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Latest from The Spokesman-Review

DU saving wetlands with ’Guns, Gear and Beer’

CONSERVATION – Duck Unlimited will hold its annual Guns, Gear and Beer fundraising event starting at 6 p.m. June 16 at The Condon Barn, 4801 S. Coleman Lane in Spoakne.

Cost: $40, includes steak dinner, beverages and DU Membership

Info: Dave Cote 939-5351; Mike Condon 995-0707.

Weather rough on game-bird chicks

HUNTING — Ouch.  The first week of June is prime time for the first hatch of pheasant chicks in southeastern Washington. Once again, it's being greeted by rain and cold weather, which is a sentence to death by hypothermia for the young birds.

Quail and pheasants have a built in response to nest again if their first brood fails.  

Keep your fingers crossed.

Idaho surveys elk hunters; online poll offered

HUNTING — A survey about elk hunting in Idaho is underway, with a random sample and an open online form. Essentially, the University of Idaho researchers are asking hunters what they like and don't like about elk hunting in the state.

Participants are being asked about their experiences hunting elk, and how they feel about Fish and Game restrictions on elk hunting.

The public input could be used by the Idaho Fish and Game Commission, which is revising its five-year elk management plan.

The questionnaire has been mailed to a random sample of 6,200 people who purchased elk general hunting tags in Idaho in 2011. But any interested persons can take the survey online

The closing date is Friday, June 22.

Last chance: Confiscated antlers being auctioned online

WILDLIFE — Poachers are contributing to anti-poaching efforts as nearly a thousand antlers seized from wildlife cases over the last decade are being sold by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in an online auction that closes Tuesday (June 5).

At last check, the bid for a 6-point bull elk rack that started two weeks ago at under $30 was up to $227.50. 

Items available during the auction include:

  • 33 trophy elk racks.
  • 22 trophy deer racks.
  • Five trophy moose racks.
  • About 450 pounds of single large and medium elk antlers (large size antlers - 3 bundles; medium size antlers - 18 bundles).
  • About 250 pounds of single small elk antlers in one lot (tote).
  • About 120 pounds of single large size deer antlers (10 bundles).
  • About 140 pounds of single small/medium deer antlers in one lot (tote).
  • About 40 pounds of single moose antlers (2 bundles).

The auction, conducted by the State Department of Enterprise Services (DES), will conclude the afternoon of June 5. Photos of the antlers and other information about the auction, including how to view the items in person, are available online

Register here to participate in the online auction.

While this is a good opportunity for the public to obtain hard-to-get antlers, the auction also highlights poaching as a serious problem in Washington, said Mike Cenci, the agency's deputy chief of enforcement.

“Poachers steal directly from the citizens, and disadvantage hunters in Washington – the vast majority of which follow the law,” he said.

Many legal hunters wait years to draw a special permit allowing them to harvest trophy animals, said Cenci. “Ethical hunters’ chances of harvesting a trophy animal can be greatly reduced by poachers, especially those that kill multiple animals.”

WDFW’s Enforcement Program includes 134 Fish and Wildlife police officers stationed throughout Washington. However, WDFW still relies on tips from the public, Cenci said.

Report wildlife violation by phone (877) 933-9847), email (reportpoaching@dfw.wa.gov) or text message (847411 TIP411).

Funds from the antler auction will be used in the fight against poaching, which includes paying rewards to people who report fish and wildlife violations that lead to a conviction, Cenci said.

Wolf likely killed calf at Methow ranch

 ENDANGERED SPECIES — A Methow Valley rancher may get the distinction of receiving Washington's first compensation for livestock killed by wolves.

State and federal wildlife managers have determined that wolves likely caused injuries that resulted in a death of a calf on a Methow Valley ranch May 18 and that the landowner would qualify for compensation.

The landowner would be the first in the state to qualify for compensation under criteria established by the state’s Wolf Conservation and Management Plan adopted late last year.
Steve Pozzanghera, a regional director for the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said it was not possible to say for certain that wolves caused the injuries that resulted in the death of the calf, although evidence at the scene supports that conclusion.
Read on for details.

Applications for special hunting permits due May 18

HUNTING — Friday at midnight is the deadline to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington.

Permit winners will be selected through a random drawing conducted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) in late June. The special permits qualify hunters to hunt at times and places beyond those authorized by a general hunting license.

Applications may be purchased from license vendors statewide or online.

Consult the 2012 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet for details.

