Latest from The Spokesman-Review
WINTER SPORTS — Silver Mountain Resort has just announced it will open lifts for skiing on Monday morning, moving up the date four days from an annoucement made a few days ago.
Steady snowfall in the region's mountains this week has given skiers and snowboarders a wealth of early season options.
Mount Spokane officials say they plan to open on Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.
WINTER SPORTS — The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center will begin issuing regular avalanche advisories on Friday mornings beginning Dec. 16, said Kevin Davis, Forest Service hydro tech in Sandpoint.
The center is working on a new website with information that will be available to smartphones.
Meantime, read on for Davis’s observations on current conditions for winter backcountry travelers.
WINTER SPORTS — Officials from 49 Degrees North ski area have just announced that a big dump of snow in the past 48 hours will allow them to open chairlifts and start their season on Saturday.
Schweitzer will open Saturday; Lookout Pass opened today.
Here's the word received from 49 Degrees North, slightly revised from what the resort sent earlier today:
OPENING DAY IS SATURDAY! 16 inches of new snow in the past 48 hours with more on the way today.
The mountain will be open Saturday through Tuesday from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Chairs 1,2,3,5 will be running with access to hundreds of snow covered acres.
Lift tickets will be $40 for everyone 7 years and older on SATURDAY.
We will close Wednesday and reopen again Thursday for Thanksgiving Weekend. Due to early season conditions, we advise skiers and riders to stay on the groomed terrain.
CONSERVATION — Two Washington lawmakers led a bipartisan group of 131 sponsors to introduce legislation Thursday to assure an administrative rule protecting 58.5 million acres of wild roadless areas on America's public lands
Led by Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Jay Inslee of Washington, a group of sponsored by 20 Senate and 111 bipartisan House co-sponsors introduced the legislation to bolster the recent Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals decision upholding the 2001 Roadless Area Conservation Rule.
The Roadless Area Conservation Act will confirm long-term protections against damaging commercial logging and road-building for vulnerable wildlands on 30 percent of the 193-million-acre National Forest System, shielding roadless areas from political tides and whims of future administrations.
Roadless areas provide many benefits to Americans and wildlife: They safeguard the source of drinking water of 60 million Americans; they contain some of the most important fish and wildlife habitat in National Forests; and they provide abundant opportunities for quality outdoor recreation such as hunting, fishing, and backpacking, supporting an industry that contributes an estimated $730 billion to the U.S. economy each year.
National forests cover 9.2 million acres of Washington – about one-fifth of the state’s total land mass. There are two million acres of inventoried roadless areas in the Evergreen State, including sites like Kettle River Range, Dark Divide and Lena Lake.
Sen. Cantwell's office prepared this report highlighting the economic, environmental and societal benefits that roadless areas provide.
DEER HUNTING — I saw my first buck yesterday as I walked my dogs near my house at 4 a.m. — in my neighbor's driveway just south of Spokane. Nice five-point whitetail with nose to the ground, lifted only to let my dogs know he'd take them on if they came any closer.
Then I drove with a friend for an hour north to try to find another buck during daylight where I could hunt.
Indeed, I got into deer. Had one buck walk 40 yards upwind of my stand at 9:45 a.m. — nose to ground just like the one near my house — but I couldn't quickly make a positive ID that he had at least four antler points on one side. He didn't respond to calls. He was on a quest.
The rut is on and the bucks are active as Washington's late whitetail buck season ticks down. The season ends at the close of hunting hours on Saturday. (North Idaho hunters have until December.) Conditions couldn't be better, although deer numbers clearly are down from the good ol' days.
Note: The photo above shows a fine whitetail buck taken a few days ago near Omak by Shawn Ankney. Here's the report from Jason Verbeck of Okanogan Outfitters:
The whitetail but has begun around here. I thought you'd enjoy this great buck that was taken from around our area. The mule deer migration also has just begun. The whitetail buck (above) is a monster, huh. Washington state is very underestimated for the quality of our bucks. Personally I am happy with it staying that way.
OUTDOOR MEDIA — The Field & Stream magazine bloggers have posted several items of notable interest to Inland northwest sportsmen, including a national story from Congress that directly impacts our wildlife resources.
