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Outdoors blog

Archive for October 2013

October 2013 one of the best ever for staying outdoors

ENVIRONMENT — If you are a camper, backpacker, paddler or angler, you're probably looking back, as I am, with fond memories of October's fall color spectacle against blue skies.  

It was fantastic, with perhaps a record dearth of rainfall to spoil the experience.

Not great for everyone, but we take the lemonaide when it comes.

We were sleeping under stars and an brilliant full moon without need for a tent in the middle of the month 

Like all seasons, October glory is finally waning into something else, as this photo suggests from Montana outdoor photographer Jaime Johnson.

Idaho gets habitat grants from elk group

WILDLIFE — The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation says it is transferring $223,943 in grants and other funding to help boost elk habitat programs in Idaho, including $50,000 for the wolf management program.

The funding is directed mostly to nine counties including Boundary, Clearwater, Latah and Shoshone.

Projects include controlled burns and weed control to boost big-game forage with the goal of reestablishing healthy elk habitat and populations, RMEF officials said.

Conservation projects are selected for grants using science-based criteria and a committee of RMEF volunteers and staff along with representatives from partnering agencies.

“It’s no secret elk populations and habitat declined over the last few decades in north-central Idaho. RMEF is stepping up funding and research efforts and working with our partners to address improvements,” said David Allen, RMEF president. “We are also increasing our efforts to assist and strengthen the state’s wolf management program.”

The funding comes largely from the foundation's local fundraising banquets, he said.
 
Read on for the list of 2013 projects the funding will boost in each  county.

Alaska family adventures trekking into Aunties Bookstore

ADVENTURE — Alaskan author Erin McKittrick and her family, who are all traveling by camper van from from Alaska through California on a book tour will present a program Sunday, Nov. 3, at 1 p.m., at Auntie's Bookstore in Spokane. 

Published this month, the book, Small Feet, Big Land: Adventure, Home, and Family on the Edge of Alaska (Mountaineers Books).  

That should help explain why the book, family and the program may be worth your attention.

Erin and her husband have two little kids who feature strongly in their stories and presentation, so their events are free and family-friendly (i.e., lots of cool gear for little kids to climb into and around).

Also of note, Erin and her family are also the featured subject of a Banff Mountain Film Festival film this year, a short piece called “Life on Ice” which follows them around as they lived for a few months on the Malaspina Glacier in Alaska. 

Erin and her family have been profiled by the New York Times.  Now you can see for yourself.

Time running out on Idaho fall chinook fishing

FISHING — Chinook salmon fishing will end in Idaho on the Snake and Clearwater rivers Thursday, Oct. 31 – except a short reach on the Snake River below Hells Canyon Dam, which closes November 17.

The season opened Sept. 1, on the Snake River between Lewiston and Hells Canyon Dam, in the lower Clearwater River downstream of the U.S. Highway 12 Memorial Bridge in Lewiston, and in the Salmon River from its mouth upstream to Eye of the Needle Rapids.

The Snake River, from Cliff Mountain Rapids to Hells Canyon Dam, remains open until further notice or November 17.

The daily bag limit is six adult Chinook salmon, the possession limit is 18 adult Chinook and there is no fall season limit on adult Chinook. Only adipose-fin-clipped salmon may be kept.

Only adult Chinook must be recorded on the angler's salmon permit. There are no limits on jacks, but anglers must have a valid Idaho fishing license and salmon permit to fish for salmon.

This year, a record of around 55,000 adult fall hatchery-origin Chinook and about 21,500 jacks have crossed Lower Granite Dam, many of them returning to the Snake River above Lewiston. 

Plan ahead for free entry to federal lands Nov. 9-11

 

PUBLIC LANDS — Federal land managers offer free entry to parks, forests, U.S. Bureau of Land management lands, refuges and other national interest lands where fees are charged on certain holidays scattered through the year.

  • The last big freebie of the year is Nov. 9-11 — Veterans Day Weekend — with free entry to virtually all the federal public lands.

The 13 Fee-Free Days in 2013 include three  holidays that involve ALL federal lands such as national parks, forests, BLM lands and wildlife refuges — Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 21), National Public Lands Day (Sept. 28), and Veterans Day Weekend (Nov. 9-11).

The fee waiver does not cover expanded amenity or user fees for things such as camping, boat launches, transportation, or special tours.

Additionally, active duty military members and their dependents are eligible for a free annual pass that provides entrance to lands managed by the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and the U.S. Forest Service.

The America the Beautiful National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass Program also offers a free lifetime pass for people with disabilities, a $10 lifetime senior pass for those age 62 and over, and an $80 annual pass for the general public.

Wilderness advocates wary of bikes in study area

PUBLIC LANDS — Are mountain bikers trying to rewrite the Wilderness Act?

Bicycle routes in Wyoming wilderness study area questioned
Bridger-Teton National Forest officials said the management plan for the Wyoming forest specifically allows mountain bike routes in the Palisades Wilderness Study Area, but conservationists are questioning that decision, and said that if the area should be designated wilderness by Congress, then the mountain bike routes would have to be closed.
—Jackson Hole News & Guide

Antlers or horns, big ones rack up a hunter’s desire

WILDLIFE — Most hunters know the difference, but in casual conversation it's not uncommon to hear reference to something like a bull elk with “horns” that raked the sky. An elk has antlers, but the colloquial term “horns” rolls easier off the tongue.

Nevertheless, even sportsmen have misconceptions about what it takes to grow antlers and why not every deer and elk that reaches maturity will sport massive headgear, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks biologists.

Here are some basics.

Antlers grow on male members of the deer family, including deer, elk and moose. They fall off each year during winter and grow back during spring and summer.

Horns are permanent growing features on the heads of mountain goats, bighorn sheep and bison.

Exceptions include:

  • Male and female caribou, which are in the deer family, both have antlers.
  • Antelope have horns but they shed the outer covering or sheath each year.

Genetics and nutrition play major roles in horn growth. Generally, genetics determine the form of antlers while nutrition dictates their size. Some deer or elk simply lack the bloodlines to grow trophy-class racks of multiple points and width no matter what they're fed.

A study of white-tailed deer compared the offspring of yearling bucks with relatively large branched antlers versus yearlings with only spikes. Because both sets of deer were captive in the controlled experiment they were fed identical diets. The yearlings with larger antlers sired only 5 percent spikes, while the spike yearlings produced 44 percent spike antlered yearlings.

However, one study of mule deer has shown that in wet years, which mean increased availability of food, there are fewer spike bucks and larger number of yearlings with forked antlers.

Bottom line:  The highest scoring trophy big-game usually are produced from a combination of good genetics and nutrition.

Big reason to fish Amber Lake before it closes

FLY FISHING — Washington Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologist Randy Osborne recently fished southwest Spokane County’s Amber Lake and reeled in this example of why anglers might want to wet a line there before the season closes at the end of November.

The lake is open for catch-and-release angling under selective gear rules and a prohibition on internal combustion motors. 

Orienteers invite families to navigate through Manito Park


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ORIENTEERING — The Eastern Washington Orienteering Club will celebrate haunting season in the sixth annual Vampire O event Saturday (Oct. 26) at Manito Park.

Participants will search for control points by headlamp or flashlight, but they must be constantly on the lookout for “vampires” who can rob them of points and cause them to turn to the dark side themselves.

  • Register starting at 6 p.m.  Mass start at 6:30 p.m.
  • Meet near the parking lot off Grand Avenue at 18th Street.

Bring the family and dress for Halloween fun. 

Seasoned hunter finds no ‘joy’ in the kill, but relishes the hunt

HUNTING — I traded emails a few years ago with a local hunter named Dennis regarding the feelings we experience when we are skillful and/or lucky enough to fill our big-game tags.  I've kept his last note as a reminder of the fence many sportsmen walk as we make the ultimate decision to squeeze the trigger:

Being a hunter, and growing older makes for constant reflection in my justification for pursuing and dispatching warm-blooded animals. Many of my friends have quit as they age. I guess we tend to become more in touch with our mortality, and find ourselves wanting to preserve life rather than ending it.

I harvested a nice mature buck this year, and although I hit him hard in the vital zone, I had to follow up and apply the coup de grace. I told my son just how I felt standing there, that it gave me no pleasure to put an end to that animal's life. Were it not for the great tablefare it provided, and the time I got to enjoy with my son in the field, I would have left the rifle in the cabinet and found something else to do.

Hydraulic code updates affect construction around state waters

CONSERVATION — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife will accept public comments through Nov. 15 on proposed updates to the Hydraulic Code, which governs construction work in and around state waters.

Agency staff will hold a public meeting to discuss the changes on Monday, Oct. 28, at Center Place Event Center, 2426 N. Discovery Pl. in Spokane Valley.

Hydraulic Code rules were last updated in 1994, with the exception of those for mineral prospecting, which were updated in 2008.

The proposals would update the requirements to stay current with fish science and design technology and streamline the review process for hydraulic permit applications, agency officials said.

Canoeing salmon advocates near source of Columbia River

Sea2Source Episode 5: Kettle Falls to Kinbasket Lake BC from Voyages of Rediscovery on Vimeo.

The “Sea to the Source” canoe expedition that left Astoria, Ore., on Aug. 2 in hand-made crafts is on track to reach the end of its voyage Monday at Canal Flats, the source of the Columbia River in British Columbia.

An expedition of canoeists and Native American students is leading an upstream effort the length of the Columbia to advocate construction of a fish ladder to reintroduce chinook salmon runs in the Columbia River above Grand Coulee Dam.

  • See photos of the latest leg of the journey upstream from Kettle Falls.

The crew consists of five river guides who oversee a river-based environmental education program called Voyages of Rediscovery. They have enlisted the muscle power of Indian Tribes, youths and other supporters to build new boats and power them along the way.

Donna-Gay Ward of Northport, Wash., paddled more that 300 miles with “the Guys” to the U.S.-Canada border. By Oct. 12, she said the paddlers were in Revelstoke, British Columbia, making a food buy and were down to four men paddling the new canoe they had built while at Kettle Falls. “They have been getting up around 4:30 a.m. and hitting the water at first light and paddling all day,” she said. “The day they phoned they had done about 75 km!”

Here is the latest update, received today from expedition member Adam Wicks-Arshack: 

What an incredible RIVER!  Last week we paddled away from Revelstoke and into the most remote and serene sections of the Columbia River.  In just a few days we made it to Mica Dam and were treated to a nights stay in a house and an all you can eat buffet at the cafeteria (I am pretty sure they will now have to raise the BC Hydro rates after our food binge).  What great hosts as have been everyone that we have met along the Great River of the West.  Leaving Mica dam was a little eerie, you could really feel the power of the river and the power of what we humans have done to the river.  For the past 500km we had been warned about the Kinabasket Lake about the winds in particular and how fierce they can be.  It was a thrill to paddle past Boat Encampment, the Canoe River, Wood River and finally turning south around the big bend of the Columbia River.

Fortunately we were able to cover a lot of territory in short time and sailed about 65km in one day.  We really felt as though the river graced us and allowed us safe passage and this was for a reason.  The river wants salmon and wants to get healthy again.

Wicks-Arshack says the paddlers have been resupplied, helped  and cheered on by people along the way who “share incredible stories and their deep relationships to the river and the salmon.”

They all seek to let salmon regain their relationship with the entire river from sea to source, he said.

“It is clear we need more education along the river,” he said. “There is a great disconnect between the upper and lower basin.  Many people in Canada are unaware of where the river meets the ocean and people on the lower river in the USA are oblivious to where the headwaters are and the sacrifices the First Nation, Canadian people, and the land have made for flood control and hydro power.”

  • In Spokane:  Expedition members plan to participate in the Roundtable discussion on the Columbia River Treaty Perspectives  at the annual Lake Roosevelt Forum, Nov. 19-20 at the Davenport Hotel in Spokane.

“There is a lot of work to do.  Even though this trip is coming to an end, for us, this is just the beginning lets start figuring out how we can get a diverse group of young people connected to the river…. Respect for the river comes with a love for the river and you can only love something you know.” 

He envisions an international water trail — perhaps The Columbia River Water Trail from Source to Sea — that “would constantly remind Columbia River citizens that everyone lives downstream.”

Bear awareness needed during big-game hunts

HUNTING — Bears are still out and active throughout the fall as hunters are out for deer and elk hunting — a potentially hazardous mix. 

Being bear aware is particularly important for hunters because stalking and harvesting game increases a person’s chance of bumping into bears, says Jamie Jonkel, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear management specialist.

“When travelling through dense brush or field dressing an animal, be extra aware and do what you can to warn wildlife of your presence,” Jonkel says.  “Always have bear spray close at hand.”

Jonkel says this has been an especially busy fall for grizzly bear activity, especially in Western Montana.

He offers these safety tips for hunting in bear country:

  • Always carry bear spray, have it within easy reach and know how to use it.
  • If you are going to be alone in bear country, let someone know your plans.
  • Watch for fresh bear sign.
  • After making a kill, get the carcass out of the area as quickly as possible.
  • When field dressing the carcass, keep your can of bear spray within easy reach.
  • Use special precautions if you must leave and return to a carcass, including   placing the carcass where you can observe it from a distance when you return.
  • Do not attempt to frighten away or haze a bear that is near or feeding on a carcass

Check the Deer, Elk and Antelope Hunting regulations available online and at FWP offices, or go to FWP’s Living with Wildlife web page for more information on hunting in bear country.

Report: Kootenai River changes impact sturgeon

FISHERIES — The eggs of endangered Kootenai River white sturgeon in Idaho and Montana are less likely to hatch in the river because of flow changes caused by Libby Dam and other human actions, according to a new report by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Associated Press reporter Nicholas K. Geranios says the report issued this week concluded that sturgeon eggs hatch best in places where rocks are washed clean of algae by river flow.

Read on for the rest of the AP story.