Read on for more information:

Hunters must update email to stay in loop

HUNTING — Sportsmen who want to be involved in surveys that might affect hunting seasons and be on the list for other communications from the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department must make sure their contact info is correct.

Update your email and mailing address in the system when purchasing  special hunting permit applications and licenses.

Each year, hundreds of special hunting permits are returned due to invalid addresses.

Hunters have through May 18 to apply for special hunting permits for fall deer, elk, mountain goat, moose, bighorn sheep, and turkey seasons in Washington.

Applications may be purchased from license vendors statewide or online.

Consult the 2012 Big Game Hunting Seasons & Regulations pamphlet for details.

Idaho’s online hunt planning tool helps hunters connect

HUNTING — Idaho Fish and Game has updated its Hunt Planner interactive online tool that allows hunters to search for and create maps for hunting areas of interest.

Hunters simply answer a few questions about what game they would like to hunt, how, where and when they would like to hunt it, and a list of all the available hunts that meet their criteria will be generated.

Select a hunt area from this list and the Hunt Planner will create a map that can be printed or provide links to an interactive map that can be customized further.

The Hunt Planner also generates helpful information for the hunt area selected, such as:

  • General season harvest statistics.
  • Tag, permit and fee prices.
  • Landscape characteristics and access.
  • Weather.
  • Local outfitters and guides.
  • Local services, including lodging, camping and restaurants.
  • How to get there and current road condition.

In addition, hunters may download current and past controlled hunt boundaries, from the Idaho Fish and Wildlife Information System “Open Data” page. It helps to have a little horsepower in your computer, and you'll need to view the information in Google Earth and GIS programs.

Hunters can also download data for game management units, elk and wolf management zones, generalized game animal distributions and current and past Access Yes! property boundaries.

Montana ranch is wired for wildlife monitoring

WILDLIFE WATCHING — About 100 motion-activated cameras scattered across an 8,600-acre Montana mountainside ranch are documenting a wealth of wildlife activity, including images confirming that Western spotted skunks — rare in Montana — have found a home about 10 miles south of Missoula. 

The cameras, some of which transmit wirelessly to a ranch video specialist, are pretty good at documenting poachers, too.

Read the story about the cutting edge stuff going on at the MPG Ranch, devoted to conservation, in this story by the Missoula Independent.

Hard to believe, but Spokane hasn’t always had moose

WILDLIFE — After reading my blog about the moose poaching case on Beacon Hill, a woman who lived in this area from the 50s through the 70s wrote to say she never knew there were moose around Spokane.

It's not she wasn't observant.  Moose are relative newcomers to the region, showing up roughly with the first big waves of Californians.

Washington's moose population has been slowly growing since the first confirmed moose sighting was made in Pend Oreille County in the early '50's. Wildlife research pegged about 60 moose in the northeast corner of the state in the early '70s.

The first moose hunting season was authorized in 1977 with just three permits, all for the northeast portion of Pend Oreille County.

This year, 150 moose hunting permits are being offered for a moose population estimated at more than 1,000 — although that estimate appears to have been made before the wolves gained a foothold in northeastern Washington in recent years.

Since the 90s, moose have spread into Stevens and Spokane counties and beyond, where they've been showing up in towns, in school yards, in swimming pools on a hot day. A few people have been charged by moose.  Some have had the misfortune of colliding with moose on area roads.  Heck, one calf fell through a window into the basement bedroom of a home in north Spokane.

 They've only been common for a couple of decades, but nowadays everybody in this area has a moose story.

9 X 8 bull elk is Pennsylvania state record

HUNTING — A bull elk killed by a hunter in Pennsylvania in 2011 has been confirmed as the state record by the Boone and Crockett Club.

An official measurer determined a final score of 442-6/8 B&C non-typical points, which ranks 9th among all non-typical elk in Boone and Crockett records.

William Zee of Doylestown, Pa., killed the elk while  hunting in Clearfield County, Pa.

The bull has nine points on the right antler and eight on the left. The antlers tally 190-3/8 on the right and 188-1/8 on the left, with 47-7/8 inside spread and 29-7/8 in abnormal points. The antlers are unusually wide—an impressive 69 inches at their widest point.

The Boone and Crockett scoring system is based on antler size and symmetry, and accepts only trophies taken in fair chase.

Since the early 1900s, the Boone and Crockett scoring system has been used to measure the success of wildlife conservation and management programs across North America.

Elk are native to Pennsylvania but had been extirpated by the late 1870s. Hunters and game commissioners in 1912 began discussing the idea of re-introducing the species. The following year, a shipment of 50 elk arrived by train from Yellowstone National Park. Half were released in Clinton County, half in Clearfield County.

