Big Game Photos Rolling In

As hunting season rolls along I continually get photos sent to me from the network of hunting and fishing friends I've made over the years. Like you, I am also easily distracted, so here's just a few photos from this week to help keep you from getting anything done on this Friday afternoon.

Bob Say's Cle Elum mule deer. The inside spread is 27" on this monster muley!

Tim Vekved's "Eastern Washington" mule deer. I signed a non-disclosure…what can I say.

Notice the frame packs. I've been on many an expedition with Tim and there's always a frame pack and blisters involved.

Ga-gagger Roosevelt elk recently taken from the Green River Watershed.

Humptulips Salmon Slam

I had a great time on the Humptulips River yesterday with super-angler Scott Sypher and Steve "Stam" Maris, catching a mixed bag of king, silver, and chum salmon. We weren't alone either, as nearly every driftboat in Washington descended on the river as it dropped into prime shape. I hammered a dark silver on my third cast of the day with a blue/silver Vibrax as we drifted towards our first hunker-down-and-sit-for-a-while anchor stop.

Anchoring in a primo travel slot it took just a few seconds for Steve's rod to double over with a high 20's king that we released after a sporty battle. We sat in this particular spot for around an hour and a half, releasing a couple more bronze kings, several chums, and some silvers. One bright 12 pound silver ended up in the box before the bite shut off. Not wanting to shoe horn our way into the mass of boats anchored in the prime floatfishing water we meandered off downstream.

With most of the fishable water covered with boats we found a run halfway down that wasn't occupied and went to work, deploying freshly wrapped K-15 Kwikfish. Chums, silvers, and kings were rolling everywhere and we missed a couple of short takedowns before my 27 pound king slammed the middle Kwiky for good. I did my usual "I think it's a chum, no maybe it's a king, or a silver…hmmm, it's a king…I think" routine as the fish burrowed around the bottom of the hole, eventually finding a pile of debris and sticks to tangle up in. Some handy sculling by Scotty allowed me to unwrap the fish and Steve scooped it into the net.  

After a couple of quick photos we dropped the plugs back into the run and got into a totally wide open chum bite, doubling up several times and barely getting the rods back in the water before they'd get slammed. Loads of fun and laughs! A big thanks to both Steve and Scott for such a fun day on the water. Can't wait to do it again.

Scotty Sypher put me into this 27 pound Humptulips Chinook.

Stam works over yet another hard fighting chum salmon.

Blacktail Down!

After missing the Eastern Washington hunt last week because of a health issue I turned my attention to the wet side of the mountains and blacktails. The Hood Canal is rimmed on all sides by clear cuts, some with locked gates and some without. The key is to find clear cuts between 2 and about 10 years old that provide plenty of forage for blacktails and yet are open enough to still have a chance at getting a shot at one of these illusive deer. Blacktails are extremely difficult to hunt because they live in the Westside jungle and not every good-looking location has them. Nine of out ten spots that have all the right "stuff" won't hold blacktails, but find one that does and you're in the money.

The mountain bike I blogged about two weeks ago more than proved it's worthiness, allowing me to cruise for miles behind locked gates covering much more ground than I ever could have on foot. I've been putting 4 to 6 miles on the bike each morning, jumping from clear cut to clear cut, many of which seldom get hunted by foot traffic. Getting in shape on the bike and treadmill, sighting the rifle in, washing the hunting clothes in "Scent Away" by Hunter Specialties, and getting the work done all payed dividends today.

I rode into this particular clear cut before the sun came up today and stashed the bike fifty feet short of the clearing just as it was getting light enough to see. One of my childhood friends, Fred Fein, had logged this area several years ago and clued me in that this cut may have some deer in it. I took a perch on a high mound a hundred yards down the edge of the cut and waited, and waited, and waited, glassing constantly. A doe fed it's way thru the cut and other than that things were pretty quiet. I could cover 90% of the cut with binocs, but one small dip in the cut was obscured. A "Crunch!"came from this area and then ten minutes later the faint sound of a stick breaking could be heard. Definitely not a squirrel!

