Archive for November, 2017

Black Friday Weekend for Outdoor Nuts

Written by Jim Huckabay on November 24, 2017. Posted in Uncategorized

Let’s make it a Black Friday Weekend. 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 the Paradise Valley – Kittitas County, Washington – hot list for the 2017 outdoor nut at your side.

At the east end of the valley, Sure Shot Guns & Pawn in Kittitas has a wide variety of firearms, ammo, scopes and accessories at low prices. Todd and Melody have more handguns than ever and a great selection of youth .22 rifles. Gun safes are important, and Sure Shot never charges sales tax on them. To ease the process of firearm and suppressor purchases, their in-store kiosk helps handle the fingerprinting and background checks. Stripped lowers (for DIY folks) are hot 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

At the Kittitas County Trading Company, on Main Street in Ellensburg, Nika Mihailov and his crew have a good supply of Leupold scopes at great prices. M-1 Garands have been in big demand by collectors of late, the store has them. As always, there is a good supply of new and used handguns, along with accessories for concealed carry, and great close-out prices on a number of leather holsters. Archery and muzzleloader gear has been hot this fall. .22 ammo is in big supply and going out the door at great prices. For your viewing pleasure, there is a large selection of DVD (eight for $20) and Blu-Ray ($5 each) movies. 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.

By the way, if one of the women in your family is receiving a handgun, spend just another $60 and make the gift complete. It will mean more if it comes with a safe shooting and handling class just for her. Contact NRA-certified pistol instructor Marilyn Mason at 509-962-3002 or online at

No argument that John’s Three Forks Ammo & Reloading, on the main drag in Cle Elum, would be a superstore most anywhere. Everything your gun nut and shooter needs or wants for the holidays, from spotting scopes to game cameras (many folks use them for home security) in stock. Right now the Leupold Thermal LTO tracker is hot and on sale. 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 a huge selection of bullets and live ammo, with hot sale prices on a dozen or more calibers, including .223, 5.56mm, .45 ACP, .40 S&W, 9mm Luger, and plenty of .22 LR and Mini-Mag. If you need it, they probably have it; if not, they will find it. Check it out at or 509-674-2295.

At the south end of Eburg is Mike and Charles and the crew at Bi-Mart. Hot gifts already are both kid and adult firearms – and the season’s big sale is now underway. Ammo of most types are on hand, with large quantities of .22 boxes and bricks at sale prices. Binoculars and trail cameras seem to be in demand this season, too. As always, there is a good array of styles and models of air rifles and BB guns for boys, girls and adults, and youth compound bow kits. The outdoor desk has the new Outdoor Edge Razor-Lite EDC knives (with those easy-replacement blades), a variety of other knives and several sharpening tools. 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 key chain lights always have a place. 509-925-6971 will get you to one of the Bi-Mart sporting goods pros.

Let’s start with the immediate. The 2017-2018 Light Rifle Class League starts soon 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. Get started at the annual meeting next Wednesday, the 29th.

Of course, I must also 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.

Make the most of this Black Friday weekend. Happy gifting… Go get some fresh air, too.


On Being Thankful

Written by Jim Huckabay on November 17, 2017. Posted in Uncategorized

Webster=s New World Dictionary does “Thanks’giv’ing” this way: “1. A formal public expression of thanks to God. 2. An annual U.S. holiday.” And “thank’ful” as “feeling or expressing gratitude.”

Given these fascinating and somewhat tumultuous times in which we are immersed, I cannot escape the thought that our present and future well-being boils down to how we as individuals and families and communities celebrate each moment. The coming week seems set aside for just such celebrations.

As you likely do, also, I take a moment or two each day to be grateful for my family, others who enrich my life, and the blessings of living in Paradise. I promised myself to think more about them through these next holiday seasons.

No doubt, you probably have been putting together a list of your own blessings. Here are a few from my list.