EARTHQUAKES — Earth-shaking news from northcentral Washington today.A 4.6 mag. earthquake occurred in Omak, Wash., today at 5:09 a.m., and was ~11.9 km deep, according to Andy Buddington of the Spokane Community College geology department. See the seismogram from the SCC station above.
I wonder what Omak hunters thought as they got ready to head out after deer this morning.
WINTER SPORTS — The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center began daily avalanche forecasting this week, and the season has started with a bang.
An avalanche watch went into effect last night as new snow has piled up in the Cascades and Olympics over the past few days, and more is on the way.
NWAC produces daily mountain weather and avalanche forecasts for the Olympics and Cascade Mountains from Mt Baker to Mt Hood. Backcountry recreationists and those crossing the mountain passes are encouraged to check the avalanche forecast before heading out into the mountains in the winter.
In the Inland Northwest, check the Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center.
ADVENTURE FILMS — Adventure, humor, awareness and awe, plus a good dose of pucker factor, are coming to Spokane this weekend in a road show of top outdoor adventure films.
And if you don't already have tickets, you may be out of luck.
The cream of the crop from the 31st annual Banff Mountain Film Festival will be traveling from Alberta to The Bing Crosby Theater tonight through Sunday.
But tickets are sold out through TicketsWest. Call the Mountain Gear Retail Store, 325-9000, to see if any tickets are left for this popular annual event.
The World Tour shows will take the audience to extremes, from ascending to one of the coldest places on earth to rappelling into the hottest place – to take a sample of molten lava from the bowels of a volcano.
The films feature all sorts of outdoor pursuits, including climbing, wildlife, pedaling and paddling.
See above for the always popular festival film clips compiled into the exciting World Tour into segment.
Then click here for details about this year's festival as well as links for clips on many of the top films.
PUBLIC LANDS — The Obama administration is calling for 18 new wilderness and conservation area declarations in Idaho, Washington and seven other Western states, according to a report released Thursday by the secretary of the Interior.
The administration apparently hopes that significant local support that's already been generated for these areas will prompt a Congress that can’t agree on the simplest things to approve legislation establishing new land protections.
The proposals include creating San Juan Islands National Conservation Area in Washington and protections for the Jerry Peak Wilderness Study Areas in the Boulder-White Clouds region of central Idaho.
The areas have often been under consideration for advanced protection status for years, such as 406,000 acres of wilderness and conservation area proposed for the Sleeping Giant study along the Missouri River’s scenic Holter Lake in Montana.
Bureau of Land Management director Bob Abbey said there is room for more wilderness even as the BLM pushes for more oil, gas and other energy development on its land, the Associated Press reports. The agency pointed out that since 1964, only about 3.5 percent of the land it manages has been declared wilderness.
The proposal is the latest plank in what the administration is calling the America’s Great Outdoor’s initiative. Representatives from all 50 states were asked to identify specific projects in which the federal government could form partnerships as part of the America’s Great Outdoors Initiative. The conservation plans are meant to protect public land, encourage more people to enjoy the outdoors and bolster employment in tourism and recreation.
OUTDOOR TRAVEL — A world-wide online pole has named a new list of seven wonders of the world. Check it out and see if you agree.
I'm thinking the people who voted on this have not been to the Grand Canyon.
WINTER SPORTS — Schweitzer Mountain Resort announced today that it will open for the season on Saturday, the earliest opening for the resort since 1984.
About 20 inches of snow was reported at the resort this morning. That combined with the work of a snowmaking system will allow two chair lifts to open.
Reduced prices will be in effect this weekend and mountain parking will be free.
Schweitzer joins Lookout Pass ski area, which announced that it will open Friday.
Mt. Spokane Ski & Snowboard Park has announced on its website that it will open on Dec. 3.
SPORTSMEN'S ACCESS — Washington Fish and Wildlife Department officials say they plan to use a $1 million federal grant and at least $400,000 from big-game hunting application fees to improve recreational access to private lands in Eastern Washington.
