Ford, Chevrolet, Toyota … they’re all the same. Get a horse.

I don’t want to be a hater but … I’ve had good and bad luck with nearly every make of truck out there. And if you ride a four-wheeler enough, it’s going to flip over on you someday. I’ve flipped a couple of times and neither time was any fun. The best that it has ever been was broken ribs and a messed-up shoulder.

So why not skip all the drama and go back to the original four-wheel drive vehicle — a horse! The above modes of transportation can go from reliable one day to dysfunctional the next. At least a horse is consistent. They’re always unpredictable!

There’s no sense of freedom like jumping on a horse and dragging a pack horse into the backcountry. It’s for sure a lot better than backpacking. When backpacking you’re limited to the gear that you can carry. When packing in on horses, you’re only limited by how many pack horses you have.

And while riding a horse you’re free to look around at the country. Sure, you have to watch the trail but even so, you can observe your surroundings more than when huffing and puffing while hiking. For instance, the other day my buddies Shawn and Orin Lee were out North of Arrowrock exercising the horses. Off to their left they noticed an eagle flying low. What was going on? He was zooming down and drilled a coyote. It rolled down the hill and finally got back on his feet and took out scrambling to get away. In a minute they noticed the same eagle knock another coyote flat across the canyon. Same scenario.

That would have been cool to see, wouldn’t it? And what a great film that would have made. I can’t believe an eagle was picking on a coyote, much less two of them. I’m going to have to get with Terry Rich that writes the “Just for The Birds” column and have him film something like this. That’ll liven up his morning walk through the neighborhood bird watching/dog walk!

You may not see that kind of action every trip but you sure aren’t going to see it if you stay at home. So, when Shawn called me and told me that he and Orin were going to run up to the mountains and exercise the horses to get them in shape for elk hunting and wanted to know if I wanted to go along, I said sure.

We are super blessed to live in Idaho. Even if you live in the middle of town, you can be up in some good country in one hour. For this trip we just ran a little ways up Highway 21. I’ve been to this spot before. For the first four miles you’ll be riding up semi-steep bald hills before you get up high to the forest. But still, I think that it is pretty country.

We were on a mission on this trip to exercise the horses but in a couple of canyons there are two old gold mines. I always like to explore around old mines. You look at the old foundations and try to figure out the layout of the structures. Which one was the bunk house and so forth? Then it’s always fun to climb back into the old mines. But, on this trip I just observed the old mines from up on the ridges above as we passed.

We finally made it up to the timber and hopped off the horses to let them (and us) rest for a minute. This trip I wasn’t very organized. Usually I’ll throw a coffee pot and a few links of bear sausage in my saddle bags. When we get up top I’ll build a little fire and heat up a cup of coffee. This time, all I had was water and three snicker bars. Shawn may not ask me to come along anymore if I don’t get it in gear from now on.

We rested a bit and then jumped back on the horses to head down. Normally when hiking, you always make it down one-third faster than it took to get up but on horses it’s even less because the horses are ready to get back to camp. Today though the horses were really ready and we made it in about half the time it took to get up on top. Suddenly, the out-of-shape horses were Olympic track stars. Rooster, the horse I was riding, jumped from the slacker dragging up near the rear to wanting to lead the string and be a pace setter.

I don’t want to be a whiner but I guess I’m out of shape. After that 8-mile ride in steep country I was glad we didn’t have another mile to go. Great day. So trade in your gas-burning truck and buy a horse.

Suddenly, the price of feed looks cheap compared to gas. And while a truck just sets there at home, your horse will be mowing the yard for you!

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 smileya7@aol.com.

Tom Claycomb: I went fishing … for fishing rods

I went out fishing today by myself and had time to think about some deep topics. I decided, if you really think on it, outdoor writers are useless. They’re like sheep. If one jumps over an imaginary rock, they all do. Here’s what I mean by this. They all preach the same gospel. Nary a one of them has an original idea.

If one of them comes up with a new theory, they all preach the same thing. For instance, if you read any article on elk hunting, they, one and all, say now that we have wolves terrorizing our elk 24/7; they don’t talk as much. Go to any elk calling seminar or read any elk hunting article and they’ll advise you not to call much. It sounds plausible. In fact, it makes a lot of sense. The problem is, IT’S FALSE.

Years ago I was elk hunting and a buddy had a camp and was hunting in the same area. Twice that week one of the guys in his camp was calling elk and a pack of wolves came in and circled him and his young son. So yes, wolves will zero in on elk if they’re talking.

Wolves have definitely made them quieter BUT they still come in when you’re calling, they just might not be talking. I learned this years ago. My old hunting buddy Roger Ross was getting near the end of his hunting career and couldn’t walk much. He’d use a walking stick and set on a three-legged stool.