I am thankful that I get to play with the boys and girls of the Kittitas County Field and Stream Club. In 1919, a handful of movers and shakers decided our natural resources needed a voice and workers, and became both. Over the decades, countless club hours and dollars have gone into the support of habitat and birds and animals, as well as outdoor activities for kids and families. Huge numbers of chukars, huns and pheasants have been released in the valley. Every winter, tons of seed is made available to anyone who wants to feed birds, at no charge. I’m grateful for your support of the annual Chukar Run Banquet and Freeloader Hill rodeo parking, too.

I appreciate local support for Ducks Unlimited. That so many are willing to support wetland habitat for hundreds of species in the duck factory areas of the North and laugh so joyfully as they part with their hard-earned cash still boggles my mind.

I’m thankful for the natural bounty which sustains us and our families; what a blessing that we can hunt big game and fish for salmon, trout, halibut, rockfish, walleye, catfish, perch and bass (and net crabs, dig clams and catch our own calamari) within a couple hours of our home.

I am thankful for the peaceful glades, deep forests and open hilltops across Paradise.

I’m thankful for the snow (well, mostly, anyhow) we will have this winter, and the seasons with which we ebb and flow. As always, I am grateful to live in a place where gentle breezes bring us ever-changing fresh air.

I am thankful that my kids and grandkids all have a sense of belonging to the earth. I like that Tena takes time away from her commitment to cure cancer to chase fish and game with her family; that Anna finds time away from singing and modeling for fresh air and grounding; and that Edward plays outdoors as much as he teaches inside. I am grateful to Tim and Nicole and Michelle for their commitment to immerse my grandkids in fresh air and dirt; and to James for raising a bunch of wild outdoor nuts.

I’m thankful that Diane and I can find wildlife to enjoy most anytime of the year in our valley and nearby. And that will be evermore true through winter.

Somewhere in these days, I will count still-giving blessings from the past. I will no doubt replay the joy and pleasure of hanging out with Last-of-the-Hucklings Edward during the great moose caper of 2012. Among dozens of conversations, and abundant laughter, we talked a bit about Thanksgiving celebrations and traditions with family gone on. We may have talked again about my last Thanksgiving with Dad – Edward’s beloved grandpa Ray Fontes – and how Alzheimer’s stole him away from us at that turn of the Century holiday season.

His Alzheimer’s had reached the point that he needed more care than he could get at home, so my first job that Thanksgiving morning in Boise was to spring Dad from the nursing home. We had an unusually enjoyable day with my mother, my aunts and other family. Maybe we knew, somehow, that the elders would all have gone on within a few years. At any rate, the food and celebration of thanks were great, and I returned Dad to his new residence that evening. We talked and talked (I did, anyhow) and he chuckled as if he understood some of what I said. Nearly two decades later, I am still blessed by that Thanksgiving with Dad.

Surrounded by today’s blessings as we plan next week’s celebration, I occasionally wonder what might happen over this Thanksgiving holiday for which others may someday be ever thankful.

Oh, yes. It’s the beginning of that other season, too. So… Count blessings first. Then count your cash. Then go shopping and support the world’s economy (thus, blessing families across the planet).

Blessings to you and yours in this season of giving – and giving thanks.

Fourth Graders & a Christmas Tree Hunt

Written by Jim Huckabay on November 10, 2017. Posted in Uncategorized

Somehow, this just seems wrong. Christmas trees? Christmas? Already?

On the other hand, the press release from the U.S. Forest Service (and the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest folks) is probably right on time. Families can be planning now to go find the tree which will form the centerpiece of their spiritual and physical celebration of Christmas.

Each fourth grader with an “Every Kid” pass can get a free Christmas tree permit. That permit opens the door to a family adventure – and maybe the beginning of a family tradition and memories savored for a lifetime or more.

