Archive for December, 2016

All about Handling a New Year

Written by Jim Huckabay on December 30, 2016. Posted in Uncategorized

2017? Wow, how does that happen? I’ve been talking with homeys and am intrigued by their responses to the thought of another “new year.” They’ve ranged from “Big (censored) deal… It’s just another year of same old same old, Jimbo…” to “Cool, huh? I can’t wait to get my hands on that fresh start, and away from the messes of 2016!”

New Year’s Resolutions? Some do and some don’t.

So, what will it be for you? What resolutions might you make this year that will last past January? Will you start socking away money for that out-of-state or out-of-country hunting or fishing trip? Will you drive or fly? What licenses will you need, and what resolution will get them for you? Will you get the family (or yourself) out more often to see wildlife and breathe the fresh air of Paradise? Spend a little more time helping a friend? Plan special events for kids? Work to get our Washington Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights through the Legislature?

I have buddies who swear by their New Year resolutions – and even manage to bring some into reality. Still, the whole “resolution” thing just isn’t my gig.

You may recall my comment that I stopped making such resolutions in late January 1981, after The Old Man went home. On the way to his funeral, it dawned on me that I’d already failed to keep most of my resolutions – and one of them had been a vow to keep at least one resolution.

As I sat, waiting to give his eulogy, I remember weighing the genuine pleasure of getting complete with things in my life. After my father died, I had a deep emptiness inside. At the same time, I felt complete with him; there just was nothing I had left unsaid or unheard. The summer before his passing, we spent a week talking about anything and everything either of us ever wanted to know about the other. By the time I left his funeral, I was pretty sure that “completions” were more important for me than “resolutions.”

In the decades since, I spend the waning months of each year freeing up my mind and heart for the coming one. Zeb, my mountain‑man mentor, once said, “If you’re loaded down with yesterday’s baggage, you don’t stand much chance of getting today’s gifts – or accepting ’em with a whole heart.” I don’t know that I really understood, but I got the part about clearing up unfinished business before the new stuff shows up.

I probably start asking myself a regular set questions about the time deer season wraps up. I have questions like these: “Who did something this year that changed my life (preferably for the better) or changed the way I did something or managed some old habit?” “Who got me out fishing or hunting or hiking outdoors when I really needed it?” “Who smoothed out an impossible day with a kind word or a pat on the back just when I needed it?” “Who showed me a new fishing hole, or some new technique for fishing one of my old ones?” There are others, too, of course. New questions seem to pop up every day, as I try to spend an old, used, year-end freeing up the shiny start for the New Year. You likely have questions of your own.

Admittedly, it is sometimes almost impossible to clean up lost and failed agreements, no matter how good my intentions might be. I often end up with a couple leftover hang-nail agreements. Still, I get a deeper satisfaction from working on completions than I ever did trying to manage resolutions – some of which seemed like great ideas in the company of good friends and a malt beverage over ice.

Over the last weeks of 2016, I have scheduled some very cool activities. Cousin Ron and I have a day set to drown worms in a remote little creek we fished when we were boys – one of the few streams untouched by changed regulations over nearly seven decades. I need the long conversation (missed last summer) with geographer and mentor Richard Stevens (retired from the University of Colorado), and we will sit down next week. I finally pulled together the draft of a book we’ve been working on for a couple years, and Reecer Creek Publishing is beginning to mean something.

All that as it may, we stand at the threshold of a new and potentially momentous year. What will it be this time? Which actions will we take to make this 2017 one for the books – one to shape our lives as we would have them shaped? High in my mind at this time is a recurring question about how my fishing or hunting or outdoor interests (and what I might do with them) will make the world a better place for those coming up behind me.

So, how does your 2017 shape up? How will your love of nature help ensure forever outdoor connections for the people of Paradise?

Like fresh snow awaiting our tracks, this year lies undisturbed before us.

Happy 2017.

All about Last Minute Christmas Gifting

Written by Jim Huckabay on December 23, 2016. Posted in Uncategorized

Last minute? Well, not exactly – you have a good 24 hours yet. Let us consider possibilities.

In my mind, any outdoor gift – last minute or not – ought to make or represent a connection between the giver and getter. A real gift acknowledges that connection and the people on both ends of the exchange. Such a gift, given freely and joyfully, may become priceless, and may not even have a price tag.

