Monday, December 29, 2014

Hunting Quail At Last...

Costa Hummingbird (female)
Three days after leaving Montana we arrived at Lake Mead. The plan was to hang with our Montana pals, Bert and Janie Gidart through Xmas; then head to Arizona to hunt quail. Needless to say, while we enjoyed visiting with Bert and Janie, we--Gale, Annie and me--could not quite shake dreaming the upcoming hunt. And while this little costa girl's constant, nearly non-stop visits to Gale's feeder were certainly was entertaining to say nothing of Gale's hoping that just maybe the dearth of hummers to her AZ feeder monkey might now be off her back. I think in all the years we've hunted AZ just one or two total have showed up and none that I recall made more than a single stop...how cruel is that?

Anyway, day after we hitched up trailer and made our way to Kingman to load up on groceries, water and gas for generator then on to our traditonal first stop, Burro Creek Campground, south of Wikieup. Next day we made our first hunt in a familiar and sometimes productive wash--though not so the past couple seasons. A three hour loop produced just one covey, which Annie pointed solidly but the birds took off wrong side of a juniper and no shots resulted...A small covey, maybe 6-8 birds, I probably would not have shot anyway.

So now we are encamped in our best spot for hunting Gambel's. This morning, despite dire reports of few even no birds, we found one small covey and one pretty big one. Alas, though I knocked down a bird from each, we failed to find either one...One vanished completely while the other went underground beneath a large, impenetrable prickly pear...no way could we get to the hole and no way anyway would I allow Annie to dig for it...rattlers you know love pack rat holes...

But the good news is the hunt she is underway, we got a good camp and seems like a fair number quails so stay tuned.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dramatic Photo Time Series, 1912-2010 Yellowstone National Park

The below link was forwarded onto me by Allen Shallenberger (double click to open it).  It is a photograph time series from 1912 to 2010 of the Madison River near the Seven Mile Bridge in Yellowstone National Park.  This photo series does and incredible job of demonstrating the types of vegetation community changes that have occurred across our landscape in as little as 100 years.  In this particular case, the complete conversion of a willow and aspen dominated riparian area to a much drier grassland type.  I would hypothesis that even in the complete absence of hunting, moose occurrence on this particular landscape has trended from common to little or none, because there is no longer moose habitat present.  

 Dean Waltee, Wildlife Biologist, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. 

Monday, December 8, 2014


Braised Deer Shanks 

Nearly sixty years ago I shot my first deer. Most years since, I've downed at least one and sometimes several. I butchered all but one or two. I enjoy making my own meat almost as much as the hunt itself with but one exception...I find boning out and rendering the shanks edible a real pain in the you know what.

Comes now a revelation. Thanks to Tom Dickson (Montana Outdoors magazine) via Hank Shaw (Hunter, Gatherer, Gardener, Cook) Gale and I discovered how easy, fun and delicious braised shanks. So yummy, like Dickson, I plan to hunt only eight-legged deer from now on...Trust me, once you try 'em faced with a tough as hell shank, you too will never again even think about wielding trusty boning knife, either.

Both Photos Filed Under: Really Good Eats.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Eat More Wild Chicken...

A long time ago I muffed a really slam dunk shot at a nice buck. No surprise there, we all miss once in awhile but…We all can take measures to at least minimize the misses.  After agonizing over the muffed shot I came to the conclusion if I practiced diligently and took only those shots I “knew” would make, passed up shots I “thought” could make, well hell man, you ain’t about to ever miss again. And while I have muffed a couple since the hits far and away outnumber the misses…and looking back, guess what, the misses all came during periods when for whatever reasons I slacked off the practice sessions and/or took iffy shots. In other words rocket science it ain’t.

Shotgun artistry is different. I don’t know and don’t expect to ever meet a wild bird, upland or waterfowl, hunter doesn’t miss sometimes. We all muff even the easiest shots once in awhile…some of us (me) way too often. Like rifle shots I strive to only take those wingshots I “know” can make and, especially avoid anything close to a Hail Mary or those you ethical waterfowlers label, “sky busting”.

Alas, despite nearly 6 decades semi-serious to downright serious wild upland bird hunting under my belt, not a single season even close to perfection. And I don’t harbor any greater expectations in the few seasons I have left. But that doesn’t mean I can’t continue trying my damnedest to get there.  Clearly diligent practice in the off season translates directly to fewer misses in the field. For me to get better I need to repeat often: don’t lift your head, watch your gun mount, focus on the bird, no you dummy, not the whole bird, his eye, focus on his eye and swing, keep swinging and don’t you dare even think about aiming.

I believe strongly in old adage “beware the man with one gun, in all likelihood he knows how to use it.” I also believe strongly with today’s shot cups at the sort of ranges most insure clean kills say, sub 40 yards, open chokes—cylinder, skeet, improved cylinder—work best. And only on rare upland occasions , say late season roosters, is it necessary to use shot larger than #6; for what its worth I shoot #7-1/2 at least 90% the time, no matter what bird. I don’t do much waterfowl hunting and when I do ducks at modest ranges are about it so…#6 Hevi-shot seems to get ‘er done pretty darn well.
My mantra then goes like this: When I hit ‘em we eat wild chicken, when I miss ‘em its Safeway brand…shot size be damned.

Bottom Line: When I practice regularly, take only sure shots, remember to not lift my head, watch my gun mount, focus on the bird, the eye if possible, keep swinging and never, ever take aim, I do pretty well…Slack off any part the operation and the results are not so hot; really its that simple.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Venison Steak To Die For...

Montana Venison Glaze and Middle East Marinade
Middle East Marinade

1/3 C. olive oil
1 T. white vinegar
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. coriander
1/4 t. paprika
1 glove garlic, minced or crushed
1/2 t. salt
2 venison steaks


Mix marinade ingredients in a bowl. Place in a Ziploc bag, add venison and seal tightly. Marinade for 4 to 8 hours. Remove venison and grill adding glaze as below.

Montana Venison Glaze

3 T. maple syrup
1 T. chili powder
1 T. black pepper
1 T. cumin
1/2 t. coriander
1/2 t. ground cloves
3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
3 T. olive oil
2 venison steaks

Mix glaze ingredients in a bowl. On high flame grill steaks 3 minutes on each side. Rub paste on each side of steaks, grill each side 2 more minutes and remove. Cover with foil and let sit for 5 minutes before serving with mashed potatoes and your favorite veggie.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Upland Theatre...

"A friend of mine used to say that bird hunting, for him, had three requisites: Game, on land that was ample and healthy enough to support it. A dog in synchrony with its master and the birds. And a gun that gave pleasure both to shoot and to behold"....Charles Fergus, The Upland Equation; A Modern Bird-Hunter"s Code.

To my way of thinkin' Gale's shot about says it all, eh?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Whitetail Doe Hunting...A Slam Dunk...Yeah, Right!