By the late 1990s, the elk reintroduction and habitat restoration efforts began generating significant tourism, wildlife watching and hunting opportunities.

 Boone and Crockett recognizes 10 Pennsylvania bulls as records. Seven are non-typical elk with a minimum score of 385; three are typical elk with a minimum score of 360. All have been taken since 2003.

Trophy BC mountain goat verified as world record

TROPHY HUNTING — A Rocky Mountain goat taken by a hunter in 2011 in British Columbia has been named a world record for its species by the Boone and Crockett Club.

Kentucky resident, Troy M. Sheldon traveled to the Sitkine River region of British Columbia for a backpack mountain goat hunt with Hedi Gutfrucht of Northwest Ranching and Outfitting. On Oct. 8, 2011, the seventh day of the hunt, Sheldon dropped a billy that, after the required 60-day drying period scored 57-0/8 inches.

The official measurement by a panel of B&C judges announced today is 57-4/8.

The new world record goat surpasses the old mark – a tie between BC goats taken in 1949 and 1999 — by a substantial 6/8 of an inch.

Sheldon claimed his trophy using a Tikka T3 .270 WSM to make a 319-yard shot across a ravine.

 Costal British Columbia ranks #1 of all states, provinces, and regions for the total number of Boone and Crockett mountain goat entries. The province is home to more than half of the world’s mountain goat population. Trophy-class specimens have been trending upward each decade since the 1970s. 

Spur of the moment: Turkey hunter scores big

HUNTING — Steve Solberg of Spokane was grousing in good humor on April 15 that he'd passed given his brother, Jeff, first shot at an opening day gobber then ended up coming home empty-handed himself.

“Seeing your brother finally bag a nice gobbler on opening day after 3 unsuccessful YEARS of hunting – priceless,” he said.

“Passing up on an easy shot to let your brother score – stupid?

“Maybe, but it was just great being in the woods again. My bird is still out there.

“My time will come.”

Indeed!  This week, Solberg's patience paide off with a bruiser tom.

“I was rewarded,” he said in an email with the photo above. “This was my biggest bird ever.”

The bird weighted more than 22 pounds, beard was 9 inches. But look at those spurs: 1-1/4 inches.

“Life is good!” Solberg said, noting that he has a placed pegged to take a kid this weekend.

Beacon Hill moose poaching suspects nabbed

POACHING — An anonymous informant could soon be $2,500 richer after leading wildlife agents to moose poachers.

At least two suspects are being investigated for illegally killing a cow moose on the north side of Beacon Hill in Spokane Valley around April 10.

Washington Fish and Wildlife police report they have confiscated 95 packages of moose meat and the archery equipment used in the moose poaching.

Under a search warrant, officers also seized the vehicle they suspect was used for transporting the moose off the popular recreation area east of Esmeralda Golf Course.

Formal charges are pending results of DNA testing on the meat, said Madonna Luers, the agency’s spokeswoman in Spokane.

An anonymous tip led officers to the evidence, she said.

If the suspects are convicted, the informant is eligible for a $2,500 reward offered by a national animal welfare group.

Video: Local bowhunter shares turkey hunt

HUNTING — Taking a wild turkey gobbler can be difficult for a hunter with a shotgun, but think about the chances of spooking an incoming tom when you have to draw a bow.

Spokane-area hunter Chad Berry shows how it's done in a short, sweet video.

The spring gobbler season opened Sunday.

House approves Sportsmen’s Heritage Act; not all sportsmen approve

HUNTING/FISHING — Safari Club International and the NRA are praising the U.S. House of Representatives today for passing H.R. 4089, the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012, advancing the controversial legislation to the Senate.

The legislation has good parts on which most sportsmen can agree.  But it also has divisive components that warrant sending it back to the drawing board.  Sportsmen really don't need any more divisiveness. We see how little gets done in Congress under those conditions. Why not learn from that?

Read on for details about the act and why reasonable sportsmen should contact their senators to kill it.

Washington expands elk hunting, rejects electronic duck decoys

WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — Perhaps it's a hint of the difference wolves can make. While Idaho cut back on elk hunting opportunity for this fall, Washington — where wolf expansion is still in its infancy — is expanding elk hunting permits.

But the Fish and Wildlife Commission wasn't game for proposals to allow electronic devices for hunting. During its meeting Friday and Saturday in Olympia, the commission left intact the statewide ban on using electronic decoys to attract waterfowl and illuminated knocks on hunting arrows.