WDFW is one of 11 agencies nationwide to qualify for funding fromthe U.S. Department of Agriculture in the second round of the Voluntary Public Access and Habitat Incentive Program, established under the 2008 federal Farm Bill.
The public can read details and post comments through Dec. 15 at this website.
“Hunters consistently rank access to suitable hunting areas as one of their top concerns,” said Nate Pamplin, assistant director of the WDFW wildlife program. “With the additional federal funding, we’ll be able to build on current state efforts to expand hunting opportunities for years to come.”
WDFW also received a three-year $1.5 million grant to expand access to hunting and fishing on private lands throughout the state during the first round of the program. The department is currently using that funding to establish contracts with landowners to open their lands to outdoor recreation.
Pamplin said the new $993,231 grant will be used to expand hunting and fishing opportunities in Eastern Washington in several ways:
- Provide incentives to private landowners to allow hunting on forested properties in Kittitas, Klickitat, Pend Oreille, Spokane, Stevens and Yakima counties.
- Work with landowners in Columbia, Garfield, Lincoln, Walla Walla and Whitman counties to improve habitat enrolled in both the federal Conservation Reserve Program and WDFW access programs, as I described in this story about research to help boost CRP's benefits for pheasants.
- Initiate a “Feel Free to Fish” program in southeast Washington, paying private landowners for shoreline access to river fisheries.
WATERFOWLING — The Washington Fish and Wildlife Department has a new waterfowling website ready for hunters to take advantage of the best forecast fall flight of ducks since 1955 — and the foul weather that's ushering them southward and into our region.
The site has information for new or returning waterfowl hunters, ranging from the basics of duck and goose identification to details on hunting locations, equipment, licensing requirements and handling harvested waterfowl.
One portion of the site is devoted to helping hunters zero in on places to hunt waterfowl. The information isn't necessarily specific. Hou'll still have to go out and do your homework.
The site also is a quick stop for hunters checking on waterfowl regulations and seasons, especially for the more confusing seasons for Canada geese. Goose management in much of Estern Washington restricts hunting to Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays, but late fall and winter bring added opportunity on holidays including the Thanksgiving holiday Nov. 24-25, the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Jan. 16.
EXTREME SKIING — This short video show's an easy day of cliff skiing for Jamie Pierre, the Montana skier and ski-film star who died in an avalanche on Sunday.
The video is fun to watch. Basically it's a commercial for the various ways Go-Pro video cameras can be attached to a skier. And they found a guy who could do it with ease.
POACHING — A 64-year-old Idaho North Idaho man has agreed to pay more than $13,000 in restitution and fines and will lose his hunting, fishing and trapping privileges for life for illegally obtaining a Montana hunting license and killing a trophy bighorn sheep in north-central Montana, the Associated Press reports.
Roger J. Woodworth of Hayden, Idaho, was sentenced Nov. 6 by District Judge Nels Swandal as part of a plea agreement with Fergus County prosecutors, according to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials.
FWP officials say Woodworth illegally bought a Montana resident hunting license in 2009, then applied and was drawn in the lottery for a bighorn license in the Missouri River Breaks north of Lewistown, where he shot the ram.
A tip led to the charges against Woodworth, who was required to give up the bighorn sheep trophy mount.
HUNTING — A grand jury in Salem, Ore., indicted a bear hunter Monday on a criminally negligent homicide charge in the shooting death of a hiker near Silver Creek Falls State Park.
If convicted, 67-year-old Eugene Irvin Collier of Turner could be sentenced to 10 years in prison.
KVAL reports Collier was hunting with his 12-year-old grandson on Oct. 25 when Collier mistook the hiker for a bear and shot Christopher Ochoa, a 20-year-old from French Camp, Calif., and a Marine reservist who was due to report for active duty later the same day.
ENDANGERED SPECIES — The Oregon Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that conservation groups have a good chance of overturning a state order to kill wolves blamed for attacking livestock, and issued a stay that will remain in force until the lawsuit is settled, according to the Associated Press.
The ruling filed in Salem set one condition: that conservation groups post $5,000 security against any livestock losses while the case is pending.