I've been hunting deer the past few afternoons. More to the point I've been trying to punch a whitetail doe tag before the season ends Sunday. In case you wondered,  this neck of woods, southwest Montana, whitetail deer are as common as black cows. Truth is most farmers and ranchers probably feed way more whitetails. Or as Terry put it that first afternoon and I had no reason to doubt otherwise, "this'll be a slam dunk,"

So as we staked out a chunk of ranch land bordered by the sort of brushy habitat whitetails love--stream-carved willow and cottonwood thickets the only questions we harbored were how far and who would score first--not that it mattered. I can't imagine a single less competitive hunting scenario than two good friends out to punch whitetail doe tags.

Now it is four hours later, between us we have seen just a single doe--out there maybe 400 yards and running full bore. I don't know about you but we have not intention of shooting running does, 400 yards or 40 yards...You know its meat we're after and to us means a single well-aimed shot or nothing.

Two days ago, I parked the truck, once again figuring " a slam dunk." A hundred yards or so into it, I spy a single deer slinking through high grass and thick brush. Alas, upon further review, turns out a buck. A really good buck, which upon even further review, sports five long tines atop a really heavy and wide frame--at least a 150 buck maybe bigger. Yes, I punched my buck tag weeks ago. No dice.

As the light falls and another day is about to end. Again I have not seen any deer other than the big buck. Then, just as I am about to call it good, a doe, and a handsome, mature doe, just the sort I've been looking, prances to the edge of field, well within range. Stops. Turns just so and...Just as I place the cross-hairs on the point of her shoulder (my favorite shot) and start to slo-o-owly squeeze the trigger. You guessed it...Bam! She takes off running, full tilt. The reason for her flight? Yep. Ol' Mr. Big who else? So off they go...And then here they come...And the chase goes on until...Now it is really dark and despite how entertaining, high time I call 'er good.

So I get up to leave, turn and...Come face to face with a dozen does and fawns staring me down, not 50 yards away...Imagine.

Next time out. Same time and place. Right out the gate I literally almost step on him...And that is the last deer I see until just before quitting time when...Here he comes again...Nose to ground, obviously hot on the trail. Absorbed as he is somehow fails to scent or see me sitting there against a big cottonwood.

Oblivious, he passes by no more than 20 yards away, disappears into the willows beyond. With legal shooting time closing fast, I get up and quietly walk the edge of the willow thicket to a narrow opening...And there he is...and so too is a whole passel does and fawns...And, of course, just like that the lead doe busts me...Oh well, game over, at least for now...Stay tuned.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

This Is Hunting?

Thomas D. Mangelsen photo

Witnesses say hunters in Grand Teton National Park drove a herd of elk from a no-hunt zone and toward an awaiting firing line Wednesday.

Wildlife photographer Tom Mangelsen — long an opponent of the park hunt — said hunter behavior Wednesday was as egregious as he’s seen.

By Mangelsen’s account, around 11 a.m. a person pushed a herd of about 100 elk out of an area off limits to hunters near Kelly. Once the herd was on the move, chaos ensued, he said.

“All the sudden somebody shot and they just opened fire on them,” Mangelsen said. “It’s really poor sportsmanship — it was illegal and it was just a display of totally barbaric hunting.”

The photographer estimated that 30 people were involved in the drive, that 25 shots were fired and that eight to 10 elk were killed.

Teton park officials did not corroborate many of the details described by Mangelsen and others, but said some hunters were ticketed Wednesday.

Two hunters shot and killed bull elk Tuesday in the park, where harvest is restricted to cows and calves. The elk were confiscated by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

One of those hunters was also cited for shooting at a running herd, she said.

Rules unique to the park hunt prohibit firing more than one shot at a group of running animals.

It’s legal for hunters to drive elk out of areas where hunting is prohibited in the park.

Mangelsen said some were firing from the road, which is illegal. Photos he provided show hunters with rifles and shooting sticks setting up on the roadside.

Jeff Soulliere, another local photographer, said the display left him speechless.
“It absolutely was a mess,” Soulliere said. “This is a national park, and you’ve got tourists on the road right next to hunters.

...courtesy Jackson Hole Daily

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Montanan's Dig Road-kill...

...no surprise there, eh? I mean folks been eatin' and drinkin' forever at Holly's Road Kill Saloon, in McLeod.

According to an article in the Billings Gazette, Montana’s new Roadkill Salvage bill has been a success during its first year in place. So far in 2014, more than 800 permits have been issued that have allowed drivers or those finding road-kill animals to salvage more than 550 whitetail deer, nearly 150 mule deer, 120 elk and 33 moose.

“Under the new law, free permits can be downloaded from the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ website. They can also be issued by officers, such as the Montana Highway Patrol, who respond to wildlife-vehicle collisions.

“We’ve made it pretty painless for folks to get online and do this,” said Jim Kropp, FWP’s chief of law enforcement.

Although the agency had initially opposed the measure, Kropp said the program seems to be reasonably problem-free.

“There was a lot of concern at first about how we were going to get our arms around this,” Kropp said. “We canvassed a lot of other states who had similar programs. No new programs are ever without problems, but we’re happy with where we’re at now.”

Sounds to me like a win-win program, but I’d like to know: How many of you would stop to pick up—and later eat—fresh road kill?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Serial Poachers: Stealing Our Game...

Three men convicted of state hunting violations in Nevada now face trial on federal charges stemming from a poaching ring that saw untold numbers of deer, antelope, birds and other wildlife killed illegally across Nevada, game officials said on Monday.

Authorities uncovered the poaching ring after one of the defendants posted a photograph on Facebook of two deer he shot and killed out of season last June, said Cameron Waithman, who led the Nevada Wildlife Department investigation of the case.

The ensuing probe found that Adrian Acevedo-Hernandez, 36, Jose Luis Montufar-Canales, 31, and J. Nemias Reyes Marin, 31, had been illegally killing and butchering animals across the state and bragging about the kills online since early 2013, Waithman said.

The men, described by Waithman as "serial wildlife killers," were convicted in a state court of misdemeanor hunting violations earlier this year. In July they were indicted by a federal grand jury in Las Vegas on felony firearms offenses and criminal charges under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

The three men, who resided in Las Vegas but are suspected of having entered the United States illegally, remain in federal custody awaiting trial, Waithman said.

Search warrants executed at a residence occupied by one of the men uncovered large caches of deer meat, deer parts, butchering tools, weapons and ammunition. The evidence there led investigators to broaden their probe to unsolved poaching cases that stretched from Nevada's northern border with Idaho to its southeastern intersection with Arizona, he said.

Waithman said the men were engaged in an extreme version of what conservation officers call "thrill kills," indiscriminate killing of wildlife for excitement rather than for food.
"These are people who, for whatever reason, don't want to shoot at paper targets anymore and go out and kill stuff for fun," he said.

Nevada game wardens will never be able to fully tally all the wildlife illegally killed by the poaching ring, said Edwin Lyngar, a spokesman for the state wildlife agency.
"They just sort of shot at everything that moved," he said.

Their quarry included upland game birds, protected migratory songbirds and deer and antelope whose carcasses were left to rot, Lyngar said.

