Archive for January, 2016

At Last – Fantasy Season

Written by Jim Huckabay on January 29, 2016. Posted in Uncategorized

The Old Man treasured these quiet days of winter; food was put up and a good meal for five was a few steps down into the root cellar (a cellar which is, today, buried somewhere under the entrance to Costco in East Wenatchee).

At those times when he actually sat down and leaned back, he might say, “Soon it’s fishing season again, boy. Then we’ll get the garden going and start the season of fresh home-grown. After your hard work – when you’re not gone fishing or whatever you do out there – we’ll have the season of harvest and putting up fruit and vegetables, and maybe dove and quail and pheasant season will put up some birds. Then deer season will bring us some good meat off Uncle Ed’s place up the Chumstick. After that, maybe you can bring your mom some ducks to can. Finally it’ll be this time here, when we think about all we did and what we’ll do this year ahead; this is our ‘Fantasy Season,’ Jimmy.”

And Fantasy Season it is. Two weeks ago, I dropped in on the International Sportsmen’s Expo in Denver (it just happened to coincide with a couple business meetings). The Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show was last weekend. The Washington Sportsmen’s Show kicked off two days ago in Puyallup and is on through Sunday. In two weeks, the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show will happen in Portland, followed by two weekends of Sportsmen Shows in Yakima and Wenatchee. I’m not sure if this is quite what The Old Man had in mind, but at one or another of these shows –for a fraction of the price of a jug of your favorite snake bite remedy – you will be able to explore almost every outdoor fantasy you ever had.

Let’s start in Puyallup. These O’Loughlin shows (Puyallup and Portland) pretty much set the standard. What’s your fishing, hunting, camping or cooking fantasy?

One of the big draws is education. No matter how experienced we are (or how many nights, weeks and months we’ve spent afield through our lives) there is always another tip or approach to make us better. Then, too, a good many of the men and women who walk into these shows are there to open a door into a lifetime of living outdoor dreams.

During the five days of the show that’s now playing – the Sportsmen’s & Sport Fishing Boat Show at the Puyallup Fairgrounds – there are more than 100 hours of seminars with experts on every sort of hunting and fishing found in Washington. Add to that the five days of cooking, sausage-making and smoking demos with several of the best camp cooks in the country, the dog training and the boat handling. When I ask folks why they come to any of the shows, these learning opportunities are always near the top of their list. We all fantasize about being the best at something, and it starts with expert mentoring.

My old friend and survival pro Peter Kummerfeldt retired from the sportsmen show circuit, and widely-known Brett Stoffel will now help you be ready when you or your family land in a tight spot. Brett and Peter both have stories of men and women telling of lifelong dreams of helping someone survive – and then using what the guys taught them to make it reality.

Want to know what a really big buck or bull or other critter looks like? Each of the shows will have places where hunters might bring their game animals for measuring or competition in the “Head and Horn” displays. Outfits like Bushnell, RCBS, Danner, Hoppe’s, Gerber, Weaver, Primos, Ruger, Les Schwab and Fort Knox all pitch in to bring a Tour of Northwest Big Game Animals to some of the shows. Most of us harbor fantasies about running into one of these monsters in the woods – and there they are. As you admire and dream, remind yourself and those around you that 100 years ago most of these animals were nearly gone; there are big animals in big healthy populations today because hunters started footing the cost of conservation over a century ago.

Then, there are the exhibitors’ booths (hundreds of them in Puyallup) and all those folks offering you the chance to live out a fishing fantasy in Alaska or Canada or South America or just down most any road in Washington. Or they’ll offer you a shot at fulfilling almost any hunting fantasy you have most anywhere in the world today. Chase a Marco Polo ram across the highest mountains in the world or a wild hog in Texas. What’s your fantasy?

Need ammo or a new firearm or fishing gear or any kind of outdoor clothing? You can buy it or win it – you just have to show up and play.

Be amazed at the “Cowboy Fast Draw” competition, and even be part of it. Get a kid to the free fishing pond, or just watch youngsters’ faces as they bring in a trout.

The season is open, and it is just over the hill in Puyallup. What’s your fantasy?

