The Black Pearl

It has been said that the two happiest times in your life are when you buy a boat and when you sell the boat. I’ve owned a few boats in my life, so let’s go over the trials and tribulations of owning one so I can help you skip some heartache.

Let’s draw up a boating schedule for the average Idahoan. Unless you’re floating the rivers up North steelhead fishing, you probably fish April through August. That’s 22 Saturdays. If you’re lucky there’s only one Saturday per month with bad weather such as rain or typhoon type winds. Now we’re down to 18. Then let’s say you have to work maybe eight Saturdays. Now we’re down to 10. Then some animal lover will schedule a wedding or graduation in the middle of primo fishing season. Now we’re down to only getting to fish eight Saturdays.

You can make adjustments to match your individual scenario but you get my drift — our days fishing are limited and precious. I say all of this to point out, buy a new(er) boat motor. You don’t want to spend your few precious free days sitting at the boat dock working on a boat motor or getting hauled to jail because in a fit of rage you emptied your 30-06 into a dysfunctional boat motor while witnesses filmed you.

Katy and I had just gotten married when we bought a decent looking boat at a ranch auction. Our first free Saturday, we went to the lake only to discover that the motor was froze up. After a trip to the boat house and $2,500 later we were headed back out two weeks later.

Same scenario. Boat wouldn’t start and me and Katy’s grandpa blew across the bay.

Back to the boathouse, stern talk to the scalawag mechanics and we were finally in the saddle. Not that I recommend watching this movie but shortly thereafter Katy and I watched the show “Money Pit.” It was about a young couple that bought a house and all of the fiascos that they encountered while remodeling it. I think they drew up the plot around what we had encountered with our newly purchased boat and we never received any royalties!

I learned then, no more free time than I have, I’m not going to buy a boat with an old motor. In fact, I’m in the market for a new boat right now. Sure, I wouldn’t mind buying a used one if I could find one 1 to 3 years old in pristine condition but other than that, I’m going to buy a new one. It’s not worth the pain to get a good deal on a 400-pound paper weight called a boat motor.

Which brings us around to my old faithful, tried and true 12-foot little jon boat. We bought it the first year we got married 37 years ago. It is great for sandpits, small lakes and floating smooth rivers. We’ve caught boatloads of fish in it. Up until two years ago, all that we’ve ever had were electric motors. Then two years ago we got a 2.3 hp Honda motor, which was a slice of heaven.

So according to me, it’s been a great fishing/bowfishing boat. To winterize it, flip it on its side against the fence and that’s it. It doesn’t have to be stored inside. Snow means nothing to it. The sun can’t hurt it. Sure, once me and the kids were floating the Boise River and went over a diversion dam and knocked a hole in the bottom and had to get that patched but that’s the only maintenance required other than spray painting it every few years with two or three cans of $1.50 spray paint.

In case the haters happen upon this article I guess that I’d better go ahead and mention a few wee downsides to the boat that we affectionately named the Black Pearl and hoist a pirate flag up her flag pole — well, dowel rod — when she is on the high seas.

According to the scoffers of which there are many, they’ve come up with derogatory names such as “The Coffin,” “Carp 1” or “The Edmund Fitz Terror.”

One time while walleye fishing we’d barely gotten out of the sheltered bay where the boat launch was and encountered some gale-like winds and 2- to 3-foot waves. My buddy told me to take him back. He said he’d seen a pay phone. He’d call his wife to come get him and I was free to keep fishing.

Another time my buddy Ron Spomer and I were bowfishing on Lake Lowell. Well, the winds blew up and we had a good mile to go to get back to the truck. Ron was up in the bow singing the Edmund Fitzgerald song while changing the words to Edmund Fitz Terror and free lanced in a few other words. He swears there were 5-foot waves but I think they were only 3 ½-foot. But it is a little disconcerting when you only have 2-inches of clearance in the back.

And then a couple of times the electric motor died right when I got within 50 feet of the dock and I blew off into oblivion. One time on Lake Lowell luckily there were two firemen watching that fished me out when I blew up in the logs and almost lost everything.

Then multiple times I’ve blown up on shore with a boat full of water which even in a little Jon boat can be tough to flip over to dump.

So, there are a couple of minor inconveniences with operating a little jon boat on the high seas. So, if someday you’re zipping to the dock trying to beat an incoming storm and see a semi floating jon boat, please stop and rescue the women and kids off the sinking craft. Don’t worry about me, I’ve driven it submarine style numerous times. I’ll be OK.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop. He can be reached via email at

Hunting the wily North American whistle pig

I don’t want this to be a Dr. Phil article, but have you ever set down and thought about why you enjoy getting out hunting, fishing, backpacking and mushroom hunting? There’s something rewarding about getting outdoors, living off the land and feeding your family. But it’s also a good excuse to get out and enjoy God’s creation.

But then I think another factor is that we live in a high-speed world. I know I do. For the last two and a half years, I fly out three weeks and am home a week. On top of that, I have to get in 325 articles per year — just picked up 46 more articles in January — and conduct 40 to 60 seminars per year. And I’m not the only one that lives a high-speed life.

