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Fire closes Kettle River Campground on Lake Roosevelt

PUBLIC LANDS — The Kettle River Campground has been closed as a precaution because of a human-caused fire burning nearby, according to officials from the Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area.

A grass fire that was whipped up by winds on Monday forced evacuation of the campground.

Fire crews contained the fire today, officials said.  The campground closure remains in effect for fire monitoring.

The recreation area restricted fires to designated fire grates in developed campgrounds on June 17.  Investigators continue to look into the cause of Monday's fire.


Sign up for CdA Lake osprey banding cruise

WILDLIFE WATCHING — The popular annual Osprey Boat Cruise that follows biologists checking nests and banding young "fish hawks" of the year is set for 9 a.m. on July 11.

 Reserve a seat on the two-hour cruise by calling the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce, (208) 664-3194. 

Don't procrastinate if you want to watch the action, get some good photos and learn a lot of information about ospreys from experts on the boat. The 150 seats usually fill quickly.

Phil Cooper, Idaho Fish and Game Department educator, offers these tidbits of information about osprey and the banding research:

  • At least 100 pairs of these fish-eating hawks nest annually in the Coeur d’Alene Lake region including the lower reaches of the St. Joe and Coeur d’Alene Rivers. 
  • Adult osprey along with the young of the year birds begin their annual migration in mid-September, traveling all the way to Baja California, Central America and many all the way to South America. The birds return in late winter/early spring to the area where they originally hatched.
  • Information on migration patters and survival rates of Coeur d'Alene-area ospreys has been gathered for more than 25 years by University of Idaho and the Idaho Fish and Game Department.
  • have been studying and banding ospreys at Coeur d’Alene Lake for over 25 years. The work is done to determine survival and mortality rates and to further define the migration patterns and wintering areas of the population.
  • Pre-flight osprey are taken briefly from nests just before fledging as parent birds fly around and screech their disapproval. A band with a unique number is quickly applied to one leg, and the 6-7 week old birds are placed back in the nests.
  • Parent osprey immediately return to the nests and continue raising their offspring.

The cruise will leave from the east side of the Coeur d'Alene Resort boardwalk by Tubbs Hill and McEuen Park.

Cost is $15 for adults. Children under 12 are free when with a paying adult. A family rate of $35 covers two adults and three children up to age 18. Seniors and students are $10.

Speakers on the cruise boat will include wildlife biologists and avian experts.

Idaho big-game hunting permit drawing results available

HUNTING — Hunters who applied for elk, deer, pronghorn, fall turkey and black bear controlled hunts can check online to see whether they were successful in the recent computerized drawing.

Enter your hunting license number and follow three steps to find out you were successful.  Traffic on the website may be heavy at times, so please be patient.  Postcards will be mailed to successful applicants by July 10.

Winners must buy controlled hunt tags by Aug. 1.  Any tags not purchased by Aug. 1 will be forfeited.

Unclaimed and leftover tags from the first drawing will be available for a second drawing around Aug. 20, with the application period from Aug. 5 through Aug. 15.

After the second drawing, any leftover tags are sold first-come, first-served Aug. 25 at 10 a.m. Mountain Daylight Time at any Fish and Game office, license vendor, through the Internet at https://id.outdoorcentral.us/, or by telephone at 800-554-8685.

Zero is the word for area’s snowpack

RIVERS — All mountain stations across Washington that measure snowpack are reporting the same number: zero.

“That doesn’t mean there isn’t any snow at higher elevations. There are glaciers up there,” Jeff Marti of the state Department of Ecology tells the Seattle Times. “It does mean the snowpack — what we depend on for our water supply — has essentially gone to zero already for the summer.”

Marti said record-high temperatures from October to March kept rain falling, rather than snow. What little snow fell didn’t last.

“Some basins where we expect to see snow last until late June, the snow is already gone and has been gone since late May,” said Marti, who added that about 40 percent of the state’s rivers are at record lows and flowing slowly.

Low water levels could hamper fish migration, and thousands of Yakima basin farmers will have to ration or conserve water this summer.