Click “continue reading” for more details on the commission's decisions for 2012-2014 hunting seasons, plus info on new wildlife lands purchase in Asotin and Okanogan counties and the landowner hunting program approved for the Turnbull area.

After years of gobbler seasons, they can still get better

HUNTING — At least 8 gobblers raising hell in every direction from my stand from 5:15 a.m. to 6:25 a.m. this morning, opening day of the spring wild turkey season. 

Then the woods virtually went silents — except for the damned flicker that kept coming by to drum on a nearby bird box and establish its territory.

At 7:25, my calls were answered in one of the best two minutes of turkey hunting in my career.

Shot this boy strutting with my decoy as at least three hens were within 15 feet of me. Had to wait a bit longer as a hen walked in at 10 feet and stopped with its head directly in line with the bead on my shotgun and the gobbler.

Could have bagged a second gobbler, but … naw.

Awesome morning of turkey hunting, just when I was thinking it was getting old.

The night before the hunt: Gobble, gobble

HUNTING — This is where I have permission to hunt for the spring gobbler season. Tomorrow morning, half an hour before sunrise: Game on!

Jake break: some turkeys safe from Sunday season opener

HUNTING — These wild turkeys feel free to trot through the Ponderosa neighborhood in Spokane Valley even though Washington's general turkey hunting season opens Sunday.

The front-runners are clearly jakes, as indicated by the short “beards” protruding from their breasts.

This little neighborhood parade (photo by Bob Bartlett) illustrates why non-hunters look at you like you're a nut when you get all loaded up with hundreds of dollars worth of equipment to go after a spring gobbler. 

Idaho lawmakers made wise choice on ATVs and hunting

OFF-ROAD VEHICLES — Idaho recently came within an eyelash of stripping the Idaho Department of Fish and Game of the authority to regulate the use of all-terrain vehicles on public land during hunting seasons.

An editorial in the Idaho Mountain Express notes that if the state Senate had not stopped a measure that had been approved by the House, Fish and Game would have had no say on where hunters could operate ATVs during big-game hunting seasons.

That would have been a big mistake, the opinion piece suggests. 

Read on for the editorial's reasoning.

Click here for the Idaho Fish and Game Department's web page on ATV issues.

Moose killed on Beacon Hill; officer seeks tips

POACHING — A cow moose was illegally killed Monday night on Beacon Hill in Spokane Valley, Washington Fish and Wildlife police say.

The poachers killed the animal using archery equipment on the north side of the mountain above Valley Springs road.

The animal was butchered on the spot, leaving little more than the two front feet and head behind.

Tire tracks indicate a small vehicle was used, possibly a small four-wheel drive, said Officer Dave Spurbeck.  A landowner heard a vehicle leaving the area around 2 a.m. Tuesday.

Officers have few other clues and welcome any information that might help solve the case.

  • Call the investigators directly: Officer Paul Mosman, 710-5707, or Spurbeck, 993-3997. You can remain anonymous and still be elligible for a reward.

Beacon Hill, which holds several communications towers, is the prominent mountain just north of the Spokane River and just east of Esmeralda Golf Course. It's popular with mountain biker and hikers.

This web page details how poaching tips in any case can be provided anonymously by phone, email or text message.   Rewards are offered.

Otherwise call (877) 933-9847 anywhere in the state.

To reach the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Spokane Region Office during work hours, call (509) 892 1001.

Washington hunting rules to be set in Olympia

HUNTING – The Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is scheduled to take action on more than a dozen proposed changes in hunting rules for the 2012-14 seasons at a public meeting April 13-14 in Olympia.

New rules proposed for adoption include allowing waterfowl hunters to use electronic decoys and allowing bowhunters to use illuminated knocks. A separate item on landowner hunting permits also is on the commission's meeting agenda.

Some of the proposed hunting rules were developed after a series of public meetings and online surveys that began last summer. However, several proposed rules emerged after those meetings started, including the provisions on electronic decoys, lighted knocks and changes to the master hunter program for elk hunting near Turnbull National Wildlfie Refuge.

In other business, the commission will:

  • Consider adopting a statement designed to guide WDFW’s implementation of the state’s wolf plan,
  • Receive a briefing on legal aspects of the species’ protected status in Washington state.
  • Consider approving a request by WDFW to purchase 1,144 acres along Asotin Creek in Asotin County and 49 acres on the Methow River in Okanogan County to maintain habitat for fish and wildlife.

