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ULTRAREMOTE STEEL

Imnaha Summer-runs

OVERLOOKED OPTIONS

NAB NOVEMBER 'NOOKS! Tillamook, mook,, South C Coast

KINGS Central Sound

BLACKMOUTH

Columbia Basin Huns Nearshore Flounder, Sole ALSO INSIDE

Beat Midfall Waterfowl Lull Bag Western Oregon Bucks

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Northwest Sportsman 7


Sportsman Northwest

Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

Volume 10 • Issue 2

Your Complete Hunting, Boating, Fishing and Since 1948. Fi hi d Repair R i Destination D i i Si

PUBLISHER James R. Baker ASSOCIATE PUBLISHER Dick Openshaw EDITOR Andy Walgamott LEAD CONTRIBUT0R Andy Schneider THIS ISSUE’S CONTRIBUTORS Jason Brooks, Dan Magneson, Scott Haugen, Doug Huddle, Sara Ichtertz, MD Johnson, Randy King, Zach Mansfield, Buzz Ramsey, Troy Rodakowski, Lauren Smith, Dave Workman, Mark Yuasa EDITORIAL FIELD SUPPORT Jason Brooks GENERAL MANAGER John Rusnak

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CONTENTS

VOLUME 10 • ISSUE 2

91

SERIOUSLY REMOTE STEELHEAD

Out past Oregon’s Umatilla, Grande Ronde and Wallowa Rivers is one last summer-run stream – the beautifully set Imnaha of Hells Canyon. Head out of Joseph with Zach Mansfield to go steelheading in the Beaver State’s “Living end.” (SAM BEEBE, FLICKR)

FEATURES 25

CHINOOK, SOLDIERS AND A CITY A late-summer salmon derby on the Lower Columbia brought veterans and the town of Cathlamet together for a fun day. MD Johnson rode along and reports back on the Third Annual Warriors & Widows Salmon Tournament!

61

CENTRAL SOUND BLACKMOUTH November 1 marks the start of blackmouth season on the Seattle saltchuck, the first chance to get after winter Chinook. Mark Yuasa previews the action to be had on Areas 8, 9 and 10 during the fishery’s “premier” month!

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FALLING FOR FALL SALMON They told her autumn salmon were easier than springers, but it still took awhile for Sara Ichtertz to catch one, though the journey – from upriver to Buoy 10 to Tillamook to a small South Coast trib – was more than worth it.

81

TROPHY COASTAL KINGS November brings the return of the rains – and the kings of kings to Oregon’s North Coast. Longtime fall Chinook hound Andy Schneider sets us up for success in Tillamook County!

131 LATE’S GREAT FOR BUCKS Don’t let the late season go to waste! Western Oregon’s November archery and muzzleloader seasons put hunters in the woods during the blacktail rut, and local sportsman Troy Rodakowski has details on what to expect and how to take advantage of the year’s last deer hunts. 141 IN PRAISE OF PARTRIDGE While largely overlooked by upland bird hunters today, gray partridge still provide wingshooting opportunities across higher portions of the Columbia Basin, Southwest Idaho and Montana’s Hi-Line. Devotee Dan Magneson shares his passion for these Hungarian imports. 155 NULLIFY NOVEMBER’S LULL It’s that tough time of the duck hunting season – the weeks after our local quackers have become scarce and before those orange-hoofed northern birds wing in for the winter. What’s a gunner to do? Keep hunting, that’s what! Tri-Cities waterfowling expert Bill Saunders shares how to find success even during the November lull.

SUBSCRIBE TODAY! Go to nwsportsmanmag.com for details. NORTHWEST SPORTSMAN is published monthly by Media Index Publishing Group, 14240 Interurban Avenue South, Suite 190, Tukwila, WA 98168. Periodical Postage Paid at Seattle, WA and at additional mail offices. (USPS 025-251) POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Northwest Sportsman, 14240 Interurban Ave South, Suite 190, Tukwila, WA 98168. Annual subscriptions are $29.95 (12 issues), 2-year subscription are $39.95 (24 issues). Send check or money order to Media Index Publishing Group, or call (206) 382-9220 with VISA or M/C. Back issues may be ordered at Media Index Publishing Group offices at the cost of $5 plus shipping. Display Advertising. Call Media Index Publishing Group for a current rate card. Discounts for frequency advertising. All submitted materials become the property of Media Index Publishing Group and will not be returned. Copyright © 2017 Media Index Publishing Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be copied by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying or recording by any information storage or retrieval system, without the express written permission of the publisher. Printed in U.S.A.

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Come and Join our 6th Annual Halibut Express!!

Our area offers some of the very finest Halibut and Ling Cod fishing on the whole BC Coast, including Alaska. We are offering a special early season COMBO Halibut and Ling Cod package for the 2018 season. The dates we have selected for our 2018 Halibut Express are from May 1st to May 5th, May 5th to May 9th, May 9th to May 13th, May 13th to May 17th, May 17th to May 21st, May 21st to May 25th, May 25th to May 29th, May 29th to June 2nd, June 2nd to June 6th, June 6th to June 10th, June 10th to June 14th, June 14th to June 18th and June 18th to June 22nd 2018. This will be a 4 night/5 day package and will include up to 30 hours of guided fishing, all meals and 4 nights accommodations. An added bonus will be that the VACUUM PACKING and FLASH FREEZING of your fish are included in this pricing. This is a heck of a good deal and this package would make a wonderful gift for the fisherman in your family. We will also have our fly-in service available from Seattle, Wash., or Vancouver, BC for these dates. You will also have the opportunity to target the early runs of CHINOOK and COHO that will be coming through our waters at the time of the season. The pricing for this exciting package is as follows: Party of 2 fishing, 2 per boat…$1975.00 PP + 5% tax (CAN). Party of 3 fishing, 3 per boat…$1675.00 PP + 5% tax (CAN). Party of 4 fishing, 4 per boat…$1475 PP + 5% tax (CAN). To make your reservations or for more information please give us a call at 1-800-429-5288 or send an email to: rodgersfishinglodge@yahoo.com Best regards, Doug Rodgers PS: With Halibut selling for upwards of $25.00 (CAN) per pound at your local fish market, you should easily be able to pay for your trip. You are allowed up to 6 Halibut, new for 2018, 4 Ling Cod and 8 Salmon in possession per angler. The biggest Ling Cod this past season was a 60 pounder. Come and fill your freezers!


COLUMNS (LAUREN SMITH)

99 THE KAYAK GUYS Starry flounder (above), petrale sole and the Pacific’s other featherweight-sized flatfish provide tasty though overlooked table fare. Lauren Smith paddles in for a tutorial on catching ’em in our nearshore and estuary waters! 105 NORTH SOUND Doug’s adding a few locally procured side dishes to your Thanksgiving menu – he details great nearshore Dungeness crab bays, Nooksack River smelt, plus deer and duck options! 111 SOUTH SOUND It’s time to get chummy on the rivers – no, not combat fishing, rather chasing the year’s last salmon, dogs, on South Sound rivers. Jason has how-to tips, plus more on November’s other options here: elk, blacktails and release-site ringnecks. 119 BUZZ RAMSEY Halloween is past, but Buzz is still hunting ghosts – the “ghost of the woods,” that is. Elk can be elusive, but this legendary Northwest salmon and steelhead angler who spends his falls in the woods knows how to track them down. 12 Northwest Sportsman

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125 CHEF IN THE WILD After young Spencer, a cancer survivor, bagged his bull on a Hunt of a Lifetime outing, it was only fitting that his elk provided a meal of a lifetime as well. Randy shares Spencer’s story and how he cooked up his delicious backstrap! 135 ON TARGET November’s when hunting turns to harvesting, and Dave has what you need to know to score blacktails, whitetails, elk, mallards, geese and more this month! 163 GUN DOGGIN’ 101 Baby steps don’t just apply to youngsters – starting your pup off right with small birds will lead to bigger payoffs down the road, Scott counsels.


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(ODFW)

20 THE BIG PIC: SMALL BARRIERS, BIG POSSIBILITIES

Removing dams on the Snake and Klamath Rivers gets all the attention, but taking out blockages on creeks and streams benefits Chinook, coho and 30 other species of native Oregon fish too.

DEPARTMENTS

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17

THE EDITOR’S NOTE Cogitations on bioturbations

19

SOCIAL SCENE Reader reactions to recent news

37

READER PHOTOS FROM THE FIELD Salmon, carnivores, trout and more!

49

PHOTO CONTEST WINNERS Browning, Fishing monthly prizes

53

THE DISHONOR ROLL Netters busted in fish sanctuary; ATV reward; Kudos; Jackass of the Month

55

DERBY WATCH Northwest Salmon Derby Series’ grand prize boat up for grabs; Westport salmon, Bob Heirman Memorial Coho Derby results; Upcoming derbies

57

OUTDOOR CALENDAR Upcoming openers, events

57

BIG FISH Record Northwest game fish caught this month

89

RIG OF THE MONTH Fall Chinook set-up


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THEEDITOR’SNOTE

(OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY, 2; USDA-ARS; ANDY SCHNEIDER)

W

ord of the day: bioturbating. That’s what sand (ghost) and blue mud shrimp are doing in their little burrows in estuaries up and down the Northwest coast 24/7/365. Bioturbating the holy hell out of all that mud, silt, decaying plant matter and whatnot collecting on the tideflats, making ecosystems that our salmon and other critters depend on that much richer. And here you thought sand skrimps just existed to adorn a 2/0! But it’s not so good if you’re an oyster in Nahcotta or Newport. All that mucking around can suffocate the valuable crop, hugely important for coastal economies. In effect, the shrimp have become the pikeminnow of the bays, a native species that’s controlled so more financially and culturally desirable ones may thrive. In Washington pesticides have been used to kill them off, but that’s caused a big stir of late. When I learned about the spraying, it bugged me. It wasn’t the self-righteous indignation of Seattle chefs, more like, Should we really be using that stuff in the environment, let alone to kill off key actors in it? On the flip side, in a Seattle Times video, you can hear the frustration voiced by a Washington State University extension agent helping oyster growers figure out a different solution: “We beat our heads against the wall,” says Kim Patten, “and nobody has come up with any ideas.”

NOW, SOMEONE MIGHT have. A recent Northwest Fisheries Science Center blog on these “estuarine engineers” details research into figuring out where shrimp do well and less so, in essence attempting to try and reverse engineer things to benefit shrimp and farmers. “If it’s an area where we would anticipate the population going down, having weak reproduction, or growing slowly – perhaps, for aquaculture, that would be a good location, because you’d minimize the interaction between the shrimp and the oysters,” Dr. Katelyn Bosley at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center told NWFSC writer Al Brown. “Or conversely, you’ll identify areas where there are fast-growing shrimp because of the high-quality, high-food environment ... maybe that’s not a good place to grow juvenile oysters at certain times.” It’s important because the shrimp, particularly blue muds, are also being wiped out by an invasive isopod that turns them into zombies that can’t breed. Stopping zombies from breeding is usually a good thing, but it’s unclear what happens if burrowing shrimp disappear for good. It’s possible systems will become overloaded with nutrients and experience algae blooms, hypothesizes Bosley. With how important the shrimp are, we should be looking for ways to keep them healthy and being good neighbors – bioturbating our bays and baiting our hooks till the end of days. – Andy Walgamott

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SOCIAL

SCENE

Comment from the www

By Andy Walgamott

GUY WALKS OUT OF THE SURF WITH A GODZILLA LING … Josh Humbert and Henry Brian Chamberlain had a pretty interesting tale to tell about the 42-inch lingcod they hunted down and speared on the last weekend of Oregon’s nearshore bottomfishing season, but it kinda got swept away in the reactions on Facebook after we posted Humbert’s pic there. Northwest sportsmen are rightly concerned about the longterm conservation of our fish and wildlife resources, and that showed in numerous comments. “That’s too bad – broodstock,” said Connor Ryan, voicing the thoughts of many. “Not hating on a bad-ass fish, but that sow would probably spawn a thousand more.” But as Pat Swanson responded, “If the fish are well managed, then the big breeder argument is irrelevant. There are slot limits elsewhere to protect the big breeders.” (For our Editor’s Blog piece on Humbert’s and Chamberlain’s feat, Oregon ocean manager Maggie Somer told us the reason there’s no maximum size on lings is because there’s “plenty of big, spawning females” and the state could fish the biomass down to 40 percent – it’s at 58 percent of virgin levels, she said – and still provide sustainable fisheries.) Others took issue with the quality of the lings meat, but Humbert said it had no worms and looked beautiful. Oh, about their story. Stephen Isabell said it best: “Dive down to 40 feet, on the (INSTAGRAM: @JOSHHUMBERT) last day that these guys are available, and take possibly the biggest one ever by spear, on one breath, and anglers are bitching. It pulled the first guy that tried it, into its cave! Respect #Nwspearos #onebreath.”

MOST LIKED READER PIC WE HUNG UP ON OUR FACEBOOK PAGE DURING THIS ISSUE’S PRODUCTION CYCLE You know we love to highlight the Real Women of Northwest Fishing on social media and in our magazine – our annual feature’s coming up next month! – but that’s not to overlook the gals who also love to get out after bucks, bulls – and bears. Shayla Toutloff and her fall bruin, taken from a ground blind while hunting fall turkey outside Spokane earlier this fall, got huge likes and a ton of positive comments. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

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Small Barriers

Big Possibilities Removing Snake, Klamath dams gets all the attention, but taking out creek blockages benefits Chinook, coho and 30 other Oregon fish species too. By ODFW Staff

I

n the upper Nehalem River watershed, a series of restoration projects aim to improve fish habitat and – ultimately – benefit several native migratory fish species, including Chinook and coho that return to Oregon’s North Coast waters. The lower Oak Ranch Creek fish passage restoration project is an example of many of its kind in the state meant to remove artificial obstructions and provide native fish the path they need to migrate to find

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food, shelter, reproduce and successfully complete their life cycles. Fish have always been one of the more important natural resources in Oregon. With continuing pressure from development and population growth, they need help to ensure their safe passage. Fish populations can flourish when adults have access to spawning habitat and juveniles are able to access rearing habitat. Oregon has one of the oldest fish passage laws in the U.S., dating back more than 150 years, even before statehood

was established. However, there are thousands of known barriers that continue to inhibit or delay fish passage in the state’s waterways, says Greg Apke, Fish Passage Program Leader for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Artificial obstructions or fish passage barriers can be as big as the Bonneville Dam or as small as an irrigation diversion on an intermittent stream,” Apke explains. Privately owned dams, culverts, irrigation diversions, levees, tide gates, and county and state highway culverts can all impede


PICTURE

Before and after pics from the removal of Southern Oregon's Wimer Dam, one of two recently taken out on Evans Creek, a Rogue River trib. Originally for irrigation, they blocked or mostly prevented fish from migrating upstream. (ODFW)

passage of Oregon’s native fish, he notes. While natural obstacles to fish passage exist, most impediments are artificial or man-made. “When man-made structures are placed in Oregon’s waterways, native fish’s ability to forage, seek shelter, migrate to spawning grounds and – in some cases – return to the ocean can (suffer) devastating impacts,” Apke says.

NECESSARY CORRECTIONS Oregon’s fish passage rules and regulations, adopted in 2001 by the state Legislature, require fish passage be addressed and native migratory fish be allowed to move freely up and downstream. The state’s policy is to provide upstream and downstream passage of all native fish, Apke says. It applies to native salmon, trout,

lamprey, sturgeon, suckers and many others – 32 different species in all. ODFW administers these rules and regulations. There are alternatives to fish passage, when that is appropriate. The Oak Ranch Creek Fish Passage Restoration project, on Apiary Road near Vernonia in Clatsop County, replaced a highpriority fish passage barrier, a culvert, with a bottomless-arch precast concrete structure. This new fish passage structure made it possible for coho, cutthroat, steelhead and lamprey to access 4 stream miles. The Upper Nehalem Watershed Council helped facilitate the project. ODFW’s Restoration & Enhancement program provided some of the funds necessary to complete the restoration project. While removing dams may get more notice, this is not nearly enough to restore salmon runs. During more than 150 years of development, people created countless smaller impediments to fish passage. Salmon and many other species of native fish migrate throughout Oregon’s waterways to spawn, forage, and seek cool water refuge. Physical barriers can delay or even permanently impede their passage, which negatively affects their life cycle. Though some may assume keeping big streams free flowing is enough, it is not. Adult salmon often reproduce in the highest reaches of streams and their offspring need to move both up- and downstream.

PRIORITY REPAIRS ODFW maintains a list of the high-priority fish passage barriers in the state. In 2015, two dams on the list were removed using Restoration & Enhancement (R&E) funds coupled with other state and federal funds. Removing the Fielder and Wimer Dams, both on Evans Creek north of the town of Rogue River in Jackson County, restored unimpeded fish passage on many miles of a Rogue Basin tributary important to fish. Both dams were constructed for irrigation diversion in the early 1900s. Another example of a high-priority fish passage improvement project is the Illinois Falls fishway, originally constructed in 1961. The ladder enables fish to access several tributaries of the Illinois River, a direct tributary to the Rogue River. This project, partially funded through ODFW’s R&E program, required helicopters to reach remote regions of the Siskiyou National Forest to make structural repairs. It extended the life of the fishway another 50 years. Additional fish restoration projects are ongoing throughout the state, including in and around Bend, Klamath Falls, John Day and La Grande.

GET INVOLVED Not all the efforts to help fish are beyond the reach of average Oregonians. Owners

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SLUICEWAY OUT, SALMONIDS IN

PICTURE or operators of artificial obstructions must address passage of native migratory fish prior to getting ODFW’s approval for a fish passage project. Doing so is one way they can have a personal impact on fish passage. In addition, landowners who need to install an artificial obstruction on their properties can be proactive, carefully following regulations and best management practices that address fish passage. Anglers buying fishing licenses in Oregon help as well. Revenue generated from these licenses provides funding for enhancement projects through both the ODFW R&E and ODFW Fish Screening and Fish Passage programs. People also can volunteer with their local Salmon and Trout Enhancement

Perched culverts like a former one (above) on the upper Nehalem River’s Oak Creek, make it difficult to impossible for salmon and steelhead to access often habitable waters, restricting run sizes. But the states, local groups, timberland owners and others are working to install new structures (below) that ease fish passage. The Oak Creek project opened 4 stream miles. (UPPER NEHALEM WATERSHED COUNCIL)

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Sometimes fish passage work entails strengthening structures, like at Illinois Falls on the Illinois River, where a fishway was retrofitted to last another 50 years. (ODFW) Program group or watershed council to identify and monitor barriers, watching for safe passage. There are 10 STEP districts in the state. Current resources only fund a few dozen projects each year, while thousands of projects wait to be done, says Kevin Herkamp, coordinator for ODFW’s STEP and R&E programs. “To make significant progress requires a community effort to get more people involved,” Herkamp says. “With everyone working together we can fix a culvert, put fish screens at irrigation diversions and positively impact Oregon’s native migratory fish.” NS

Last fall, not long after a barrier on the Sultan River east of Everett, Washington, was taken out, coho began using a stretch of water no salmon had in nine decades. And this past spring, winter-runs followed on their tails. The fish were taking advantage of the Snohomish County Public Utility District’s removal of a sluiceway that had blocked upstream migration to about 10 miles of the river below Culmback Dam and Spada Lake. True, the steep canyon stretch of the Sultan may not offer a whole lot of spawning gravel, but it’s another example of how quickly salmon and steelhead will colonize waters once they’re opened up. “It was kind of a surprise that that soon after the project completion, coho would penetrate that far into the watershed,” Keith Binkley, a Snohomish County Public Utilities District manager, told The Daily Herald of Everett. As a kid, I enjoyed playing in and fishing the lower end of the Sultan, along Trout Farm Road where we had a little pasture and garden. During fall we watched as humpies, coho and Chinook came upstream on their spawning runs, and we made occasional fishing and gold panning forays off the end of the road. Speaking of the latter activity, with the removal of the barrier, the period open for prospecting the Sultan between it and the dam has been reduced to the month of August to protect fish spawning. But fish passage is an increasingly politically fraught subject. Washington’s Attorney General’s Office has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court’s ruling on the so-called culvert case. Even as the state gradually replaces old barriers, AG Bob Ferguson argues that the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decision on a 2001 tribal-federal lawsuit against the state was “overbroad” and “(reaches) beyond culverts.” At the core of the issue is the meaning of 1850s’ treaties guaranteeing tribes’ rights to access salmon. The appeal comes as state lawmakers grapple with how to deal with the Hirst decision on rural waters and development. It’s risky poker for all parties. –Andy Walgamott


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MIXED BAG

Chinook, Soldiers And A City

The annual Warriors & Widows Salmon Tournament, held in late August and now in its third year, is a community-wide event in the tiny Lower Columbia town of Cathlamet. To the person, everyone agreed 2017’s was a tremendous success for all involved. (JULIA JOHNSON)

Lower Columbia derby brings warriors, community of Cathlamet together. By MD Johnson

I

began as I always do whenever I address a member of the military, past or present, 18 or 80. I asked him if he was comfortable talking about his time in the armed forces. Where he served. What he did. Who he met. I asked him – Are you all right with it? Sure, he told me. Born in California but raised in the Northwest, he’d been a cavalry scout with the U.S. Army. His MOS (military occupational specialty) he described as PSD, personal security detail. His area of operation? Baghdad, 2008-11. His team, he explained, was responsible for clearing buildings and routes of access/ egress, searching for snipers, improvised explosive devices (IED), and anything that might cause the individual or individuals under his care harm. Twenty-five when he

enlisted, he’s now 34. “I felt it was my civic duty,” he told me, pride evident. We made small talk. Fort Knox, Kentucky, where he underwent basic. Where he was raised. Me, a civilian, trying to make sense of the military jargon. The acronyms. I asked for explanations, and he patiently spoke in civilian terms. Then I stumbled. Do you talk with any of the fellows you knew over there, I asked. Innocent, it was. But I’d changed the mood. Unknowingly snagged a fistful of clouds and covered the sun. A couple, he said, his eyes now focused on the bottom of the boat. Or a thousand miles away; I couldn’t tell which. “The guys I was close to are all gone,” he said in a sort of whispered statement. At first, the silence was awkward. Embarrassing. I was embarrassed.