I'm afraid this isn't the last you'll hear of this story this year.

…Do you smell smoke?

Washington has 14 wolves collared, working for science

ENDANGERED SPECIES — As reported last week, Washington has trapped and radio-collared at least five gray wolves this spring, adding to its pool of wolves that are transmitting data about their individual movements as well as their associated packs.

This information is valuable to the recovery of wolves and their eventual delisting from endangered species protections.

That brings the number of collars being monitored by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife researchers to 14 individuals in 10 packs.

  • Ten of those collars are expensive units sending daily GPS data.
  • Four of the collars are transmitting VHF signals that give more general information on location and movements.

The Colville Tribe, which runs its own wildlife program on packs within the reservation,has not confirmed how many collars tribal biologists have put on wolves. 

Packs managed by WDFW with collars include Salmo, Goodman, Diamond, Smackout, Dirty Shirt, Huckleberry, Profanity, Lookout, Teanaway and Tucannon. 

Rock Lake getting 255,000 steelhead thanks to lawsuit

FISHING – Rock Lake is being planted this week with 255,000 steelhead from Washington hatcheries connected to a wild fish lawsuit that prevents their release in Puget Sound streams.

The fish are 6-8 inches long and should be a big boost fishing at the Whitman County lake starting this fall, said Chris Donley, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife inland lakes manager.

The lawsuit-restricted fish prospered when stocked last year in Sprague Lake during the first year the steelhead were salvaged for inland waters. But Sprague will not share in the steelhead bounty this year.  "We want to highlight Sprague for its excellent bass fishing," Donley said.

Stocking in Rock Lake began Friday with a plant of 45,000 fish. The trucks will continue to roll to get all of the fish into the lake by June 29, Donley said.

Other trout releases:  Lake Spokane received another plant of about 120,000 triploid rainbow trout this year that should be producing well by fall. The plant is funded by Avista as part of a recreation mitigation for operating Long Lake Dam.  The  trout stocked in last year's debut of the program for Lake Spokane produced a lot of satisfied anglers last fall, winter and this spring.

Wolf update: Packs moving; big-game populations holding steady

ENDANGERED SPECIES — A just-released update on wolf management in Washington indicates that wolf packs are shifting territories somewhat and that they are not having significant detectable impacts on the state's big-game herds.

Following is a portion of the update from Dave Ware, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife wolf program leader:

Summary of capture and monitoring efforts for the spring and summer to date.

  • WDFW staff placed two collars on yearlings in the Smackout Pack.
  • WDFW staff placed a collar on what we think is the breeding female in the Profanity Peak Pack.  This collared wolf is spending its time north of where we thought the Profanity Peak Pack was located, which may mean that it is either a different pack or that the pack has shifted to the north.
  • Wildlife Services staff placed a collar on an adult female wolf from the Dirty Shirt Pack.
  • WSU placed a collar on what we think is the breeding female from the Lookout Pack.

"We are pleased with our success to date, but would like to know more about the Huckleberry Pack and Profanity Peak Pack.  So we will be looking for recent activity and setting traps to collar additional wolves in these areas over the next few weeks.  The collared wolves in both of these packs appear to be spending their time this summer well north of where they had been in past years.  Therefore we will be looking in the area of their historic locations to the south of the currently collared wolves. 

"We are also planning to get back into the area of the Carpenter Ridge Pack.  We have already set traps in this territory without success and it is time to get back in there to see if we can find current activity. We will trap other pack territories opportunistically where we do not currently have collars deployed and look for new packs when we verify recent wolf activity."

Outreach Efforts

"WDFW presented an update on the status of ungulate populations in areas with wolves to the Game Management Advisory Council on June 6.  A copy of the presentation is posted on the wolf web page

"At this point in wolf recovery, we are not seeing anything in the harvest or survey data that would indicate a decline in deer, elk, or moose populations."

Landers: Camping is an educational event worth the misery

“If God wanted us to sleep on the ground, he wouldn’t have invented beds,” a man wrote.

