Archive for November, 2019

Thanksgiving History and Food Traditions

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

For one reason or another – parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, and whoever else might have shown up – I have in the back of my mind a nearly-constant conversation about food and food traditions this time every year.

It all moved to the front of my mind as we opened our Checkerboard Partnership at the Swauk-Teanaway Grange a bit over a week ago. The Partnership is working to create a community forest of land around and near Roslyn in the Upper County. That meeting of a couple dozen active citizens, officials, agencies, businesses and organizations began with self-introductions and an “ice-breaker” question.

The question each was to answer was something to the effect of “What food must be a part of your Thanksgiving dinner celebration?” While several of us voted for turkey and cranberry sauce or dressing or pies or whatever, the most popular response was “mashed potatoes and gravy.”

Out of that brief go-round, came a bit of conjuring with the question of how far, or not, we have come since that fall, 1621, feast at Plymouth Colony. That is the harvest meal which we recognize as the first “Thanksgiving” in what became the USA. It is pretty easy to find a summary of the foods eaten on that day, but I like the piece Megan Gambino wrote for on Nov. 21st of 2011. (No mashed potatoes and gravy, by the way.)

Wildfowl (waterfowl, grouse, turkey), shellfish, squash (pumpkins), along with corn – used for bread and porridge – and venison were on that early menu. Ms. Gambino made note of the two surviving references to that harvest celebration shared by the Pilgrims and Wampanoag at Plymouth Colony. One was a letter to a friend in England, written by Edward Winslow: “Our harvest being gotten in, our governor sent four men on fowling, that so we might after a special manner rejoice together after we had gathered the fruit of our labors. They four in one day killed as much fowl as, with a little help beside, served the company almost a week. At which time, amongst other recreations, we exercised our arms, many of the Indians coming amongst us, and among the rest their greatest king Massasoit, with some ninety men, whom for three days we entertained and feasted, and they went out and killed five deer, which they brought to the plantation and bestowed on our governor, and upon the captain and others.” The governor – William Bradford – noted that “…besides waterfowl there was great store of wild turkeys, of which they took many, besides venison, etc. …[N]ow since harvest, Indian corn.”

[Find more about that first celebration (good family then-and-now discussion, actually) at]

Following that first feast, Thanksgiving became an annual custom throughout New England. In 1777 the Continental Congress declared the first national American Thanksgiving following the Patriot victory at Saratoga. President George Washington, in 1779, became the first president to proclaim the holiday – Thursday, November 26 – to be a day of national thanksgiving for the U.S. Constitution. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving to be a national celebration on the last Thursday of November. Franklin D. Roosevelt moved it up a week, but recanted after much protest. On November 26, 1941, he signed a bill into law officially making the fourth Thursday in November the national holiday of Thanksgiving Day.

It occurs to me that my family and I have enjoyed any number of Thanksgiving traditions reminiscent of that 1621 feast. Venison and gamebirds have regularly accompanied our turkey and stuffing centerpiece. Admittedly, our food is prepared differently than the boiling and fire roasting common in those earliest days, and they certainly did not have pies (no wheat flour and crusts), but there are nods we all make to that first feast. And, I think we still find a moment to be thankful for the “harvest” of the gifts that make our lives whole.

Consider the life value of being thankful for what we have – and celebrating the pleasure of food. A couple decades back, psychologist Paul Rozen and some of his grad students at the University of Pennsylvania, interviewed over a thousand people (primarily in America and France) about food. What they found suggested that the better French health (even with a much richer diet) may have had a lot to do with state of mind. They found that the French associated eating with pleasure, while Americans tended to associate eating with health and nutrition – and fretting.

This idea of gratitude, joy, and health from eating is not new. Julia Child often spoke of health and joyful eating. Several of my Yakama and Nez Perce friends speak of prayer over food, to be joyfully consumed, as making the food “medicine.” I like praying over the plants and animals which honor me with the gifts of their flesh.

So, here’s to giving thanks for blessings and traditions. Here’s to food made medicine with gratitude and prayer. Here’s to your good health from joyfully consuming gifts of the earth.

May your traditions warm and sustain you through the coming season. Happy holidays.


The Forever Gift of Family Shooting

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

It is that time again. The Kittitas Valley Rifle and Pistol Club (KVRPC), here in Ellensburg, Washington, is a couple weeks away from the 2019-20 Light Rifle Class League for families. This is the league largely devoted to families (parents, grandparents and kids) who are committed to safe and fun firearms training and practice for their youngsters.