Working my way to the end of the cut gave me the vantage point I needed to see into this hollow and I once again waited and glassed. After thirty minutes of glassing I caught a glimpse of a good sized blacktail buck just as it went into the woods along the cut. With my nerves on end I kept up the glassing, covering every square inch of the clearing. Ten minutes later a small 2 point appeared in the middle of the cut and as I swung the glasses across to check him out I caught a quick glimpse of the tip of an antler and the tip of an ear behind a large root wad. "That's gotta be a deer!", was all I could think. I trained the glasses on it for several minutes before the ear moved and the buck took a half a step forward, revealing it's true size. Getting a good look at his antlers and head I decided this was definitely a blacktail worth harvesting.

The buck was 250 yards, so I found a good rest, turned up the Burris to full power, and trained the scope on the buck. After several minutes he walked into full view and stopped broadside, giving me the shot I needed. I held the crosshairs just below the top of his back and touched off the Winchester 150 grain XP3. I knew I hit him because he kicked, but he still managed to run towards the woods and out of sight. I hustled to where he was standing and began gridding back forth across his path of travel, hopeful he hadn't made it to the trees where the brush was impenetrable. After several minutes of wondering if I'd ever find him there he was. A perfect lung shot had brought him down 50 feet away from where he'd been hit. Have you ever high-fived yourself? Well, I did it today and it felt pretty good!

After you pull the trigger the work really begins. I muscled the deer 400 yards across the clear cut to a tree next to the road, where I could skin and quarter the buck for the three mile ride out on the mountain bike. 4 hours later I was at the truck with my biggest blacktail to date. No pain, no gain!

My old Belgium Browning 30.06, which is now 40 years old, still gets the job done.

The heavy-bodied blacktail ready for skinning and quartering.

Front shoulders and hind quarters ready to go in the "paper boy" baskets and the body and head in the pack frame. Next year I'll be towing a small trailer!

Bear’s Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen

When CCA's Bear Holmes isn't working his tail off to preserve your rights as a sportfisherman you can find him boiling, grilling, baking, and smoking the fruits of his labor in his ultimate outdoor kitchen. "I had this idea in mind for an outdoor barbecue and when the local Dairy Queen went out of business I grabbed as much of their equipment as I could and went for it. It turned out so well we use it just about year round," says Holmes. Bear's kitchen comes complete a fridge, smoker, grill, oven, deep fat fryer, sink, bar with stools, and plenty of storage. With a name like Bear and an outdoor kitchen like this why would this man ever set foot in the house again? Aaargh!

The Time to Act is NOW!!

Everyone that has listened to the show regularly already knows that I have been working on a committee to advocate for the groundfish in Puget Sound by providing improved habitat and perhaps even hatchery supplementation.  Since moving to the northwest in 2000 I have been amazed at the stories I've heard about all of the cod and rockfish that were caught while people were fishing for salmon or some other species.  To return the Puget sound to those "good ol days" would be the best gift we as sporties could give to our kid's and grandkid's.

The causes for the decline are many, not the least of which are pollution, and habitat loss.  The state however has their own favorite, over harvest by RECREATIONAL fisherman. The state lays the blame squarely on the shoulders of recreational fisherman.  On page 27, table 8 shows the likely stressors for rockfish.  I guess this is their own opinion, but it struck me as funny when they listed past fishery removals as high priorities but water quality as a moderate or low priority issue!

 Have they not heard of the fish kills in Hood Canal? 

Have they not heard of the sewage runoff after a flood in Seattle? 

Why is the governor putting so much time, money, and energy in to cleaning up Puget Sound if water quality is such a minor issue???

 I do agree that PAST, not current, removals are part of the problem now.  That is why I don't belive that slowly growing fish such as rockfish can sustain a commercial fishery, like the ones we had from the 20's to the 80's, in an area like Puget Sound. 

