I love spring in Idaho

Recently, Katy and I were running to buy a pair of boots and then I was going to take her out to dinner. I was thinking about how magical Idaho is in the spring (I know, I know, I say that every spring).

Suddenly, I was singing: “It’s the most wonderful ti-i-ime of the year. There’ll be whistle pigs flipping, the crappie will be nipping, the mushrooms will be growing and the turks will be crowing, it’s the most wonderful ti-i-ime of the year!!!!!”

OK, I’m not a songwriter but springtime is magical in Idaho and less we get tied up mushroom hunting, turkey hunting, bear hunting and crappie fishing don’t forget — whistle pig hunting. It’s one of the highlights of the year. It provides for high-speed shooting and is a great hunt to break kids in on.

There are plenty of them and they are in no danger of being over hunted. They’ve been shot for centuries and are doing fine. In fact, if they are thinned out, they’ll do better because the plague won’t run through their colonies as fast and wipe them out. Farmers will gladly welcome you because they devastate crops. They can wipe out a field of alfalfa in a short amount of time.

So, what is a whistle pig? They are a unique animal. Their official name is Townsend ground squirrel. The subspecies south of us are the Urocitellus Townsendii Idahoensis. They emerge and mate in January/February. Although everyone thinks of them as appearing in mid-April, I’ve had good hunts in early March, according to the weather. But when it gets warm, they are out in full force.

Gestation is only 24 days and they’ll have six to 10 young in April. Their eyes open in 19 to 22 days and are weaned muy pronto. This seems to be their system to me. As stated above, they come out in late January/February and go on a breeding frenzy. Then they go on a feeding frenzy until the end of May/June when it gets hot and the grass dries up. Then they go back underground and that’s the last that you see of them for the year.

Some people think that they go underground and eat plant roots for the next seven to eight months. Some people think that they hibernate. What they actually do is called “estivation.” Sort of a summer hibernation.

You may be fooled into thinking that they are cute little furry creatures but make no mistake, they are a prairie rat. Adult squirrels have been known to cannibalize unweaned young. And while hunting you’ll frequently see them run out and eat their fallen comrades.

Enough of the scientific angle. What will you need to hunt them? Some people use a .223 but most people use the lowly .22. Most shots will be within 100 yards so a .22 is the perfect gun. And the Ruger 10/22 is the most popular model. Since they are small, you’ll need to use a scope. I put a Riton Optics 4-16x on my 10/22 and a Timney Trigger and a Boyds’ Stock to make it super classy. But the .17 HMR is also a popular rifle. It is faster, has better results and reaches out a little further.

But the last 10 years I’ve mostly been using airguns. They’re a lot cheaper to shoot and with ammo being so scarce airguns might be the only option for you. Plus, since they’re quieter they pop back up faster.

I’ve been using the Umarex .25-caliber Gauntlet and the .22-caliber Synergis. They are both super-good choices in the airgun realm. For pellets use JSB Dome pellets if you want supreme accuracy. But JSB just came out with a pellet named the Knockout pellet that looks like a good hunting option. I went out shooting yesterday but the wind was blowing so bad that I can’t testify one way or another as to their accuracy. You’ll also want a good pair of binoculars to find the little elusive creatures. I use a pair of Riton Optics 10×42 binoculars.

I think that the high deserts are beautiful in their own forlorn way. Hunting whistle pigs gives you a good excuse to go out and see them. Plus, there will be unique wildlife viewing opportunities. You’ll see badgers, which I think are beautiful (but the kings of bad attitudes). Once I shot a whistle pig and suddenly a badger ran out, grabbed it and ran back to his hole. Another time my old buddy Roy Snethen shot one. He flipped twice and I said “You got him!” Suddenly a hawk swept down and grabbed him and I said “You had him!”

So, before they go underground for the year you better grab a kid and run out and have some 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.

Living the wildlife: Programs help local landowner create inviting habitat for wild animals near the city

If you talk to Dan West about his land, you’re likely to get an earful.

He’s particular about his few dozen acres and has a vision for what it’s going to become.

“There’s a reason we don’t put cement on every gosh dang square mile in Idaho Falls,” West, a retired Naval officer said. “We need to keep indigenous plants going and the local animals — they need a place too.”