Idaho Fish and Game can’t Face(book) the online ugliness

WILDLIFE AGENCIES — After wading briefly into the world of social media, the Idaho Fish and Game Department has had to “unfriend” itself on Facebook.

Comment threads on issues such as wolves got so ugly, it was taking too much effort to monitor the traffic.

“We were spending way too much time looking at it. We had some employees who were trying to moderate [Facebook] in the middle of the night, which was crazy,” Mike Keckler, chief of IDFG's Bureau of Communications told the Boise Weekly. “I was doing that for a while, and realized I was literally losing sleep over this.”

Read onfor the rest of the Boise Weekly report.

Crab Creek angler becomes traveling feast for ticks

FISHING — A friend to took advantage of Tuesday's window of decent weather for an unplanned trip to sample the fly fishing at Crab Creek in Lincoln County.

Although he'd been to the creek and had decent success two weeks earlier, the water was off-color on Tuesday from the recent rain and the fishing was poor, he said.

“I was going to quit but then caught a nice fish so kept going,” he said. “Did not get another.”

But that's not to say he got skunked in every department.

“Part way through the day I stopped counting the number of ticks removed from my clothing at 100,” said.

Brave guy.  When he was at Crab Creek in March, he picked off dozens of ticks in the field, in his vehicle on the drive, and still found four on his chest back home. Then he left on a ski vacation a week later, and found another attached in his scalp. He figures his car still holds Crab Creek ticks waiting their turn. 

When he got home, his wife told him she found several in the sheets when she changed the bedding.

Be careful out there.

Click here to read my detailed primer on hiking and recreating in tick country.

TV host tells his side of Idaho illegal hunting citation

HUNTING — On March 20, I devoted my weekly Outdoors column to the case of Oregon hunter Bob Beck, a TV hunting show host, who pleaded guilty to shooting two deer in Idaho even though he had only one non-resident tag.

The  case was made a year after the 2010 hunt when a sportsman gave Idaho Fish and Game a tip after seeing the hunt and the killing of both deer on Beck's Extreme Outer Limits program, which aired on the Sportsman Channel. Beck did not own up to the illegal kill until he was confronted by authorities. The guilty plea was entered and the fines were assessed in February 2012.

Beck has issues with my reporting and commentary on the case. He's elaborated his concerns in posts at many online forums.

Indeed, he's working to have details on the outcome of the case changed. But as of this week, the ruling remains the same as I reported it on March 20 based on information from Idaho Fish and Game Department investigators and the Benewah County prosecutor.

I'll update any changes that develop in the case.

As of today, the case is still active in Oregon.

Meanwhile, you can hear Beck's version of the case in his own words in a radio interview conducted last week by John Kruse of Northwest Outdoors Radio.

The taped interview will air on the show as follows:

  • on 1240 KOFE in St. Maries Saturdays at 8 AM.
  • on 920 KXLY  in Spokane Sunday at 6 AM.
  • on 1230 KSBN in Spokane on Sunday at 2 PM.

Kruse also plans a follow-up interview with Beck..

Idaho Legislature kills bills aimed at cyclists, ATV hunters

Two bills of interest to outdoor recreationists have died in the Idaho Legislature.

  • Legislation that would have taken away the authority of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game to regulate hunting with ATVs died in the state Senate on a 20-15 vote. See the story here.
  • Idaho state Rep. Roy Lacey's H.586 would have required motorists to give bicyclists a three-foot safety zone when passing them on the roadway. See the story here.

More heat on hunters to get the lead out

HUNTING — Birding and wildlfie groups are focusing the spotlight on hunters and shooters who use lead shot and bullets claiming that 20 million birds die each year of lead poisoning.

Read the story here.

Deadline looms for multiple season permit applications

HUNTING — Saturday, March 31st is the last day to purchase a Washington multiple season permit application for 2012. This permit allows a sportsman to hunt in the archery, muzzleloader and modern rifle seasons rather than having to choose just one weapon type.

The number of deer permits has increased this year from 4,000 to 8,500 and elk permits from 850 to 1,000.

Click here for more information.

Click here to purchase an application.

Commission to set Washington hunting rules April 13-14

HUNTING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife commission will vote on about a dozen proposals involving significant changes in hunting regulations for the 2012-2014 seasons when it meets April 13-14 in Olympia.

Fish and Wildlife Department game managers gave the panel detailed presentations on the proposals during the commission meeting earlier this month in Moses Lake.

Audio files posted on the commission's website allow you to listen to those presentations as well as the public comment on the agenda topics.

Click here to see the revised proposals the commission will be considering next month.