I think a big reason we like to get out is to clear our heads of all of the worldly bull. When you’re outside we don’t worry about psycho bosses, 401Ks, America’s current situation or whatever other stresses you’re currently enduring. When you get outdoors you can escape from it all and live a simple life.

But even then, if you’re a writer, the world tries to invade your quiet time. I remember once I’d been running, gunning non-stop for a few months and came home and took my daughter backpacking. Just me and her. One day I thought uh-oh, I’ve got to get to filming, I had 19 items to test on this trip. I made a commitment on that trip that I was going to get in control of things. Sure, if a company sponsors you then you have to perform but to me getting outdoors is something pure. Some of the best memories of my life are when my family hunted/fished. I want to keep things simple like that and not commercialized.

So with the above said, I just got back home from a whistle pig hunt out in the ranch country in southeast Oregon. I’d just got home from a three-week trip and it was nice to get out with not a care in the world. I’m on Pro-staff with Umarex airguns. They’ve labeled 2022 as “The Year of The Airgun” and are hitting it hard. We were planning a TV show on airgun hunting for whistle pigs. Things didn’t come together but hunting whistle pigs on a regular basis in the spring is a big deal for me, so I took off for a couple of days this week.

If you can get away for a few days or can only slip out for an afternoon, there’s nothing more relaxing than an airgun whistle pig hunt. Just by the very nature of airguns you expect it to be a kicked back fun hunt.

It’s also a great hunt to take your kids on. They don’t have to be quiet, or set still for hours and you won’t be encountering frigid weather. You’ll have some great daddy/daughter talks. It’s the ultimate daddy/kids hunt and hunting with airguns adds the icing to the cake. Plus, airguns are quiet so you don’t even need to wear hearing protection.

If your little girl doesn’t want to kill anything, no biggie. There are a ton of cool airgun targets on the market now. Spinners, shooting galleries and so forth. Or, if you’re on a tight budget take a bagful of tin cans and plastic bottles filled with water. I still like shooting them, don’t you?

I went on this hunt by myself and had a great time even though the hunting was tough. There just weren’t many whistle pigs on this ranch, which is not the norm. Usually there are thousands upon thousands. The plague must have swept through this year, which happens periodically in colonies.

But despite the low numbers, I did get enough shooting to make it fun so I’d highly recommend you go this week. Due to the ammo shortages/exorbitant prices the last couple of years, hunting with airguns is the perfect way to go and almost makes the Umarex slogan “2022, The Year of The Airgun” prophetic!

If you’re a kid on a paper route budget all you need is an airgun and a tin of pellets. But like all of our outdoor endeavors, if you can afford them, these items will enhance the hunt and make you more successful. Here’s some gear I’d recommend.


On this hunt I took the Umarex .25 cal. Gauntlet and .22 cal. Origin. I like PCP airguns but they are more expensive and complicated. The cheapest airguns to shoot are the break barrels. I have a Ruger Blackhawk. I’d recommend using a .22 or the .25 is even better. The .177 doesn’t have as much whoomph.


A lot of airguns come with a scope. My Origin didn’t so I put a Burris Droptine 4.5-14x on it. I like higher magnification because you’ll be shooting small game. Make sure your scope is airgun compatible. Spring action break barrels can be tough on scopes. You’ll want binoculars to help find the little prairie rats. I like 10x binoculars.


You’ll want a bi-pod to shoot off of. I use the Bog Adrenaline. If you’re a kid, get two ½-inch dowel rods and tape them together 6-inches from one end and spread them out to shoot off of.

Take a pad to set on. Or better yet a lightweight backpacking chair so you’re elevated and can see over the brush.

All pellets are not created equal. I’ve tested a million brands and JSB are the most accurate. Check out their Hades or Knock-Out pellets. Or their Diabolo Dome shaped pellets work great too.

And lastly, while you’re out in the high desert country, slow down and enjoy your surroundings. I saw a boatload of white-faced ibis on this hunt. One time my 87-year-old buddy Roy shot a whistle pig. I was watching through my binoculars and said you got him. About that time a hawk swooped down and snatched him up so I corrected myself and said: “You had one!”

Once, a badger ran out and grabbed one. Badgers are beautiful but they’re the Michael Tysons on the high desert. Stay away from them.

Now’s the perfect time to grab an airgun and get out and enjoy nature. Have fun.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop. He can be reached via email at

Bear hunting: Part II

Two weeks ago in the article titled “Bear Hunting: Part I” we talked primarily about a bear’s spring appetite and about how to bait for bears. This week let’s cover spotting and stalking. There are a few hunting units in Idaho in which we can’t bait. In some of the units that makes sense and in some it doesn’t. I understand it not being smart to bait in grizzly country. It’d be dangerous for you and for someone else if they happened to stumble upon your bait after a grizzly had claimed it as their “kill.” But in a few of the units I’m not clear why we can’t bait. But regardless, spotting and stalking can be a fun and intense way to hunt.

If you’ve never heard of spotting and stalking, here’s how you do it. You need to climb up on top of a mountain or ridge and get set-up. To really be able to glass you’ll need a good spotting scope. Everyone is on a budget but on this purchase, don’t leave any pennies in your pocket and you’ll never regret it. I’m going to be using Burris optics this year. Most optic companies offer multiple options from lower price points on up to their elite line but again, buy the best that you can afford.

