The many different ways of cooking pheasants

I titled this article cooking pheasants but really it will apply to not only pheasants but also turkey and grouse. If you read my articles then you know that two weeks ago that I was in South Dakota pheasant hunting. I didn’t want to use the same ol,’ same ol’ cook-in-a-crockpot-with-mushroom-soup recipe so I thought I’d try something different.

When I boned them out, I pulled the breast and cut off the legs and bagged each separately. As a side tip, if you’re flying with meat, you don’t have to use a cooler. I usually wrap the bag of meat in clothes in my luggage and they stay frozen fine. It was no different this time. I threw them in my luggage at 2 and when I got home at midnight they were still frozen. In fact, the next afternoon when I pulled them out of the fridge to cook, they were still crusty.

Let’s start with the breast. I laid them on a cutting board and used a thick bladed Smith’s knife to slice them into thin strips. Cut them cross grain. I then laid them out and sprinkled them with the Hi Mountain Apple Blend Turkey Jerky seasoning. I then flipped the slices and seasoned the other side and then put them in a bag and squeezed the air out.

I like to season my jerky and marinate my meat in a plastic bag. That way every few hours I can flip the bag over and gently massage it for a couple of seconds and be ensured that it is getting evenly marinated.

I let it marinate for nearly 24 hours and then pulled it out and slapped it on my jerky air dryer. It dries unevenly due to all of the slices not being cut uniformly as well as the tray on bottom dries faster than the top trays. I’ll rotate the trays every hour or two and be watching for any small pieces that are done.

As they finish, I pull them off. Once again, I was reminded that Hi Mountain makes the best jerky and sausage seasoning in the world. This batch isn’t going to last long.

Now for the legs. I put them in a bag and poured in a bottle of Tony Chachere’s 30-minute Chicken Marinade. I also threw in a dash of Raspberry Vinaigrette dressing and pressed out the air and put in the fridge to season overnight.

The next day I put them on my Camp Chef pellet grill on high smoke, which is high smoke but low heat. Then I had to run over and pick up an Anderson Mfg. 5.56 that I had ordered. I have some Bowden Tactical after market parts and a Riton Optics scope that I’m going to trick it out with. I’ll be writing about that soon.

When I got home I pulled any jerky that was dried and turned up the heat on the smoker to get the legs ready for dinner. By now the legs were a golden brown and looked awesome. I only cook real potatoes and think instant potatoes are a communist plot but while shopping I had grabbed an instant pack of butter garlic instant potatoes. I cooked them and threw in some chopped onions and a spoonful of chopped garlic.

Kolby had a dozen tomatoes left over from the season that were on the edge. I made some homemade tomato soup which is easy. Cook the quartered tomatoes in a pan. When stewed put in a blender. Throw in a spoonful of chopped garlic and blend for a few seconds. Then return to the pan and throw in some chopped onions and chopped cilantro and a couple of cups of half & half or whole milk and stir.

We were now ready to eat like kings and queens. As you know if you’ve ever hunted pheasants, they’re the roadrunners of the game bird world. I don’t think that anything you do will keep them from being a little tough but gee, these had a great flavor and were great. We ate some more the next day for lunch after church.

So if you have a freezer of game birds you might want to try these methods on them. And yes, you can make jerky out of waterfowl.

I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving and takes a minute to give thanks for living in the best country in the world and for your many blessings.


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

Shooting clay pigeons

In last week’s article I lamented about how horrible I shot while pheasant hunting over in South Dakota. My self esteem was at rock bottom so when the young couple across the street asked if I wanted to go throw a few clay pigeons I said YES! Finally, a chance to redeem myself.

The next afternoon we loaded up the thrower, clay pigeons and the rest of the gear and headed out to the edge of town. We got things set up and Allen threw the birds while Audrey and I shot. I’ve never owned a good thrower but they had a Champion thrower that ran off of a deep cycle boat battery. I’ve got to check into one of those.

We took turns shooting and throwing and had a good time. I hit a few clays and built my confidence back up, which will save some counseling fees!

I’d taken some water bottles to blast and while Allan was unloading the gear, I threw one up for Audrey to shoot. She must have hit it dead center because I’ve never seen a bottle blow up that bad. It literally disintegrated. Vaporized. Ceased to exist. We looked and only found the cap screwed onto the neck and two other small fragments. Gee, I wish we had videoed it. She tried some more but never could mimic that shot.

After we got done shooting the shotguns then I pulled out the Umarex Steel Force which is a cool looking CO2 BB gun. It can fire six-round bursts. How cool is that! I had Allan throw a couple of clays and then he tried but we couldn’t quite hit a flying clay with it.