The answers that the state has provided for us is a series of MPA's (Marine Protected Areas – closed to all fishing) and the promise to look in to hatchery production and artificial habitat enhancement, and to ELIMINATE harvest!  The first proposal that the committee came up with is the ALASKA WAY VIADUCT.   The proposal is to use the clean concrete and/or material provided to us by South Seattle Communtity College to build 12 reefs in Puget Sound for scientific research and study.  The goal to build and study these reefs in Puget Sound would not only provide us with research, education, and conservation but would also provide us with recreational opportunities such as fishing and diving someday.  This would not only provide an economic boost to the local economy but also improve the quality of life for local residents.

In the past, WDFW argued that artificial habitat quality, function, and replacement of underlying natural habitat cast doubt for it's use as replacement habitat. I on the other hand point to studies by Dr. Milton Love, as well as many others, that show artificial habitats, -done correctly- provide habitat that is better than, or equal to natural habitat.  These studies also show that these platforms act as nursery grounds for rockfish.  Other studies by the University of Florida point out the economic and social value these artificial habitats bring.  Many can even be designed in a way that will take pressure off of natural reefs.  The proposal that we are putting forward will answer these questions, as well as many others, once and for all.

Recently, the WDFW came out with a draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Puget Sound Rockfish Conservation Plan. The immediate issue that I have is that this document was supposed to be out in April but didn't come out until October 19th and we were given only 30 days to read, research, and comment on it. Even though the document gives us a glimmer of hope, many aspects of the plan are, in my opinion, down right scary.  On page 65, strategy #1, endorses the idea of using MPA's (Marine Protected Areas) to restrict or even prohibit fishing. There is no stated goal for these MPA's, stated process for enacting, or any proof that they work to accomplish any goal.  MPA's are also referred to many other times throught the document, pages 44,61, and 62 are just a few others.  Many studies show that MPA's have very little to no effect ( is one place to start) so why endorse such a policy without review.  Is this a feel good thing? "Hey, Let's do something for the sake of doing something and this sounds like the easiest thing to do". A Florida Marine research study showed that even though the population of fish may increase in a no-take zone, that may be at the expense of the population of fish outside the the no-fish zone.  

Some of our favorite fisheries may be restricted as well.  Page 43 states that fishing opportunities for species other than rockfish (i.e. salmon,lingcod, and halibut) may be limited or modified.  We are also seeing this in the new rule proposals out this year.  WDFW is proposing closing bottomfishing deeper than 120ft.  This would give the state the right to shut down or alter any fishery that it wants and all they have to say is that it is good for rockfish recovery.  Am I being a little paranoid here?  I don't think so, just look at what happened this summer with the proposal to shut down sportfishing within a half mile of san Juan Island.  Do I need to give any more examples?

Another aspect that is bothersome to me is that WDFW gives us a little hope of constructing an artificial reef but on page 51 they state, "Any constructed habitat would be CLOSED to fishing for rockfish". Then again on page 69, WDFW says that, "Construction or use of enhancement techniques to provide or increase fishing opportunities will not be considered". 

Why not? 

If our research shows that by using artificial habitat we can have sustainable harvest then wouldn't that the best benefit to all? 

 I'm not suggesting we have a free for all, but allowing sustainable harvest would not only be of great economic benefit but many social and family traditions would be served as well. A good, sustainable fishery for rockfish would also take pressure off some of the other fish that are in trouble.

Many would like to just leave the habitat the way it is, stop any fishing for them and let them recover on their own.  I on the other hand do not have 50 years to wait.  I say man has created this problem, now we need to fix it by once again, enhancing habitat and providing hatchery supplementation.  We have visited the federal hatchery in Manchester where they are raising rockfish, cod, and halibut already.  WSA divers have already been successful in constructing some local dive reefs.  NOAA wants to do do the research and WSDOT wants some good publicity by providing clean material and green jobs.  The players are in place and the time is now, all we need is for the sportfishing community to get behind this and let WDFW know how you feel.  Please click on the links below my blog link on the home page of for meeting dates and how to send in a comment.

Bayside Marine’s Salmon Derby and Holiday Food Drive

   I know it's hard to believe but ladies and gentlemen….. IT'S SALMON DERBY TIME!!!!