I learned that lesson a long time ago. You’ve probably heard this tale before, but the experience changed my life, and I’d like to hear it again.

On a warm summer afternoon in Denver, some four decades ago, eleven-year-old son Tim wanted ice cream. I was mildly preoccupied with chores, but it seemed like a good day for the three mile hike. We told his mom what we were doing and set out. Along the way, we studied clouds and plants and bugs and a dead cat and a soil horizon and plant roots exposed in a road cut. We laughed and questioned and felt wonder. On the way home, in this space of wonder we had created together, we ate our ice cream and studied it all again.

Then (also once upon a time), some months later, during a tough work week, I had a five-evening stretch of hauling Tim all over Denver to pick up scouting uniforms and paraphernalia.  Wherever we went, it seemed, they had just sold out what we needed, and sent us elsewhere. That weekend, I was short-tempered and in a paper grading marathon, when he complained that we never spent any time together. With the young man temper The Old Man had left me, I snarled at him about spending our evenings all week – together – chasing scouting stuff. He wrinkled his brow and looked at me, clearly confused. “Nahh,” he said thoughtfully, “We haven=t spent any time together since we did that ice cream and bugs hike, dad.”

From that eye-opening moment, a block of time to be happily spent doing something the kid wanted to do became a part of gifting. To this day, my Hucklings rarely remember toys, or stuff, but nearly always recount times we spent joyfully doing their thing.  It works for adults, too.

One of my favorite outdoor holiday family “activity” gifts has to be wildlife watching and photography. There is a great, free and instantly-available, e-book guaranteed to stir the wildlife photography blood in you and your gang. It’s author is famed wildlife photographer Tony Bynum – once a graduate student in Central’s Resource Management Program. Simple: go to Tony’s beautiful web site, At top of page click on the banner “Read Tony’s ‘Wildlife Photography Essentials’ E-book,” and fill out the simple registration to get your password for this stunning little primer. You can read it online, print it, or download it (or all three). This will change the way you and your family watch and record wildlife.

Once you have the book, grab the kids and whatever photo devices they have – or pick up some of those little disposable cameras – and go look for wild critters. Take binoculars and spotting scopes, and hot chocolate, coffee, cookies, sandwiches or whatever else your gang needs to make an outdoor adventure memorable. Each time you see a deer or elk or sheep or coyote, or whatever, discuss the picture possibilities. Then bring it all together by loading the images into a family photo file or scrapbook. (If some of you shoot film, get it to a one-hour processing joint in town, grab your prints and digital images and then load them as needed – together.)

Here in the valley, wildlife is all over. Lower Cooke Canyon, Coleman Creek, Reecer Creek or Manastash Road will get you into wintering range for seeing deer and possibly some elk. Bald eagles are scattered around the valley and in the Canyon. Elk are most likely up Joe Watt Canyon and scattered over to the Heart K Ranch at the mouth of the Taneum. Down the Yakima Canyon are deer and California bighorn sheep (watch traffic and both sides of the road).

Drive to the elk feeding site at Oak Creek Wildlife Area or the California bighorn site on the south side of Cleman Mountain. Both sites are near the point west of Naches where Highway 410 and Highway 12 split. At the intersection, turn north onto the frontage road and follow it to the bighorn sheep feeding site. You can’t miss the fencing and the signs. For the elk feeding, turn south onto Highway 12, and look for the signs (and elk) on the right. Critters are now showing up. It is worth the drive, and kids of all ages get very excited about being the first to spot one critter or other.

You have time, also, to consider the merits of homemade gifts. I have hand-knitted scarves and sweaters, an ammo box made by a close friend and an old leather “possibles” pouch for small things that like being kept together. Each of these gifts has become a treasure lasting far longer than the time it took some special person to make it.

In 1955, I asked Grampa Minshall about a scarf he wore every single time we went into a cool outdoor day. He said Grandma made it the first hunting season they were together. He wore it on wintry 1899 mornings in Fort Collins, Colorado, when he and his chums made a few bucks market hunting ducks and geese. The scarf looked that old, too. He smiled and patted it every time it went around his neck.