Then we had to shoot the 9mm. All of my life I’ve been a tight-wad so I normally just take a cardboard box and throw some dirt in it so it doesn’t blow off and then tape a target to it. This time though I’d taken a Caldwell Ultra-Portable Target Stand Kit. It is an awesome target holder for shooting with a pistol or I guess rifle, too, for that matter.

Ugh, my 9mm was now hitting about 4 to 6 inches to the right. Now I’m going to have to go back out again soon and figure out what’s wrong and get it sighted back in.

Then Allan wanted Audrey to shoot a few heavy pheasant loads so she’d be used to the kick when they go pheasant hunting next weekend. She shot a few and then Allan threw me a couple to try. What a gunsel, I’d forgotten my good Axil ear protection and only had foam ear plugs on me. Wow, the pheasant loads were a lot louder and my ears are still ringing.

Shooting clays is a blast and good practice to boot. If you want to start shooting clays and never have done so don’t panic. The gear is pretty simple. In the beginning I tried all of the hand throwers but they’re marginal at best. But you probably can’t afford one of the big commercial types of throwers, either. The Champion thrower that Allan and Audrey had looked like a good economical thrower.

You want to shoot pretty fast so you don’t want too tight of a choke. I was using a Trulock Dove choke which is .722 but I think next time I’ll use a Trulock Modified which is .720. For shells you’ll want some low base 7½- or 8- shot. The heavier waterfowl shells may be hard to find but you should be able to find some low base 7 ½- or 8-shot.

So, if you want to have a fun afternoon with the family, grab a box of clays and go dust a few. If the kids are too small, like 6 and under, you can set up some clays and let them break them with their BB or pellet guns.

After you get thinking that you’re pretty good, watch the Gould Bros. I met them in March in Alabama at the Shooting Sports Showcase and had dinner with them. I can’t even begin to tell you how great of shots that they are. Check out their shooting exhibition shows on YouTube. They’re unbelievable.

Wow, what if you could shoot like that?

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

Pheasant hunting in South Dakota

I used to pheasant hunt a lot of years ago but haven’t gotten to much in years. Years ago the pheasant hunting used to be phenomenal here in Idaho but those days are long gone. Subdivisions have taken over old pheasant haunts and big days are a distant memory.

I’m sure that there is still some good hunting to be had on some of the private farms around but I don’t have access to them and I see some hot spots once in a while. But not many. Years ago, an old timer was telling me about how many pheasants Idaho had back before my times and it sounded like it equaled South Dakota. Don’t you wish you could of seen that?

So, with the above said, I had a deal I had to do over in South Dakota last week. Why not throw in a shotgun while flying over? They have a unique license system. They don’t have a one-day or a year long license for out-of-staters. It cost $125 for a 10-day license and you can break it up into two five-day hunts. Since I was hunting the weekend I got a Saturday-Wednesday tag and I have another five days that I can hunt anytime for the rest of the year.

The first day was tough hunting. We were hunting public land and apparently they had been hunted pretty hard. We jumped quite a few birds but they were jumping 150 yards in front of us so it was tough.

The next day I went with another guy and we hunted some of his cousin’s land. Finally. We got into a lot of birds and probably not more than 15-20 jumped out of shooting range. I used to shoot a shotgun a lot. I’d start dove hunting Sept. 1, then grouse, then ducks, then pheasants until Jan. 15, so four and a half months hard every year. Now, ha, I barely shoot a shotgun at all as compared to used to and my shooting shows it.

To hunt, Ben had me park at one end of a railroad track and he took us up to the other end. That way, we could walk a mile, jump in the truck, grab the other truck and then hit another spot. The first half mile was a little slow and then it lighted up. We should have had our limits the first hour but it took us about two.

There were soybeans or corn on each side of the tracks which were lined with tall thick grass. At first it seemed like they were all on Ben’s side of the tracks. He about stepped on a couple. The further we got the better the hunting got. Despite our shooting, by the time we’d walked a mile to the end truck we were within two birds of our limit. We then jumped over to a nearby creek that was also lined with corn and soybeans. Halfway down we had our limits.

Wow, I’d forgotten how beautiful pheasants were. Their plumage is indescribable. It’s a miracle that they can stay live in the wild as bright as they are. But … they are tough birds and hard to knock down for keeps. And if they take off running, they make a road runner look like an overweight bald old man jogging.

Here’s the gear I’d recommend:

1. I’d recommend a 3” 12 ga. But I’ve shot pickup loads of pheasants with a 20 ga. Double barrel and boatloads with a 2 ¾-inch 12 ga.

2. Chokes — You’ll probably want a “Modified” early in the season when they’re holding tighter (maybe even an “Improved Cylinder”) and then later in the season switch to a full choke when they’re flushing wild. I about panicked. I arrived in South Dakota and remembered that I’d forgotten my chokes and only had in a dove choke. I called Trulock (which is the chokes I shoot) and they overnighted me a Modified and a Full choke. Lifesaver.