Nordic group preps Mount Spokane trails, reveals winter programs

WINTER SPORTS — The hard-working volunteers from Spokane Nordic — more helpers would be much appreciated — are gearing up for their last trail prepping day of the year, set for Sunday, Oct 27, at the Mount Spokane cross-country ski trails. 
 
The group already has cut and split firewood for the Selkirk Lodge and Nova Hut and cleared about 60 percent of the trails to ready them for snowfall and grooming.
 
Last week, 14 people showed up to help. The group says it needs at least that many people this weekend to clean up the trails from Selkirk Lodge to Junction 2 and the teaching area; plus 2 or 3 people to work on the new 8.5 km of outer trail.
 
Meet at Selkirk Lodge at 9 a.m. Bring work clothes, gloves, a lunch, and a friend or family member. If you have loppers or a gas-powered brush cutter/weed eater with a blade, please bring it too. Work will continue until 3 p.m., but any time you can put in is appreciated, even if you have to leave early.
 
What's new this Season
 
Spokane Nordic's newsletter is on its way to members highlighting the following new developments for cross-country skiers focused on Mount Spokane:
 
- 8.5 km of new trails called the Outer Limits, bringing the perimeter to over 31 km
- WinterFest — A fun new family festival set for Jan. 19
- Youth Rangers program for kids moving beyond Nordic Kids lesson — very cool stuff
- A freshly-painted Selkirk Lodge
- A new trailhead sign up the little hill from Selkirk Lodge.
 
KIDS' TRADE-UP: as of this year, there are no local ski shops offering an entry-level trade-up program for kids, although Fitness Fanatics is allowing past participants to continue. A Nordic Kids ski swap is in the works, and beginner packages are available at local ski shops for under $200.

Mt. Spokane Ski Swap features free Learn to Ski area

WINTER SPORTS — The 49th annual Ski Swap sponsored by the Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol coming up this weekend, Oct. 26-27, will offer a new feature to the main activity of buying and selling used winter gear — a FREE Learn To Ski Area

Beginner skiers don't have to wait until snow carpets the mountain. They can take their first turns at the Ski Swap.

Mt. Spokane Ski Area will provide skis and boots from Elan, as well as helmets for each participant.  Certified instructors will coach beginners through their first turns.

The Learn To Ski Area is FREE to all participants!  Minors must bring a parent for supervision.

All participants will receive a coupon for $10 off any beginner lesson at Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park.

The Learn To Ski area will be open at the Ski Swap on Saturday, Oct. 26, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 27, from 9 a.m. to noon.

The Mt. Spokane Ski Patrol Ski Swap is the Pacific Northwest's largest winter sports retailer, featuring new and gently used gear from area shops and individuals.

Visitors to the Ski Swap will receive a FREE Mt. Spokane Thursday non-holiday lift ticket by purchasing advance tickets online at www.skipatrolskiswap.com

These guests will also receive a $20 Liftopia voucher, and gain early access to booth & vendor spaces at 8:00am Saturday.  Shopping begins at 9 a.m. Saturday.

Washington’s senior hunter, 97, hasn’t lost his aim

Gordon Blossom of Thorp bagged this buck north of Colville in the Aladdin unit last week – his 70th since he took his first deer at age 14, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department reports.

A disabled Master Hunter who also hunts antlerless elk to help alleviate agricultural damage in Kittitas County, Gordon could be Washington’s oldest active hunter at age 97.

My wife's grandfather, a Washington State Master Hunter, and as far as I know Washington’s oldest hunter, had success today,” Lee Davis of the Kittitas Field & Stream Club wrote on Oct. 17.

“Gordon has had a lot of success over the last few years with elk as well. I have watched him hunt and he takes hunter ethics seriously and is in the Master Hunter Program for the correct reasons. As an example: We have witnessed him NOT SHOOT an elk in a depredation area (Ellensburg 3911) when he could legally but did not because he stated “the elk were leaving and heading back into the area we want them”.  Many others would have shot simply because they could.

“We congratulate Gordon on a long and successful lifetime of hunting and thank him for the highly ethical example he sets for young hunters,” WDFW officials said in a post on the agency's Facebook Page.

Autumn hunting doesn’t preclude hiking

TRAILS — Do you shy away from hiking trails in the beautiful season of autumn because the hunting seasons are underway?

Here's a query I received from area hiker Randy Gosline:

I'm looking for some advice from a hunter. I hike and backpack a lot of miles during the Spring and Summer. Fall is probably the prettiest time of the year to hike with all the trees and foliage changing colors. Here in lies the problem. Hiking during hunting season scares the “Bajeepers” out of me. Even though I always wear bright colors and make lots of noise along the way I can't help but be very nervous about hiking this time of year. Do you have any advice for those of us who want to continue to enjoy hiking during hunting season?  I hate to put my backpack away when we are having beautiful fall weather to hike in.

My answer:

First, if you're genuinely afraid, you can hike in state and national parks and wildlife refuges where hunting is prohibited.

My best advice for you is to stay on trails and to continue what you're already doing: Wear bright colors, (avoid black, which looks too much like a bear) make noise  — and keep hiking!  

I've hiked or hunted virtually every week during the fall for decades and I've never had a problem.

I've hiked or hunted virtually every week during the fall for decades and I've never had a problem.

My new hiking book, Day Hiking Eastern Washington, offers many good options, as does the local classic, 100 Hikes in the Inland Northwest.

Here are six choice fall hikes in Eastern Washington.

Enjoy.

Moose moved from Indian Trail neighborhood

WILDLIFE — A rutting bull moose and the cow moose he was pursuing near Woodridge Elementary School was tranquilized and removed from the Indian Trail neighborhood Monday, but not before his 900-pounds made kindling out of a section of the wood fence around the Dave and Marcia Hardy's home.

Marcia, who watched the events through the window of her house said she was amazed at the size of the animal.

She also praised the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife officers for their safety and efficiency in handling the situation, even when crowds of neighbors showed up to take photos and after a neighbor drove by and spooked the moose into a more difficult place to handle.

Incidentally:  The bull already had a red tag in its ear after being rescued in 2010 when it had become entangled in an electrified fence on Green Bluff, WDFW officers said.

Hunters with a moose permit should avoid these moose because the tranquilizing drug remains in their system for a month, WDFW says.  Both animals were transported and released near Lake of the Woods in north Spokane County near the Pend Oreille County Line and the Idaho border. 

The cow has a yellow ear tag and the bull has a red ear tag — and it's antlers have been sawed off for safety during transport.

Romance lost?  Both moose were released together.  After the ordeal, it may be the bull who tells the cow, “Not tonight, I have a headache.”

Steelheaders find action among Hanford Reach salmon

FISHING — Oh, yeah!  Steelhead are returning to the Upper Columbia River through the Hanford Reach, too.  Outnumbered by the record run of  fall chinook, some anglers almost forgot… but not everyone.

Here's the latest report from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

The majority of the boats and bank anglers fishing in the Hanford Reach were targeting salmon this past week.  WDFW staff interviewed 215 bank anglers fishing for steelhead and salmon and 40 boat anglers fishing for steelhead.  An estimated 111 steelhead were caught and 39 fish harvested by steelhead anglers this past week.  Salmon anglers caught an additional 24 steelhead bringing the total steelhead catch to 135 (harvest = 47). 

On October 17, the steelhead regulations were modified in the lower section of the Hanford Reach (Hwy 395 to the old Hanford town site wooden powerline towers) to allow retention of all hatchery steelhead.

For the season, Oct 1-20, an estimated 334 steelhead have been caught in the lower Hanford Reach and 90 steelhead have been harvested. 

Scout leaders disciplined after toppling rocks in Utah park

PUBLIC LANDS — I've seen their embarrassing display of leadership in the home video (above) from the field as they toppled an ancient rock feature on Utah's Goblin Valley State Park.

I've also seen their lame attempts to justify their vandalism as ensuring the safety of visitors.

But the bottom line is that these two Boy Scout leaders are stupid thugs who have no business being role models for our  youth. 

If  you see an issue that needs attention on public lands, contact the management authorities.  It's illegal to destroy natural features.

Boy Scouts remove leaders who toppled rock formation in Utah park
The Boy Scout leaders who toppled a rock formation in Goblin Valley State Park in Utah, and captured their actions on video that went viral online, have been removed from their leadership positions.
—Salt Lake Tribune;

Fishing ends today on Yakima’s record fall chinook run

FISHING — It's been one heck of a ride for Yakima River fall chinook anglers.  Here's the latest report Washington Fish and Wildlife Department fisheries biologist Paul Hoffarth as the Lower Yakima River season is scheduled to close today, Oct. 22:

The fall salmon fishery in the lower Yakima River is coming to a close. The last day of fishing is Tuesday, October 22, 2013.  WDFW staff interviewed 260 anglers between October 14th and 20th.  Anglers reported harvesting 102 adult Chinook, 4 jacks, and 1 coho.  An estimated 821 adult fall Chinook, 29 jacks, and 4 coho were harvested this past week from 1,961 angler trips.

For the season, 7,903 anglers trips have been taken and 2,478 adult Chinook, 342 chinook jacks, and 87 coho have been harvested.  This year’s harvest breaks the record of 2,300 fall Chinook set in 2002 when over 13,000 fall Chinook returned to the Yakima River.

Chinook catch rates still high at Hanford; fish quality lower

FISHING — The latest fall chinook creel report from the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River says the fishing pressure continues to decline but anglers still working the record salmon run were averaging an excellent 2.7 fish per boat.

However, with the season heading toward the Oct. 31 closure, the quality of the salmon is degrading as they ripen for spawning.  

Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife fisheries biologist for the area said that, based on anecdotal information from anglers and creel surveyors, he'd say, “Roughly 20% are still edible, 20% are smokers, and 60% are more than ready to spawn.”

Here's Hoffarth's summary of the survey data for last week.

The number of boats on the water in the Hanford Reach continues to decline as the season nears the end.  The Columbia River between the old Hanford townsite wooden powerline towers and Priest Rapids Dam will close to fishing for salmon on October 22.  The river from the Hwy 395 bridge in Kennewick/Pasco upstream to the old Hanford townsite will remain open to fishing for salmon through October 31. 

There were an estimated 3,981 angler trips for salmon this past week.  Anglers averaged 2.7 Chinook per boat and 12 hours for each Chinook caught from the bank.

Staff interviewed anglers from 387 boats (941 boat anglers) and 215 bank anglers fishing for Chinook reporting a harvest of 1,074 adult Chinook and 60 jacks.  Harvest for the week was estimated at 4,009 adult Chinook and 224 Chinook jacks. 

For the season, 23,332 adult Chinook and 2,588 jacks have been harvested.  The adult harvest breaks the previous record of 13,102 adults harvested set last year.  There have been 37,062 angler trips for the fishery through October 20. The in-season run update for natural origin adult Hanford Reach fall Chinook returning to the Hanford Reach is 132,692 (updated Oct 15).

Deaths of 5 wolves worry Yellowstone wolf-watchers

HUNTING —  Wolf-watchers say they’re concerned that hunters participating in Wyoming’s second annual wolf hunt may have killed five members of the Lamar Canyon Pack, a well-known wolf pack whose territory includes part of Yellowstone National Park.

Officials with the Wyoming Game and Fish Department say it’s impossible to determine if the two male and three female wolves were members of the Lamar Canyon Pack. The five were killed in a hunt area northeast of Cody over three days in mid-October.

Recent counts put the number of wolves in the pack at 11, meaning almost half the pack might have been killed.

State law prohibits Game and Fish employees from disclosing details about wolves killed in Wyoming’s annual wolf hunt. That includes the specific locations where wolves are killed and the wolves’ age, coloration and breeding status, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports.

Regardless, Game and Fish officials can’t determine the identity of the wolves killed for certain because the wolves weren’t among those in the region that are wearing radio collars, department spokesman Alan Dubberley said.

“There’s no way to know. We just don’t have that information,” Dubberley said.

Wolves of the Rockies President Marc Cooke said he sought the identity of the wolves killed from Game and Fish officials but didn’t get any answers.

“They might as well face the reality that there’s a good possibility that wolves killed were from Yellowstone,” Cooke said.

The hunt area had a limit of four wolves. The five killed exceeded that by one. Last year, hunters were allowed to kill up to eight wolves in the hunt area.

This year’s statewide wolf hunt limit is 26, down from 52 last year. The wolf hunting season began Oct. 1 and ends Dec. 31 with the exception of a hunt area south of Jackson where hunting began Oct. 15 and ends Dec. 31.

Cow elk hunt has its moments for readers

HUNTING — Numerous comments have come in regarding my Sunday Outdoors feature, “Milking the Cow Elk Tag,” a story about what to do with the most coveted permit you never hear a hunter brag about.

Following are phrases in the story that are triggering most of the “right on” and “I remember when” comments in the reader response:

“Can’t eat antlers,” my dad often said. Living through the Great Depression instilled that attitude. It served our family well.

I’ve never seen a cow elk featured on the cover of Field & Stream or Outdoor Life, yet every ordinary-guy elk hunter I know applies for a cow tag.

Maybe this is why hunters don’t gloat when they draw a cow tag. How humiliating would it be if you didn’t fill it.

My luck changed on the last morning of the season, verifying once again that getting into elk is all about putting in the time.

Following an elk down a slope in the Blue Mountains is like flirting with your best friend’s spouse. There’s no easy way out of the situation, and you make things much worse if you score.

E=mc2: That is, Eating quality equals Miles wild meat must be packed out by muscle power multiplied by the number of Contour lines crossed, squared.

I left the mountains, not with a rack to hang on the wall, but with a trophy for the freezer.

Hunter bags whitetail buck; thief steals meat

HUNTING — The code of ethics among hunters is eroding, as this Eastern Washington sportsman graphically points out in the following message to Washington Fish and Wildlife police:

Here are pictures of the deer that I shot Saturday, Oct. 19, near Rock Lake.  I shot the deer about 9:30 a.m. and processed it and put it into game bags.  The hind quarters I hung in a tree about 50 yards from where I shot the deer and the rib cage I set on a stump.  I left the head lying by the gut pile.  I took the front quarters back to the truck (.85 miles according to my GPS) to get my pack frame. 

