Archive for February, 2019

About Hoarfrost

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 27, 2019. Posted in Uncategorized

A bit over twelve years ago – early February of 2007 – we spent day after day here in our Central Washington Paradise wandering through that bone-chilling early morning fog, surrounded by the white ghosts of barbed wire, fence posts, grasses, weeds and trees. Each ghost comprised of delicate, fern-like shards of ice. At the time, no one seemed to remember it lasting so many days. This winter, we’ve had a few morning flashbacks.

Several homeys have shared their delight and questions. As Chief Meteorologist for the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog and Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association, I am duty-bound to share the following.

This is hoarfrost! Its name is from the Middle English “hore” or “hoor,” and the Anglo-Saxon “har” – words long used to describe something so old its hair is turning white. Truth be told, I’m a bit hoary myself.

Hoarfrost fills me with wonder and delights the kid in me with its magic. In a flash, I can find myself twenty feet up a cottonwood, in a ten-below-zero fog, along the South Platte River in eastern Colorado. So cold, I doubted I could draw my bow, even if a buck stood broadside forever. At last, as light seeped into the cottonwoods, glowing-white trees, shrubs and weeds filled every view. The breaking sun slowly lifted the fog. Fifty yards away, half a dozen rooster pheasants shimmered in a glowing hoary tree, as several does and a nice buck drifted across beneath them. That magical moment is permanently etched on my soul.

Frost is not just rain or dew that freezes into some form of ice; it occurs under specific conditions. The air must reach a point of saturation – holding all the water vapor it can hold – and its temperature must be below freezing. Then the air must cool enough more (generally by radiation of the ground’s heat to a clear sky) that it can no longer hold all its water vapor. Under calm conditions, the water will then change its state, and sublimate directly from vapor to solid.

In its solid state, water, like other minerals, has a crystal shape and structure. When water vapor sublimates onto a surface, as in the case of hoarfrost, it aligns with one or another of its infinite number of six-sided hexagonal crystalline structures, creating the delicate feathery patterns which decorate our windows in winter. At temperatures just below freezing we get frost across our windshields; at lower temperatures, we get the lacy, crystalline patterns that pain us to scrape away.


In calm, well‑below‑freezing conditions of saturated air, such as we experienced for a few days out of the last month or so, crystals will grow around dried weed stems and flowers, on metal fence structures, on tree limbs, and on almost any three‑dimensional surface. The crystals can reach a length of an inch or more, and may be shaped like long six-sided tubes, Siamese snowflakes, delicate Japanese fans, or whatever else they may choose.

While our hoarfrost was the result of sublimation of water vapor directly to ice, the other remarkable occurrence a couple homeys mentioned – on the ground – was from just the opposite process; ice sublimating directly to water vapor. This is how those leaves “sank” into the snow and ice, leaving perfect little leaf-shaped craters. The temperature stayed low, but during the first few days enough sunlight reached the ground to be absorbed by the dark brown leaves. Those leaves and their stems absorbed enough energy to trigger the change of state of the ice or snow under them to

Sublimated leaf

water vapor. There was no liquid water at any point, hence, the absolutely perfectly shaped holes into which the leaves and their stems steadily sank an inch or more into the ice or snow.

Neither of these sublimation processes happen very often, even here in Paradise, so I took a couple dozen photos of several of the unique and amazing

patterns. These are the kinds of things Professor Joe Eagleman, my mentor, would examine for days when I was at the University of Kansas – the magic gifts of Nature which drove me to be a meteorologist and geographer.

Truth be told, I’m not the fan of the cold that I was then. Still, being lost in a glistening crown of hoarfrost, and the tale the crystals were telling, made me forget it was only eight or ten degrees out there.

About Coyotes

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 20, 2019. Posted in Uncategorized

I was attending to the Kittitas County Field & Stream Club’s co-sponsored photo contest booth at the Central Washington Sportsmen Show in Yakima’s SunDome over the weekend. For some reason – maybe because most of the photos captured wild critters doing what they do – homey after homey wanted to talk coyotes.