Last-minute Christmas or other gifting is simple, I think. Whatever you give, imbue it with joy.

Merry Christmas…

Kids, Nature, Hunting and Life

Written by Jim Huckabay on December 16, 2016. Posted in Uncategorized

Outdoor kids were the topics of several conversations this week. Most of those confabs revolved around the value of our children learning to integrate earth and nature and life through outdoor connections.

On Monday, our 13th Legislative District Delegation was in town. We had a brief moment to talk about the Washington Children’s Outdoor Bill of Rights we’ve been working to establish for several years. Senator Judy Warnick is drafting the proper legislation and Representatives Manweller and Dent have committed their support. We will discuss it in this space in coming weeks, but suffice it to say it will greatly encourage a wide variety of outdoor family activities.

We talk about these things all the time – and I certainly saw them as my Hucklings learned to hunt and shoot and fish – but I’ve not seen a better summary. In my Northwest SCI (Safari Club International) fall newsletter was an interesting piece titled “Benefits of Teaching Children to Hunt” (said to come from I thought you might find it interesting.

“Keeping the sport of hunting alive isn’t the only reason to teach kids how to hunt. From being in the woods to building character to learning to fend for themselves, there are endless benefits to hunting.

“Here are just a few.

“Self-reliance: When children know how to hunt, they’ll always have a way to feed themselves, even if the unthinkable happens. They will not be stuck, relying on others to obtain food.

Food cycle: When kids learn to hunt, they gain an understanding of the food cycle. Without hunting, many children never connect the meat on their dinner plate to a living, breathing animal.

Love of the outdoors: If hunting does anything for a child, it instills a love of outdoors and a wonder at the majesty of nature. It teaches them to respect and appreciate the woods, water and fields.

Rite of passage: For many hunting families, learning to hunt is a rite of passage. It may be the first time a child’s allowed at hunting camp during the rifle season or that he has his own hunting gear. It’s an easy way to show a child you recognize he’s growing up and ready for more responsibility.

Conservationism: Although non-hunters don’t realize it, hunters by their nature are conservationists. By exposing children to hunting, they learn about the balance of animals in the space that hosts them and the idea of taking only what you need. This protects the land and ensures game remains for the future.

Bonding: When you’re teaching children to hunt, it’s more about being together than hunting. You’re building memories, enjoying days spent together, and having experiences that can’t be found within city limits.

Health benefits: Hunting gets you outdoors and spending time in nature does great things for both your body and mind. It’s known to reduce stress, decrease blood pressure, and lead to more mindfulness.

Fitness and exercise: While you don’t have to be an Olympic athlete to enjoy hunting, you do have to be relatively physically fit. You have to walk distances, climb through brush and up mountains, and drag large game. Getting children involved in hunting shows them the importance of staying fit and creates a fun way to exercise.

Food safety: When it comes to what’s in commercial meat, it’s scary. Artificial preservatives, hormones, and antibiotics just top the list. But when children provide themselves with meat from a hunting harvest, they’re getting nothing but naturally fed meat.

Life skills: Hunting is more than sport; it’s a lesson in life. It helps youth develop character strengths such as discipline, patience, confidence, and endurance. It also teaches children how to deal with disappointment and move on to try again.

Passing on traditions: For some, hunting has been passed down from parent to child for generations. There may be a family hunting cabin or trips out West, and for many, hunting’s rooted in family traditions.

Unplugged: In this high-tech world, children are constantly plugged in. Hunting gives children an escape from electronics. It allows kids to unplug and just be.”

Then there were several questions about the Valley Rifle and Pistol Club’s 16 week Light Rifle Class League. This training in safe and fun family recreational shooting is certainly a start on getting kids checked into the outdoors. Mel Goudge (509-925-4285) or Hal Mason (509-962-3002) may still be able to get you into this winter’s league.

There may even have been some discussion this week about New Year’s Resolutions and getting kids connected outdoors.

All about Preparing for Winter Weather

Written by Jim Huckabay on December 9, 2016. Posted in Uncategorized

The topic on the floor of our off-Reecer Creek meeting of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association (RCRGWD&OTTBA) was winter – and preparing for its vagaries – as we noted the icy parking lot beyond the window.