...Courtesy Reuters;Reporting by Laura Zuckerman in Salmon, Idaho; Editing by Steve Gorman and Eric Walsh.

Canyon Ferry Elk Slaughter...


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Bird Hunting Montana Style...

Clockwise from top left; CRP=great upland bird habitat; Huns and wheat go hand in hand; ditto High Plains and leanin' outhouses; full moon risin', cocktail time; wild Montana rooster; and a sharpie in hand. Like no sense askin' what's for dinner mama...

For the past week or so Gale, Annie the wirehair and your intrepid reporter, have been hunting sharptails, Huns and to a lesser extent, pheasants in the vast farm- and ranch-lands northeast of Great Falls. Major wheat growing country, thanks to the many farmers for enrolling in Montana's Block Management Program, hunter access is excellent.

While most of the land is planted in wheat and other crops there are large parcels enrolled  in the Conservation Reserve Program. CRP provides upland birds and other wildlife, including both whitetail and mule deer, excellent nesting and brood rearing habitat, as well as, protection from predators; thus the hunting is also excellent. Except for a couple BMAs which were obviously mainly deer habitat we found more than enough birds to keep us old folks grinnin' and Annie...Well Annie found herself immersed in so much bird scent she hardly knew which trail to start first.

And yes except for one day of relative calm, we were plagued by the ever-present gale (no pun intended) force winds, often strong enough to make walking difficult; poor Annie, not one to complain, though obviously during the worst of it trying to ferret out a scent trail did make things interesting . One night the roaring, howling wind made sleep impossible (at least for the ol' boy) but then what would hunting the High Plains be without,..you know, the roaring, howling, screaming GD WIND!

Anyway, a fun time in a fun place; on way home we were already planning our next attack...Imagine.

Monday, October 27, 2014

World Series 2014: Elk Hunter vs. Elk Hunter

The 2014 World Series features an intriguing yet contrasting matchup between the Kansas City Royals and San Francisco Giants.

The media has already labeled it "Destiny versus Dynasty." The Royals are competing in baseball's Fall Classic for the first time in 29 years while the Giants are seeking their third world championship in the last five years.

The managerial matchup, though, is a straight-up draw:  elk hunter versus elk hunter.

 "I know both of these guys and one thing they share is a passion for elk and the outdoors," said David Allen, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation president and CEO. "There's only one place where Bruce Bochy and Ned Yost would rather be right now other than out in the backcountry chasing elk and that's in the dugout trying to out-manage each other and win the World Series."

 The similarities don't stop there. Both Yost and Bochy are former big league catchers with strikingly similar career averages. Bochy batted .239 with 26 home runs and 93 runs batted in over nine years while Yost batted .212 with 16 home runs and batted in 64 runs over a six-year playing career. They both played for three different teams. They are both in the midst of managerial stints with their second ball clubs and are also both 59 years old.

 Bochy managed the Giants to championships in 2010 and 2012. Immediately prior to the 2014 Spring Training schedule, he shared the same microphone with Allen in a suburban Phoenix baseball stadium at a roast as part of an RMEF gathering.

 "My passion is hunting. A former teammate of mine, Goose Gossage, had a ranch in Colorado. We used it as therapy for after the season," said Bochy. "In my office in San Francisco, I'm the only manager with an elk head hanging in his office."

 Yost, who has a World Series ring as Atlanta's bullpen coach in 1995, is also well-known around baseball circles as an avid hunter. He also briefly enjoyed a second career as a taxidermist between his playing and coaching careers.

 "Ned was a long-time friend and hunting partner of my friend Dale (Earnhardt) Sr. for many years," said Allen. "They spent a great deal of time in the woods together."

 When the World Series ends, chances are the two will swap a hunting story before returning to the woods in search of a different kind of trophy.

 "Both of these men are fine gentlemen, outdoorsmen and sportsmen. And we are especially grateful they are both supporters of the RMEF," added Allen.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing: Spruce Fly...

Spruce Fly: Tied and Photographed by Chuck Robbins
Said to have been tied by Cap and Milo Godfrey around 1918 while fishing steelhead on the Lewis and Clark River in Oregon. Perhaps one of the oldest flies, it's still a popular pattern today among Northwest fly fishermen for steelhead, trout and sea run cutthroat.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing: Mickey Finn Owns Interesting History

Tied and Photographed: Chuck Robbins
A Mickey Finn (or Mickey) is a dope-laced drink “slipped to someone unawares in order to incapacitate them.

The history of the Mickey Finn fly is rather vague. Apparently named after a nefarious bartender on Chicago's South Side, well versed in wasting patrons. But most seem to agree it was first tied by a Canadian, Charles Langevin in the 1800s and called the Langevin Fly...what else?

In the early 1900s William Mills and Son, an upscale New York City tackle store, which sold, among other high end fly fishing items, Leonard Rods, sold the Mickey as “Red and Yellow Bucktail.”

In the 1930s John Alden Knight (he of solunar tables fame) took Toronto Star columist, Gregory Clark, fishing and after an apparent fantastic day he labeled it Assassin.  A short time later having heard Rudy Valentino had been killed, “after being slipped a Mickey Finn,” he renamed the fly and soon after penned an article in Hunting and Fishing Magazine toting its charms—an especially “deadly fly for catching brook trout, largemouth bass and bluegill.” Later champions toted its virtues for catching brown trout, garfish, steelhead, sea run cutthroat and smallmouth.

The article hit the streets in fall of 1937, just in time for the New York Sportsman show. By shows end some 300,000 Mickey’s were reported tied and sold before it closed.  Weber Fly Company reported sales exceeding 1 million in the first quarter 1938.

Only the fish know for sure but certainly one reason for its long-lasting appeal among fly fishermen is “simply pretty, easy to tie, looks good in the box and even better in the water,” as one my old fishin’ pals puts it.

John Alden Knight tutored “simply cast it quartering upstream, let it sink a little, then strip it back”.

See, dopey fly, dopey tie, dopey method, nothin’ to it.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Montana Upland Bird Hunting: Sage Chicken Certified...

Our bird season opens tomorrow. Over the past 15 seasons or so it's become sort of a tradition for us to open the season chasing sage chickens.

I can't recall ever discussing why sage chickens, when we could put mountain grouse, sharptails, Huns, even doves, at the head of the opening day docket, But a big part of it is close to home, big , empty, public land, no hunters (we rarely see another hunter, opening day or otherwise), we enjoy eating sage chicken (I know, I know most of the rest of you consider "coyote bait" or worse, your mistake but why beat a dead horse) but mostly in deference to Kate the Wirehair's obvious love affair with our biggest grouse. Yes, she did point 13 other upland birds during her 12 season run and being a bird dog and all it does seem pretty silly of me to say she "loved" sage chickens above all. Like hell man, what makes you think your bird dog is any different than you who would be lying not admitting the best bird is the one you happen to have lined up in your sights at the moment. Right...But...

consider the long drive home following several weeks gunning eastern Montana and North Dakota where she put on clinics at just about every stop...Huns, sharpies, roosters. Where it seemed each morning she leaped out the camper door wearing a perpetual doggie grin and that stare down you just could not translate any other way...C'mon boss, drag ass and where to next, we got birds to kill and time's a wastin'. 