Clearly this is a sickness that needs to be addressed, starting with education on the religious foundation of camping: God did not create furniture. God did create the ground, where campers sleep in order to fully appreciate a bed.

I would never put down people who don’t enjoy camping. It’s understandable that some consider a poison ivy rash unattractive while others may be too selfish to share their jelly sandwiches with ants.

Good campsites would be hard to find if everybody was looking for a place to pitch a tent.

But I feel sorry for people who dislike camping, especially if they have kids or grandkids. More here, Rich Landers, SR

I do  not have the words to tell you how much I LOATHE camping. How about you? Are you a happy camper?

Educational benefits of camping are free for all

CAMPING — TV weather reporter Kris Crocker, full of honesty and good humor, says she's lost the itch to go camping.  We forgive you, Kris.

But as I explain in today's outdoors column, the occasional misery involved in tenting under the stars is worth the educational benefits, especially when you have kids.

I like a warm shower as much as anyone, but our daughters also LOVED to go skinny dipping in mountain lakes and streams.  It's a life skill every kid should learn before being booted out of the nest.

From what I hear, the girls, in their 20s, still LOVE to go skinny dipping. That worked out to the educational benefit of a Boy Scout pack that hiked by at the most opportune time in the Glacier Peak Wilderness a couple of years ago.

Question: Do Boy Scouts have an app that helps them navigate toward skinny dipping girls in the wilderness?

Nez Perce Forest sets public meetings on motorized use plan

PUBLIC LANDS — Forest Service officials say they are "re-engaging the public" on the Nez Perce National Forest travel plan through a series of public meetings before the  final decision on the Designated Routes and Areas for Motor Vehicle Use is made later this summer.

Cheryl Probert,  Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests supervisor, says her decision would designate motor vehicle use on specific roads, trails and areas on the Nez Perce side of the rorest; and result in a Motor Vehicle Use Map the public would use to see where motorized use would be allowed.

Forest staff will update the process and present alternatives that will be in the Final Environmental Impact Statement and considered in the upcoming decision. Public meetings are scheduled in Grangeville, Elk City, Riggins and Kamiah before the final meeting, 5 p.m. on July at the Idaho Fish and Game Department's, Lewiston Office, 3316 16th St.           

The Forest Served began the project in 2007 with a proposed action to manage motor vehicle use on roads, trails and areas on the Forest. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement was published in 2009, followed by a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement in 2010. The Forest has gathered and considered numerous comments from the public.

For details, background and updates, see the project webpage.

Info: (208) 983-4048.

Coastal toxic algae bloom raising havoc from clams to sea lions

MARINE LIFE — A toxic algae bloom that's unprecedented is range is affecting marine life from Central California toward Alaska.

The invisible bloom produces a toxin called domoic acid that's already forced officials to close crab and razor clam fisheries. Now, its effects are spreading to mammals.

In recent video from Long Beach, a sea lion is shown having seizures. NOAA researchers say they have never seen this before on the Washington's coast, according to a story by KING 5 TV.

"We're seeing effects on marine ecosystem we haven't seen before," said NOAA Fisheries Research Oceanographer Vera Trainer.

"I think it's scary," Trainer said. "When we see marine mammals suffering from these toxins, they're not that far in the food chain from us."

NOAA fisheries scientists have deployed to study it.  They believe some of the blame goes to "the blob," a large expanse of warmer water off the coast.

"But we're able to figure out how to live with them," Trainer told KING 5. "This is just one animal found on the beach. You wonder what animals that aren't on the beaches, what's happening to them."

Boulder-White Clouds wilderness bill gets hearing

PUBLIC LANDS — Wilderness politics in Idaho is a fascinating process to watch:

House committee hears testimony on Idaho wilderness bill
At the House Resources Committee’s subcommittee on Public Lands hearing on Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson's proposed wilderness bill for lands in the Boulder-White Cloud mountains, Simpson's colleague, Rep. Raul Labrador, said he believed that the public support for the wilderness bill was more likely opposition to the proposal that President Obama could designate the area a national monument.
—Idaho Statesman

Montana offers free fishing for Father’s Day weekend

FISHING — Free fishing days are water under the bridge in Washington and Idaho, but Montana saves the occasion for the big event of the year for dads.