West, who lives on the flat land west of the Comore Loma and Blackhawk Estates area in Ammon, is following the examples of neighbors and planting several acres of vegetation just for wildlife.

One neighbor in particular, Jared Finn, is a habitat director for the local Pheasants Forever chapter. Finn has 90 acres of land adjacent to West’s property and several years ago planted much of it in trees and shrubs that would attract wildlife, in particular deer and pheasants.

Recently, a group of volunteers, Finn included, were on hands and knees busy digging holes and planting chokecherries, white spruce trees and red osier dogwood.

“(Red osier) has a white berry that pheasant like and deer munch on,” Finn said as he pushed the roots into the ground and pushed soil over it. “That’s my land over there,” he said pointing to rows of trees and bushes. “There’s about 100 deer there right now.”

Finn was joined by eight other volunteers who were busy planting about 1,500 trees and shrubs on West’s property. The dogwood bushes, chokecherries and trees were placed in a certain order to eventually create an attractive habitat, natural food plots for wildlife and a wind barrier to keep soil in place. The specific combination of plants provide food and nesting opportunities for wildlife.

“Habitat’s messy,” Finn said. “It will be like a fun land for wildlife when it grows in.”

New plants need water. To accommodate the several acres of new trees and shrubs, West recently installed about $25,000 in irrigation with the help of Finn and other Pheasant Forever volunteers. West said the arrangement also is done with the help of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game through its Habitat Improvement Projects and the National Resources Conservation Service, a federal program. The programs help get much of the equipment at a discount and cover some costs.

“We’ve worked with Pheasants Forever a lot. They’re a good group,” said James Brower, a communications manager with Fish and Game. “If they want to make their land more wildlife friendly, then we have monies available for them to do that. We do it fairly strategically. We’re looking for bigger projects on larger pieces of ground and those that are adjacent to other projects and lands that are also good for wildlife.”

West said besides planting, installing all the irrigation equipment was a big task. Finn’s expertise and experience guided the operation.

“Water is king in this area,” Finn said. “If you don’t have water, you don’t grow a whole lot. Most of our projects we have a partnership with Rain For Rent where they give us a discounted rate for all the products and service they do.”

Finn said Pheasants Forever signs a contract with the landowner offering financial help and expertise. The landowner commits to take care of things and manage the property to promote wildlife. Should the landowner break the contract, they have to reimburse the funds.

“The first thing we do is vetting the landowner to make sure they are engaged and in it for the long haul,” Finn said. “We are very critical and concerned about how the money is spent and where it goes. Dan is fully invested so that’s the main thing.”

Finn said he tries to find areas that have maybe 80 percent of what they need so it’s a quick turnaround. “We try not to find a bare field that has nothing to offer, it takes so much to build habitat.”

Last week, West drove some visitors along 15 acres he recently purchased and added to his property next to Crowley Road.

“Developers were going to put 100 homes in here,” he said waving his arm at the land. “I’m going to put 600 trees in here and leave that section in alfalfa.”

Finn said several properties in his neighborhood have joined in the program, about 1,000 acres in total.

“We have 200 to 300 deer that winter down here,” Finn said. “They just work their way down through Comore Loma and Blackhawk and end up at my place and Dan’s place and others down here.”

Brower said that historically, much of the area was deer and elk habitat.

“There’s a small deer herd that resides right there and they’re there for a good portion of the year,” he said. “Idaho Falls sits right where there used to be a large winter range for deer and elk. This is where they want to be, especially when the snow gets deep.”

West said he wants to be a part of making it inviting for wildlife. Next to his home is a tiny pond with a few wild ducks and geese.

West said he isn’t from Idaho, but has family ties here.

“My grandmother was born in Bone and went to that little school up there,” he said. “I just retired from the military, 32 years in the Navy. We took a vacation out here in Idaho and ended up buying this beautiful property 16 years ago with every intention of becoming local ranchers. I retired at the end of 2019, and we have just been going to town. This was our first full year here. I think it’s important to champion the people who are keeping their soil green.”