What was probably our last hunt, we went to where he’d seen a bull. He got on one side of a rise and had me set on the other, about 100 yards apart. I asked him, how long do you want to set here. I figured 15-30 minutes so it surprised me when he said about 1½ hours. I didn’t want to question him so I said okayyy.

We called and called. About 1½ hours later I looked down the mountainside and here came a four-point bull sneaking up to me. He never made a peep. I learned then that yes, they may not talk as much but they’ll still come in. Since then, I call more than ever.

And terminology. If one writer comes up with a new word it suddenly is the buzzword. For instance, I caught most of my fish Saturday in the upper third of the water column. Suddenly everyone is talking about the water column.

So with all of the above said, why can’t there be one creative writer out there in the midst of the 102,325,789 other derelict writers and write on real and timely topics that we’d like/need to hear? This thought is so abstract that I bet that if an outdoor writer reads this column, he’d be shocked!

To prove my point, has anyone ever seen an article about ‘Fishing for Rods?’ Am I the only fisherman that has ever lost a pole in Davy Jones’ locker? No! I was reminded of this today. I ran over to CJ to see if I could catch one last cooler of crappie and perch to tide us over this winter. It was a beautiful day. There was basically no wind, which in and of itself is a medical miracle in Idaho!

Everything was going perfect. Well, maybe not. In the first 2-3 hours I had only caught one crappie. So it was time to try something else. I used jigs, Ratlin’ Traps and bottom bouncers. Nada. So I ran over to a spot where I usually can rack up the trout. Someway while driving the boat, managing my lines and such, the bottom bouncer snagged the bottom and jumped out of the boat like a high diver.

I’m trying to get a visual on where it flipped, fight the wind that had kicked up and get turned around without hanging the other line in the motor as I saw the rod slowly sinking to the bottom.

Which brings up the name of this article. Why haven’t any of these phony outdoor writers ever written an article describing the best way to retrieve a rod that jumped over board? I know I’m not the only one that this has ever happened to.

I figured a Kastmaster should be good to snag the pole. The best I’ve ever been able to figure out is to get a heavy sinking lure with treble hooks and drag along the bottom in hopes of snagging the line or rod.

It wasn’t like the fishing was red hot so I might as well try to snag it for a minute. I decided to upgrade my rods and reels a few years ago so I didn’t particularly want to lose one. But, after a good 15 minutes I decided that maybe I wasn’t that emotionally tied to this particular rod. I’ll try a few more casts.

I was about to give up when I felt something drag a little. I’d hung the line and the Kastmaster ran down to the bottom bouncer. I reeled it up and pulled the line until I got the rod in. I thought hold it, this would be a good article so I whipped out my cell phone and took some pics.

It was a little tough to get anything resembling a decent picture plus then it hit me. If I keep messing around, I’ll probably drop the rod back down and maybe my cell phone. So, the picture you see is the best you’re gonna get!

MORAL TO THE ARTICLE: If a rod flips overboard, try to mark where the crime scene is. Then drag a heavy lure over the area. End of story.

These boots are made for huntin’

Fifty years ago, I don’t think that writing this article would have been necessary. Everyone wore leather shoes or boots and knew how to take care of them. And come to think of it, there were a lot more leather products in general. Coats, belts, more car seats and furniture were made out of leather.

There were no four-wheelers so people rode horses and they had saddles and reins to oil up. And all reins and saddle bags were made of leather. Nowadays half of the belts are constructed of something other than leather, some reins and headstalls are braided out of nylon rope, and saddle bags are made out of Cordova or some kind of foreign material.

So now a lot of our outdoor/everyday items are made out of something other than leather.

With the above said, how to care for a good pair of leather boots is a foreign concept. Let’s cover that today.

As a kid, I didn’t have any money to spend, much less to blow on a good pair of boots. Plus, it seems a kid outgrows their footwear before they get out of the front door of the store, so why would you spend a couple of hundred dollars on a good pair of boots for a kid? Sure, years ago clothes got passed down but even then, there was no money to blow on expensive footwear.

But the older I get, the more I value a good pair of comfortable boots. If you are really particular, it is easy to spend $300 on up to $400 on a good pair of leather boots! (I only paid $325 for my first car in high school.)

But even if you only pay $150 a pair of boots, then you want to take care of them. If you do, then they will last for years and maybe even decades. I still have five or six pairs of my dad’s cowboy boots and he died in 1990.

So what’s the proper way to care for leather boots? What are the Bozo No No’s? What I’m going to say in this article will apply to your hunting boots as well as your work boots. The first thing to do is to not store them away wet. Let them dry out before storing them in the back of your closet. I’ve never owned one but they make boot dryers that air dry boots. Some people do this nightly on their work boots. It’d be nice to do this on an elk hunt when you’re stomping through snow everyday but not possible when camped in a tent on top of a mountain.