We’ve looked at this before. In 2016, President Obama kicked off the national Every Kid in a Park Initiative as part of the 100th Anniversary celebration of the National Park Service. Operated by an interagency group of feds involved with our outdoors, the idea is to encourage children to visit national parks, forests and public lands. Now, each fourth grader in the country can obtain an annual (September 1 to August 31) paper pass for free entry into all federal lands and waters. That paper pass can be exchanged for a multi-agency plastic pass at a number of partner sites (including most of our Forest Service District Ranger offices). The pass admits the pass-holding kid and any passengers in the same private vehicle to per-vehicle charge sites, or the kid and up to three hanger-on adults to per-person charge sites. This is good at all federal land and water sites. Get all the details, of course, at the Every Kid in a Park website – (Your kid may already have his/her pass – many fourth-grade teachers make it a class project.)

This is a big deal; more than 80 percent of American families are deep urbanites, with limited safe outdoor access, and youngsters spend more time than ever before staring at screens. The goal of the program is to get kids and families out to our federal lands and waters. Targeting fourth graders, over time, will ensure that every child in the U.S. has the opportunity to visit and enjoy our nation’s wild and sacred lands and waters. Given that children between nine and 11 are uniquely open to learning about their world, and are highly receptive to new ideas, fourth graders are at an ideal age to develop a lifelong devotion to nature and our outdoor heritage.

So, why not start with a Christmas tree permit? To get the free one, the kid takes the “Every Kid” pass to any eastern Washington Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest ranger district office or headquarters office (Cle Elum, Leavenworth, Naches, or another) during regular business hours and claims his or her tree permit tag. Additional public permits are available for five bucks. This could be a great start to a family outdoor year.

The Old Man always loved our “tree hunt.”  He explained to me and his two other sons that we hunted deer to sustain our physical selves through winter. Our Christmas tree hunt, he said, was to sustain our spirits through whatever lean times might come. He had precious little education, but he was a wise man. With his construction work in the tough 1950s, lean times were almost guaranteed by every Christmas.

At some point in December, we would load up at our East Wenatchee house and head up to Uncle Ed and Aunt Evy’s place on the Little Chumstick, out of Leavenworth. Somewhere on those hillsides, we knew, was the perfect tree. It was as close as The Old Man ever got to democracy; we all had a vote, and only a unanimous vote would get a tree cut. We would stand before tree after tree, and split each ballot. Over a few hours, of course, the split grew narrower, as my younger siblings grew weary of democracy. Finally, some ideal young Douglas fir (in his opinion, the only true Christmas tree) would receive a unanimous, if teeth-chattering, “aye!”  After a short ceremony, my father would cut the tree.

Few presents or little money, there was always the tree. It was the hearth around which we heard the biblical stories of Christmas, and learned of family Christmas traditions.

Christmas ended when the tree came down. Some years it lasted well into January – some years we needed a constant reminder of the spirit of the season.

Different times, these today. For a lot of good reasons, we probably still need that icon carrying us through the Christmas season. Decorated with the trappings of faith and family ways, surrounded and filled with gifts, it is still the focal point of most of our family celebrations.

Get the permit. Get the tree. Make a memory in the forests of Paradise to fix in our children a commitment to wild places and wild things forever. Let the scent that fills your home carry you back – again and again – to your hunt in the forest. Let it be a source of family pleasure and togetherness.

Who knows what this “Every Kid” pass will accomplish over time? This is important. To paraphrase Jodi Larsen, Upper County Rotary: Children are the emissaries we send into a time we will never see – what do we want them to take along?

Too early, I fear… But is it ever too early to help kids and families develop a commitment to a forever outdoor future? Hmmm…

Fine… Merry Christmas!

Washington and Those Slumping Hunter Numbers

Written by Jim Huckabay on November 3, 2017. Posted in Uncategorized

You probably noticed it, too, last week. An online reader was kind enough to send me an “Oops, those numbers were off!” He noted that any hunter’s spouse will tell you their hunter spends a lot more than a couple bucks a year. In noting that as U.S. hunter numbers dropped from 12.5 million in 2006 and 13.7 million in 2011, to 11.5 million in 2016, expenditures slumped from $24.7 million in 2006 ($36.3 million in 2011) to $25.6 million in 2016. Oops. Those dollars were billions, with a “b!” Check out the 2016 survey at (click on the survey’s title link) and you’ll see. Nationally, actual average annual expenditures per hunter ranged from $2,187 to $2,652 over the decade.