On mushroom hunting

If you haven’t ever tried morel mushrooms you’re missing out on nature’s best outdoor treat. Or for that matter, the best food ever since manna dropped down from heaven in the wilderness. I’ve been in the beef business nearly all of my life so I can get good steaks. But for eating pleasure, a morel will rate right up there with a choice ribeye.

There are quite a few edible mushrooms in the Northwest Pacific but I’m not comfortable picking more than a few varieties. I took a mushroom class but still don’t feel comfortable venturing out of my comfort zone. If you make a mistake and pick the angel of death, well, let’s just say that you and God had better be pretty good friends!

So now that I’ve scared you spitless, let’s proceed. The first season you ought to go mushroom picking with an experienced old timer and have them show you the ropes. They may be able to help you identify morels, shaggy manes, cauliflower, puffballs and calf brains mushrooms.

The good news is morels are easy to identify. The only thing that I’ve seen that even remotely resembles a morel is the snow morel/false morel. But again, make sure that you go with an old timer the first season.

The growing season on morels is short. I’ll say something like a one- to two-week period max. They’ll pop out earlier at lower elevations and then you’ll find them later up higher. The magic formula for them popping out is for the soil to be moist and have a warm night or two.

I’m sure if you did a scientific study, you’d discover that their growth is triggered at a certain soil temperature. I find them up where I bear hunt around May 10 at 5,200-foot elevation. Of course I’m up there baiting from April 15 to June so I keep checking until the season hits.

It seems they jump out overnight. I’ve always threatened and maybe I’ll do it this year and that is to find a small one and put a marker by it. Then come back the next day and see if it’s grown 2 to 3 inches.

You want to be checking for them early and not be on the tail end of the season. Nothing is more disheartening than to find a good mess and they’re on the downhill side and deteriorated and you can’t eat them. So, it’s better to be early and barely find any than to be late and only find rotten ones.

So where do you find them? Ha, that’s the million-dollar question. I’ve hunted them for decades but still don’t have it all figured out. Everyone will tell you to look by old rotting logs. Well, there are a million old rotting logs in the forest and the majority of them don’t have mushrooms. Some people say to look under tamaracks. I seem to find them randomly. But there are some likely spots.

They’re not in a bog hole but I have a good spot that is a little bit of a hole which caused it to be moist. Along old logging roads. Especially on the sidebank above the trail. Last year’s logging operations where the ground is tore up. Check in old Caterpillar tracks (bulldozers not the caterpillar bug. Their tracks are too small).

Over the years as you find them go back to those spots. Not that it’s a hotspot every year but many times they are. When you find one on a hillside look up and downhill. Spores wash downhill and many times you’ll find more.

But now and then I find them in weird spots. Years ago I found a bunch on a grassy hillside. I’ve looked there every year since and never found anymore there.

But the absolute most magical spot is in last years forest fire areas. But the second year the burn has lost its touch. You can go to the Forest Service and get maps of old burn areas or pay attention to fires this summer and go back next spring.

I’m not sure if the fires need to reach a certain temp or what but a couple of years ago, I was up bear hunting and found where a random fire had run through the forest. It was a spotty little fire and I thought great! Nobody knows about this spot. But I didn’t find one mushroom in the burn. Weird.

But some years you’ll find clumps big as a cow pie. I remember at one fire years ago two of us couples picked two 5-gallon buckets each in no time at all and had to step over a million on the way out.

It about killed me passing clumps of eight to 12 nice healthy morels.

Uggh, we are out of room. I’ll try to do a mushroom cooking article next week.

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.

Golfer under investigation for teeing off in Yellowstone, other national parks

A comedian drumming up interest in golf may have sliced into a hornets nest by hitting balls in Yellowstone and other national parks.

Jake Adams is touring the nation to hit golf shots in 50 states in 30 days, posting video of the adventure on his Instagram account — jakemadams3.

On day three in a snowy Colorado mountain meadow he uses a small pile of snow to tee up his ball and swings his driver while strapped to a snowboard.

On April 26, Adams stopped in Billings, Montana, where he is shown hitting a ball at Briarwood Golf Course as well as off the Rims with two locals. That was day 25 of his tour.

Yellowstone golf shots

These screen grabs show comedian Jake Adams teeing off in three different locations in Yellowstone National Park.