Years and years ago, dad told me that if you switched out wearing your boots every other day that they’d actually last three times longer instead of two times longer. I’ve found this to be true with my work boots. For work, I have a pair of Irish Setter Wingshooter boots and a pair of Cabela’s work boots, both of which are leather. Having two pairs of hunting boots to rotate not only extends the life of your boots but it also gives your feet a rest. Unfortunately, most people can barely afford one good pair boots, much less two.

On your work boots, it is way more comfortable if you wear a good boot pad like the Medi-Dyne Tuli’s Plantar Fasciitis Insoles. I thought it’d work to do the same on my hunting boots since we’re walking on rocks most of the day (hint — “Rocky Mountains”). I guess I only tried it once decades ago with some big sloppy boots, which made my feet slip around inside my boots, so I started wearing good hiking socks for padding when hunting (although I guess I tried this years ago with cheap boot pads, not the Tuli’s).

Now for the biggee. You want to keep your boots oiled up, which will help them last for years. But don’t oil them up when they’re wet or you’ll lock in moisture and the leather can’t absorb the oil.

Years ago, they came out with waterproof sprays. I just don’t think they are good for your leather so I recommend oils or good boot cremes — Like Neatsfoot Oil, Lexol, mink oil, etc. As a kid, we put Neatsfoot Oil on all of our leather products. Baseball gloves, saddles and everything, but no doubt, the oil can get on your Wranglers when riding. Not that many cowboys would care but now I use Lexol on my saddle. You can put Lexol in a bottle and spray it on and then rub it in.

To treat your boots, clean the mud and dirt off. Walking through tall grass will do this. Make sure that they are dry and then apply your oil and rub it in. If you’re a normal hunter, you’ll oil them up after each hunt before storing them. My work boots I oil up every weekend.

If you oil your boots up properly, you’ll start hearing comments like, “Hey, I met you on top of this ridge elk hunting 10 years ago, wow, and aren’t those the same pair of boots you had on then?”

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 smileya7@aol.com.

She’s a college kid, yes — and an Alaska fishing guide

One thing I love about writing is some of the interesting people I get to meet. I don’t relish in meeting celebrities, most of them are too self-centered. As long as you know that your role is to worship them then it is all good but God forbid if you have something to say. But it is cool to meet someone that is a hero like Marcus Luttrell or Eugene Gutierrez.

Well, one of my favorist (I know that isn’t a word but this is my story) bosses ever, Doug Pageler, called me the other day and told me that he wanted me to meet his granddaughter-in-law (as Hailey would classify their relationship). I hadn’t seen Doug in a while so it’d be good to see him anyway so I said sure.

Upon meeting at the Hog Dog restaurant, Doug introduced me to Hailey Smith. She was an interesting interview. Her dad had her fly fishing at 7 years old, and by 15, she knew she knew she wanted to be a guide. At the ripe old age of 19, she moved to Montana and attended the prestigious Sweetwater Travel Company Guide School. I can only assume that she must have done an excellent job because seven days later she was guiding. While in Montana, she guided on the Yellowstone, Big Horn, Bitterroot and numerous other rivers.

After the season, she moved back to Idaho and enrolled in school at the University of Idaho. After a year, an old buddy called and told her she ought to come up to Alaska. He was guiding and they could use her. After repeated calls she finally signed up.

After a flurry of hustling, guide licenses, plane tickets etc., etc., were lined up and four days later she was enroute to the Last Frontier state. She arrived at the lodge and after a snack and warm greeting she was notified that her first guiding trip would begin at 5 a.m.

She had run many a river with her dad but she was now on her own. Suddenly it got real. It’s one thing to be running an Idaho river with dad being the captain and being on your own with one or two clients and rounding a bend in a raft and there’s a brown bear in the middle of his stream.

We all have dreamed of being a game warden, a guide or owning a big ranch, haven’t we? Well, let’s take a peek into the life of a guide and see what her schedule really looked like. Was it all fly fishing on pristine rivers and having a good time? Well, not quite.

She rolled out of bed at 5 a.m. (You know, before that little round thing in the sky called the sun even pops over the horizon.) She had to grab her 60-pound raft and strap it to the pontoon on the float plane. Then load up the pre-packed lunches, fly rods, life jackets and paddles. And the night before, depending on where they were going, the necessary flies for the day.

She didn’t say all of this but I’ve guided enough people to know how it plays out. Most clients are rich and used to having their way. They’ve spent a lot of money to get to your lodge. The weather had better be perfect, the fish biting and keep them from getting eaten by a bear.

All of my guides in Texas and most in Louisiana have fished right along beside us. They get to fish full time. Not so with an Alaskan guide. Hailey was busy paddling and getting the clients into position. A good guide is invaluable. They’ll put you in position for a good cast, they can read the river and tell you where to cast and how to work your fly. Guiding is hard work. Especially if you’re also paddling.

Then of course we had to swap a few bear stories, didn’t we? And she has a few. Once, she and a guide buddy were floating a river with some clients. He took the right fork so she took the left. There was good water. But as soon as she rounded the bend the water disappeared down to nothing and the raft bottomed out. To make matters worse there was a big brown bear in the middle of the river fishing.