My wife met me where I had parked my pickup and we went in to get the rest of the deer. It took 1.5 hours from the time I left to when I returned and found all that was left was the gut pile. 

Whoever took the meat cut the rope out of the tree. 

It is a sad day when someone steals a man's deer. 

Anyone with tips or information about this wildlife crime can qualify for a reward by calling the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department's poaching hotline, (877) 933-9847 or the Spokane Region office at (509) 892-1001.  

What's going on out there?

Idaho anglers getting their shot at fall chinook

FISHING — Through today, anglers have caught 267 marked adults and 161 jacks fall Chinook and caught and released 1,142 unmarked fish in the lower Clearwater River, accordnig to an Idaho Fish and Game Departmetnt creel report.

They caught and kept 861 adults and 671 jacks in the Snake River, for a total of 1,532 fish. Hatchery-origin fish are marked with a clipped adipose fin.

This year, almost 54,812 adult fall hatchery-origin Chinook and about 21,366 jacks crossed Lower Granite Dam, many of them returned to the Snake River above Lewiston. 

Panhandle hunters report seeing more elk

HUNTING — During the first week of the main big-game hunting seasons, Idaho Panhandle hunters reported seeing a lot of moose and grouse and they saw more elk and elk sign than the past few years, according to reports for Idaho Fish and Game Department hunter check stations.

The number of elk calves seen varied. Some hunters reported a lot of calves with groups of cows while others reported few or no calves.

But hunters saw a lot of spike elk, which typically means good overwinter calf survival.

Most deer taken in early October in the Panhandle are incidental to elk hunting. Deer hunting success is gauged by what happens during the November 1 to December 1 part of the deer season.

Deer success mixed bag, check stations report

HUNTING — Although there's still plenty of deer hunting opportunity remaining in 2013, the general modern rifle seasons in Eastern Washington ended in many units on Sunday with mixed results.

Bottom line: Mule deer success rates are up in the Okanogan region while hunters still struggle in their odds of bagging a mulie or whitetail in northeastern Washington.

One other point:  The number of hunters who take time to stop in at check stations conveniently located on U.S. 395 near Deer Park and U.S. 2 near Chattaroy remains low. The information collected by state biologists and volunteer hunter education instructors is valuable to wildlife management, which ultimately is geared to improving hunter success in future years. 

Following are summaries from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Northeast Washington stations at Deer Park and Chattaroy:

A total of 405 hunters stopping at the stations on Oct. 13, 19 and 20 killed 62 deer (56 whitetails, 6 mule deer) with hunters also checking in forest grouse, waterfowl and one each: moose, cougar, coyote and bobcat.

Check station participation continues to be low, as are success rates.  In 2012 the same check stations on these 3 week-end days had a total of 408 hunters checked with 79 deer including 67 white-tails and 12 mule deer.

  • A 16% success rate for this early part of the season in northeast WA is very typical (since the '80's, these early check stations have documented from 5 to 20% success rate among hunters.) It's during the late season, Nov. 9-19, in GMUs 105, 108, 111, 113, 117, 121, 124, when success rates are much higher (20-30%).

Okanogan station at Winthrop:

Biologists Fitkin and Heinlen ran the Winthrop deer check station for the final weekend of the general modern firearm season.  Over two weekends we checked 252 hunters with 78 deer.  The total number of hunters checked is almost identical to last year; however, the number of deer checked this year is up noticeably, indicating a significant increase in hunter success despite the mild weather.  In addition, 44% of the checked bucks were in the 4 ½ years old or greater age category as compared to 30% in 2012.  These check station numbers suggest late permit hunters should look forward to excellent hunting opportunity. 

Montana landowners curbing access to public lands

PUBLIC LANDS — For sportsmen of all persuasions — and the businesses and economy they support — this is a troubling trend that's accelerating in Montana:

Disputes over public access across private land in Montana on the rise
The Public Land/Water Access Association, which advocates for public access to public lands, said private landowners in Montana are increasingly blocking access to roads across their lands that have existed for decades, and PLWAA is tracking at least 10 such closures in Darby, Fergus, Madison, Meagher, Ravalli, Sweet Grass, Teton and Toole counties.

—Great Falls Tribune

Father, son, yellow Lab score pheasants at Fishtrap

HUNTING — Robert Estuar and his 11 year-old son, Tomas, took a gamble on whether roosters would be stocked at the Fishtrap release site for Saturday's opening of the Eastern Washington pheasant season.

But they found birds and made the best of the day with their yellow Lab, Bella.

  • The state wasn't telling which sites would be stocked for the opener. Continue reading for details about the release program at 23 sites in Eastern Washington

Hunting dusky grouse can give you the blues

HUNTING — Hunting dusky grouse with a pointing dog is one part bliss and several parts misery and despair.

Duskies — the name given a decade ago to the former “blue grouse” east of the Cascades — are notoriously fickle about holding to a point.  

They might hold, as did the one pictured above, or they may not.

They might fly up in a tree and look at you or they may flush at the hint that you're coming their way and rocket downhill a quarter mile into the timber.

They like high ridges and openings at the edges of timber. Often the terrain is rocky.

It can be tough going — and tough shooting.

I liken dusky hunting to a chukar hunt with timber mixed in to increase the shooting difficulty factor.

I was one for three on Saturday with two other birds flushing a full 40 yards away from Scout's solid point.

Tough quarry. 

New study warns of climate change impacts to oceans

ENVIRONMENT — A new study looking at the impacts of climate change on the world’s ocean systems concludes that by the year 2100, about 98 percent of the oceans will be affected by acidification, warming temperatures, low oxygen, or lack of biological productivity – and most areas will be stricken by a multitude of these stressors, according to the Columbia Basin Bulletin.

These biogeochemical changes triggered by human-generated greenhouse gas emissions will not only affect marine habitats and organisms, the researchers say, but will often co-occur in areas that are heavily used by humans.

Results of the study are being published this week in the journal PLoS Biology. It was funding by the Norwegian Research Council and Foundation through its support of the International Network for Scientific investigation of deep-sea ecosystems.

“While we estimated that 2 billion people would be impacted by these changes, the most troubling aspect of our results was that we found that many of the environmental stressors will co-occur in areas inhabited by people who can least afford it,” said Andrew Thurber, an Oregon State University oceanographer and co-author on the study.

State considers motorized use on John Wayne Trail

TRAILS — Farmers and disabled visitors could be allowed to used motorized vehicles on portions of two major state rail-trails under a proposal being considered by the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission.

A public meeting is set for Nov. 1 in Ellensburg to discuss the proposed regulation changes on Iron Horse State Park’s John Wayne Pioneer Trail (JWPT).  The trail is the former Milwaukee railroad corridor that runs from North Bend east to the Idaho border near Tekoa.

The meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1, in the Teanaway Room at the Hal Holmes Community Center, 209 N. Ruby St. in Ellensburg.

The Washington State Legislature directed that the JWPT be managed for non-motorized uses, and various grants over the years also have limited trail use to non-motorized recreation. A state law restricts motor vehicle use of the JWPT.

However, farmers with property adjacent to the trail and State Parks concessionaires have requested that the agency allow them motorized use.

The proposal would allow motorized use by special permit through the agency for farmers s well as a new class of motor vehicles  defined by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as “Other Power-Driven Mobility Devices.” 

The proposed changes are not intended to alter the primary non-motorized recreation focus of State Parks’ trail management, officials say.

Washington State Parks manages five long-distance rail trails for non-motorized recreation, including hiking, bicycling, horseback riding and winter activities such as cross-country skiing and dog-sledding. The trails include the JWPT, managed as part of Iron Horse State Park and comprising most of the old Milwaukee Railroad corridor between Cedar Falls/North Bend and the Idaho border; the Centennial Trail near Spokane; Columbia Hills Plateau Trail from East Pasco to Fish Lake/Spokane; the Willapa Hills Trail from Chehalis to Raymond; and the Klickitat Trail, with a trailhead in Lyle near the Columbia River.

Info:  Susan Koch at susan.koch@parks.wa.gov.

Roman Nose forest road closed for repairs

PUBLIC LANDS — Road construction will require the Bonners Ferry Ranger District to temporarily close Forest Service Road 1007, Caribou Pass Road starting Monday, Oct. 21-Oct. 25 and again Oct. 28-Nov. 1

The road will be reopened Oct. 26-27 to allow visitor access along the road during the weekend.

This closure will temporarily restrict motorized access to the Roman Nose Trailhead.

This closure is necessary to allow the replacement of numerous wooden culverts that are failing, to repair and fill failures in two locations and to reconstruct a segment of road. This closure will provide the opportunity to upgrade critical stream crossings, reducing the risk of road failure and improving the road surface.

Info: Bonners Ferry Ranger District at (208) 267-5561 or visit the Idaho Panhandle National Forests Website Idaho Panhandle National Forests - Home

Arrow removed from deer’s neck in Republic

HUNTING — Washington wildlife officials are looking for ways to reduce the number of mule deer that congregate in the city limits of Republic, Wash. But in this one case, local officials felt the poor doe deserved a second chance.

Fish and Wildlife biologists Wednesday removed an arrow stuck in a mule deer doe that wanders the Ferry County town with her two fawns.

The wounding comes just a week after state officials requested local residents help them figure out ways to cull the deer.

Republic Police Chief Jan Lewis requested WDFW help for the deer, which apparently wasn’t critically wounded by the arrow lodged through the skin of its neck. 

Republic has long had many deer living in town – both enjoyed and considered a nuisance by residents —  and local authorities have worked with WDFW to lethally remove many of them.  

But with two fawns still in tow, and the insult of the arrow through its neck, Lewis asked for help in catching, treating and releasing this deer.

WDFW biologists easily found the trio in a Republic backyard and shot a tranquilizer dart into the doe to handle her safely. While her fawns watched not far away, the doe was blindfolded to keep her calm, the arrow was removed and the wound treated with antibiotics. The deer also received a bright orange ear tag marked with the number “7” so she could be monitored easily. 

After a reversal drug took effect, the doe rejoined her fawns.  A day later Lewis reported that “lucky number seven” was doing well.

WDFW estimated cost of the operation, including staff time, fuel, drugs and equipment, was about $1,000.

Information about how the deer was shot with the arrow can be reported by calling 1-877-933-9847, or e-mailing reportpoaching@dfw.wa.gov, or completing an on-line report form at http://wdfw.wa.gov/enforcement/violation/.

Depending on the circumstances, the incident could be considered unlawful hunting of big game second degree, or harming/harassing wildlife, both gross misdemeanors which could carry penalties of up to $1,000. 

Foley: state’s last major politician who also was a hunter

HUNTING — The pressure on sportsmen applied by the NRA and other gun rights organizations to “vote their sport” is particularly troubling since in the past 25 years it’s strayed from the big picture of fish, wildlife and habitat conservation to the narrow premise that a candidate is viable only if he has an unblemished record of opposing gun control.

This narrow approach to voting in 1994 helped unseat former Speaker of the House Tom Foley, the last major Washington candidate, I believe, to pose in a duck blind with a shotgun for statewide campaign ads.

Sportsmen are distinguished for being politically savvy, but they got snookered in that election.

RIP Tom Foley.  I hope sportsmen reflect on your service and ability to work with all parties to keep wildlife in the equation.

Spokane Mountaineers more than a climbing club

OUTDOOR GROUPS — The Spokane Mountaineers, an outdoors club that's been exploring the region's mountains, waters and trails for nearly a century, will describe their activities in the annual Meet the Mountaineers presentation, Monday, Oct. 21, 7 p.m. at the Spokane REI store, 1125 N. Monroe St. 

Members plan to offer a visual tour of club schools, programs and outings, including bicyling, climbing, conservation, hiking, paddling, and skiing.

Info: 509-270-8867

 

New NIC team has blast at clay target shoot

SHOOTING — The new North Idaho College Breaking Clays Club shot their way to $11,250 in cash prizes at the  Upper West Coast Conference Clay Target Championships held Oct. 11 – 13 in Spokane.

“This was our first time shooting together as a team,” said club president Larkin Henkel, one of three team members who won first-place awards. “I’m proud of everyone.” 

The competition is coordinated by the Association of College Unions International and hosted at Double Barrel Ranch Sporting Clays and the Spokane Gun Club.

The NIC club earned $11,250 in prize money during the three-day event and will forward the money to the club’s endowment fund, said club advisor Jacob Rothrock.

NIC students who earned awards at the competition include:

Jon Thurman, Coeur d’Alene:  Overall high score, male division

Larkin Henkel, Coeur d’Alene: Overall high score, female division

Tony Palin, Corvallis, Mont.: High score for the weekend; took first-place in Trap (hit 98 out of 100 targets).

Grant Thurman, Coeur d’Alene: First-place Skeet, male division

Nick Higgs, Coeur d’Alene: Third place Skeet, male division

“Starting the Breaking Clays club has improved my college experience by putting me in contact with people who I would not normally meet,” Henkel said. “It’s helped me get involved on campus and learn about other student groups and organizations.” 

Glacier among 401 national parks reopened today

PUBLIC LANDS — Glacier National Park in Montana is open and welcoming visitors today after a 16-day federal government shutdown that closed all national parks across the country. 

All 401 national parks that have been closed since Oct. 1 are being reopened today, including the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

At Glacier, approximately 250 park employees were furloughed during the shutdown while 20-30 employees continued to work during the shutdown to manage the park closure and provide for protection of federal lands, waterways, buildings, equipment and other property owned within park.     

The park’s website and social media sites were reactivated today and barricades at park entrances and throughout the park were removed.   

Park road crews began monitoring roads, including conducting a sweep of the Going-to-the-Sun Road to clean debris/rocks from the road.   When the road is clear of debris, public access will be available to Big Bend through Sunday, Oct. 20. 