Later the same day he’s shown on the banks of a river hitting a ball in Yellowstone National Park, then on top of Mammoth Hot Springs’ travertine terraces toward the hotel and boardwalk below and finally from a boardwalk next to a hot springs pool.

KHQ 6 news first reported Adams teeing off in Yellowstone. The National Park Service responded to the station’s request for comment with an email stating: “The individual who recently was captured on video hitting golf balls in Yellowstone National Park showed a lack of judgment and common sense. He violated regulations designed to preserve Yellowstone and protect the experience of other visitors. The National Park Service is investigating this illegal act.”

Adams isn’t the first online personality to run afoul of park regulations. In 2016, four travel bloggers were sentenced to jail and fined after they recorded their walk onto the thermal area around Grand Prismatic Spring. Visitors are required for their own safety and to protect delicate thermal features to remain on boardwalks.

Boardwalk shot

These screen grabs show comedian Jake Adams teeing off in three different locations in Yellowstone National Park.

In an interview, Adams told ABC News he was making the trip to emphasize a different side of golf.

“My kind of mission for golf as a whole is … it gets so stuck and like it’s patriarchal and kind of like traditional values of this stuffy country club and you know, kind of my message is there’s so many more people, you know, my age … who don’t believe in those traditional values that love and enjoy the game.”

Along his journey, Adams said he’s seen some stunning landscapes from which to hit golf shots, including drives aimed at state capitol buildings.

“Every state has something beautiful in it, except for Mississippi,” Adams told ABC.

In his last post, on Day 29, Adams was in Alaska. His final stop is Hawaii.

Watch Now: Yellowstone, where strange tales abound

Yellowstone National Park historian Lee Whittlesey describes the three expeditions that were made into what is now Yellowstone Park in order to confirm the fantastic stories that surrounded the landscape.

Thousands of fish lined up for stocking in East Idaho

The month of May will see some heavy duty stocking efforts by Idaho Fish and Game with more than 65,000 rainbow trout going into several locations around the Upper Snake Region and more than 32,000 trout in southeastern locations.

These are all catchable-size trout in the 10- to 12-inch range.

One notable stocking that didn’t make any of Fish and Game’s April reports was 38,750 rainbows dumped into Ashton Reservoir this past week.

“They had them ready and decided to do it last Monday and Tuesday,” said James Brower, Fish and Game regional communications manager, of the Ashton Reservoir stocking. “They put the fish near the boat ramp just over the river bridge (north of town). There’s plenty of fishing up and down the bank there and people fishing off the dock have done pretty good.”

Of the 65,000 fish scheduled for May, Ririe Reservoir will get 18,000 in the middle of the month and Island Park Reservoir is slated for 9,600. Birch Creek is due to receive two stockings during the month for a total of more than 5,000. The Henrys Fork will get three stockings during the month totaling about 7,500 trout.

Brower said spring is an ideal time to get out while the fish are more active.

“It’s a good time while the weather is a little bit cooler before some places heat up,” he said. “Some of those ponds the water gets kind of warm and the fish kind of turn off a bit. But while the water is still cold the fish will be active and should be biting.”

Southeast Idaho waters are also being prepped for the big summer fishing season.

“We have 31 stocking events in the Southeast Region in the month of May alone,” said Jennifer Jackson, regional communications manager with Fish and Game. “Some of those places are going to be hit more than once. We’ve got more than 32,000 fish to be stocked at these different sites in southeast Idaho.”

These sites include the Bear River, Crowthers Reservoir, Deep Creek Reservoir and several smaller ponds. Montpelier Reservoir is due for 5,000 fish later in the month.

“We’ve got Memorial Day coming up at the end of the month and people are getting excited to get out fishing and enjoying the summer weather, so this is the big push getting us ready for fishing season,” Jackson said.

In the Salmon area, about 3,500 trout will be planted in local ponds and at Mosquito Flat Reservoir. The Hayden Creek Pond will receive 1,000 during the month and Mosquito Flat Reservoir will also get about 1,000 toward the end of the month.

For specifics on planned fish stocking locations and schedules, go to Fish and Game’s Fish Planner online at idfg.idaho.gov/fish/stocking#stocking-schedule.

