First Warm River fish survey in nearly 40 years offers some surprises

Earlier this year if you asked Idaho Fish and Game how the trout were doing in Island Park’s Warm River, you might have gotten a shoulder shrug.

That’s because the last time the river was surveyed was in the mid 1980s, nearly 40 years ago. To get a better handle on this unique spring-fed tributary of the Henrys Fork River, nine Fish and Game biologists and technicians conducted an abundance survey last month about a mile downstream from the Warm Springs that feeds into Warm River. Some of the findings of the survey surprised John Heckel, fisheries biologist.

“I was kind of surprised at the abundance of juvenile fish,” Heckel said. “It’s great rearing habitat. It’s super clean water. There are a lot of invertebrates so there’s a lot of bugs in there and then there’s a lot of cover with the weeds. There’s quite a bit of timber in there too and those kinds of in-stream habitats are great protection for juvenile fish. There were thousands of juveniles.”

The survey crew found an estimated 1,200 fish per mile using a recapture abundance calculation method. Using the same analysis broken down by species, biologists estimated 772 brown trout, 753 rainbow trout, and 55 mountain whitefish per mile, Fish and Game said in its survey report. Most of the fish were less than 8 inches long. A handful of brook trout also popped up in the survey, but in small numbers. Nongame species found included Paiute and mottled sculpin.

The staff used a towed barge electrofishing setup and two backpack electrofishers to sample the fish population.

“When you think of a typical trout fishery that is a spring (fed) creek, you often find some really big trophy sized trout in spring creeks, but we didn’t capture any that were over 18 inches,” Heckel said. “It doesn’t mean that they’re not in there somewhere, but I guess I was a little surprised we didn’t capture any bigger fish. That reach of river we surveyed does seem like a nursery area.”

Heckel believes mature brown and rainbow trout are migrating up Warm River from Henrys Fork to spawn and only a few big fish remain as permanent residents.

The crew also conducted a survey upstream of Warm Springs in the Pole Bridge Campground area where the stream is smaller, using backpack electrofishing.

“That was 100 percent brook trout at Pole Bridge,” Heckel said. “You’re getting more into the headwaters at that point. So if folks want brook trout fishing, the upper Warm River has a lot of fishing.”

Heckel said Fish and Game doesn’t expect to let the river go another 40 years before its next abundance survey.

“It’ll be good to monitor this on some kind of a cycle,” he said. “We have to work that out. It probably wouldn’t be an annual survey because it’s not a large, well-known river that gets a ton of pressure, but it would be good monitoring so we have some up-to-date data to tell people and to monitor the health of the fishery.”

Heckel speculated that the river’s lack of access points along the nearby roads and its being in grizzly bear country may hold back some anglers.

“You know, that could be the reason why not many people fish it, is because of that grizzly bear presence,” he said. “We found a lot of scat on the road driving in there and on the bank of the river when we were doing the survey. So, it’s there. They’re in there pretty thick.”

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.

Cooler water means hundreds of thousands of trout will be stocked in Idaho waters

Idaho Fish and Game is stocking almost 312,000 catchable-sized rainbow trout throughout the state in October. It’s typically a big month for stocking trout because predatory birds that feed on the fish are gone or leaving, waters are cooler, and fishing managers are providing good fall fishing opportunities and loading up for ice fisheries.

With so many fish stocked in so many places, it can be hard for anglers to sift through the stocking forecasts and records to identify noteworthy stocking events. To make it easier, we asked Fish and Game hatchery staff to highlight some stocking events for the month.

Many of the waters highlighted below are easy to access, family-friendly fishing destinations. All you need to get started is a fishing license and some basic tackle. Annual adult fishing licenses cost around $30, junior licenses (ages 14 to 17) cost $16, and youth under 14 fish for free.

Fishing for stocked rainbow trout, particularly in community ponds, is a great way to introduce new anglers to the sport by using simple (and relatively thrifty) setups like worm/marshmallow combinations or commercial baits like Powerbait or Crave, either near the bottom or below a bobber.

Most Idaho waters are open to fishing year-round, but some may have slightly different rules. Be sure to pick up a 2019-21 Idaho Fishing Seasons and Rules Booklet, which outlines season dates, special regulations and bag limits at any Idaho Fish and Game offices or most sporting goods stores statewide.

To view a complete list of waters being stocked around the state, visit tinyurl.com/2c7e4t2e. Below are some of the waters closer to Pocatello.

Magic Valley Region

Blair Trail Fishing Pond: 2,000 rainbow trout. Located on Little Canyon Creek, this is a remote desert water surrounded by sagebrush solitude.

Burley Pond: 2,000 rainbow trout.

Dog Creek Reservoir: 5,000 rainbow trout. Located in Gooding County, check out this video to learn what to expect from this high desert reservoir: youtu.be/wUOy_gnXfXE.

Freedom Park Pond: 700 rainbow trout. This trout pond was built with young kids in mind!

Lake Walcott: 24,000 rainbow trout.

Southeast Region

American Falls Reservoir: 42,000 rainbow trout.