How could I have been so stupid? So inconsiderate? A minute passed. I bounced a fist off his knee. Let’s go fishing, I said, hoping the opportunity would chase the clouds. Or at least push them aside. Let’s do that, he said, his eyes busy remembering this and that. Weeks and months. Months and years. Let’s do that.

THE SCENE WAS the Cathlamet Marina in Wahkiakum County on August 30, and this was the Third Annual Warriors & Widows Salmon Tournament. Somehow I’d managed to wrangle an invite; not that I’m any Buzz Ramsey or Terry Wiest when it comes to salmon and salmon fishing, mind you. Last year’s winner Rich Casapulla had, I believe, either taken 1) a shine to me, or, more likely, 2) pity upon my poor fishless soul, and asked to me come aboard. We’d nwsportsmanmag.com | NOVEMBER 2017

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MIXED BAG be fishing that morning with Terry Cannon, his good friend and frequent fishing crony. Cannon, like our captain and myself, is a resident of Cathlamet’s Elochoman Valley, and no stranger to the hustle and bustle of this small town marina, especially when cries of “All Hail, The King” bounce from boat to boat. Our warrior was a remarkably nice young man, Cory Kelly, who so happened to be Cannon’s stepson. Kelly admitted he had limited experience with salmon, and was looking forward at trying his hand at subduing one of the big river’s heavy kings. The Columbia was flat that morning, and Casapulla decided to run downriver. Off the mouth of Grays Bay and between Miller Sands and Rice Island, I was told, the first bait went down. The wait – and I am not lying! – wasn’t long, 30 seconds perhaps, and it was fish on! Coached by both Cannon and Casapulla, Kelly did a fine job of working his inaugural king, one that would also secure him a secondplace finish in the tournament overall. Thirty minutes later, it was an encore presentation, this time – thanks, men – with me on the rod. Four pounds short of Kelly’s prize, this one too went into the bucket. Then it was back to trolling. And more trolling. And still more trolling. Upriver and down, we saw fish hooked, fought, netted and lost; however, it would

The team of Terry Cannon, Cory Kelly and Captain Rich Casapulla, all of Cathlamet, came in second at the derby, thanks to Kelly’s 14.25-pound fall Chinook. (JULIA JOHNSON) be just the pair for us when Casapulla cranked up the 90 and turned the bow upriver toward home.

BACK AT THE marina, the day’s festivities were well underway. Gilled and gutted, our kings would weigh 14.7 and 10 pounds, respectively; not huge by Chinook standards, but damn nice fish, nonetheless. What’s more, ours were two of only 11 fish weighed during the tournament. Total weight – 117 pounds of fresh kings. It’d been slow, Casapulla explained. Real slow off the marina, he said, which is why we had made the run downriver. But, the skipper continued, it’d been a good day. A great day.

FINAL STANDINGS The Third Annual Warriors & Widows Salmon Tournament was, undeniably, a tremendous day. One, as the cliché goes, for the record books. Unfortunately, there was a dark cloud to this otherwise all-silver lining. Three dark clouds, actually. As this story was being edited, it was brought to this writer’s attention that the firstplace captain, along with his two young veterans, had been disqualified, and their championship title rescinded. It seems their winning fish, an 18.25-pound king, had been caught prior to the tournament officially starting. As such, their prizes – belt buckles from Montana Silversmith, and a pair of custom salmon rods per man – were requested returned. They indeed were, and in turn were presented to the new champion. Final Standings First place: Jerry Runigan, 14.95-pound king Home: Post Falls, Idaho Former U.S. Army medic Second place: Cory Kelly, 14.25-pound king Home: Cathlamet Office of Special Investigations Joint U.S. Army/U.S. Air Force 26 Northwest Sportsman

NOVEMBER 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com

An Army veteran himself, Casapulla enjoys nothing more, he told me, than working with the men and women who make up the Warriors & Widows and Wounded Warriors programs. If one required any proof, our captain’s unbroken day-long smile is all that would be necessary. The event was capped by a fine meal prepared by a cadre of local folk, with supplies and materials purchased with monies raised through fundraising efforts, again by a large group of Wahkiakum County and Cathlamet residents, as well as sponsorships and donated items from an even lengthier list of good-hearted people and the Casapulla, the 2016 Derby winner, rigs up the morning’s first bait. An Army veteran himself, Casapulla works with the men and women who make up the Warriors & Widows and Wounded Warriors programs. (JULIA JOHNSON)


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Northwest Sportsman 27


MIXED BAG

Belt buckles are presented to the salmon derby winner and the captain of the winning skiff. They’re created by Montana Silversmiths. (JULIA JOHNSON) companies they work for. Among this year’s sponsors – and my sincere apologies for the omissions – were Okuma, Pro-Troll, Bob’s Sporting Goods, and Sportsman’s Warehouse. “Volunteers raised more than $7,000 this year for supplies and necessities,” said long-time Puget Island resident Bud Mickelsen. Mickelsen is and has been the driving

28 Northwest Sportsman

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force behind Cathlamet’s Warriors & Widows salmon tournament. He grew up in Idaho’s Hells Canyon country, the son of a cattleman, and went to Boise Junior College, today’s Boise State University, before signing on with United Airlines, where he worked for almost 40 years until retiring. Mickelsen also served in Korea, was wounded, and spent seven months in a military hospital. Today, as

he’s done for the past 61 years, Mickelsen spends much of his time building custom fishing rods, a passion that has morphed into a therapeutic hands-on rod-building program designed for and enjoyed by returning veterans stationed at Washington’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord. “We just had our 100th veteran finish (the rod-building program),” said Mickelsen with pride. For more


MIXED BAG information on that program and how to help, contact Ryan Caldwell (U.S. Army, retired), founder and president of Got Your 6 Fishing at gotyour6fishing.com, or by calling (360) 485-3081. My question for Mickelsen, who, if you were to look up the phrase “wonderful grandpa� in the dictionary, would most certainly have his photograph alongside the entry, was a simple one – Why? “No amount of money,� he said, “can buy what you see here. It’s a great time, and the community stands strong behind us, and all of men and women who attend. Everyone works together. Everyone is happy to be doing this. For me,� he continued, most humbly, “it’s my way of giving back.� As for the future of Cathlamet’s Warriors & Widows salmon tournament, Mickelsen, not surprisingly, has a vision. “I want to see (the event) stay here in Cathlamet and get bigger,� he said, with conviction. “I want to see the program extend across the country, and branch out

Bud Mickelsen (seated), the founder of this event and a custom rod builder for years, discusses everything ďŹ shing with local Kim Randall. (JULIA JOHNSON) into other species like bass, bream, and offshore fishing. And third, I’d love to see the continued growth and expansion of the rod-building (for veterans) program.â€?

FIVE O’CLOCK GAVE way to six, and six to seven. Slowly, the evening sun sank toward the estuary, bringing to a close this gathering of remarkable men and

women. My wife and I, along with my folks who were visiting from Ohio and had, at the request of Mickelsen, come down to join the festivities – Pop received his all-expenses paid tour of Southeast Asia in 1965-66, so he felt quite at home in the riverside surroundings and the military presence – made our way to the truck for the short ride home. At the edge

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MIXED BAG

Local folks do everything at the Warriors & Widows derby. They’re fundraisers, captains, organizers, public relations officers, photographers, bookkeepers, and, perhaps best of all, food prep professionals! (JULIA JOHNSON) of the group, Kelly was in the midst of conversation with his mom, stepfather, Casapulla, and several others. I caught his eye, and he smiled, a full-blown “I’m glad to be here” smile, quite the change from when I’d talked to him on Casapulla’s skiff. A thumbs-up. A wave. And he turned, still smiling, back to his crowd.

32 Northwest Sportsman

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That next week, Kelly and I would cross paths again, this time with me as an untried volunteer firefighter with Cathlamet’s District 4, and he as an Idaho firefighting veteran, more than willing to help teach the proverbial new kid on the block. Happy. Smiling. Enthusiastic. Eager to be back giving his

all to assist comrades and strangers alike. “You have questions. I’ll answer all I can, Doc,” he said at drill one evening, using his now-SOP nickname for me. Group therapy, I thought, and smiled off into the darkness. All it takes is a little group therapy. And a little fishing never hurt anyone at all. NS


nwsportsmanmag.com | NOVEMBER R2 2017 017

NNorthwest Nor orthw thhhw westt SSportsman porttsman 33


Destination Alaska


Destination Alaska


Destination Alaska


READER PHOTOS

^

Not too many Chinook these days come bigger than Shawn Glenn’s Samish River brute. He says the 37-inch-long, 25-incharound fish weighed 30.72 pounds before cleaning. The salmon bit Glenn’s custom lure featuring a size 4 yellow-chartreuse blade ahead of a 2-inch greenglo hoochie. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

^

^

William Hull just may be working on fillling a second punchcard by now! The 6-year-old’s had a great season fishing the mid-Columbia, Westport and Drano Lake, catching numerous kings like this 20-pounder at Ringold, as well as winning several contests. “Needless to say, I’m a very proud father,” says his dad, Clay. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Remember the little ballerina with the springer (September 2016 issue)? Well, Wylie Gibson’s got a little bro, and while Brody may not have the dancing skills of his big sis, their dad Matt is happy to have another fishing protégé. The fellas skipped school (shh!) one day this past June to fish Lacamas Creek, and Brody landed a pair of trout while drifting worms. (FISHING

^

PHOTO CONTEST)

Bowhunters get close to their quarry, but sometimes predators get close to archers. That was the case for Houston Zander, who arrowed this Eastern Oregon mountain lion with his Martin bow after it stalked to within 6 yards of him in late summer. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

For your shot at winning great fishing and hunting products from Northwest Sportsman and Browning, send your full-resolution, original images with all the pertinent details – who’s in the pic and their hometown; when and where they were; what they caught their fish on/weapon they used to bag the game; and any other details you’d like to reveal (the more, the merrier!) – to awalgamott@media-inc.com or Northwest Sportsman, PO Box 24365, Seattle, WA, 98124-0365. By sending us photos, you affirm you have the right to distribute them for use in our print and Internet publications. nwsportsmanmag.com | NOVEMBER 2017

Northwest Sportsman 37


^

READER PHOTOS

Dragging a Wedding Ring around Riffe Lake for kokanee, Logan Wood latched into a whole ’nuther species: spring Chinook. It took the 13-year-old 15 minutes to land the 13-pounder on the 8-pound-test he was running that day. It’s his biggest catch to date, but with his passion for fishing, won’t be his last! (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

^

^

Bryce Foytack, 12, did well during his family’s annual fishing trip to Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, catching numerous salmon, including this nice silver and sockeye.

Mike Smith, owner of Fishaholics Outdoors, shows off his first monster king caught along the Oregon Coast. (FISHING

(FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

PHOTO CONTEST)

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NOVEMBER 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com


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READER PHOTOS

^

Going Rogue was a good thing for Jon-Paul and Jonathan Lafitte. They landed 28- and 14-pound Chinook while fishing out of Gold Beach in September.

^

(FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Betcha Austin Bowen’s gonna have a fishing partner pretty soon! Cassidy, 13 months old, stands with the fall Chinook her pa caught on the mid-Columbia while running a Fish Flash and prawn spinner.

(FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

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Destination Alaska


^

^

Tommy McCabe received an 11th birthday present a few days early, this Buoy 10 fall Chinook. He was fishing with his grandpa as well as guide Jason Schultz. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

42 Northwest Sportsman

NOVEMBER 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com

Watch out, Brandon Palaniuk, there’s another bassmaster in the neighborhood! Caleb Lihosit, 11, caught a couple dandy smallmouth out of Lake Roosevelt’s Spokane Arm while staying there with his family this summer. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

^

READER PHOTOS

That’s an 8-8 Twin Lakes rainbow for Chris Nussbaum. He was fishing the Colville Reservation waters this past spring, and says he’s been going there at least once every year for nearly three decades. “No cell, no computer and very little people. Great area,” he reports. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)


nwsportsmanmag.com | NOVEMBER 2017

Northwest Sportsman 43


^

READER PHOTOS

We couldn’t run a pic of just one of the Cochell kids, not after they enjoyed some pretty good fishing at Oregon Cascades lakes this summer! That’s Josie, Alaina and Trenton with their Odell Lake rainbow, Miller Lake ’bows and Crescent Lake Mackinaw. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

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HOLIDAY GIFT GUIDE

BAREWEST _ The 3-Rod Net Tree provides a perfect place to keep your net and rods safe and at the ready. The rod holders include a rubber end to protect your rods’ handles. Mounts on a ŴDWVXUIDFHRIPRVWDOOERDWV7KHYHUWLFDOWXEH is 2 inches in diameter to accommodate large net handles. WWW.BAREWEST.COM

ALLIED SAFE & VAULT _ It’s time to secure your handguns and protect your valuables with the Liberty HD-300 Quick Vault Handgun & Pistol Safe. It has quick access with the easy-to-use push-button lock. WWW.ALLIEDSAFE.COM

BRADLEY SMOKER _ Add a little intelligence to your culinary war chest this year. The Bradley Smart smoker is capable of monitoring your food’s temperature and notifying you when things are done, or needing attention. WWW.BRADLEYSMOKER.COM

SKINNER SIGHTS _

LEWIS WINCH _ The Lewis Winch 400-MK2 is the most versatile portable winch out there and will pull 4,000 pounds in a straight line using the right size chainsaw (5 cubic inch/85cc), and up to 8,000 pounds using one Lewis Winch Snatch Block. WWW.LEWISWINCH.COM 46 Northwest Sportsman

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Introduced about a year ago in .44 Magnum, the Skinner Sights Bush Pilot takedown hunting and survival carbine was an instant success. In response to popular demand, Andy Larsson of Skinner Sights has taken this “package” to a new level of power. The Skinner Bush Pilot is now available in the time-proven .45-70 Gov’t. The Bush Pilot kit consists of a premium takedown lever-action carbine built to Skinner’s specs by Chiappa USA. Featuring Skinner’s rugged, reliable and accurate peep sights, this FDUELQHEUHDNVGRZQDQGƓWVLQWRDLQFK overall length Skinner-designed case. WWW.SKINNERSIGHTS.COM

THREE RIVERS TACKLE _ For the gift that keeps on giving, give a Trophy Lures Bass Tackle kit. Choose from the Largemouth, Smallmouth or Largemouth/Smallmouth combo. We also have an assortment of small gift packages to choose from that fit any budget. Check us out online for details, selections and other specials. WWW.THREERIVERSTACKLE.COM


CANVAS CABINS _ We’ll be at the following 2018 sportsmen’s shows: Puyallup, Washington, January 24-28, Booth 142; Portland, Oregon, February 7-11, Booth 245; Spokane, Washington, March 15-18, Booths 74, 75, 102 and 103. Winter sale: January-February: 10 percent off Canvas Cabins products – order early and we may be able to deliver your order to you at a sportsmen’s show! WWW.CANVASCABINS.COM

TILLAMOOK COAST _ The new 25 Hikes on Oregon’s Tillamook Coast details hikes in forests, along bays, KHDGODQGVDQGWKH3DFLƓF$XWKRU$GDP Sawyer’s pocket-sized, easy-to-read guidebook provides recommendations on hikes ranging from family-friendly and easy to GLIƓFXOWDORQJZLWKIHHVDQGUHJXODWLRQV The 90-page book is $9.99 plus $2.00 shipping and handling. WWW.TILLAMOOKCOAST.COM/BOOKS

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FISH FIGHTER _ Looking for the perfect gift for the boater in your life? The Kwik-Pull Anchor Retriever (ITD5100) is it. To retrieve your anchor, just install this handy device to your anchor rope and buoy, simply drive the boat forward DQG\RXUDQFKRUUHWULHYHVLWVHOI7RƓQGRXW KRZLWZRUNVJRWR)LVKƓJKWHUSURGXFWV com and watch the video. This is one device that’s revolutionizing how people retrieve their anchor. Made in the USA, it comes with our 100-percent money-back guarantee. Call (208) 580-1904. WWW.FISHFIGHTERPRODUCTS.COM

WESTERN RANGE CAMPS _ Western Range Camps are the ultimate hunting lodge on wheels. You get the comfort of a wood-burning stove and the durability of handcrafted American workmanship. We provide the perfect solution for getting you deeper into the wild, while keeping you warm, safe and comfortable. For more, call us today at (435) 462- 5300, write to Western Range Camps, 1145 S Blackhawk Blvd., Mt. Pleasant, UT 84647, or find us online. WWW.WRCAMPS.COM

YAKIMA BAIT CO. _ The Rooster Tail Trophy Pak features six of the most popular Rooster Tails in one handy box. A great gift for the angler on your list! WWW.YAKIMABAIT.COM nwsportsmanmag.com | NOVEMBER 2017

Northwest Sportsman 47


Best of British Columbia


PHOTO CONTEST

WINNERS!

Ceci Sittser’s photo of daughter Ysa and her nice Chinook is this issue’s Fishing Photo Contest winner! It wins her a pile of loot from the overstuffed office of our editor!

Bart Olson’s pic of daughter Madelynn and her Blue Mountains foothills whitetail is this issue’s Browning Photo Contest winner. It wins him a Browning hat.

Sportsman Northwest

Your LOCAL Hunting & Fishing Resource

For your shot at winning Browning and fishing products, send your photos and pertinent (who, what, when, where) details to awalgamott@ media-inc.com or Northwest Sportsman, PO Box 24365, Seattle, WA 98124-0365. By sending us photos, you affirm you have the right to distribute them for our print or Internet publications. nwsportsmanmag.com | NOVEMBER 2017

Northwest Sportsman 49


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MIXED BAG

Netters Busted In Salmon Sanctuary

N

early 90 salmon and steelhead were found aboard a darkened boat illegally gillnetting in a closed Columbia River salmon sanctuary in mid-September. According to the Oregon State Police’s Fish and Wildlife Division, Lane Meanus, 26, and Ashley Leslie, 24, both of Celilo Village, were arrested following

(OSP)

Oregon and Washington fish and wildlife officers pose with the 85 fall Chinook and one steelhead seized from a darkened boat illegally gillnetting a salmon sanctuary. (OSP)

a joint patrol with Washington game wardens investigating “numerous complaints” about suspicious activities at the mouth of the Deschutes River. The pair had allegedly set an 1,100-plus-foot-long gillnet, itself a violation, in the year-round closure area, according to officers. Meanus was taken to the Northern Oregon Regional Correctional Facility in The Dalles on charges of commercial fishing in closed waters, as well as cited for operating an unlit boat, while Leslie was criminally cited for commercial fishing in closed waters and taking fish without required tribal identification on hand. A sensitive tribal matter for the state where most of those fall Chinook were likely headed to spawn, Washington was mum about the episode. Oregon, however, issued a statement.

Hunter Collects OHV Reporting Reward

A

hunter who reported illegal offhighway vehicle use received a reward of $500 from Backcountry Hunters & Anglers for doing so. Daniel Garringer had hiked 2 miles into a nonmotorized area in the Boise National Forest while hunting elk last season when two ATVs rolled up on him. “I have seen the impact of illegal ATVs on the ground. The area is very popular, and the use of illegal ATVs is extremely hard on the animals,” Garringer said in a BHA press release. “If we can get the

word out that we are tired of people using ATVs in an illegal fashion, I truly believe the number of people willing to take the chance of not getting caught will drastically decline.” BHA says that since 2011, it’s issued numerous $500 checks for those who report illegal use by OHV operators. In this particular case, the closure was to reduce disturbance during the hunting season. A Boise-area resident pleaded guilty to the violation. For more, see backcountryhunters.org.