Now on the long drive home, lying between us on the front seat head up, somehow awake, alert as if we hadn't yet hunted a lick; silently staring down the center-line of the highway, we suddenly pass from endless wheat and alfalfa into wall-to-wall sagebrush...You guessed it, the little bitch starts bawling...who-o-o, who-o-o...stop the damn truck you fool, sage chickens, let me at 'em! As I say, "Sage Chicken Certified."

Kate's been gone now a couple but Annie's on deck, ready once again to pinch hit for big sister. And in the morning we will head out somewhere in the vast sagebrush sea, surrounds our little town and blankets much of southwest Montana. But this time around will be different. Caving under pressure from the usual special interest groups--livestock, developers, miners, environmental, save-the-planet, whackos, you know the culprits--and the politically motivated USFWS wielding its considerable big stick--threatened listing of yet another endangered species--Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks decided to toss a bone and of course, as we all know, the easiest bone to pick up and toss is, you guessed it again, the Hunter. Thus...

...season kaput in something like 14 counties,cleave in half what's left...in other words instead of a 60 day season, take 30 and be glad of it...And no, I'm not stupid, realize full well it could have been far worse. But I'm not buying, not for a minute, shutting down the season for good, as was the original proposal, denying a small handful hunters, who kill an admitted handful birds annually will make even a small drop in a badly leaking bucket.

Until the powers that be stand up, get the guts, if you prefer, and address the real issue--habitat degradation--sage chicken populations will continue to plummet. We hunters know all too well once a hunting opportunity is lost it is highly unlikely to ever re-open; lacking hunters who is left out there to champion their comeback...with apologies to Thomas McGuane, should sage chickens be lost, smash the state!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Montana Bird Hunting Forecast 2014

Fish, Wildlife and Parks rundown on the current status of Montana's upland game birds.
Gray (Hungarian) Partridge

While no formal surveys are conducted for huns in Montana, various observations along with weather and habitat conditions suggest huns will be average to below average again this season. Observations in Regions 4, 6, and 7 suggest average numbers. Observations from Region 5 suggest numbers will be below average and lower than last year.

Mountain Grouse

Observations in western Montana suggest average to slightly above average numbers of all species. Preliminary information from Region 5 suggests overall blue grouse and ruffed grouse numbers will likely remain below the long term average.

Montana is experiencing a large decline in CRP acreage along the northern tier of the state, which may have an impact on hunting experiences in Regions 4 and 6. In this area, spring "crow counts"—where wildlife biologists travel specific routes to count and record the "crowing calls" of cock pheasants to determine population trends—were 42 percent above the long term average. Region 7 reported that populations will vary between fair to near the long-term average in good habitat. In northwestern Montana, weather in Region 1 resulted in below average numbers on the Ninepipe Wildlife Management Area. Region 3 reported average numbers for southwestern Montana. In Region 5, pheasant crow counts varied but were below the long-term average. Overall, Region 5 expects the 2014 season will be similar to last year’s season.


Statewide, male attendance at leks averaged 13.1 males/lek, which is 54% below long-term average and down from 14.9 males per lek last year.  The continued drop is likely a function of cool, wet conditions during the brood-rearing season in 2013 which led to low brood survival.  The drop in abundance was more apparent in eastern Montana; abundance estimates in southwestern Montana were stable but still below long-term average.  Consequently, hunters can expect numbers to be near average to well below average in areas open to sage-grouse hunting.  Preliminary reports suggest nest and brood success are excellent in 2014 which may mitigate additional declines.

Sharp-tailed grouse
Region 6 reported fair to average numbers in good habitat. Lek surveys and other observations in Region 6 indicate sharp-tail numbers will be near the long term average across the region. General observations from Region 5 suggest below average numbers. Region 7 reported that sharp-tail populations will be near the long-term average where habitat conditions are good.


Region 5 reports that chukar numbers remain below average but may have some potential for improvement this year.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Massive Mine Tailings Pond Blowout Makes “Coexist” Video Sadly Laughable

...Photo, Video Links and Article courtesy Field &Stream/Hal Herring

It’s turned out to be a tough summer on the headwaters of British Columbia’s famed Fraser River, as one of mining’s largest disasters plays out in and above Quesnel Lake. On August 4, a roughly 1000-foot-long tailings pond dam on an open-pit copper and gold operation called the Mount Polley Mine blew out in spectacular fashion. The video of the blow-out is astounding and depressing—almost 6 million cubic yards of mining waste, carried along by 10 million cubic yards of contaminated water, scouring creeks, leveling forests, destroying roads and sweeping the whole mess into Quesnel Lake, which feeds the Quesnel River. Watch Here

What the long-term effects will be on Hazeltine Creek (which before the spill was about six feet across, and is now a gulch over 150 feet wide), Quesnel Lake, and the Quesnel River are unknown. The Quesnel is a major tributary of the world-famous Fraser River, and is the spawning grounds for an estimated 1.5 million sockeye salmon each year, an essential part of the Fraser fishery that on very good years (which this one is expected to be) sees an estimated 23 million sockeyes come upriver from the Pacific Ocean. The fishery employs thousands of people and is a major part of British Columbia’s $2.2 billion salmon economy.

On August 10th, mine operators were still pumping water from the blown-out tailings pond down Hazeltine, because the wastewater lake was refilling at an alarming rate and threatening another breach. Imperial Metals, the owner of the Mount Polley Mine, may face a $1 million (Canadian) fine for the breach.
If there is any humor to be found here at all, it’s very dark, and it’s on video. Before the disaster, the Canadian-owned Pebble Partnership, which proposes to create the world’s largest open pit mine in Alaska on and in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, was using the Mount Polley Mine as an example of how the Pebble Project would pose no threat to the world’s greatest salmon fishery. “It’s not about trading one resource for another, it’s about mining and fisheries coexisting,” says the cheery narrator of the cartoon.

The advertisement vanished from the Pebble Partnership’s website after the Mount Polley dam collapsed, but my friend Sarah Gilman at High Country News found it hiding out in the jungles of the internet, and gave it a new home in her blog.

It is well worth the very short watching time. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10150630434280437

I spent some time watching it back to back with the blowout video linked at the beginning of this post, and then I went home, gathered up my son and daughter and my wife and dog, and we went fishing and swimming in the river west of our house. I suggest you do something similar.

...Hal Herring
PS After reading and watching we too--Gale, Annie and me--packed up and went fishin'...
On another track I'm once again accepting comments ; click "no comments" and feel free (note to sickies Do Not Bother, AX is sharp and...over and out...Chuck

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Montana Non-Resident Hunting License Sales Lagging Once Again...