Initially, the stories were about winter and snow and coyotes and their prey. It surprised me how similar were our coyote tales – and how vividly we each remembered a particular time of being entranced by the wild dogs’ behavior.

On a wintry afternoon a couple decades ago, I was driving the old Roslyn Cemetery-Ronald Road, in Upper Kittitas County, when I noticed three coyotes across a snow-covered pasture. Through my old spotting scope, I watched three of them “dancing” for field mice or voles. They were oblivious to my presence. Each caught at least one small rodent with that funny stalk in the snow. First, the little wild dog would freeze, ears cocked to the ground. It would tip-toe a few inches, leap stiff-legged into the air, pin its prey to the ground, bury its face in the foot-deep snow, snatch it, toss it overhead and catch it. That remains one of the most vivid half-hours of my outdoor life.

There seemed some rich satisfaction as each entrée was properly crunched and swallowed. The whole process seemed somehow joyful to me. Even though I’d studied the little dogs for decades, that was the first time I saw that amazing, captivating, dance performed in snow. It made perfect sense to me; coyote has ears to match most any animal, a nose almost as good as a bloodhound and outstanding eyesight.

I deeply appreciate the pleasures of watching winter coyotes. Still, spring has long been “coyote time” for me. Maybe it’s remembering how the new pups always seemed so awkward and confused on our Colorado foothills driveway, then instantly off to play with some pine squirrel or bird. Or maybe it is all those hours spent watching them overturn rocks and wood for grubs, or dig for rodents to feed their babies. Or maybe it was watching those wild dogs of spring performing that rodent dance in the yellow matted grass of early spring. That became my coyote time.

You are aware, I’d bet, that “playfulness” has long been used by animal behaviorists as a measure of intelligence. Coyotes have often been observed using a “tag‑team” technique for chasing antelope and hares (deer, too). If you watch them much, you=ll see them playing with each other, and any nearby critter. How can we doubt their intelligence?

Coyote lives on mice, snowshoe hares, birds, or rabbits in rural habitats; or trash and small pets in downtown Seattle, Spokane or LA. Fruit, berries, melons, tomatoes and carrots are also food. Among wildlife, there are specialists and there are generalists. Coyote is the quintessential generalist, thriving about anywhere, in every habitat type in our state. An opportunist – a generalist – coyote will eat just about anything.

In keeping with the guidelines of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association Science Education Committee, I must tell you that coyote may reach 40 pounds and 26 inches at the shoulder, and live for 10 years in the wild. A coyote has superb senses of hearing, smelling and seeing. Mostly nocturnal, he is often seen in full daylight, and his scientific name is Canis latrans.

The common name we use comes from the Aztec “coyotl,” or “barking dog.” To the Yakamas, he is “Spilyi.” This animal is woven into the tapestry of North American human history, traditions and teachings. According to numerous writings, and several of my Native American friends, coyote is often the trickster. His “medicine” makes us laugh, even as we are made the fool. He challenges us to learn, to grow, as he exemplifies our good and bad qualities. In many ways, he is us.

Between 1915 and 1947, in the United States, bounties were paid on 1,884,897 coyotes. In recent decades, federal agents protecting livestock have killed hundreds of thousands of western coyotes. We shoot coyotes. We poisoned them. We have buried, drowned and blown up coyotes. We’ve trapped them. Yet, today, coyote numbers have grown and their range and habitat have spread.

Funny, how connected we humans are with coyote. We hate him. We laugh at him. We stop, mesmerized, as he and his family holler at the moon and the sunrise. And we feed him our pets.

I love watching coyotes. I am delighted when I see pups playing and learning to be coyotes. I’ve also seen what a couple can do to a flock of new lambs. And I’ve long wanted a bedspread of full-winter coyote hides, with a pattern of red fox in the middle. I admit to mixed feelings.

At Last! Fantasy Season!

