2018 Pacific Northwest Turkey Outlook

The author (right ) called this big 21 lb. Boss Tom in for a friend last season. Curiosity and loneliness around mid morning once the hens had went to nest brought this guy into 18 yards. (Troy Rodakowski)

By Troy Rodakowski

I’m going to go out on a limb here! No pun intended but I’m going to go ahead and say that the 2018 Oregon spring turkey season will be fantastic! Why will it be fantastic might you ask?

First of all, last year’s dry spring and mild winter made for a great hatch and good poult survival. Secondly, we have had a fairly mild winter with less snow pack in many portions of the Pacific Northwest equating to less winter die off of birds. Yes, some of the late cold and snowy weather took its toll on some flocks but for the most part they are doing better than ever.

Good Bets: In order to find a gobbler this spring a hunter should be prepared to look higher in elevation. Lack of snow pack in many locations has enabled birds to disperse quicker into the high country. This spring will be similar to last year in many ways and hunters should keep in mind where they found birds last year and begin their searches in those areas. Turkey are drawn to food around small creeks with fresh vegetation, newly hatched insects, snails and small amphibians which are all irresistible to them. If you walk ridges above draws with creek bottoms that have freshly sprouted plant life you will eventually run into turkeys.

Turkey populations continue to expand throughout the Pacific Northwest as birds continue to do well and thrive in many locations. Now is the time to get involved and become a part of this exciting sport throughout our region. If you haven’t been turkey hunting yet I highly recommend giving it a try because the prospects for the 2018 season are looking pretty darn good.

A group of mature gobblers in search of a lonely hen. Often times during the early season birds will be found in larger groups with multiple gobblers hanging together. (Troy Rodakowski)

Western Oregon: Last season 13,716 hunters managed to harvest 5,246 birds during the spring season in the Beaver state. The top five units on the west side were the Melrose, Rogue, Willamette, Evans Creek and the Applegate. All of these units had good harvests with some of the highest harvests coming from Melrose and Rogue followed by Evans Creek & Willamette respectively. Many of these birds congregate on private lands or borders of private timber and BLM tracts. With Douglas County being the “Turkey Capitol” of Oregon over a third of the annual harvest occurs here.

One unit to keep an eye on for this year will be the Siuslaw near Lorane especially in the southeast portions near the small towns of Drain and Creswell. Also, the McKenzie, Alsea, Chetco and Keno units have seen increasing numbers of birds on private lands near the foothills. Spend a little time door-knocking in these units and you could score some primo turkey hunting ground.

These are all great areas but Northeast Oregon in my opinion is one of the best regions to hunt spring turkey in the Beaver state. Locations near LaGrande, Imbler, Elgin, Union, Cove, Wallowa, Sumpter, and Flora all hold decent flocks of birds. Catherine Creek, Sumpter, Walla Walla, Pine Creek, and Minam GMU’s all saw decent harvest in 2017. Units that showed significant increases in harvest during the past few years were the Sled Springs, Chesnimnus, Keating, and Starkey.

Getting our youth out is important. Be sure to look into your states youth hunts for turkey this coming season. (Troy Rodakowski)

Washington State: The state of Washington has seen turkey harvest rise from a mere 588 birds in 1996 to nearly 5,000 in the past few seasons. Last year the total spring harvest was 4,980 birds taken by 9,565 hunters across the state. In the Northeast region of the Evergreen State the turkey harvest in GMU’s 101-136 have held at or near 3,000 birds. Both Yakima and Kittitas counties turkey populations have held fairly steady also with some minor declines over the last few years.

In Okanogan County turkey are found in scattered groups and are primarily found in larger numbers on private agricultural holdings. GMU’s 231 and 232 hold the best populations of birds and see some of the highest harvest rates in this district. With reduced numbers in the Methow Valley hunters are finding it a bit more difficult to fill a tag.

The Stemilt Basin outside of Wenatchee and lands along the Wenatchee River usually hold several flocks of birds. Most of the lands near Wenatchee are private and hunters looking for public lands need to search closer to the Stemilt Basin. In addition, the east slope of the Cascade mountain range is showing expanding populations of turkeys. The Eastern species of turkey in Western Washington are continuing to expand with GMU’s 667, 510, 672, and 520 being the best. Many of the turkey in these units are on private farmlands or timberlands and permission is required to access these birds.

Every once in a while a bird will come in silent. So always keep your eyes peeled for that red bobbing head. (Troy Rodakowski)

Idaho: Turkeys are found throughout the Panhandle Region, except in the mountainous units 7 and 9. Turkey hunting is usually pretty good in the Panhandle region however this past winter may have taken a toll on turkey populations.

The 2017-18 winter had above normal snowpack with lower elevations also receiving a good amount of snow. Birds will be concentrated in areas with feed following the receding snow lines. Decent hunting can be found on public land adjacent to private land in lower elevations especially in units 1, 2, 3, and 5. Obtaining permission from private landowners is a good option for finding turkey hunting spots. Many private landowners will provide access because they want turkey flocks reduced on their lands.

Good opportunities for turkey hunting are also found in and near Idaho Fish and Game’s Craig Mountain Wildlife Management Area south of Lewiston, as well as state and federal land, private agriculture land and corporate timber land.

Turkey production the past three years has been near the long-term average in the Clearwater Region resulting in numbers that should provide hunting success consistent with recent years.