“I don’t know,” Homey allowed, “this just feels like one of those winters of surprises.” As resident meteorologist for our little think tank, I was thus driven to find what the guys with all the weather toys are saying. The current outlook for Paradise, in the eyes of NOAA’s National Weather Service, is 1) an equal chance for colder or warmer than average (“normal”) temperatures and 2) a high probability of a wetter than normal winter coming. (You can track this for yourself at, with “2016-2017 winter” in the search box.) Given that “wetter than normal” means ice, snow or rain – depending on temperature – and that our odds for a warmer or colder winter are even, Homey wins. This could well be a winter of surprises.

Agenda items ranged from worrying about friends and older family members negotiating icy walks and streets to backcountry snowshoeing and skiing around avalanches to staying safe in a car stuck on one of the passes over the Cascades. Given the lack of enthusiasm among attendees for shoveling wet snow, I suggested we might save a few bucks with a group purchase of flame-throwers. My suggestion fell on deaf ears, however, and the topic shifted to safer shoes.

It is apparent that several homeys have discovered the use of strap-on ice grabbers. Names like Yak Trax, Shur Foot, Get a Grip, Omniteck Sandal Cleats and Due North Ice and Snow Grips were falling off tongues like winter poetry. I agreed to pass along the suggestions in these minutes, as well as assurances that Arnold’s Ranch and Home and Cle Elum Farm and Home carry these shoe safety tools, with a fair chance you will find them at Bi-Mart and Freddies. As our meeting adjourned and homeys gingerly approached their waiting vehicles, I was reminded to consider winter highway and mountain safety issues.

The frequency and severity of avalanches has yet to be seen for the coming winter – things could go either way. Still, recent wet and heavy snows are making the dangers more obvious. Homey Glenn Bandy would be urging me to remind you that venturing out for snow play on or below steep terrain requires that you educate yourself about avalanche hazard recognition and avoidance.

If you are thinking about spending time in the backcountry, alone or with family and friends, consider taking advantage of one or another opportunity to educate yourself. Real time avalanche forecasts and current Cascade snow pack analyses are available from the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center (NWAC) at 206-526-6677 or Other information about snow and its science, along with most everything you need to know about avalanche and weather conditions in our backcountry will be found at

The CWU Outdoor Pursuits and Recreation Center will be offering several terrific seminars and workshops dealing with snow safety, the use of avalanche beacons, avalanche related snow conditions, and thriving/surviving in the backcountry. There will be daytime and evening programs. See or contact Outdoor Pursuits and Recreation at 509-963-3537 for information about avalanche series, snowshoeing trips and other adventures as they are scheduled.

Being stuck in snow or caught in an avalanche in your vehicle can mess up your whole day.  Thus, over the years, members of our Winter Safety Subcommittee have thrown together an “auto be” list for the rigs of Paradise. Simple really: a full gas tank; tire chains (that actually fit the car they are in); a shovel; kitty litter (for traction); blankets; crackers and peanut butter; boots; and a cell phone programmed for both 911 and KITTCOM (509-925-8534). Traction tires are pretty much a given these days, and a lively discussion has always centered on making sure that tire tread is at least one-eighth (1/8) inch deep. These days, discussion of “siping” (cuts or slits in the tread) for better traction and cooler highway running is always on the table.

At some point in every winter shoe traction discussion, someone brings up The Story. As it is told, several of our members were sitting around a warm wood stove on a cold wintry day a decade back using one homey’s Dremel tool to cut deep into shoe treads for improved walking safety. Story goes that at least two of the craftsmen cut completely through the soles of relatively new and expensive shoes, sacrificing warm dry feet for traction. Names, actual date and location of that gathering remain hazy – perhaps because of the presence, on that blustery day, of a large quantity of an expensive imported malt beverage.

Our coming winter, no doubt, has surprises in store for us. Stand by – be ready.

Yule Gifts for the 2016 Outdoor Nut

Written by Jim Huckabay on December 2, 2016. Posted in Uncategorized

I know you’ve been holding your horses, resisting Black Friday and Cyber Monday, awaiting my list of hot locally available gifts for the outdoor nuts in your life. As chair of the Gifting in Support of Homey Businesses Subcommittee (under Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association bylaws), I’m pleased to pass along hot gifting ideas for the 2016 outdoor nut on your list. (Note that you will find most of these same items and opportunities in most any outdoor-oriented town or city.)