She jumps out trying to dislodge the raft while the clients sat in the raft. She is sweeter than me. I think about that time I’d of informed them if they didn’t want to become a raft wrap taco, they’d better jump their happy little tails out of the raft and help me out. But they survived.

The bear stories all run together now that I’m sitting here pounding out this article on the keyboard but somewhere in the mix one charged within 10-feet and stood up looking at her and her clients. She did the whole stand up and look big bit but at about 5-foot-5 and 110 pounds soaking wet I doubt that she looked too intimidating but luckily, he finally dropped down and took off the other way.

Then lastly, I had to ask her the obvious question. Was it tough breaking into what is traditionally a man’s world? She said the other guides were all super helpful and supportive. Of course, if you read between the lines, she’s a go-getter and a smart young lady. What other 22-year-old kid has done all that she has? Not many.

What an interesting interview. Now, of course, we’re trying to line up a fishing trip.

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 smileya7@aol.com.

Back to school season? No, it’s back to hunting season

For a lot of people out there, it is all doom and gloom. School started back up. Sleepy-headed kids that have been staying up until midnight are suddenly getting jerked out of bed at ungodly hours, thrown into a car and dumped out in front of some strange establishment called school. If they daydream and their thoughts drift off to their summer backpacking and fishing adventures, suddenly they’re snapped back to reality by the sharp crack of a ruler on their knuckles.

And a lot of adults didn’t escape this tribulation transition either. Some of them are the cruel ogres that inflict such pain upon the kids. Their schedules have been disrupted too. They’re the teachers! They’ve cruelly been snapped out of a lull as well.

I have first-hand experience with the above. I watch it on a daily basis. My wife is a school teacher and my daughter is a college kid and works part-time as a teacher’s aide. You’d think every year they were 18-year-old kids getting jerked out of a peaceful life and thrown into Marine boot camp.

They jump out of bed (well, crawl out the first week) and run around with their tail feathers on fire scrambling to get out the door only to dart back in once or twice for some forgotten item.

So, what the heck does the above have to do with hunting? Ha, I’ll tell you what! A bunch of us hunters are no different. We wake up a day or two before season acting like we didn’t have a year to get prepared. We’re running around searching for a list of items that seems to have disappeared. Well, actually they never got around to writing a list so they’re running around the garage like a kindergartener randomly remembering items needed to have a successful hunt.

I just had a buddy call me Thursday and ask me if I had his hunting knives. Where’s my tent? Then opps, where’s my HS Strut scent wafer? Then where’s my ammo? Where could my new Sierra Designs sleeping bag possibly be? Only to discover that the kids used it for a sleepover. After finding it you discover they spilled a 2-liter bottle of Coke inside of it and the neighbors dog slept with them and chewed his way out of the bottom of it.

I guess humans are just humans. Whether they’re school kids, teachers or hunters, they create the same disasters wherever they go, just in different scenarios. But despite the drama, the Idaho hunting season is in full bloom right now! It’s like watching a fireworks show. At the end of the show, they always send up multiple rockets in rapid succession. Well, that’s exactly how fall is in Idaho. She offers so many hunting opportunities that it is almost impossible to list them all. We have grouse, dove, chukar hunting, deer, elk, bear, wolves and if you drew tags (which I didn’t) antelope, moose, big horn and goat hunting. And I probably missed listing your favorite species. Such as upcoming duck, goose and pheasant hunting. And what about the lowly rabbit and squirrel hunting? Or cougars!

So if you live in Idaho, you’re totally blessed. What other state offers all the hunting opportunities that we freely enjoy? And we have multiple options in which to hunt. We can hunt with pistols, bows, crossbows, airguns, blackpowder and rifles.

If you’re new to the state of Idaho don’t be bashful. Grab your bow/rifle and hit the mountains. No one is going to show you their secret spots so you’re going to have to learn on your own. Buy a forest service map and go out exploring. When you find a spot you like, buy a detailed map from MyTopMaps.com.

It’s going to take you a few years to find some good hunting spots but that’s true no matter where you live. Over time you’ll meet new buddies at work, church or neighbors that will take you. But don’t go back to their spots later by yourself or you’ll be tar and feathered and run out of Idaho.

And if you handle and cook your game right, it’ll be the best organic meat you’ve ever had. I’m excited. In January we filmed three shows on processing and cooking game. I think they’ll be the best outdoor cooking shows ever produced. I met Charles and Jody Allen — the owners of Knives of Alaska on their ranch to cut up a deer, wild hog and a wagyu steer. They also had the High Road With Keith Warren crew there to film it all — Keith Warren, Matti Tackett and Johnny Piazza and one of the top 15 chefs in America, Michael Scott. I learned a lot from them. You’ll learn how to pull some unique cuts off your wild game and how to cook them. Here’s a link to some of the footage. Click on the pic with Keith holding the hog then next on the tray of meat. Two more shows to come. highroadhunting.com.