By Andy Walgamott “Fish and wildlife preservation is crucial to the sustainment and healthy population management efforts to the entire Pacific Northwest,” OSP troopers wrote in a press release. “The Oregon State Police and Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife encourage anyone witnessing or with knowledge of fish and wildlife violation to report it via the established tip line.”

KUDOS

Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Trooper Jim Andrews (second from left) was named his agency’s 2016 Shikar-Safari Club International Wildlife Officer of the Year. A member of the Mid Valley Team out of Salem and Albany, Andrews’ “dedication and passion for the enforcement of fish and wildlife laws within the state of Oregon shows consistently on a day to day basis.” An investigation he began with turkeys ended with the seizure of four trophy blacktail mounts at a Lincoln County home and criminal charges for two males. He also mentors and trains fellow troopers during his off hours and instructs boating and patrol tactics. The award is presented to one game warden in each state annually by the Shikar-Safari Club International. “Trooper Andrews exemplifies what the Oregon State Police Fish and Wildlife Division is all about,” said OSP in a press release.

JACKASS OF THE MONTH

A

n alleged habitual trespasser was recently caught on a trail camera going around a locked gate in Northeast (WDFW) Washington, then tracked down by Officer Severin Erickson. According to state game wardens, the suspect admitted to doing so three times

in two separate rigs, including this Toyota. Three criminal trespassing charges were being prepared for the county prosecutor. “In instances like these, the trust between private land owners and users is lost, unfortunately limiting access for law-abiding users,” officers noted.

nwsportsmanmag.com | NOVEMBER 2017

Northwest Sportsman 53


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By Andy Walgamott

Salmon Derby Series Boat, $4K Up For Grabs

E

arly this month, someone around these parts is going to be doing a whole lot of jumping up and down with the news that they just won an $85,000 boat and trailer package. That’s the grand prize of the Northwest Salmon Derby Series, and the winner will again be drawn at the conclusion of the Nov. 4-5 Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Salmon Derby. The Hewescraft 220 OceanPro is set up with a Honda 250 and 9.9-horse kicker, Scotty ’riggers, Raymarine electronics, and more, and will roll home on a galvanized EZ-Loader Tandem trailer. As for the blackmouth derby, $4,000 is up for grabs for whomever brings in the biggest Chinook. Last year’s edition was won by Lance Husby and his 15.62-pounder. Fishing is restricted to Areas 8 and 9, but with those waters having just opened three days beforehand, there should be some salmon around. For more info, see everettcohoderby.com. And for more on the grand prize and derby series, go to The Northwest Salmon Derby Series’ grand prize Hewescraft undergoes sea trials earlier nwsalmonderbyseries.com. this year. (NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES)

2017-2018 NORTHWEST SALMON DERBY SERIES    

Nov. 4-5: Everett No-Coho Blackmouth Salmon Derby Jan. 5-7, 2018: Resurrection Salmon Derby Jan. 18-20, 2018: Roche Harbor Salmon Classic Feb. 8-10: Friday Harbor Salmon Classic

For more information, see nwsalmonderbyseries.com.

MORE UPCOMING AND ONGOING EVENTS  Sundays in November and December, Tengu Salmon

Derby, Elliott Bay; tickets: Outdoor Emporium  Nov. 18-21, Lake Pend Oreille Fall Fishing Derby, Lake Pend Oreille; info: lpoic.org  Jan. 13, NW Ice Fishing Festival, Sidley and Molson Lakes, Molson, Wash.; info: orovillewashington.com More events: wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/contests/index.html. To have your derby or results listed, email awalgamott@media-inc.com.

Lad’s 10-plus-pounder Wins New Coho Derby

A

10-year-old and his 10.24-pound silver won the grand prize at the first annual Bob Heirman Memorial Coho Derby early last month. Alex Davis scored $2,000 for that fish, caught on a frog-pattern Dick Nite, while Kurtis Crylou took second and $1,000 for a 9.95-pounder. Tanya McMillan won $500 for her 8.80 third-place coho. The derby was held on three Snohomish County rivers and is named after the longtime local angler-conservationist who passed away earlier this year. Announced just the month before, 107 tickets were sold for the Oct. 7 event. Organizer Mark Spada of the Snohomish Sportsmen’s Club, says that 21 coho were weighed in after some “tough fishing.” Most were landed between Thomas’s Eddy, where Heirman did a lot of fishing back in the day, and the Highway 522 bridge, he said. The derby was the first one targeting silvers in the area since 2015. The 2016 and 2017 Everett Coho Derbies were cancelled after state managers closed local saltwaters to fishing because of expected low returns and to protect critically low numbers of salmon headed back to rivers to the north.

Cali Angler Wins $10K At Westport King Derby

W

estport yielded some big money for a pair of bigChinook catchers this past summer. Mike Vaughn won the Westport Charterboat Association’s grand prize of $10,000 for this 24.15-pound (gilled and gutted) king. The Lakeside, California, angler was aboard the Hula Girl on Aug. 7 when his fish bit. It was nearly 2 pounds heavier than the next closest Chinook in the derby, though also the smallest winner since at least 2000. The Hula Girl has now yielded the biggest derby king in two of the past three summers and five overall since 2000, the most of any boat in the charter fleet. This year’s grand prize payout was four times 2016’s thanks to a generous donation from Shop’n Kart, a small Southwest Washington grocery chain. After a year without a coho derby due to small runs, silvers were back in the bag, and David Hinson of Richland, Washington, scored $2,500 for his 13.20-pounder, caught off the Stardust. And at the first annual Chateau Westport Fishing Derby, Kim Davidson claimed $2,000 for a Mike Vaughn of California and 22-pound Chinook, while Cameron his 2017 $10,000 Westport Miller collected $1,000 for a Charterboat Association grandprize-winning Chinook. (WESTPORT 9-pound coho. WEIGHMASTER) nwsportsmanmag.com | NOVEMBER 2017

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FISHING

November 1 marks the start of blackmouth season on the Central Sound saltchuck, the first chance to get after winter Chinook. Anna Ji landed this one while fishing with relatives visiting from back east during a guided trip. (FISHING PHOTO CONTEST)

Winter Winds, Chrome Kings

Blackmouth fishing opens on Central Sound waters Nov. 1, and here’s how to catch these feeder Chinook.

instances, snow. However, the reward could be a feisty blackmouth – a term used for a Chinook’s dark gum-line – inhaling your bait, and zipping off into the horizon or diving toward the briny depths of the inland sea. “In Area 9 (northern Puget Sound), the premier month of the season is November, and it’s one of my

favorite times to go salmon fishing,” says Gary Krein, owner of All-Star Fishing Charters (allstarfishing.com) based out of Everett and Shilshole Bay. “A blackmouth also acts so differently from their mature older brothers and sisters, who arrive in the summer.” The most notable distinction of a blackmouth is that they’re wired to

By Mark Yuasa

W

inter Chinook fishing in Puget Sound can be a merciless affair at times. It’s a juncture in the season when anglers come face to face with the elements, like numerous windy and rainy days, salt spray in your face, freezing temperatures and, in some

nwsportsmanmag.com | NOVEMBER 2017

Northwest Sportsman 61


FISHING

Tegan Yuasa, the youngest son of author Mark Yuasa, poses with a passel of blackmouth. Called feeder kings elsewhere, the salmon don’t have the instinct to head for the North Pacific, instead staying in the inside waters and providing a good winter fishery. (MARK YUASA)

constantly feed. Therefore, finding baitfish schools of herring or sandlance are the keys to catching them.

PURSUING WINTER BLACKMOUTH isn’t anything new to this region, and anglers have been actively on the hunt for them dating back to the mid-1800s. By the 1960s and ’70s, state fisheries kept about 3 million young Chinook back an entire year in hatcheries. After being released into Puget Sound, these salmon spend the remaining two to three years of their lives milling in local marine waterways instead of migrating out to sea, which classifies them as “resident Chinook.” In order to ease identifying between a wild and hatchery salmon, a few smart fisheries folks including Frank Haw, a former deputy director at what became the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and now with Northwest Marine Technology, devised a concept to fin-clip salmon in hatcheries prior to release. 62 Northwest Sportsman

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In March 1999, 22 Puget Sound wild Chinook stocks were listed under the Endangered Species Act, but the cornerstone of change prior to that occurred in 1995 when state legislators passed a mandate requiring that all hatchery-produced Chinook and coho be fin-clipped. After a few bumps in the road, the U.S. Congress passed into law in 2003 the mass marking of millions of salmon annually. Currently, many of the local fisheries are directed toward adiposefin-clipped salmon, selective fisheries that put an emphasis on protecting wild stocks of concern. The vast majority of anglers who pursue their fun in the winter time would whole-heartedly agree that this fishery targeting healthy stocks of hatchery Chinook far outweighs many summer-time salmon pursuits.

CLEARLY THE DAY I spent fishing last season off the northeastern side of the Kitsap Peninsula just shows why anglers need to take a much closer look at this phenomenal winter activity.

It was a rather brisk morning as we left the dock at Shilshole Bay, and while the wind forecast called for a southeasterly of 10 to 20 knots with a small craft warning, it was surprisingly sunny and calm as snowcapped Mount Baker and the Olympics loomed to the north and west of Puget Sound. The breathtaking views on the 35-minute boat ride to the protected fishing grounds at Point No Point were filled with seals, bald eagles, baitfish flipping on the water’s surface and a pod of porpoises swimming nearby. While the wildlife viewing was motivation enough to get us to come here in the winter, the main reason was the fruitful salmon fishing opportunities. Winter blackmouth fishing requires some skill and knowledge, but nailing down what tides to fish a specific area is more important than being out at the crack of dawn. “Usually the storyline on catching winter blackmouth is if you find the bait, you’ll likely find the fish,” Krein says. “But even more so, the best fishing is also based on tidal influence.” “These fish are way more predictable, and if they bit at a certain time yesterday, they will do the same today, only an hour later,” Krein says. “Once you develop the pattern on how these fish act, and where to fish on a certain tide, you can play out that pattern for four or five days straight until the tide switches around.” At Point No Point, for example, the low tide often pushes baitfish against the deep shelf-line, where feeding blackmouth will pick them off. The vast majority of anglers will mooch or jig in this area, but the outer sandy flats known as the Winter Hole can be trolled. Our drift moved us in a westerly direction on the midmorning ebb tide just yards from the lighthouse toward the sandy flats as we worked our baits up and down in water 90 to 200 feet deep. Like a finely trained musician, I


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Northwest Sportsman 63


FISHING E-BAY DERBY TESTS SKILLS The 72nd Tengu Blackmouth Derby on Elliott Bay begins Nov. 5 and will be held every Sunday through Dec. 31. The derby began in 1937, and up until 2015 was held every season since the end of World War II. It’s named after Tengu, a fabled Japanese character who stretched the truth, and just like Pinocchio, Tengu’s nose grew with every lie. Last season, just nine legal-size Chinook were caught during the entire derby. The largest was caught by Benny Wong and weighed 10 pounds, 1 ounce. Coincidentally Wong caught the most fish, three hatchery Chinook. Only mooching (fishing using a banana-style lead weight affixed to a leader with a herring) is allowed. No artificial lures, flashers, hoochies (plastic squids) or other gear like downriggers are permitted. This winter the boundary has been extended to West Point. Cost is $35 to join the Tengu Club, and $5 for children 12 years old and under. The derby starts at daybreak and ends each day at 11 a.m. The Seacrest Boathouse will be open at 5:30 a.m. on Nov. 5, and then 6 a.m. every Sunday after that. Cost for a rental boat from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. is $65, and $85 for boat and motor. Tickets will be available at Outdoor Emporium (sportco.com) in Seattle. –MY

waited for the subtle twitch at the end of my fishing rod, and then let the Chinook inhale the fast-spinning cutplug herring before quickly reeling in line until my rod tip hit the water as the salmon dove toward the bottom. After a brief battle, the dark purplish body of the Chinook rose to the surface,

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rolled a few times and then the fish decided to dash off once more. It made a few more strong runs on the surface before finally coming to the net. In a span of less than 45 minutes we each had our limit of hatchery salmon up to 10 pounds. As is often the case, it took us longer to leave the

A monument recalls the history of the Tengu Club’s long-running salmon fishing derby. (BRIAN LULL)

house, launch the boat and arrive at our spot than to actually catch the fish. How cool is that!

NORTHERN PUGET SOUND and Admiralty Inlet (Marine Area 9) is one of my top choices for pursuing winter Chinook, and it has a myriad of


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FISHING options depending on the tide. Look for fish to stack up off the ledges and drop-offs along both sides of Possession Bar; Midchannel Bank off Port Townsend; Double Bluff off southwest side of Whidbey Island; Pilot Point; Foulweather Bluff; and Marrowstone Island. Season in these waters is split into two time frames this winter, with fishing allowed Nov. 1-30, and Jan. 16 through April 15. The daily limit is one hatchery-marked Chinook, release all coho and wild Chinook. WDFW could close the season if the Chinook catch guideline is achieved, so make plans to go sooner than later. During the first part of the winter season there is also a good chance to catch a hard-fighting chum salmon. Here are other options to pursue in the coming months: Deception Pass, Hope Island and Skagit Bay – Marine Areas 8-1 and 8-2: The waters along the eastern side

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of Whidbey Island are among the top winter hot spots, including Columbia Beach, Langley, Hat Island, Gedney Island, Rocky Point, Onamac Point, East Point, Sandy Point and Camano Head. The six-month season is open Nov. 1 through April 30. Daily limit is one hatchery Chinook, release all coho and wild Chinook. WDFW could close the season sooner if the Chinook catch guideline is achieved. Central Puget Sound – Marine Area 10: Located at the footsteps of Seattle’s skyline, this area is a haven for blackmouth. Prime choices are Jefferson Head, West Point, Elliott Bay, Fourmile Rock, Point Monroe, Rich Passage, Southworth, Manchester and Allen Bank off Blake Island’s southeastern corner. The season is open Nov. 1 through Feb. 28, but like Areas 8 and 9, it could close sooner if the Chinook catch guideline is achieved. Daily limit is two salmon combined, but only one may be a hatchery Chinook, and

release wild coho and wild Chinook. South-central Puget Sound – Marine Area 11: Point Defiance Park off Tacoma – better known to anglers as the Clay Banks – is one of the prime winter choices, as the bluff here protects anglers from the dominant prevailing southerly winds. Other decent choices include Point Dalco on the south side of Vashon Island during a flood tide, entrances to Gig Harbor and Quartermaster Harbor, Colvos Passage, and the Slag Pile just east of the Point Defiance boat ramp. Salmon fishing is open Nov. 1 through April 30, and is not driven by a Chinook guideline. Daily limit is two salmon combined, release wild coho and wild Chinook.

THERE ARE NUMEROUS ways to hook a winter salmon, and by the early 1900s, Elliott Bay became the starting point of the winter fishery due to its protected waterway, and a technique now known as “mooching.” At first glance, it seems like a


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FISHING

Blackmouth fishing really shines in the San Juans, which open Jan. 1. That could help stretch the available harvest into early spring, typically a nicer time to be in the islands, but there are weather windows in winter too, as this catch by Jimmy Lawson, Pat Patillo, author Mark Yuasa and Tony Floor attests. (MARK YUASA)

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simplistic way to catch fish, where an angler’s gear consists of a 2- to 6-ounce banana weight attached to a leader with a cut-plug or whole herring (red or green label frozen herring) at the end. However, working your bait up and down the water column, waiting for the subtle bite of a Chinook and knowing when exactly to set the hook are just a few of the keys to success. As for trolling off a downrigger with a 10- to 12-pound lead ball attached, a dodger, spoon or hoochie is popular. The Silver Horde Ace High Fly and Luhr-Jensen Coyote Spoon are two of the best choices, but a frozen herring properly rigged will do the job just as well. Bouncing the downrigger ball on bottom or staying within 5 feet of it is a must, since that is the primary hang-out for blackmouth looking up to feed on wayward baitfish. Keep your trolling speed between 2 (preferable when fishing with herring) to 3½ miles per hour. NS


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FISHING

Falling For Fall Fish They told her autumn kings were easier than springers, but it still took awhile for Sara to catch one, though the journey was worth it. By Sara Ichtertz

A

s my first year’s go at the rivers flew by, succeeding at getting down to the water was huge for me. I was scared but at the same time determined; I was ready. After having hooked and landed fish in winter, spring and summer I believed in myself. I knew my riggings and was almost feeling as if I just might actually be a river fisher. The steelhead bite turned off and I began to feel river withdrawal move through me like never before. I cannot honestly remember now, but at the time I was counting the days in my head, and it had been far too many since I had even attempted to hook a fish. My buddies spoke of “fall fish” and how much easier they were to catch than the springers we battled upriver. An easier salmon sounded appealing after being served multiple whoopings from Chinook earlier that year. Deciding that I did believe in myself enough to go down to an unfamiliar chunk of the river was what I thought would be the hardest part. I mustered up the courage to head to the bank one beautiful late-summer evening. With my bait of tasty eggs and a small bit of yarn ready to go, I gave the river a gander. But as I looked at the herd of unfamiliar faces below, with their leaders longer than they were tall, I could tell I wasn’t really feeling it. I didn’t know any of them, and I didn’t feel the typical excitement in my heart when pursuing another angle of angling. But I cast out anyways. Bouncing the bottom didn’t feel bad. But after reeling in massive chunks of green moss again and again, I wondered, Where the hell am I and

Sara Ichtertz’s quest for a fall salmon started well upriver, but snagging up lots of moss and the sight of darker fish sent her down to the jetty for a go at chrome-bright Chinook, though it was coho that she initially caught. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

what am I doing here? I saw only one fish hooked in the mouth and landed, and I honestly thought, Oh my! What an ugly fish! I decided I was good in the fall fish department. What I didn’t know then was that I just hadn’t found the right fall fish for me.

AS SUMMER BEGAN to flirt with fall, I decided to more fully embrace the freshness of salt, following an introduction to hardware off the jetty from my best friend Brian. The fog was bedded heavily on the bay

that day as the sun rose, and I could feel it – that feeling in my heart, that excitement of the new! Believing I was where I was meant to be, we fished the incoming tide. The first day I ever fished the jetty was the first time I ever caught a fall fish of any sort, a coho. A rainbow came out as I fought that beautiful hen and experienced what coho are made of. Almost like a steelhead on steroids, they scream off into the bay, but to my surprise they don’t dive deep like the springers I’d fought upriver. They stayed on top of the water, so mad, nwsportsmanmag.com | NOVEMBER 2017

Northwest Sportsman 73


FISHING

The sun rises over the mouth of a Southern Oregon river the author hiked into numerous times though without successfully landing a Chinook. But as she writes, “What I gained down there wasn’t marked off on my tag but rather encrypted into my heart to never give up!” She plans to return this fall for its kings. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

electric and fired up – I loved it! In my second run at this run of fish I had truly incredible moments with friends who mean so much to me. The day I hooked my first buck is a day I will never forget. My buddies and I went nine for 12 catching kings and coho of the jetty. I honestly only went one for one! But I tell you what, I wouldn’t change that one fight for anything! Whomp whomp! Like a freight train, that coho crushed my nautical creation birthday lure! He went to zinging off into oblivion and I realized, OK, I better turn this fish around or I am going to be out of line! I managed to turn the monster around on my 8-12-pound E6X, but he just kept erupting out of the bay over and over. My buddies freaked out at the size, and trembling like never before, Brian netted my fish. We all cheered, and yet I couldn’t even get off my rock at first to check him out because my adrenaline was just pumping and I couldn’t stop shaking. They kept saying, “Sara, you caught a trophy, you caught a hawg!” Never had I seen such a bright salmon! So fresh and beautiful, barfing up sardines as I grasped him, wow, just amazing! I was higher than possibly ever before and in total awe that I had fought such a 74 Northwest Sportsman

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fish and won! He was a monster to me. The typical size of coho caught there ranges from 6 to 10 pounds, so my near-17-pound buck was indeed a dandy and might possibly be the biggest coho I will ever catch. Oh, how I loved the day I found the first true beauty in fall fish! Though I did not catch a Chinook, I walked away with new bodies of water in my heart felt beyond content, and eagerly began to dream of the winter fish that stole my heart.