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife issued an order in late September to kill two members of the Imnaha pack in Wallowa County, including the alpha male, after confirming by radio tracking collar data that the pack was responsible for another cattle kill in Wallowa County.
Conservation groups sued to challenge it, arguing the Oregon Wolf Management Plan, which allows wolves to be killed to reduce livestock attacks, does not comply with the state Endangered Species Act.
DEER HUNTING — The silence has been broken. Some of my Rut Reporters in northeastern Washington have been virtually mum this season as they searched for big bucks. Even rutting activity has been spotty with big buck movements mostly after dark. Until now.
Hunters are buzzing. The excitement is palpable.
The rut appears to be on in a big way almost across the board in Eastern WA, North Idaho and throughout Montana.
Colville hunter Kevin Scheib has been patiently monitoring his trail cams since July, when he documented a few big bucks that disappeared as soon as the September archery seasons started.
Just this weekend, the big ones began to show again. Scheib caught a photo of the hot buck above out in the open well before the end of legal shooting time. Read what Scheib reported, and then tell me where you think he'll be in these last few days before northeastern Washington's late whitetail buck hunt ends on Saturday:
“Now it's on like donkey kong. This guy is swollen and hot for teacher. He came in chasing three does; the first mountain buck I've seen coming out in the lowlands.”
CONSERVATION — The InlandNorthwest Land Trust is calling for volunteers ond FRIDAY to “Beat the Frost” with a tree planting effort to help restore a riparian area along Hangman Creek just south of Spokane.
The group hopes to get 10-15 volunteers from noon to 3 p.m. Friday to help plant 200 trees at either the Bryant/Sayre property or the neighboring Hein property while the weather permits.
The trees will help stabilize the stream bank, decrease erosion and future solar radiation, and increase wildlife habitat along Hangman Creek.
What you will need: gloves, water, snacks (if you wish), and a shovel.
Contact: Brooke Nicholson, email email@example.com or
call (509) 328-2939 to sign up and receive directions.
FISHING — The number of steelhead climbing over Lower Granite Dam has slowed to 100-200 a day as the fish start hunkering in for the winter and the next big surge of movements in February or March.
There should be plenty of fish to catch in the Snake and tributaries if you can zero in on them.
But other factors play a role in angler success from week to week and even day to day.
Last week, Salmon River anglers from the Riggins area were riding high with great fishing success. But the weekend brought change, as Amy Sinclair of Exodus Wilderness Adventures observes in this post-weekend wrapup:
Steelhead fishing was definitely affected by the storm system front and the full moon over the weekend; Saturday was one of the toughest fishing days of the year with few fish found throughout the entire river corridor. Fortunately the moon is waning and the weather pattern has settled and already the fishing has picked back up and returned to the incredible fishing we had for the past 2 weeks. While water temperatures continue to hover between 37-38 degrees, the fish are maintaining interest in plugs and in particular the infamous “truck and trailer”. These fish are still very acrobatic and we have started to see many more natives, especially over 32” in the last few days.
TRAILS — North Idaho continues to get a steady stream of good press from its world-class rail trails — the Route of the Hiawatha near Lookout Pass and the Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes that runs from Mullan to Plummer.
A Rails-to-Trails Conservancy publication recently published a feature about Wallace entitled, “In Idaho, Former Silver Mining Town Reinvents Itself as Trails Destination.”
“When we use the phrase “destination trail,” the Route of the Hiawatha in Idaho is exactly what we have in mind,” the author says. “The trail itself is the draw; people come from across the country, and sometimes the world, to ride this 15-mile rail-trail through the spectacular Bitterroot Mountains and wilderness area, including a 1.6-mile tunnel.”
As recreation enthusiasts add it to their “bucket list” of adventures, the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy named the Hiawatha to its Rail-Trail Hall of Fame earlier this year.
The nearby Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes, North Idaho Centennial Trail and Old Milwaukee Road corridor, has meant to local populations have made “giant impact” on local communities, Wallace businessmen told the writer. The 72-mile Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes passes directly by Wallace, a geographical key to transferring trail-user numbers into commerce that fills up to 20 percent of the beds in the Wallace Inn during the summer trail season.