So don’t set out another season. Get out in the woods and if your kids are old enough, take them, too. Dad started taking me deer hunting when I was 7 or 8 years old. If the guys in your camp are too rough to have your kids around then you need to make some new friends. 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 smileya7@aol.com.

Getting older? Don’t let it keep you out of the outdoors

This is going to be a bit of a unique outdoor article, but nonetheless, I think that at sometime in all of our lives the info here will be pertinent, and it is applicable if you’re young or old. I don’t want to say that we’re like cars but we all do have a shelf life. Some longer than others. But God is in control of when we die so what I’m going to talk about today is how to keep you more active whether you have a short life or a long one.

If you hot rod and peel out, your tires aren’t going to last as long, right? Same with your joints. The more you abuse them when you’re young, more than likely you’ll have trouble when you get older. So if you’re young, take heed to some of these precautions, and if you’re old and feeble, try some of these remedies.

I want to be able to fish and hunt until the day I die and if you’re reading this article, I’m betting you do, too. So let’s get started. I’m betting that a big percentage of people reading this article work in a concrete jungle of some kind. Whether it’s in a plant, store, construction or whatever.

I always wore rubber high-top boots in the plant the first seven to eight years. I was a general foreman at the time, which meant I had a crew of over 300 employees and seven foremen. So I was running, gunning 10.5 hours a day. One day I came home from work and my shins were killing me. I bought some $1.99 Dr. Scholl’s boot pads which felt great. Ah, they were a slice of heaven. But within two weeks they shelled out. I then learned that I needed to invest in some good boots and jogging pads. I just recently got some Tuli’s pads.

I’m warning you younger guys and gals, start using pads now while you’re young. They will extend the life of your knees. I wish that I would have started using them seven or eight years earlier and my knees wouldn’t feel like they do now.

The other day I had a carcass fall on my head and flatten me. The doctor said he wanted to replace my knee. Nope, it hurts but I can still walk. I’ve seen too many people get knee replacements and are now dysfunctional. I’m not going to be stuck in town with all the other little yuppies.

Get some good boots and pads like the Tuli’s. They will extend the life of your knees. I don’t want to say it’s like walking on carpet but that’s not too much of an exaggeration. And if you’re an old timer, it’s never too late to start doing the right thing. Squeak as much life out of your knees as possible. You can trim down the toe end with a pair of scissors to fit your boot.

So far, knees have been the main focus and for good reason. If your wheels are blown out, then you’re pretty much blown out of the water, outdoor-wise.

But there’s another common ill that many face — a messed-up elbow. My left elbow is a little whacked.

In high school, I got thrown off a bull and it bruised the elbow. Then in college, the day after Christmas, I had a horse run into the fence and somewhere in the wreck it knocked my elbow out of joint. Ever since then, it doesn’t bend out totally straight. And the last few years, if I’m working super hard it locks up.

For whatever reason, if I squeeze it right above the joint, it doesn’t hurt and I can move it. I’ve found this also to be true on my knee. I used to try to tape them up tight with athletic tape but recently I found something a lot better. MEDI-DYNE makes a Velcro strap that you can put above your elbow or knee and tighten it down. It makes you feel like a new man. Obviously, it’s the tendons and/or ligaments that are messed up but for whatever reason, it makes my elbow feel 100 times better.

About 25 years ago I had some floating bone chips in my elbow from the horse wreck and had them removed. The bone chips would get in the joint and lock up my elbow so I had the Doc remove them.

Ugh, it’s never been the same since. This MEDI-DYNE wrap really helps.

Here’s the moral: If you’re young and work on concrete or work on your feet in general, get some good boots and pads. (Or if you’re older it’s never too late to do what’s smart.) If you’re older and your joints hurt, try one of these straps like the MEDI-DYNE. I got their CHO-PAT Tennis Elbow Support. Everyone knows that real men don’t read instructions but in looking at their website they show placing the CHO-PAT below the elbow but for me it works better above. Maybe my wound is different.

P.S.: Little Tommie has no medical training so heed his medical advice at your own risk.

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 smileya7@aol.com.

To help prolong the life of your knees wear good boots like the Irish Setter

Getting older? Don’t let it keep you out of the outdoors

This is going to be a bit of a unique outdoor article, but nonetheless, I think that at sometime in all of our lives the info here will be pertinent, and it is applicable if you’re young or old. I don’t want to say that we’re like cars but we all do have a shelf life. Some longer than others. But God is in control of when we die so what I’m going to talk about today is how to keep you more active whether you have a short life or a long one.

If you hot rod and peel out, your tires aren’t going to last as long, right? Same with your joints. The more you abuse them when you’re young, more than likely you’ll have trouble when you get older. So if you’re young, take heed to some of these precautions, and if you’re old and feeble, try some of these remedies.