Spotting scopes come with straight or angled eyepieces. If you’re sitting in a blind in flat country or checking shot placement on the range, a straight eyepiece works fine — but for glassing the mountains, I’d recommend an angled eyepiece.

You determine what you prefer but I’d recommend a 15-30x for most glassing opportunities here in Idaho, but granted out in the Owyhees you may want a higher power. Spotting scopes come in variable powers such as 15-30x, 20-60x, etc. But remember, if you buy one that is too big and bulky it will be a pain to lug around.

Due to their high magnification you’ll need to use a tripod to stabilize them. You can spend as much as you want on tripods. Some of the carbon fiber ones are well over $1,000. I have a cheaper one!

You may be glassing for extended amounts of time so if you’re not comfortable, then you won’t be able to hold still. At the least, carry a foam pad to set on but a couple of years ago I started using an Alps Mountaineering Dash backpacking chair. It is lightweight and low profiled. A backpacking chair is better than a foam pad because it slightly elevates you off the ground so you can see over the grass and brush.

To really cover the actual art of glassing itself would take a whole article in and of itself. I’ll have an article on “Glassing For Big Game” within the month on the Burris website so you can read it to learn more but, in a nutshell, here are a few tips.

To glass for bears in the spring, most people run up after work and glass in the afternoons. You’ll want to climb up on top of a mountain or ridge where you can have some good viewing. Don’t set right on top of the ridge where you’re sky lined. Set right off of the top. Get behind a rock, log or small bush so you’re semi-concealed.

Bears will start moving about bear-thirty (near dusk). They’ll come off of their beds and move out into open areas to graze. It will almost remind you of a cow grazing except they’ll be by themselves and not in groups.

As the snow melts, green grass starts popping out. It is fresh and tender so they’ll follow the snow line up. By this, I don’t mean that they’ll be right at the snowline but somewhat so. I don’t know what they’re called, but they like to eat the yellow flower tops off at this time.

I’ve walked up on bears grazing like cows. One time I got within 17 paces of one. He was grabbing grass by the mouthfuls and ripping it loose like a wolf. When you spot one you need to study the situation right fast. Is it moving along quickly? If so, by the time you hike one-half to one mile over to it, the bear will likely be gone. Is it grazing in one spot? If so, great.

It may look like the bear is in the wide open but start to sneak up on it, suddenly when you get closer the terrain will look totally different than over on the ridge when you were glassing. So look around right fast for some landmarks. A patch of yellow flowers, burnt stump or a big tree. That way when you get over there you can more quickly locate your bear.

If possible, it’d be nice to have a buddy stay at the spotting scope and direct you to where the bear is. It’s against the law to use radios for this purpose but you can use predetermined hand signals. For instance, pointing to the right means the bear is to the right, straight up means it is up higher and so forth.

When you get close, be looking for a solid rest to shoot off of.

Well, as is the norm we still have a lot more info but no more room. Good luck!

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop. He can be reached via email at

Mushroom hunting

If we can get a light shower and then it turns warm for a couple of days — then it should be mushroom season, yippee!! The problem is, you think it’s about to bust loose and then it gets cool. I don’t know what to think and I don’t think the poor lowly mushrooms do, either.

In an effort to really lower your self-worth, think about it this way. It’s embarrassing enough to get outsmarted by a fish with a brain the size of a pea, how much more is it when you get outsmarted by an inanimate object — for instance, a mushroom!

As alluded to above, to kick off the mushroom season we need a light rain and then for the temp to get warm for a day or two. With this magic formula, it seems they can pop up overnight. Being a mushroom hunter is the most frustrating, and at the same time, rewarding outdoor activity there is.

I’ve been a mushroom hunter for 43 years. You’d think that I could write a knowledgeable article on the subject but some years I feel like a beginner. It drives me nuts to see some bozo write an article on finding morels. According to their article you just have to go out in the woods, look around old logs and then proceed to fill a pillowcase. I read an article like that and want to brand BOZO on their forehead. They’ve obviously gone out one time with someone that knows what they’re doing, found a mess and are instantly setting themselves up as the world’s leading authority on mushroom hunting.

Granted, my mushroom picking self-esteem is a little low right now. I went out for a little bit yesterday afternoon to see if any were out yet, even though I knew they wouldn’t be but I don’t want to take a chance of missing the short season. I found zero. Zilch. I feel like Punxsutawney Phil, the groundhog. I stuck my head out, didn’t find any mushrooms and am ducking my tail and going back down in my hole for another week or so.

But despite painting such a doom and gloom picture, surely any day now they are going to start popping up. And when they do, you want to be there. Morels are the tastiest fungi in the world next only to the truffle in England. They are not only my favorist (is that a word?) outdoor food but probably my favorist food ever.

Mushroom hunting gives you an excuse to go hiking in the mountains and if you’re up there bear/turkey hunting why not kill two birds with one stone? To my knowledge there are about eight to 10 edible mushrooms in Idaho. I only feel safe picking two species. One time I thought, you know, this is dumb. I’m up there going to all of the expense and spending time hunting so why not learn to identify all of the edible species? So I found out about a mushroom picking club and started attending their meetings. Unfortunately, I still only feel comfortable picking my original two species.