Blackfoot Reservoir: 80,000 rainbow trout.

Chesterfield Reservoir: 19,200 rainbow trout. This reservoir is known for growing ‘em big! It’s a trophy trout water so the limit is two fish.

Devil Creek Reservoir: 11,650 rainbow trout. This reservoir provides some of the best trout fishing in the region and it’s easily accessible. Located 8 miles north of Malad, it is visible from Interstate 15.

Edson Fichter Pond: 1,600 rainbow trout. This community pond is located in southwest Pocatello along the Portneuf River at Edson Fichter Nature Area. It features several docks and a trail for access around the pond. Limited development and the Nature Area provide a rural feel. Just minutes from downtown Pocatello, this site offers local anglers a convenient escape close to home.

Snake River: 31,950 rainbow trout. Stocking will occur at Tilden, Blackfoot and Firth.

Upper Snake Region

Island Park Reservoir: 13,270 rainbow trout. This is a large scenic reservoir on the Henrys Fork. Bank fishing can be quite good in the fall. In the winter, anglers often ice fish near the dam.

Salmon Region

Hayden Creek Pond: 600 rainbow trout. Here is a family friendly fishing area in the high desert along Hayden Creek. Anglers will find ample bank fishing opportunities and a dock for anglers with limited mobility.

Hyde Creek Pond: 400 rainbow trout. This small pond is surrounded by sagebrush. The open site and level terrain provide ideal bank fishing for beginning anglers and those who want to practice casting techniques.

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.

Positive early hunting experiences can turn a kid into a lifelong hunter

With all of today’s distractions, getting a child or teen interested in hunting may seem daunting. Sports, friends and computer games all compete for our children’s attention.

If there is a youth you would like to get interested in hunting, here are some things to keep in mind.

• Start young and give them a job: Let younger children participate in the adventure. Even a 4- or 5-year-old can contribute. Buy child-sized binoculars and have them look for animals and signs of game. Children love compasses; they can be the guide and keep everyone going in the right direction. Let children take pictures to record their favorite parts of the hunt.

• Take breaks to appreciate the small things: Make hunting more about the experience than harvesting an animal. Sit down, rest and take brief moments to look at the beauty of nature. It’s amazing how a child can remind of us of the wonders in everyday events.

• Pack lots of snacks and water: No one likes a hungry, cranky person.

• Take Hunter Education with your child: Be involved, show interest and make sure your child understands the importance of what is taught.

• Invest in appropriate clothing, safety equipment and a firearm that fits your young hunter: Hunting and shooting should be fun and injury free. A properly sized firearm will help to avoid shaking arms and sore shoulders, increasing control and safe handling of the firearm.

• Let your child practice at the firing range: Knowing how a firearm works and feeling comfortable shooting will help insure a hunting trip free of frustration for everyone.

• Start small and look for youth-only hunts: Big game hunting may be intimidating for first-time hunters, so start youth out hunting small game and birds. Youth-only hunts are often at the beginning of seasons when game is less likely to startle, and kids can experience hunting without competition from more experienced hunters.

• Leave your firearm at home: When taking first-time hunters out, make the experience all about them. Devote your attention to helping youth become safe and attentive in the field.

• Be positive and encouraging: Remember the feelings of trepidation when you were a first-time hunter. Don’t press taking a shot. Help new hunters recall the elements that make a shot safe or unsafe.

• Know when to call it a day: If tiredness, frustration and lack of interest start to show, end the hunt before the whining starts. Always try and end on an optimistic note, even if nothing was harvested. Help young hunters remember seeing amazing wildlife and landscapes. Share your favorite parts of the hunt. Often just spending time together outdoors makes a day special.

Fish and Game provides millions of acres of access for hunting

Hunting season is here, and a question commonly asked is “Where can I go hunting?”

There’s a lot of good answers to that question in Idaho, starting with nearly two-thirds of the state is public land, and most of it is open for hunting.

Idaho Fish and Game also provides more access for sportsmen and women. The department owns, manages and keeps open to the public about 370,000 acres at its wildlife management areas, and provides literally millions more acres through its various agreements and lease programs with various state and private lands.

Money for access comes from multiple Fish and Game funds, including Fish and Game’s access/depredation fee that requires a $5 surcharge for residents and a $10 surcharge for nonresidents when they buy their first annual license of the year.

All told, the agreements and leases provide statewide access to excellent wildlife habitat and places for people to hunt, fish, trap and enjoy other wildlife-based recreation.

Here are some of Fish and Game’s programs that support public access:

Wildlife Management Areas

Fish and Game has 31 Wildlife Management Areas totaling about 370,000 acres and located in six of its seven regions. WMAs range from 275 to 85,000 acres and address specific priorities based upon the needs of wildlife in the surrounding area.

Fish and Game’s WMAs provide lots opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping and other wildlife recreation. Some WMAs are in wetland or grassland/sage areas to provide important habitat for waterfowl and upland birds and other wildlife. While others — such as Craig Mountain near Lewiston, Tex Creek near Idaho Falls and Boise River near Boise — offer tens of thousands of acres of mixed habitats and elevations inhabited by a variety of big game animals, small game and upland birds.