I want to be able to fish and hunt until the day I die and if you’re reading this article, I’m betting you do, too. So let’s get started. I’m betting that a big percentage of people reading this article work in a concrete jungle of some kind. Whether it’s in a plant, store, construction or whatever.

I always wore rubber high-top boots in the plant the first seven to eight years. I was a general foreman at the time, which meant I had a crew of over 300 employees and seven foremen. So I was running, gunning 10.5 hours a day. One day I came home from work and my shins were killing me. I bought some $1.99 Dr. Scholl’s boot pads which felt great. Ah, they were a slice of heaven. But within two weeks they shelled out. I then learned that I needed to invest in some good boots and jogging pads. I just recently got some Tuli’s pads.

I’m warning you younger guys and gals, start using pads now while you’re young. They will extend the life of your knees. I wish that I would have started using them seven or eight years earlier and my knees wouldn’t feel like they do now.

The other day I had a carcass fall on my head and flatten me. The doctor said he wanted to replace my knee. Nope, it hurts but I can still walk. I’ve seen too many people get knee replacements and are now dysfunctional. I’m not going to be stuck in town with all the other little yuppies.

Get some good boots and pads like the Tuli’s. They will extend the life of your knees. I don’t want to say it’s like walking on carpet but that’s not too much of an exaggeration. And if you’re an old timer, it’s never too late to start doing the right thing. Squeak as much life out of your knees as possible. You can trim down the toe end with a pair of scissors to fit your boot.

So far, knees have been the main focus and for good reason. If your wheels are blown out, then you’re pretty much blown out of the water, outdoor-wise.

But there’s another common ill that many face — a messed-up elbow. My left elbow is a little whacked.

In high school, I got thrown off a bull and it bruised the elbow. Then in college, the day after Christmas, I had a horse run into the fence and somewhere in the wreck it knocked my elbow out of joint. Ever since then, it doesn’t bend out totally straight. And the last few years, if I’m working super hard it locks up.

For whatever reason, if I squeeze it right above the joint, it doesn’t hurt and I can move it. I’ve found this also to be true on my knee. I used to try to tape them up tight with athletic tape but recently I found something a lot better. MEDI-DYNE makes a Velcro strap that you can put above your elbow or knee and tighten it down. It makes you feel like a new man. Obviously, it’s the tendons and/or ligaments that are messed up but for whatever reason, it makes my elbow feel 100 times better.

About 25 years ago I had some floating bone chips in my elbow from the horse wreck and had them removed. The bone chips would get in the joint and lock up my elbow so I had the Doc remove them.

Ugh, it’s never been the same since. This MEDI-DYNE wrap really helps.

Here’s the moral: If you’re young and work on concrete or work on your feet in general, get some good boots and pads. (Or if you’re older it’s never too late to do what’s smart.) If you’re older and your joints hurt, try one of these straps like the MEDI-DYNE. I got their CHO-PAT Tennis Elbow Support. Everyone knows that real men don’t read instructions but in looking at their website they show placing the CHO-PAT below the elbow but for me it works better above. Maybe my wound is different.

P.S.: Little Tommie has no medical training so heed his medical advice at your own risk.

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 smileya7@aol.com.

To help prolong the life of your knees wear good boots like the Irish Setter

My career as an outdoor writer is done!

My career as an outdoor writer is over. I’m done. Fried! Not only that, I probably got my wife fired to boot! I haven’t been to Owyhee Reservoir but once this year. So I thought I’d go check it out. I took Katy’s boss with me and guaranteed him we’d smoke ‘em. Don’t worry, I always catch a cooler of crappie at CJ, Brownlee or some at Owyhee.

We drove down the gulch to the lake and upon rounding the last rise my mouth dropped. It was dry sand past the end of the boat ramp for I don’t know? 200 yards? From what I could tell, the river wasn’t even running enough to float my little jon boat so we couldn’t even drag it out to the river and drift down to the main body of water.

I’m betting it was 20, maybe 30 feet lower than it normally is in the spring. It was the lowest I’ve ever seen. Well, we were here so we drove downstream on the slanted bank for probably a mile. There was a muddy slough that hooked into the lake. We parked and carried the boat for maybe 150 yards and put in. It was super shallow but we made it down to the main body of water. 

The water was super muddy. I couldn’t see my chartreuse jig head over 1-inch below the surface. I don’t think a fish would even have been able to see my jig. Luckily I’d brought a big assortment of Pautzke Crappie Fireballs and other of their scents. But even with them I couldn’t beg a bite.

We moved to another spot. Nada. Finally after a while it became apparent. The crappie fishing was done for the year there. I’ve never seen the lake that low in my life. I can only assume that the crappie had moved out into the main body of the lake into a cooler, deeper hole. I only had a little 2.3 horsepower Honda motor on the boat so it’d of taken us a few hours to get where they might be and we only had a few hours of daylight left.