Let’s start with the immediate. The 2016-2017 Light Rifle Class League starts next Thursday at the Valley Rifle and Pistol Club. You may easily join the 16 week program of safe family recreational shooting. Pay one small fee for your entire household, then bring your little rifle and ammo. The Club will supply regulation 10-bull NRA targets, a modern heated range facility, the direction of a qualified range master, and great coaching. What better gift could you give your children and family? Learn the responsibility and discipline of safe shooting and firearm handling while enjoying week after week of the simple pleasure of putting holes in paper exactly where you want them. Mel Goudge at 925-4285 or Hal Mason at 962-3002 will help you get your household in the game.

At the east end of the valley, Sure Shot Guns & Pawn, in Kittitas, has a wide variety of firearms, ammo and accessories from handguns to youth .22 rifles. A variety of gun safes are available, and they go out the door with no sales tax. Todd and Melody have set up an in-store kiosk to handle the fingerprinting and background checks for purchasers of suppressors – such as the SilencerCo and AAC models which have become so popular. Stripped lowers (for DIY folks) are sought this season, as are gift certificates in any denomination (they always fit). There is never a charge for special orders, which usually arrive in 2-5 days. 509-968-4867 with your questions, or go to

Nika Mihailov and his Kittitas County Trading Company crew on Main Street have a good supply of new and used handguns, along with accessories for concealed carry. As has been true for several years, the AR 15 type rifles and accessories are in-demand gifts, along with a wide variety of ammo for handguns, rifles and shotguns, including a good supply of .22 ammo. Nika is still paying top cash for gold and silver (check your old or broken jewelry) – a good way to start shopping with a pocket full of unexpected cash. If you are looking for something in particular, or have a question, call the crew at 509-925-1109.

It would be a superstore most anywhere, but John’s Three Forks Ammo & Reloading happens to be on the main drag in Cle Elum. Everything your gun nut and shooter needs or wants for the holidays, from spotting scopes to sweat shirts, hats and hoodies, is in stock. There may even be a game camera or two still available (many folks use them for home security). No one carries more or better reloading equipment than Three Forks, including the top of the line Forster and Dillon brand equipment and tools. These guys stock more bullets and live ammo in more calibers (plenty of .22) than ever, with more than 1400 choices and case lots in several calibers. If you need it, they probably have it; if not, they will find it. Check it out at or 509-674-2295.

In the middle of it all is Mike and his crew at Bi-Mart, and their renewed efforts to carry what you want most. From stocking stuffers to under-the-tree gifts, start with .22 ammo in good supply and work your way up to great prices on rifles and shotguns. This season, any purchase of a Ruger 10/22 rifle comes with a free 10-round magazine. As always there is a good array of styles and models of Crossman air rifles for boys, girls and adults, and youth compound bow kits. The outdoor desk has the new Outdoor Edge Razor-Lite EDC knives, a variety of others and the great Workshop Knife Sharpener system. You’ll find shotgun shells (including steel shot), waterfowl decoys, insulated camo clothing and some very attractive – and practical – wooden ammo boxes, too. Stocking stuffers like flashlights, headlamps and keychain lights always have a place. 509-925-6971 will get you to one of the Bi-Mart sporting goods pros.

If one or another of the women in your family is receiving a handgun, make that holiday gift complete with a safe shooting and handling class just for her. Contact Marilyn Mason at 509-962-3002.

Naturally, I always recommend a copy of the updated third printing of Jim Huckabay’s heartwarming “WILD WINDS and Other Tales of Growing Up in the Outdoor West.” For gift or personal copies, drop by Jerrol’s or visit

Buy in Paradise. You’ll find virtually everything your outdoor nut needs close at hand.

If you have an itch to explore abroad, however, allow me to toss in a recent out-of-state discovery for serious hikers and campers. Enlightened Equipment, in Minnesota, is a new company with extremely light gear and sleeping bags (their “quilts”), along with a variety if tricky-to-find accessories. You choose the weight of fill and temperature range for yours, and a custom feature or two, and your quilt will likely weigh less than a pound and a half. Check out

Happy gifting…