Mild conditions during the past few winters in the Clearwater region has resulted in good survival into spring and also helps give hunters access to higher elevations early in the spring.

In the Clearwater Region hunters will want to focus their effort near the Clearwater River up to the Lochsa and Selway. Also, the Snake River, lower Salmon River, and White bird have held decent numbers of birds.

For early season success make sure to scout prior to season and obtain permission on private ground if possible. Figuring out a flock’s daily routine will help to put you in a good spot during the opening week of the season. If you plan to hunt some of the higher terrain be prepared to cover some ground to locate birds. Turkeys in the mountains are concentrating their effort on finding fresh food and dispersing into the higher meadows where the snow has melted off. These Rio’s and Merriams tend to be more nomadic and are not as easy to pattern.

Also, make sure to take some time and practice your calling. You don’t have to be a World Champion or even close to a professional caller but try your best to sound as much like a turkey as possible. Listening to You Tube Videos or having a friend or family member who is an experienced caller help you can make a huge difference. Simple box calls are easiest for beginners and with just a little practice slate calls can be mastered fairly quickly, as well. Mouth diaphragms tend to take a bit more practice but are very effective and best of all they render a hunters hands free and ready to shoot.

Turkey hunting is catching on out here in the Pacific Northwest and populations are continuing to grow and expand. Washington, Oregon and Idaho offer some of the best turkey hunting across the country and now is the time to start planning your 2018 turkey hunt. With the winter snows melting in the lower elevations now is the time to get out there and locate some birds ahead of the openers in these great Western states.

 

Troy Rodakowski
Outdoor Line Blogger
Western Oregon Region
The Outdoor Line
710 ESPN Seattle

Tips for a Successful Late Season Quail Hunt

by Jason Brooks

With just a few weeks left in the upland bird hunts for Washington it is time to start changing up tactics a bit to increase your success on late season quail. The birds have been hunted hard now for several months but thanks to these small and tasty birds the broods are often large enough to handle the extra-long season of opportunities. But once the temperatures plummet you will need to change how you approach the day’s hunt.

Birds don’t start their daily movements until well after the sun is up when it’s cold-Jason Brooks

Don’t start too early

Though we often like to be in the hills at first light, and with that being somewhere after breakfast anyway this time of year, birds are slow to come out of the roost. Quail are mostly a ground roosting bird which means they will often be holding under sagebrush and dense cover until the sun hits and starts to warm them up. The tiny birds will roost in thick spruce or pine trees if available so look for a sage covered hillside that might also have a stand of evergreens. I find most of my birds in the middle of the day.

Quail hunting in the middle of the day is the most productive-Jason Brooks

Don’t hunt late

Just like how the birds don’t really get moving until mid-day they also tend to head for their nighttime safety early in winter. As the sun starts for the far horizon quail will start to shorten their movements and stop feeding. The key to a late season bird hunt is to maximize the middle of the day when the birds are out moving and actively feeding.

The author prefers to use his side by side with size 6 shot-Jason Brooks

Pick the right shotgun, load and choke

With the cold temperatures I will bundle up in layers of wool, down jackets and gloves. Auto-loading shotguns help with the lack of needing to move a pump and aid your follow-up shots. If you do use a pump-action then be sure to use a gun oil that can take cold temperatures. I prefer to use my side by side as it is a challenge as well as a great gun to shoot. Tighten your chokes up from Improved Cylinder to Modified if you wish to continue to use light shot such as size 7 1/2’s. This will help with the dense plumage the birds have put on since early fall. Instead of changing the choke consider moving up to size 6 shot in a high brass. The wider choke allows for an increased pattern size and the larger shot helps penetrate the feathers.

Late season quail will hold very tight, even with a dog on full point-Jason Brooks

Expect tight holding birds

In the early season it seems I can barely get close enough to a covey before they bust and flush. I don’t mind this as it allows me to pick up singles and doubles on the second approach. But in winter the cold weather and snows make it so the birds don’t want to flush easily. This past weekend we were hunting with our Hungarian Vizsla and one bird was six inches off her nose and still wouldn’t flush. The dog held point and I kicked the bush a few times to get it to fly. Since the birds hold so tight most shots will be very close which is another reason to keep the choke wide and use a larger shot.

Hunt into the wind to give your dog the best chance to find the birds-Jason Brooks

Watch the weather

Cloudy days and days with lots of moisture, either in snow or fog, makes for a long and tough day of bird hunting. This is mostly because the birds will be in dense cover to keep from getting wet and cold. It can be almost impossible to get a covey to move or flush in these conditions. More than once I have seen quail running around in a big thicket but no matter what I did they wouldn’t flush. Try and hunt sunny days as the birds will be on the move and out in the warm sunlight. If there is a breeze then make sure to work your dog into the wind as the scent can travel and cause your dog to “false point” when hunting with the wind or even pick up birds from behind. I’ve made the mistake of hunting with the wind and walk right past birds only to have them flush behind me.

A late season quail hunt is one of the best ways to spend a winter day-Jason Brooks

Keep in mind that if you are cold then so is your dog. Give them some extra food at the end of the day to help them regulate their temperatures and get their strength back. Water for your four legged hunting partner and for yourself is often overlooked in the winter. Be sure to offer it to your dog regularly. The season is only a few weeks away from the end so on the next sunny day get out and chase some late season quail.