3. Not every year but frequently enough someone is going to have a shotgun that is gummed up and not cycling. That’s the kiss of death. I’d recommend carrying a bottle of gun oil/spray and some Swab-It cleaning swabs. They’re like an ear swab except that they have a foam pad on the end and are great for cleaning in hard-to-reach spots.

4. Don’t go to all the effort and expense to get in the position to have a good day of shooting and shoot cheap shells. Check out Kent Cartridge. They have a lot of offerings but early in the season you’ll probably want 6 shot and later when they’re flushing wild switch over to 4 shot.

5. How to cook them? I know, they taste like chicken but I’m going to try something different this year. I’m going to use some of the Hi Mountain Seasoning Turkey Jerky blends and make some pheasant jerky. I did that on a turkey once and it was unbelievable.

Good luck!

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

Put a wild turkey on your Thanksgiving menu

As hunters notch their deer and elk tags, grind up burger, and line up their fleet of duck decoys, it’s easy to forget about one customary fall tradition. While the general fall turkey season has ended across much of the state, the chance to serve a wild bird at your next holiday feast is still an opportunity in Idaho’s Panhandle and Clearwater regions.

“Hunting turkeys in the fall can be just as exciting as in the spring,” said Jeff Knetter, Fish and Game upland game and migratory game bird coordinator. “Plus in some places, you will likely have the woods all to yourself.”

Fall turkey hunts in Idaho have expanded over the years as turkey populations have increased. Quality hunting can still be found on both public and private lands in the Clearwater and Panhandle regions.

The general season in the Panhandle runs through Jan. 31 in management units 1, 2 (except Farragut State Park and Farragut WMA) 3, 4, 4A, 5 and 6. In the Clearwater, the season runs Aug. 30 through Jan. 31 in management units 8, 8A, 10A, 11, 11A, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 18.

During fall seasons the daily bag is equal to the number of valid tags possessed. Either sex turkeys may be taken during the fall. The maximum number of tags one hunter can possess in one year is six.

A reminder that airguns are also legal methods of take, as long as the projectiles are .30 caliber or larger.

See the 2021-2022 Upland Game, Turkey, and Furbearer brochure for full turkey hunting seasons and rules.

Hunting on private land

Finding a place to hunt can be as easy as looking at a map or asking a landowner for permission.

Private land hunting in particular is an excellent way to harvest a wild turkey just in time for the holidays. Because it is not uncommon for several hundred turkeys to congregate on or near private property where livestock is fed or crops are being stored, the damage and nuisance they can cause can quickly become a headache for landowners. Providing additional harvest opportunity, particularly in the fall and winter when the birds are concentrated, is the best way to address landowner concerns.

“Many landowners will welcome hunters because they want turkey flocks reduced on their lands,” Knetter said. “But it’s critical that hunters always ask for permission first, and if allowed to hunt, always follow the landowner’s wishes.”

It always seems to be a bit of a joke (at the hunter’s expense) when turkeys take to private lands during fall turkey season. If you happen to see a rafter of turkeys (yes, that is what a group of turkeys is technically called), consider politely asking the landowner if they’re having any bird-related issues on their land and if they would let you assist in alleviating this issue.

Fall hunting strategy and safety

Fall turkey hunting and spring turkey hunting are two separate animals. Hunters will need to adjust their hunting tactics during the fall season, as there is little or no gobbling activity and turkeys congregate in small groups. The basic hunting strategy is to find and break up a group, scattering them in all directions. Hunters then wait as near as possible to the spot where the group was first encountered. Younger birds will usually return within an hour while an old gobbler may take three to four hours.

Fall turkey hunting also presents some unique safety concerns as turkey hunters dress in complete camouflage, make the sound of a turkey and often conceal themselves in dense vegetation. They also share the woods with camouflaged big game hunters in some areas. Hunters must always be certain of their target and what is beyond before pulling the trigger.

To the victor go the spoils

So you successfully bagged a fall turkey – now what? The next step is processing the meat and finding a clever (or cleaver), or perhaps tried and true, way to serve your hard-earned bird to your friends and family. There are several ways to utilize the five most useable cuts of the bird: the breast, the tenderloins, the wings, the thighs and the drumsticks.

Set it and forget it with a slow-cooker. Or maybe go with a classic herb-rubbed turkey breast. Remember wild turkeys are different birds than the store bought varieties, and you will probably want to cook them differently.

And for the traditionalist looking to wow their guests this Thanksgiving or Christmas with a classic, golden-brown whole bird that didn’t come from a grocery store, you can’t go wrong with a perfectly brined, oven-roasted turkey recipe.

