Archive for August, 2014

A Late Summer Potpourri

Written by Jim Huckabay on August 29, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

I figured we might catch up on a couple things.

Last weekend was the 15th running of the Cascade Crest 100-Mile Endurance Run. Over the past seven or eight years, I’ve written several columns about the runners and their cnnections with the outdoors and fresh air and the earth itself and my admiration for anyone who stretches personal boundaries in an effort to understand what they might actually be able to accomplish. Among a couple hundred race and aid station volunteers, there were more than forty of us licensed ham radio folks helping track runners and handling emergencies. We spend the weekend in the hills because it is always fun to play radio communications, and always an honor to support men and women determined to find their limits.

Over the years, local hams working the Whisky Dick Triathlon, runs up Manastash Ridge and the Cascade Crest 100-miler have cheered Jeff Hashimoto as he passed their checkpoints. You know that Jeff is an environmental science teacher at Ellensburg High School, and you have no doubt watched the success of his cross-country teams over the years. Jeff is also widely known for his coaching of other coaches in the region as they build successful running teams at their own schools. When Jeff’s name comes up, there is invariably some reference to his commitment to demonstrate to his students the form – and fortitude – needed to achieve something special. This was Jeff’s year.

Last weekend, we were able to follow along on the radio net as his bib number 61 was, every five to eight miles, called in as one of the first three runners passing aid stations. As the race wore on, he somehow managed to maintain his pace and even pick it up a bit. By the end of the 100-mile race, Jeff was firmly in second place, finishing in just under 18 hours, 45 minutes, behind Missoula’s Seth Swanson, who set a new course record. Congratulations, Jeff.

You probably saw the story in Monday’s rag about the California bighorn lambs dying in the canyon. The story made it sound like this was a sad surprise for the folks tracking the young sheep. In point of fact, this is no surprise at all. It is exactly as expected.

I’ve been watching bighorn sheep for the better part of five decades. When I was president of the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Society, based in Denver, we watched over a healthy and viable herd of about 125 bighorns in Waterton Canyon, in the foothills southwest of Denver. It was a one-of-a-kind low-elevation herd, representing a highly unique gene pool. The sheep started dying of lungworm and pneumonia, under significant stress from construction activity in a relatively confined habitat. By the time it settled down, there were 15 sheep. Numbers stayed near that for a decade, and then began growing a bit. Twenty years later, there were 25 sheep in that canyon.

In 1995-96, pneumonia almost wiped out wild bighorn herds in the Blue Mountains and others in the Hell’s Canyon area of Idaho and Oregon along the Snake River. In 2010 we saw the outbreak in our Umtanum herd. We lost a significant portion of that herdnearby herds. This is a big deal because more than half of the 1,500 bighorns in the state are along the Yakima River.

Those sheep were infected with Mycoplasma and Pasteurella bacteria. Domestic sheep are unaffected by these bacteria, and the pneumonia is not transmitted to humans or domestic stock. It is, however, easily transmitted from domestic to wild sheep, where it spreads very rapidly.

At least three of the states around us continue dealing with situations like the challenge in our Yakima Canyon. States have developed strict rules about the intermingling of domestic and wild sheep. The risk of disease is so great that some states have followed Colorado’s lead in giving carte blanche to the killing of any bighorn (ram, ewe or lamb) found near domestic sheep. As it turns out, almost any nose contact (a common greeting) between domestic and wild sheep will infect the wild sheep with enough bacteria to spread like wildfire through a bighorn herd.

When I last wrote about all this during that 2010 die-off, I pointed out one of the things researchers and observers have noted about the long term impact of pneumonia outbreaks: bighorn ewes that survive pneumonia generally will not and cannot produce surviving offspring for up to ten years (most lambs will die in the first six months of life). No surprise then about what is happening – and will happen – with bighorn lambs in Paradise. Keep a good thought.

And finally, a brief note about the run Homey Bill Boyum and I made to Clatskanie, Oregon, a bit over a week ago. We again teamed up with our newly retired buddy Steve Souvenir to tempt Chinook salmon and chrome-bright steelhead. Over a couple days we tested Steve’s new favorite setups. We fished and laughed. We caught some and missed some. We celebrated our skillful fishing and groaned at our ineptitude in getting a couple into the net. It was a great time.