The beauty of thinking about this particular club’s family shooting activities is that almost every town and city in the country has similar opportunities. Check around your neighborhood, gun shops and sporting good stores to find them wherever you are.

KVRPC’s Light Rifle Class League has been described as sixteen weeks of family fun; shooting at swinging targets, paper targets, and an occasional steel silhouette, in a warm, safe, and well-supervise environment. The inexpensive 16 week league program starts in just three weeks.  Bring your favorite .22 caliber rifle or .17 or larger serious air rifle (under 10 pounds), ammo and a desire for safe fun. Everything else will be waiting for you; regulation 10-bull NRA targets, a modern heated range facility, instruction, the direction of a qualified range master and coaching as needed/desired. If you don’t have a light rifle, the Club has one to loan you.

To get started in the league – or just to gather information for your decision – you will want to make the Fall Membership Meeting at the club’s HQ (608 West 15th Avenue). That meeting is in a couple weeks, at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 3rd. You will meet the range and those who operate it, while checking out programs and fees to fit your family interests. The training and shooting pleasure of this winter will still light your youngsters’ eyes decades down the road. You will create a family memory that will never fade and a start a lifetime of family fun.

I like how Brett Hollar responded when I asked him about his years of shooting experience with son, Grant, and how that all plays out now that Grant is off to college and adulthood.

His boy started shooting .22 rifles with our local 4-H shooting club at about eight years of age. By the time he was 11 or 12, he was joining his father at KVRPC, and was pretty serious about putting holes in the right places on paper targets. Brett was doing competitive small bore shooting at the Club, and Grant joined him in regular league shooting, becoming the top marksman in a couple different leagues. Grant took up competitive handgun shooting at 14 under 4-H Club, KVRPC, and family supervision. As his skill grew, so did the time he and his father had together.

Grant got his big game hunting rifle at age 13 and that added shared time as hunting partners. More than just shared time, Brett will tell you, the shooting relationships among parents and youngsters are invariably marked by a very high level of respect and personal responsibility.

When I asked Brett about his now-off-to-the-world son, he paused and told me how very much he missed his hunting partner this fall. Then he added something to the effect of, “You know, our youngsters grow up, go off to college and careers. All those together times afield, pursuing game and birds during one season or another, just seem to disappear. But the love of target and competitive shooting is always there; there is no season. So, when we can, and do, get together and find some shared time – whatever the ‘season’ – we can go shooting. Shooting is forever!”

I can attest to that. Edward and Anna, last two of the Hucklings, were treasured hunting and fishing partners, along with their kid brother Jonathan. As working adults, their schedules have not meshed with many of the seasons we always enjoyed afield. On the other hand, Edward and Anna found an early December hole in their Los Angeles stunt, modeling and scriptwriting schedules, and Jonny had the same few days free from his Red Bull Adventure building and engineering work. Thus, we will assemble in a couple weeks for a Four-Day Defensive Handgun Class at one of our ranges at Front Sight Firearms Training Institute between Pahrump and Lost Wages, Nevada. We are adjusting to the changes in our relationships: we can rarely get together during hunting or fishing or camping “seasons,” but somewhere in there, there is always an opening for shooting. It will be a great family time.

Talk to any of the family members of KVRPC and they will have stories of father or mother son/daughter teams showing up to learn, grow and enjoy the Light Rifle League or one of the competitive leagues. They may note that girls are better shots among youngsters at the range, at least early on, because they seem to be listening, while the boys just want to start throwing lead down range. They will probably tell you that Hal and Marilyn Mason are the heart and backbone of the Club, leading other board and general members in a commitment to youngsters and safe, fun, family shooting, with coaching and kindness – and stern clarity when needed.

The Light Rifle (family fun for all skill levels) League starts Thursday, Dec. 12 at 6 p.m. Other shooting programs at the Club include Competitive Target Rifle shooting (starts 6 p.m. Tuesday Dec. 10), Bullseye Pistol Shooting (Wednesdays at Noon and 6, stating Dec. 11), and Marilyn Mason’s Basics of Pistol Shooting for Women on scheduled Saturdays – training 25 to 30 women yearly. The Club has loaner firearms for any of these shooting programs.

Find out more at the Annual Meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 3rd (above), or call Mel Goudge (509-925-4285) or Hal Mason (509-962-3002).