...In the four years since a ballot initiative raised the price of Montana's non-resident hunting licenses significantly, sales have been lagging, resulting in revenue shortfalls to Fish, Wildlife and Parks. Before the 2010 increase, a lottery system was used because there were far more applicants than tags available. This year, the total undersold licenses amount to more than $3.3 million in potential FWP revenue.

It would seem to me in light of the apparent (well advertised) shortfall in operating funds, the logical out for the agency (and let us not forget our illustrious legislators who, as I recall, pushed for the increase, changes, whatever, in the first beginning) might reconsider. But then, as we all know, logic just does not exist in government these days and to my way of thinking most likely never will.

As far as I can tell, based on numerous conversations with hunters "used to hunt Montana" but no longer, there are two reasons and neither have anything to do with increased license cost. 1) "The wolves ate all your elk and 2) "The wolves ate all your elk." C'mon guys this ain't rocket science you need to do a better job selling the idea, "Despite rumors to the contrary the Montana elk herd is indeed alive and well, sure there are a couple exceptions but overall numbers are above management levels across the board." Whoa partner, now hold on we preach just that ad nauseum in our newspapers and Montana Outdoors...Well, yes, but how many Californians or Pennsylvanians read Montana papers or MO...Like I say you need to ramp up the propaganda big time...Or do away with the wolves...not such a bad idea, right.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing: Untapped Fishing update...

As advertised, yesterday, Gale, Annie, and me headed into the hills to fish one of our longtime favorite cricks. As hoped for we found the crick deserted, trout willing and enjoyed several hours of what at times was nearly non-stop action. In the last run, Gale put on a clinic hooking, missing and landing so many we lost count and with that decided to call it good. We only tried three flies--a baby pink hopper (not so hot); a deer hair caddis (better) and wee (#16) rubber-legged, flying cinnamon ant (way better). Although to be honest it might just have been the longer we fished the more turned on the trout...Who knows, twas just what we had in mind and a fun time was had by all, especially...

Annie--dear, sweet, insane for fishing--who, by the end of it, was as usual nearly out of her mind with glee; like the more Gale moved the more...well, as I say, Annie goes bonkers at the mere sound of a rising trout, spying a rise, well..you just have to see to believe. On second thought you might not...like most things in life, fishin' dogs, insane or otherwise, just ain't ever-one"s cup o' tea.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing: Untapped Fishing...

...opportunities abound throughout Montana. Countless small streams support surprising numbers of wild trout. Like our famous rivers all the trout are wild...brook, brown, cutthroat, cut-bow, rainbow and bull trout.. While only Yellowstone and westslope cutts, a small population of redband rainbow and bull trout are native, all are drop dead beauties, toss in solitude, good country and clean, ice-cold water...and well, what's not to like.

The fishing is seldom anything like technical, just tie on your favorite attractor dry, terrrestrial, whatever floats, actually, and have at 'em.

OK, enough talk, Gale, Annie and me are ready to head to one our favorite spots...stay tuned I'll let you know later how it went...

Fly Casting with Robin Williams

With the recent passing of Robin Williams, Jack Dennis recalls giving the actor casting lessons...(no surprise a pretty funny tale)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing: BYWS

BringYourWadersStupid...yes I do know better but no I did not bring them along yesterday and...Holymoley did the faux pas cost me...The storm blew over the ridge almost without warning and with a vengeance...Dark, ominous clouds quickly changed day to almost night; the wind howled; lightning flashed and thunder boomed...Then came the rain...heavy sheets pouring down from the low slung leaden clouds, running down our necks, despite hooded rain coats snugged tight soaking our thin fishing shirts and pants...Holeymoley man, why? Like what the hell were you thinking? More to the point what the hell are your GD waders doin' rolled up on the backseat the truck?

Hauling on the oars for all I am worth I cannot control the raft; as we bounce from one rock to the next the boat all the while careening wildly on a collision course with the far bank...the one lined with tall, lightning and wind prone cottonwoods...yes, the exact WRONG bank to land given the opposite is lined with relatively safe LOW willows...but I have no choice and soon we collide with the bank.

Fagged but scared silly we might die to a fallen limb or perhaps worse an entire 80 foot tree, I push off and manage to bounce and glide downstream a hundred yards or so to where several protruding rocks halt progress but just beyond is an opening in the line of cottonwoods. "Okay everybody out! We gotta get away from these trees pronto."

Exiting the raft, the rain changes to hail...the wind increases dramatically...from a dull, mind-numbing roar to a scary as hell eerie cross between a moan and a wail...air temperature plummets and...The three of us are now damn wet and gawdamn cold...teeth chattering, limbs shaking we huddle there...like three pathetic drowned lumps each in his own way silently wishing the storm to GO AWAY...Please.

Pummeled nearly to submission I look up toward a house on the bank (by the way the last one before dropping into the canyon) and...a bright light...and it's moving... thru the gloom it appears someone is waving us to come to the house...No Way but...another waving light appears...not one but two shadowy figures and yes, the pair are, by god, waving us to come to the house...C'mon boys, help has indeed arrived.

Urging us to come in out the storm two ladies implore... "Don't worry bout the carpet just get in here and warm up"...and soon we standing, drip-drying as it were, by a warm heater and swilling mugs of HOT, black coffee and as our tremors slowly recede two thoughts keep replaying in my addled brain...LADIES, THANK YOU and of course NEXT TIME BRING YOUR GD WADERS...STUPID!!!   

Friday, July 18, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing...Guide War Update

Hard to believe been over a month since I last posted...too tired? too lazy?...too whatever, truth is I think just did not feel like sitting down and pounding out words after 12 hours or so dealing with the trials and tribulations of guiding fishermen. One glance at my log book and seeing that yesterday I drove 172 miles, spent 7 hours and 45 minutes on the oars and another hour or so cleaning the boat, packing the cooler, picking up lunches, poring over the fly boxes to make sure I had the right stuff and so forth and...Whew! And that most days it's been hotter than Hades of late (Yesterday 94 when I pulled the boat) sure doesn't help. Little wonder I ain't had the gumption to keep the blog posts coming at more or less a regular basis, eh? A course no one to blame but the ol' boy hisownself so...

Though still have four more days on the books for July, August and September are lookin' mighty skinny so the red gods willin' and the crick don't rise maybe will have a few more interesting adventures to report next time...stay tuned.

P.S. In case you wondered the Beav has been on fire through June and July (nymphs and dries) except for days when the river is bumping up. Big Hole is still running slightly above average and fishing is good most mornings and not so hot from about 2 p.m. on...If you are planning to float beware the river is getting pretty skinny above East Bank (Best bring the raft) and pretty boney for hard boats from East Bank to Divide...T.J. knocked a hole in his RO boat below Jerry Crick couple days ago.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Beaverhead River...

...has bumped up from a benign 300 cfs to a ripping 600 in past week or so...how high it will get in next couple weeks is of course more than I know. Anyway last week the Beav was absolutely on fire...today?..not so hot. I had two raw rookies, like in never even held a fishin pole before. Tried to talk 'em outta doing the spin fishin thing but no dice. So armed with a couple dozen Rooster Tails off we went.