So to get you started, the first season go with an experienced picker that can train you. If you don’t and make a mistake and pick the Angel of Death … let’s just say, you and God had better be on pretty good terms because you will be in the judgment room muy pronto.

So where do you find them? I’ll tell you some generalities but as soon as I say that, I’ll find them in some random spot. When you find them at one elevation everyone will tell you to move higher after a few days. I do find some by old logs but I also find plenty just randomly throughout the woods. I find a few on the uphill banks on old logging roads.

I don’t recommend looking on grassy slopes but one year I found a ton on a grassy hillside in the forest. But I haven’t found them there since. Usually it’s smart to go recheck the same good spots every year. Check out old stump holes, especially in old burns. My old buddy Roger Ross said to look under firs. Problem is, I can hardly differentiate the difference between a pine tree and an aspen.

I’ve got one spot on an old logging road that isn’t a low spot but slightly so. I find them there every year. I find them in semi open areas that are somewhat shaded.

The indisputable world’s best scenario is last year’s forest fires. They can be magical. I remember at one such old fire I found 17 almost underneath a fallen lodgepole. The stump holes had a million. The open burn area had a quadrillion. So if you know where old burns are from last summer/fall, hit them. If you don’t know of any, go check with the Forest Service.

One year, I knew where some prescribed burns had taken place. No one else had hit it yet. I thought that I had scored big time. Unbelievably, I didn’t find a one there.

If you find some on a steep hillside, check above and below. The spores will flush downhill and I’ve found a bucketful in one spot in this scenario.

I’ve never actually done this but one time I was theorizing with a lady at the Forest Service office. We were kicking ideas back and forth and she said she’d always been tempted to check the soil temp but kept forgetting to. I bet she is onto something. I bet their popping up is directly linked to the temp of the soil.

Well, we’re out of room. Good luck.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop. He can be reached via email at

Bear hunting: Part I

I struggled deciding whether to write about bear hunting this week or mushroom hunting since they are both time-sensitive topics. I think what I’ll do is to write about “baiting for bears and scouting” this week, mushroom hunting next week and then follow up with another bear article the third week.

Unless something else more fun pops up in the meantime!

So, let’s say you want to go bear hunting this spring. I’ll give you a few pointers to help you out.

Twenty years ago I’d be up bear baiting and bear hunting on opening day, which is April 15 in most units. But really, bears aren’t in the groove, eating good until later in the season in most units.

Think about it for a minute. They’ve been hibernating and fasting for nearly six months. If you’ve ever fasted then you know that day one after the fast you might not feel like eating a bowl of salsa and chips along with a plateful of spicy enchiladas! Your stomach is a little off kilter. Same with bears. They come out and eat grass/flower tops at first and pass their plug. Which basically corks them up for the hibernation period.

As a general rule, right when they come out of hibernation you’ll see them at the snowline, right? That’s because the vegetation is springing up when the snow melts and is tender. When I say at the snowline, I don’t mean within two feet of the snowline. But as the snow melts and tender green grass pops up, they do follow that. I don’t know their scientific name but they go along eating the yellow flower tops as the snowline melts and moves uphill.

The first thing we have to do is determine where you’re going to bait. You don’t want to waste time baiting where there’s no bears, do you? Think back to last year where you were seeing bear signs. Or go out scouting now. Bears eat high-fiber diets so they leave a lot of signs. Find where there’s a lot of signs or a dark secluded canyon and hit it.

You don’t want to bait too close to a road/trail or hound hunters can drive by and run your bears after you’ve done all of the hard work to get them coming in. You also don’t want to park your truck out in the open where everyone passing by knows that you’re baiting in that area.

You don’t want bears free feeding. Chain a barrel to a tree so they can’t drag it away. Cut a hole about 10-inches in diameter about two-thirds of the way up. This way bears will have to stick their paws in the hole and dig out bait. If you just dump it in a pile they can come in, gorge and leave. You want to slow them down and make them hang around longer. Can you just dump it on the ground though? Yes, it’s just not the preferred method. You’d be surprised at how much bait the ravens can carry off. And barrels also prevent foxes, coyotes and wolves from eating your bait.

A barrel also protects your bait from the rain so it doesn’t mold or rot as fast. A snap top lid is nice. That way you can remove the top, fill the barrel and then snap the top back on. If you bait correctly and get four to six bears coming in, they can put down the chow!

Their stomachs are somewhat queasy at first when they come out of hibernation. I have hauled literally tens of thousands of pounds of meat up to the mountains for bear bait, but in early spring, meat is not necessarily the best bait.

In late summer when bears are binge feeding, storing up fat for the winter, they will eat virtually anything. But given a choice, I still say that they can be selective. One time I laid out a bushel basket of fruit, melons, peaches, vegetables, cereal, donuts, etc. A bear went through and picked out what he preferred. So given a choice I am convinced that they have preferences. Years ago I’d buy loads of old bread and donuts from a day-old bread company. I’d dump out piles and they’d dig through and eat all of the Hostess Twinkies. But if nothing else is available, yes, they will eat anything. Make sense?