Bear hunting with the spotting/stalking method

Last week we talked about baiting for bears. This week we’re going to talk about the spotting/stalking (S/S) method. So why would you want to S/S instead of baiting?

1. Some units don’t allow baiting.

2. You don’t have any free time to bait.

3. You’re an out-of-stater so it’s not possible for you to bait.

4. Because it’s a cool way to hunt and it works.

What you’ll need

If you’re going to be successful at S/S then you’re going to have to have the proper equipment. Years ago, we saw 10 bears in two afternoons. I only saw one bear before Ed Sweet and Gary Kirkpatrick because I only had some mediocre 8×42 binoculars. They had some high-dollar spotting scopes. To be successful, you have to have good glass. That doesn’t mean that you have to buy $2,400 binocs and $2,500-$3,500 spotting scopes but you don’t want a set of Blue Light specials either.

Here are a couple of decently priced optics that you should be happy with. I use Riton Optics X5 Primal 10×42 HD binoculars. They seem almost as crisp and clear as my $2,400 European binoculars. I used to recommend 8x binocs but you just miss too much game so carry 10x.

Just last year I started testing a Lucid Optics SC9 9-27x 56ED spotting scope. It is a sweet little, lightweight spotting scope. It’d be nice to have a 45x or 60x spotting scope but they are so bulky and heavy that you just won’t end up carrying them. So I’d recommend a smaller, more compact spotting scope.

And then you’ll need a lightweight tripod to set your spotting scope on. (You can also use the tripod for shooting sticks.) Some of the tripods that I’ve tested weigh more than a BIG spotting scope. Gee, they are stout enough to set your house on. Again, if they’re that heavy you just won’t end up lugging them up a mountain.

Then to carry all of the above gear plus your water and snacks you’ll want a medium-sized backpack. I tested out the Alps Mountaineering Ghost and Baja 40 backpacks last year and they should work fine.

How to S/S

Now that we’ve covered what gear you’ll need, let’s cover how to S/S. In early spring bears will be coming out of hibernation. After fasting all winter their stomachs are tender and they’ll be eating grass and flower tops.

You’ll see them at dusk feeding on hillsides like deer (in singles). They’ll be out grazing at the snow line. When I say at the snow line, that doesn’t mean within 2 feet of the actual snowline but somewhat following it.

I don’t know the name of the flowers but they like eating the top off of the yellow flowers. I remember one year I went back up after season to film some bears. I saw one and he was ripping into the grass faster than a grazing cow. It was a weird deal. I got within 17 paces of the bear and figured that was probably close enough so I stopped and snapped a pic with my 35mm Canon. At the sound of the click, he spooked. I think that I could have walked up and slapped him on the rear.

So what you’ll want to do is after work run up to the mountains and hop up on top of a ridge where you can get a good view and set up your spotting scope. How to properly glass is a whole article in and of itself but briefly, set-up and take a pad or an Alps Mountaineering Dash chair to set on. If you’re not comfortable then you aren’t going to be able to glass too long.

You need to have a glassing system. Scan across the opposite ridge. Get to the end and drop down 50 yards and scan back to the other end. Repeat, repeat to the bottom of the mountain. Wait a few minutes and repeat. Bears will feed in and out of cover.

They’ll come out a little bit before dusk so you don’t have too long to find one and sneak up on it.

When you see one, you’ll have to formulate a game plan fast. Is he the bear you want? Is it a sow with cubs? Is it moving along too fast for you to be able to get to? If it is too far to get to before dark you may have to move over the next evening and set up closer. If there is good grass, he should be in the same vicinity tomorrow.

If he’s the bear you want mark where he is. Is there a tall burnt tree near him? A patch of white flowers? When you get over there the area will look a lot different than from where you were. He may be hard to find.

There is so much more to cover but once again, we are out of room. Good luck. Spotting/stalking for bears is a blast. 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.

Bear hunting with bait

I don’t know why but bear hunting has always intrigued me. Maybe because of the element of danger. Maybe because no two hunts are the same or maybe because after a long, hard winter it is the first big hunt of the year (other than cougar and varmint hunting). Or maybe because it’s a good reason to get up into the mountains.