Apgar, Bowman Lake, Kintla Lake, Quartz Creek and St. Mary Campgrounds are open to primitive camping.

The Apgar Visitor Center is open every weekend, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Info: 406-888-7800.  

Research pegs decline of mule deer in West

WILDLIFE — Tough times for mule deer.

Western states search for reason mule deer populations declining
A recent report from the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies found mule deer populations in Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, North Dakota and Saskatchewan were in decline, and that, while Montana's mule deer populations in the central and eastern regions of the state were generally stable, the numbers in Western Montana were decreasing.

—Billings Gazette

Clark Fork River fish safer to release than to eat

FISHING — Catch and release trout fishing on Montana's Clark Fork River — widely practiced by fly fishers —  isn't just good for the fishery; it's good for your health, too.

While environmental groups are going to court charging that Washignton understates the contamination hazard in fish consumption warnings, here's a fish consumption advisory just issued by three Montana agencies:

Three state agencies today issued fish consumption advisories for northern pike and rainbow trout on a 105-mile stretch of the Clark Fork River in western Montana.

A “do not eat” advisory was issued for northern pike, and a “four meal per month” limit for rainbow trout, from the Clark Fork's confluence with the Bitterroot River, near Missoula, to the confluence with the Flathead River, near Paradise.

The advisories were issued by the Montana departments of Fish, Wildlife & Parks, Environmental Quality and Public Health and Human Services in response to contaminant investigations in fish immediately downstream of the Smurfit Stone Container mill site in Frenchtown.

Research this summer by FWP turned up dioxins, furans, and polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs-contaminants commonly associated with the pulp and paper mill industry-in northern pike and rainbow trout taken from the river.

Other species of fish from the Clark Fork River haven't been studied at this time.

At very high levels of exposure, these contaminants have been linked to adverse human health effects in immune and nervous systems and may be associated with birth defects. Dioxin and PCBs are classified as definite and probable human carcinogens, respectively, at high and prolonged levels of exposure. Fish consumption advisories are designed to keep exposures well below these high levels. The actual health risks to anyone who has been eating fish in this area is very low, state health officials said.

Northern pike had potentially dangerous levels of the three chemicals. Rainbow trout had lower levels of the same contaminants. Levels are higher in northern pike because they live longer, grow larger, and eat other fish.

Fish consumption advisories are conservative and designed to protect the most sensitive members of the population over a lifetime.  In addition, the risks are based on the amount of toxins found in a raw fillet. Using normal cooking practices, and keeping only smaller fish, can reduce exposure risks.

When properly prepared, fish provide a diet high in protein and low in saturated fats and may be helpful in preventing heart disease. These preparation guidelines can optimize health benefits: 

  • Fillet the fish
  • Remove the skin
  • Cut away dark fatty tissue from the back and belly of the fish where harmful    chemicals tend to accumulate
  • Bake or broil the trimmed fish on a rack or grill it so the remaining fat drips away

For more information about the human health effects of eating fish, contact the DPHHS at 406-444-6988.

For information about fish advisories on the Clark Fork River and throughout Montana, contact FWP at 406-444-5686, or visit FWP's website at fwp.mt.gov. Click “Fishing,” then click “Fish Consumption.”

For information on the status of the Smurfit Stone Container site, contact DEQ at 406-841-5039 or visit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website at http://www2.epa.gov/region8/smurfit-stone-mill.

Salmon poisoning: Dog’s fishing trip ends with trip to veterinarian

FISHING — John and Gail Palumbo of Spokane have taken their dogs with them on salmon fishing trips to the Columbia for years, the the odds for their dogs contracting “salmon poisoning” caught up to them this week.

Writes Gail:

Want to thank you for the article on 9/29/13 about Salmon Poisoning in dogs. Fankly we had never heard of it. We go salmon fishing every year below the Priest Rapids dam. (I call it “Camping at the Rock.”) We have been going there for years and taking our dogs with.

We have two new young dogs this year and it was a first for both of them to come along.
We read your article and tried to keep the dogs away from the carcasses left on the beach when we were ashore.

Long story short: one of our young dogs (9 mos.) is at the vet now with Salmon Poisoning. We did not put 2 and 2 together about his symptoms until he was quite ill and took him into the vet. After blood tests they confirmed it.
 
We thought this would never happen to us.  All the years going fishing here and taking dogs and everyone else taking dogs, no dogs had ever gotten sick nor even heard of this poisoning.

Bob Bates: he filled in for a cast of thousands

FLY FISHING — Bob Bates, 83, passed away Wednesday, a week after he was at the monthly Inland Empire Fly Fishing Club meeting as curious as ever about the sport.

A great guy in every way, Bob was always volunteering and giving his talents and services to others, from his days as the Mt. Spokane Ski School director to his promotion of fly tying craft.

Bob devoted years to teaching students about fisheries by volunteering to run the public tours at the Spokane Fish Hatchery.

Click here to read about just one of many fisheries-related services Bob enjoyed.

He made the world a better place.

Wolf nips grizzly cub in butt, outruns sow’s wrath

WILDLIFE WATCHING — Here's another take on that spectacular wildlife watching opportunity posed in mid-September by the death of a bison 400 yards from a road in Yellowstone Park.

  • Five grizzlies and five gray wolves challenged each other for three days as they jockeyed for a place at the dinner table.

In the YouTube video above, Deby Dixon — who took a videography course at Spokane Falls Community College from S-R photographer Colin Mulvany — captured an instructive wildlife moment as a wolf nips a yearling grizzly cub in the butt.

Wildlife biologists say this is not uncommon. An Alaska biologist described the same practice to me as he was explaining wolf behavior.

Wolves learn and survive by observing, testing the waters and pushing the limits. Even among grizzlies, wolves are quick enough to get away with murder.

Squirrels: loudmouths of the woods

HUNTING — Do squirrels find other victims to torment and fray their nerves when hunters are not in the woods trying to sneak up on white-tailed deer?

Shutdown ends: Lake Roosevelt launches to reopen Thursday

UPDATED 10-17-13 at 9:15 a.m.

FISHING — ŸA deal that ended the federal government shutdown tonight is reopening national wildlife refuges and parks sometime on Thursday.

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area boat launches are being reopened after Congress voted to end the shutdown, Superintendent Dan Foster said moments ago.
 
“Our people are on furlough but on short notice to be back to work as quickly as possible once we get the directive,” he said. “Our business is not to be closed.”
 
Nobody is happier than Foster to see the national parks reopened. Word has been spreading that some anglers were told they had to stay off water managed by the National Park Service.
 
All public boat launches on the reservoir had been closed since Oct. 1, but some anglers were legally launching at Two Rivers Marina, which is managed by the Spokane Tribe. 
 
A few boaters were told – it’s not clear by whom – that they had to remain on the half of the reservoir closest to the Spokane and Colville tribal lands as long as the national parks were closed. 
 
Technically, it would have  been a violation of the park closure to be on land or water managed by the Park Service, Foster confirmed.
 
It has nothing to do with the legal limbo over where state or tribal fishing licenses are required, he said, noting, “Fisheries are not our jurisdiction.” 
 
He said he hasn’t had the manpower during the shutdown to enforce the closure on land and on the water and that rangers weren’t directed to go out looking for boaters.
 
He said he was glad boaters haven't forced his agency to enforce the rule. “The shutdown reduced our staff from almost 70 down to eight,” he said. “We haf seven rangers patrolling 320 miles of lakeshore. 
 
“Closing the lake is a terrible stupid thing but it’s what we’ve had to do under our responsibility to protect the resources and the public. 
 
He said staff  would be reopening launches, visitor centers and other facilities for all visitors, including anglers eager to tap the popular Roosevelt trout fishery, as soon as possible on Thursday.
Here is a statement issued Thursday morning from Superintendent Foster:

“We are proud to be a part of this area and are happy to welcome visitors back to the park.  We express gratitude to the public as there are great people in this area that have displayed understanding and respect during this difficult time.”  

Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area has a significant effect on the local economy. Together, the economic impacts from visitor spending, federal jobs created, and jobs created in the local market supporting local tourism are estimated to be over $40 million a year generated in the communities around Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.  The economic impact of closing Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area for 16 days has been extremely difficult on local communities, businesses, neighbors, and park partners.  We look forward to working with you on ways to lessen that impact.

Read on for the National Parks Conservation Association reaction to the government shutdown:

Family seeks shorthair pointer lost near Medical Lake

HUNTING DOGS — Even if the pheasant hunting season weren't days away, Jack Dolan and his wife would be sick that their six-month old German shorthair pointer has gone missing.

The dog ran off after it was lightly struck by a vehicle late Sunday afternoon just west of Medical Lake and the Veteran's Cemetery near the Dolan's driveway at Hallet and Espanola roads

The dog's name is Chip. His collar was broken off by the impact. He panicked and ran across a field and out of sight.   Although there's no collar on him now, he has been micro-chipped and can be identified by a veterinarian.

The family points out that Chip could have covered a lot of ground, so they're posting signs in Reardan, Airway Heights and around the region.

If anyone sees, finds or hears anything that could lead to this dog, please call Dolan at (509) 389-8481.

Dolan, 72, was featured this summer in an S-R story about the extraordinary hunter education course he's been teaching as a volunteer leader for 26 years.  This dog, shown in the photo above, is his prized possession.

TU offers $10K reward to fight illegal fish planting

FISHING —  Montana Trout Unlimited is working with the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to supplement rewards in cases where people illegally plant non-native fish into important trout waters.

The organization has said it would add up to $10,000 to a reward for information leading to the prosecution and conviction of a so-called “bucket biologist.”

Montana TU Conservation Director Mark Aagenes tells the Independent Record that $10,000 is a lot of money, but it would be well spent to deter illegal introductions when you consider the cost of lost fishing opportunities and the cost of removing an invasive species.

Introduced fish can compete with, breed with or prey on established species; spread disease and impair water quality.

Montana TU and FWP are still discussing how to create the reward program.

October bright month for backpackers

HIKING — I'm not the only one who's noticed that October often is a premium month for backpacking.

The weather is clear and crisp and the autumn colors are brilliant.

Check out this photo by Ken Vanden Heuvel from his recent trek into Little Ibex Lake in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness of Western Montana. There's no official trail to the little lake, which is snug in a notch of broken granite.  

So many places to find your autumn niche.

Steelhead rules liberated on Hanford Reach

FISHING — Steelheading rules on a portion of the Columbia River are being liberated Thursday as enough fish move up the river to satisfy hatchery egg-taking needs.  

Here's the announcement just posted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Action:  Open a section of the Columbia River to retention of any hatchery steelhead

Species affected:  Hatchery steelhead

Effective Date:Oct. 17, 2013

Location:  Highway 395 Bridge in Pasco upstream to the old Hanford townsite wooden powerline towers

Other information:

•      Daily limit of two (2) hatchery steelhead.  Hatchery steelhead are identified by a missing adipose fin with a healed scar in its location.  Minimum size is 20 inches.

•      Wild steelhead (adipose fin intact) must be immediately released unharmed and cannot be removed from the water prior to release.

This action removes the requirement for both an adipose fin clip and ventral fin clip for hatchery steelhead retained prior to Nov. 1. The Lower Hanford Reach will remain open for hatchery steelhead fishing after Oct. 31 under the current permanent regulation listed in the 2013-14 fishing rules pamphlet (Page 73) and is scheduled to run through March 31, 2014.

Reason for action: Hatchery-origin steelhead in excess of desired escapement are forecast to return to the upper Columbia River. This fishery will reduce the number of excess hatchery-origin steelhead and consequently increase the proportion of natural-origin steelhead on the spawning grounds. Higher proportions of naturally produced spawners are expected to improve genetic integrity and recruitment of upper Columbia River steelhead through perpetuation of steelhead stocks with the greatest natural-origin lineage.  Steelhead fisheries for hatchery steelhead (adipose clip only) have recently opened in the upper Columbia and tributaries allowing early retention of adipose clip only steelhead in the lower Hanford Reach.  

Inslee leads climate change workshop in Spokane

ENVIRONMENT — Gov. Jay Inslee, and a bipartisan group of Washington legislators will be in in Spokane on Wednesday for a Climate Legislative Executive Workgroup (CLEW) meeting to clear the path for carbon reduction and clean energy investment in the state.

It's the first of three meetings to be held across the state.

I mention this in the Outdoors blog because outdoorsmen need to pay attention. Climate change is in the news for its culpability to affecting many facets of of outdoor recreation and wildlife, including the survival of moose, wolverines and salmonids. 

Last spring, Governor Inslee outlined the need for swift action on curbing the state's share of climate pollution, citing the health of residents, the economy, the state's budget, and the environment as areas being seriously damaged by the current levels of carbon emissions.

Among other impacts in the region, climate disruption is being felt in Eastern Washington through the increased frequency, intensity, and life of forest fires.  Climate change also has been linked to “ocean acidification,” that's impacting including oyster growers and other fishing industries.

The Climate Workgroup is outline several options that can act as economic drivers to curb climate disruption, including a cap and price on carbon pollution, a clean fuels standard, an end to “coal-by-wire” energy from out of state, along with new transportation planning and investments in energy efficiency.

WHEN: Wednesday, Oct. 16, from 5 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

WHERE: Spokane Falls Community College campus
Music Building Auditorium, Bldg. #15, Room 110
3410 W. Fort George Wright Drive, Spokane

Bull elk euthanized: roadkill or overkill?

WILDLIFE — After a motorcyclist was chased by a bull elk near Ovando, Mont., (see video above)  Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks officers euthanized the animal a few days ago.

Certainly the animal was posing a danger to high-speed traffic on Highway 200.

While the bull was in the rut — and that likely changed his behavior short term — it's also been reported that people were giving it food along the highway, which likely aggravated the problem.