A YEAR LATER, fog in the mornings and dew on the grass meant autumn was here again. My quest began anew. The water where I put my time in isn’t the easiest to fish, I know. The elements of nature and numbers of fishermen rocked my world. I was astonished by the display put on by nature at the mouth of that tiny river; never had I feared I might be snuffed out by the water! I was scared down there more than once, observing older fishers losing their footing and being sucked out to sea, the younger men swiftly retrieving them from the surf that was trying to carry them away. Trucks stuck in the surf. Mayhem. And yet it is one the most beautiful places too. When those fish are landed

right there at the mouth on the beach or in the surf itself, you realize how truly special the spot is. What I gained down there wasn’t marked off on my tag but rather encrypted into my heart to never give up! It showed me that some days have so much more meaning than a limit of fall Chinook. I hiked down the beach, fished hard against the elements, and headed back out more times than I would like to admit without catching a fish. While fishing upriver truly amazed me, I fell in love with the beauty of this tiny Southern Oregon stream. I lost a monster on my birthday last year, but the company I had on my 34th and the adventure we shared will never be forgotten.

NOVEMBER WAS IN full swing and I still had yet to catch this supposedly easier salmon. But the fire and desire to get one had almost consumed me! I wanted that fish! Knowing there was good fishing ahead on those little rivers I told myself I had to get on the water for them at least one more time. I was blessed with an invite from a guide who had an interest in my photos and was looking for a spot to fill on one of those small coastal rivers. In that day I met two men who became my friends,


FISHING Travis Marsh of SOA Charters (southernoregonanglerscharter.com) and John Holder. My first time backbouncing bait, we hunted for those wild diamonds of the South Coast, and indeed we found them. I hadn’t caught a fish out of a boat since my very first steelhead years earlier, and I was amazed by the pull and strength of this salmon. Oh, how I loved it. With Travis’s and John’s help, finally! I had a beautiful Southern Oregon fall Chinook. I am not sure I had ever wanted a fish so bad! She glistened brighter than a diamond and I honestly think my smile was bigger than the fish itself.

Sara was particularly proud of landing her first limit of fall Chinook, caught earlier this season off Tillamook Bay while fishing with David Johnson and some of her fellow lady anglers. Watching and learning how the guide set up rigs gave her confidence to deck hand on Winchester Bay. (SARA ICHTERTZ)

2017, THE YEAR I left my tiny slice of Oregon and headed north and back again. This is the year I found the easier, beyond-eager fall fish to be more than angler legend. Fishing Buoy 10 to Tillamook, I went four for four, slaying beautiful chrome-bright salmon with tails so thick with sea lice it was unreal!

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Fishing out of Tillamook with guide David Johnson (davidjohnsonfishing.com) and my lady friends, I experienced a different style of jetty fishing. But instead of throwing hardware off the riprap, we trolled herring between the jetties in what proved to be my wildest of waters. Having David work his magic right in front of us proved so helpful to me. Though I didn’t ever cut or bait the riggings, he did show me and I did watch (which proved so helpful when I was put to the test trolling herring as a deckhand out of Winchester Bay in the following weeks). I have to say that fishing with your herring on the bottom and waiting for that takedown is pretty incredible. I love it when the fish first start to tinker and then when they commit! Wham, there she is! There’s no denying it. That action is straight-up exhilarating! We landed multiple beautiful fall Chinook, two of them mine! A limit of bucks – one hatchery, one wild – both mine! Oh, it was sweet! Plus too many wild coho to even honestly keep track of. There it was! Eager salmon coming in off the ocean gorging hard before their journey upriver – they wanted us bad and it was good!

I LEARNED A lot this year with the early run of fall fish and so I feel more ready than ever to fish those little coastal rivers of mine this month. I plan to back-bounce killer bait upriver and see what I can do. I’m going to hike to the mouth of that little slice of heaven, despite what nature throws my way, and hike back out with a fish! This never-ending journey, pursuing such creatures in such places, brings out the best in me. This sport is beyond intriguing. I believe it has shown me how to truly believe in myself, and because of that I will never stop believing. My heart is on the river and I couldn’t change it, even if I tried. NS Editor’s note: For more on Sara’s adventures, see For The Love Of The Tug on Facebook. 78 Northwest Sportsman

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FISHING

Fall King Tribs Call With Chinook heading up Tillamook County’s feeder streams, here’s how to hook some big salmon. By Andy Schneider

T

he drift boat slides off the trailer a little faster than normal, almost as if it is as eager as the anglers are to start the day’s adventure. It takes secure footing and a solid grip on the bow rope to ensure the boat doesn’t start the trip early, but just as the craft beaches itself it feels as if it wants to pull away again under its own mysterious power. This especially dark fall morning also seems to hold an abundance of moisture in the air, and as the anglers begin to load the boat, they leave wet, ghostly impressions of tackle, rods and gear as they get situated, prepare bait and test drags. But just as quickly as the impressions appear, they disappear again as more moisture takes its place. It’s almost as if the cold aluminum boat is slowly coming to life again after its summer hibernation and is getting its own goose bumps of excitement as the day begins. Now comes the dilemma of drift boat fishing for the anglers: Row straight down to the most productive holes and hopefully get first crack at the fish, or hit each and every piece of holding water thoroughly and without concern to other boaters passing by? Still pondering on where to start the day, the captain pushes on the oars and the boat responds like a faithful, seasoned retriever leading the way to a favorite hunting locale. And with only the most minor of corrections the drift boat quickly disappears into the early morning darkness, sure to find success no matter how good or bad the fishing that day is.

A nice sunny day of salmon fishing last fall on an Oregon tributary got that much brighter after Linda Hawkins landed this nice fall Chinook. (ANDY SCHNEIDER)

FALL CHINOOK FISHING on coastal tributaries is truly what salmon angling is all about. Whether pursued out of a jet sled or drift boat or off a muddy bank, fishing for kings on a coastal river this time of year is the quintessential experience for Northwest salmon anglers. Multiple techniques can be used with equal success throughout any given tributary, but each year is different when it comes to the timing of river-raising freshets. Sometimes

we have heavy rains in October that will pull fish into the system early, while in other years we have to wait until late November before we see enough water to entice Chinook upriver. No matter the year, several consecutive days of rain are needed not only to saturate the watershed and raise rivers to a sustainable level, but to also flush the abundant maple, cottonwood and alder leaves that suspend throughout the water column, making fishing all but nwsportsmanmag.com | NOVEMBER 2017

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FISHING impossible at times. Once rivers begin their traditional fall fluctuations, it’s really just a matter of picking the right one for the current water conditions. Each river has its own personality when it comes to recovering from a big freshet. Some rivers, like the Kilchis, come back into shape within a day or even hours of multiple inches of rain. Others, like the Nestucca, take a little longer to recover but stay at fishable levels longer. Paying attention to river graphs and their predictions is the best way to ensure you hit the right river when it’s prime. But it can be just as important to learn how to fish each river at different levels to allow some flexibility if your day(s) off don’t coincide with the water being in perfect shape. For as long as we’ve been fishing for them from boats, the three most successful techniques for tributary fall Chinook have been bobber and eggs, back-bouncing and plug fishing. It’s best to go prepared with multiple rods, each rigged differently to easily switch between techniques as you fish through the river. A successful day on the river doesn’t always mean filling the box, but if you fish all the water that could possibly hold salmon, using all techniques available to you, you will have successfully fished the river to the best of your

RIG IT RIGHT Bobber and eggs: Onto your 50- to 65-pound braided mainline, thread on a propersized bobber, bobber-stop beads and a bobber stop 3 to 4 feet above your bobber. Tie the mainline to a size 8 snap swivel, and from the lower swivel, add 30 inches of 30-pound leader to a 4/0 hook. Attach a small cannonball – matching the size of your bobber – to the swivel’s snap, or utilize a similarly matching-sized inline weight above a regular barrel swivel instead of a snap. Back-bouncing: See Rig of the Month, page 89. Plugs: Kwikfish K14Xs and K15Xs and Mag Lip 4.0s, 4.5s and 5.0s are some of the most effective plugs for tributary Chinook. They can run without a diver in waters shallower than 12 feet. Tie 50- to 65-pound braid to an inline swivel, then a 5-foot, 40-pound mono leader to a large duolock snap. That will help sort out leaves or debris and keep the plug fishing longer, while minimizing lure and fish losses. –AS

ability. Fishing so thoroughly may feel like work, but it is also the most effective way to fill that fish box.

WHEN IT COMES to bobber fishing for fall Chinook, most anglers think of slow-moving, tidally affected water. But keeping a bobber ready to deploy when fishing a trib’s free-flowing stretches makes this one of the most versatile and effective techniques in your arsenal. Any back eddy, deep and slow-moving tail-out, boulderstrewn section, spot overhung with brush or other holding water that’s moving slower than the main current is ideal for bait suspended underneath a bobber. Bobbers are also the equalizers for bank-bound anglers. A bobber and bait can be just as effectively fished from the shore as from a boat,

BEST DRIFTS, RIVER HEIGHTS Kilchis: Two main drifts: Campground to Highway 101; Logger Bridge to 101. The Kilchis doesn’t have a gauge, so watch the Wilson’s. Yes, it’s in a different watershed and there isn’t an exact relation, but as the Wilson drops through 2,000 cubic feet per second, the Kilchis should just be on the high side but is usually fishable. Wilson: Three popular drifts: Siskeyville to Mills Bridge; Mills Bridge to Sollie Smith; Donaldsons to Sollie Smith. Ideal height is 1,200 cfs, though savvy anglers can usually find fishable water up to 1,500 cfs and down to 600 cfs. Trask: Two primary options: Cedar Creek to Loren’s Drift; Loren’s Drift to Highway 101. But if you time the tides and your drift right, you can float from 101 to the 5th Street boat ramp in Tillamook, though over half will be through tidewater, so launch at high and be at the take-out at low tide. The Trask starts fishing best just below 1,700 cfs and fishes well down to 1,000 cfs. Nestucca: 1st Bridge to Farmers Creek; Farmers Creek to Three Rivers; Three Rivers to Cloverdale. Optimal height is 1,500 to 1,200 cfs, but the Nestucca can remain productive down to 800 cfs for anglers willing to try clear and low-water tactics. –AS 82 Northwest Sportsman

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though bankies tend to use a slightly larger, 2- to 3-ounce bobber to achieve better casting distance, while boat anglers can get away with 1- to 2-ouncers. There are many baits that you can suspend under your bobber, but the most popular and effective for tributary Chinook is fresh salmon roe. Adding chunks of sardine or a fresh sand shrimp is the most common way of doctoring up a bitesized skein of eggs. But pieces of tuna belly, squid and anchovy are some of the alternatives anglers use to try and find an edge. a somewhat finicky Chinook, one that is having a hard time committing to your bait, may be one of the most exciting and anxious moments of a salmon angler’s time on the water. Will he commit? Should I set the hook now? What if he quits me? Do I still have enough bait left? These are all questions blasting through a backbouncer’s head within a second or two of identifying a salmon chewing on their bait down amongst the quirky currents and rocky bottom. Back-bouncing bait is one of the most effective ways to fish a stretch of water, from the very top of the run to the shallow tail-out. It’s also a good way to fish small pockets of holding water that are too small to fish with plugs or too shallow for bobbers. And back-bouncing eggs is the most effective way to fish heavy

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FISHING THERE’S NO SHORTAGE of effective current, where fish retreat when there is heavy river traffic. Back-bouncing is the simple technique of moving your bait downriver by lifting your weight slightly off the bottom and letting the current carry it the ideal distance of 6 inches. Most anglers keep their bait moving at a faster pace than their boat as they move downriver through a hole. As you move downriver, you will need to adjust your weight. Utilize more at the top of the hole in its faster and deeper water, and go lighter as the current decreases and water shallows. Just as eggs are the most popular ingredient under a bobber, eggs are used pretty much exclusively by back-bouncers. But affixing a whole sand shrimp or chunk of sardine not only adds more attractant to your bait, it helps keep your skein of eggs from milking too fast in faster currents.

plugs to use on fall Chinook in the tribs. From the Mag Lip to Kwikfish and some Brad’s thrown in to keep things interesting, the market is rich for those who love the plug life. It’s also one of the easiest and most relaxing ways to fish. Just don’t get lulled into complacency and fail to maintain your plug. While all that fall foliage is wonderful to look at, a single leaf can render your lure completely ineffective. Making sure your plug is working properly and free of debris is a must. Plugs are an extremely effective way to trigger a salmon into biting, even when they’re not in “feeding” mode. Slowly working them through holding water with multiple extended pauses is the best way to trigger a bite. Pay attention to the action of your plug as transmitted by your rod tip; if it hesitates, get ready for a salmon to bury the rod. If you are noticing lots of strange

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behavior with your plugs and not having any hook-ups, consider making another pass through the hole. Oftentimes when fish are moving upriver fast, they will grab a plug and swim upstream with it, releasing the plug and continuing on their way without anglers being any the wiser. When you suspect this is happening, once the action of the plug stalls, reel down and get ready to set the hook when you detect a fish has your plug. emeraldgreen waters, crisp, chilly air and the confidence that fish are moving upriver beckon to we anglers – and maybe our drift boats too – this time of year. Sharing that experience with family and friends and letting them participate in one of nature’s amazing feats is something that will hopefully start a dialogue between them and our bountiful fall Chinook tributaries. NS

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NOTES Undoubtedly some of most exciting salmon fishing you can experience is when you’re moving your bait downriver and a fall Chinook grabs it and starts playing tug-of-war! Back-bouncing is most effective in fast, deep holes where fish may be spread from top to bottom. Target the main current and deepest parts of the river. Salmon actively moving upriver will be found in these areas and respond to well-presented eggs. Many anglers also add a whole live sand shrimp, but a piece of sardine, herring, anchovy, tuna belly or even chunk of squid are good supplements to try. When a Chinook does pick up your bait, resist the urge to set the hook right away. Instead, hold your rod steady and wait for the fish to turn and load it up. That way the hook will lodge securely in the corner of the salmon’s jaw. –Andy Schneider

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FISHING

Seriously Remote Steelies

Out past Oregon’s Umatilla, Ronde and Wallowa is one last summer-run stream – the beautifully set Imnaha of Hells Canyon.

By Zach Mansfield

A

left turn out of the charming little mountain town sends us northeast chasing the yellow line. As the snow-covered mountains grow smaller in the rearview mirror, the valley floor gives way to a coarse, beautiful canyon landscape. The winding road follows a small stream down, down to a rugged chunk of paradise called “The living end.” The small star in the far upper right-hand corner of a map of Oregon on the souvenir shirts in the local watering hole shows us where we are. As we sit down for a refreshment and chance to mingle with the locals, the post office sign across the road simply reads: Imnaha. The bar room/restaurant smells of 110-plus years of good stories and great people. Old taxidermy covers the walls like a history book written by the locals. Halfway through our IPAs served in Mason jars, I muster up the courage to talk to one. The gruff rancher wore his soiled hat high on his head, and his face hadn’t seen a razor in years. The lines around his eyes and his tattered clothes told the story of a lifetime of hard work and dedication to the land. Despite his rough outer shell he was pleasant to chat with. My background in agriculture led me into a deep conversation about cattle and hay prices. Soon enough I worked up to the point of my conversation, and he told me exactly what we wanted to hear. “Fishing has been good from the confluence clear up to town; you boys oughta’ have a good trip.”

Draining the east side of the Wallowa Mountains and flowing into the Snake in Hells Canyon, the Imnaha is Oregon’s most remote steelhead river. (ZACH MANSFIELD)

An hour and half later we finally reach our final destination. I stretch my legs and a few locals ride by on horseback, giving us bright smiles and waves, excited to see others in this harsh canyon landscape. I slip on my waders, taking in every ray of sunshine I can gather. The warm weather and green grass on the hillside that day makes it easy to see why ranchers winter their cattle down here. The hike downstream towards the confluence with the Snake is as relaxing and peaceful as any. It follows a trail just wide enough to walk single file and carry a couple

of my favorite steelhead rods, and is easy to navigate. An hour into the hike I am at one of my favorite fishing holes. Casting out I feel the first subtle tug on my line – a solid hook-set and it happens: headshakes, the rolls and acrobatics that only a steelhead can provide. As I gain the upper hand, I can’t help but smile. I am standing about as far east in Oregon as a guy can get and still catching one of my favorite fish to pursue.

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FISHING

Steelheading begins at the town of Imnaha and the river’s confluence with Big Sheep Creek. Stop in for supplies and a chance to chat with locals about the fishing. (SCOTT MAINWARING, WIKIPEDIA)

April. This year’s run is lower than most, but enough are expected at press time for fishery managers to allow a harvest of one hatchery fish a day. Over the past 10 years, anglers have kept as many as 2,140 during the record run year of 2009-10, and as few as 113 in 2012-13. Early on, dead-drifting nymphs or throwing spinners can be very productive. As season wears on, steelhead begin to show up in greater numbers, with most arriving between late February and March. Fishermen can switch tactics and presentations appropriate for the water levels. Ideal flows are between 400 and 600 cubic feet per second, much like the “classic” steelhead water of the westside. The Imnaha fishes best after a high-water event and a drop to a stable flow with a slight green tint to it. Late-season fish tend to be easier to locate and target than those that show up early. From February to the end of April you can catch steelhead 92 Northwest Sportsman

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on everything from beads and yarn to nymphs and bait – even crappie jigs. I’ve seen them all. The tried-and-true method for the lucky few who get to call this river their own is side-drifting eggs. A simple 3-2-1-borax cure is the most productive. Small presentations are the most productive, as these fish have traveled a great distance to reach home and can easily turn their nose to a large, poorly presented gob of eggs. However, a small, well-presented cluster of perfectly cured eggs will ultimately lead you to a hook-up with a steelhead that’s traveled as far as any in the state of Oregon. Two of my favorite methods for catching steelhead in these waters are beads and flies. Beads can be fished a host of ways, with side-drifting my favorite; as many have, I’ve caught fish with a bead under a float. I let the type of water determine the presentation that I want to show these welltraveled fish. In long, slightly faster

runs I prefer to side-drift as it allows me to place my bead directly in the strike zone for a longer period of time, thus resulting in more hookups. In deep, slow-churning holes a bead under a float is deadly. Colors that produce include yellow, natural roe, light pinks and reds. My all-time favorite fishing method is with my trusty 6-weight fly rod. Dead-drifting beadhead nymphs through buckets is about the most productive method you will find when gripping a piece of cork. In fall and early winter, I’ll swing leech patterns through the deep holes in an attempt to fool cagey steelhead. As the season wears on, I switch up my tactics. Fishing a two-fly system under an indicator is extremely productive. My favorite flies include stonefly patterns with a pink beadhead, Pat’s Rubber Leg, and any egg pattern in orange or pink. My preference for faux roe is the Crystal Meth, because it yielded me my first


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FISHING Imnaha fly-caught steelhead. However, I’ve caught them on all the aforementioned patterns.

AN ADVENTURE TO the Imnaha is one of the best a steelheader can go on. It feels like you are literally stepping back in time, and the further you drive from town, the more remote and fulfilling the trip can be. A hike past Cow Creek on the Imnaha River Trail to the confluence with the Snake in Hells Canyon is spectacular. At times you’ll have the entire river to yourself, and at other times, you’ll be sharing it with like-minded steelheaders, snakes, turkeys, even the bighorns. Whether you come as fall fades to winter, or in spring, when the colors are vibrant and alive, you won’t find a stitch of cell service, but there is steelhead fishing to be had, making for the perfect escape. NS

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It will take you awhile to get there, but the smile on author Zach Mansfield’s face – not to mention the hatchery steelhead he’s holding – show that a trip to the Imnaha is well worth it. Road access along the river ends 20 miles downstream of the town of Imnaha, but from there anglers can follow a trail through a gorge (bottom) to the Snake. (ZACH MANSFIELD; ROGER PETERSON, USFS)


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COLUMN Whether flounder, sole, fluke or dabs, the Pacific’s other flatfish provide tasty and overlooked table fare for kayak anglers like Chris Mayes, as well as jetty and powerboat fishermen alike. (MATTHEW MAYES)

7KRVH2WKHU)ODWÀVK W

hen the word “flatfish” comes up in conversation, most folks in the Northwest immediately think of THE KAYAK GUYS halibut – and rightly By Lauren By Lau aure renn Smi SSmith mit ith ith so! But there is a wide range of delicious, if smaller, flatfish available for nearshore and estuary anglers. Whether you call them flounder, sole or fluke, flatfish are fun to catch and many make excellent table fare. I’ve always been personally fascinated with these odd-looking fish. As a child I found it incredible that they begin life with their eyes in the usual places and

then completely transform themselves as they develop. As an adult I found their reported abundance intriguing, especially since I couldn’t seem to catch any myself. The fact that flounder are sometimes found well upstream in freshwater only made me more interested. Indeed, a few years ago I caught two juvenile starry flounder in the Willamette near Gladstone, Oregon, about 100 river miles from the ocean! Later, when I began kayak fishing in the ocean, I made a few uninformed attempts at finding flounder to no avail. When I did land my first – a petrale sole, bycatch while fishing for lingcod – I was surprised and excited by finding something new. At the

dinner table, the white, flaky mild meat was a treat, and that was it: I was addicted.

