Her name is Westwinds Je t’aime. People who know her just call her Jet.
Few of them probably realize Je t’aime is French for “I love you.”
Bob Coutts’ eyes dance with love and pride as he remembers how his wife came up with the name after she returned from a trip to Paris.
Westwinds Je t’aime? Who else but a bird hunter would name a dog “Westwinds I Love You?” And where else but North Idaho would one find an epidemic of buck fever in January like this gathering of outfitters, fly tiers, archery buffs, gun safe salesmen and taxidermists?
Welcome to the third annual North Idaho Sportsman’s Expo and Horn Show, which runs through 3 p.m. today at the Kootenai County Fairgrounds.
It is the quintessential playground for outdoor enthusiasts from age 10 to, well, distinguished gray.
A raft of racks marches down one wall, the pride of hard-working hunters and part of a friendly informal competition that highlights the show. Kenneth Roman hefted his entry onto the scoring table, a mule deer with a tall, thick rack.
He got the deer near Clarkia in the late 1970s, when he was a teenager. He never bothered having it scored until Saturday.
“You don’t stumble across one of them every year,” Roman said. “But every hunter ought to get one.”
There’s no horror story of packing this monster - which dressed out at 210 pounds of meat - 25 miles uphill out of deep woods in a blizzard. Roman, a logger living in Post Falls, found this buck standing in a road.
Roman watches excitedly as Jack McNeel measures each tine, checks the circumference of the antlers, the overall spread.
“One hundred eighty-three and five-eighths,” pronounces McNeel, who worked for Idaho Fish and Game from 1963 to 1995. “This is excellent. I’ve been scoring since the 1960s, and I scored few bigger.”
It’s a few points away from what would make the record book, but Roman still beams. It was worth it to wrestle his three rambunctious sons, ages 3, 4 and 6, into the show to hear that his deer was a cut above.
Bear and cougar skulls smile from a table behind Roman. Across the room, long tables display elk and moose racks that would make even Davy Crockett salivate.
One taxidermist offers “Oddities of Nature” - the pelts of an albino raccoon, an albino opossum and an albino skunk.
The rest of the expo is a sea of tastes of outdoor fun to come, and gear to go with it. Children played on the four-wheelers, tried to lock each other in grizzly bear-sized gun safes, and vied for a chance at the archery shoot.
Adults solemnly admired the results of successful hunts, pondered outfitter trips, and admired the firepower going for raffle at $1 a chance. North Alaska Expeditions anyone?
Sterling Taylor managed to multitask, simultaneously eating a hot dog, petting a yellow Labrador retriever, and talking about all of the things a 10-year-old could do with the rooms full of outdoor toys.
He admires the four-wheelers the most. “I like anything with an engine,” he says.
Taylor’s friend, James Wagner, is taken with the archery. “They let you shoot arrows at fake wooden animals,” Wagner says.
Not that he wouldn’t like a live shot. “I want to hunt elk,” Wagner said of his itch to take up the bow and arrow, “because they taste really good.
“And that’s the only reason I would hunt.”
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