You gotta love summer.

Fishing and Hunting and Kids and Society

Written by Jim Huckabay on August 22, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

Even in the Golden Age of the 50s, strange as it may seem, Americans still went off half-cocked. Two of The Old Man’s favorite questions were, “So, what is the problem to be solved by this brilliant solution?” and “How in hell does this solve that ‘problem?’”

Several things in the air lately have me remembering the look on his face as he shook his head at what was obviously convoluted thinking. You may recall that my father’s father died when he was ten years old. He immediately left school and went to work to help support his mom and sister. By the time I was six (fhe had to be all of 26 or 27 years old), he was already referring to himself as The Old Man. His grammar and spelling left a bit to be desired, but he wrote with a fine hand and a clear mind. His BS detector was a work of art.

There seems no shortage of hyperbole around us this summer. No doubt we will see it excalate as we get into the election season, and begin ever more seriously weighing issues of health and welfare and firearms and wildlife management and fires and our responsibilities to future generations. Some of it is silly. Some of it is downright scary.

Consider fishing. The “fishing is cruel” campaign, which reached a peak a decade or so ago seems to be resurfacing in a few places around the country. My guess is that this is just a random occurrence, but a couple friends in Colorado have been questioned this summer about the cruel nature of the fishing which brings them food and pleasure, and the damage such cruelty might do to their youngsters’ psyches. There continue to be pushes to keep fishing and anything relationg to it out of public schools, apparently.

The best example I saw of this plea to schools dates back to a 2002 fax concerning the dangers of teaching fishing to youth. Dan Shannon was the “Fishing Hurts” Campaign Coordinator for PETA at the time. The fax went to Principal Cambs, of Baldwinsville, NY’s Baker High School. “I am writing on behalf of PETA members and supporters in your area,” it said, “to ask that you cancel Baker High School’s plans for a school-sponsored fishing trip…and to ask that you cancel the fly-fishing “physical education” course… (F)ishing involves hurting animals and therefore has no place in an educational setting… You might as well take the kids to a dogfight.”

People can get pretty passionate about wildlife and wild things. Some passions seem way over the line.

You have probably heard a thing or two about Kendall Jones over the past few months. She is a nineteen-year-old Texas Tech cheerleader, and an active member of a hunting family. She has hunted a fair amount of North American game, and always dreamed of hunting the big animals of Africa. She hunts with firearms and bow and arrow. Her posts about her African hunts, and the pictures which accompanied them, on her Facebook page stirred up a hornets’ nest.

She and her family paid substantial fees for the hunts she made – fees used to support habitat and wildlife populations and prevent poaching. Substantial amounts of money also went into schools and village programs. The edible meat from the animals she took went to villages and villagers in the areas where the hunts took place. Her hunts were textbook examples of how countries allow sustainable hunting and promote conservation and populations with the resources such hunts bring.

These are concepts which have been demonstrated time and again in Africa and elsewhere. The permits for five black rhinos in Namibia, for example, fund the protection and conservation of the country’s nearly 2,000 rhinos. Several countries fund their entire wildlife programs with expensive hunts for specific animals, and find ways to build and protect populations through selling permits for a handful of individuals. Still, such things stick in the craws of those who can’t see how hunting can possibly be a sustainable – or even okay – activity for animals they have been told are endangered or in trouble.

Kendall’s smile in some of trophy photos was called “menacing” by one news agency. A spokesman for an animal welfare group hoped she and others who hunt would disappear before the animals. She received hundreds of negative comments relating to her role as a woman hunter – comments rarely, or never, made about men in those situations. Rather than contributing to the discussion, or argument, about the role of hunting in conservation, many of her correspondents first condemned the loss of an animal she took and then wished her dead.

Do a search for “Kendall Jones” and decide for yourself.

I wonder where The Old Man’s questions will take us when we start thinking about violence in society, gun control, and the two competing firearms-related initiatives on our fall ballot?

Another Great African Adventure – II

Written by Jim Huckabay on August 16, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

So where were we?

I was fascinated to realize that the “South African hunting” we enjoy is as much about farming and agriculture.