In case you still haven't got the message repeat in often by wildlife experts and in this blog: FEEDING WILD ANIMALS KILLS THEM.

See a TV news report after the bull was killed.

Photos catch five wolves, five griz on one carcass

WILDLIFE WATCHING — A dead bison 400 yards from a main road in Yellowstone National Park in September provided the rare opportunity for visitors to see five grizzly bears — rare in itself — and five gray wolves vying for meals off the same carcass at the same time.

I was there, underarmed in dim light with a slow 300mm lens on my camera, but thoroughly enjoying the spectacle through spotting scopes with another 100 or so specators parked along the road between Gardiner and Cooke City.

Other photographers, including Pete Bengeyfield of Dillon, Mont., scored memorable shots, such as these two, using 600mm telephoto lenses and 1.4x extenders.

When I watched the proceedings, all of the grizzlies — the boar as well as the sow and her three yearling cubs — were on the carcass at the same time.  It appeared to me that the boar and sow had made rare peace because the five of them had a better chance of keeping the wolves at bay.

Read Bengeyfield's perspective and see more photos in this story from the Billings Gazette. 

Click continue reading (below) to see another photo here.

Hanford Reach salmon effort thins, catch stays high

FISHING — Chinook salmon anglers are finding a little more elbow room on the Hanford Reach of the Columbia River and anglers numbers declinced slightly last week, but the catch rates on the 2013 record run remain high.

Here's the report just received from Paul Hoffarth, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife area fisheries biologist:

The number of boats on the water in the Hanford Reach dropped a bit this past week compared to the two weeks prior.  There were an estimated 5,123 angler trips for the week.  Anglers averaged 2.2 Chinook per boat and 20 hours for each Chinook caught from the bank.

Staff interviewed anglers from 572 boats (1,309 boat anglers) and 227 bank anglers fishing for Chinook reporting a harvest of 1,221 adult Chinook and 102 jacks.  Harvest for the week was estimated at 4,357 adult Chinook and 357 Chinook jacks. 

For the season, 19,313 adult Chinook and 2,365 jacks have been harvested.  The adult harvest breaks the previous record of 13,102 adults harvested set last year.  There have been 33,081 angler trips for the fishery through October 13. The in-season run update for natural origin adult Hanford Reach fall Chinook returning to the Hanford Reach is 136,902 (updated Oct 7).

Yakima River fishing for chinooks hasn't been bad, either.  Says Hoffarth:

WDFW staff interviewed 185 anglers between October 7th and 13th.  Anglers reported harvesting 86 adult Chinook, 14 jacks, and 7 coho.  An estimated 662 adult fall Chinook, 148 jacks, and 76 coho were harvested this past week from 1,657 angler trips.  Anglers averaged 1 salmon for every 4.4 hours fished.

For the season, 5,942 anglers trips have been taken and 995 adult Chinook, 313 chinook jacks, and 83 coho have been harvested.

Okanogan deer show up at check station — dead and alive

HUNTING — Mule deer numbers seem to be improving, as predicted, in the Okanogan County area as indicated by the number and size of bucks that came into check stations on opening weekend.  

Some deer checked in and checked out voluntarily (click Continue reading to see both photos).

Here's the initial report from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife… more to come:

General Deer Opener –Biologists Fitkin and Heinlen ran the Winthrop deer check station for opening weekend of the general modern firearm season.  We checked 107 hunters with 30 deer.  These numbers suggest a reduction in hunting pressure, but a significant increase in success as compared to last year’s opening weekend.  Thus far, we’re also seeing a higher than average percentage of the harvest in the >4 ½ year old age class as expected including one nice 30” wide buck (see photo). Prospects for the rest of the season remain good, although mild weather will likely keep deer well distributed on the landscape.  Hunters who harvest animals on the weekend are encouraged to bring their deer to the WDFW Deer Check Station located at the Red Barn in Winthrop (some are even showing up on their own).

Opening weekend’s history; got your buck?

HUNTING — More than 100,000 hunters were expected to be in the field last weekend for the opening of Washington's modern firearms deer hunting season, according to the Department of Fish and Wildlife. 

Adam Lynn of Tacoma was among those out and in position for Sunday's glorious sunrise over Lincoln County. He came within 50 yards of a nice mule deer buck, but couldn't get a clear shot.   

Presumably the buck is still out there today, and so is Adam.

Buy-sell used winter gear at annual ‘ski swaps’

WINTER SPORTS – Snow’s falling in the high country, a sure sign that used gear will be coming out of closets for great deals at annual ski- and winter-gear swaps.

The following fundraisers help raise money for area ski patrols and racing groups:

49 Degrees North Ski Patrol Ski Swap, Northeast Washington Fairgrounds in Colville, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Saturday. Register items for sale 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Friday and 6 a.m.-9 a.m. Saturday.

Mount Spokane Ski Patrol Ski Swap (49th annual event) at Spokane County Fair and Expo Center in Spokane Valley, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Oct. 26 and 9 a.m.-noon on Oct. 27. Register items for sale from 3 p.m.-8 p.m. on Oct. 25.

Lookout Pass and Silver Mountain ski patrols’ Winter Swap, Kootenai County Fairgrounds on Government Way in Coeur d’Alene, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. on Nov. 2. Register items 3 p.m.-8 p.m. on Nov. 1.

Fitness Fanatics Nordic Ski Sale and Swap specializing in cross-country gear at store, 12425 E. Trent Ave. starting at 9 a.m. on Nov. 2. Register items to sell before 5 p.m. on Nov. 1.

Schweitzer Alpine Racing School Ski Swap at Bonner County Fairgrounds in Sandpoint, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Nov. 9. Bring items to sell noon-7 p.m. Nov. 8.

Moscow pond stocked with 500 trout

FISHING —  Idaho Fish and Game officials plan to stock 500 rainbow trout into Moscow's Hordemann Pond this week to give youngsters an autumn treat.

Located off Eisenhower Street between D and F streets, Hordemann Pond is a year-round fishery popular with kids and their families,not to mention wildlife watchers attracted to the critters drawn to this unique water source. Great blue herons, osprey, turtles, and frogs are not uncommon sightings at the pond. 

Youths fish for free at the pond until they're 14, the age at which theny must buy an Idaho fishing license.

Because the pond water gets quite warm in summer, trout-fishing catch rates are best during the months of April, May, October and November.    

Upper Columbia and tribs open Wednesday for steelhead

FISHING — Starting Wednesday (Oct. 16), fishing will open for hatchery steelhead on the mainstem upper Columbia, Wenatchee, Icicle, Methow and Okanogan rivers until further notice.

In addition, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife announced that the Similkameen River will open to hatchery steelhead retention beginning Nov. 1.

Jeff Korth, regional fish manager for WDFW, said approximately 14,000 adult steelhead are expected to return to the upper Columbia River this year - enough to allow the department to open area steelhead fisheries.

Korth noted, however, that fishing will be more tightly regulated than last year because fewer hatchery steelhead are projected to return this year and wild steelhead are expected to make up a higher proportion of the run.

“Careful management is required to protect naturally spawning steelhead listed under the federal Endangered Species Act,” Korth said. “While these fisheries traditionally remain open through the winter, we may have to close fishing early due to the higher number of encounters with wild steelhead expected this year.”

Korth said anglers should check WDFW's website (http://wdfw.wa.gov/ ) throughout the season for possible changes in the fishing regulations.
 
On all rivers, anglers will have a daily limit of two hatchery steelhead, marked with clipped adipose fins and measuring at least 20 inches in length. Anglers are required to immediately release any steelhead with an intact adipose fin without removing the fish from the water. All steelhead fitted with a floy (anchor) tag and those with one or more round quarter-inch holes punched in their caudal (tail) fin must also be released.

Anglers fishing tributaries to the upper Columbia River are also required to retain any legal-size hatchery steelhead they catch until the daily limit of two fish is reached. Once they have retained two fish, anglers must stop fishing for steelhead.

Selective gear rules apply to all areas where steelhead seasons are open, although bait may be used on the mainstem Columbia River. All anglers are required to follow selective gear rules and restrictions described in WDFW's Sport Fishing Rules, available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/regulations/ .

Anglers should also be aware that motorized vessels are not allowed on the Wenatchee or Icicle rivers under Chelan County ordinances.

Areas that will open to fishing for hatchery steelhead Oct. 16 until further notice include:

  • Mainstem Columbia River: Open from Rock Island Dam to 400 feet below Chief Joseph Dam. Night closure and selective gear rules apply, except bait is allowed.
  • Wenatchee River: Open from the mouth to the Icicle River Road Bridge, including the Icicle River from the mouth to 500 feet downstream of the Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery Barrier Dam. Night closure and selective gear rules apply. Motorized vessels are not allowed.
  • Methow River: Open from the mouth to the confluence with the Chewuch River in Winthrop. Fishing from a floating device is prohibited from the second powerline crossing to the first Highway 153 Bridge. Night closure and selective gear rules apply.
  • Okanogan River: Open from the mouth upstream to the Highway 97 Bridge in Oroville. Night closure and selective gear rules apply.

Areas that will open to fishing for hatchery steelhead Nov. 1 include:

  • Similkameen River: Open from the mouth to 400 below Enloe Dam. Night closure and selective gear rules apply.

Three areas of the Columbia River - Vernita, Priest Rapids and Wanapum - will not open for steelhead fishing this fall to preserve fishing opportunities on upper-river tributaries, Korth said.

All anglers must possess a valid fishing license and a Columbia River Salmon/Steelhead Endorsement to participate in these fisheries. Revenue from the endorsement supports salmon or steelhead seasons on many rivers in the Columbia River system, including enforcing fishery regulations and monitoring the upper Columbia River steelhead fisheries.

The endorsement has generated more than $1 million annually for WDFW to maintain and increase fishing opportunities throughout the Columbia River Basin.  

California first state to ban lead ammo for hunting

HUNTING — California will become the first state to ban lead ammunition for all types of hunting, according to a bill signed into law signed today by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The ban is set to be fully phased in by July 1, 2019, in order to protect wildlife and humans from the dangers of consuming lead-shot meat.

Animal rights groups help spearhead the legislation in part to protect endangered California condors, which have been known to die from lead poisoning after consuming lead-bullet-tainted gut piles or meat from animals wounded by hunters.

  • The issues have been the source of debate and research for years.

Brown said the bill protects hunters by allowing the ban to be lifted if the federal government ever prohibits non-lead ammo.

According to the Associated Press, opponents of AB711 argued that non-lead ammunition is more expensive and could be banned federally because it is technically considered to be armor-piercing.

Supporters of the new law say the use of lead bullets also endangers humans who eat game killed with the ammunition.

Democratic Assemblyman Anthony Rendon of Lakewood says the ban makes sense because lead has already been prohibited in paint, gasoline and toys.

In a mixed day for gun owners, Brown vetoed a bill that would have banned future sales of most semi-automatic rifles that accept detachable magazines, part of a firearms package approved by state lawmakers in response to mass shootings in other states.

The bill would have imposed the nation's toughest restrictions on gun ownership.

Brown also signed a measure from Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, which bans kits that allow people to turn regular ammunition magazines into high-capacity magazines.

He also signed two other pieces of legislation, which restrict the ability of mentally ill people to possess firearms.

Federal shutdown still taking toll on recreation

PUBLIC LANDS — As the federal government shutdown advances to Day 11, I was buoyed by this headline and story today:

Utah loans federal gov't $1.7-million to open 5 national parks
On Saturday, the five national parks in Utah, as well as Natural Bridges, Glen Canyon and Cedar Breaks national monuments, will reopen after the state signed an agreement to loan $1.7-million to the federal government, enough to keep them open for 10 days.

But we can't get our hopes too high in Washington — where we're not even adequatley funding our STATE parks.

Maybe a caffeine high will be our salvation:

Starbucks launches petition drive to get government open again
On Friday, petitions seeking the reopening of the federal government will be available at all 11,000 Starbucks shops in the United States.

Although many people and businesses are suffering this week in all walks of life, my outdoors column on Thursday highlighted some high prices recreationists are paying for the budget impasse in Washington, D.C. Here's a summary as we head into the weekend:

All 401 national parks are closed, including Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area and the public boat launches for the Columbia River Reservoir. Note: Free boat launching is available at Two Rivers Marina, owned by the Spokane Tribe.

National Wildlife Refuges are closed. That means hunters with special elk permits for Turnbull Wildlife Refuge are out of luck, waterfowl hunter who would be using blinds at Columbia and Kootenai national wildlife refuges and locked out and fishermen who would by catching trout at Bayley and McDowell lakes are prohibited from entering the refuge until the shutdown is over.

Forest Service offices are closed, which means outfitters can't get permits for their seasonal activities and neither can woodcutters, all of whom are on a deadline delivered by the seasons regardless of what goes on in Washington, D.C.

Hunters are finding campgrounds closed as they head into the opening of deer and elk seasons.

Anglers are finding streamflow information on U.S. Geological Survey water websites and fish passage numbers from the Corps of Engineeers are not always up to date.

Hikers trying to finish the months they've devoted to completing the 2,600-mile Pacific Crest Trail are being blocked at the national park boundaries, such as at North Cascades National Park, and told they have to stop or re-route.

Other stories to ponder as the arrogancen in D.C. continues:

Shutdown halts logging project in Idaho, puts sawmill in peril
Brad Jensen, the owner of Jensen Lumber Co., the sawmill in Ovid, is just one of a number of timber contractors who were told to stop logging in Idaho because of the federal government shutdown, and Jensen said the cessation of the work puts his entire business at risk.

Wyoming national forest sends its concessionaires packing
Grand Teton National Forest had kept its concessionaire-operated facilities operating despite the Oct. 1 government shutdown, but they were told to pack up and leave as the shutdown continued, which means Granite Hot Springs in the Wyoming forest closes today.

National wildlife refuges off-limits to hunters as federal shutdown continues
Upland bird hunters in South Dakota, duck hunters in Montana and antelope hunters in Colorado won't be able to hunt on national wildlife refuges this weekend as seasons open but the federal government remains closed.