Jason Brooks
The Outdoor Line Blogger
www.jasonbrooksphotography.com

Rifle Review: Kimber Mountain Ascent

by Jason Brooks

Being a backcountry hunter for the past thirty-plus years I have learned that weight is everything. Over the years I have hunted far from the trailhead and in the early years I started with an all-steel Remington Model 141 Gamemaster chambered in 35 Remington and topped with a weaver fixed 4X scope. That rifle package weighed over 10 pounds. Since then I have gone through a few different rifles trying to balance weight with accuracy and ballistics. I’ve never really found a rifle that I liked until I came across the new Kimber Mountain Ascent. The Kimber Mountain Ascent is the lightest bolt action hunting rifle in production today.

Kimber’s Mountain Ascent is a lightweight and extremely accurate rifle for the backcountry-Jason Brooks

My Kimber Mountain Ascent chambered in .280 Ackley Improved with a Vortex Razor HD LH 2-10x40mm scope weighs in at just over 6 pounds. I’ll review the re-emergence of the .280 Ackley Improved cartridge in another blog along with the new Razor HD Lightweight Hunter scope. I’m very impressed with both. So here is the lowdown on the rifle that packs light, shoots straight, and kills efficiently.

The three position Model 70 style safety is easy to use and very reliable-Jason Brooks

I chose the solid moss green stock for my Kimber Mountain Ascent because I just don’t care much for camouflage stocks. The moss green stock is made of reinforced carbon fiber that is extremely lightweight, resists scratching, and has texture so it stays solid in your hand on wet, cold days. If you prefer a camouflage stock Kimber has Gore Optifade “Open Country” and “Subalpine” stock options with soft touch finishes that are warm to the touch and grip easily.

The first thing I noticed about the rifle was the long barrel. Most “mountain rifles” come with either 20 or 22-inch barrels to save weight. In lieu of a short barrel Kimber flutes a very thin 24-inch barrel to give it strength and stability. The longer barrel offers higher velocities since the bullet has a longer path to travel and build pressure. It also increases accuracy as the bullet can stabilize with an extended distance in contact with the rifling. With the longer barrel there’s also less margin of error when it comes to pointing the barrel at your target.

However, this is a hunting rifle, not a range rifle, and after the second subsequent shot the barrel was warm to the touch. Three quick successive shots and the barrel was borderline hot. In a perfect world we make “one shot kills” but when an immediate follow-up shot is needed be aware of barrel heating. When sighting-in at the range adequate time is needed between groups to let the Kimber’s lightweight barrel cool down. I’d recommend practicing with this rifle at the range before taking it afield. It’s so lightweight that it may take you a few range sessions to get a feel for shooting it.

A muzzle break helps tame the recoil of the light rifle-Jason Brooks

The larger-caliber Mountain Ascent’s comes with a threaded barrel and cap as well as a muzzle break. It’s your choice on which to use and they change out easily. I prefer the muzzle break since the rifle is very lightweight. Recoil can be an issue with any lightweight rifle and the muzzle break helps with this as does the with the pre-fitted Pachmeyr Decelerator pad that’s standard with the Kimber. My rifle doesn’t kick enough for me to worry about flinching as long as I used hearing protection, which is a must with a muzzle break. With the muzzle break the .280 Ackley Improved and the rest of the magnum calibers are a dream to shoot with the Mountain Ascent. Lightweight rifles certainly produce more recoil and the muzzle break attenuates that nicely.

A fully adjustable trigger makes for a fine shooting rifle-Jason Brooks

Extremely lightweight rifles are often given a bad reputation for being inaccurate. This can be partly due to a heavy trigger pull and the shooter rocking the rifle or “rolling” their finger on the trigger instead of using a steady pull. Kimber is well aware of this and allows shooters who prefer a light trigger to make this adjustment easily. Each rifle is test fired before leaving the factory and Kimber guarantees sub-MOA accuracy.

My first range session had me wondering how this was possible. After realizing I was moving the rifle as I was firing it I looked up how to adjust the trigger. A couple bedding screws keep the action and free-floating barrel in the stock and two small set-screws on the trigger assembly adjust the weight-of-pull and trigger travel. It took me about five minutes from start to finish to adjust the trigger. Since then I have had sub-MOA accuracy with quality ammo every time I’ve shot the rifle.

Every ounce that can be shaved has been taken off of the rifle-Jason Brooks

The action has just about every ounce shaved off including hollowing the bolt handle and trimming down the action. The rifle will hold four rounds in the internal magazine but I had some difficulty trying to chamber a round when I put all four cartridges in the gun. Instead I would only put three rounds in the rifle and for the most part it chambers and cycles just fine. Again, think of this rifle as a “make the shot count” tool and you will have no problems.

The author with an Idaho backcountry bull he took with the Kimber Mountain Ascent-Jason Brooks

The Kimber Mountain Ascent is an extremely accurate rifle that is easy to carry in the field, so “making the shot count” is not much of a problem. It took me one shot at 310 yards to kill a five-point bull elk in Idaho’s backcountry this past fall and I had no problem carrying the rifle back to camp with a heavy load of meat. With any lightweight backcountry hunting rifle I’m reticent to take shots beyond 400 yards and this rifle is no different.