Whether you cast a fly or bait a hook everyone can fish for free Saturday and Sunday, June 20-21, in celebration of Montana’s Father's Day weekend.

"While many Montana anglers want to keep their favorite fishing hole a secret, one thing that isn’t a secret is that our state is home to some of the best rivers, lakes, and streams for fishing in the world," said Gov. Steve Bullock in a media release.

"I encourage Montanans to take advantage of this free fishing weekend, and maybe even show off their secret fishing spot to a child or grandchild."

The state's "fish for free" weekend was established in 2011 as the state's Father's Day gift to dads everywhere.

Rapid River trail bridge closed for repairs

TRAILS — Here's another example of why it's best to check ahead with land managers before launching out on a backcountry trek.

On June 20, the Forest Service will temporarily close one of the bridges that access trails in the Rapid River drainage, a popular hiking and horse-packing area near Riggins, Idaho. 

A bridge on Trail No. 113 on the main stem of Rapid River will be closed beginning probably through June 25, Salmon River Ranger District officials say. 

The bridge is 3 miles from Rapid River Trailhead and will be closed while Forest Service trail crews install new bridge decking and hand rails.  The public will not be allowed to travel across the bridge during the closure.

Info: District recreation supervisor, Jeremy Harris, (208) 839-2109.

Montana wildlife group seeks to stop sheep grazing

WILDLIFE — A wildlife group is asking a federal judge to stop domestic sheep grazing that it says is a threat to wildlife on U.S. National Forest land in the Gravelly Mountains of southwest Montana.

The Gallatin Wildlife Association claims the government’s authorization for the Helle family of Dillon to graze almost 8,000 sheep in the area is harming endangered grizzly bears and wild bighorn sheep, the Associated Press reports.

Several Montana bighorn herds have been plagued or decimated by disease in recent years. The diseases often are associated with transfer from domestic animals.

Attorney John Meyer said the Bozeman-based group planned to file an injunction request in U.S. District Court Monday seeking to halt grazing this summer on two of the Helle’s seven grazing allotments.

A lawsuit challenging the approval of the allotments was filed last week.

Helena lawyer Jim Brown, who represents the Helles, says the family has cooperated with wildlife officials on bighorn sheep conservation efforts.

Updated: Wild fire season has arrived in Washington

Updated 3:35 p.m. with DNR burn ban announcement.

WILD FIRES — With last year's Carlton Complex fires still heavy in the memories of locals as well as visitors and anglers, fire officials say they’re concerned that big wildfires already are popping up this summer in North Central Washington.

The Washington State Department of Natural Resources today announced a burn ban will start Wednesday, June 17, on DNR-protected lands east of the crest of the Cascade Mountains.

  • Update Jun 17: Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area has banned all fires outside of designated campfire grates in developed campgrounds.

All outdoor burning already had been banned in both Chelan and Douglas counties.

DNR's Eastern Washington burn ban applies to state forests, state parks and forestlands under DNR fire protection.  It does not include federally owned lands such as national forests, national parks, national wildlife refuges or other areas administered by federal agencies.

Over the weekend, North Central Washington firefighters battled a 1,060-acre fire in Douglas County near Wells Dam, a 600-acre fire east of Soap Lake, and a 6,700-acre fire near Coulee City, the Wenatchee World reports

All of the fires were contained by midday Monday, and causes were still being investigated.

"This is early for the big fires," said Grant County Fire District 7 Chief Kirk Sheppard. "We’re fighting fires now that we would normally see in August."

In 2015 so far, there have been 241 wildfire starts throughout the state.  Last year’s fire season was the biggest on record in Washington, with the largest state fire ever, the Carlton Complex, destroying more than 250,000 acres. More than 1 million acres of Washington’s landscape has been consumed by wildfire since 2009. 