Montana governor says state won't pay to open national parks
Gov. Steve Bullock said he would not use state funds to open state parks as he believes the federal government should re-open it its entirety, including the payment of death benefits to members of military families who lost loved ones.

National Parks, neighboring towns take financial beating from shutdown

PUBLIC LANDS — My outdoors column today highlights some personal stories of individual recreationists impacted in a big way by the continuing government shutdown that's closed federal services and some federal lands since Oct. 1.

Here are more details about some of the overall costs:

Report tracks shutdown's costs to national parks
A report issued by the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees said that the federal government's shutdown that closed national parks and monuments has cost the U.S. economy $750 million in the first ten days, with Yellowstone National Park representing $9,452,054 of that loss; Glacier National Park $3,076,712; and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where visitors travel in October to view the eye-popping fall foliage, has lost $23 million.

—Casper Star-Tribune

Shutdown throttles businesses in Utah community near Zion NP
October is usually a busy time of year for Springdale, as tourists stop in the Utah town on their way to or from Zion National Park, but the shutdown has left the community's streets quiet, although the IMAX theater in town, which is now showing documentaries about the park, which is, for now, the only way to experience the park.

—Salt Lake Tribune

Utah governor offers to loan Interior Dept. money to open national parks
Gov. Gary Herbert said he talked with Interior Department Secretary Sally Jewell on Wednesday and offered to loan the federal government the necessary money to get national parks and monuments in the Beehive State open again, and he said that his offer has precedent, as Arizona loaned the federal government money during the 1996 shutdown to keep the Grand Canyon open.

—Deseret News

Formula offered for tagging a West Side blacktail buck

HUNTING — Whitetail bucks are famous for taking advantage of thick cover to live long and grow big racks.

But even the white-tailed deer of Eastern Washington and North Idaho could take a lesson from Western Washington blacktails, where the average hunter can expect to devote something like 30 days in the field per buck.

Click “continue reading” for a report by Alan Thomas of the Vancouver Columbian on what it takes to to west of the Cascades and make a blacktail hunt successful.

Bucks won’t be standing around this weekend

HUNTING — The general hunting season for white-tailed deer opens today in most North Idaho areas.

Saturday is the opener for modern rifle season in most of Eastern Washington.

Could Idaho cover costs of managing federal lands?

PUBLIC LANDS — A new report sheds light on the grim future of national forests, BLM lands and federal wildlife refuges if certain Idaho Legislators were to get their way.

Report: Federal government spent $392M to manage lands in Idaho in 2012
As Idaho officials mull a method to assume management of federal lands within the state's border, a report from the Congressional Research Service said that the federal government spent $392 million to manage the 32 million acres it controls in the Gem State in fiscal year 2012, considerably more than Idaho's estimate that it could make $50 million to $75 million annually in timber receipts.

-Idaho Statesman

Clearwater River steelhead limits reduced as B-run trickles in

FISHING — As predicted when the forecast for B-Run steelhead was downgraded last week, Idaho Fish and Game has reduced bag and possession limits on steelhead harvested in part of the Clearwater River drainage during the fall and spring seasons.

The change takes effect when the fall steelhead harvest season opens Tuesday (Oct.15) in the Clearwater River drainage.

The limits for the fall season and the spring 2014 season are one fish per day and two in possession. In addition, in the North Fork Clearwater River and the mainstem Clearwater River downstream of the Orofino bridge only steelhead 28 inches or less in total length may be kept.

Read on for more details.

Idaho simplifies waterfowl shooting hours

HUNTING — With waterfowl seasons opening Saturday, Idaho hunters are noticing that a table of official hunting hours, which change during the season, are no longer published in the Idaho Fish and Game Department's waterfowl hunting regulations pamphlet. 

That's because the legal shooting hours have been simplified to one-half hour before sunrise to sunset.

Waterfowl hunters can find sunrise and sunset hours for the area they will be hunting in newspapers and various online sources, including this site.

In addition, a chart of shooting hours is available on the waterfowl page on the fish and Game website

But if you're like me and  still want something on paper you can keep in your pickup, look for the Shooting Hours pamphlet available at license vendors and Fish and Game offices.

 

Officers bag bull elk poaching suspect in Pend Oreille County

POACHING — Officers from three enforcement agencies worked together to make a case and a male suspect has been charged for illegally killing a trophy bull elk in Pend Oreille County.

Charles I. Fraley, 27, of Ione has been charged by the county prosecutor with unlawful big game hunting in the second degree, according to District Court clerks.  Fraley's arrainment is set for Friday, Oct. 11, at 1 p.m.

While the illegal killing of a bull other hunters dream a lifetime of tagging is upsetting, the interesting part of the story is the teamwork of three agencies to make the citation. 

According to a Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife enforcement report:

WDFW Officer Don Weatherman responded to a report of a trophy bull elk being shot with a rifle during the archery season near Ione. A Pend Oreille County Sheriff's Deputy already had a person of interest standing by to speak with Weatherman when he arrived on scene.

Weatherman interviewed the male subject, who had driven into the area where the 6x6 trophy elk had been shot. In the meantime, the Sheriff's Deputy and Border Patrol Agents, who were also on scene, went in search of shell casings in an area of interest and were successful in locating evidence critical to the case!

The Border Patrol Agents also assisted with the use of a tracking dog to backtrack the subject's activities away from his vehicle.

After interviewing the subject, the young male admitted to shooting the bull with his rifle, which was stashed in the woods after the elk was shot and before he returned to his vehicle. The subject then took officers to the rifle as well as the area where he had fired the deadly shot.

Charges have been filed.
 
All of the meat was salvaged and donated to the Ione Food Bank. 
WDFW Capt. Dan Rahn, who held off making any comment until charges were filed and a court date was set, said it's unusual for Wildlife agents, sheriff's deputies and Border Patrol to come together on a case.
 
“Usually we're all spread thin and scattered about,” he said. “But in this case all three agencies just happened to have personnel in the area at the right time.”

Feel free to hunt land yields trophy bull elk

HUNTING — A Walla Walla hunter has a fresh respect for Washington's Feel Free to Hunt land access program.
 
So do I after seeing the trophy bull elk he bagged on Sept. 26 on Blue Mountains foothills farm open for any licensed hunter to walk in and hunt.
 
Scott Rasley, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife conflict specialist for the Blue Mountains area says the 8-by-8 point bull was killed on a farm posted Feel Free To Hunt in the Blue Creek Unit.
 
“We issue only one rifle tag for this hunt and thanks to the farm being signed up in one our hunter access programs, the hunter was able to harvest a bull of a lifetime,” he said.
 
After 17 years of plying the state for permits and the Blues for bulls, and 27 straight days devoted to scouting and following this bull, Jim Eggart scored the trophy with a green gross score of 392 points, reports the Walla Walla Untion Bulletin.
 
“It took eight guys to load him into the back of the truck,” Eggart said.
 
Next dilemma:  Is there a wall in the house big enough for the rack?

Update on fall chinook salmon record run

FISHING — Although steelhead fishing has opened in the Ringold area of the Columbia River's Hanford Reach, most angling pressure has been focused on the record run of chinook salmon packing into the area.

Anglers last week AVERAGED 2.5 chinooks per boat as they set sportfishing records for chinook caught in the free-flowing stretch between the Tri Cities and Priest Rapids Dam.  Awesome.

The chinooks also are setting records on the Snake River.

The total count at Bonneville Dam this year through Monday is 904,855 adult fall chinook, already far beyond the previous seasonal record count of 610,244 set in 2003. Bonneville is the first hydro project the fish encounter on their way upstream to the mid-Columbia and the Snake River. 
 
The count as of Monday at Lower Granite on the Snake River was 52,277, well past the previous record of 41,815 set in 2010. Fish continue to move over Lower Granite at the rate of 400-500 a day.
 
The Snake River fish pass over four Columbia River dams before turning into the Snake. Lower Granite is the last of four passable dams on the lower Snake before the fish head into the Lewiston-Clarkston area, the Clearwater and up the Snake farther to the Salmon River.
 
The counts at the lower Snake River’s Lower Granite Dam include wild Snake River fall chinook that are listed under the Endangered Species Act. 

Campaign urges hunters on OHVs to stay on trails

HUNTING – The Idaho Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Public Outreach Campaign is urging people who use ATVs or motorbikes during hunting season to stay on designated trails and do their homework to ensure that the trails they plan to ride are open.

New resources are available to help OHVers learn which routes on public lands are open and closed.

About 70 percent of the 240,000 people who hunt in Idaho (residents and non-residents) during the fall months are using motorbikes or ATVs to access their hunting areas, according to the latest survey cited by campaign officials. 

Here are five ways that hunters can research what trails and hunting units are open to OHV use:

1. National Forest Motor Vehicle Use Maps (MVUM's) from the national forest where you plan to hunt. Hard-copy maps are available from national forest ranger district offices (that is, when they reopen from the current federal shutdown), IDFG offices, and in many cases, the MVUMs are online. The OHV Campaign's stayontrails.com web site has a link to all of the current online MVUMs: http://stayontrails.com/mvum/.

2. BLM travel maps defined route open to motorized use. See a comprehensive list of BLM travel maps statewide online at http://stayontrails.com/blmTravel/ and on BLM web sites. Hard-copy maps are available at BLM district offices and field offices (but, again, remember the shutdown).

3. Idaho Department of Fish and Game's website Hunting page has a big game unit map that lists restrictions on OHV use in specific hunting units. The IDFG Motorized Hunting Rule affects 30 units statewide. Here's a link to the big game unit map of the units affected by the rule.

4. Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation has an online map resource that's great for researching new OHV trails and for checking on whether OHV trails are open during hunting season, and when. The web site is: http://trails.idaho.gov. The maps break down trail restrictions by OHVs, Utility Terrain Vehicles, ATVs and motorbikes. 

5. YouTube hunting tips video walks hunters through the multi-step process of researching whether trails are open or closed. Here's the link: http://www.youtube.com/edit?ns=1&video_id=dTgL0ZH41i8&o=U

Officials with the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and Idaho Department of Fish and Game say that hunters riding off-trail on ATVs or motorbikes continues to be a problem on public lands during hunting season.

“We are most concerned with instances where a hunter drives off-trail to scout for game or retrieve game,” said Andy Brunelle, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service. “One set of tracks through the brush or in a meadow can invite others to do the same, and the impacts add up, damaging vegetation and causing soil erosion into streams.”

Under the Forest Service's National Travel Rule, “it's incumbent on the user to know if the trail is open or closed” regardless if the trail is signed appropriately, forest officials said. That's because people have been known to shoot signs full of bullet holes, remove signs or vandalize them.

Jon Heggen, enforcement chief for the Idaho Department of Fish and game, encouraged motorbike and ATV riders to be sensitive to the fact that some people may be hunting on foot in the same area where they are riding their trail machine.

“We want to remind hunters to stay on trails and be courteous to other users,” Heggen said.

A new Idaho state law requires youths who do not have a driver's license to take a free safety course before they ride OHVs on forest roads. The law also stipulates that youths under the age of 18 are required to wear a helmet when riding on an OHV or driving one. 

Disease hammers Western Montana whitetails

WILDLIFE — Testing has confirmed what wildlife biologists had feared: Western Montana has suffered its first dieoff of white-tailed deer from a disease known as EHD.

The Missoulian reports:

Lab results received Monday show that recent whitetail deer deaths in the Missoula Valley are the result of epizootic hemorrhagic disease, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials.

Nearly 400 dead deer have been reported since mid-September, and FWP sent in samples from several dozen deer for testing.

Most deer deaths were concentrated in the Clark Fork River valley west of Missoula from Harper’s Bridge to approximately 10 miles downstream and in the Mill Creek area northeast of Frenchtown.

Vickie Edwards, FWP wildlife biologist in Missoula, said the agency also received reports of several dead whitetail deer in outlying areas. Samples from these dead deer were also sent to the lab for testing, but results are not yet in.

“The test results we got back this week are from the earliest samples we collected in the core area of the outbreak west of Missoula,” Edwards said. “We’re still waiting on lab results from other deer in outlying areas to confirm that all deaths are a result of EHD.”

EHD is a naturally occurring virus spread by tiny biting midges. The virus causes hemorrhaging that can kill the infected animal within a day or two after about a six-day incubation period after being bitten. Dead animals frequently are found near water, where they go to alleviate a high fever caused by the disease.

The disease does not spread from deer to deer, and humans are not at risk of contracting it by handling or eating infected animals.

“Hemorrhagic disease viruses are not contagious from one animal to another and are not transmissible to humans,” said Jennifer Ramsey, FWP wildlife veterinarian in Bozeman.

The midges, also called sand gnats or “no-see-ums,” reproduce in wet soil or mud. Their numbers peak from mid-August through October, but a hard freeze will kill the midges and stop the spread of the disease. It is too soon to tell if recent, colder temperatures resulted in a midge die-off.

Because of the incubation period, it might be possible to continue to see dead and dying whitetail deer two weeks after a hard freeze.

Other parts of Montana reported outbreaks of EHD in late summer, but this is the first time the disease has been confirmed west of the Continental Divide in Montana.

Rivers coming into good shape for steelheading

FISHING — Steelhead fishing reports and creel census tallies from the Snake, Tucannon and Grande Ronde rivers have improved. It's time to go!

The Salmon River in particular has been out of sorts, as Amy Sinclair of Exodus River Adventures in Riggins reported last night:

October 7th and the Salmon River has just spent the last 25+ days looking like the mighty Colorado River (or like the Salmon River in May)…yes, this river never ceases to amaze me! On October 1st the Salmon River set a record high for the day of the year at 15,200 CFS; the old record was 7840 CFS set in 1983. The optimistic side to this is that these record setting flows are washing away a lot of the silt that settled during September’s wet weather and leaving us a clean river system as we enter the prime of the season.

