Those deadly shopping carts

The day all started off innocent enough. My wife, Katy, taught school at Nampa Christian Schools, and my two daughters went to school there. Well, it just so happened that I got off work early one day, so I thought I’d go pick up the kids, go get some ice cream and have a fun daddy-daughter afternoon.

As I was about to leave with the kids, Katy informed me that she had to stay late for a teacher’s meeting and one of her teaching buddies, Mrs. Schierman, wanted to know if I’d take her kids home so they didn’t have to sit around school waiting on her. I said, “Sure, no problem,” but that I had to stop by the grocery store to grab a few things first if they didn’t mind the stop.

(I remembered the time I was walking home from grade school and a classmate, Nancy Spiller, drove by with her mom and said they’d give me a ride home. As we were driving home, suddenly Nancy’s mom remembered that they had to run downtown right fast to her husband’s sign shop. By the time I got home, I had lost 20 minutes of football playing time with my neighborhood buddies. I’ve been traumatized ever since.)

Mrs. Schierman said that’d be fine — it’d still be better than them sitting at school by themselves for two hours. I told her I’d get everyone a treat.

Well, we got to the grocery store, and as we were going up and down the aisles shopping, I suddenly got the urge to take out hauling and then jump up on the grocery cart and coast down the aisle. But every time I’d halfway get going, some old person would totter out in the way and I’d have to hit the brakes.

It was like they had bused every nursing home to the store that day. I’d barely get going, and every 15 feet someone would step out in front of me. So keep that picture in your mind for a minute and we’ll come back to it.

We grabbed whatever vital items I had to get and went out to the car. I put the kids in the car, unloaded the groceries and then turned to push the cart to the cart rack. Suddenly I had a magnificent brainstorm. There were no old people or crowds out here in the parking lot to impede my runs. I had it all to myself! And the cart was empty. I could run as fast as I wanted to. What good fortune had befallen me.

I had put all four kids in the Suburban, shut the door and at that moment was when my Baja 500 plan actually developed. Out in front of my car 50 yards away was the cart rack.

Immediately, I took off at full blast pushing the cart. Very few sprinters in the Olympics could of blown off the starting blocks as fast as I took off. When I was peaked out, I jumped onto the back of the cart to enjoy my ride all the way to the cart rack.

But suddenly everything went awry — like with a lot of my adventures. One second, I’m standing on the cart going 20 mph, the envy of all of the shoppers. Then in the flash of the eye — quick as lightning — the front of the cart tilted straight up. And, of course, I did a head stand inside the cart. After that, it was all a blur. The best I could tell, I went head over heels in a hot second, flipping end over end who knows how many times.

It finally all came to a sudden stop with me flipping onto my back on the asphalt as a grand finale. I had so many knots all over me I didn’t know which ones to rub first. Finally my wobbling vision came back into focus as I gingerly tried to get up into a setting position. The first thing that came into focus was four kids with their chins dropped on the dash of the Suburban, and eight eyeballs, wide open looking out the front window at me.

It was like an Evel Knievel jump gone bad. With all the kids watching, I couldn’t even lay there and lick my wounds. I had to get up and act like nothing had happened.

One of the Schierman kids said, “Wow! This is a lot more fun grocery shopping with your dad than with my mom. Does he always do this?” Kolby, eyes still big as silver dollars said, “No, this one was kinda wild even for my dad.”

And that was the last time I ever took the Schierman kids home after school again. It’d just be too hard trying to top that entertainment session!

Tom Claycomb lives in Idaho and has outdoors columns in newspapers in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Nevada, Colorado and Louisiana.

Ice fishing tournament, workshops, kids camp set for Jan. 18-20 at Hebgen Lake

WEST YELLOWSTONE, Montana — This Montana town will host an North American Ice Fishing Circuit national qualifier on Jan. 18 to 20. The qualifier — an ice fishing tournament — takes place Jan. 20 and is open to any two-person team. Teams range from locals to national level pros to teams just wanting to learn more about ice fishing. Teams can register up to 6 p.m. at the Saturday night reception and rules meeting.

The tournament is located on Hebgen Lake just outside of West Yellowstone. Kirkwood Resort & Marina is the location for the tournament starting point and Kid’s Ice Fishing Camp.

Throughout the two days preceding the tournament, there are many educational opportunities. These activities are free and open to the public.

Friday night kicks off with a chance to meet local fishermen, familiar with Hebgen Lake, along with nationally ranked ice fishermen. A social hour and informal introductory information for people new to ice fishing — and networking with experienced friends who love to ice fish — starts at 5 p.m. at West Yellowstone Holiday Inn Conference Center, 315 Yellowstone Ave. From there, people can go in groups with other fisherman to local restaurants and taverns to talk ice fishing over dinner, where “Ice Fishermen Specials” will be available for purchase.

One of the most popular activities of the weekend — the NAIFC Kid’s Free Ice Fishing Camp — will be back again on Jan. 19. The classroom portion will begin at 10 a.m. at the Holiday Inn Conference Center, then move out to Kirkwood Resort & Marina on Hebgen Lake for on-ice fishing and lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. All kids can participate, along with family members, regardless of age. This is the largest kids ice fishing camp in the Intermountain West where kids get to meet ice fishing pros and members of the USA Ice Fishing team.