OREGON’S RECENTLY SEEN increased interest in the flounder fishery as a result of the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s closure of nearshore bottomfish. Kayak anglers in particular should consider this fishery on the remaining calm ocean days this year, since few of us can safely make it to the 40-fathom curve, where the remaining open rockfish opportunities lie, and back. Tyler Hicks, a conservation- and ecology-educated kayak angler, sees flounder as an overlooked fishery. “It’s probably one of the most underutilized nearshore marine fisheries,”

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COLUMN he says. “In the Southeast, flounder fishing is serious business. In the Pacific Northwest we treat them almost like trash fish, which is perplexing considering they taste as good as East Coast flounder.” Chris Mayes, this year’s Oregon Rockfish Classic winner and a U.S. Forest Service fisheries biologist, has been successfully exploring this fishery off the Oregon coast from his kayak. He says the first question he usually gets is, “Where do I fish?” “We know they like to live on sand, but there’s a lot of sandy bottom out there,” Mayes says. “Like with so many other species, flatfish like transition zones. Wherever you can find a transition from rocks to sand, or a slope, or something different from the vast expanse of flat sand, drop a bait on it and see what’s down there.” It’s a bountiful fishery, he says. “Along the Oregon coast, we have an abundance of sand sole and butter sole that like to hang just off the rocky reefs in 40 to 60 feet of water,” Mayes says. “Currents will wash food off the reefs and onto the nearby sand, and that’s where the flatfish will be waiting.” Your gear for the ocean doesn’t have to break the bank, but you will need to keep your bait on bottom in various conditions, so your rod needs to be able to accommodate that. A salmon rod or medium to light bottomfish rod should work well. Mayes suggests a mooching rig with bait. “My favorite all-around rig is a whole anchovy rigged on a salmon mooching leader with two 3/0 to 5/0 hooks,” he explains. “The 3- to 4-foot leader is tied to a kidney sinker heavy enough to keep your offering near the bottom, typically anywhere from 1 to 6 ounces depending on wind and current. I’ll lower this rig to the bottom, bring it up a crank, and either drift with the current or slowly paddle to cover ground. Ideally, I’ll be moving about 1 to 2 mph. The whole anchovy will help keep off any little flatties, and the larger ones in the 15- to 20-inch class will have no problem inhaling the entire bait.” I’ve found the bite can range from downright aggressive to obscenely subtle. Mayes suggests free spooling your reel 100 Northwest Sportsman

NOVEMBER 2017 | nwsportsmanmag.com

Both Oregon and Washington offer large limits and lengthy to year-round seasons on starry flounder, petrale sole, Pacific sanddabs and other flatfish. Cleaning them entails a fairly simple series of cuts with a sharp fillet knife. (CHRIS MAYES)


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Flatfish can be caught in nearshore coastal waters, estuaries and bays, and lower rivers –author Lauren Smith reports even catching one in the Willamette at Gladstone. They bite well on plastics and natural baits. (LAUREN SMITH)

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when you feel a bite to give the flounder time to fully inhale the bait. Speaking of, in addition to anchovies, consider herring, squid, clam necks and artificial baits with scent. I’ve personally had the best luck with squid, which stays on the hook fairly well. If you are in the target depth adjacent to a reef and you are getting many bites but not hooking up, smaller flatfish probably are harassing your bait. Pick up and move a few hundred yards to try to find their bigger siblings. While some nearshore flounder are present in most coastal waters year-round, specific species do move about based on the seasons. “The big change with late-fall flatfish is that the petrale sole will be moving back to their deep-water winter haunts, often beyond 1,000 feet deep, so they’ll no longer be an option,” Mayes says. “But sand sole, butter sole and starry flounder will still be around. As winter sets in and rivers rise, starry flounder will be heading towards estuaries and bays to spawn, so there’s potential to catch some large starries if fishing near or in any estuaries.”


charters & Guides WHEN I FIRST set out to start catching flounder from my kayak a few years ago, I wasn’t able to find much information. But a specific Northwest fishery came up a few times: starry flounder at the southern end of Puget Sound. The Nisqually Delta is a great place to start flounder fishing. Starry flounder are abundant off the nutrient-rich drainage, and most days they are willing biters. The fish can be found from close to shore all the way to the drop-off to the main channel. Once you find a bite, you should find more fish nearby in short order. Tyler Hicks says small- to mediumsized curl-tail grubs in white or chartreuse are a good starting point. I’ve personally had good luck adding scent to the plastics, as well as using bait (clam necks, worms and anchovies) to stir up a bite on an otherwise tough day. Don’t overthink the gear or presentation. Simple bass rods work great in these waters, and ¼ to 1 ounce of weight will be plenty, depending on how far towards the channel you go. Rig baits on jig heads, Carolina rigs or in a drop-shot configuration. Cast out, let your bait sink to the bottom and slowly bounce it back to you, making sure your presentation is on or near the bottom most of the time.

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AS ALWAYS, SAFETY is a huge factor in any saltwater fishery in the Northwest. Do not venture out for flatfish without the proper experience and immersion and safety gear, and never go alone. Even on the Nisqually Delta current can be a huge factor, and the wind can come up quickly. Be physically able to work hard against the wind and current to make it back safely. Regardless of where you go to find these sole and flounder, Chris Mayes reminds us it’s still fishing. “Like other species, there are some days where the fish just go off the bite,” he advises. “Don’t give up after only one attempt. Your first good day of flatfish action will have you wanting to come back for more, especially when you realize how amazingly awesome they are on the table!” I couldn’t have said it better myself. Try something new and wet a line for those other flatfish. NS

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Put Nearshore Dungies, Hooligan On T-day Menu NORTH SOUND T

hough platters of turkey and venison are the traditional mainBy Doug Huddle course centerpieces of Thanksgiving dinner tables, we have opportunities in November here to add several regional side dishes. Personal-use gathering of crab – Dungeness being the headliner – is underway in many marine areas of Washington’s inland waters, and dippable smelt are about to run one Northwest Washington river. There’s one last opportunity for modern firearms tag holders to fill their 2017 deer chits in the November late buck hunt, and if there’s a dearth of ducks because so-called “northerns” aren’t here yet, look to the nooks and crannies of local woodland ponds and farmland drainages for stay-at-home webfoots.

River Walgamott measures a Dungeness in the crab-rich San Juan Islands earlier this year. The waters here are open for crabbing daily through New Year’s Eve, and there are plenty of sheltered spots to drop a pot. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

NUMB-BUM CRABBING With apologies to Gordon Lightfoot, if you can endure the chilly gales of November, fresh Dungeness crab caught by your own devices are again a Thanksgivingfeast option. The winter, or second personal-use season, stanza was authorized by the state back in the first week of October in a number of Puget Sound marine area venues, including northern inland waters. The seven-day-a-week opportunity lasts through New Year’s Eve. From Blaine to Langley, there are a goodly number of nearshore venues onto which you can make a quick in-and-out aboard a dinghy, kayak, skiff or tin jonboat to check set-and-forget pots or even drop tended crab gear during brief weather windows of opportunity. And if you don’t have a boat, look to several area public piers. Of course, off western Whatcom County, the Semiahmoo/Birch Point/Point

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COLUMN Whitehorn/Cherry Point fetch of the Strait of Georgia are favorite long-held crabbing waters. Access can be out of Blaine from an “all-tides” ramp in the Port of Bellingham’s adjunct Drayton Harbor marina, or you can paddle out in a hand-carried craft from the Gulf Road’s beach access between the Alcoa smelter and Arco refinery “deep-sea” piers. These areas do get hit hard by the treaty commercial fleet, but in greater Bellingham Bay look to set pots along the long shoal from Point Francis south to Eliza Island, in Chuckanut Bay as a second spot, or to the south in outer Samish Bay off Larrabee State Park. Access here is from the Squalicum Harbor or Harris Street ramps (both in Bellingham) or out of a high-tide-only ramp at Larrabee Park down the Cove Road from State Route 11. Of the readily accessible bounteous crab waters off western Skagit County, the 6-fathom line in Padilla Bay, prescribed by Hat and Saddlebag Islands, is a highly popular, close-in Dungeness venue. Also a favorite in this locale are the navigable waters at the north end of Swinomish Channel around the BNSF railroad bridge, but there’s a special time-restriction rule covering that popular tended-gear site. Public boat launches for these waters include the ramps between the twin spans of State Route 20 arching over Swinomish Channel, the small put-in at March Point and at the Port of Anacortes’ Cap Sante Marina basin. Around the west and south side of Fidalgo Island, look to the semisheltered anchorages of Burrows and Bowman Bays for nearshore soak sets. Accesses here are from the City of Anacortes’ Washington Park ramp and Deception Pass State Park’s ramp at Bowman Bay. Bowman also has a fully accessible public pier for dry-foot crabbing. In greater Skagit Bay, Saratoga Pass and Port Susan on the east side of Camano, look to Similk Bay, Cornet Bay (it has several popular pier/docks), Dugualla Bay opposite Swinomish Channel, Penn Cove, Utsalady Bay, Elger Bay and waters to the south of Triangle Cove as good bets. Accesses via water are from Cornet Bay State Park, La Conner’s Rainbow Bridge (Sherman Street) ramp, Utsalady County Park, Tillicum Beach (for carry-in craft) and Kayak Point County Park (also for carry-in craft and a pier). Some things to remember for fall crabbing include: * The state-required winter or late-season crab catch record card and the follow-up reporting requirement; * Adding enough weight and length of line to set-and-forget pots so that your effort is not fouled by tide level or current velocity; * Firmly attaching baits (meats, filleted fish carcass remnants or a ground mixture that “milks” out, producing a drifting scent) to your crabbing implement of choice; * And bringing enough money to cover day-use or parking fees at state and county parks accesses. A Discovery Pass works at state parks and recreation facilities, while county recreation sites may require cash.

NOOKSACK HOOLIGANS Staying with the theme and spirit of Thanksgiving cuisine, there’s another unique gather-with-your-own-hands opportunity here toward the end of November, this one centered exclusively on the lower Nooksack River. 106 Northwest Sportsman

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When it comes to smelt dipping in Western Washington, you’re probably more familiar with opportunities at the other end of I-5, but a run of hooligans, or long-fin smelt, enters the Nooksack this month. (WDFW)

The locals call them hooligans, a name descending from frustrated old-timer attempts to pronounce the common appellations, eulachon or oolichan (they sound like you-la-kon or ooo-li-chen) of Coast Salish derivations. These names identify a smelt species that in late fall enters the Nooksack’s often-muddy flows to spawn. Their moniker is misleading, though. They are, in fact, a longfin smelt that are legal to harvest and not a eulachon, also known as Columbia River smelt, for which there’s a statewide closure. The Nooksack’s long-fins are distant kin of mid-California coast long-fins, but aren’t included in the federal Endangered Species Act listing for San Francisco Bay’s population. Catching hooligan in the Nooksack requires one purposebuilt piece of equipment that’s not available assembled on store shelves. But all of its components are, and the basket-style catcher solidly fixed at the end of a long pole is easy to build. This dipping basket must resist the press of the current when deployed with the open end facing downstream. Either a perforated sheet-metal basket or fine-mesh wire or netting hung on a lightweight frame works as well. The pole needs to be of a strong – and this quality is important – resonant material such as aluminum tubing or wood doweling that’s long enough to reach at least 12 feet, if not longer. Hooligan fishing involves nothing more than standing at or near the water’s edge and thrusting the pole-mounted basket as far as you safely able into the river’s muddy waters and holding it there. Finesse elements of successful hooligan fishing are, first, being able to “feel” the slight taps of the little fish as they swim upstream into the dip basket and bump into its bottom. The second is being able to sweep the basket up and out of the water before the tiny fish sense the barrier, reverse course and flee, which they can do in the blink of an eye. No one knows how far these anadromous, or sea-run, smelt go up the Nooksack to spawn or how large annual runs are. But effort has always been focused on a short reach of the lower Nooksack above the Lummi Nation boundary and Marine Drive. “Stands,” or dipping spots, on the bank amid the surrounding brush next to the thalweg or deeper flows are available but not


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COLUMN numerous. The land upstream of the county road bridge on the east bank is the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s Nooksack Unit of the Whatcom Wildlife Area, along which can be found other hooligan dipping stands. If you have a taste for these hors d’oeuvres-sized, oil-rich tidbits, hit the river on the first muddy freshet after midmonth. These smelt are caught only during a 10- to 14-day period that starts right around Nov. 20. If you’re new to them and therefore not sure about these culinary delights, often fried or dried and eaten guts, fins and all, you may want to ease into them at the start, catching a few with which to work your table fare or snack prep magic. The lower Nooksack personal-use fishery is one of the longerstanding freshwater opportunities for smelt, though overall, not the only one in Northwest Washington. Beach-spawning smelt populations (often the surf species) occasionally are raked or dipped at Camano Island and March Point beaches, or jigged from passing schools coming through Swinomish Channel at La Conner (February) or occasionally along Bellingham’s downtown waterfront off the Roeder Avenue bridge (January).

FINAL RIFLE BLACKTAILS Now that Cascade foothills game management units are closed for the late buck hunt with modern firearms, Whatcom and Skagit County portions of GMU 407 offer the only locales where you can

still “elevate” yourself, per se, for this last hurrah for blacktails. The heights of Sumas Mountain, Van Zandt Dike, Stewart (Lake Whatcom) Mountain, Anderson (Alger) Mountain and the Blanchard/Chuckanut complex all have state-owned forest lands, as well as some private timber holdings that are legally accessible, though mainly by boot (walk-in) hunters. Alternatively, if stalking the woods is not your forte but negotiating agreements is, private lowland small-wood plots or farmed acreage with streams coursing through them are viable options. You will have to quickly arrive at a concord with private landowners for access, but some of these locales offer the closest thing to a gimme for a deer these days. In GMUs 410, 420 and 421, Cypress Island offers the best expanse of state-owned lands. In the San Juans, to hunt private ownerships there, you must by county ordinance carry written permission from the deed-holder to hunt their land.

GET THE JUMP ON WEBFOOTS Jump-shooting farm or forest ponds, primed by resident duck and stay-at-home honker production, is a viable alternative for waterfowlers sans boats to hunt bayfronts here. The Kamm Creek drainage in particular southeast of Lynden offers an extensive drainage system on which to find a duck or two during a morning’s walk. Several large beaver pond complexes in the upper Nooksack basin, west of Lake Shannon and in the upper Skagit Valley above Rockport, also are good destinations for flushand-shoot trips. For extended-family gaggles of Canada geese, look to upper Baker Lake or Lake Shannon. Though state fish and wildlife regulations say you may hunt an attractive piece of water or ground, county ordinances might say otherwise. Be sure to check local firearms discharge laws in each county before heading out. In Whatcom County, for instance, the expanses of Wiser Lake and Lake Whatcom, though often frequented by rafts of waterfowl, are subsumed in county noshooting zones and thus are off-limits to hunting.

NEXT ISSUE Late archery deer and elk options, limited steelheading. NS Editor’s note: Doug Huddle lives in Bellingham, is retired from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, and has written about hunting and fishing in the Northwest for more than 34 years.

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COLUMN Central and South Sound, Hood Canal and Grays Harbors waters should see decent chum salmon returns, which peak this month. (JASON BROOKS)

Time To Get Chummy N

ovember is a month full of opportunities for South Sound sportsmen, starting with general rifle elk hunts and chum SOUTH SOUND salmon showing up By Jason Brooks in estuaries, bays and rivers. Midmonth sees the four-day late buck season, and then the latter part of the month sees the conclusion of pheasant releases and arrival of late coho and even some early steelhead, as well as the final muzzleloader and archery deer season. It is an action-packed month and here are a few things to think about doing in or near these parts.

CHUMS ARE BY far one of my favorite salmon to fish for. Just about every stream and river in the South Sound gets a run of these gnarly creatures. But before they hit the freshwater they provide some great fishing in the salt. Places like Mud Bay, the Nisqually Delta, Kennedy Creek estuary and, of course, Hoodsport offer anglers

plenty of opportunities to wet a line. Try using a small red- or even orange-label herring under a slip float for these fish. Brine the herring the night before in Pro-Cure’s Brine and Bite and then keep them on a bed of rock salt for the day in a disposable plastic container. The baits hold up well when doing this, and it is cool enough out that ice isn’t necessarily needed. If you’re a fly angler, grab the float tube and head to Hoodsport. Kick your way out to the schools of fish that are circling the hatchery intake. An 8-weight is the minimum rod size, and you might think about bumping up to a 10. Use a slow sinking line and a 20-pound tippet, as these fish are not line shy. Bright-colored Bunny Leeches in cerise, chartreuse and purple work well, as does a Clouser Minnow. After casting out, let the fly sink for a few seconds and then strip the line in with quick pulls to trigger a reaction bite. If you don’t fly fish and prefer not to use bait, toss a variety of spinners and spoons. A 5⁄8-ounce Dardevle by Eppinger Manufacturing in chartreuse with a single siwash barbless hook is hard to beat. Also

try size 5 and 6 Vibrax spinners by Blue Fox. A black-and-chartreuse 3⁄8-ounce Rock Dancer by Mack’s Lure is a hardy jig that can withstand the toothy dogs in the salt.

ELK HUNTERS WILL be out in public and private timberlands for the Westside’s Nov. 4-15 general modern firearms season. The closest best opportunities for wapiti chasers in this region are around Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens, with the land around the latter volcano being very productive, especially since the Margaret Unit became an over-the-counter tag in 2015. The unit with the highest success, per this year’s Hunting Prospects from the Department of Fish and Wildlife, is Winston. However, it also noted that the severe winter of 2016-17 affected elk in the region and the overall population is down 30 to 35 percent from last year, potentially affecting the availability of three-plus-point bulls. Elk in the Willapa Hills and Ryderwood Units were on an upward trend during the last two surveys of 2014 and 2016. They won’t be surveyed again until 2018 but

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COLUMN last winter did not affect this herd like it did those east of I-5. Land in these units is mostly fee-access private ground with some public holdings, so make sure you know where you are and that you can hunt the area. Nearly 1,300 elk were taken during 2016’s general seasons in the abovementioned and other units in WDFW’s District 9. For more, see the agency’s website (wdfw.wa.gov). Hoof rot continues to plague Western Washington elk and has now been reported in units everywhere from the Columbia River to the southeast corner of the Olympic Mountains to Whatcom County. If you harvest an elk in the hoof rot area – which this year has been expanded beyond Game Management Units 501-564 and 642-699 to include 407, 418, 437, 633 and 636 – you must leave the hooves in the field, even if the animal does not show signs of the disease. WDFW says the meat is “probably” safe to eat, as the disease only affects the hooves, not the meat or organs, though hunters I’ve talked to who’ve killed elk with the disease say the limbs are often

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emaciated and the meat doesn’t smell right. If yours has hoof rot, check with the local WDFW office and, if possible, call the district biologist, as currently Washington State University is conducting research on the elk herds and the disease.

MIDMONTH FINDS BLACKTAIL in the rut and vulnerable, and for deer hunters still looking to fill their tag, the Nov. 16-19 late hunt offers that opportunity. Bucks will be out during daylight hours longer and will roam around looking for a receptive doe. Boyd Iverson, arguably one of the most successful blacktail hunters of all time, has written a few books on how to hunt them. He utilized tree stands and would watch over small clearings. This is a perfect tactic for South Sound hunters on the many state forestlands, as timber practices the past few years have created small openings through selective harvest of the trees. If you don’t like the idea of sitting in a stand, find a high vantage point and sit with a good pair of optics and glass surrounding areas.

Mid-November’s late blacktail hunt gives rifle hunters four days afield during a prime time of the year to bag their buck. Sydnee Toney harvested this one last season on the Kapowsin Tree Farm, and friend Kari-Lynn Smith sent the photo in. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)


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COLUMN A few years ago I was out hunting on Hancock lands in eastern Pierce County, wandering along a ridgeline that overlooked a deep canyon that had been clearcut. A truck was parked on a pullout and I struck up a conversation with the hunter. He was leaning on the hood and peering through a spotting scope, explaining how the past three years in a row he had taken his buck during the late season by parking in that same spot. He glassed the edge of the cut until dark each evening for deer to come out of the timber and feed. About a half hour after our conversation I heard a shot from the ridge. A good blacktail hunter really only needs two things: a good pair of binoculars and patience. Unfortunately, I only have good optics.