The Kimber Mountain Ascent fits the criteria as a true mountain hunting rifle and in my opinion is well worth the price. If you’re looking to shave pounds or even ounces off your load on your next backcountry hunting trip this rifle should be at the top of your list.

Jason Brooks
The Outdoor Line Blogger
www.jasonbrooksphotography.com

Trout fishing better than dealing with shopping mall crowds, and update on Sunday’s Tengu Derby

This batch of jumbo-sized rainbow trout were caught at Beaver Lake last week by Tom Quinn of Issaquah. Look for plenty of these to be swimming around and heading to the holiday dinner table in the weeks ahead!

While hordes of people will be hitting the shopping malls in the days to come, many others will opt out and head to a year-round lake to catch trout.

“It’s going to be an exciting time to go trout fishing (and) certainly a much more wholesome activity than going to the mall,” said Steve Thiesfeld, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (WDFW) inland fish manager.

A few years ago, WDFW decided to give their trout planting a face-lift by adding fish into lakes open year-round after anglers requested more time on the water in the winter.

This year’s winter trout plants are down from previous years, but WDFW hatchery personnel began adding about 120,000 catchable-sized rainbow trout since early fall. This is also on top of spring fry plants where those fish are now growing into the “catchable” 8- to 15-inch range.

The “Black Friday” plants occurred last week with the bulk of fish going into southwestern Washington lakes as well as some in the Puget Sound region.

Those included Issaquah’s Beaver Lake in King County that was planted with 760 rainbow trout averaging 1 ½ pounds.

In Thurston County, Black Lake got 3,267; Long Lake received 1,002; and Offutt Lake got 1,006. In Pierce County, Tanwax Lake got 1,000.

In Pacific County, Cases Pond got 541 trout on Nov. 17.

Another plant of 5,000 trout will happen sometime next month at Goodwin Lake in Snohomish County.

In Pierce County, American Lake is expecting a plant of 2,500, and Tanwax another 1,000. These trout will average 1 to 1.3 pounds. In Jefferson County, Anderson will be planted with 1,200 this month.

Moving down to the southwestern region hit up lakes like Battleground, 2,000 and Klineline, 2,000 in Clark County; Kress, 2,000 in Cowlitz County; Rowland, 2,000 in Klickitat County; Fort Borst Park, 2,000 and South Lewis County Park, 2,000 in Lewis County.

In Chelan County, Roses Lake – a popular ice-fishing spot later in the winter – got a whopping 15,624 on Nov. 20, and Sidley Lake in Okanogan County another ice-fishing locale got 3,000 on Nov. 7.

Fourth of July and Hatch lakes each received decent trout fry plants in 2016, and look for these trout to be in the catchable-size range this winter. Some Fourth of July trout are known to tape out at 20-plus inches, and is often iced over by early winter.

Lake Roosevelt above Grand Coulee Dam –a massive 130-mile reservoir – is another winter-time sleeper that is often overlooked. A net program generates 750,000 trout fry annually, and survival rate is superb with ample feed to help these trout grow fast.

For a comprehensive list of stocked lakes, go to WDFW website at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/fall-into-fishing/. Weekly stocking reports can be found at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/.

Tengu Blackmouth Derby has new season leader

Here are the Tengu Blackmouth Derby results in Elliott Bay from Sunday that showed 15 members caught three blackmouth.

The weekly winner and now the largest fish of the season after three Sundays is Guy Mamiya who caught a 9 pound, 15 ounce hatchery chinook off Salty’s Restaurant late in the morning.

Guy Mamiya holds up the largest hatchery chinook caught in the Tengu Blackmouth Derby so far this season. The derby is held every Sunday through Dec. 31.

Second place was Justin Wong with a 5-12 caught off the Elliott Bay Marina; and third went to John Mirante with a 4-10 he caught off the west waterway.

“We ran into some bait and a lot of shakers off Red Stack all morning,” said Doug Hanada, Tengu Derby president. “My nephew caught a 20-inch, 21-inch and a 21.5-inch blackmouth there. (we) used up about

eight dozen bait for three of us. No action or markings off Duwamish Head.”

The long-standing Tengu Blackmouth Derby started on Nov. 5 and Nov. 13 (Nov. 19 was cancelled due to rough weather), and is hosted every Sunday through Dec. 31.

The derby began in 1937, and up until 2015 was held every season since the end of World War II. Last season just nine legal-size chinook were caught during the entire derby.

In the derby, only mooching (fishing using a banana-style lead weight to a leader with a herring) is allowed. No artificial lures, flashers, hoochies (plastic squids) or other gear like downriggers are permitted. This winter the boundary has been extended to West Point.

Cost is $35 to join the club, and $5 for children 12-years-old-and-under. The derby starts at daybreak and ends each day at 11 a.m. The Seacrest Boathouse will be open at 6 a.m. every Sunday. Cost for rental boat from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. is $65, and $85 for boat and motor. Tickets are available at Outdoor Emporium in Seattle.

Keep clam and dig up some razor clams

For those who like to dig into some fun be sure to take advantage of the next round of coastal razor clam digs, which have been approved for Dec. 1-4.

Digging will be open Dec. 1 at Copalis (minus-0.3 feet at 4:42 p.m.); Dec. 2 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks (-1.1 at 5:29 p.m.); Dec. 3 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Copalis (-1.6 at 6:15 p.m.); Dec. 4 at Long Beach, Twin Harbors and Mocrocks (-1.8 at 7:02 p.m.); and Dec. 31 Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Copalis and Mocrocks (-1.2 at 5:12 p.m.).