I’m usually the eternal optimist but it was clear. We were barking up the wrong tree today. We finally pulled the plug and headed back to the truck.

To add insult to injury, there were a few young men on the bank. One of them didn’t even have a fishing rod. He had a plastic bottle with fishing line wrapped around it and would throw out a jig and pull it in wrapping the line around the bottle like it was a reel.

He showed me their cooler. They had a good 15 bass in it and some of them were pretty decent ones.

Arrghh, all is lost.

Well, all was not lost. It was a beautiful day and an unbelievable scenic drive in. We’d had a good time. But all of this brings up the deep philosophical thought. Or maybe I should say choice to make. Are you going to let your circumstances determine your happiness or do you find your joy somewhere else?

There is a difference in happiness and joy. You make a choice as to whether you’re going to be joyful or not.

I refuse to let outward circumstances dictate as to whether I have joy or not. It’s not always easy and I don’t always succeed but if you don’t strive for that then you’re letting circumstances determine your happiness and your mood will be determinate upon the weather or surroundings, so to speak. If the sun is out and it’s pretty, then I’m going to be happy, etc. No, I refuse to live like that.

But I do like to fill my tags when I go hunting. So the struggle continues.

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 smileya7@aol.com.

Backpacking 101: The gear you carry is super important

I teach three to five Backpacking 101 seminars every year. The first one that I conducted I planned on doing an hour-long seminar with the first 45 minutes I’d talk and then hold a 15-minute Q&A at the end. That’s somewhat the format on all of my seminars.

But I learned in the first Backpacking 101 seminar that everyone wants to get some instruction the first 15 minutes and then talk about what gear you need for the remainder of the seminar. And that makes sense because what gear you need to carry is super important.

Maybe you’re backpacking in to hunt for a week. Or maybe you want to climb a certain mountain, or go back into the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness and see some of the petroglyphs. Or maybe you to get into some cool fly fishing spots.

Regardless of your reason, certain gear is needed for all of the above listed reasons. I get to test a lot of gear over the year, so let’s spend the rest of this article listing items that I favor and, where pertinent, I’ll tell which brands have worked out for me.

• Boots — I use Irish Setter boots. Their Vapr Treks are lightweight and I like their Pinnacles.

• Socks — I use Browning hiking socks. Take two pairs. One to sleep in and one to hike in. Rinse them in the river.

• Pants — I wear zip-off pants. 5.11 Tactical has some durable/functional pants.

• Rain gear — Get a lightweight Gore-Tex coat that extends past your waist.

• Tent — ALPS Mountaineering tents: Lynx 1-person or, if you want a little more room, the Taurus 2.

• Sleeping bag — Sierra Designs sleeping bag. Super lightweight. I don’t pack a heavy, bulky bag. I use a lightweight one and wear base layers.

• Sleeping pad — Klymit makes a really compact, lightweight sleeping pad. I also carry one of the ½-inch thick Army pads.

• Backpack — Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor backpack. Kolby just got one and I think it’s going to be great. Super lightweight.

• Chair — I hate sitting in the dirt around a campfire eating or while lounging around camp. Take an ALPS Mountaineering Dash Chair.

• Base layers — For base layers I use Haeleum or XGO. You’ll want a set of base layers in case it gets cool at night.

• Day pack — Take a day pack to do your day hikes with.

• Flashlights — I just received an ASP Dual Fuel Raptor that is super bright. You’ll want a bright one in case a bear comes in camp. Use rechargeable lights. I also take a cheap flashlight to do menial tasks.

• Solar chargers — Bushnell has a variety of solar chargers. These are nice to charge your phone, camera, GPS, flashlights, etc. Don’t have to carry extra batteries.

• Map and compass — I’ve used MyTopo Maps for years. Paige will make you any size/detailed of a map as you want. They’re the best.

• Paper towels — I always carry a roll of paper towels to use for cleaning, toilet paper and to help start fires.

• Aquamira filtered bottles — Use to drink out of rivers so you don’t have to boil your water. If there’s a large group, take an Aquamira pump and jug to store water in.

• First aid — Adventure Medical Kits makes the best first aid gear. I always carry their moleskin. If you start feeling a hotspot slap a patch on. Just received their MOLLE Bag Trauma Kit. I don’t take a ton of first-aid gear but you want some. All you have to do is patch up and get to the doctor.

• Mess kit — Boy Scout/Army mess kit. I use these to cook or for eating out of. I’ve bought a few at garage sales.

• Coffee pot — I always carry a small aluminum coffee pot to make coffee and boil water.

• Backpack meals — I’ve tested a lot, but Mountain House makes the ultimate backpacking meals. Kolby and I love their beef stroganoff and chicken and dumpling meals. And if I don’t take the raspberry crumble dessert, there’ll be mutiny in camp!