A fire in west Spokane last week burned into the Palisades area, snuffing out trees and a trail bridge used by hikers and mountain bikers.

Campfire restrictions also are popping up.

Walla Walla pilot prosecuted for landing plane in wilderness

UPDATED 3:20 p.m. on 6/12/2015 with info on fine.

PUBLIC LANDS — A tip from elk hunters has led to prosecution of a Walla Walla man for landing his private aircraft in the Wenha-Tucannon Wilderness, where motor vehicle use is prohibited.

Brent Dawson recently plead guilty to illegally landing his airplane on Smooth Ridge during the fall of 2013 and again in 2014. Smooth Ridge is in the wilderness area of the Blue Mountains, says Michael C. Ormsby, the United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington.

According to information disclosed during court proceedings, in the fall of 2014 a group of hunters, deep in the wilderness, observed an airplane flying low and landing in a meadow on Smooth Ridge. These hunters were upset, says the report signed by Joseph Harrington, first assistant U.S. Attorney.

Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Austin Hess reported this was the second year an individual had accessed the wilderness using the same airplane, with the plane’s tail numbers being removed in 2014.

The hunters reported that they had spent time and energy accessing this remote, secluded area of the wilderness to hunt, only then to discover that Dawson simply flew his plane into the area. One of the hunters reported the incidences and ultimately received a cash reward for his cooperation in the investigation.

Photos and detailed description of events provided by the hunters led to the identification of Dawson as being the owner of the plane.

“Federal Wilderness lands are a treasure – especially here in the Northwest," Ormsby said.

The crime of operating a motor vehicle in the wilderness is a Class B misdemeanor that has a maximum fine of $5000 and 6 months in jail.

However, Dawson was fined only $200, Harrington said.

The 1964 Wilderness Act defines "Wilderness" as areas where the earth and its communities of life are left unchanged by people, where the primary forces of nature are in control, and where people themselves are visitors who do not remain. Wilderness act regulations prohibit the use or operation of motorized or mechanized equipment within a designated Wilderness Area.

The investigation was conducted by the United States Forest Service. The case was prosecuted by Legal Intern Corey Sewell and Assistant United States Attorney Tyler H.L.

Omak cutthroat on the bite

FISHING — Good fishing reports are coming in from far and wide.  Here's the latest on Omak Lake on the Colville Indian Reservation from Anton Jones of Darrell & Dad's Guide Service:

On Omak the fish are coming off the spawn and biting like crazy!  This year it appears that the bite rate is somewhat less than the previous couple of years, but drumroll… the average fish is much better.  We have trolled Jeff’s drift rigs (unbaited, to be consistent with the regs), squid rigs and spoons.  Fish have averaged about 20” or so.  Trophy sized Cutts are always a possibility here.  Dan Beardslee caught one over 18 pounds!  Next to Pyramid Lake in Nevada, this may be the best Lahontan Cutthroat Trout lake in the world.  Working speeds of 1.4 to 1.6 mph seemed to work best for our presentations, but vary it a lot to see what works best for you. 

Fishing tip of the week: Make small changes to increase your productivity.  I am loathe to change presentations, typically.  With me, the changes are usually location.  Sometimes, small changes in location can greatly increase catch rates.  Sometimes concentrations of fish move just a few hundred feet.  Think about the cover and food requirements for fish and make your adjustments accordingly.  Similarly, a small change in the profile of a lure (ie:  sizing up or down) can make a big difference in bite rate.  Too big a change can have you come up empty or at least unable to tell which variable was important. 

Wisconsin hunter fined for killing Montana grizzly bear

HUNTING – A nonresident hunter has been ordered to pay more than $2,300 for mistakenly shooting and killing a grizzly bear in northwestern Montana. That's a light fine for killing a protected big-game species, likely the result of the hunter's cooperation in the case.

Richard Kutcher of Mukwonago, Wisconsin, thought the animal he shot May 16 was a black bear, not a grizzly.

Grizzly bears are listed as a threatened species and are illegal to hunt.

State wildlife officials say Kutcher reported the shooting to wildlife officials immediately and cooperated with the investigation.