Diggers will find a mixed bag of razor clam sizes – diggers must keep the first 15 clams dug regardless of size or condition – and the key is if you’re finding small ones in a certain area of the beach don’t be afraid to move to another spot, according to Dan Ayres, the head state Fish and Wildlife coastal shellfish manager.

Despite the a mixed bag it looks like razor clam diggers are finding oodles of clams on coastal beaches.

“The most recent digs (Nov. 2-5) went well, and we had 27,770 digger trips with 366,484 clams dug,” Ayres said. “That comes out to 13.2 clams per person.”

A breakdown by beaches showed Twin Harbors had 5,268 diggers Nov. 3-5 with 73,215 clams for an average of 13.9 clams per person; Copalis had 4,904 with 52,541 Nov. 2 and Nov. 4 for 10.7; Mocrocks had 3m229 with 47,354 Nov. 3 and Nov. 5 for 14.7; and Long Beach had 14,371 with 193,373 Nov. 3-5 for 13.5.

“The crowds were lighter than we had projected and I’m sure the weather forecast scared away some from turning out,” Ayres said. “The exception was Long Beach, which had more than expected, and the folks did quite well. Down the road we might need to back off at Long Beach, but the other beaches were fine.”

After just two series of digs, Long Beach has harvested 36 percent of the total allowable catch for the entire season.

Another dig is planned on Dec. 31, and more digs for January and February will be announced very soon.

Ayres pointed out they’re not seeing any issues with marine toxins like domoic acid, and are likely past the sensitive time of the year.

“We will go ahead with next digs planned in December, and then reassess to make sure we have enough clams for digs after the New Year and in spring,” Ayres said.

Diggers should check for updates on next digs by going to http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/shellfish/razorclams/.

 

 

Scout Now for Fall Bear Season

by Jason Brooks

Fall bear season is just a few weeks away and that means it is time to start scouting. Late July and early August provides enough daylight, warm weather, and opportunities to locate your bear now so when the season opens you are ready. Here are a few tips on locating the best bear areas now to be successful this fall.

The author’s son Ryan scouting open slops for signs of black bears-Jason Brooks

#1. Glass for bears, habitat, and terrain.

When scouting don’t just sit and look for animals. In July and early August, you might not find game out feeding. The lack of seeing game doesn’t mean bears aren’t there, it just means that bears aren’t there right now. Especially if the berries and other food sources are not ripe. Also keep in mind that the daylight is still strong, the temperatures warm, and thermal winds kick up earlier. Instead look for plants, other food sources, benches, hiking routes, stalking routes and camping spots. The idea of scouting isn’t just about finding game but also learning the lay of the land. A good pair of binoculars and a spotting scope are a must. Lightweight and compact models such as the Vortex Vanquish are perfect for scouting trips.

Mountain Ash is one of the black bears favorite fall foods-Jason Brooks

#2. Bears like berries.

As the alpine snow finally melts off you will notice the blooming wildflowers starting to wilt. This is because most of those flowers are blossoms to the many wild berry patches that grow in Washington. Learn how to identify the plants from afar and you will locate the bears much easier. Broadleaf plants, such as thimbleberries, blackberries, and wild raspberries ripen first. Concentrate on avalanche chutes and open slopes were you locate these plants. Mountain ash is a small tree or large bush and bears love the berries they yield. You can spot an ash tree from a long distance away and bears will shake them, rip them down, and pull them over when their fruit is ripe. Oftentimes I locate bears simply by watching the brush and see if it starts to move or shake.

Bug’s are annoying, so be prepared to keep them away while out scouting-Jason Brooks

#3. Be bug prepared.

Hiking in July and August is primetime for biting bugs. Especially in the high country where ground heather, moss, and tarns are still saturated with water. Mosquitos can ruin a day of scouting. Biting black flies are even worse. Use a quality repellent with DEET. If you don’t like using chemicals then a good head net, bug resistant clothing, and a Thermacell are a must, especially when sitting and glassing.

With the long summer days, and clear skies now is the time to get into the mountains and start looking for bears and their habitat. Learn the food sources in your hunting area. As fall approaches bears will go into a constant feeding mode and you will find them out eating all throughout the day. For now, just locating where the food is, how to get there, and a place to set up camp will help you fill your tag when the season opens.

Jason Brooks

The Outdoor Line Blogger

Jason Brooks Photography

Scout Now for Fall’s Hunts!

by Jason Brooks

With special permit draws being announced hunting season is starting to feel a little bit closer. If you drew your “dream tag” or struck out once again now is the time to start your scouting. If you attended my seminar last April then you heard me talk about other resources to help with your scouting, if you missed the seminar then keep reading as I highlight some of the details. A record snowpack means that you might not be able to put “boots on the ground” to find your big buck or bull this fall for a few more weeks or even a month but you can start your scouting right now!

Finding bucks in the summertime helps find them again in the Fall-Jason Brooks

Start with your state’s Fish and Game website and their hunt planning tools. For Washington it is the “Go Hunt” feature at the WDFW Hunting Tab. On this planner you can find public lands, private lands that allows access, integrated maps with satellite photos, roads, unit boundaries and harvest data.