NOVEMBER

ENDS

WITH

the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which also marks the start of late archery and muzzleloader deer and elk seasons. It is also the last weekend for WDFW’s Westside

pheasant releases. I’ve hunted many of these sites and know that the volunteers who plant the fields often put out extra birds for the holiday hunt. This can make for some crazy and confusing hunting early in the day. Make sure to wear extra hunter orange and be aware of other hunters and their dogs. I prefer to go out a couple of hours after the initial push, as there is plenty of birds and most hunters are heading home to family gatherings. Nontoxic shot is required on the release sites as well, but you are allowed two pheasant of either sex in Western Washington. Note that birds that would have otherwise been released on the wildfire-singed south unit at Scatter Creek Wildlife Area will be turned loose on the north unit, as well as the Lincoln Creek, Skookumchuck and Chehalis River sites.

IT’S A GREAT month to get outside and enjoy the last few days of fall. Whether you like to chase chums in the salt or rivers, elk in the hills, deer in the forest or pheasants in the fields, the South Sound provides plenty of November opportunities. NS

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Pheasant releases wrap up in late November in Western Washington, including at sites in King, Mason, Pierce, Thurston, Lewis and Grays Harbor Counties. (JASON BROOKS)


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COLUMN

Bagging A Ghost

A century of conservation and regulated hunting have led to the rebuilding of Western elk herds. Oregon, where author Buzz Ramsey bagged this nice bull, has 125,000 of the animals. (BUZZ RAMSEY)

F

or humans, elk are the most challenging of North American big game animals to hunt. Donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t let BUZZ their size fool you, RAMSEY these critters can be as quiet as an empty cartridge case and avoid detection far better than a misplaced set of car keys. In fact, seasoned

hunters often refer to elk as â&#x20AC;&#x153;the ghosts of the woodsâ&#x20AC;? for their stealthy abilities. The good news is that there are more elk roaming the woods of North America today than at any other time in the past 100 years. Wildlife biologists believe over 1 million wapiti (and the number is still growing) currently inhabit our continent. Their recovery is a model of what can be done in the name of conservation when society decides to act. Prior to the arrival of the first European

settlers, experts believe, over 10 million elk roamed what would become the Canada, the United States and Mexico, with animals ranging from coast to coast. However, by 1907, their numbers had plummeted to less than 90,000 animals. Western colonization, habitat loss, unregulated hunting, and ranchers in no mood to share their grass with elk were to blame for their dramatic decline. Yellowstone National Park, established in 1872, was likely the reason elk numbers


COLUMN

Spikes are the name of the game for most Washington general season rifle hunters. Jim Sherrill and Ramsey took these two several years back. (BUZZ RAMSEY) were saved from virtual obliteration, since it contained the only viable population during those dark years of the late 1800s and early 1900s, when elk like bison had all but vanished from the landscape. Once protections were in place, Yellowstone elk were transplanted to many states where residents didn’t realize what they had lost until after the animals were gone. As elk herds grew, states began to allow hunting to keep herds in check and from competing with ranchers’ cattle. For example, Colorado began to allow hunting in 1929 and Arizona in 1935. By 1985, 400,000 elk roamed the West, mostly on national forest land. Elk numbers have continued to grow, thanks in no small part to state and federal wildlife agencies and conservation groups like the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. 120 Northwest Sportsman

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Oregon’s population, for example, is estimated to exceed 125,000 animals, while 60,000 inhabit Washington and more than twice as many, 130,000, roam Idaho.

IF YOU’RE A rifle hunter, how do you find yourself an elk? First, realize that the somewhat tame elk that you spotted last spring or summer are long gone. Early-season hunting activity by archers followed by muzzleloaders in Washington’s case, then rifle deer hunters, has put elk on high alert. In fact, elk (even cow elk) only get more difficult to hunt as fall progresses. This is no joke; you often hear bull elk hunters talk about how easy it would be to kill a cow elk during their hunt when in fact even cow elk can become hyperelusive following the bull elk season, which is when most cow seasons occur. For a general idea of where elk can

be found, try contacting the Department of Fish and Wildlife district office nearest your hunting location for information. Although no one can tell you with certainty where you might bag an elk, I’ve found state wildlife biologists and other personnel helpful in pointing me to areas or watersheds elk frequent during hunting season, and which direction they’re likely to travel if a big snow hits. For advice from a pro about how to find elk, I called veteran elk hunter Jim Sproul of John Day, Oregon. He has killed many elk, including one monster bull that at the time scored eleventh in the world. According to Sproul, bull elk like quiet places near water that are located above roads or human activity. Although not a guide, Sproul specializes in hunting mature bull elk and says a


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COLUMN startled bull, unlike a cow or young male, will almost always stop briefly to size up the situation after initially moving 10 to 50 feet away from their hiding place when disturbed. Unless you spot him first, this will likely be your only chance at the bull because he’ll then beeline away from you, with the goal of traveling miles and hiding where he thinks you won’t look. Sproul has also found that a big bull, like a mature buck deer, will hold and let you walk by if he thinks you haven’t spotted him. But be aware that if you make eye contact, he will disappear faster than the last Diet Coke at a Weight Watchers convention. Elk use cover to hide from predators and will normally restrict movement to brush-covered draws or canyons when traveling. Keep in mind that elk almost never skyline themselves, instead moving along parallel to ridge tops. Your best opportunity to bag an elk will likely occur opening morning (when the majority of elk are killed by hunters). If you are in an area where there is fresh elk sign

ANOTHER ELK SHARPIE SHARES SECRETS True, it’s Montana, but Craig Mathews has bagged a bull elk on public land every fall for the last 38 seasons. How does he do it? Deep knowledge of his hunting grounds north of Yellowstone, for starters, but Mathews also shared five key pointers in the September-October 2017 issue of Montana Outdoors. They boil down to: • Educate yourself with all things elk – read the magazines, watch the videos, talk to the experts. • Learn where they get their groceries and go to digest their dinner in safety and find the paths between them. • Know what all the different kinds of elk sign mean – their smell, their tracks, their markings, their doots, etc., etc., to put together their use of the landscape. • Eagle-eyed hunters watch for “portions” of their prey in the deep, black timber – a bit of a bull’s headgear, an ear twitching, their distinctive rumps or brown coat. • Really hunt – get out there early, hike further, stay in the woods longer, resist the temptation to call it a day or go road hunting. For more of Mathews’ tips, see “38 For 38” at fwp.mt.gov/mtoutdoors. –NWS and know other hunters will be working the area too, try taking a stand above a known traveling lane where elk might exit when pushed. This means getting out of bed early and being in position before daylight. If all else fails, pray for snow. When there is snow, anyone can feel like an accomplished elk hunter. But you will likely learn that it’s near impossible to catch up

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with elk by following fresh tracks. If you are to spot the ghost of the woods, it’s much better to let your partner follow the trail while you circle ahead and try to ambush the always wary elk. NS Editor’s note: The author is a brand manager and part of the management team at Yakima Bait. Like Buzz on Facebook.

Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation (All periodicals publications except requester publications) 1. Publication Title: Northwest Sportsman. 2. Publication Number: 025-251. 3. Filing Date: Oct. 9, 2017. 4. Issue Frequency: Monthly. 5. Number of issues published annually: 12. 6. Annual Subscription Price: 29.99. 7. Complete mailing address of known office of publication: 14240 Interurban Avenue South, Suite 190, Tukwila, WA 98168. Contact Person: John Rusnak. Telephone: 206-382-9220. 8. Complete mailing address of headquarters or general business office of publisher: 14240 Interurban Avenue South, Suite 190, Tukwila, WA 98168. 9. Full names and complete addresses of publisher, editor, and managing editor: Publisher: James Baker, 14240 Interurban Avenue South, Suite 190, Tukwila, WA 98168. Editor: Andy Walgamott, 14240 Interurban Avenue South, Suite 190, Tukwila, WA 98168. Managing editor: None. 10. Owner: James Baker, 14240 Interurban Avenue South, Suite 190, Tukwila, WA 98168. 11. Known bondholders, mortgagees, and other security holders or holding 1 percent or more of total amount of bonds, mortgages, or other securities. If none, check box: none. 12. Tax status: Has not changed during preceding 12 months. 13. Publication title: Northtwest Sportsman. 14. Issue date for circulation data below: September 2017. 15. Extent and nature of circulation: a.Total number of copies: 78,200. b. Paid circulation (by mail and outside the mail). (1) Mailed ouside-county paid subscriptions stated on PS Form 3541 (Include paid distribution above nominal rate, advertiser’s proof copies, and exchange copies): 17679. (2) Mailed in-county paid subscriptions stated on PS Form 3541 (Include paid distribution above nominal rate, advertiser’s proof copies, and exchange copies): 0. (3) Paid distribution outside the mails including sales through dealers and carriers, street vendors, counter sales, and other paid distribution outside USPS: 43610. (4) Paid distribution by other classes of mail through the USPS (e.g. first-class mail): 1783. c. Total paid distribution: 53072. d. Free or nominal rate distribution (by mail and outside the mail). (1) Free or nominal rate outside-county copies included on PS Form 3541: 3365. (2) Free or nominal rate in-county copies included on PS Form 3541: 0. (3) Free or nominal rate copies mailed at other classes through the USPS (e.g. first-class mail): 409. (4) Free or nominal rate distribution outside the mail (carriers or other means): 3170. e. Total free or nominal rate distribution: 6944. f. Total distribution: 60016. g. Copies not distributed: 18184. h. Total: 78200. i. Percent paid: 88.43% 17. Publication of statement of ownership: If the publication is a general publication, publication of this statement is required. Will be printed in the November issue of this publication. 18. Signature and title of editor, publisher, business manager, or owner: John Rusnak, General Manager. Date: Oct. 9, 2017. I verify all the information furnished on this form is true and complete. I understand that anyone who furnishes false or misleading information on this form or who omits material or information requested on the form may be subject to criminal sanctions (including fines and imprisonment) and/or sanctions (including civil penalties).


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www.queenstownhunting.com email: info@mtnicholas.co.nz nwsportsmanmag.com | NOVEMBER 2017

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COLUMN

‘Pure Gold’

Hunt, Meal Of A Lifetime

T

ext message: “I just got a huge backstrap dropped off this evening … right CHEF IN THE WILD out of the game By Randy King bag. So it still has some hair and stuff on it. I threw it in the fridge in a hotel pan. Should I try and clean it up a little or can we do that tomorrow when you get here?” When I received that message earlier this fall I was immediately thrilled because that backstrap meant that Spencer’s Hunt of a Lifetime outing had been successful. What is Hunt of a Lifetime? Think Make a Wish for kids who want to hunt and fish instead of go to Disneyland. Both are amazing programs filling needs in their respective categories. Hunt of a Lifetime offers all-expense-paid hunts for “children with life-threatening illness or disabilities.” Hailing from Utah, Spencer is an 18-year-old bone cancer survivor. He fought for a long time to get that bull – choosing what he wanted and not straying from his choice. But the road was long and hard to get here. When he was 16, Spencer noticed a lump on his neck one day, and that lump turned out to be lymphoblastic lymphoma, an aggressive and rare form of cancer. The treatment was destructive and long. At one point it compromised his immune system and led to the degradation of the major joints in his body. He had a double knee replacement in February 2017. Several months later he was on the hunt in one of the best big game units in the country.

WHEN H.O.A.L. HEARD of Spencer, the organization offered him a dream hunt – bull elk in Idaho’s Unit 40, southwest of Boise. It’s one of the most coveted elk tags in the country, with about 1 percent draw odds last year. With the generous support of an army of volunteers Spencer

Spencer, an 18-year-old Utah cancer survivor who just months before had received a double knee replacement after battling lymphoblastic lymphoma, which degrades the joints, bagged this bull elk earlier this fall on a Hunt of a Lifetime trip in Southwest Idaho. He was assisted by many individuals, including Blaine, a business owner in Boise who guided him. (HUNT OF A LIFETIME) arrived in Idaho and was whisked away to Linton Outdoors in Meridian, where he was fully outfitted for the hunt, while others in the party were taken care of by Cabela’s. Spencer was given a gun and taken to the range, then it was up to elk camp. Not a dime came out of his parents’ pockets. At camp a man named Blaine took charge. As a business owner in Idaho’s capital city, Blaine was looking for a way to give back to the community a few years back. He found out about Hunt of a Lifetime at a Rocky Mountain Elk

Foundation dinner and promptly became a volunteer. Since then he has guided young hunters after everything from pronghorn to 360-class bull elk. On Spencer’s hunt an entire crew was a part of the action. Spencer brought along two of his brothers, his father and his best friend. Six guides at camp waited on their beck and call. With the hunt down to the last two hours of the last day, Spencer shot his bull at 350 yards.

I ARRIVED LATE at this particular party, per se. My friend Beka had asked me to help out

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COLUMN

Elk backstrap with apple cider and morel demi-glace.

BACKSTRAP À LA FRANÇAIS The French, in an attempt to codify cooking in the Age of Enlightenment, wrote down a set of sauces that are basically the “mothers” to most all other sauces. Mother sauces include things like hollandaise (emulsions), volute (thickened chicken stock), sauce tomato (that one is easy enough), béchamel (white sauce) and espanola (beef stock, base for demi-glace). Now, who the hell cares? Well, most cooks should – most sauces that we use today are variations on those classics. Foundationally, my sauce recipe is espanola – a thickened brown (beef) sauce. From there if you reduce espanola and add other things to it, like apple cider and mushrooms, you get what is known as a demi-glace, a half-glaze. Reducing the sauce concentrates flavors and really provides the punch of a dish in many cases. The more you know, the better you cook.

The Sauce 2 cups low sodium beef stock 1 ounce dried morel mushrooms (about 10 ounces fresh, if you can get them!) 1 sprig thyme 1 bay leaf 5 cloves of garlic 2 cups apple cider 2 tablespoons roux (50/50 butter and flour mixed together to form a paste) Salt and pepper Add the first six ingredients to a medium-sized stock pot and bring to a simmer. Reduce by half. Taste and

with feeding the family and volunteers at a hunter’s dinner, a celebration of the hunt and of the time everyone pitched in for the success. Beka had come to volunteer with Hunt of a Lifetime because her son Keagan had been diagnosed with lymphoblastic

HOAL, a nonprofit organization based in Pennsylvania and with chapters in several states including Idaho, funds hunting as well as fishing trips for kids and young adults with life-threatening diseases. (HUNT OF A LIFETIME) 126 Northwest Sportsman

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(HUNT OF A LIFETIME)

adjust with salt and pepper. Add the roux to thicken the sauce. Whisk in small amounts in little batches until the sauce is slightly thickened.

The Perfect Backstrap

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To get a tender and juicy backstrap I recommend that most home cooks stop cutting it into steaks. Cook it like a roast and then slice it into medallions. A whole chunk of meat will holds its moisture better, even if it is slightly overcooked. A single steak that is overcooked basically becomes a hockey puck. To increase the tenderness of a backstrap make sure to completely peel off any silver skin with a sharp-tipped knife. Slide the knife directly under the silver skin and then turn the blade up at about a 20-degree angle. Slide the knife under the sliver skin, leaving meat behind. Removing the silver will increase the tenderness and palatability. After peeling, a little salt and pepper might be all the meat will need before cooking. Rub salt liberally over the meat and then use fresh cracked pepper – not the fine-ground stuff they sell in tins at the grocery store. Salt and pepper enhance flavor for most cuts of meat, so use them liberally. Heat a medium-sized oven-proof sauté

pan on medium high for about 3 minutes. Add the canola oil – the oil should almost be smoking – and brown the backstrap on all sides. Place the pan and the backstrap into the oven. Depending on meat thickness, cooking time will vary. That said, the venison should be cooked to temperature and not time. Heat it in the oven until it is 115 degrees Fahrenheit on the thickest part. When it reaches that temperature, remove the pan from the oven and transfer the meat to a plate. Let the meat “rest” for about five minutes before slicing. This will allow the juices to settle and yields much moister pieces of meat. Resting the meat will also allow for what is called carryover cooking. Meat does not stop cooking immediately when it comes out of the oven; on average, it gains 17 to 22 percent more degrees. So a backstrap removed at a rare temperature, i.e., 115 Fahrenheit, will finish cooking itself after a few minutes out of the oven to about 125, a perfect medium rare. Use a digital or probe meat thermometer to verify. Slice the backstrap into ½-inch medallions and serve with your favorite side dishes. For more wild game recipes, see chefrandyking.com. –RK

leukemia. The cancer and the treatment for it proceeded to kick Keagan’s butt. At one point he had dropped to 90 pounds, roughly half the size he was before. Hunting was a game changer for him. Keagan was on the mend in the fall of 2015 when he took the field and was successful on a cow elk and a nice mule deer buck. It was that experience of the hunt and the organization that kept Beka engaged. “When Keagan came back, he was a different person,” she recalls. “He just got to be a guy with a gun in the middle of nowhere. He didn’t have to worry about being sick, about how far behind he was in school or when the next doctor’s appointment was. I’ve never seen that before and that is why I am a

part of the organization.” Beka is now an ardent supporter – her family was blessed with a hunt, so now she helps organize them for others. And she is why Chef Stephen Weston, Chef Nate Lindskoog and myself got involved with Spencer. Weston is a cookbook author (In the Wild Chef, 2012) and an avid backpacking chef. Lindskoog is the owner of The Tower Grill in Nampa, Idaho, and graciously offered his space for the dinner. Both are hunters and jumped on the event as soon as it was mentioned. The company I work for was generous enough to donate some corn, potatoes and vegetables. Weston donated his time, some tri-tip and his delicious huckleberry

1 12-ounce section of backstrap Kosher salt Fresh cracked pepper 1 tablespoon canola oil


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A BERRY GOOD BARBECUE SAUCE This recipe for huckleberry barbecue sauce comes from my longtime friend, Hunt of a Lifetime volunteer and fellow bear hunter Chef Stephen Weston, author of In the Wild Chef: 1 Mother Earth Brewing Company Sin Tax Peanut Butter Stout 1 quart (32 ounces) ketchup 6 ounces (1.5 cups) huckleberries (blueberries if you absolutely have too) ¼ cup orange juice 2 teaspoons liquid smoke 2 teaspoons Caboose Spice Company habanero spice rub Open the beer, drink half of it. Pour the other half into a medium-sized sauce pan. Reduce by half. Add the ketchup, huckleberries, orange juice, liquid smoke and spice rub. Let simmer on stove for 20 minutes. Remove to a blender and puree until smooth. For extra credit pass, through a sieve. Chill mix. This makes quite a lot of sauce, which is cool because you will want to swim in it and dip cookies in it as well. –RK

Chef Randy King prepares the backstrap from Spencer’s bull for a hunters’ dinner at The Tower Grill, at Nampa, Idaho’s airport. (HUNT OF A LIFETIME)

barbecue sauce. But the real star of the show was the elk backstrap that Spencer donated from his bull. It was like he was donating pure gold, in my opinion. I methodically cleaned the backstrap of all possible connective tissue while removing cap muscle. Beka and Stephen made skewers with the cap, adding the barbecue sauce and grilling them. Eventually I was left with a 3½-foot-long

length of meat about as big around as my forearm. With temperatures finally falling from the mid-80s to the lower 50s in a matter of two weeks, fall was on my mind. Indeed, the flavors of fall infuse my cooking. Only at certain times of year do I use apple cider, bay and sage – and I look forward to them. I marinated the meat in apple cider, honey and garlic

for several hours, then I seared it off in a cast iron skillet with brown butter – finishing it in the oven to a temperature of 115 degrees and letting it rest for 10 minutes. I sliced the loin thinly into medallions and topped it with an apple cider, beef stock and morel mushroom sauce. It was good eats for a good cause. I’ll be doing this dinner for Hunt of a Lifetime every year. NS

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HUNTING

Late’s Great For Bucks Western Oregon’s archery, muzzleloader seasons put hunters in the woods during the blacktail rut. By Troy Rodakowski

W

e found ourselves sneaking along moss-covered forest floor through 20-year-old Western Oregon reprod. The old cat track that was barely visible made for a nice trail. A couple weeks prior we had hung scent wicks up and our trail camera told us several deer had visited the area since then. It was cold and foggy with dripping dew as light began to break, so we quickly found a place to set up and call about 50 to 60 yards below the tree where our wicks were hanging. After calling for about 15 minutes we saw a very nice buck move through a foggy window about 80 yards above us, but I didn’t even have time to get the hammer back on the Thompson muzzleloader before it disappeared. Dad and I waited 10 more minutes, calling lightly using estrus bleats, when suddenly I caught movement below us just as a buck threw his head into a Douglas fir. That was enough time for me to settle my peep on his vitals and drop the hammer. Once the smoke cleared I had a nice three-point on the ground and a freezer full of venison for the winter.