Kutcher pleaded guilty in Flathead County Justice Court to killing a grizzly bear in a closed season. He was fined $235 and ordered to pay $2,000 in restitution.

Scientists would rather have fire than weeds

PUBLIC LANDS — As I watch the landscape turn brown during this drought, I can't help but notice the knapweed and skeleton weed look green and unscathed.  Too bad elk and deer don't thrive on noxious weeds because…

Noxious weeds gaining ground on federal lands in the Western U.S.
Federal lands agencies say 17 million acres of lands in the western United States have been taken over by noxious weeds. A regional manager for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game said that noxious invaders are more of a threat to wildlife than fires because fires provide some benefit to habitat while weeds just destroy the habitat.
—Idaho Statesman

Trails Day volunteers dig into Riverside State Park

TRAILS — About 100 volunteers turned out Sunday to brave the heat and dust as they put their muscle into upgrading Trail 100 in Riveside State Park, said Carol Christensen, Outreach coordinator for REI Spokane.

Partner organizations included Washington Trails Association, Backcountry Horsemen, Spokane Mountaineers, Evergreen East, West Central Community Center, Friends of the Centennial Trail, Riverside State Park Foundation and Riverside State Park.

The National Trails Day local service event was sponsored by REI, which also announced a 2015 grant of $20,000 to support the park's volunteer coordinator, who plans other part projects through the year.

Temporary trail etiquette signs have been installed at either end of the rehabbed section near the Fort Wright Cemetery. Permanent signs are ordered.

"The tread has been widened to 3-4 feet and many of the problematic rocks were removed," Christensen said. "Volunteers also brushed back a fair bit of poison ivy and other undergrowth.

"As we were packing up Sunday afternoon, we saw hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders headed out, from either end, to enjoy the new section.

Trail 100 is a nifty river-hugging route accessed from state park and Centennial Trail parking areas in the Fort Wright area.  For details, see Trip 79 in Day Hiking Eastern Washington.

Motorcyclists ride for disabled youth to go hunting, fishing

OUTDOOR CHARITIES — Motorcyclists are organizing a charity ride on Saturday, June 20, out of Spokane to support Youth Outdoors Unlimited, a Washington-based non-profit that provides guided hunting or fishing adventures to youth with a life-threatening illness or physical disability.

The poker run, leaving Lone Wolf Harley Davidson at 11 a.m., costs $30 a bike and includes lunch and a gift.

Applications are still available for 2015 youth hunting and fishing adventure placements.

Hunters may be tapped to kill off Montana bighorn herd

HUNTING — Montana officials want to use an aggressive public hunting campaign to kill off a diseased herd of 30-40 bighorn sheep in the Tendoy Mountains southeast of Dillon.

State wildlife commissioners on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a plan to remove the Tendoy herd beginning this fall and restock the area with about 50 healthy wild sheep, the Associated Press reports.

Over-the-counter hunting licenses would cost $125 for residents and $750 for non-residents.

If hunters do not kill all the sheep, state officials said they would be removed by aerial gunning and other means.

Bighorn sheep in the Tendoy Mountains experienced major die-offs due to pneumonia in 1993 and 1995. Officials say the population was augmented three times but still struggled to rebound, likely because some surviving sheep were carriers of bacteria that causes pneumonia.

Father: Missing Mount Rainier climber went to get cook stove

CLIMBING — The father of a missing climber apparently found dead on Mount Rainier says his son had a passion for climbing and the outdoors, the Associated Press reports.

Searchers Saturday recovered a body believed to be that of 25-year-old Kyle Bufis, formerly of Maple Grove, Minn.

A spokeswoman for Mount Rainier National Park says the body matches the description of Bufis, but that a medical examiner will need to confirm the identity.

Bufis, who lived in Springdale, Utah, was part of a three-climber team when he went missing during extreme weather near Liberty Saddle on Thursday night.

Bufis’ father, Jeff Bufis, tells the Star Tribune his son volunteered to retrieve a cook stove the men had left about 50 meters up the mountain. He says that was the last the others saw of his son.