In much of African hunting country, with the exception of those critters I mentioned to whom eight-foot fences are irrelevant, wildlife lives on game farms ranging from 75 to 100,000 acres of natural savanna habitat. This habitat varies from open grassland to thorn thickets you would not enter. The wildlife is owned by the farmer. Some farms are specifically designed as hunting concessions, but most farmers – while they may encourage occasional hunting – are raising animals for meat, which is competitive at the market with the beef, goat, mutton, pork or chicken which they also stock.

The farmer may designate animals to be hunted by an outfitter, who will then charge some hunter a trophy fee of $200 to $50,000 or more (depending on the rarity or popularity of the critter). The hunt will be with a PH (a licensed professional hunter) on the concession. Once the animal is taken, the outfitter will pay the landowner an agreed upon fee and will own it. The meat may go quickly to market, or to a village or family for food. The hunter will keep parts for a mount, or skull/horns, hide for leather or a rug, or whatever. Generally, a portion of the meat becomes table fare for the hunter, outfitter, PH and other staff.

The hunts are rarely simple or easy, even on a small concession. Case in point: our pursuit of two large blue wildebeest bulls on a 75-acre concession. Richard and I had talked about hunting a couple critters I thought might be challenging, but I was mostly coming to spend time with them and learn more about the lives of them and their Afrikaner friends and the other Africans with whom they worked and interacted. The day I arrived, Richard told me that one of his friends, Bertus, had the two bulls to be removed from one of his concessions so that he could start a herd of much more valuable golden wildebeest. Richard would get them for a cull – meat – price and I could have one of them for a fraction of the normal trophy fee of nearly $2000. Not on my list, but was I interested in what could be an interesting hunt in some typical thorn and clearing habitat in an area roughly ¼ mile by ½ mile? How could I say no? It took us from late morning until dark to find, stalk, lose, re-find, sneak and take both bulls. As Richard put it, they were both “monsters,” and it was, indeed, an interesting hunt.

DSCF0389How many ways do hunting and agriculture intertwine here in our country? Over half a century, I have taken a couple dozen elk, antelope and deer off farms and ranches where they were unable to resist raiding domestic haypiles, alfalfa fields or grain bins. My search for a big boar warthog – the equivalent of the very big sow I took in 2011 – took us to two feedlots. The first was a huge cattle-feeding operation, with an owner fed up with hogs raiding the grain and ensilage he put out for the cattle. It was a breezy and cool evening, meaning that few pigs would venture out, but we had a fine couple hours watching two young pigs demonstrate how skittish they can be. Two days later, neighbor Marko and I took a long armed walk through the bush in a concession with cape buffalo – and too many warthogs. After stalking a sow and a couple youngsters, we retired to a tree about a hundred yards from a supplemental grain feeding station for the buffalo. Each warthog arriving was bigger than the last, until a very nice boar appeared, ready to ingest his part of the buffalo’s grain. After some debate, I passed on the boar – and on warthogs for this trip.

Marko and I headed back at dusk for my post-dinner night-time adventure with Richard and the nocturnal bushpigs (Africa’s wild boar). A different sort of adventure. Richard got the pigs close enough, but my mistakes in the blind left me pigless. Another unforgettable African moment.

When we go to Wyoming on our annual deer and antelope safaris, we hunt much the same as in South Africa. We have a central camp. Each evening we consider the day’s hunting and decide which ranch or public piece we might hunt the next day. One ranch may have more of this or that, less hunting pressure or better odds of finding what we wanted, than another “concession.” The land may have a different handle, and the trespass fee (or none) will vary from the animal price in South Africa, but day to day hunting experiences are surprisingly similar. Even the weather; right now those Limpopo days are just about what we will experience in our fall hunting here – near freezing mornings and shirtsleeve afternoons.

That legal hassle over the gate with the neighbor? As so often here, the judge wondered how it ever got to court and strongly urged a settlement agreement. They agreed on the proposal Richard offered when the issue was first raised – and each was left many thousands of Rand poorer.

In so many ways, going to South Africa is like dropping in on family. And it’s good to be home.