• Breakfast — For breakfast, we take flavored oatmeal packs and add freshly picked huckleberries and raspberries.

• Lunch — For lunch, we eat peanut butter sandwiches. They’re cheap, easy to pack and not perishable.

• Mouse traps — I always take two mouse traps.

• Fire-starting gear — Make sure that whichever fuel bars you take really work. Waterproof matches. Also throw in two or three cheap Bic lighters. If necessary, you can break one and pour the fuel over damp wood.

• Knife — Take a nice folder or a straight knife.

• String — String to hang or tie stuff down.

• Bag — Mesh bag to hang your food.

• Plan — Always leave a trip plan with someone trustworthy (and that loves you enough to come rescue you if necessary).

• Gun — .44 magnum or .357 magnum.

• Book — Little Gideon Bible so you can have your daily devotions.

• Miscellaneous — I take a handful of plastic grocery bags to wrap my sandwiches and my sooty coffee pot and mess kit. I take motel coffee packs, a small tube of toothpaste and brush.

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 smileya7@aol.com.

To fully enjoy Idaho’s backcountry, you oughta go backpacking

I know that I’m totally blessed. I live in Idaho and get to hunt and fish all of the time. But, my most fun trip of the year is when I go backpacking with my daughter. It’s just her and me with no distractions. No Facebook, no Instagram, no TV, no leaky pipes, no yard to mow — you get the drift. No interruptions.

But I about died on this trip. It probably wouldn’t have been so painful if there weren’t 30,000 forest fires burning causing us to suck down half smoke/half oxygen every breath. Plus I overloaded my pack with everything including the proverbial kitchen sink. But, still, we had a blast.

I’ll write a Backpacking 101 article soon and cover what gear you need to carry, but this week we’ll just talk about the recent trip and the fun we had. Kolby had an appointment with her college adviser and then she was going to run home and we’d take out. Of course she rushed home and I was still working on articles and had a four-part series I had to get submitted to a new website so we got off a minute later than planned.

We soon arrived at the trailhead and started strapping everything to our packs. I’m still old school and use an old frame Kelty pack I’ve had since 1998 or 1999. I did just order Kolby a Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor internal frame pack, which is lightweight, but it didn’t arrive until the day we got home.

We threw on our packs and hit the trail a little later than I wanted. We wouldn’t hit our camping spot until well after dark but the only other option was to camp at the trailhead, which meant we’d have had to unpack our gear, throw up a camp and then tear it down the next morning, repack etc. etc. Plus, we’d done that one year and got woken up at 1:30 a.m. by a bear rubbing the tent.

It’s never fun hiking in the dark. If you stumble off a trail in the dark with a heavy pack, you’ll go tumbling off the side of the mountain down into the river below. One year on this trail my buddy rolled two horses and a mule down into the river and barely got them out alive.

We finally hit our spot, unloaded, slapped up our tents and hit the sack. I was beat. This trip we’d taken our ALPS Mountaineering Taurus 2 Tents. They’re a hair heavy for backpacking but they’re nice in that they’re larger and have awnings on each side that you can store your gear under.

The next morning I woke up and had to go drown some of my new flies from flydealflies.com (I had a bunch). I fished for a while and then ran back to camp and whipped up a hot cup of coffee and some oatmeal for us and woke up the little sleepy head. Nothing is better than a cup of coffee in the morning up in the mountains, is there? Even if it’s just a motel pack from the last business trip. We’d grabbed a couple of coffee creamers at the last gas station and dined like kings and queens. Well, at least by hobo standards!

Some rotten little field vermin had climbed the tree and gotten into our food bag and nibbled on a few items. But I set traps and caught two mice per night the rest of the trip.

We strung up our fly rods and took off down the river. The water was lower than it normally is in late August. Which is good because it congregates the fish in the holes which helps fishing.

We were having a great time fishing and then disaster struck. We passed through a spot that was loaded with huckleberries and raspberries. Kolby slid to a screeching halt and it was all out war on the berries. No hurry. We were going to be back here for four days. Normally we’ll half fill a water bottle with huckleberries to make a fruit flavored drink but this time we only had our Aquamira filtered water bottles to store them in.

I finally got her pried away from the berry patches and back on track. I lose track of what day we caught what. We didn’t catch as many fish as normal but still caught enough. Somewhere in the mix Kolby hung a really big cutthroat. I mean he was big! I saw him slash the water and he had a big girth. I bet he was 17 or 18 inches. She had on a light tippet and he soon snapped her off.

Like I said above, it was smoky and in late afternoons the smoke would really roll down the canyon and cloud things up. You could hardly make out the far ridge. Kolby would ask me every night if I thought we needed to get outta there. We’d end up staying only to wonder again the next night. You don’t want a forest fire racing over the top of the mountains while you’re sleeping.

Well, our time finally came to an end. We loaded our packs and hit the trail. Great trip.

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 smileya7@aol.com.