A lot of times what bait you use is really determined by what is available to you. If available, small bait is nice. Like let’s say dog food. That means they have to stick their paw in and scoop up food. They can’t gorge and run. If you put out big chunks of meat they’ll come in and grab a piece and take it off in the brush and only afford a fast shot.

I love baiting because it allows you to study a bear. You have time to ensure that it’s not a sow with cubs. You have time to make sure it isn’t rubbed bad. Is it the color phase that you want? Is it big enough?

There’s a misconception out there in the bunny hugging world that all you have to do is to hang a donut on a limb out in the forest and Boo-Boo and all of his buddies will come stampeding in. It’s not quite that simple. It takes a lot of hard work and strategy. And after they start hitting your bait you need to refill it every two to three days.

Good luck!

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop. He can be reached via email at

Turkey hunting

Turkey hunting has gotten wildly popular in Idaho the last 15-20 years and there is no sign of it slowing down. Many people look down their noses at the intelligence of turkeys. It is even derogatory to call someone a turkey. For you, come see me in a couple of years after you’ve tried to outsmart an old gobbler.

Why is turkey hunting so popular? After thinking on that question for a minute I’d have to list multiple reasons. First, many people compare it to elk hunting. Many people hunt turkeys in the mountains. You’re setting up and trying to call them in just like when elk hunting.

Secondly, even if you set in a blind you’re using decoys and calling. So you’re interacting with them which makes it fun. In some ways it’s like a chess game. The old lead hen starts talking and you start calling over the top of her. She comes prissing over to set straight what she thinks is a mouthy little hen.

And of course the gobbler is following right behind her. So, there’s a lot of angles that you play.

I’ve hunted with people that have access to farmland where there are a lot of turkeys. In those scenarios it works to set up a blind. You’ll want a chair and a tripod to shoot off of. You’ll want to throw out a few decoys. There’s some realistic 3-D decoys now.

But if I’m hunting up in the mountains, I’m running gunning so you can’t lug around a heavy 3-D decoy up there. The best decoys I’ve found for this type of hunting are made by Montana Decoys.

They’re a one-dimensional lightweight cloth decoy. It has a rod in it that you stick in the ground to hold it up.

Montana decoys has one that pops up in a square type of shape. I was up bear hunting a few years ago and set one up where I was baiting for bears. I figured I might as well multi-task. I put a rock in it so it’d stay up on a stump that I had set it on.

The next morning my decoy was AWOL. If you picked it up due to the rock bouncing around in it, I guess it would of felt like a real turkey was bouncing around trying to get away. I can only assume that a wolf did a drive-by on my decoy. With the rock bouncing in the decoy, he probably thought he had hold of a struggling turkey. I never did find that decoy.

Turkeys have unbelievable eyesight so you’ll want to camo to the max. Wear a facemask to cover your face and gloves since your hands will be the major source of your movement. I don’t worry about wearing all one pattern. I may wear one pattern for my cap/facemask, a different one for my jacket and a third one for my pants. Nature is not all one pattern, is it? No, it’s a splash of green, a splash this and a splash of that.

If you’re using shooting sticks try to set up so the birds will be coming in from your left and set up with your shooting sticks slightly to your left. Have your gun leaning on the shooting sticks ready so you don’t have to move excessively when they come in. But they don’t always cooperate. I’ve had to shoot them at all positions. I shot one a long time ago leaning upside down out of the window of a blind left handed with my rifle. So don’t expect them to act according to your playbook.


You’ve got to learn how to call. When I was a kid, you learned on your own but now there are a million YouTubes, tapes and seminars to help you learn how to call. Ed Sweet, that was an Idaho State champion turkey caller and one of the best turkey callers that I know makes fun of calling unmercifully.

He used to always give me grief. But despite my horrible calling (according to him), I’ve called in a lot of birds.

So here’s my philosophy. Don’t worry about doing perfect textbook calling. People talk different don’t they? So do animals. I’ve called in I don’t know how many totally weird sounding elk that I thought were some new-to-Idaho California hunter that when they appeared turned up to actually be an elk. So here’s my advice. Learn how to gobble, cluck, purr, etc. Learn how to make the various sounds and when to use them. Don’t worry about sounding perfect.

There are a lot of calls out there. Which one should you use? Sixty years ago all we had were box calls.

They’re old-school and I still favor them. You have to chalk them up and if it was raining you had to keep them in a bread sack so they wouldn’t get wet or they’d quit working but now some of them have a coating on them so they’ll work even when wet. For instance, the Quaker Boys Hurricane or the 4-Play call which employs a forward mounted wheel that allows use of four striking rails.

So I love box calls but they keep your hands tied up so you’ve got to learn how to use a reed. That way you can have your gun up and still be calling. The push box call is so simple that a kid can use it to call turkeys. And you can tape it to the forestock of your shotgun so you can be calling right up until you shoot.

You’ll for sure want to carry a locator call. For whatever reason if you hit a locator call it will prompt a turkey to gobble which helps you locate them. I like a coyote howl but crow or peacock calls are also popular locator calls.


Sixty years ago we used our leftover lead 2-shot duck shells but now there are turkey loads that are super-efficient. HEVI-Shot, Kent and nearly all of the big boys make turkey loads.