But for whatever the reason, I love bear hunting. Anymore, I don’t really care to shoot one. In fact, I don’t think I’ve shot one since 2016. I only shot those two because I’d just gotten a cool Golden Boy Henry’s 45-70, which is a brass lever action. It looked super cool in the picture with my cinnamon bear.

And then I shot a big brown bear up in Alaska. I wanted to make a batch of bear sausage so that’s why I shot the black bear. Anymore, I just like baiting and watching them or taking kids or new hunters. They get so excited that it is as much fun as hunting myself.

There are basically three ways to bear hunt:

1. With hounds. If you’re hunting with hounds, you’re either hunting with a guide or a buddy. Since you’ll be playing by their rules, I won’t cover this one.

2. Baiting. This is a fun way to bear hunt. If you learn how to bait properly you’re in control of the game. I’ll explain more below.

3. Spotting/stalking. This is a fun way to hunt.

Only nine states allow baiting for bears and Idaho is one of them.

If you bait, you have time to study your bear. Is the hide rubbed? Is it the size and color phase that you want? Is it a sow with cubs? If you’re out hiking in the woods, you might have the tendency to shoot as soon as you see one before it gets away and then discover that it was a sow with cubs. When baiting, that is not the case. You have time to study the bear and see if it has cubs.

The only time that I nearly shot a sow with cubs was years ago when I was hunting on a river with a salmon run. A buddy wanted a bear skin and I just wanted the meat. So I told her that I’d give her the hide.

On the last day of the hunt, I saw a decent sized bear and studied it for a bit before deciding to shoot it. Finally, I hit the safety but suddenly a cub walked out. I watched her take the salmon up in the brush and everyone lived happily ever after. If I had of been baiting, I wouldn’t have been so rushed. So baiting is a great way to bear hunt and ensure that a sow with cubs is not shot.

Also, it helps the bear population if a few big boars are shot. One year, I set out my bait and then went turkey hunting all day. At dusk, I went down to check my bait, to see if by chance a bear had come in. Halfway down I saw two bears on a slope 75 yards a ways. I notched an arrow and suddenly a cub jumped up the tree by me.

Uh-oh, that had to be a sow and cub up the hill. Nope, here comes a sow off to the right. I’d stepped between a sow and three cubs. Not good. Luckily got out without having to shoot her.

The next day maybe 700 yards from that spot I was going down an old, old logging road and stepped over a big yellow pine that had fallen over. A 1½-year-old cub was laying there with its nose under the log.

I thought it was asleep and poked it with an arrow. I finally figured it out. It had to have been one of the three cubs that I’d seen the night before. A big boar had obviously killed it so the sow would recycle and breed. Big boars kill cubs. So, shooting them actually increases the bear population.

To bait, use a barrel. That way bears can’t run in and gorge or drag bait off in the brush to eat. They’ll set there for 30 minutes feeding. Chain or strap your barrel to a tree or the rascals will drag it off.

Everyone has their secret bait but the truth of the matter is, you’re going to use whatever you can get large amounts of. When multiple bears get hitting your bait hard, they’ll clean out a barrel in two to three days.

Meat is fine and I’ve hauled tens of thousands of pounds of meat to the mountains but there are better options. After a long hard winter of fasting, meat is tough on their stomachs. Donuts are like crack cocaine to them!

Hang up a scent bag. This way you can have multiple bears coming in. Anyone can get one bear hitting the bait but what if it isn’t a big one? You want six bears an evening hitting your bait. That’s when it gets exciting.

Uh-oh, we’re out of room. We’ll continue spring bear hunting next week.

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.

Trash, human waste and land destruction leave Power County recreation site at risk of closing

Help is needed from the public. A piece of Idaho endowment trust land, referred to locally as Rock Creek, is at risk of being closed due to abuse of the land. This is a popular area for camping, fishing and ATV use. Its popularity has brought several problems including trash, human waste and destruction of land.

This year there will no longer be trash or restroom services provided to the area. Another agency previously provided these services but found it to be cost prohibitive to continue, and problems continued despite those services.

Idaho Department of Lands is asking for the public’s help to keep this land open to recreation. Those who enjoy the land need to help protect it by taking their garbage home, staying on existing trails and not leaving human waste.

Groups that would like to adopt this land for clean-up may contact the IDL Jerome office at 208-324-2561. 