Those lost expenditures have a direct impact on the money available for managing wildlife and protecting habitat – habitat which supports far more non-hunted species of birds and animals than game birds and animals. Hunters, through the Pittman-Robertson excise taxes (up to $325 million annually) on firearms, ammo, archery equipment and other hunting related gear. This money, along with other state hunting revenues, funds a high percentage of the work done to ensure that our children’s children have wildlife. Lost hunting revenues are a very big deal.

So, where does Washington State fit in this loss of hunters and hunting-related revenue? What about R3 (recruitment, retention and reactivation) efforts? I reached out to Dave Whipple, WDFW’s Hunter Ed Division Manager, and he called on Michael Davenport, Economic Analyst for the department. Michael tracks hunter numbers and license sales – and the ramifications of them to DFW and the state – and Dave works with Wildlife Program folks to stay ahead of – or deal with – the trends Michael uncovers.

Turns out that hunter numbers in Washington reflect that national trend. Dave and Michael sent me current data for statewide license sales over the past decade. Licensing info is simple at one level and very complicated overall. Consider how many licensing packages there are (for example, big game with small game or two big game species vs 4 big game species, and on and on). Kudos to the folks who gather and sort these numbers AND to the folks who work with hunters and hunter numbers in the face of these trends.

The data are pretty interesting – almost fascinating. For a given year, they will show the total licenses sold for hunting a particular critter, and all the combinations within which we may buy our tags. Take deer, for example: buy just a deer license; a deer + elk; a deer + elk + bear + cougar; add a small game license; get a second tag; win a raffle deer license or combo. Now, multiply this by all species we hunt.

For what it’s worth, small game license sales have remained pretty stable over the past decade, while big game license sales have slumped to one degree or another. For the record, somewhere around 137,000 of your closest friends applied for special hunt permits this year. Under some conditions and in some places, you can have seven turkey tags (three hunters bought a seventh tag in 20167.

The simplest way to track Washington hunter numbers is with the “annual unique hunter” count. This is the number of individual purchasers of hunting licenses, no matter how many they bought or how they bought them. In the past decade unique hunter numbers dropped from 196,795 to 179,047 in 2017.

Those 17,748 “lost” hunters did not spend the $40 million or so that we might have expected. This carries a big economic impact to the future of our wildlife – to our outdoor heritage.

So how is the Department of Fish and Wildlife responding?

A formal organized R3 Initiative, with a growing number of partners across the state, is underway. We should see more activity in the next twelve months.

In October of 2013, DFW and our Fish and Wildlife Commission pulled together the Youth Outdoors Initiative. This program is still growing, and is focused on getting youngsters off their digital additions and into outdoor connections. These activities include fishing, hiking, hunting and other ways of connecting with the earth. Programs are in schools around the state.

Recruitment of hunters – youth and otherwise – has been so far largely in the hands of DFW’s regional Hunter Education & Volunteer coordinators, such as our Region 3 guy, Aaron Garcia.

This year, Aaron has ramrodded these local R3 activities: Five turkey hunting clinics (Cabelas and Red’s Fly Shop) with Rich Mann – The Turkey Whisperer; Between April 1st and May 31st, 39 first-time hunters signed up to participate in mentored turkey hunts; Between September 23 and October 31, another 50 first-timers signed up to hunt fall turkeys – some may go on a late fall hunt; On September 23, youth pheasant hunters met mentors with dogs at the Cottonwoods and Sunnyside pheasant release sites, for coaching and hunting – there were many more youth hunters than in previous years; and on September 30, Reds Fly Shop, Yakima Basin Pheasants Forever, and DFW put on a youth-only pheasant hunt for 30 youngsters on the Canyon River Ranch’s hunting area. More clinics and hunts are planned.

This is important to the future of our outdoor heritage – and it is only a start. As R3 activities become available, we all need to be there.