Fish and Game’s pheasant stocking program also includes WMAs, giving hunters the opportunity to pursue a popular quarry that otherwise usually requires a person to have access to private lands in order to find pheasants.

Access Yes!

This access program is a revolving collection of properties where Fish and Game leases land from private owners to provide public access. Each property may be managed differently, so it’s important for the user to do a little homework and know the rules for each property. Hunters should be aware some properties require landowner notification, and others have restrictions on how many people can use the property at once, so some advanced notice may be required to hunt on these parcels. You can see the full list of properties and details on the Access Yes! webpage.

Through this program, Fish and Game typically provides about 350,000 acres annually, as well as a legal means to cross private property to reach hundreds of thousands of acres of public land that might be otherwise difficult to access.

Access Yes! properties are unique because they’re selected annually by panels of sportsmen throughout the state, who sift through applications submitted by landowners and select the leases that give sportsmen and women the best value for their money.

Because these properties may change annually, hunters should beware that properties they used in the past may no longer be enrolled. People can see the maps of Access Yes! properties on Fish and Game’s website, and also pick up printed booklets at regional offices that show Access Yes! locations and guidelines to use the property.

Idaho endowment lands

In 2018, the Idaho Fish and Game Commission and Idaho State Board of Land Commissioner approved an agreement to continue public access for hunting, fishing, trapping and other wildlife-based recreation on about 2.3 million acres of state endowment lands.

More than 96 percent of endowment lands are accessible by foot, watercraft or vehicle. You can view accessible endowment lands on Fish and Game’s Hunt Planner Map Center.

While most Idaho endowment lands have traditionally been open to the public, endowment lands are managed to provide revenue, typically from timber sales and grazing leases, to fund for public schools, universities and state hospitals.

Fish and Game’s payments to the Department of Lands ensure those lands remain open to public access for hunting, fishing, trapping and other recreation. In other states, state-owned lands have been closed or leased to private parties for hunting access. Fish and Game renews the lease annually and gets credit for in-kind, law-enforcement services provided by Fish and Game conservation officers on endowment lands.

Endowment lands are working lands that provide vital revenue, and hunters are reminded that fire season typically lasts into fall, so some fire restrictions may occur during hunting season. If campfires are allowed where you plan to hunt, make sure your campfire is cool to the touch before leaving so you do not start a wildfire. Also, protect state lands from damage by keeping off-highway vehicles on established roads and designated trails.

Hunters are also reminded free camping is allowed on state endowment lands for no more than 14 consecutive days. If you would like to camp longer than 14 consecutive days, contact a Department of Lands office to find out if a permit can be obtained.

Large tracts corporate timberland leases

Fish and Game has partnered with timber companies to provide public access to their lands. Currently, Fish and Game has a contract with PotlatchDeltic to provide public access to about 550,000 acres of private land for hunting, fishing, trapping, wildlife viewing, hiking, and recreational travel on open full-sized roads.

People should beware these are working timberlands, and some areas may be closed for logging activities and other work. Some restrictions apply, such as additional permits are needed for camping and ATV/OHV use. People can see specific rules through these links.

A separate lease includes more than 300,000 acres belonging to the North Idaho Forest Group in Bonner, Boundary, Benewah, Shoshone and Kootenai counties that include Stimson Lumber Co., Hancock Forest Management and Molpus Woodlands Group and others.

Five principles for responsible land use

Whether you’re on public land or private land (with permission), consider these guiding principles for being a responsible user:

1. Treat all lands with respect. Leave them as good or better than you found them.

2. It’s your responsibility to know whose land you’re on, and follow the rules for that property.

3. Be careful with fire, and respect burn restrictions when they’re in effect. Never leave a burning or smoldering campfire. It should always be completely extinguished.

4. Do not damage roads and trails, and abide by travel restrictions, such as closed roads, non-motorized trail restrictions, vehicle restrictions, camping restrictions, etc.

5. If you see someone damage lands or violate travel restrictions, be a good witness. Get a vehicle license number, vehicle description or other information. Report them to the county sheriff’s office or other law enforcement agency. Avoid a direct confrontation with the violator.

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.

Maple Grove Campground near Pocatello to receive new boat ramp and docks

The Bureau of Land Management Pocatello Field Office will be installing a new boat ramp and docks at Maple Grove Campground starting September 13. The planned project completion date is September 24.

The Maple Grove is located along the shoreline of the Oneida Narrows Reservoir in Franklin County, Idaho. The new features will improve the popular site with a double lane boat ramp and new docks.

For safety, campsites 1 and 2, which are near the construction site, will be unavailable during the renovation process. However, the rest of the campground, including campsites 3-12 and two vaulted restrooms, will remain open. Visitors will still be able to launch boats at the day-use site by the dam.

For additional information, please contact BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner, Chuck Patterson at (208) 478-6362.