As of this morning we have a river flow of 7450 CFS and a river temperature of 47-49 degrees, a perfect temperature to get steelhead into the Riggins area. With the river continuing to improve each day, good fishing and more importantly great fish stories, are just right around the corner. At Exodus we are officially kicking off the season tomorrow with our first jet boat trip.

Residents asked to help hunters cull deer near Republic

HUNTING — The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is looking for landowners within one-half mile of the town of Republic to allow access so that Master Hunter Program permit holders can help reduce the deer population in the area.

To address the overpopulation of deer within the city limits of Republic, 25 special deer hunting permits for the area were issued to Master Hunters through an application drawing earlier this year.

The 1030 Deer Area hunt (defined as one-half mile around the city limits of Republic) has been underway since Sept. 1 and runs through Dec. 31.

“We currently have landowner access agreements for some of the permitted Master Hunters in the southwest and northwest parts of the 1030 Deer Area,” said Scott Bendixen, master hunt coordinator. “We appreciate that assistance. But we could use others throughout the area.”

Getting full cooperation may be difficult. Two men contracted a few years ago to trap and relocate the deer that are both loved and loathed in the Ferry County seat were praised and threatened as they tried to do their job.

They finally called it quits, but the problem of too many deer in and around the town continues.

Bendixen asks landowners to contact him at (509) 684-2362, ext. 25 to set up an agreement to allow Master Hunter access to their property during the season. 

Washington’s general deer hunting season opens Saturday

HUNTING — I have fond memories from 50 years of deer hunting seasons, including the one pictured above. The buck was harvested miles from an open road with the .270 my father used for decades before I was born.

It was a hard hunt, and the meat was even more delicious because of it.

I don't doubt that you have fond memories of hunting seasons past.

Cherish them.

Steelhead catches pick up in mid-Snake River

FISHING — Steelhead fishing success dramatically improved last week and through the weekend in the Snake River near Little Goose and Ice Harbor dams, according to creek reports just posted by the Washington Department of Fish and wildlife.

The hottest fishing was between from Lower Monumental Dam to Little Goose Dam, where anglers averaged 7 hours per fish caught. 

Anglers average 12 hours per fish caught from Ice Harbor Dam to Lower Monumental and 15 hours per fishg from Little Goose to Lower Granite Dam. 

Tucannon River anglers averaged 11 hours per steelhead caught.

Creel numbers for the Snake upstream of Lower Granite in Washington indicate slow fishing for steelhead, but Idaho Fish and Game hasn't posted numbers for the mouth of the Clearwater.  Heller bar fishing was fairly good late last week, said Joe DuPont, IFG regional fisheries manager.

No creel reports are out yet for the Grande Ronde, but I was there personally and steelheading was still very, very slow through Sunday.

PCT hikers wasn’t lost, ‘just stuck’ in storm

UPDATED at 5:10 p.m.

IKING — A 23-year-old woman reported missing for six days while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in southwest Washington was found safe this weekend.

Alejandra Wilson was located Saturday afternoon, authorities told the Associated Press. She was cold and tired but otherwise OK.

 

A search team spotted the Oregon woman walking in the Crest trail area as she started hiking out. She was reported missing after becoming overdue for a trail check Sept. 30.

Sgt. George Town of the Yakima County sheriff’s office said Wilson reported that she got stranded by a snow storm about a week ago and waited until conditions improved before walking out.

“She said the snow was almost waist deep and she was pretty well stuck. She wasn’t lost, she was just stuck,” Town said in an interview Sunday.

Wilson told authorities she hunkered down and set up camp under some trees to wait out the storm, he said. From there, she said she spotted the Coast Guard helicopters that went up in search of her. The helicopters flew overhead but she wasn’t able to flag them down in time, Town said.

“The Coast Guard guys were right on track. They did a good job. She wasn’t able to make herself visible,” but their presence “gave her real confidence,” Town said.

He noted that she still had food when she was located Saturday. She was reunited with her dad, grandparents and friends Saturday.

Some of the volunteer searchers included hiking companions who had been on the trail with her earlier in her trip, Town said Sunday. 

The Oregonian caught up to Wilson for a first-hand account and the “chilling” details. Click “continue reading” to read the account from the AP Wire.

Grouse hunter pays for shooting from vehicle

HUNTING — The Fish and Wildlife Department says an agent on patrol help save a man’s life after he accidentally shot himself in the leg with a black powder pistol.

However, after the elderly man has been treated for his potenially life-threatening wound, charges will be filed for having loaded guns in his vehicle.

Officer Mark James was on patrol last weekend in a remote area south of Elma, Wash., where he saw the man shooting out a window at grouse, according to WDFW Sgt. Matt Nixon.

KXRO reports when the man saw the officer, he began to unload a gun inside of his vehicle and the .22 caliber pistol went off.

James recently went through training for gunshot wounds and applied a tourniquet to stop the bleeding. The hunter was treated at Grays Harbor Community Hospital.

It is muzzleloader season and shooting grouse is legal, but shooting from inside a vehicle is illegal in Washington. 

Nixon said this accident illustrates the reason for the law.

Other loaded weapons were found inside the vehicle. Charges are planned, Nixon said.

Idaho mine claim owners sue over forest access

PUBLIC LANDS — Several Idaho mining claim owners have sued the federal government, joining a push to expand motorized access in the West’s backcountry using a Civil War-era law governing travel across public lands, according to the Associated Press.

The lawsuit, filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Boise, argues the U.S. Forest Service illegally restricted use of four roads in Idaho County.

It’s similar to Utah lawsuits that were partially resolved this year when the federal government unlocked three gates, allowed all-terrain vehicles into the state’s western desert.

The Idaho County case was brought by 13 people with mining claims reached via roads extending deep into the Nez Perce National Forest.

The lawsuit contends federal Forest Service officials outstripped their authority by barring motorized access on roads used for more than a century for mining and recreation. 

Click “continue reading” for the expanded version of the AP story with more details and context.

Hanford Reach anglers catch record number of fall chinook

SALMON FISHING — The 2013 record run of chinook salmon that's stampeding up the Columbia River is making history, and so are anglers.

Sport fishermen caught a record number of chinook in the lower Columbia when the run was peaking there.

Now Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife creel surveys have confirmed that anglers alrealdy have set a record for the catch in the Hanford Reach, where they averaged a whopping 2.5 kings per boat last week.

And the season doesn't close until Oct. 22 in that stretch of river.

Here's the report just received from Paul Hoffarth, WDFW fisheries biologist in the Tri Cities.

Angler effort remained strong this past week with an estimated 7,714 angler trips for the week.  Anglers averaged 2.5 Chinook per boat.

Staff interviewed anglers from 477 boats (1,191 boat anglers) and 382 bank anglers fishing for Chinook reporting a harvest of 1,099 adult Chinook and 107 jacks.  Harvest for the week was estimated at 6,531 adult Chinook and 651 Chinook jacks. 

For the season, 14,967 adult Chinook and 2,014 jacks have been harvested.  The adult harvest breaks the previous record of 13,102 adults harvested set last year.  There have been 27,958 angler trips for the fishery through October 6.

The in-season run update for natural origin adult Hanford Reach fall Chinook returning to the Hanford Reach is 181,137 (updated Oct 1).

Grande Ronde steelhead still lagging

FISHING — Despite much anticipation because of a surge of water last week coupled with good numbers of fish moving past Lower Granite Dam, angler reports from the Grande Ronde River over the weekend left much to be desired.

Catch rates were miserably low in the river between Troy and Schumaker, according to anglers I surveyed as well as the fishing info clearinghouse at Boggan's Oasis.

But the luck is going to change soon.  

Maybe this morning.

Radical Reels pump action into area theaters

FILMS – Radical Reels, the adrenaline filled off-shoot of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour, is coming to the Inland Northwest this week.

The edited package of 11 new action-packed films featuring free-skiers, longboarders, snowboarders, mountain bikers, kayakers and rock climbers will be shown:

  • Friday, Oct., 11, 7 p.m., at the Panida Theater in Sandpoint. Advance tickets at Outdoor Experience.
  • Saturday, Oct. 12, 7 p.m., at the Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane. Advance tickets at Mountain Gear, 2002 N. Division, 325-9000.

Films include “Being There,” about fun loving free-skiers taking their sport into the stratosphere. “Endless Roads” follows seven female longboarders winding down in Spain. “La Dura Dura” features rock climbing superstars Chris Sharma and Adam Ondra vying for a first ascent the world’s first 5.15c grade climb.

Boating course satisfies Washington requirement

BOATING — The America's Boating Course, which satisfies Washington's boater safety education requirement, will be offered next weekend (Oct. 12-13) by the Spokane Sail & Power Squadron at the Post Falls Cabela's store.

The eight-hour course will be taught in two sessions starting at 10 a.m. each day.

Cost: $48 or $73 for two people from the same household sharing the course manual and materials.

Info: (208) 777-0228.

Were you born after Dec. 31, 1962?

Washington law requires anyone 50 years old or  younger to complete an approved course and have a boater safety education card in order to operate a powerboat with a motor of 15 hp or greater.

In 2014, the requirement will extend to boaters age 59 and younger.

Fly fisher to reveal Puget Sound saltwater options

FLY FISHING — A free program on fly fishing for saltwater species, primarily in the Puget Sound area, will be presented by David Paul Williams on Wednesday (Oct. 9) starting at 7 p.m. at St. Francis School, 1104 W. Heroy.

The event is sponsored by the Spokane Fly Fishers.

Williams, an author frequently published in Northwest Fly Fishing magazine and other publications, says he will identify the species most sought by fly fishers, their habitat and how and where to fish for them.

He's known to employ his wit and humor during presentations, which explains why he submitted a photo of himself holding a carp to illustrate this announcement.

5,250-mile trek calls attention to wildlife corridors

CONSERVATION  –  Adventurer John Davis biked into Fernie, British Columbia, this week, wrapping up TrekWest, an eight-month, 5,250-mile hike/bike/paddle journey  to raise awareness for protecting wildlife corridors.

He lectured along the way, promoting what he calls the Western Wildway that needs to be protected and connected much as his trip was through Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and British Columbia.

Threats to habitat connectivity range from the U.S.-Mexico border wall to interstate highways and vast expanses of overgrazed public land, he said.

Davis’s TrekWest travel stats:

  • Horseback-200 miles; hiking-3,500 miles; biking-1,100 miles; raft/paddle-200 miles.
  • Tent nights-200.
  • Presentations–23 to 1,700 people
  • Media-50 published stories;15 radio/TV interviews.
  • Co-trekkers-120.
  • Peaks over 8,000 feet bagged-35; Fourteeners bagged-3.
  • Shoes worn out-three pairs.
  • Pounds of peanut butter eaten-60.

Washington 2013 hunting season dates summarized

HUNTING — Washington's hunting seasons are cranking into high gear this month.

Washington's hunting regulations pamphlets have all the details.

But follow this link for a handy summary of the 2013-14 Washington hunting seasons.

Three tips for top fall hiking trails

HIKING — Fall is a stunning time to walk through the region's wildlands, from the scablands to the national forests.

Here are three of my many “favorite” fall walks, all of which are detailed in my latest co-authored guide book, Day Hiking Eastern Washington.

1.       Abercrombie Mountain (west of Ione) – The trail to the summit of Eastern Washington’s second-highest peak leads to sweeping views of fall colors, especially the larch that are in the prime of their “goldness” in the Pend Oreille River Valley by the third week of October.

Note: Road improvements are planned on the Abercrombie access roads this fall. Contact the Colville National forest Three Rivers District for updates on restrictions.

2.       Hall Mountain (east of Metaline)– The rigorous hike to the former site of a forest fire lookout overlooking Sullivan Lake and the Salmo-Priest Wilderness passes a variety of fall color scenery with a brilliant red bonus. Near the trailhead, visit the bridge over Harvey Creek next to Sullivan Lake to see thousands of spawning kokanee for their run that peaks in early November.

3.       Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge (south of Cheney)– An easy stroll along the  refuge’s Pine Lakes rewards hikers with colorful fall scenery worth the trip in itself. But bring binoculars to appreciate the even more vivid wild art of migrating waterfowl. The hike leads past waters frequented by trumpeter swans that produced two hatches of cygnets this year  that will be fledging this fall.  

Grand Canyon launches closed; rafters shattered

NATIONAL PARKS — They waited years to draw a permit and planned for months for their big float down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon — one of the greatest whitewater trips in the world.

But because of the shutdown of the federal government, Grand Canyon rafters are being turned away and told they can't use their coveted launch permits.

Lake Roosevelt boat ramps remain closed

BOATING — The trout are getting break at Lake Roosevelt as the public boat launches continue to be closed by the National Park Service.

“We’ve been given direction for the duration of the shutdown that all National Park Service facilities are closed for visitor recreation activities,” said Dan Foster, Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area superintendent in Grand Coulee.

He said today that the boat launch areas will continue to be barricaded until Congress resolves the federal government shutdown.

“I don’t blame people for wanting to go boating on the lake. I know the fishing has been good and this weekend especially is supposed to be really nice.

“But the closures are part of the direction we’ve been given, and as superintendent, I have no latitude for changes.”

Fed shutdown delays fish counts at dams

FISHING — Online posting of fish counts over dams on the Columbia and Snake river is being delayed for some dams because of the federal shutdown.

The counts are keenly watched by anglers this time of year as they monitor salmon and steelhead movements during the upstream migrations.

The Fish Passage Center has been posting the counts as soon as it gets them through channels dealing with the shut-down U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Hunter who killed wolf felt threatened

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A man who killed a gray wolf while big-game hunting in the Pasayten Wilderness told Washington Fish and Wildlife police he felt threatened by the predator and acted in self defense, according to a report in the Methow Valley News.

Wolves are federally protected under the endangered species in the western two-thirds of Washington, so federal authorities were called in and few details have been released as the investigation continues.