MOUNTAIN PASSES — The North Cascades Highway closed in the past hour (Tuesday evening) as Washington highway crews prepare for storms and heavy snow storms in the coming days.
State Department of Transportation officials say they will reassess road conditions, avalanche danger and weather forecasts on Monday to determine whether the Highway 20 pass can be reopened.
The highway betwen Winthrop west to Marblemount closed for the winter on Dec. 1 last year
The National Weather Service predicts up to 22 inches of snow by Thursday morning with more snow to come during the weekend.
It's time to start keeping an eye on the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association cross-country ski trail grooming situation.
Three to five inches of snow have been falling daily since Friday at the higher elevations of the highway near Washington Pass.
Farther south in the Cascades, Chinook and Cayuse passes — mountain gateways to Mount Rainier — already have closed for the season.
WATERFOWLING — Wednesday is the dealine for hunters to let the state know whether they want to head down the slippery slope of allowing electronic decoys for waterfowling.
Several waterfowl hunting guides have petitioned the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to consider allowing electronic decoys for waterfowl hunting starting in 2012.
CONSERVATION — Although the discussion on the state's wolf plan caught most of the attention last week, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission also made a major land acquisition after years of support and negotiations facilitated by The Nature Conservancy and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.
The purchase of 7,711 acres of wildlife habitat in Kittitas County is another testament to the benefits of the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program that was proposed for huge cuts in last year's legislative session.
This purchase concludes the second phase of the “Heart of the Cascades” project that adds over 10,000 acres to WDFW’s 47,200-acre Oak Creek Wildlife Area. The plan helps “block up” public land to protect big game habitat from winter ranges all the way up to summer ranges.
- Click on the video above to see a two-minute clip that explains the Heart of the Cascades Project.
Last year, 2,675 acres were acquired in the Bald Mountain/Rock Creek area, about 25 miles northwest of Yakima on the east slope of the Cascade Mountains. This year’s acquisition involves purchase of 3,807 acres from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) for $2,325,000 and 3,904 acres from Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation (RMEF) for $2,317,000.
Funding for the new acquisition comes from the Washington Wildlife and Recreation Program and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, through a Habitat Conservation Plan grant.
Ranging from 2,500 to 6,000 feet in elevation, the property has a wide diversity of habitats, including coniferous forests, basalt cliffs, shrub-steppe and riparian areas. It supports many federal- and state-protected species, including spotted owls, bull trout and steelhead, as well as many game species, including elk, bighorn sheep and mountain goats.
The property will be managed with support from TNC, RMEF and the Tapash Sustainable Forest Collaborative—a coalition of public, non-profit and tribal land managers—to share the estimated $123,500 annual operation and maintenance costs.
PREDATORS — Idaho's wolf trapping season starts today to boost the take of wolves in areas where hunting hasn't been able to fulfill the quotas set by the state.
Meanwhile in Montana, where the general rifle season hunting past the half-way mark, the public and some officials are starting to doubt that hunters will fill the quota set for wolves in the West Fork of the Bitterroot, according to a story in the Ravalli Republic.
Fish and game commissioners suggest the wolf season likely will be extended. Once hunters are done with their deer and elk hunting, maybe some will focus more on wolves.
On the other hand, the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks Department just announced it will be closing a central Montana region to wolf hunting because the quota of 18 wolves has been reached. Read on for the announcement.
The hunting of all wolves in Montana Wolf Management Unit 390, which include portions of Silver Bow, Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, Cascade, Meagher, Gallatin, Park, Judith Basin, Wheatland, Sweet Grass, Stillwater, Carbon, Golden Valley, Fergus, Petroleum, Musselshell, Yellowstone, Big Horn, Treasure, Rosebud, Garfield, McCone, Prairie, Custer, Powder River, Carter, Fallon, Wibaux, Dawson and Richland Counties will closeWednesday, November 16, at one half-hour after sunset.
The order halting the hunt came after Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks officials received word that the pre-established harvest quota for wolves in the WMU had been met.
I saw does with fawns and no bucks following. But it's just as clear that bucks are turning on virtually everywhere. Rattling and calling were getting results.