IN NOVEMBER, MANY deer will be found at lower elevations. Mark Vargas, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife district biologist in Medford, usually advises that hunters spend time there throughout the month. “Most of these deer have started their migration much earlier in the season and will be found well below 4,000 feet,” he says. The backcountry of the Siskiyou National Forest also offers some great opportunities for hunters. Taking

Late-season bucks will be looking for does coming into estrus and will be moving more during daylight hours, providing hunters like the author’s dad, Terry Rodakowski, with opportunities at bagging a nice blacktail. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

advantage of what the month offers up can help tip the scales in our favor during these last few weeks of Oregon’s blacktail season. The deer will migrate through the seasons up to 60 miles, spending the summers at higher elevation, and fall

and winter at lower elevations. “It’s a little difficult to know for sure after last winter, but based on what we are seeing for overwinter survival we feel that success for the late-season deer hunts should be average,” notes Randy Lewis, another nwsportsmanmag.com | NOVEMBER 2017

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HUNTING ODFW biologist. Deer near agricultural land will feed into fields around dusk and spend good portions of the night breeding and moving between wooded patches. But cold weather will spur deer to feed earlier and more frequently during daylight hours too. Muzzleloader and archery hunters should concentrate on areas with good food sources and feed that have higher sugar contents. Freshly sprouted fall vegetation will provide excellent nutrition that deer will seek out during cold weather. Many of these locations can be found where ample sunlight is able to reach the forest floor. The wet, never-ending jungle of underbrush and foliage throughout our state’s coastal mountains oftentimes makes bagging a buck there difficult, but they’re around. “Deer numbers on the coast have been improving over the last three years, with fewer cases of hair loss syndrome being observed,” reports biologist Doug Cottam. He also points out that there have also been higher fawn ratios, including bucks. North Coast success rates have averaged at or near 20 percent over the last couple seasons. This is excellent news for hunters in the Trask Unit. Foggy, drizzly mornings seem to have

worked best for me in the past and make for good, quiet walking down moss-covered trails.

IN THE CASCADES, it seems that over the last decade we have all been seeing fewer blacktails throughout the mountain range. Of course, there are several factors to take into account. “There really is no specific answer,” says ODFW’s Brian Wolfer. Changes in habitat, fire, forest practices, disease, predation and poaching have all affected deer throughout the Cascades, but again, they’re available. “There are still good numbers of deer and some very nice bucks,” says Wolfer. The scars of burns that occurred three to eight years (geomac.gov/ viewer/viewer.shtml) are also great places to look. I enjoy snaking through the charred landscape, frequently stopping to glass benches and small openings. Paying attention to burns that can only be accessed by nonmotorized means should increase your odds (gisapps.odf.oregon.gov/ Firerestrictions/PFR.html). While the higher in elevation you go, the fewer deer per square mile there will be, the good news is that with lingering moisture many deer will likely remain up there prior to

Small openings in the timber adjacent to trails are often where deer will feed. They also make for great shooting lanes. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

Finding active, fresh rubs will put you where the deer are at the height of the rut in November. (TROY RODAKOWSKI)

moving since feed is likely to not dry out as quickly. I like to hunt there once the snows begin to fly. It’s easier to find sign and spot deer. Calling is also very effective, and moving slowly through the forest and meticulously glassing will greatly benefit a hunter when trying to locate deer.

IN ADDITION TO controlled muzzleloader tags, general late-season archery permits remain valid through early December for Oregon hunters who haven’t bagged a deer. These tags offer some excellent opportunities at rutting animals. Last season nearly 1,500 hunters roamed the woods with their smokepoles in search of blacktail. Contrary to popular belief, deer this time of year will move during the midmorning and early afternoon hours and hunters should also plan to be out during these times. Archers find some great success from tree stands or ground blinds. Estrus scents and calling can be the ticket this time of year, and I encourage hunters to give it a try. NS 132 Northwest Sportsman

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COLUMN Author Dave Workman’s seen a lot of these guys on his travels over the summer. Will they be around for the Westside elk season? (DAVE WORKMAN)

Pay-off Time: November, When Hunting Turns To Harvesting

N

ovember is the month when late big game seasons unfold, and for the midautumn hunter – whether one uses a modern rifle, handgun ON TARGET By Dave Workman or muzzleloader – this is the month that frequently pays off with a notched tag in Washington. For Westside blacktail hunters, the season runs Nov. 16-19 in several units (407, 454, 466, 501 through 505, 506, 510 through 520, 524, 530, 550 through 560, 568, 572, 601 through 621, 624 (except Deer Area 6020), 627 through 654, 658 through 684, 699), while those who head for Northeast Washington to knock off

a whitetail have Nov. 11-19 in Units 105 through 124 to fill their freezer. Check the regulations pamphlet for details. This is the time of year that illustrates why people call it “fall.” Leaves fall by the ton, opening up lots of cover. Forests that were still green on the general opener last month are now plainly not so green, and those late-season bucks, with their attention turning toward romance, are not quite as wary even though they’ve been under the gun for a couple of weeks in October. With seasonal rains, and with luck some snow, the woods will be quieter and visibility will be vastly improved. It also comes just as the Westside bull elk seasons open, which often makes the

difference for determined riflemen. More about that in a minute. This year even the moon is cooperating. The dark moon occurs Nov. 18, so there won’t be any nocturnal light by which late-season deer might be moving or even feeding. This is really the time of year to be hunting along the edges of old or even newer clearcuts. Get away from the roads a few hundred yards. I think a lot of hunters would be surprised at the animal activity that occurs back in the timber. It takes only a little careful walking to put you a few hundred yards away from a road. People who think they’ll run into a nice buck or bull by driving gravel roads are probably kidding themselves. The times that’s

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November means a lot more of these guys will be showing up as the waterfowl season shifts into high gear. (DAVE WORKMAN) happened to me during a hunting season I can probably count on one hand. The disadvantage hunters will have is daylight. Let’s face it, under gray autumn skies, deer can be tougher to spot, especially early and late in the day. That said, pay attention to the edges of open pastures or meadows, find those busy deer trails and just sit down to watch. This

is where a good pair of binoculars really comes in handy. Be sure to wear your hunter orange. Under the prevailing weather and light conditions, you want to be as visible as possible! Take a shotgun or .22 pistol along for the occasional grouse or rabbit that might hop into view. This time of year, snowshoe

hares will be turning to winter white, if they haven’t done so completely. I’ve seen them in white as early as mid-November. And don’t forget cottontail rabbits. I’ve seen lots of them this year, and for the past couple of years in some areas. As elk seasons wrap up, some savvy hunters just don’t tear down camp and go home. They have been paying attention to any deer they might spot.

EASTSIDE ELK SEASON runs to Nov. 5 in most units, and through the 15th in some 200- and 300-series units for any elk. Check the regs on page 48 for details. Westside bull season runs Nov. 4-15 in most units, also detailed on that page. Once again, watch for deer during the elk season. It’s not likely that blacktails will be too far away come the late season, unless we’re talking high country and there’s a good early snow. Brush-country bulls aren’t bulletproof, and now is the best time to be doing some last-minute scouting. I’ve been seeing a fair number of elk this year, although that’s no guarantee I’ll see them again once the season opens. But it is encouraging. While I might be inclined to use a 165or 180-grain bullet for deer in my .30-06, for elk I suggest going to a heavier bullet, starting at 180 grains and moving up to 200 or 220 grains. This is simply because the elk is a larger animal, and you want all the punch possible to penetrate deep into the vitals. Whether one hunts with an ’06, or a .308, or one of the magnums (.300 Win. 136 Northwest Sportsman

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KICK-EEZ Magnum, 7mm Rem. Magnum or a “short fat” magnum), that principle still holds. It might change your zero a bit, but having to make some fine adjustments on your scope is preferable to firing a badly placed bullet.

WHAT ABOUT WATERFOWL? This is the month, and into December, when northern flights begin to show up out in the Columbia Basin, down around the Tri-Cities and in northern Puget Sound and elsewhere along the Westside’s river valleys, and it’s often a wingshooter’s delight. One of my pals is a devoted waterfowl hunter, and he is pretty hard to control when there are birds in the air. While some folks think a 3½-inch 12-gauge is the proverbial cat’s PJs for late fall greenheads, not to mention fat Canada geese, remember hunters did just fine for generations before that long round – and the long-action guns for it – came along. I’ve got a 12-gauge Mossberg 935 that handles the 3½-inch shells, and I’ve got a couple of boxes of steel shells in that configuration, but I cannot recall ever having used them for anything. Even on the rare occasion – timing of the season being the bugaboo – that I might go after a wild turkey, a 3-inch shell seems to be plenty of horsepower. Granted, there is the argument that the longer shell gives one a little extra distance and might carry a slightly larger payload – and that’s no small consideration – but if the hunter does his job with a good deke set, or can stealthily creep up and jump shoot some birds, it might be a toss-up whether one is better armed. ONE LAST TIP: Cold fingers? This time of year, hunters can find themselves plagued by cold hands and fingers. Try this to help keep the digits warm: Get a box of latex or vinyl gloves, put on a pair of these and then put on your regular gloves. If and when it comes time to field dress a buck or bull, your hands are already protected. Indeed, I carry a few pairs of these in my field pack for just such occasions. Even if the game you’re cleaning is only a bunny or some upland bird, you want to don a pair of gloves to do the job. NS 138 Northwest Sportsman

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HUNTING

While largely overlooked by upland bird hunters these days, Hungarian, or gray, partridge still provide wingshooting opportunities across higher portions of the Columbia Basin, Southwest Idaho and Montana’s Hi-Line, where Tacoma’s Al Schultz bagged this one several seasons back. (BROWNING PHOTO CONTEST)

Praise For Gray Partridge Underappreciated Huns still provide upland bird hunting excitement for the few who chase them. By Dan Magneson

Y

ou’ve hunted all day for the Hungarian partridges you know just have to be somewhere in this general area. After all, you’ve seen them in good numbers after sunrise and before sunset along the adjoining gravel roads, and you’ve seen them hunkered down amongst the snowdrifts in the winter. So they’ve got to be here. You’ve already spent this otherwise

splendid afternoon hunting every area that looks the least bit birdy but to no avail. What gives? Nearing dusk, you throw in the towel and take a shortcut back to your car, cutting across a fall-plowed field, the bared earth virtually devoid of any vegetative cover. When you are out in about the middle of it, a large covey of Huns bursts simultaneously skyward, those characteristic rustcolored tail feathers fanned and flared outward, filling the air with the fast and flapping fury of wingbeats, and

excitedly uttering in machine gun-like unison those rick!-rick!-rick! calls. They quickly maneuver to turn the ceaseless wind to their tails and transform into blurs. And just like that, in not much more than a blink of the eye, they’ve already disappeared again. Welcome to the challenging world of hunting – or should I say, trying to hunt? – the seemingly inexplicable gray partridge, feathered lightning whose swift, strong and sure flight makes them the cheetah of our upland gamebirds.

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HUNTING them.” I knew what he meant, but that statement is far more accurately attributed to the Hun, which – due in large part to their very minimal need for cover – are the least predictable gamebird we have in terms of figuring out just where they are apt to be. As a passionate upland gamebird enthusiast and an ardent hunter, I just live for the thunderous bedlam of these covey rises, accompanied by those vocalizations that sound to my ears somewhat like squealing, but which at the same time are not unmusical, having even a melodious quality about them. The Hun has the most exciting flush of all gamebirds. Formally known as the gray partridge, Perdix perdix, this Eurasian bird was imported from various countries in its European range. The country of Hungary was chief among them, and thus the common nicknames of “Hun” or less commonly “Hunkie” came into widespread use, reflecting the ultimate origin of so many of these birds. They are on the smaller end of being a medium-sized gamebird, being usually a little over a foot long in length, and a little over three-quarters of a pound in weight. Like virtually everyone else, I’m awestruck by the eye-popping iridescent and vivid coloration of drake wood ducks and rooster pheasants. But there is room in my heart for other birds with more understated beauty. The drake pintail is a personal favorite. The pointed polar-white streak extending up the sides of their brown necks, the fine gray herringbone suit, and the neatlyaccented “windows” of slate blue on the sides of their otherwise-black upper bills combine to give them a subtle and highly attractive beauty. So it is with the Hun, though they are perhaps even more conservatively feathered, all demurely done up in those flatter, more muted pastel earth tones that are so handsomely overlain with the chocolate-chestnut horseshoe shape emblazoned upon their breasts 142 Northwest Sportsman

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Huns are most likely to be found on or near large wheat operations, but author Dan Magneson says they can also be found on public land as well. He says he’s seen the most around Heppner, Condon and Pendleton in Oregon, and foothills towns on the north side of Washington’s Blue Mountains. (DAN MAGNESON)

and also arranged in a dramatically barred pattern down their sides. My favorite physical description of the Hun is taken from Discover The Outdoors (dto.com): “… The male is mostly gray with a distinct ‘U’ shaped, rust colored, brand on its lower breast. It’s (sic) face and throat is tinged with burnished orange and the breast is stamped with minute bits of a darker gray. At the demarcation of upper abdomen to belly, the feathers lighten to almost white and pale beige. The upper back is an almost non-discernable blend of brown, gray and white, shifting to mottled dark brown wings. The male partridge’s tail is a dark, chestnut-brown. Female Hungarian partridges are similar …” Little wonder that the plumage of the Hun is so highly prized by anglers who tie their own fishing flies! The feathers of the “shoulder” area of the folded wings near the body is where you go to definitely determine the sex of a Hun. Males have only a blond mark along the central shaft of the feather, whereas the females have this exact same mark, but also with the addition of blond crossbars at right angles to the central shaft; this pattern on the female bird represents the so-called “Cross of Lorraine.”

But there are Hun stories out there just as colorful as a rooster pheasant. I read of one describing a World War I soldier in Central Europe, who was crawling about one night in no man’s land between two entrenched and opposing armies. He accidentally placed his hand right smack dab in the middle of a snoozing covey of a dozen Huns. In that split second before he came to his senses, he’d thought he had set off a landmine and was on his way toward the Pearly Gates. I myself recall driving down a seldom-used North Dakota gravel road one night well after dark when a covey of Huns that had roosted right in the center of it flushed through the headlights. On a heart-warming holiday note, one man notes how the lyric “and a partridge in a pear tree” from the song The Twelve Days of Christmas reminds him of Christmas mornings of his childhood. He and his siblings, at his father’s behest, carried a bucket of grain just far enough away from their prairie farmhouse that the partridges felt secure. They would then retreat back into the house and tiptoe to the window to watch the Huns come down to enjoy their very own Christmas presents.


HUNTING

“Probably no other American upland gamebird rubs shoulders with so many fellow species across such a wide range – and wide range of varying habitats,” writes Magneson of Huns. Whether you’re hunting pheasants, prairie grouse, chukar or topknots, you “have an excellent chance of stumbling across some.” (WYATT WITTKOP, BLM)

THE STORY OF how Huns came to North America begins with the unregulated overhunting and destruction of historic habitat that decimated so many of our native upland gamebird species. Faced with these steep declines and eager to find a replacement species, Americans naturally turned to the Old World gamebirds already familiar to so many immigrants. Like the bobwhite quail, Huns are sociable and gregarious birds, coalescing into a basic and cooperative social unit termed a covey, which in turn is largely comprised of birds related to one another. They feed together, keep watch for and sound a warning indicating the presence of predators. They also often sleep overnight in a rosette, or ring, in 144 Northwest Sportsman

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which all the tails are pressed inward, their bodies hugged against the birds on both sides, and all heads and thus eyes facing outward and covering a 360-degree field of view. And just as with a covey of bobwhites, if a covey of Huns is ever scattered apart, they will employ a unique call with which to reunite themselves again. These imports reached their pinnacle from the late 1800s through the early 1900s, abruptly ceasing in 1914 concurrent with the start of World War I. Numerous entities stocked Huns: various state game agencies, private hunting clubs and even independently by wealthy and well-heeled individuals. Those releases along the Atlantic seaboard were generally failures, but as one progressed west – and especially west-

northwest and northwest – the birds began to take hold. Not surprisingly, this occurred in areas similar to the Huns’ native environment, and at similar latitudes, with annual precipitation between 1 and 2 feet, and grasses that are often no more than knee-high and the distance between standing stems rather sparsely spaced. The stunning success of introducing ringneck pheasant into Oregon’s Willamette Valley by Judge Owen Denny is a well-known story, but less well-known is the story of particular Canadian attempts at stocking the Hun in the early 1900s. Like a droplet of oil falling onto the surface of water or a lit match tossed into gasoline vapor, these birds explosively stormed across the prairie at a rate calculated at 28 miles per year, enduring for a


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HUNTING full 400 miles, spilling over into the adjacent northern U.S. states along the border and augmenting their own attempts at stocking Huns. Further leveraged by the penetration of the railroads ever deeper into the northern prairie, it may well have represented the most successful attempt at stocking an introduced gamebird anywhere in the world – ever. In the state of North Dakota alone, it was estimated that by the early 1940s the Hun population had already reached its all-time peak of 8 to 10 million birds. Today, the grain belt of the northern Great Plains and the semiarid sage-steppe of the Columbia Plateau and the northern Great Basin high desert remain Huns’ biggest stronghold in the US. Being a fishery biologist, it isn’t lost on me that good Hun range east of the Rocky Mountains coincides with good northern pike range, and in the Northwest it coincides with the farther upstream reaches of historically good salmon range. And all of it is jackrabbit country, to boot. One can be hunting the sparsely vegetated and peopled prairie and high desert habitats for pheasants, sharp-tailed grouse, sage grouse, chukar partridge and California quail and still have an excellent chance of stumbling across some Huns as well. Indeed, probably no other American upland gamebird rubs shoulders with so many fellow species across such a wide range – and wide range of varying habitats. But like a buckeye tree, they usually are never particularly thick anywhere, and so mostly represent “targets of opportunity” for the wingshooting public, taken incidentally while primarily hunting the aforementioned more popular species. Relatively few hunters specifically key in on Huns. Yet if you were going to pursue Huns specifically, what are their seasonal patterns of habitat use along 146 Northwest Sportsman

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with their related behaviors, and how might one adapt their hunting strategy to better boost their odds of success?

IN THE SAGEBRUSH country of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, Oregon and the far northern portions of Nevada and Utah, where irrigated agriculture is more the rule, look for Huns in areas adjacent to stubble fields of wheat, rye, barley and other small grain crops. Much of the time this will be along the steeper foothills next to the flatter cultivated farm fields. Mostly grassy cover interspersed with dots of occasional sagebrush is ideal, and don’t forget to check the grassy heads of basins and especially the deeply sun-shielded and sometimes surprisingly moist creases between hills, particularly in the very warm days of the early season. The Huns can find cooler shade among the broader leafed shrubbery, and the damp conditions are conducive for attracting insects and also for growing succulent shoots and tender grass tips; Huns are partial to a meal of fresh salad greens, no matter the season. I like best the places where the border along the sagebrush and wheat stubble fields really weaves and wanders a lot, where the wheat is surrounded on three sides by sagebrush and grass, or conversely those lone, long fingers of sagebrush and grass protruding far, far into the wheat stubble. Keep an eye peeled for the places the Huns take dust baths, and the odd loose feather or two confirms that. And look for piles of droppings indicating where they have roosted; the individual droppings are pointed at one end and broad at the other, looking like a miniature green sugar cone with a scoop of white vanilla ice cream. If you shoot a double-barreled gun, a fast 20-gauge with a size 7½ load in a barrel choked improved cylinder and the other barrel choked modified with a size 6 load should do a fine job in most instances. Insects such as beetles, grasshoppers, crickets and ants will continue to be

The author has a special place in his heart for the imported partridge he’s chased around the West for decades. “The Hun reminds me of Jan Brady and the pheasant of the pretty and popular Marcia Brady of The Brady Bunch, that television show where, as Jan points out, everything is always “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!” (DAN MAGNESON)

taken by Huns, but the carbohydrates and lipids found in grains have by now begun progressively making up more and more of the diet as overnight freezing temperatures cause the insects to die off for the year. But there are those coveys of Huns that live out their entire lives never once feeding on cultivated, domesticated cereal grains from farm fields. In the Sawtooth National Forest south-southeast of Twin Falls, Idaho, I used to hunt mule deer in a rather pristine, broad valley that was, as best I recall, either entirely ungrazed by cattle or else only very lightly grazed. I probably put up more coveys of Huns down there more often than anywhere else I’ve ever been, and they were miles and miles from the nearest agricultural areas. They were absolutely thriving out there in that desolate country. So don’t ignore those vast public lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management; ground adjacent to big reservoirs and managed by the Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S.


