 945-3492.

See data compiled from Washington's game harvest reports.

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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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About Rich

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

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