The hunter called state officers on Sept. 20 to report shooting the adult female wolf, which is protected under federal law as an endangered species.  Wolves east of that region through Idaho, Montana and Wyoming are de-listed from federal protection and managed by the states.

In the eastern third of Washington, they are protected by state endangered species rules.

Oregon storms blast swallows; thousands dead

WILDLIFE — Barn swallows and violet-greens took a harsh blow from storms and high winds that hammered Western Oregon in the past week.

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife veterinarians received multiple Monday about dead and dying swallows. 

Groups of 10 to 200 swallows were reported dead or near death in barns and other structures where they perch, the agency reports.  Mortality appears to be greater closer to rivers and standing water where the birds concentrate.

Colin Gillin, ODFW State Wildlife Veterinarian, estimates that thousands of birds have died. “This type of mortality event is unprecedented and considered a rare and unusual event,” said Gillin. “The effect on bird populations is unknown.”

A number of birds were examined at the Oregon State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and pathologists determined the swallows were thin and had not eaten recently with their cause of death most likely being weather-related starvation. Veterinarians believe that the four consecutive days of rain and wind prevented the swallows from feeding at a time when they would normally be preparing for winter migration.

September was the wettest on record for the Willamette Valley.

Swallows feed on insects during flight and inclement weather events can have an effect on young and weaker birds that cannot take in enough food to meet their energy requirements. Swallows are seasonal migrants to Oregon and migrate to Central and South America during winter.

Volunteers sign-up for North Idaho wolverine project

WILDLIFE — Volunteers are needed once again to monitor wolverine bait stations in the Idaho Panhandle in a state Fish and Game research project organized by the Friends of the Scotchman Peaks Wilderness.

Kristen Nowicki, the group's new field projects director, has set up a new online registration form volunteers can use to get on the list for group treks on snowshoes or skis to set up and monitor bait stations that collect photos and hair samples from any furry visitor.

Being the first to see the images captured on the motion-triggered trail cams is worth the effort alone. A large variety of wildlife visits the sites.

Follow this link to the form to register and participate.

City projects could affect access to South Hill bluffs

TRAILS — The City of Spokane's plans to “remodel” High Drive in 2014 while updating sewer lines could change bike lanes and reduce parking options for the popular South Hill bluff trails.

Traffic flow, pedestrian walkways, and bike lanes will also be affected, according to the Friends of the Bluff.

A neighborhood meeting on set for 7 p.m.-9 p.m. on Tuesday (Oct. 8) at he new Jefferson Elementary School Multi-Purpose Room, 123 E. 37th Ave.
 
This might be the public's best chance to see the initial plans and provide constructive input, the Friends group says.
 
 

Badger Lake trout fishing revival nixed

FISHING — The revival of trout fishing at Badger Lake, one of Washington’s most productive put-and-take fisheries for rainbows and cutthroats, is on hold at least for another year.

Washington Fish and Wildlife officials said today that they have canceled plans for a fall rotenone treatment that would rid the Spokane County lake of bass and sunfish to eliminate competition for a renewed trout fishery.

John Whalen, regional fisheries manager, said the agency was unable to get all water rights holders to sign a Department of Ecology agreement that precludes using lake water during the treatment period.

In August, fisheries biologists said at least 38 of the 45 property owners were on board with the rotenone treatment during a meeting for stakeholders.

Badger has been managed for trout for more than 60 years. But in recent years, apparent illegal plants of bass and sunfish have degraded the trout fishery.

At a summer public meeting, bass anglers said Badger was one of the area’s hottest largemouth fisheries, with fish in the 4-plus pound range.

State fisheries biologists said the bass fishery was peaking and would degrade in the next few years. They said that managing for trout is more stable and serves a higher number of anglers in a year.

  • May I add that they also likely were wondering who the hell is illegally planting bass in the lake, making a selfish management decision that flushes thousands of dollars of fishing license fee money the public contributes down the drain! But I digress…

Badger Lake’s fishing season closed Tuesday. When it reopens on the fourth Saturday in April, it will have a token plant of trout, if any.

“We’ll be reconsidering a rehab for next year,” said Randall Osborne, district fisheries biologist. “But our June fish survey found that of 17,000 fish collected, 47 percent were pumpkinseed sunfish and 49 percent was largemouth and smallmouth bass. With those odds, we can’t afford to put many trout in the lake.”

The Williams Lake trout fishery also is in jeopardy, since it’s downstream from Badger and soon will be infested, too, he said. Williams Lake generally is on the rotation of being treated with rotenone within a year or two of Badger.

“Trout fisheries generate the most interest in terms of families and businesses,” said Chris Donley, inland fisheries program manager, noting that the once-stellar fisheries at Liberty, Diamond, Silver and North Silver have been lost to the trout program in the past few decades. “I’d hate to lose Badger from the trout program.

“We’re down to just six trout-managed lakes in Spokane County and Badger can be one of the best.”

Steelhead B-run returns downgraded again

FISHING — Columbia-Snake fisheries managers have just issued a forecast update the downgrades the prediction — again — for B-run steelhead — the large, coveted steelhead stocks that head up the Snake River each year bound primarily for the Clearwater and Salmon Rivers.

Here's the lastest in a blog post from Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune:

The group of fisheries biologists from state, tribal and federal agencies met today and calculated only 10,700 B-run steelhead, including 2,500 wild fish, will return to the Columbia River, as measured at Bonneville Dam.

On average, about 71 percent of the B-run fish counted at Bonneville Dam, make it all the way to Lower Granite Dam. Based on that conversion rate, the predicted return above Granite is about 7,600, including 1,775 wild fish.

The preseason forecast called for a return of 31,600 B-run steelhead to Bonneville Dam and 22,400 to Lower Granite.

Last week, Idaho Fish and Game officials said they would consider lowering bag limits on hatchery steelhead when the Clearwater River opens to catch-and-keep fishing Oct. 15.

Columbia River treaty meeting Wednesday in Spokane

RIVERS — Despite the U.S. government shutdown, Bonneville Power and the Army Corps of Engineers will hold public hearings on Columbia River Treaty review in Spokane on Wednesday (Oct. 2) at the downtown Spokane Public Library, 906 W. Main St.

The announcement was posted on the U.S. Columbia River Treaty Review website.

The agencies will be taking comments on the draft recommendations to the Department of State regarding what a modernized Treaty will look like, said Rachael Paschal Osborn, Spokane-based attorney with the Center for Environmental Law & Policy.

Osborn suggests parties interested in how the treaty may be used to restore the Columbia River should consider providing the following messages at the meetings, or via www.bpa.gov/comment (or call 800-622-4519):

(1) Adding ecosystem function and restoration as a co-equal purpose of the treaty is good.  Thank the US Entity and the agencies and tribes who have worked hard to recommend this new purpose for the Treaty.

(2) Adding fish passage at Columbia system dams is good.  Salmon must be, and can be, restored to their ancestral grounds. Tribes and supporters are proposing a fish ladder over Grand Coulee Dam.

(3) Modernize flood control.  Fewer levees, more flood plain connections, practical solutions such as not building in the flood plain can create flexibility for upstream water storage.

(4) Recognize B.C.'s contribution to power generation, safety and ecological well-being in the U.S.  Let's negotiate in good faith.

Osborn will post updates on the Columbia River on her Naiad's blog.

Salmon run is big, but so are upper Columbia rainbows

FLY FISHING — Everett Coulter of Spokane emailed to remind me that the record run of chinook salmon stampeding upstream from the ocean isn't the only fishery worth exploring in the upper Columbia River.

The photo above shows a feisty 23-inch rainbow, “one of four really nice rainbows we caught on the Columbia at Castelgar,” he said.  “We landed two on dry flies and two on nymphs.  The fishery on the Columbia is really quite good.”

The other photo (click “continue reading”) shows Hugh Evans (back) of Spokane with more proof that Coulter isn't blowing steam.

The anglers fished out of a drift boat with Columbia-Elk river fly fishing guide John Muir.

There you go. 

Not all Corps of Engineers sites closed by federal shutdown

BOATING — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Walla Walla District has announced that while some of its campgrounds and other facilities will be temporarily closed during the federal government shutdown, many other boat launches and sites will remain open if they're supported by local partner groups.

Sites NOT AFFECTED by the shutdown on the Clearwater and Snake rivers include:

Dworshak State Park, Ice Harbor Marina, Boyer Park, Chief Looking Glass Park, Gateway Park, Hells Canyon Resort, Clearwater Park, Clearwater North/Lewiston, Chief Timothy Park, Wawawai Park, Lyons Ferry Marina, Lucky Peak State Park.

Sites NOT AFFECTED in the Tri-Cities and Walla Walla areas include:

Two Rivers Park, Columbia Park, McNary Yacht Club, Hat Rock State Park, Pasco Boat Basin, Chiawana Park, Columbia Park West, Duportail Boat Launch, Sacajawea State Park, Walla Walla Yacht Club.

Note to salmon/steelhead anglers on the Hanford Reach of the Columbia:

The White Bluffs boat ramp in the Hanford Reach National Monument apparently has been closed by the government shutdown, forcing more anglers to pack into the state-managed launch areas at Ringold and Vernita Bridge.

Read on for the just-issued media release with details from the Corps of Engineers.

Forest Service shutters rentals during federal shutdown

PUBLIC LANDS — While national forest lands are still accessible during the federal government shutdown, facilities are not, including a twist I had not thought about in my previous posts:

“One addendum to your blog about facilities affected by the gov't shutdown,” writes Aaron Thiessen of Spokane:”Forest Service (and other federal) rentals are closed, too.

“I just got a call that our reservation for this weekend at Snyder Guard Station has been canceled until further notice.”

Lake Roosevelt boat launches gated during government shutdown

UPDATED 1:05 p.m.

BOATING — The hot fishing for rainbow trout that's been reported in recent weeks at Lake Roosevelt might cool off for lack of anglers.

The federal officials have announced that all  National Park Service facilities on the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area are being closed during the federal government shutdown

This includes campgrounds, marinas, boat launches and concessions operations, the supervisor's office said today.

  • Even the national park web pages are down!

Park Service officials just confirmed that they will be putting up barricades at the entrances of campgrounds and boat launches.

There are no state-managed access sites on the 125-mile long reservoir.

Read on for more details in a press release issued by the Lake Roosevelt NRA at 1 p.m. today:

Park Service names concessioner for Seven Bays, Keller

BOATING — A 15-year concession contract has been awarded to Dakota Columbia Rentals, LLC for the operations of a full service marina, including houseboat and other boat rentals, moorage, retail/grocery, marine fuel and oil sales, pump-out services, and related services at the Keller Ferry and Seven Bays Marinas and also to operate the Keller Ferry campground within Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

Says the National Park Service media release issued today:

Concessioners fill a vital role in helping the National Park Service (NPS) carry out its mission. Private companies are drawn to working with NPS in order to offer services to park visitors, which are not provided directly by the government. Concessioners specialize in these operations and are thus able to provide quality services at reasonable prices. By welcoming the private sector as a partner in park operations, the National Park Service broadens the economic base of the region and communities surrounding the parks.

As required by the 1998 Concessions Management Improvement Act, the NPS solicited for proposals, for the commercial services provided at Keller Ferry and Seven Bays Marinas within Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area. Guidelines used to evaluate proposals can be found online at www.nps.gov/commercialservices.

Turnbull Refuge hunters could be shut out by shutdown

HUNTING — Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge officials are hoping Congress sorts out its issues, passes a budget and reverses the government shutdown that went into effect today.

Refuge manager Dan Matiatos told state wildlife officials that if the shutdown continues through the weekend,  hunters with special elk controlled-hunt permits will not be allowed on the refuge. 

Refuge staff pans to contact affected hunters beginning tomorrow, but they're holding off as long as possible to see if things get sorted out today.  Washington muzzleloader elk hunts open Saturday.

Following is a press release just issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regarding area refuges:

Cheney, WA - The Federal Government will be closed as current funding expired on September 30, 2013.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) is very much aware that any lapse in appropriations imposes hardships on those we serve.  Due to this event, the Turnbull and Inland Northwest National Wildlife Refuge Complex office will be closed to the public.

For programs experiencing a lapse in appropriated funding, only limited functions would continue, such as those necessary to respond to emergencies and to protect human life or property.  While a lapse in appropriations remains in effect, public access to Service properties will be prohibited and fish and wildlife management activities and public programs will be cancelled. All Refuge field trips and school programs, hunts, and public access will be canceled during the shutdown.

Additional information is available at DOI.gov/shutdown and oneINTERIOR.gov, as well as at OPM.gov, which will contain information about the government’s operating status on Tuesday, October 1, and the days following.

Crystal Mountain gives skiers first taste of winter

WINTER SPORTS — The Crystal Mountain ski resort near Mount Rainier says it is open Tuesday for a limited number of visitors for what it calls “Roctober SkiFest.”

Crystal Mountain says it has 22-inches of snow in places and its gondola will run from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. “for the lucky 75 who were glued to Facebook” Monday night.

No other lifts or services are available. 

Ladies Day set at Cabela’s on Saturday

OUTDOOR PROMOTIONS – Women will be treated to prizes, free seminars on handguns, an intro to archery and other events plus discounts on purchases during the Ladies Day Out promotion Saturday at the Post Falls Cabela’s store.

Five half-hour seminars begining at 10 a.m., include jerky and fudge-making.

Read on for the entire schedule, plus two carry over seminars set for Sunday.
  

Mount Spokane warming hut construction progressing

PARKS — The foundation is done and a contractor has put up the walls on the new Smith Gap warming hut for snowshoers and backcountry skiers at Mount Spokane State Park.

Warren D. Walker snapped this photo to document the effort on Sunday.

Steven Christensen, park manager, said it's unlikely the hut will be ready for use this winter, but there's still a possibility.  Either way, volunteers will be needed next summer to finish the inside, he said.

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News, field reports and insights on the Great Outdoors.

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

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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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