None of us, especially this ol' boy expected much, tough conditions (cloudless sky, river risin and all) and we didn't get much but... We didn't get skunked, guide escaped unscathed, hardly lost a lure and had the by god river all to ourselves...seems word on street is big flies are poppin up to the Big Hole. I think we only landed 6 fish, all typical fat Beav browns had at least as many more chances...all in all a pretty good day though don't spread it round the ol boy has now lowered his self to guidin hardware junkies...just kiddin.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Birding Trails Montana...

Last Friday morning we headed to Belgrade to the Wilderness Adventures Press warehouse where I signed a bunch of books, Birding Trails Montana and Flyfisher's Guide to Montana...Note the Author's serious look, shows how really into these sorts of things he really isn't...Right! 

Then it was off to Bozangeles to the Gran Whatever Hotel and the Audubon's Annual Wings Over Montana Bird Fest...

As you can see in the bottom photo as a book peddler while I might not know what the hell I'm doing, or more to the point doing here, I do know how to have fun...Which I guess in the end is about all one can hope for...Perhaps the most curious thing of the entire affair was the total lack of interest shown in our Power Point presentation featuring about 150 of our, Gale's and mine, "outstanding" bird photos...Oh well...

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Mama Moose...A Hair-Raising Encounter

It began innocently enough. Two days ago we decided to check out the recently opened Pioneer Scenic By-Way. We stopped at Blue Crick and took a hike, noting once again the awesome power of spring runoff which had turned the usual step-across crick into a roaring tea-colored torrent in some places 20 or more feet wide. We also noted what seemed to us an abnormal amount of moose sign--tracks and droppings. Evidently several moose were using the area but in two hours we saw nary a one and...Well, it being spring calving time and all to us that was a good thing.

After stopping on the divide for lunch we decided to drop down into the Wise River valley and check out Lacey Crick--in recent years our best spot for sighting Mama Bear and her newborn offspring. The past two springs at about same time in May we have done just that in the exact same spot. Hoping for "three times a charm" instead we came way too damn close to "Three Strikes, YOU ARE OUT!"

Parking at the trail head we walked over to the crick, decided way too high to even think of continuing up the trail we turned and headed into the woods--me leading the way, Gale close behind and Annie bounding about, mostly off to our right, doing what Annie does best checking out and categorizing all the many smells we haven't a clue.

Fifty yards or so in is a wall of willows surrounding a minor trickle and...You guessed it, a moose.

Busily engaged browsing the willows the moose paid us nothing more than a cursory glance between bites.

Her apparent nonchalance noted, in my infinite wisdom I whispered to Gale, "See the moose?"


"It's a cow but a small one, probably last year's calf."

Just then Annie came bounding by and...BAM!!!

HERE SHE COMES and...the proverbial ALL HELL breaks loose and the race is on.

Gale is running like no 69 year old has any right to...I  too run, but stop here and there bellowing useless and nonsensical obscenities at the moose; screaming at Annie "Run Baby Run" who at the moment is getting MM's utmost attention; hair standing on end, porcupine like, roaring (yes roaring, the most ungodly, frightening sound imaginable, one I never would have dreamed a cow moose capable), lunging and striking at the dog with her forefeet. How the hell Annie managed to dodge the blows is more than I know?

Now Gale is at the truck screaming for me open the truck doors. With the clicker already in hand I am punching the unlock button frantically. But apparently still beyond its range the doors remain locked. Annie, smart Annie, is circling the truck using it as a shield but of course the ploy also puts poor Gale just that much closer to harm's way. At some point the clicker works and Gale is able to hop in..

Meantime, as I pass the toilet MM suddenly turns her rage from the dog toward me. I turn and try to get the toilet between us and...TRIP! Stumbling over the rocks down I go...Me thinks a goner for sure.

But apparently just then Annie reappears and MM swaps ends and charges after the dog....Whew!

Fagged, out of air and scared shitless (especially now for Annie's life) I scramble to my feet, somehow make the truck, open the back door  hoping Annie can somehow separate and hop in...How many times MM and the dog pass by me is also more than I know but at least once MM is close enough for me to easily touch, not that I ever entertained such a move, mind you.

Anyway, with the melee about as out of control as one can get, Gale, obviously way more clear headed, thinks to blow the horn and...MM stops in her tracks, Annie somehow sees her chance hops in the back seat, I stumble around the truck hop in the passenger seat and...MM turns and trots past the toilet and disappears into the trees..

At last ended, without a doubt the most harrowing few moments ever in a long life communing nature as it were mentally drained, physically bruised and sore but otherwise none the worse for wear, we can laugh about it now but trust me, I for one intend to do my best to make damn sure never again. As Gale put it, "at our age even on our best day Mama Moose is in total control; only this time Lady Luck saved our butts...not much chance she'd be able (or willing) to pull it off again?"



Friday, May 16, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing: Rites of Spring...

Each spring, along about the mid-May, we head for a favorite lake in the Beaverhead Mountains (upper Big Hole River valley). Some years we make it into the lake first try; other years snow drifts curtail our fishing until later in the month. A couple weeks ago we got as far as the forest boundary; then yesterday, following a string of warm days and not so chilly nights all but the biggest drifts disappeared and though we found the road flooded in spots the drive in was uneventful. Better still the lake was open and not a soul around.

After stretching our legs we gobbled down our usual road trip lunch fare--crackers, leftover meat, cheese, peanut butter and jelly and a shared cookie for desert. The best fishing is usually at the inlet, a short hike through the woods. Annie led the way, hoping no doubt for spruce grouse but had to settle for a few scattered bunches ducks and geese, a spooked muskrat and a few tweeties.

As I rigged a pair of soft hackles--size 12, Orange Fish Hawk and a size 16, Red Ass--Gale announced, "they're raising, same spot as always, right off the sand bar." Since I had the rod, took first dibs and...first cast hooked a spunky grayling and...For the next two hours we took turns hooking fish after fish. Most were grayling such as the one above; every now and then a fat brookie ate our offerings and we even landed a couple cuttbows and one rainbow. We cannot recall ever landing anything here but grayling and brookies though as I might have mentioned before in this rant and elsewhere...well, our recollections ain't so hot anymore...what can I say.

Anyway, just for the hell of it, we tried a couple dries and though we both had trouble hooking up the fish didn't seem to discriminate...All in all I fun afternoon. General fishing season opens tomorrow so stay tuned...  

Monday, May 5, 2014

Montana Wilderness: 50 Years Old and Counting...

Absaroka/Beartooth Wilderness
"A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain."

— Wilderness Act of 1964

Early advocates such as Aldo Leopold and Bob Marshall led the fight; Congress Voted and in 1964 President Lyndon Johnson penned the Wilderness Act into Law.