This land is owned by the Public Schools Beneficiary, with revenues from grazing and other management activities helping to fund K-12 education. Recreational use is a secondary privilege allowed only if it does not cause damage or disturb management activities.

Endowment lands are different than other types of managed land. They were given to Idaho at statehood to create a legal trust for the sole purpose of financially supporting specific beneficiaries, in this case public schools. The Idaho Constitution requires endowment lands to be managed to maximize revenue for the beneficiaries.

Dispersed camping and other recreation activities provide no revenue to the beneficiary. Money to repair damage comes out of funding for public schools and short-changes Idaho’s children.

Airguns 101: Part IV

This week we’re going to wrap up the four-part series on airguns. This article will be a wrap-up/summary on airguns.

If you need further convincing that airguns have hit the modern shooting world with a big splash and is not just a fizzling fad among a group of old senile bald-headed men looking for a new source of entertainment, check out the offerings at your favorite outdoor store. Or go online and look at all of the airgun offerings. I’ve heard there is a new airgun company that opened up at the old Nampa Rod & Gun Club in Nampa. I have to go check that out. Or check out Pyramyd Air, which is a large online airgun store.

Or check the true litmus paper — the free market. I test a lot of airguns, sponsored on hunts and conduct seminars by airgun companies. You’d think I knew all of the airguns companies out there but I learn of a new company every time I open a catalog. If airguns weren’t popular, then why would so many companies be jumping on the airgun bandwagon?

So let’s get started. We’ve learned that there are three good platforms to choose from.

1. CO2

2. PCP (Pre-charged Pneumatics)

3. Break barrel (BB)

They are broken down into these three classifications due to their power source. You’ll have to choose which one works best for your desired application. To help you make a decision here are my thoughts.

What I am about to say is not totally true but generally is.

1. CO2s — good to train kids. They’re not as powerful so you can set up a shooting range in your garage with the proper backstop and targets.

2. Break barrels — These are the most economical, the most powerful and a great option for hunting. If you get a mid-priced BB like the Umarex Synergis (yes, it is an under lever but I’m putting it in the break barrel category), you will have a shooter that is accurate and powerful enough for small game hunting. If you buy a BB with a magazine then you’re not digging pellets out of your pocket every shot. But, over time you will have malfunctions with the plastic magazines so you preppers may want to go with the single shot BB. Although you can still slip in a pellet by hand.

3. PCPs — are the most expensive to shoot due to the fact that you’ll need auxiliary air tanks, pay to fill them, etc. I’d suggest buying a Umarex Readyair Airgun Compressor. It’s the most economical air compressor that I’ve found. I have no doubt, in due time if you really get into airguns, that you’ll end up buying a PCP. The .25 cal. Gauntlet has an MSRP of $329.99 and has worked great for me. The Marauder has an MSRP of $539.99. But if you want to burn money you can blow up to nearly $3,000. I just can’t afford that plus, I get super groups out of the above two PCPs so I don’t know what more those expensive ones could bring to the party?


I didn’t touch on scopes in the other three articles. In the old days every one told you that you had to buy airgun compatible scopes, that due to the unique recoil of an airgun that they would break a regular scope. I think this applies to BBs but not the other two models. But still, to be safe check before you buy a scope for your airgun. A lot of the cheaper airguns come with cheap scopes. So you may want to upgrade your airgun scope.

Since we’ll be shooting small game with a small kill zone, you’ll want at the very least a 3-9x but a 4-16x is better. I’ve found Riton Optics scopes to be economical and yet they have a crisp view.


As covered in the last airgun article, if you want tight groups you have to use good pellets. JSB is the best. If you’re plinking and flinging out hundreds of pellets per day, I’ve had good luck with Crosman and Sig Sauer pellets.


As my daughter would say, “Dad, you’ve never been known as Captain Safety,” but despite the voices of the haters, I want to throw out one word of caution. I don’t want to make you paranoid but I think that it would be prudent to take a jug of water and periodically wash your hands since you’ll be handling lead pellets. And for sure wash before you eat or suck your thumb if you’re so inclined to thumb sucking.

I don’t have any data to support this paragraph but I think that it only stands to reason to do this.

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.