WDFW Go Hunt allows you to find maps of your unit as well as harvest data-Jason Brooks

Once you have your unit figured out then it is time to start thinking about other places for information. Websites such as Hunting WashingtonEastman’s Hunting , Muley Madness, and other sites offer articles and even forums where hunters give up information. You can also contact members and ask them directly about their experiences, especially for the hard-to-draw tags.

The SNOTEL website lets you know how much snow is still in the high country-Jason Brooks

As you start to narrow down your areas search maps and topography websites such as “Google Earth”. You can also find other maps and data about your area from government websites such as the SNOTEL site that gives you up-to-date snow depth information. This will let you know when you can actually head to your unit and do some physical scouting of the ridges, mountains, draws, and drainages you want to hunt.

Google Earth shows you topography as well as other features such as lakes, open slopes, and ridges-Jason Brooks

Other websites that provide information are ones that non-hunters frequent and provide trail reports for such as Washington Trails AssociationWilderness.net and wildland fire data at National Interagency Fire Center.

Before you head to your unit make sure to check the local forest service website if you are hunting the national forest. This will list road conditions and closures, trail conditions, planned projects such as construction or prescribed burns, and other information including ATV use.

National Interagency Fire Center provides up-to-date fire maps and information-Jason Brooks

Now that you know if your hunting the yearly “deer camp” or are heading to a new unit and a dream hunt it is time to start scouting. Between weekend trips keep up to date with various websites and maps. Learn the area and talk to those that are familiar with the unit such as biologist, guides, and other hunters. Just remember to share information as well when asked.

Kyle Hurst knows scouting pays off and helped him harvest this mule deer during a general season-Jason Brooks

Jason Brooks
Outdoor Line Blogger
Northwest Outdoor Writer 

Early Winter Steelhead Have Arrived!

Brenda Schuman and Katie Hovland with an early winter steelhead-Ted Schuman

Brenda Schuman and Katie Hovland with an early winter steelhead-Ted Schuman

Early Winter Steelhead – They’re Here!

by Jason Brooks

Reports of early winter run steelhead have been blowing up my phone lately. Most notably my buddy Ted Schuman of Winter Run Guide Service and has been teasing me with photos from a few recent trips. Ted has been concentrating on far away Olympic Peninsula rivers and prides himself on catching steelhead before most other anglers put away the Coho twitching rods. Not far behind Ted is Mike Ainsworth of First Light Guide Service who likes to double dip on steelhead and Coho this time of year. His son Hunter Ainsworth is often bobber dogging baits with his pops, a technique that works great for both coho and early winter runs in December.

Mike Ainsworth of First Light Guide Service and his son Hunter with a winter steelhead caught bobber dogging-Mike Ainsworth

Mike Ainsworth of First Light Guide Service and his son Hunter with a winter steelhead caught bobber dogging a few winters ago-Mike Ainsworth

This year is no exception. With the cold weather this past week it seems to have slowed the Coho bite just a bit and a perfect time to switch over to steelhead fishing. Snow in the mountains means clear water which is perfect for pulling plugs and bait divers. Ted’s hottest setup for early December winter steelhead has been backtrolling Yakima Bait’s Mag Lip 3.5’s or Luhr Jensen Jet Divers with coon shrimp. With colder water temps it’s a technique that keeps the presentation in front of steelhead longer and gets them to bite. It’s hard to argue with it’s effectiveness!

Yakima Bait's "Dr. Death" mag lip 3.5 is a top producing steelhead plug-Jason Brooks

Yakima Bait’s “Dr. Death” mag lip 3.5 is a top producing steelhead plug-Jason Brooks

A healthy dose of Pro-Cure bait oils or super sauces, especially Bloody Tuna Anise, Sandshrimp, or Anise/Krill applied to plugs and even on the bait diver helps draw steelhead in for the take down.

The author's top winter steelhead scent additives-Jason Brooks

The author’s top winter steelhead scent additives-Jason Brooks

December is just the beginning of the winter steelhead season but don’t forget that several runs of late Coho are still coming into some of the Southwest Washington rivers. It is a great time to get out and double-up, especially since several of the rivers are restricted to just one hatchery Coho a day but two hatchery steelhead.

Katie Hovland with her very first ever steelhead, an early winter run-Ted Schuman

Katie Hovland with her first steelhead, an early winter run-Ted Schuman

In the last few day’s Ted has hooked ten “metalhead’s” in just three trips down the river, including a very bright first steelhead for Katie Hovland who was fishing with Ted and his wife Brenda this weekend. Don’t wait around until the new year before breaking out the bobber-dogging or plug rods. Steelhead are showing up and it’s time to hit the water!

Jason Brooks
Outdoor Line Blogger
Northwest Outdoor Writer

Spring Trout Tips

Ryan Brooks with an opening day rainbow -Jason Brooks

Ryan Brooks with an opening day rainbow -Jason Brooks

Spring trout fishing brings back a lot of memories for most of us as this is where we learned to fish. Getting up an hour before the sunrise and heading to our local lake to fish for the planter rainbows, filling our stringers and having fried trout for dinner. Today this tradition is still going strong and creating memories for generations of anglers. To increase your catching here are a few reminders and pointers.