You need to use a turkey choke which are super tight chokes. Aim at the neck, about 3-4 inches below the head. If you aim at the head half of the BBs go whistling harmlessly overhead.

Well, I could go on for another 500 words but we’re out of room so let’s end on a note of safety.

Everyone tells you to sit with your back against a tree so a hunter sneaking in doesn’t shoot you. Also, don’t set on a flat spot level with your decoys or another hunter may come sneaking in and shoot your decoy with you in line behind it.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop. He can be reached via email at

It’s here! (Spring, that is)

I got home from the Texas hog hunt after midnight on a Saturday, unpacked, repacked and took off for South Dakota Monday morning for a couple of weeks. I don’t want to say that it was frigid but it did blow and snow last week in South Dakota. I arrived back home this past Friday and it was warm and sunny.

Wow! I was suddenly jolted out of my frigid winter mode and had woken up in a spring paradise. And it just hit me: I’ve got to hit ram speed and get my spring lined up right fast. First the dirty work though.

According to Uncle Sam I’ve got to get my taxes filed so that will take most of this week along with the 12 to 14 articles that need to be submitted. I think this week I’ll focus on those two tasks and maybe getting out and whacking some whistle pigs. They should be out big time. Hopefully I can get two days in of whistle pig hunting.

For whistle pigs this spring, here will be my arsenal. I’ll start off with my Gauntlet .25 cal. airgun. JSB just came out with a new pellet called Hades. It’s supposed to be an awesome small game pellet. Then I’ve got a new Anderson 5.56 with a Riton 4-16x scope. Can’t wait.

Then bear season is right around the corner. I used to always start baiting on opening day but usually it’s tough to navigate around the snow that early plus, the bears are hardly out and not eating much. So, I’m going to wait until the end of April to start baiting. I think I’ll check and see if the Umarex Air Saber is legal for hunting bears with and use it this spring. Or maybe I ought to try with a Henry’s lever action 45- 70. That’d be cool to shoot a bear with one of those.

Normally I always hunt bears out of a ground blind but this year I got a Primal Treestands SINGLE VANTAGE blind. This will be a big update for me. Being up high slightly defuses your scent and aids you in hunting. OK, and I’ve got to admit — You always slightly worry that a cub will stroll in beside you with the sow not far behind. How many times have I had a sow and cubs within a spitting distance of me?

Numerous! It’ll be nice to hunt out of a ladder stand.

I fly out in a week and as warm as it is I’m betting the mushrooms will be out big time by the time I get back. What to do, what to do. I think I’ll go up and put out my bear bait and then mushroom hunt for a couple of days. I didn’t do very good mushroom hunting last year so I have to make up for lost time.

We’ll write more on mushroom hunting at a later date.

That may sound like plenty to fill up the calendar until June but don’t forget-Crappie Fishing! I think I’m out of crappie. I’ve got to dig down into the freezer and see if maybe there is one or two last packages of crappie filets. (I panicked and ran out to check. Good, there was one package left for dinner tonight.) Walleye is the best freshwater fish and then probably perch but crappie is for sure third best and maybe they split the second and third spots with perch.

Crappie fishing is low key. When the bite is on you can slay them. I do good during the pre-spawn, spawn and post-spawn season. So you want to make sure you’re hitting them early so you don’t miss out on the pre-spawn bite.

There’s not a better species of fish to take your kids out fishing for. They’re easy to catch so it doesn’t take a lot of skill. And, the tackle is simple. For lures use some light jig heads, some kind or plastic Mister Twister tails. Carry a variety of colors because you never know what is hot. I like silver, red, yellow and black. I just met Proline Baits and am going to try their scents this spring.

The longer I fish, the more I put stock in scents. Sixty years ago, you never heard about scents other than when carp or catfish fishing but I’m now convinced that I’m missing a lot of hits if I don’t use scents, especially on some species of fish.

After writing this article I’m even more excited than when I started it. Hmmm, I wonder if they’d really throw me in jail if I skip the tax deal for a couple of months and go hunting and fishing for a while? They’re letting all the non-violent criminals out of jail anyway in some states. Surely if I showed them some pics of the mushrooms, coolers of crappie and my bear they’d let me off the hook, wouldn’t they?

Oh no, and what about turkey hunting? We about skimmed right over them. I’ll wait and do a whole article on turkey hunting. I’m definitely going to have to go underground and put the taxes off for a while.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop. He can be reached via email at

Hog hunting with arrows

While at the SHOT Show, I visited the Umarex booth and checked out their Air Saber. It’s like a PCP airgun except that it shoots arrows. It has an aluminum tube which a nockless arrow slides over. When shot, a blast of regulated compressed air spits the arrow down range.

Shortly thereafter Bill Olson, the publisher of “Texas Outdoors Journal” called and invited me to go on a Texas Aoudad and hog hunt. Heck yeah, can I hunt with an Air Saber? We scrambled to get everything lined up and then one week before the hunt the guide called and canceled. But Bill hustled and got us a hunt lined up on the 2Morrow Ranch.