Hunting fall turkeys in Northern Idaho is a great opportunity to get outdoors, to take youth or new hunters out for an experience to remember, and one last chance at putting some game in your freezer or on your dinner table. By understanding the rules and regulations you can take comfort knowing that you’re participating in spring turkey hunting the appropriate way. Best of luck.

Hunters: Please fill out your big game hunter reports

Hunter reports are critical to effective big game management, and hunters are needed to do their part

Now that October big game seasons are over, Idaho Fish and Game needs all big game hunters to take a few minutes to fill out their mandatory hunter reports regardless of whether they harvested.

You can help effective wildlife management and do it quickly and easily at or by calling 877-268-9365. The phone option is available 24 hours per day and seven days per week. Please have your hunting tag number when calling. If you don’t have it handy, you can find it in your online account.

If you plan to keep hunting, please remember everyone who bought big game tags must report so wildlife managers can get critical information needed for managing big game herds and proposing future hunting seasons. If harvest information is lacking, biologists have to err on the side of caution, which typically means more restrictive hunting seasons.

By promptly reporting results, license and tag dollars can also be better spent for on-the-ground wildlife management. If you don’t report in a timely manner, Fish and Game will send postcards as reminders and may call individuals to get the information. That’s labor intensive and expensive, and the money could be better used for enhancing big game herds.

Here’s more information about mandatory hunter reports:

The rules say I have 10 days after my hunt ended, what if I miss that deadline? The rule is intended to ensure timely compliance with hunter report requirements so Fish and Game has your information in time to use for developing future hunting seasons, but your report is still needed even if your hunt ended more than 10 days ago.

What if I plan to hunt late seasons? Some deer and elk hunts extend into December. Big game managers are not asking you to report before you’re done hunting, but the sooner after you’re done, the better. If you’re not sure if you’re going to keep hunting, you can file your hunter report and change it later if you harvest an animal.

Are you going to give away my favorite hunting spot? No. All we ask is what unit (or units) you hunted, and if you got an animal, in which unit you harvested it.

Become a better shot with a pistol

I’ve owned a pistol since I was in the seventh grade. You’d think that I’d be a decent shot with one but I’m not. Katy recently took a shooting class with Kerry LaFramboise that owns Watchmen’s Tactical Training and she went hog wild and got the shooting bug.

In the meantime, I was testing a Mantis X10 Elite Shooting Performance System. It is a great tool to help you learn how to shoot better. 

We stopped by Stockpile Defense to talk to Tim that knows quite a bit about the Mantis X10. In talking he asked me what method I used to shoot a pistol. I told him the push and pull method. He told me that worked but you have a tendency to pull your aim off towards your off hand and that he uses the crush method.

Let’s see if I can adequately explain this method of shooting. You grasp the pistol with both hands just like normal but instead of locking in your elbows you squeeze the pistol and push upward with your elbows, thereby causing a squeezing effect on your grip which is where the term crush comes from.

We then went out on the prairie and practiced shooting. Any time you try a new method/skill, your proficiency will drop at first but if it is indeed a better method then you will soon rise to a higher level than you had before.

I learned this truth years ago. I used to play a lot of volleyball (I never was any good but I played a lot). I could take a course at a local junior college for $18. We played for two hours and then had instruction for one hour. It was a great deal. I took the class probably three times. In fact, the college finally told me that I had to declare a major since all I’d taken was volleyball. I told them to cork it, I’d already done the college deal, I just wanted to learn how to play volleyball.

One night the instructor came in all excited. He had been to a camp and learned a new method to spike called the hammer spike. He told us that we had probably become proficient at how we currently spiked but if we’d learn how to do the hammer spike that we’d rise to a new level. At first our proficiency would drop but eventually we rose to a new level. I’ve found this bit of advice to apply when learning any new skill.

So, while Katy and I were shooting I started practicing the crush hold. I’m going to switch over and stick with this method.

Sometimes it’s fun to just got out and blast plastic bottles filled with water and have a good time. But I think when you shoot you actually ought to always practice and try to improve your skills. I don’t want to sound like some drill sergeant but we can’t ever think that we’ve reached the pinnacle. I think we always have to try to improve ourselves or else we flatline. I don’t want to say that you can’t ever retire and relax but … lol, maybe not, or you will become irrelevant.

My daughter went out shooting yesterday and came home and said, Daddy, I think I shot over 300 rounds today.” Wow, she, too, has gone overboard with her momma! I don’t have a clue where she’d get that from.

So I’m on a quest to finally become a decent shot with a pistol. Here’s my game plan. I left the Mantis X10 with Katy and am on a plane right now flying to South Dakota (hopefully have a pheasant hunting article coming up soon). I’ve got a Umarex CO2 BB pistol that I’m going to practice dry firing and also doing some live firing with.

I’ve got to do something. Katy smoked me when we went shooting. I’m scared to fly back home now!

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

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

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 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:

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