After a great summer salmon season, some anglers are looking at an "Off Season"… With Bayside Marine's unique, exclusive Dry Stack Storage Facility, there is no such thing as an "off season"… Come on down and join us on the Everett Waterfront for:

Bear Attacks Plane

From the Outdoor Line Network:

Bear attack 2009.

Apparently a bear attacked his plane while parked in a remote field up in AK. He had not cleaned out the inside after a long fishing trip and the bear smelled it. He had 2 new tires, 3 cases of Duct Tape and several rolls of cellophane delivered. Then went about repairing the plane so he could fly it home. Gutsy to say the least!

Team Wooldridge Tagged Out

It's been a rather dreary general rifle season thus far on the east side of the Cascades, but that definitely hasn't been the case for the all-in-the-family Wooldridge clan hunting in Okanogan County. Glen Wooldridge, son Grant Wooldridge, brother-in-law Don Dunning, and nephew Jared Dunning all tagged out on mule deer in just two and half days. 

Glen Wooldridge took this 4 X 4 mule deer at 358 yards with a 300 Win Mag and a bipod. Leica binoc's outfitted with a range finder were the trick to finding the range on this animal. 

Chip off the old block! Grant Wooldridge got his buck first thing in the morning on the opener in a gully full of bitter brush, which is a staple in the mule deers diet.

A Staph infection in my right leg has grounded me for the general rifle season in Eastern Washington. The truck is still loaded "just in case", but it's doubtful I'll be heading across the mountains before it closes on Sunday. It's sure nice to see some of our friends having some success though.

The road less traveled

After my ordinary hunting area became overrun with people a couple of years ago I was forced to look elsewhere. In the process of fumbling around scoping out an off-the-beaten-path area that didn't get heavily pressured my hunting partner and I stumbled upon an extensive area of roads with locked gates. "Why didn't I think of this sooner" was the first thought that went thru my head. With one more tag to fill we hiked in behind a gate one evening and while we didn't get anything there were plenty of mule deer around to keep things interesting. It was obvious that outside of some light foot traffic and perhaps some horses the area didn't get much pressure. We vowed to come back a little better prepared next time.

Two years later I finally have the mountain bike all rigged up and ready to go, at least I hope it's ready. After shopping around REI yesterday in search of the perfect saddle bags I decided everything they had was far too fancy-schmancy to be used on a hunting bike. Even though the nice lady at REI's bike shop was mildly horrified that I would use my bike, complete with fancy-schmancy saddle bags, to pack out a "harvested" animal she sent me to Home Depot where she had just seen some metal baskets that would do the trick. Shor'nuf, I found the baskets and some hose clamps to connect them to the rear rack on the mountain bike. I figure a hind quarter will fit in each side and if I have to make two trips so be it, easy as pie and a helluva lot slicker than carrying it out on foot, which I have done 14 times now. 

Next I bought a CleanH2O water bottle complete with a built in filter system for an emergency in case my two big jugs run out, a headlight, and a product called "Slime" that nearly reduces flats caused by thorns and small rocks. I wasn't so sure about this stuff, but the guys at Old Town Cycle in Gig Harbor raved about the product and installed it within my tires today.

I really didn't want to paint the bike camo, so instead I purchased some No-Mar camo tape made by Hunter's Specialties at Sportco and applied that to the bike to break up the pattern and cover up the bright-and-shineys as much as possible. It took two rolls totalling about 20' of tape to cover everything up. The nice thing about the No-Mar tape is that it can be easily removed.

The bike with it's chrome decals and yellow forks prior to getting the No-Mar tape.    

The side racks installed with hose clamps to the rear rack of the bike.

The finished product with as much of the shiney's covered as possible.

I made sure to cover up the reflectors. With only an 8 day season this year I'm not taking any chances.

I've been on the treadmill three to four days a week since returning from Alaska and plan on doing enough riding the rest of this week to at least take the edge off. Next week is all about putting myself in the best possible position to harvest an animal and one things for sure, I'm not afraid to work for it!