Today Montana is home to 16 designated wilderness areas, comprising roughly 3.5 million acres (about 3.75 percent) of the state's lands. They include the highest peaks in the Treasure State, as well as low-lying marshland suited for wildlife refuges. These wilderness areas are home to thousands of species of flora and fauna, a number of them threatened or endangered. Sad but true, despite millions acres qualified land parcels, thanks to the usual culprits--developers, mining, logging, motorheads and such--have been designated wilderness since 1983.

Montana Wilderness By The Numbers

Total Acres in Montana 94,109,440 acres
Total Square Miles in Montana 145,556 square miles
Total Remaining Montana Wildland Base 9,839,100 acres
Total Wilderness Acres in Montana 3,443,038 acres
Percent of Land Base 3.7%
Total Number of Wilderness Areas 16
Total Unprotected Wilderness Acres in Montana 6,397,000 acres
Percent of Land Base 6.8%
Total Acres of Public Lands in Montana 27,378,247 acres

Percent of Land Base 29%

Wilderness Areas

     Custer NF 345,599
     Gallatin NF 574,744
Anaconda Pintler  
     Bitterroot NF 41,162
Bob Marshall  
     Flathead NF 709,356
     Lewis & Clark NF 300,000
Cabinet Mountains  
     Kaniksu NF 44,320
     Kootenai NF 49,952
Gates of the Mountains  
     Helena NF 28,562
Great Bear  
     Flathead NF 286,700
Lee Metcalf  
     Beaverhead NF 107,694
     Gallatin NF 140,594
     BLM                        6,000
Mission Mountains  
     Flathead NF 73,877
     Lolo NF 32,976
     Helena NF 80,697
     Lewis & Clark NF 84,407
     Lolo NF 74,832
     Bitterroot NF 241,676
     Lolo NF 9,767
Welcome Creek  

     Lolo NF 28,135
Medicine Lake  
     Medicine Lake NWR 11,366
Red Rock Lakes  
     Red Rock Lakes NWR 32,350
UL Bend  

     UL Bend NWR 20,819

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing: Out With Old; In With the New (Old)

Ron Evans bought Ol' Greenie last fall. I agreed to paint and do whatever maintenance I thought necessary. Friday he and Kris came to Dillon to pick it up and asked us to join them for a short float on the Big Hole.

Ron Evans photo

We'd actually planned to test drive our recently refurbished Hyde later that day anyway. Kris and Gale did the fishing, while Ron and I manned the oars. As turned out the fishing was slow but with the river running around 2400 cfs the rowing was easy. We put in around noon at Salmon Fly and took out at Browne's Bridge around three...near record time to be sure but not such a bad way to while away the warmest afternoon yet this spring. Because of the weather and that the river has been fishing well most of the spring we expected a crowd; instead I think we saw just two other boats.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

2014 Northwest Outdoor Writers Association Conference Roundup...

41st Annual Northwest Outdoor Writers AssociationConference was held recently in Polson, MT at the Kwataqnuk Resort overlooking beautiful Flathead Lake.

Top left photo, Kyla Merwin, NOWA Executive Director and Dennis Clay present the Fred L. Peterson Award to Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation for Best Supporting Member;

Top Right Photo: None other than your intrepid reporter grabbed the Enos Bradner Award (Former recipients Gary Lewis (left) and Milt Kiezer). "In recognition of your commitment to uphold the professional standards of outdoor communication and your outstanding dedication to the Northwest Outdoor Writers Association." To be sure, Kind, Humbling and Flattering. Well deserved? Well, I'll leave that for others to debate.

Bottom Photo: You are probably wondering "what the heck is that?" and you would be right. Pal Bert and me pondering "what the heck is that" one of a table full of items we must ID in order to win the Annual What The Heck Is That Contest. Each table at the Awards Night Banquet competes not so much for prizes (which are minimal at best) but for, you know, the glory goes with whipping ass--and yes, as usual, our table won. Imagine. And yes I am kidding...all just a big part of the fun and camaraderie joining NOWA entails.

Next time I'll post some shots of the Annual Photo Shootout Contest and...well stay tuned, you're gonna love the results...or more likely hate 'em...your call.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing: Little Flies/Larger Trout

Last few days with all the storm fronts blowing through have ramped up the midge and BWO hatches. While at times the wind has been a bit too much in between gusts you can manage to get your bug on the water, in the feeding lane, the trout are eating almost any reasonable match. Regardless whether midges or olives, my best fly has been a simple Deer Hair Emerger size 18 or 20. As you can see the wings on the above are synthetic (Enrico Puglosi, Trigger Fibers) rather than deer hair--seems to work almost as well as the natural hair and I find it easier to tie on size 20 hooks. Body is simply dubbed hare's mask, the rougher the better.  For what its worth I fish the teeny-weenies on a 12 foot leader tapered to about 4 feet, 6X. Tippet to fly is a double surgeon loop which seems to add a little to its appeal over my usual clinch knot...OK could very well be more the mysterious workings within an old man's noggin...what can I say.

And yes, this Poindexter brown is skinny, too skinny; to my way of thinking another good reason to get on with the improvements ASAP.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing: Big Hole Dropping...

...faster than your basic "anvil tossed in a swamp" as Ol' Lefty might say.Friday evening, a few hours after I shot this (4000 cfs) the river spiked just under 6000 cfs--which is not quite double the highest peak all last year (3500 cfs). This morning it is running about 3000 cfs...Judging the forecast for the next few days is on the cool side the river should continue to drop and the fishing pick up daily. I'd be surprised if it didn't fish well even today tossing streamers or the always reliable turdnworm duo off the banks; look for skwalas, especially later on in the day.

What the future holds, who knows. With snowpack as high as 170% of normal anything like a heat wave might send the high snow runoff runnin' right off the charts--higher even than the record setting 14,000+ of a couple years ago. If stays cool, why hell, Friday evening's 6000 cfs might just be it...stay tuned.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing: Help Save Poindexter Slough

Thanks to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Beaverhead Watershed Committee Poindexter Slough near Dillon is on track to get a major overhaul. A badly needed one given Poindexter has been in steady decline for at least the last dozen years. Decreased groundwater discharges (on going drought combined with a huge increase in development, both residential and agricultural) the Slough now relies heavily on increasing amounts of diverted Beaverhead River water through an antiquated head gate. The river water deposits large amounts of fine sediment resulting in diminished fish counts, bugs and angler use—all of which are at all time lows.

The project involves the replacement of existing irrigation infrastructure (head gate), modification of the channel's dimensions and other work, designed to flush out the sediment, restore fish and bug habitat and improve the fishery to historical levels. Which, by the way, were pretty damn good—great hatches, good fish in a challenging arena—can’t beat it.

As we all know such work does not come cheap. In this case the estimate is about  $445,000. Thanks to a variety grants, in-kind-services and private donations about $358,000 has been secured.  So yes, the goal is well within reach but  if you would like to help raise the final $85,000 please send your donation to:

Beaverhead Conservation District, 420 Barrett St., Dillon, MT 59725.

For more information visit:  

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fly Fishing Montana: How High's The River Mama?...