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 13, 2019. Posted in Uncategorized

It was one of those way-off-Reecer Creek meetings of the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association. A couple displaced homeys and I were wandering the Pacific Northwest Sportsmen’s Show at the Portland Expo. At one point, the conversation drifted to the seasons around which our lives have long unfolded. In short order, we identified the seasons of fishing, gardening, crabbing, summer camping, hiking, mushrooms, huckleberries, harvest and hunting, preparing and preserving, and the holidays. “And let’s not forget this one,” I suggested, “the time of these outdoor and sportsmen’s shows – our Fantasy Season!”

As you are quite aware, I’ve been following these shows for decades. I know that somewhere in each show is the answer to just about any outdoor fantasy I ever had – somewhere down one or another aisle is something to make my life complete. You gotta love this season and the outdoor shows where we celebrate it.

How owners and managers keep the shows evolving and interesting – thus keeping us coming back – has long intrigued me. Of course, I want to know what’s new and exciting in our outdoor avocations, and how we are recruiting future generations, but I am always interested in asking exhibitors about which of the many dozens of shows across the country they follow – or don’t – and why.

Among the exhibitors at the Puyallup and Portlland shows over the last few weeks, four western shows (among several across the country) were consistently on “We’re probably not going back…” lists. Those were in Denver, Sacramento, Salt Lake, and Phoenix. Reasons given for slumping interest in those shows range from poor maintenance and management, unbalanced mixes of booth offerings, and falling attendance. In a couple eastern U.S. shows many spaces were empty this year, and half or more of the booths were from Africa. The number of sold booths at a couple shows has fallen so far that reps from only-weeks-away shows were on the floor of the Portland Expo last week trying to get exhibitors to shift their remaining schedules around. A balance of outfitters, retailers, manufacturers, education and entertainment is critical for a successful show for both exhibitors and attendees

Admittedly, the two shows I’ve recently poked around have been O’Laughlin productions. Still, I have yet to hear a grumble from an exhibitor, and I consistently hear their shows – and those smaller regional shows in Central Washington and rural Oregon – described as well-managed, well-planned, well promoted and “always fresh, with a smart diversity of exhibitors.” So, how is it that we here in Washington live amidst several of the freshest and best “sportsman” shows in the country?

I asked Trey Carskadon, PR Director and mouthpiece for the O’Laughlin Trade Shows, for the secret. He just smiled and started rattling off his “here’s what works” list.

“It starts with our O’Laughlin show staff – we are all lifelong outdoor nuts, living our fishing and hunting dreams and carefully tracking attendees and their interests. We try new things and keep improving them – like our live kokanee tank. We start marketing and brainstorming in April, reviewing possible new speakers and approaches discovered by staff or attendees – like these youthful speakers who just blew people away this year. We’re finding women leaders to help us support the growing desire for women to take their places outdoors. We work on new sponsorships conttantly – new things and ideas. Certain things are in all our shows, of course, but we take several unique approaches to each community.

”At Puyallup this year, for example, we moved access around to more easily open up parts of the show. Our new kayak fishing pavilion was very popular in the area, and our big outdoor cooking competition drew popular pros from across North America – it went viral!

“This Portland show features a big new walleye tank, with our “Walleye Alley” and is stirring even more local excitement than we expected. We cranked up our Backcountry Hunting Area of preparation and displays, with the “Born and Raised Outdoors” section. Here, at this Portland venue, we really feature Leupold Optics and Gerber Knives – we have them in other shows, of course, but each has a unique mix of retailers and manufacturers.

“All these things are at the heart of successful long-term relationships among outdoor exhibitors, speakers, and our communities. We all love this outdoor expo business and we work to have it here for those who come after us!”

I can say that, so far this year, I have seen more youngsters and more groups of young women wandering the shows than in years past. I’m feeling ever more optimistic about our outdoor future.

The Shuylers keep our Central Washington Sportsmen Show in Yakima fresh and fun, too. It kicks off Friday afternoon and runs through Sunday. See you at the SunDome.