Public opinion divided on restoring grizzly bears to Washington

WILDLIFE — U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staffers are working to draw conclusions from about 3,000 comments accumulated this year on a plan to restore grizzly bears to the North Cascades.

The Seattle Times reports that after public meetings in six cities an environmental-impact statement is in the works and a final decision is expected in late 2017.

Submitted comments range from outrage at the possible reintroduction of a predator to hopes of grizzly conservation.

Grizzlies would be returned to about 9,800 square miles, mostly federal lands, from the U.S-Canada border south to Wenatchee, extending west to towns such as North Bend and Darrington.

Most grizzly bears in the state were killed by settlers, officials said. Federal wildlife officials estimate there may be fewer than 20 of the bears living in the North Cascades south of Canada.

Washington man international hunter safety instructor of year

HUNTING — Western Washington Hunter Education Instructor Steve Mills has been named the 2014 International Hunter Education Association Volunteer Instructor of the Year.

Mills, of Toledo, Wash., was named this year’s recipient of the award at the 2015 IHEA-USA Annual Conference in Des Moines, Iowa. The award, sponsored by Federal Premium Ammunition, was presented to Mills at the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting on Friday.

Here's the scoop from the Department of Fish and Wildlife:

Mills taught 32 student classes and six new instructor classes, certifying 800 students and 45 additional hunter education instructors in Washington in 2014. He has been instrumental in assisting the WDFW in developing several new statewide program enhancements, including the online field skills evaluation course and the chief instructor training guide.

“Steve is a persistent, dedicated and humble man who relentlessly pursues improvement to our program and its delivery,” said Dave Whipple, WDFW Hunter Education Division Manager. “His integrity, commitment to service and significant contributions serve as an inspiration to all instructors.”

IHEA-USA annually recognizes one volunteer instructor who represents excellence in hunter education and benefits hunter education nationally.

“IHEA-USA represents over 700,000 students trained annually by over 55,000 instructors, most of whom are volunteers like Steve Mills,” said Steve Hall, IHEA-USA executive director. “Mr. Mills represents a great institution of volunteer instruction, dedication and passion that has carried hunter safety education since its inception in the mid-1940s.”


Some trout lakes restocked for Fathers Day

FISHING — For the fourth year, hatchery crews will be stocking 10,000 large rainbow trout in 20 lakes just before Father’s Day weekend, June 20 and 21, the the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife says.

Two of the lakes are near Spokane.

All of the lakes that will be stocked with those larger—15-to-17 inch—fish before Father’s Day have good shore and boat access.

Eastern Washington lakes to be stocked, and the number of fish, are as follows:

Spokane Region:

  • Spokane County: West Medical Lake, 1,250; Williams Lake, 400
  • Pend Oreille County: Diamond Lake, 600

Southcentral Region:

  • Kittitas County: Cooper Lake, 250
  • Yakima County: Clear Lake, 500

Northcentral Region:

  • Grant County: Park Lake, 400
  • Okanogan County: Alta Lake, 350; Conconully Reservoir, 750

See more details on fishing locations.

See fish stocking details for these and other lakes, by county and lake, in the annual stocking plan.

Bonaparte tiger trout likely state record

FISHING – An 18.49-pound tiger trout caught May 5 from Bonaparte Lake near Tonasket is a pending state record.

 Kelly Flaherty, 53, of Priest River hooked the lunker 10 feet from shore on what he said was going to be the last cast of a long day of slow fishing.

The fish was weighed on a certified scale an measured by Washington Fish and Wildlife  staff at 32.5 inches long with a girth of 21.75 inches, but officials said Friday the record had not yet been officially processed. 

If approved, Flaherty’s fish will top the 15.04-pound state record set in 2012 at Roses Lake in Chelan County.

A tiger trout is a cross between a brown trout and brook trout. The hybrid is a sterile trout that's fond of eating forage fish.  Tigers are stocked in lakes where they can help control prolific sunfish, perch and other forage fish.