I flew down to San Antonio after midnight on Sunday and Air Olson (Bill’s pickup) picked me up and we drove as far as Uvalde. The next morning we drove on to the ranch. The first afternoon was scheduled for filming. We had to do some photo shoots on the Umarex Air Saber, Master Cutlery knives, Morrell Target and Wasp Broadheads.

We completed our filming, and Weston, the ranch owner’s son, asked if I wanted to hunt that evening.

Of course. Most of South Texas has thick mesquite brush, live oaks and all manner of prickly pears but this ranch was exceptionally brushy which didn’t afford for many long shots. Which was fine since I was going to be using the Air Saber, which is advertised as only having a range of 70 yards.

While filming I’d sighted in the Air Saber and at the moment only felt comfortable taking 50-yard shots, but later in the week after more shooting, I felt good out to 70 yards. I saw some game that afternoon but no hogs. No biggie, we had a week to hunt.

At first Bill and I were the only hunters in camp. It was great. They had a camp cook named Karen that kept us well fed. In fact, we gained weight. The food was a lot better than me and my buddies get to enjoy when up in the high country elk hunting. Some nights elk hunting you stumble back into camp well after dark and just want to skip dinner and go to bed. I could get used to having a camp cook!

I forget the whole series of events but Bill and I would head out an hour before daylight every morning and then come in for lunch and then head back out in the afternoon and hunt until dark. Hogs like feeding late afternoon into the night and if hogs are hunted much, they go nocturnal but we didn’t have any night vision gear.

We were having a hard time finding any hogs. I lose track but I believe it was Wednesday afternoon. … Right at dusk I looked around and saw two hogs to our left. I nudged Bill and threw up the Air Saber. They were a little fidgety and moving around feeding semi-fast. I ranged them at 65 yards but wanted to wait a minute to see if they wouldn’t feed in closer.

By this time, Bill was running the range finder which was a tremendous help. If he hadn’t been running the range finder it is likely that I would have missed my shot as fast as they were moving around. Bill whispered: 50 yards. I put the cross hairs behind the hog’s shoulder but in a hot second he was out to 65 yards. That would be somewhere around a 12-16-inch drop in the trajectory of the arrow.

Oh no, was he going to feed out further and not offer a shot? Then suddenly they started feeding back in closer. They stopped for a second and Bill hissed: 50 yards. Would they come closer or should I not chance it and take the 50-yard shot? I looked above the scope and noticed that the darkness was growing thicker by the second. I didn’t have but 2-3 minutes before there wouldn’t be enough daylight to take a shot.

The hog with a unique white shoulder had moved out further. The closest one turned broadside, Bill said “50 yards” and I squeezed the trigger. Wow! The Air Saber thumped the hog and slammed it to the ground.

The arrow passed through, severed the bottom half of the spinal column and landed 15 yards past the hog. No wonder the hog had been flattened. The Air Saber travels over 400 fps, which is why I used a heavy-duty Morrell target to sight it in. With a regular target it would have buried the arrows and the fletching would have been ripped off when pulling them out. Talk about power.

The last night, we saw two Nilgai cows at dusk. They were out 100-150 yards, too far for the Air Saber but Bill did get one with his .338 Win. Mag. We skinned it and then the next morning I got up at 5:15, and guide Kendall and I boned it while Bill was packing.

We split the meat up and Bill dropped me off at the airport and it was back to Idaho. The next day after church, I smoked a Nilgai tenderloin on my pellet grill. Bill assured me that Nilgai would be the best wild game that I’d ever eaten. After Katy, Kolby and I ate the whole tenderloin, it was hard to argue!

What a great hunt.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop. He can be reached via email at

2022 Scooters Youth Hunting Camp

I first became acquainted with the Scooters Youth Hunting Camp back in 2004 or 2005. My wife came home from school one day and told me that she’d signed up two kids in her school in some kind of youth hunting camp named Scooters Youth Hunting Camp and that I had to take them to it. What! The camp is held the first Saturday in May every year. That is right in the middle of primo bear and whistle pig hunting and crappie fishing … and turkey hunting … and morel mushroom picking seasons!

I don’t want to sound self-centered but I was stuck no matter how much I whined. So, I dutifully took the two young boys. Little did I know that I would end up liking the camp better than they did. In fact, I’ve been a volunteer ever since. And the two young boys have grown up to be good young men and I later got to take them both on their first deer hunt.

I conduct 40 to 60 outdoor seminars/speaking engagements per year all the way from Texas to Alaska. I had five in Vegas in January alone and yet the SYHC is the coolest deal that I do all year. Scott McGann originally did it to help single moms. But he couldn’t deny kids with two parents to come but his heart was originally to help single mom’s in getting their kids in the outdoors to help them stay out of trouble.

In the beginning, kids mailed in applications and all were accepted. I think in those days we had about 140 kids. Finally, it kept growing until we had to hire someone to do a call-in registration. Last year it filled up with 250 kids in 47 seconds. It is the coolest deal in the world.

Here’s the format: The kids show up and sign in and are divided into six groups. To begin, we meet and say the Pledge of Allegiance, a local pastor says a prayer and then group one goes to the first station, group two to the second one and so on. There are six stations.


•.22 RANGE





After 45 minutes all groups reconvene in the meeting area and a seminar is put on by a pro staff member. They are great seminars and I always learn a lot at them. When the seminar is over, the kids rotate to their next station.