Finding Beauty in All That Snow

Written by Jim Huckabay on January 22, 2016. Posted in Uncategorized

Maybe you’ve spent a few hours parked and waiting for Mother Nature to bless you with a safe trip over the Cascades, too, or for our hard-working road crews to clear away her white gift of winter. We have had no shortage of those delicate hexagonal crystals of ice floating gently from the sky, softly filling roads and mountain passes, or being packed onto slippery, slushy and scary road surfaces. No shortage either of people – on both sides of Snoqualmie Pass – who have had enough.

“Okay,” said Homey, clearly a bit crabby after having shoveled more snow than most of us have seen in Paradise for a decade and more, “you write about snow and how ‘glorious’ and ‘beyoootiful’ it is. Remind me… Convince me!”

The gauntlet dropped, I am duty bound to respond to his pitiful plea. Then, too, I have been fascinated by snow all my life – and devoted several years of my otherwise-squandered youth studying such meteorological and physical wonders.

Therefore, as Mr. Glass-Is-Half-Full Snowflake Information Director for the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog and Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association, I am compelled once again to offer a glimpse into the science, beauty and magic of snowflakes. I don’t even mind standing in the cold for the discussion.

Originally, the Greek word “crystal” meant “ice,” and it was applied to quartz, since quartz was then thought to be permanently frozen ice.

Scientist Ukichiro Nakaya raised the study and science of ice crystals to an art form in northern Japan back in the 1930s. It was commonly known even then that all flakes had hexagonal shapes, but Nakaya’s work and study gave us an indication of the huge variety of forms possible within those hexagons. In creating the first artificially-grown snowflake, he showed that individual flakes generally grow concentrically, one six‑sided ring after another, beginning at diameters of well under 1/100 of an inch. Given the infinite number of possible temperature and moisture combinations, anything can happen, but he demonstrated the generally predictable nature of snowflake patterns.

(Recent research, by the way, indicates that while in theory no two ice crystals can be repeated, they may actually be repeated every few million flakes.)

In general, colder air holds less moisture and produces smaller, more nearly perfect crystals. High clouds may hold tiny hexagonal plates at -35EF, and similar plates a quarter-inch across at ‑5EF in lower clouds. Tiny six‑sided, hollow, needles may occur at ‑39E in high cirrus clouds.

Moderate temperatures, -5E to 12EF, give us individual dendrites (each of the six sides is leaf- or fern‑like, with some even three‑dimensional). Stellar crystals are the tiny stars, with six long points or arms, sometimes called “diamond dust.”

Relatively warm air, 14E to 28EF, will hold more moisture and produce the biggest flakes. The largest single-crystal flakes on record exceeded five inches across. They were reported in Virginia in spring of 1900 and England in the 1950s. Under these conditions, we may even find individual needles or cones to a half-inch long, or hollow six-sided columns (some capped with hexagonal plates).

Common aggregations of “normal” crystals are associated with relatively warm air, and occur from both collisions and electrostatic charges. Huge aggregated snowflakes, as large as 15 inches (38 centimeters) across, and four inches (10 centimeters) thick, fell on January 28, 1987 at Fort Keogh, Montana. They were said to look like milk‑can lids. Apparently, those clouds contained large electrostatic charges.

There is no shortage of fascinating material about snow and winter weather. Find books like “Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation and Related Weather Phenomena” by William Corliss or Corydon Bell=s “The Wonder of Snow.” Run a web search for Ukichiro Nakaya and his Museum of Snow and Ice, or punch in “snowflakes and ice crystals” for hundreds of photos of crystal types, diagrams, and studies.

Practice seeing the magic of snowflakes, as you stand surrounded – or buried – by them on a perfect winter day here in Paradise. You may remember these moments fondly next August…

I have always loved snow – although there are moments when so many flakes are piled onto a heavy shovel that I struggle to recall the wonder of each individual flake.

Happy winter.