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HUNTING Army Corps of Engineers; and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-managed national wildlife refuges that are open to hunting. There are often steep hills associated with these wilder areas, and the birds usually flush downhill and then hook off one direction or the other towards the end of their flight. I don’t think it is a deliberate and diabolical attempt on their part to better elude your finding them again; instead, I think they are just trying to reduce their air speed in order to make a soft and easy landing. Don’t be too surprised if they subsequently start to slowly work their way up another hill. You can use the rough terrain to plot a quiet and more concealed approach, and if you have a partner, one hunter can start working downhill from above them while the other starts working up the hill from a point just below where they originally landed. Watch especially any stragglers that flush late

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behind the main body of the covey; these birds often cut corners and take shortcuts to catch up, giving you a better idea of where they’ve landed if the flight of the main covey has been obscured by an obstacle. But I’ll tell you, when it comes to pursuing opportunities to make multiple flushes in steeper country, don’t be surprised if the Huns wear you out before you’ve worn them out.

AS AUTUMN GROWS long in the tooth, Huns will have wised up considerably, becoming in many cases ultrawary and hyper-alert. It is about now they begin to start flushing so wildly, far out of shotgun range, and start showing you just how well they can twist and turn on a dime once in flight. Oddly enough, Huns do tend to generally hold well for a pointing dog – provided it doesn’t press them too closely. The ideal Hun dog is one with the endurance of the Energizer Bunny, and that casts to

and fro across the field very widely, but is solid as a statue when it goes on point, allowing you plenty of time to get there. But don’t dillydally with these now-skittish Huns! Hunt the dog into the wind, and don’t be afraid to experiment if need be: Circling far out to the side and around the covey, then coming in directly at the dog, sometimes perplexes the Huns just long enough for a decent shot at them. A hawk whistle may help freeze running birds in their tracks; to imitate a hawk, some hunters will go so far as to tie a dark helium balloon to their belts in hopes it helps to pin the Huns down into place. I’d stick with all size 6 loads in this part of the season, and consider moving up to a 12-gauge shotgun. You never know for sure what Huns might decide to do on a given day, whether to flush nice and close or way out there beyond gun range. But I think I’d lean more toward a


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HUNTING PARTRIDGE PROSPECTS No doubt, Huns are one of our leasthunted upland birds around these days – stats from Oregon and Washington show just 2,036 wingshooters chased the partridge in those two states last season. But if you’re one of those hunters, or over in Idaho, what do this year’s prospects look like? Washington: On the northern Palouse, state wildlife biologist Mike Atamian says that broods of 10 to 12 were being seen “regularly” in Lincoln County, which may suggest chicks weathered spring showers and enjoyed summer’s bounty. He reports that Lincoln and Whitman Counties are best in his district, and last year they yielded 355 and 485 birds, respectively. Across the Snake, Asotin County is most productive, yielding 446 last year, though the three counties to the west each provided several dozen each. In the central Columbia Basin, biologist Rich Finger says it’s likely they survived the long snowy winter, but adds the birds are widely scattered in Grant and Adams Counties. Last year, the former gave up 403 grays, a 25 percent increase over 2015, but the latter saw a 42 percent harvest decrease. Look to their dryland wheatgrowing areas. In Okanogan County, consider wildlifearea units such as Chiliwist, Indian Dan and Methow. Biologist Scott Fitkin forecasts an

modified or full choke, though, as it is more likely to be the latter case.

I WENT TO college in Bottineau, North Dakota, which is located in the far northern (and central) part of the state. A blizzard would be howling and wind-driven snow would be coming in thin, powdery waves across the ground, the mercury standing at far below zero. Yet the Huns would be out scurrying around and feeding right in the midst of it, so impervious that they seemed imbued with immunity to bitter cold. For such a small bird, the winter survival skills of the Hun border on 150 Northwest Sportsman

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Douglas County is one of Eastern Washington’s most productive for gray partridge. (ANDY WALGAMOTT)

uptick in harvest; last year saw 310 taken. To the south, spring upland bird production was considered generally positive, and that would certainly include Huns. In Douglas County, which yielded 458, second most last year, try Conservation Reserve Program lands “with lots of grass cover extending into draws,” tips biologist Dave Volsen. As Hun habitat is largely private lands, see the Go Hunt map on wdfw.wa.gov for access opportunities. Oregon: Unfortunately for Beaver State hunters, Huns were among the game bird species showing big decreases

over 2016, likely depressing harvest this year. Counties lining the Columbia from the eastern gorge upstream are most productive and there’s a fair amount of access through various programs. Get the Columbia Basin Bird Hunting Guide for more. Idaho: The Gem State reports that Hun numbers are near the long-term average at the northern edge of their range, in the Clearwater Region, at their low ebb in the state’s southwestern corner but increasing in the Magic Valley Region where hunting’s expected to be similar to last year’s “above average” season. –NWS

the incredible; they are absolutely unfazed by the same ferocious blizzards that can lay waste to an entire population of pheasants. Their habit of forming a warm roosting ring is part of it: With snow lingering on the ground, one author spoke of repeatedly finding different overnight roosts used by the same covey of nine Huns. They had always very consistently packed into an area smaller than what a single pheasant takes up. But unlike either pheasants or bobwhite quail, if conditions get bad enough, then the Huns will use the blanket of snow itself as insulating cover, readily burrowing down into

it to escape especially severe and otherwise deadly conditions. The wind may whip up some big snowdrifts, but other areas are commonly kept largely snow-free by the very same winds, which gives the Huns a place to forage for food. But if there is a fairly uniform and persisting cover of snow of four inches or more, the Huns will start to utilize woody cover, as Aldo Leopold noted in 1931: “Hungarians come nearer being able to get along without cover than pheasants or quail, but during snow they do require some heavy grass, weeds, or standing corn.” Out here, it’s going to be shrubs


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such as snowberry, hawthorn, chokecherry and buffaloberry. Mimicking fox hunters is a viable option, whereupon you don white coveralls and wrap your gun in white tape. You might consider packing binoculars tucked down inside your coveralls to keep them from fogging up or flopping against your chest. Neither food nor length of daylight is as plentiful now, so looking even out into the very middle of fields such as wheat stubble becomes more worthwhile, as the Huns are now generally spending a greater proportion of the daylight hours feeding. One thing that will help you after a new snow is that now there are fresh Hun tracks with which to betray their presence. Scanning far ahead will help you plot an ambush; if you don’t see the Huns actively moving about, then look for “dirt clods” sitting out there and protruding up from the snow. Also don’t forget the effects of the wind chill factor. Look for Huns to escape the cold winds by locating themselves on the lee sides of hills, steep and sheer protective creek banks, and also man-made structures such as abandoned farmstead buildings as well as lone grain bins and machine sheds. If such areas also receive warming rays of sunshine and the thinner areas of snow melts off, to boot, so much the better. The wind can work to your benefit by better masking your approach, but bear in mind that the now-nervous Huns will compensate by relying on their vision just that much more when conditions diminish the effectiveness of their sense of hearing. As in all seasons, if there is a spring or seep where sprouts continue to grow from the unfrozen mud, they are worth checking out for Huns. I definitely would go with a 12-gauge shotgun in the winter, and preferably one with a PolyChoke, as you again never quite know at just what range at they will choose to flush on any given day. I usually like a more tightly choked barrel with a size 6 shell in the chamber, and I 152 Northwest Sportsman

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follow that up with size 5 shells in the magazine for successive shots at probably longer ranges.

TO SUM UP, coupled with topography, the direction, angle and intensity of the sun along with prevailing weather and wind patterns combine to create a seasonally changing mosaic of different plant species and ultimately plant communities of varying density. This in turn provides Huns a home range in which they can capitalize upon the best opportunities for the continued survival and perpetuation of their own kind. For you to be a consistently successful hunter of these birds, you’ll need to develop the ability to discern these differences and how they interact. That in turn will get you pointed in the proper direction and better narrow things down to just where the Huns are likely to be found on any given day during the changing seasons. And all of this is alluring to a hunter, or should be, creating a charismatic aura and enticing you to try to take apart and figure out just what makes these birds tick. The upside to learning in this big outdoor classroom is the generally grand and glorious scenery, the stunningly spectacular sunrises and sunsets in this otherwise-austere landscape, the wild and sometimes surreal cloud formations, the weird and grotesque rock formations, the sego lily and Indian paintbrush, that old corral with those giant and golden cottonwoods, and all the solitude to be found in the American Outback that is Hungarian partridge country. It’s a classroom in which you will never become bored. Best of luck during this hunting season and in all in your future Hun endeavors! NS Editor’s note: Dan Magneson is a supervising fishery biologist at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Quilcene National Fish Hatchery in upper Hood Canal. He wrote this tribute to Hungarian or gray partridge for this year’s National Hunting and Fishing Day. nwsportsmanmag.com | NOVEMBER 2017

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HUNTING

Nullify The November Lull Northwest duck hunting expert Bill Saunders on finding birds when locals get scarce and northerns have yet to drop in.

By MD Johnson

I (JULIA JOHNSON)

t’s called the November lull for a reason. You started hot right out of the gate. A limit here. A limit there. Most of a limit on the not-so-good days. But then two weeks pass. The local birds, those that haven’t made the transition from mallard duck to duck jerky, are in hiding. Deep hiding. Or gone. And yes, while the weather in the Pacific Northwest may have changed from summer heat to what I not so affectionately call The Wet, there’s been

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HUNTING nothing of significance to send birds down from up north. Too nice for a migration, and too early even for the so-called calendar birds. There’s just not much happening. So what do you do during the November lull? There’s deer, grouse, and elk. Some salmon fishing. But what if you, like me, would much rather hunt ducks? Do you give up? Put in that overtime at the shop? Remodel the bathroom? As my six-year-old grandson Tristan would say, “That’s a negative, Ghost Rider.” Question remains, though; what do you do? Simple. You go forth. You find ducks. And you shoot them. Some guys make it sound easy, and for them, while still work and often a challenge, combatting the November lull is just like handling any other down time. A Pacific Northwest icon, Kennewick’s Bill Saunders owns and operates Bill Saunders Calls and Gear, and runs Big Guns Waterfowl Outfitters, a full-service duck and

You’re missing out on ducks if you’re not hunting after the local birds are thought to be shot out but the big orange-footed Canadian mallards haven’t arrived. “I kill ducks in November,” says famed callmaker and duck hunter Bill Saunders, who shared tips for finding success during midfall’s lull. (LUKE CLARK)

Seven greenheads on a strap looks great and is a real accomplishment of fine shooting, but this time of year is more mix ’n match hunting than later in season. (JULIA JOHNSON) 156 Northwest Sportsman

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HUNTING goose hunting operation centered in Washington’s Columbia Basin. Now retired from competitive goose calling, Saunders has under his belt more titles than, as my father was fond of saying, Carter has little liver pills. That’s a bunch. “No,” Saunders wrote back when I asked him if he still called professionally, “I’m too old for that stuff. Plus, it would cut into my walleye fishing time.” Saunders, by the way, is 45. I have shoes that old.

Easy on the calling – that advice might seem odd from someone who made their name yacking with quackers, but the best advice is moderation and taking cues from how the birds respond. (JULIA JOHNSON)

this waterfowling wizard was simple – Why don’t guys kill ducks during November? His responses were to the point and almost immediate. Translation on the rapidity of his return notes? It’s possible to kill ducks during the November lull – if, that is, you’re willing to work a little harder and pay attention to detail. Saunders’ first response was also his most elemental. “I kill ducks in November,” he wrote. Between the lines of his email I could almost see his quizzical look, as if to say, “Who doesn’t kill ducks in November?” However, I digress. Here in list form is what Saunders had to say regarding the question as to why ’fowlers aren’t killing birds during the 11th month of the year. I’ve taken the liberty of expounding just a bit on each of Saunders’ notes.

WHAT I ASKED

THE LOCAL DUCKS are shot out, and (guys) are waiting on a new push of birds. If you’re waiting on new birds, you may have to wait a long time. In fact, November may come and go, or at least the better part of it, before the Northwest sees an influx of fresh feathers. Here Saunders suggests not waiting but hunting. Even if it’s challenging. For it’s true; you can’t kill ’em from the couch. Get out. Spend time behind the windshield. Explore some new water. October’s 158 Northwest Sportsman

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ducks are gone, and the answer is pretty simple. Find ’em.

DON’T BE PICKY. A duck is a duck when it’s tough. Sure, seven greenheads, or six greenheads and a drake sprig are pretty, but such straps don’t happen every day. No, I’m not suggesting shooting seven hen buffleheads or –

ugh! – a limit of common mergansers, but there’s nothing wrong with a mix ’n match limit of, say, wigeon, pintails, teal, wood ducks, and spoonbills, along with a mallard or two. If limits are important, and to some they are, then think mixed bag. If limits aren’t important, and to some they aren’t, then a couple wigeon, a drake green-wing, and a


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HUNTING grilled burrito at Johnson’s One Stop in Naselle, Washington, makes for a fine day.

SCOUT FOR SMALL secluded pockets of birds. I see it all the time. Guys going back to the same spot day after day after day, despite the fact there are but a handful of ducks to be found there. It’s a rut. A routine. Scouting new ground is tough. It’s timeconsuming and often labor intensive. But new ground can mean new birds. Or some birds, which is better than no birds. Thanks to Al Gore’s internet, Google Earth makes finding Saunders’ small secluded pockets a little bit easier. Get online. Snoop around. Knock on a door. Or two. Take a boat ride. Poke around into backwaters, sloughs, and bays you otherwise wouldn’t have investigated. Get a tide book, learn how to use it, and hunt the ebb ’n flow. Think small. You might be surprised at what a tucked-away puddle the size of your living room can produce.

BIGGER SPREAD. SMALLER spread. Mix it up, Saunders suggests. After a month in-season, the local ducks have seen more than their fair share of 24 to 36 all-mallard decoy spreads. Try throwing 12. Or round up a couple buddies and set 112. When I’m working Saunders’ secluded waters during November, I’ll often pack only six to eight mixed puddlers, along with my omnipresent jerk cord. Most veterans will tell you that motion in the spread, along with a near-invisible hide, kills more ducks than fancy gadgets or a black-hole decoy spread. And I can’t emphasize camouflage and concealment enough. If you ain’t hiding, you ain’t shooting.

GUYS CALL TOO much, especially when they don’t get a positive response. It’s the Bigger Hammer Theory, which states that if a ballpeen doesn’t get the job done, then an 8-pound 160 Northwest Sportsman

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There will be times this month when it just makes more sense to go fishing – and that’s especially true with walleye in the mid-Columbia, one of Saunders’ outdoor passions. (LUKE CLARK)

sledge just might. Maybe. There’s a difference, skilled duck callers will tell you, between pleading with ducks and overcalling. “Call at their tails,” Saunders advises. Or call at them on the corners of their turn, but whatever you do, do it in moderation. Drake mallard calls work; so, too, does a whistle, especially for wigeon and teal. Ducks that are going to work to a call will, often, respond positively to that call within the first few notes. Watch them. Read them. Give them what they want, and no more. Laying your lungs on the floor of the blind doesn’t do much, except give you a headache.

ADOPT THE MENTALITY that it’s not always about a limit. Here, Saunders goes back somewhat to his “Don’t be picky” words o’ wisdom. However, there’s more to it than that. What he’s saying, and a notation to which I agree wholeheartedly, is that limits, while nice occasionally, aren’t necessary in order for an outing to fall under the heading of Successful. Relish the day.

Enjoy the fact you’re not at work, or, in Saunders’ case, that your job in fact is hunting ducks. Work with the dog. Try something different with the decoys. Take a nap. Eat everything in your blind bag. Relax. And remember. We have a 107-day season out here in the Pacific Flyway. If you’re not shooting enough ducks in a 107-day season, you’re doing something dreadfully wrong.

SOMETIMES – JUST SOMETIMES – you need to go fishing instead. Wise beyond his 45 years, Saunders was bitten by the walleye fishing bug years ago. Today, he’d rather troll crankbaits or vertically work a jigging minnow on the Columbia than – dare we say it aloud? – hunt waterfowl. But I understand, Bill. There’s an art to knowing when to say “ugh,” and move on to something else. And there’ll come a time, to be sure, when the winds turn and the birds, mallards included, arrive en masse, and in turn, transform many, even me, into the best damn duck hunter to ever slip into a pair of chest waders. Yeah, I went there. NS


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COLUMN Teal are small and can be great introductory birds for your dog’s initial waterfowl retrieving experience. On the upland bird side, quail fill the same role well. (SCOTT HAUGEN)

Small Birds, Small Steps E

very step of your pup’s first hunting experience should be positive, all the way down to the retrieves. Teaching your pup to properly GUN DOGGIN’ 101 retrieve those first By Scott Haugen birds sets the tone for how they’ll do down the road, so make sure to have your standards in place and establish consistent expectations early. With young dogs, small birds can be the best training tool to help attain precise retrieves. This is because small birds are easy to pick up and are less threatening than big birds that may be crippled. Big birds may have to get moved around a bit, flipped and regripped multiple times before your dog locates a comfortable spot to grab and carry them by, which may lead to chewing and carcass damage. The bigger your dog’s mouth and the stronger it is, the bigger the birds it can retrieve. But if your pup is young, say, four

to seven months, and you’re hunting it for the first time this fall, small birds are the way to go.

QUAIL ARE IDEALLY sized upland birds to start hunting your pup on. They’re plentiful, shot opportunities are usually high during the course of the day and their scent makes them easy for a pup to locate once downed. As when retrieving a bumper, you want the pup to approach the bird and immediately pick it up. If the dog is cautious and unsure the first few times, approach it while offering words of encouragement in a positive, uplifting tone. Your dog will sense all is right and eventually pick the bird up. Once the bird is in the dog’s mouth, excitedly have it fetch to hand. Do not let the dog run another direction, stop and mouth the bird, or run around with it like it’s a toy. When the pup delivers the bird to hand, praise it. If the pup has not chewed on the bird, wave it around the pup’s head and get it

excited, then lightly toss the bird 10 feet or so. Command the pup to fetch and deliver to hand, once again. I like doing this to reinforce what the dog did right, so it learns this new behavior, fast. The instant the pup starts to chew on a bird, reprimand it. Do not let it get away with chewing or mouthing a bird, for this could lead to a hard-mouthed dog that ruins meat. For duck hunters, teal are the perfectsized bird for a pup to learn to retrieve. A plump, crippled mallard that’s kicking, diving and nipping can be intimidating to a pup, curtailing their desire to retrieve it. Remember, when a dog is swimming, its eyes are only a couple inches above the waterline. This makes it challenging for them to locate birds, and once they get on them, the interaction can be surprising if the bird is not dead. For this reason, small ducks work great. Bufflehead, shovelers and wigeon are also good ducks for new dogs to handle. As with the quail, following a good retrieve, toss the duck back out for

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COLUMN another quick fetch to help build and reinforce those proper skills.

IF PUP’S RELUCTANT to retrieve the birds, or is chewing on them, try this. Once home, skin the bird out. You can cook the whole bird for yourself, and save the skin to train with. Spread out the skin on a piece of cardboard, skin side up, and cover with borax. This will dry out the skin so it doesn’t spoil. Once the bird skin is dry, brush off excess borax then wrap it around a small bumper and zip-tie it on. Now treat the bumper like a bird during your training sessions, teaching your pup not to chew on it, and to immediately retrieve to hand. Another option for using a real bird for training is breasting it out, removing the legs and thighs, then placing the rest of the carcass in the freezer. Leave the entrails inside and wrap the body – wings and all – shut with fishing line, to keep it intact. When ready for a training session, take the carcass from the freezer, remove the fishing line and treat it like a real bird. Training sessions

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If retrieving a just-downed bird proves problematic for your pup, try removing the breasts, legs and thighs from a small bird, like a valley quail, then freezing the carcass to create an alternative training tool. (SCOTT HAUGEN)


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COLUMN in the puppy stage are brief, often less than 10 minutes, so refreeze the bird carcass to use again. The bird carcass won’t even thaw during a short training session.

THINK BABY STEPS when teaching your pup to retrieve birds for the first time. Start with small birds and give direction to your dog as it approaches, picks up and retrieves the bird. Think of it as an extension of your usual bumper training, and keep it fun. Remember, this is all new for your pup, and they have to learn the difference between right and wrong. Sure, much of what your pup knows is innate, but some things have to be taught. Keep it positive and be consistent, and before you know it your dog will be retrieving big birds and you’ll be on the way to many fun years of hunting together. NS Editor’s note: To view an extensive series of basic dog training video tips by Scott Haugen, visit scotthaugen.com.

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Once your dog gets the hang of retrieving small birds, you’ll be surprised how quickly it adapts to picking up big birds. Here, author Scott Haugen and Echo show off the results of a great day chasing upland birds last season. (SCOTT HAUGEN)


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