"Pretty Damn High and Risin'...

With the snow pack in the Big Hole watershed currently 145% of normal not many would argue this year's runoff might just reach record levels...Should you harbor such doubts consider just a few days ago, April 4th, the river was running at a benign 450 cfs or so...fishing great and promising to get only better in the upcoming days...Then it got warm. Suddenly the low snow started to melt and, surprise, surprise last night the river roared past 5000 cfs...Yes, it did drop slightly over night but with today's forecast of temperatures near or above 60 and strong winds...It would not surprise me to see it top 6000 before night fall...And remember this melt down is only the low elevation snow, which by the way, is considered only so, so as low snow pack goes...Hopefully once the low snow is gone, temperatures will remain on the cool side, the high elevation snow will come off slo-o-w-wly and good water and fishing will prevail straight thru to freeze-up...Keep your fingers and toes crossed and stay tuned for the latest...

Monday, April 7, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing: The Bridges of Madison County Saga...

...continues despite the Montana Supreme Court's denial of LORD KENNEDY's latest attempt to deny public access to all Montana rivers and streams but his very rich pals and cohorts. Will it ever end? I, for one, harbor grave doubts...

As you may recall, James Cox Kennedy requested a rehearing of the January Montana Supreme Court decision  in the Seyler Lane bridge case. This was the case which effectively settled the issue of stream access at prescriptive road bridges and reaffirmed the stream access law.  On March 6th the court found no merit in the legal  argument that it had retroactively overturned case law in regard to prescriptive easements and that it had overlooked  other significant arguments of Kennedy.  Here is the court order .

The Seventh Inning Stretch

The next step in the continued fight over stream access in Montana

By George Bauer

 If the Bridges of Madison County saga on the Ruby River was a baseball game then we would be at the seventh inning stretch.  This historic case was filed in 2004 and was finally heard after eight years of early inning maneuvering.  The score was PLWA - 2, Media Mogul - 0 when Kennedy was ordered to remove his "No Trespassing" signs from Duncan Road and Lewis Lane.   The ruling reinforced Montana's 2009 Bridge Access Law which says a public road right of way extends the full width of the road and over the bridge to a stream's high-water mark. That law, passed after much compromise between anglers and landowners to help gain public access to public waters, came on the third try and only after lots of hard work.

 Before the hearing the parties (PLWA v. Madison County) stipulated Seyler Lane was a public road right of way - it is one of the oldest roads in the state.  And yet District Judge Loren Tucker ruled there is a distinction between the public's right and the county's right to access the river.  Judge Tucker's ruling did not get to first base - it was thrown out by the Montana Supreme Court.  The January 2014 ruling stated the roadway could to be used by the public "for all foreseeable uses, including recreation."  The case was sent back to District Court with instructions to hear evidence on the width of the right-of-way.

And now, like a big league manager who didn't like the call at the plate, Kennedy  filed a petition for rehearing. This would have reopened the case  for further arguments on the grounds the court abandoned property law principals and converted Kennedy's private property to public land. The court denied the petition and in effect said  "Nonsense". The Supreme Court has never been eager to plow the same ground twice .

The Supreme Court took nearly a year to reach a decision this last time so it could be 2016 before the fat lady sings at the bottom of the ninth.

 Later this year another District Court will hear evidence of decades of public access to the Ruby from Seyler Lane and then could take months to issue a ruling.  Don't be surprised if Kennedy appeals, whatever the decision.

 Step up to the plate and take a swing at those who would rob the public of their access rights. Join PLWA or make and additional contribution. Let's keep on winning.


Monday, March 31, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing: Leave Spring Spawners Be

This morning it looks and feels a lot more winter-like than spring; a little too much winter-like for me to even think of actually going fishing but...Early spring is spawning time for rainbows, cutts and grayling. With weatherman promising spring starts next week, I, along with a bunch of you, will seriously consider kick starting the new season.

Spawning fish, as we all know, are easy pickings. Before run-off begins streams and creeks are running low and clear. Since spawning always takes place in shallow, well-aerated riffles the hardest part is usually the hike from the truck. Just about any fly, bait or lure drifted anywhere near an active spawning bed is likely to draw a strike. Good news for the lucky angler, not so hot for the already stressed and physically drained spawners.

While I believe strongly in leaving fish to spawn in peace (like would you enjoy being hooked in the jaw while, you know, spawning, I don't think so) it is not illegal. So, at the very least take care and DO NOT under any circumstance walk through a redd; whether or not you actually see fish in or around it, there are eggs in the gravel and once kicked loose, fish eggs do not do well. And please Do Not cast to actively spawning fish; ripe females almost always abort eggs during the ensuing fight and, from what I've seen, always abort what's left during the netting, handling, unhooking process.

In other words if you gotta fish in early spring, and I agree is almost un-American not to, why not check-out your favorite brown trout holes or better still check out one the many lakes and reservoirs where the large majority are hatchery plants and most of the spawning activity goes for naught anyway.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Birding Trails Montana...Coming Soon!!!

In the hopper for so long, I almost forget writing it but...After numerous delays I got word yesterday the "Galleys are on the way for your edit" Scheduled Upload to Printer March 21...HOO-OO-RAY!!!! Feel free to order the book by calling Wilderness Adventures Press at 1-866-400-2012

Monday, March 3, 2014

Montana Fly Fishing: Westslope Cutthroat Update...

Montana's State Fish, the westslope cutthroat trout has been in decline for decades thanks to lost habitat and hybridization, primarily with introduced rainbow trout. Here in southwest Montana biologists are determined to turn the decline on  its ear, help to ensure its long term survival. Westslope cutts are the only native trout in the Missouri drainage. Beginning in 2001 thru 2013 FWP biologists and staff have worked on 21 streams. Typically the projects involve removing non-native fish, constructing a fish passage barrier at the bottom end and restocking with genetically pure WCTs. The projects have begun to reverse the downward trend within the region. Collectively the work has added 167 miles of occupied stream. In 2001 westslope cutts were present in only 4.2%, about 11,000 miles of stream, of its historic range; today they occupy about 5.7%. And with many more projects in the works that percentage should continue to grow.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Montana Birds: Bluebird Turf Wars...

Mountain bluebird
Western bluebird

Interesting tale in the current Montana Outdoors. Seems these days "when the bluebird sings at the Lemonade Spring" assuming  the Spring is located in a valley west of the Continental Divide it will most likely be a Western Bluebird doing the singing; not the Mountain variety.

There are several reasons for this but the rampant spread of bird houses, fewer low elevation tree cavities due to increased fire suppression as western valleys became more populated, coupled with behavorial differences, especially differences in aggression (western bluebirds are far more aggressive on average) and that the more timid mountain bluebird males are more nurturing, feeding nesting females and helping to raise young and, perhaps most importantly, to survive high elevation spring storms.

There is a lot more to this fascinating story and another good reason to subscribe to Montana Outdoors--for just 12 bucks a year can't hardly afford not to...