North of Spokane, 12-year-old Karsen Enevold and his grandpa, Randy Enevold, devoted a well-chosen weekend to filling his buck tag from a tree stand. It was time well spent. After patiently waiting as several does milled around near their stand, Karsen smoked a nice buck that came in to tend them, and then filled his doe tag with a second shot — all within 10 seconds. Mission accomplished.
“The Tuesday before Thanksgiving is prime time here,” he said. “I ALWAYS see bucks cavorting around that day.”
WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT — The Idaho Fish and Game Commission last week approved several proposals for legislation to be submitted to the 2012 Idaho Legislature.
- Amend 36-1510 to also allow youth under the age of 12 who are participating in the mentor hunt program to possess a firearm.
- Create ability to transfer a control hunt tag to a minor child or grandchild.
- Amend the Nonresident Season Hunting License to be a Nonresident Season Hunting/3 Day Fishing License, retaining current fee structure for the nonresident season hunting license.
- Amend the Sportsman’s Package License to include a wolf tag with an adjusted fee. The new fees would be $114.65 license fee plus $9.60 vendor fees for a total of $124.25. Idaho code requires half vendor fee per item for this license. The license and tags are scaled at about 63 percent of full price. Current total cost is $117.25.
Commissioners directed Fish and Game to develop revised language for the department’s motorized hunting rule, and release it for public comment; meanwhile, Fish and Game will implement a moratorium on applying the rule in any additional hunt units.
Commissioners acknowledged that off-road vehicle use is one of the biggest issues for hunters.
HUNTING — The amount of money Idaho is taking in through the sale of nonresident deer and elk tags is down nearly $3 million from its peak in 2008, state wildlife officials say.
Jim Unsworth, deputy director for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, said the agency has put in place a six-month hiring freeze on all open positions, eliminated at least two high level positions, and is looking at cutting some programs, the Associated Press reports.
He said the economic downturn is why fewer out-of-state hunters are heading to Idaho. Most of the agency’s money comes from the sale of tags, licenses and permits.
“It’s hard to put a finger on specifically what’s not happening,” Unsworth told the Post Register. “What’s happening is just less of everything. At some level, somewhere, something’s not getting done, and eventually the public’s going to notice it.”
Unsworth said items that could be cut include aerial surveys of big-game populations. That could lead, he said, to a reduction in the number of deer or elk that game managers would allow to be killed because regional supervisors tend to be more conservative when setting harvest numbers if they don’t have reliable estimates about herd populations.
He said the result is a downward spiral in revenue.
“You do put yourself in a spin,” he said. “At some point you become irrelevant politically. The great old tried and true ‘hit the nonresidents up for revenue’ isn’t working.”
Besides state revenue from out-of-state hunters falling, Idaho guides have seen fewer clients and small communities are losing revenue from fewer hunters.
FISHING — Fishing success continues to improve for lunker rainbows at Lake Rufus Woods downstream from Grand Coulee Dam, according to Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad's Family Guide Service.
James Cato of Selah, Wash., fished with son Mike and guide Jeff Witkowski and one other angler on Sunday (Nov. 13) to land this their 4 guy limit of triploid ainbows from the reservoir. They had brought 38 to the boat by noon. The largest was 9.2 pounds.
“As the water temperature descends through the 50s, the bite should only get better,” Jones said. “You can run to the net pens and slip sinker Pautzke’s Fire Bait or find places from Brandt’s landing and down where you are seeing plenty of activity on the surface and work those fish.
“If there is plenty of current when you are fishing bait with a slip sinker try adding a Mack’s Lures Smile Blade in front of your bait as an added attractor.
Try casting a quarter ounce Worden Lures Black Roostertail or, if you are fly angler, a Mack’s Lures “Smile Blade Fly” to get those fish on artificials. A slower irregular retrieve worked best.”
Current flow and weed length dictate your leader length when you are bait fishing at Rufus, he said. “The more current pushing your bait down and the higher the weed growth, the longer you need to make your leader to keep that bait where it will tempt a fish. Five or even six feet long is not out of the ordinary.”
Also, he said, be ready for ice in the boat launching areas.