At lunch time, we break and eat lunch that has been prepared by a group of volunteers. What makes the camp really cool is that, due to generous local businesses, the food and snacks are all donated and cooked by volunteers so they eat for free. After lunch the kids rotate to their next station.

After the kids have hit all of the stations they reconvene in the meeting area for Scott’s favorite event The kid’s drawing. Due to local businesses and major companies donating items every kid draws a gift. And I meant nice gifts. Companies and local businesses are over-the-top generous. Companies like Knives of Alaska, Smith’s Consumer Products, Spyderco, Swab-its, Otis, Umarex Airguns, Swab-its and the list goes on and on.

All of the kids get to go free due to the generosity of local and national businesses and volunteer help. Where the heck was the SYHC at when I was a kid!!!

Here are a few general rules but check the website below to ensure that you don’t miss the registration!

• Registration opens April 1, 2022, at 10 a.m.

• Kids must be 9 to 16 years old

• Camp will be held rain or shine. Nothing short of the rapture will stop the camp from occurring.

• The camp will be photographed by various media sources. If you do not want your kid filmed, then DO NOT attend.

It will take place in Emmett at the Gem County Rod and Gun Club.

(Ok, I hate to be juvenile but, here’s the highlight for me. HeBrews coffee in Emmett sets up a donut trailer at start-up. Let’s just say, I eat more than my fair share of sugar/cinnamon donuts).

Go to the website to register: scootersyouth

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop. He can be reached via email at

Ice fishing, Part II

The other day I wrote horror stories about ice fishing. I figured I’d better follow up with a how-to ice fishing article in case someone still had a death wish and wanted to go! I’m headed to Texas next week for a hog hunt using the Umarex Air Sabre (which is an airgun that shoots arrows). Due to being AWOL, I had to submit this story early. By the time it publishes, ice will probably be melting at CJ so you’ll probably have to go up to a mountain lake to ice fish.

It’s according to how serious you want to get. If you’re going to go every weekend, you’ll need to accumulate more gear than I’m going to recommend. You see pictures of ice fishermen up in the Northeast that have ice fishing shanties out on the ice. We won’t cover that angle.

If you’re going to ice fish regularly, I’d recommend a portable pop-up hut. You set on a bench and there are holes in the floor to line up with the holes you’ve drilled in the ice. I’ve never used any of these so sorry, I don’t know a good one to recommend.

I’ve always wondered, but never have tried it, why wouldn’t a cheap little dome tent work? Set it up and fish in it? But who knows, the bottom of the tent may freeze to the ice and become a permanent fixture until spring! So, this idea may not work.

To haul out my gear I use a cheap little red kid’s sled. Load on your gear, tie a rope on front to drag it and off you go. It should hold all of your gear but if not, throw the rest into a backpack. It’s smart to take a 20-foot rope with a thick diameter. That way if someone falls in you can throw it to them and drag them out.

I always carry a 5-gallon bucket to set on. Yes, a chair would be more comfortable but you can throw your gear in the bucket and then set it in the sled. If it’s cold you may want to take a tent heater. Or, you can build a fire.

Then, of course, you’ll need an ice auger. I have a cheaper hand auger but if you’re going to be fishing much a gas auger would be better. If they’re not biting, you need to move. Maybe you can’t troll when ice fishing but if you have a gas auger you can move more/faster. You’ll also want an ice scoop to scoop the slush out of the hole after drilling it. You’ll also use the scoop to break up ice as it starts forming on the surface of your hole.

Now for the important items. If you’re going to be drilling a lot of holes, you may want to buy cheap tip-ups to save money. I personally favor regular rods and reels. But you don’t want your regular fishing rods. You’ll want to use the short ice fishing rods. Again, I’m not a 24/7 ice fisherman so I buy cheap ice fishing rods and reels but like with all fishing, you’ll cuss less and fish more if you use quality reels.

Like with all fishing, no one lure is the silver bullet. No siree, the manufacturers have convinced us that we need a multitude of lures of different sizes and colors. I usually use the little ice fishing jigs and tip them off with a meal worm. Or, I’ve got a variety of Pautzke’s Fireballs that you can put on the jig. They’re colored and scented to help attract fish. And, they don’t die like worms do. So you can keep a bottle for … I don’t know how long, but years. That’s probably your best option because a worm isn’t going to be too lively in the frigid water below anyway, right?

For perch, I usually drop down to the bottom and reel up 8-12 inches. But like all fishing you have to check all of the water column to find out where the fish are. They even offer fish finders for ice fishermen. I’ve never used one, though, so I can’t tell you anything about them.

One good thing about ice fishing, you don’t need a stringer or a live well. Kick a little snow in a pile and throw your fish in the snow and you’re good to go. Then when you leave, just throw them into your bucket.

One last tip: due to the cold water, the fish will be a little lethargic so don’t fish your lure fast. And yes, you can jig up and down but do it slower than normal. Have fun.

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana. He also writes for various outdoors magazines and teaches outdoors seminars at stores like Cabela’s, Sportsman’s Warehouse and Bass Pro Shop. He can be reached via email at