Another Great African Adventure – I

Written by Jim Huckabay on August 8, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

Richard&AnnaI have been planning this trip back to South Africa since I returned from my 2011 adventure with long-time buddy Roy Enter. This trip would be a bit less hunting and a bit more daily life with my friends Richard and Ruth Lemmer. This trip, I was on my own.

It only took a day and a half to get from Sea-Tac to O.R. Tambo International Airport at Johannesburg. Twenty-three hours on clean and comfortable Emerites Airline Boeing 777-300 aircraft, wrapped around a nine-plus hour wait in the shiny glass and steel palace known as the UAE’s Dubai International. Truth be told, with a little sleep planning, it didn’t seem all that long.

I walked into the big reception hall at Tambo, in the midst of more chattering and laughter than I ever hear in a US airport, and found Ruth waving for me.

We would have lunch, then collect Richard from the courthouse where he was arguing against a neighbor’s suit over a large motorized gate he had placed along the common property line to keep his valuable wildlife stock on his ground. The absentee landowning neighbor claimed he needed to immediately plant corn on his property (in the now-winter dry season and with no irrigation water) and would be unable to get his large combine through the gate. “Yeah,” I thought, “some arguments are universal. Welcome home.” About then, I began thinking about these South African hunting grounds less as large wildlife ranches and more as farming and ag.

Most of my ten days in the country around Mokopane (Limpopo Province, southwest of Kruger National Park) had me thinking about agriculture, and the folks who worked it, in a fresh way. One morning over breakfast, I asked Richard about writing a note in one of my Wild Winds books for the owner of the striking place we had taken blue wildebeest and poked around for a big boar warthog. “So, do I thank him for hunting his land, Richard? Or say how much I enjoyed being on his ranch, or his ground, or what?” “Farms. These are all game farms, big or small. We are farmers.” I got it; hunting on any concession – 75 acres or 60,000 acres – we were hunting someone’s farm.

The point came home to me again as I watched Richard and his friends trying to capture and move half a dozen nyala – striped mule deer size antelopes that hang out at the edges of the bush and the openings. The ewes and one bull were expensive animals sold from one farmer to another. They would have been culled as excess by one, but will now be treasured as a new herd of valuable animals on the farm of the other. First, though, they had to be coaxed into the trailer.

Trapping and moving the nyala reminded me of how we had funneled bighorns and pronghorns and elk into holding pens and then into trailers in Colorado years ago. Those were animals traded from one state to another to rebuild or reintroduce herds, and probably traded for some critter Colorado needed somewhere. This translocation stuff is pretty common in the US, although here we don’t generally consider game animals to be, in any way, private property.

Too, we never had as much drama capturing and loading sheep, pronghorns and elk as these guys did getting those nyala down the funnel – the boma. Of course, we might sometimes dart and drug them to simplify the job. By the time this job was said and done, however, half of the animals in the holding area went over the eight-foot tarp lined wall (someone had failed to tell the nyala ewes that they couldn’t jump). They may have been privately-traded stock, but they were still very wild antelope. The bull and ewe and lambs that made it into the trailer and to Richard and Ruth’s farm would be the start of a new herd. Those left behind would be collected another day – probably darted.

One ewe going over the wall left a lamb too young to fend for itself. “Anna Nyala” is being bottle fed by Richard, and is now acclimating to a small outside area. She will join the others on the farm in a few weeks.

Over and again, I experienced the connections between wildlife and domestic stock (cattle, sheep and goats) and what we might think of as farming and agriculture. The game animals are clearly wild and wary, even it they are roaming 1,000 acres within a high fence. One might argue that the only truly wild animals are the warthogs, bushpigs, jackals, monkeys, baboons and large kudu bulls which pretty much ignore the fences and go where they wish to go, but I never crossed paths with “tame” wildlife of any kind.

In so many ways, our hunting forays in Limpopo Province – the Sterk Rivier country – reminded me of hunts I’ve made my whole life in the West. A case in point would be my quest around a large cattle operation for a big boar warthog. And another warthog watch across a supplemental feeding site for cape buffalo. Those are other stories.

See you next week. Much as I loved being with my South African friends, it is good to be home.