Why You Should Love Hunters

Written by Jim Huckabay on January 15, 2016. Posted in Uncategorized

“We cannot simply say we are conservationists… concerned for wildlife’s future. We must demonstrate this… over and over again. Only by doing so can we convince society of our concern for the wild others we pursue and protect…” Shane Patrick Mahoney

On Sunday, Dec. 13, Homey Steve Douglas and I took a run to Spokane to hear Shane Mahoney speak to the Wolf Advisory Group (WAG), of the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission. The advisory group is comprised of a cross-section of citizens and organizations with interests in the wolves of Washington – from anti-hunters to birders to sportsmen/women to ranchers and so on. At earlier meetings, the ranching community had discussed its perspectives and issues with the WAG, and the environmental community had made a presentation. Shane was invited to speak on behalf of the hunting community, as he has done in one or another forum dozens of times across North America,

Shane is considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on the North American model of conservation. Our model of wildlife conservation is unique in most of the world; its principles are near and dear to the hearts of those of us reared in our hunting traditions, yet we rarely are successful in efforts to share them with the non-hunting public. Thus, Steve and I drove three hours east.

Mahoney is president and CEO of Conservation Visions, with a graduate degree in zoology and more than three decades of work in Canada and North America as a scientist, wildlife manager, policy innovator and strategic advisor. Add to that, filmmaker, writer, narrator, TV and radio personality, and lecturer to the scientific and professional wildlife communities, as well as the hunting and non-hunting public. His work has been published in more than 50 scholarly papers, 18 peer-reviewed journals and eight book chapters, and he has written more than 100 articles for such magazines as Outdoor Life, Sports Afield, North American Hunter and Sweden’s Big Game. He is steadfast in his support of sustainable use, and deeply committed to helping the general public understand the history and facts of North American wildlife conservation.

Within Shane’s message is a simple, yet profound, concept: wildlife made us human; we all must recognize our responsibility to our wild others; and all our human perspectives must find common ground to ensure the future of wildlife as the planet changes around us.

As he made his points, he often looked to the Wolf Advisory Group as an example of pulling all wildlife interests into one conversation to find common ground, to truly understand and respect each other’s contributions, and to find ways forward together. We must all focus on our caring for wild things and places – and move beyond the divisiveness which has arisen from each group of us focusing on how we care. The fate of every species rests in our hands; finding a common path and the funding to follow it, he observed, is our only hope for the future of our wildlife.

Today, in North America – and almost nowhere else – we have more wildlife than ever – certainly dating back to the Ice Age. Thank the hunting community for that.

A hundred years ago, an endangered species list would likely have included wild turkeys, Canada geese, most waterfowl species, elk, and white-tailed deer – all of which are over-abundant in one or another part of North America today. The Boone and Crockett Club is today synonymous with trophy hunting, but Theodore Roosevelt and hunting friends started it in 1887 because of a fear that game animals would soon be extinct, and they wanted a “museum” to help Americans remember what they had lost.

Roosevelt and many other dedicated hunters started a movement which led to the creation of the 1937 Pittman-Robertson excise tax on firearms and other sporting goods. That tax supported the development of professional game management agencies in America. To date, those P-R funds have produced well over seven billion dollars for wildlife management. 70% of state wildlife agency budgets today come from those taxes and license fees paid by hunters, even though only six percent of Americans actually hunt.

The bottom line is that we have abundant wildlife today because hunters have been willing to foot the bill. That will be ever more difficult ahead.

Hunters don’t pay for everything (state and national parks and forests, for example), of course, and the cost of sustaining our wildlife populations will rapidly rise with human population and changing planetary conditions.

Today we seem ever more splintered – one hunting group vs another, anti-hunters vs all hunting, consumers of meat vs vegetarians, public land users vs preservationists – and it is not sustainable. Somehow, if we want wildlife for our children’s children, we must find common ground.

Shane Mahoney founded a starting point for this journey, and summarizes it this way: “We have only one natural world and only one humanity. Conservation Visions, Inc. exists because we have only one chance to preserve both.” Explore these thoughts and ideas for yourself at

Thank a hunter for her or his contributions to today’s abundant wildlife populations – and think about where we go now.