It’s Fantasy Season.

Your Free Outdoor Photo Contest

Written by Jim Huckabay on February 6, 2019. Posted in Uncategorized

You, or a close friend or family member, got a camera for Christmas.

In keeping with my dual responsibilities as Contest Encouragement Chair for the Reecer Creek Rod, Gun, Working Dog & Outdoor Think Tank Benevolent Association and as Prize Procurement Officer of the Kittitas County Field and Stream Club (KCFSC), I have a suggestion – a suggestion for anyone within email of Central Washington.

Perhaps the biggest photo contest held in our region is almost over, but you can still play.  The contest, in association with Shuyler’s Central Washington Sportsmen Show in Yakima, is co-sponsored by the 100-year-old Kittitas County Field and Stream Club, which provides ribbons and prizes. This year’s prizes include ribbons for all classes, winners’ photos printed on stretched canvas and gift cards. You have until Midnight Saturday to enter your digital wildlife and wild places photos and help others to enter theirs.

Prizes will be awarded to winners in adult and kid categories. The two age groups are kids (16 and under) and adults (17 and older). This is a great opportunity to get folks of all ages psyched about, and started on, outdoor photography.

Deadline for entry of your digital photo (.jpeg format) is February 6 – you have clear through Saturday. (Did I mention that it is free?) All photos will be continuously displayed during the Central Washington Sportsmen Show, in the SunDome, February 15, 16 and 17. Prizes will be awarded around Noon on Sunday, the 17th.

You have plenty of time to splash through the photos you are already thinking about entering, with time left over to get out into the valley and take photos of the wildlife all around us. The actual entering of your digital photos will take only a minute or so.

I am, herewith, providing a general overview of the contest, but for official instructions and rules, go to and click on “Photo Contest.” Your .jpeg photos must be uploaded by midnight 9 February.

The entries must be photographs, not visual or graphic art manipulations. You must be the original photographer, and hold copyright to all photos submitted. Photographs of living fish and/or wildlife may include one or more people, and camp site scene photos are invited.  Photographers may not excessively alter or change photographs with photo editing software. No print/film submissions will be accepted, and, of course, no profane language, violence, nudity, or personal attacks on people or organizations is allowed. You agree to indemnify Shuyler Productions for a mess arising from any violation of trademark, copyright or whatever in your photo. Shuyler gets to use your photo (with proper credit) as it sees fit, although you retain full ownership and copyrights. There are a few more details, but you’ll see them when you enter your photo. It is easy and straightforward.

Prizes and ribbons will be awarded on the basis of the judges’ decisions, and all decisions of the judges and/or the Photo Committee are final. Awards will be in two age groups, adult (seventeen and older) and youth (sixteen and younger). First and second place (and honorable mention) ribbons will be awarded for adult and youth photos and one “best of show” award will be given. Each winner will also receive a stretched canvas print (8” by 10”), suitable for framing, of his or her winning photo. Other prizes include appropriate gift cards.

All photos entered and accepted into the contest and exhibit will be displayed on a large flat screen TV during this week’s 2019 Tri-Cities Sportsmen Show (early entries only, obviously) and at the Central Washington Sportsmen Show in a week and a half. The entry deadline is 9 February and prizes will be awarded during the show in the SunDome.

It’s free and fun and easy and you can enter from anyplace. And you still have days yet. Go to and click on the photo contest, and click on the link for all details. To enter your photos, simply send an email, with .jpeg photo(s) attached, to Dennis [email protected]. In the email, include: a) photographer’s name, address and phone number; b) age group (16 or under/17 or older) c) name of the .jpeg photo (specify a series of two or more photos); and d) title of photo if it has one. That’s all there is to it.

Did I mention that it is free, easy, and a great opportunity to get a kid of any age excited about wildlife and outdoor photography?

We’ll be looking for your winning photo at the Yakima SunDome this weekend.