 

A feisty rainbow makes it fun -Jason Brooks

A feisty rainbow makes it fun -Jason Brooks

1. Know where the fish are

By first checking the fish plantings for your local lakes at http://wdfw.wa.gov/fishing/plants/weekly/ you will have a better idea of how many and when the trout were planted. The “when” is the most important as it takes a few weeks for the fish to acclimate to the lake after being raised in holding ponds at the hatchery. Trout typically stay near the surface when recently planted and as the days go by they slowly make their way to a more comfortable thermocline and adjust to finding the food sources the lake offers. If the lake was recently planted, fish near the surface, if it’s been over a month deeper.

 

Pro-Cure jars of single salmon eggs with UV are a great trout bait -Jason Brooks

Pro-Cure jars of single salmon eggs with UV are a great trout bait -Jason Brooks

2. Baits

It seems Powerbait by Berkley has almost “dummied” the angler as that’s all we use. But it wasn’t too long ago that we used salmon eggs and did just as well. Since the trout are near the surface after planting try using a slip float and go back to salmon eggs, as Powerbait floats and is hard to fish under a bobber. Pro-Cure makes jars of salmon eggs with added scent as well as being UV enhanced, I don’t know any other salmon egg on the market that does the same thing right out of the jar! Also try nightcrawlers, small pieces of prawns or cooked salad shrimp. I always douse my baits with scents to give them that extra advantage.

 

The Super Duper by Luhr Jensen is one of the author's favorite trout lures -Jason Brooks

The Super Duper by Luhr Jensen is one of the author’s favorite trout lures -Jason Brooks

3. Trolling lures

Speed is key when trolling. Slow is the name of the game for spring fishing, no matter if it’s for rainbows or kokanee. The slower you can troll and still keep your gear near the surface the more fish you will catch. My top lures are gold or silver 1 ¼” Super Duper’s by Luhr Jensen, black ¼ ounce Roostertail’s by Yakima Bait Company, and Double Whammy Wedding Ring Spinners by Mack’s Lure. In fact the Wedding Ring has probably caught more trout than any other lure when tipped with a piece of nightcrawler.

 

The whooly bugger, Mack's Smile Blade Fly, and Chironomids are productive flies for trout -Jason Brooks

The whooly bugger, Mack’s Smile Blade Fly, and Chironomids are productive flies for trout -Jason Brooks

4. Fly Fishing

Casting and slowly stripping in a fly or trolling them; using flies in the right water conditions and the right time of day is a lot of fun and very effective. This time of year it’s a wet fly game unless you get a really warm day and just at dusk and start to see fish rising. My main flies are the Mack’s Lure Smile Blade Fly (a whooly bugger with a small smile blade at the eye of the hook), Carey Specials, and Chironomid’s.

 

Adding scents attract fish and also cover any unwanted smells you put onto your baits or lures -Jason Brooks

Adding scents attract fish and also cover any unwanted smells you put onto your baits or lures -Jason Brooks

5. Scents

When bait fishing, trolling lures, or even fly fishing and I am planning on keeping the trout for the frying pan or smoker I always use extra scents. The main reason why I put on scents is to attract more fish to my hook. Especially when bait fishing as it will draw in a lot more fish and increases your catch rate. For trolling it creates a scent trail and I will often do a figure eight pattern with my boat as the fish will be attracted to the area of the lake I just trolled through. The other reason to use scents is to help mask any other scents you put onto your gear. You just touched a lot of stuff while getting your boat in the water and it can repeal fish away from your hook if they smell it. Pro-Cure’s Super Gel’s stick to your bait or lure and cover any unwanted scents.

5 Tips for Catching Trophy Steelhead

 By Jason Brooks

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With longer days and warmer weather the winter steelheader knows this is the time of year for big fish to arrive in our rivers. Those that might have not caught a truly large steelhead will learn a few lessons as soon as they hook the fish. Unfortunately this is not the time to learn those lessons. And if you have caught that magical fish of a lifetime then you might want to remember these lessons as well before you head back to the river.

The author about to release a wild steelhead, keeping it in the water at all times-Jason Brooks

The author about to release a wild steelhead, keeping it in the water at all times-Jason Brooks

Go where the big fish are.

By doing a little research or hiring a reputable guide you can find a handful of rivers that produce big steelhead. Don’t think you can just head to any old steelhead stream and catch a giant fish, even if rumors abound that a twenty pound fish came out of “hatchery brat creek”. Wild fish need wild places so head to a remote section of the Olympic Peninsula with a handful of river maps in your tackle box.

Rivers with wild fish are in wild places-Jason Brooks

Rivers with wild fish are in wild places-Jason Brooks

Leave the bait at home.

This time of year and the rivers you will target should have a run of big wild fish which means we need to protect them. By using techniques that don’t require bait you are more likely to not mortally hook one of these majestic fish. But by all means use scents when it’s legal to do so!

It might seem strange to not use bait but use scents, however it’s how you use the scent that makes the difference. I rub Pro-Cure Super Gel’s on my leaders as well as smear it on my plugs and spoons and soak my slinkies in Pro-Cure bait oils. The idea of using scents is to have it disperse downstream of your presentation so the fish is anticipating something coming and also entice the strike.

Using scents can entice a strike-Jason Brooks

Using scents can entice a strike-Jason Brooks

Knotless nets and fish stay in the water.