Memory Banks and Auld Acquaintance

Written by Jim Huckabay on January 8, 2016. Posted in Uncategorized

It was a simple enough plan; I would drive to Colorado a week before Christmas to begin harassing Hucklings and Grand-Hucklings. Diane, daughter Arcelia and grandson Jonas would fly down on Christmas day. Once I got ahead of road closures in Oregon and circumvented the big one in Wyoming, it was a simple 1240 miles of windy, cold and snowy winter wonderland.

That two day solo drive on winter’s roads became one of the richest and most satisfying of the 70-some trips I’ve made between Central Washington and Denver over the past five decades. Somehow, one after another of those snow-covered landscapes sent me instantly to my bank. Unexpected really; in all the times I have written and talked about it, I never fell so deeply into it.

The concept was explained by a writer for one of the major outdoor magazines back in the 1960s. The column disappeared long ago, but never his argument. He wrote in detail of opening a “memory bank account,” into which would go all memories of outdoor trips and activities – hunting, fishing, camping, family hikes, and so on. The beauty of this account is that one might make withdrawals as often as desired, but the account could never be drawn down. Every time a favorite memory was withdrawn, it would be polished, treasured, enjoyed, and re-deposited with greater value than when it was withdrawn. Even in my callous youth, I knew that was a bank account worth starting.

Fifty years later, I can almost read the last paragraph in that writer’s column. It went something like, “So remember this. Nothing is more important than making regular deposits into your account. When you’re 80 or 90 years old, which will serve you best? The polished and carefully saved memories of times afield with buddies and those you love? Or the memories of the papers which crossed your desk, or the widgets which passed on the line before you? So, do all your work with pride…but make those ‘memory bank’ deposits.”

Virtually all of those sudden withdrawals along the road to Denver were tied to some “auld acquaintance” – long since gone home or to life beyond mine. And in each of those memories was the palpable friendship and camaraderie which made it worth depositing in the first place.

Across southern Idaho, glancing out across that snow-covered sage steppe, at a wintered-up bunch of antelope, I was suddenly hunched down next to Phil Jackson. Just a couple years out of our grad work at the University of Kansas, we were in a swirling snowstorm sneaking up on a bunch of pronghorns. Probably the best shot, and the cleanest, neatest guy I ever knew afield – even if he had cleaned all our birds or fish or whatever – he made a very long and perfect shot. He wasn’t feeling well, so I dressed and carried his antelope back to the car in that wind and snow. As we loaded it, I looked at Phil. For the first time in all our outings Phil was bloody and messy and I looked ready for the office.

Coming up out of Utah into western Colorado, I passed through a snow-filled pinion-juniper woodland. There were teenagers Tim and Michelle, following tracks and sneaking on muleys in that hilly, brushy, snowy country. There they were, dragging the results of quiet stalks and good shooting, jabbering about whose deer was going to make the best meals between now and next hunting season. And there was the game warden who met us at the rig, telling how he watched us for an hour through his spotting scope, and acknowledging me for following the rules, when so many dads hunted with their kids just so they could shoot their deer for them. I didn’t quite believe it then (I still don’t), but that country immersed me in years of dad-son-daughter hunts.

Glancing off over the deep snow covering open forest ground north of the road between Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs, and glancing at an outside temperature of eight degrees, I heard Jack Largent, again. “Let’s head up to Craig for the late deer hunt. Lots of deer and I know a guy with a motel there where we can stay.” Jack was an engineer at Denver’s Channel 6 – public television – and I was running camera right after I left the Air Force. Three of us packed my old 1956 Ford pickup and headed west into deep snow country. The weather that weekend was perfectly still and 40 below. The powder snow was nearly to my waist. Somehow the truck always started and we got into all the country we needed. We joked and hunted. I sat in snow that cradled me, and made a very long shot on a nice buck. We made meat for our families and smiled all the way home. I remember the temperature and the snow, but I do not remember being cold. I miss Jack.

A dozen other memories were polished and re-deposited, too. I was surprised at how often I found myself smiling or chuckling or just in awe of those moments in time with special people in special places. After a rather intense couple months in Paradise, I was surprised to be so relaxed and so grateful for the drive – and auld times and auld acquaintance. Memory banks…

Here’s to the memories you will bank in 2016!