The Jack O’Connor Legacy and Us

Written by Jim Huckabay on August 1, 2014. Posted in Uncategorized

As this hits the news stands and this blog, I ought to be dropping into SeaTac, returning from my second African Adventure. Over the last few weeks, Jack O’Connor has been on my mind. You recall that Jack was, arguably, the best hunting and outdoor writer of his and other times. He loved hunting anywhere, but especially loved Africa and its amazing landscapes, wildlife and people. Thus, he and his writing have been much on my mind of late.

It is probably time for another visit to the Jack O’Connor Hunting Heritage & Education Center in Lewiston. The center is focused on Jack’s legacy and the kind of outdoor education that will help ensure that our grandchildren’s children will still have an outdoor legacy to support – and fight for it as we do now. Take a moment and consider Jack O’Connor’s life.

Born in Arizona in 1902, O’Connor grew up in the Sonora Desert country, nuts about the outdoors and wildlife. After stints in the Navy, Tempe Normal (now Arizona State), the University of Arizona, University of Arkansas and the University of Missouri, he settled into teaching English. In 1934, the University of Arizona made him the first professor of journalism in what is now a widely known School of Journalism.

He wrote widely and well about wildlife, natural history and hunting, and sold a number of fictional short stories. His work was published in virtually every magazine of his time, from Redbook and Saturday Evening Post to Sports Afield, Field and Stream and Outdoor Life. In 1939, he became a regular columnist and editor for Outdoor Life, leaving academia in 1945 and moving to Lewiston three years later.

Known as the “Dean of Outdoor Writers,” Jack O’Connor was a cornerstone of Outdoor Life – the most popular sportsman’s read during his tenure. With humor and personal anecdotes, he could help the average Joe master most any technical idea. He could pack more information, entertainment and excitement into one sentence than any writer I’ve ever read. In addition to monthly columns for nearly four decades, he wrote a couple dozen books and publications about experiences and observations with firearms, hunting and natural history across the planet. In my view, his body of writing is his greatest legacy.

Uncounted numbers of us learned to read with his monthly column and books – with a flashlight – after we’d been put to bed and told to sleep. Jack O’Connor changed the way generations of us thought about firearms, hunting and wildlife and the ethics around all of them. He retired from Outdoor Life in 1972, and passed in 1978.

His writings ought to be read by every sportsperson of any stripe, but make no mistake, the man was the consummate hunter. One of my favorite O’Connor stories was printed in Outdoor Life three decades ago. John Madson (an outdoor editor) and his young teenage son Chris popped in on O’Connor after a few days of chasing chukars above the Snake River. Neither had ever been in Jack’s home, and they were eager to hang out with the legend.

His extensive collection of big game trophies was housed around his place, apparently, and the old hunter spent time showing them trophies from around the world, regaling them with story after story about this place and that and this animal or the other. Madson wrote of the experience with reverence and gratitude for the hours that millions of us would have given anything to have with O’Connor. At the end of the tour, having looked at, and talked about, dozens and dozens of trophies and places and experiences, the Dean of Outdoor Writers turned to the son with, “Tell me, Chris, have you ever seen anything like this before?” When the boy said he sure hadn’t, O’Connor said “What do you think of it?” The kid slowly looked around, thought for a moment and said, “Well, sir, you don’t fish much, do you?”

Of his wildlife and big game collection,70 pieces are at the O’Connor Hunting Heritage and Education Center, many are held by family and friends and a few are in closed collections.

You owe it to yourself and the hunters and sportsmen who come after you to make sure your descendants appreciate Jack O’Connor and his work. Check out the center at Then, take a drive to it at Hell’s Gate State Park in Lewiston. How will we ever create a sustainable outdoor future without understanding how we got to this day?

While you are thinking about it, purchase your raffle ticket for the 2015 .375 H&H Winchester Rifle. This is a re-creation of Jack’s original favorite African rifle. Based on a pre-64 model 70 barreled action, the rifle is built by Roger Biesen, engraved by Paula Biesen-Malicki, and stocked in custom-checkered French walnut. This is a true piece of art. The drawing will be held in 2015 at a date to be announced in August.

Find more information about raffle tickets for the rifle or about the center itself on the phone at 208-743-5043 or

Check it out. It’s about our future.