This is almost a no brainer with Washington’s regulations though I still see the green or blue nylon knotted nets in drift boats. Those nets literally rip the slime off of the fish which compromises the fish’s ability to fight off bacteria and infections. Along with using a soft knotless net you should keep the fish in the water at all times. Sure I see the photos of one fin in the water to “keep legal” but really the head of the fish or at least the gills plate should remain in the water. And be careful of hand placement as putting pressure under the pectoral fins can compress the steelheads heart.

Use a knotless net when practicing catch and release-Jason Brooks

Use a knotless net when practicing catch and release-Jason Brooks

Bring a camera!

A real camera, not your cell phone. You finally land a fish of a lifetime and it’s now time to preserve that memory or even use the photos to make a replica mount of the fish. Take a lot of photos from all sorts of perspectives, including close up shots and use a “fill flash” to lighten shadows of ball caps. Along with the camera make sure to take measurements of your fish so you can do the math calculations on just how big your fish really was. Here’s a formula that’s been developed by biologists to determine the weight of a wild steelhead:

Girth Squared x Length/775

Use a camera to capture the fish and angler to share the memories-Jason Brooks

Use a camera to capture the fish and angler to share the memories-Jason Brooks

Upsize your gear.

If you are still using 8 or 10 pound test leaders and 12 pound mainline you will really wish you weren’t the second you realize you have a monster steelhead up and running. Truly big fish are not as leader shy as some hatchery brats. And big fish means big gear. As soon as we get a warm spring day I switch all of my mainline to either 15 pound monofilament or 20 to 30 pound braid. My leaders are at least 12 pound test and a buddy of mine uses 20 pound test when we fish a certain river on the coast known for log jams and huge fish. I also trade my lightweight side drifting rod for my fall salmon rod. I keep a finger on my line to help feel the bite but I want the backbone of the medium to medium heavy action rod to turn that big fish away from the logs and rocks and hopefully force it in to the bank. Plus the sooner you can land a big fish the sooner you can let it rest and get it back into the stream. Fighting a steelhead to near exhaustion is no different than bonking it on the head with a stick.

Use the right gear and bring in the fish before it reaches exhaustion-Jason Brooks

Use the right gear and bring in the fish before it reaches exhaustion-Jason Brooks

Good luck and go find that steelhead of a lifetime!

Jason Brooks
Outdoor Line Blogger
Northwest Outdoor Writer

Boat Review: Weldcraft 280 Cuddy King

I sincerely look forward to “show season”.  I get to meet a whole bunch of new people and talk fishing and boating. The boating conversations often lead to answering questions regarding design and layout of various fishing hulls.

During these discussions, one of my recurring challenges is trying to effectively explain the importance -and effect- of reverse chine aluminum hulls to boaters who have never experienced their soft ride and easy handling. For decades, advanced hull designs have been the exclusive province of the fiberglass boat builder…but no more.

Introducing the Weldcraft 280 Cuddy King available at Master Marine     

aWhite

 

What is reverse chine? Great question! Below you’ll see a shot of this vitally important design characteristic. 

aWeldcraft Chine

As you can see, the “V” entry of the hull is surrounded by a flat “step” also known as a “reverse” chine. The structure of the reverse chine lends strength and rigidity to the Weldcraft but it also provides lift. Not unlike the wing of an airplane, the reverse chine’s lift slows the hulls descent into a wave, significantly softening the ride, reducing and in many cases eliminating pounding. In addition, as the Weldcraft enters a turn, the combination of lift and the chine outside the turn’s suction, prevent an uncomfortable roll and allow a very controlled tight turn. Bottom line: If you’ve never experienced the ride of a reverse chine aluminum hull and you believe that fiberglass hulls “just ride softer” than aluminum hulls, you owe it to yourself to experience the ride and ease of control of a Weldcraft.

Sight lines through the boat are excellent. No blind spots here!

aWhitefront

 

The bow is a very serious -and safe- work area. Non skid footing surface, welded heavy-duty cleats, rails and a raised coaming for the hatch just says it all.

awhitebow

 

Here’s your fishing station: A rear helm with steering, gauges, twin main engine control, kicker control and a Simrad fishfinder GPS which also offers autopilot control.

aRear

 

The spacious, heated cabin offers ample leg room, head room, hand holds, soft-rider seats, VHF radio in the brow and the Simrad NSS12 Touchscreen which gives you a complete, integrated electronics system in one compact package.

aCabin

 

The rear deck? It’s all about fishing room! We’re talking ten feet from the back of the cabin to the front of the transom!

aRoom

 

I almost feel sorry for that Cannon Downrigger…it looks lonely there on the gunnel all by itself…

aRigger

Weldcraft 280 Cuddy Cabin Specifications

Length:                 28 feet

Beam:                  102″

Sides:                    40″ x .160″

Bottom:                 96″ x .250″

Deadrise:              60 degrees at bow to 20 degrees at transom

Dry Weight:           5756 pounds

Fuel Capacity:      160 Gallons

Max HP Rating:    500 hp

Power installed:  Twin Evinrude 250 E-TEC Counter rotating

Come see this Weldcraft in the Master Marine booth at the Seattle Boat Show January 24 through February 2. We’ll be taking names for test drives! Who’s up for a spin???

Tom Nelson

The Outdoor Line  

710 ESPN Seattle

www.theoutdoorline.com