Here is an opportunity for you and your family to develop the skills, patience, discipline, respect and confidence that family recreational shooting programs promise and deliver.

It starts just in time to be one of the best Christmas gifts you will ever hand your household.

And, it’s a forever gift!

Northwest Elk and Deer Disease Worries

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

No doubt, if you follow wildlife issues across Washington – even if you are not a big game hunter – you are aware of the current diseases related to ungulates. We hear about the various pneumonia strains killing and affecting our wild sheep, the rapidly growing concern about deformed hooves of our elk, or wapiti, and a long-time concern over chronic wasting disease (DWD) in deer – not yet found in our state, but in deer just a state or province away.

Pros in the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) are focused on solving and managing all three of these disease concerns. For today, I want to consider the elk and deer issues.

DFW has been working with elk hunters on the other side of the Cascades since 2008, but recently sent an urgent request to elk hunters over here in eastern Washington. It looks like this: “Please note… If you harvest an elk in eastern Washington with deformed or abnormal hooves, please retain the hooves and immediately report your observation through WDFW’s online reporting form or by contacting WDFW’s elk specialist ([email protected]; 360-902-8133). You are not in violation of WAC 220-413-200 by removing hooves from the site of harvest in eastern Washington.”

This hoof disease, known as TAHD (treponeme-associated hoof disease), was first reported in the southwest portion of our state in 2008. It causes limping and lameness from abnormal hoof growth and lesions. In some cases, the outer shell of hooves may just start falling apart. DFW researchers and a group of scientist-advisors, found the abnormalities associated with the treponeme bacteria which cause digital dermatitis – a hoof disease which has affected the livestock industry (cattle, sheep, and goats) for decades. The 2008 discovery of TAHD was the first known occurrence of the disease in any wild ungulate.

Thus far, this hoof disease has been documented in elk in all our southwest counties, as well as Clallam, Jefferson, King, Whatcom, and Skagit Counties. In February of this year, DFW confirmed TAHD in Walla Walla County, the easternmost confirmation to date. This is a devastating problem for affected wapiti and it is on the move in our state. Thus, the request made of eastern elk hunters. You can learn more, and get more details, at

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) is another story. It has yet to be found in Washington – or in any of our bordering states. It continues to spread, however, and is currently found in 24 states and two provinces. CWD is contagious and fatal in deer (white-tail, mule, and black-tail deer), elk, moose, and caribou. It is caused by mutated proteins known as prions, which can remain in the environment for years and be transmitted between members of the deer family through their feces, saliva, urine, and other bodily fluids.

It is a neurological disease, causing a spongy degeneration of the brains of infected animals resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death. It is among a group/family of diseases known as transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSEs). Variants within this family include some which affect domestic sheep and goats (scrapie) and cattle (BSE, or “mad cow disease”). While rumors of a cure circulate from time to time, there is no cure on the horizon and the only control is, to the extent possible, isolating the infected animals.

CWD was first found in 1967 in a research mule deer herd in Colorado, and confirmed as a TSE in the 1970s. Within a few years it was found in elk of Colorado and in deer of Wyoming. Today, as noted above CWD is in members of the deer family in half the states of the Lower 48.

Washington has taken many steps over the years to prevent CWD from entering the state – and our wild ungulate populations. These steps have ranged from outlawing ungulate game farms and testing thousands of deer to creating a pretty strict set of rules for bringing game meat into our state from any CWD state where it was harvested. You will find those rules and more at DFW encourages hunters to have deer tested for CWD in states where they are killed – that state will notify DFW and the hunter of a positive test for CWD and the meat from that animal will be confiscated and destroyed. (This has happened a handful of times over recent years.) While there currently is no scientific evidence of CWD being transmitted from animals to humans, agencies and the feds strongly recommend against eating meat from an animal that has tested positive.

Because there remain many mysteries about just how CWD spreads, and because it is still steadily spreading, this is a growing concern across the Northwest and the country. What, for example, is the role of wolves in the spreading of this disease? A number of studies across the country (Google “CWD and wolves”) maintain that wolves actually limit its spread. Yet, given the wide ranges of wolves, their ingestion of the parts of prey which carry the prions, and the fact that those prions would be dropped in wolf scat/feces wherever they travel, several biologists in Colorado and elsewhere are asking that dead wolves and wolf scat be tested for prions. DFW will be releasing new rules and policy for managing CWD in a couple months.