Video: CdA raft guide launched into Lava Falls

WATERSPORTS — Jonah Grubb of Coeur d'Alene didn't have to worry about taking a bath on the recent day he guided rafters through the Grand Canyon's notoriously wet and wild Lava Falls rapid.

This amazing helmet cam video documents the deep hole the raft plunged into, ejecting Grubb from the rear rowing seat. 

Yes, that's the sky his feet are pointing toward before he does a little submarine action in the Colorado River. Yowzur!

Outdoor Life: Zumbo talks about carreer, O’Connor, hunting

HUNTING — Jim Zumbo, former hunting writer for Outdoor Life magazine, will visit Lewiston Saturday, June 13, to attend Jack O’Connor Day — a celebration in honor of another famous Outdoor Life hunting scribe.

The event starts at 10 a.m. and lasts until 3 p.m. at the Jack O’Connor Hunter Heritage and Education Center in Lewiston. It will be followed by a dinner at Clarkston’s Quality Inn, where Zumbo will speak.

Here's the story about Zumbo, his connection to O'Connor and some of Zumbo's views on the trends in hunting by Eric Barker of the Lewiston Tribune:

Brothers in arms

Though they never met, writers Jim Zumbo and Jack O’Connor have much in common

By ERIC BARKER of the Tribune

Jim Zumbo and Jack O’Connor never met face to face, even though both enjoyed long careers writing about big game hunting for Outdoor Life magazine.

Zumbo, of Cody, Wyo., started working full time for the magazine the same year O’Connor died. But he previously had freelance articles printed in Outdoor Life and was excited when he talked to O’Connor on the phone and the former Lewiston resident and famous outdoor writer recognized his name.

In the mid-1970s, Zumbo drew a desert bighorn sheep tag and telephoned O’Connor, his idol, to tap him for information.

“We talked for probably an hour on my desert sheep hunt,” he said. “I was thrilled because he recognized my name because I had a byline in Outdoor Life.”

“He was my hero forever,” he said. “I read everything he wrote. I read with envy about his trips to Africa and all over the world but never got to meet the gentleman. Somehow, our trails never crossed.”

The author of 23 titles, mostly on big game hunting, will sign books and participate in a round table panel discussion during the day’s events, which also include a gun show and a raffle for a custom rifle.

Zumbo was with Outdoor Life for 30 years, mostly writing about big game and hunting in the Western United States. He hit a rough patch in 2007 with a blog posting that took a negative view of the growing use of modern assault rifles in hunting. The post was criticized by many gun owners and Zumbo was fired from the magazine and his hunting show.

He said the controversy is largely a thing of the past. He still has a relationship with the magazine’s editor and was given the Grits Gresham Shooting Sports Communicator Award last year by the National Shooting Sports Foundation and the Professional Outdoor Media Association.

“It was for me kind of an acceptance by the industry,” he said. “That made me feel a whole lot better.”

Zumbo, now semi-retired, continues to write. He frequently updates his blog at www.jimzumbo.com/, pens magazine articles and is working on books, one of which will feature his favorite stories published in Outdoor Life.

He hunts more than ever but not always for himself. For years he has been involved in taking Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans on hunting trips.

“Probably 80 percent of them are with Wounded Warriors,” he said.

He annually leads veterans, many of them disabled, on a spring bear hunt in Alaska, an antelope hunt in Wyoming and a moose hunt in Maine.

“Our mission is to help these folks make the transition back into society,” he said. “When they come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, every one of them has some PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). We feel like introducing them to hunting and fishing is a good way (to do it), it’s very therapeutic.”

Zumbo also hunts big game on his own in Wyoming and said he feels good about the state of hunting today and the way new people are being attracted to it.

In particular, he said the interest people have in eating organic and locally sourced food is attracting new hunters.

“What is more organic than a deer or elk that lives in the wild?” he asked. “I think we are seeing some new positive attitudes toward hunting. Certainly the same old problems exist. There are people out there who want to ban all forms of hunting through the ballot box or the judicial system. But I personally think things are looking better than they were 10 to 15 years ago.”