Learn more by reviewing the DFW website noted above, or the North American site at (and links there).

This conversation about current, and coming, diseases in our wild ungulates will continue as more is learned and new rules are promulgated. Stand by…

The Wolves of Washington – Changes Coming?

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

An ever more interesting conversation, this discussion of wolves and their status, behavior, and management here in our state. There seems almost no action ranchers in now-wolf-country, and the wildlife managers of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), can propose or take to deal with livestock depredation that doesn’t trigger protest and a court battle. The conflict over DFW policy has been bubbling over the past decade and more.

Over the years since the 2009 Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), titled “Wolf Conservation and Management Plan for Washington” was released, a number of wolves and entire packs have been killed after persistently preying upon domestic livestock. Nearly all of the lethal removals have been in and around the Colville National Forest in northeast Washington. The removals took place following one or another DFW policy – each of which required that stockmen carry out some extensive level of non-lethal means of separating livestock and wolves over some time period. The latest removal in the Colville area was in August, just before a restraining order was issued in a Seattle courtroom.

As a geographer and lifelong wildlife nut, the management goals for wolves in our state – in the context of other western state wolf recovery goals – seemed to me so unrealistic that conflicts were inevitable. Consider the following bit of western state geography (areas suitable wolf habitat are from the Federal Register (02/08/07, Vol. 72, Num. 26), and the human populations are from the 2007 U.S. Census Bureau.

Montana held 958,000 humans (6.6 per square mile) and 40, 924 square miles of suitable wolf habitat. Wyoming had 523,000 people (5.4 per square mile) with 29, 808 square miles of wolf ground. Idaho, with its 1,499, 000 people (18.1 per square mile), has wolf habitat totaling 31,586 square miles. Washington’s population was 6,468,000 (97.2 people per square mile). Our wolf habitat: 297 square miles in the eastern one-third and “scattered habitat in small isolated areas of the Okanogan, marginal habitat both north and south of Mount Rainier, and a large area of habitat in and around the Olympic National Park,” adding up to something around 4,500 square miles.

Thus, in Washington we have a human population of four to thirteen times the other “wolf” states, a population density of five to nineteen times theirs, and “suitable habitat” only eleven to fifteen percent of theirs. Yet, in each of the other states, the goal for delisting was 100 wolves (ten breeding pairs), while Washington’s goal was 15 breeding pairs/packs of wolves (about 150 animals) before delisting. The clock has been ticking ever louder over the past decade.

At last 2018 population survey, DFW biologists estimated Washington’s wolf population at a minimum of 126 individuals, 27 packs, and 15 successful breeding pairs. The number of wolves across the state has reached a point that many are pushing for delisting of wolves from any state threatened or endangered list, and turning wolf management over to DFW – similar to management in other western states. To that end, DFW officials have begun a broad public outreach effort.

In late summer wildlife officials scheduled a series of 14 open public meetings across the state to begin assessing possible changes to the state’s wolf-management policy. Within a week or two, officials changed those meetings to online discussions, citing a fear of violence rising from a number of unspecified threats of both violence and disruption.

Those online meetings (and the face to face meetings formerly scheduled) were integral to the multi-year State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process DFW has underway to develop a post-recovery wolf management and conservation plan. The plan development includes an extensive public outreach component, and you will find abundant information on wolf post-recovery planning on DFW’s website. Fact sheets, summaries and frequently asked questions are at An online comment form is available at Note that the form can be printed and mailed (as can general comments) to Lisa Wood, SEPA/NEPA Coordinator, WDFW Habitat Program, Protection Division, P.O. Box 43200, Olympia, WA 98504. (Mailed comments must be postmarked by Nov. 15.)

After the Nov. 15 deadline, your next opportunity will come once the agency drafts an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) in late 2020. That draft will evaluate actions, alternatives, and impacts related to long-term wolf conservation and management.

Want to know about the wolves here in Paradise? This coming Monday evening (11/11) Steve Wetzel (DFW Wildlife Conflict Specialist), with DFW Statewide Wolf Biologist Ben Maletzke will be speaking of the Wolves of Kittitas County. This is the program for the monthly meeting of the 100-year-old Kittitas County Field & Stream Club, at the Hal Holmes Center, 7:00 p.m. You and your friends are welcome for what promises to be a very interesting Veteran’s Day evening.