On Jan. 20, the NAIFC will conduct the Hebgen Lake Qualifier with two-person teams fishing from approximately 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. for thousands of dollars in cash and prizes. At 3 p.m., the NAIFC Tournament weigh-in will be conducted at the Holiday Inn Conference Center. Cash and prizes will be awarded to the top teams. The top 10 finishing teams also receive an invitation to the NAIFC National/North American Championship to be held next December.

Make sure to bring the family and enjoy our other events and activities happening throughout West Yellowstone. Saturday and Sunday children and their families can enjoy activities like snowshoeing, M120 Kids snowmobile rides, live raptor programs from the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, s’mores, sledding and skating for free during the Kids’N’Snow Weekend.

For more information on the NAIFC, go to www.westyellowstonemticefishing.com. To enter an NAIFC qualifier, go to www.naifc.com. For information on lodging and other winter activities, go to www.DestinationYellowstone.com or contact the West Yellowstone Visitor Center at 406-646-7701.

Nine reasons to buy your 2019 hunting and fishing licenses now

A 2019 resident Sportsman’s Package is as low as $124.25 and gives you almost all of Idaho’s hunting and fishing opportunities

You need a new hunting and fishing license before your first outing of 2019. You might procrastinate, and then run around looking for an open store to buy a hunting or fishing license because you’re leaving early for your first trip — or you can buy it right away and have peace of mind, as well as a full year of hunting and fishing.

If you buy immediately, you can also take advantage of some great hunting and opportunities right now, such as:

  1. Ice fishing: It’s cool, baby. No, really, it’s cool because you’re standing on a thick sheet of ice. But ice fishing is fun, and a great way to get out of the house and catch some fish during winter. Here’s more information about Idaho’s ice fishing.
  1. You can stay Price Locked: Under Price Lock, you can keep buying licenses and tags at 2017 prices so long as you keep buying an annual hunting, fishing or trapping license. If you’re not Price Locked, you can still get 2017 prices by buying a 3-year license.
  2. You can catch a burbot: What’s a burbot? That’s a fair question because it’s a unique fish with a fishing season that opened in the Kootenai River, its tributaries and Bonner Lake on Jan. 1. Burbot are the only freshwater member of the cod family. They are a popular fish for ice anglers, known for their tasty eating and grow up to 35 inches and occasionally larger. 
  3. Steelhead fishing continues: Idaho’s “spring” season opens Jan. 1, and steelhead fishing can be good throughout winter and well into spring. Remember the daily bag limit is one steelhead for the 2019 spring season. 
  4. You can still catch trout in rivers and streams: Winter stream fishing is often an overlooked opportunity, but trout fishing can be good, especially in “tailwater” fisheries where rivers are fed by dam releases, or in parts of the state with mild climates, such as along the Snake River.
  5. One of the best times to catch whitefish: Another winter fishery that fly anglers enjoy, and many other anglers. These fish feed in riffles and aren’t fazed by the cold water, and they’re often schooled up before the spawning season. Many anglers consider smoked whitefish an Idaho delicacy.
  6. Hunt game animals that you may have overlooked: The hunting season for cottontail rabbits, snowshoe hares and red squirrels lasts through March 31, so if you want to keep hunting, you have those options, and you probably won’t have a lot of competition.
  7. Late-season upland bird hunting continues: Hunting season remains open for chukar, Hungarian partridge, California quail and forest grouse during January in most areas, and late-season hunting can be good for those birds. See the upland game bird rules booklet for season dates.
  8. It’s only midway through the waterfowl season: Most duck and Canada geese seasons are open during at least part of January, into February for white-fronted geese, and as late as March (light geese) in parts of the state. See the migratory bird hunting rules booklet seasons because closure dates vary depending on species and location.
  9. Hunt for large predators: Mountain lion and wolf hunting seasons are open during winter depending on location. See big game hunting rules for specific seasons.

If you want the full-meal deal, go for the resident Sportsman’s Package for 2019. It costs $124.25 if you’re Price Locked, or $144.60 if you’re not, and you get the nearly all the hunting and fishing opportunities Idaho has to offer. The Sportsman’s Package includes a resident adult hunting and fishing license, plus tags for deer, elk, bear, mountain lion, wolf, turkey, salmon and steelhead. Archery and muzzleloader are validated on the license. (You still need a federal migratory bird permit and waterfowl stamp for those species.) 

Christmas 2018

This year my wife and I decided not to give each other Christmas gifts with the exception of a traditional gift that my father-in-law gave each of his daughters every Christmas as they were growing up, and I have tried to continue since his death.

Besides, we had to replace our furnace and ended up replacing the water heater also and getting a new air conditioning unit this past year.

My brother decided to come get his gun vault that he kept in our house and gave it to his son along with his rifles and shot gun. I had been keeping a couple of my rifles in that gun vault also, so I had to buy a second gun vault for my own rifles.

We just decided that we each had bought ourselves enough stuff this year that we could count those things as our Christmas presents purchased early out of necessity.

All the brothers and sisters in both my wife’s and my family decided several years ago to just send each other Christmas cards since all our families were growing and the expense of sending gifts to our children and grandchildren was high enough, especially when you have to mail those gifts to places all over the country. In some cases, we have just sent cash to the grandchildren so they can buy whatever they want as long as the amount we sent will cover the cost.

We did Have a Christmas Eve dinner at Mandarin House with my sister’s family, and a family dinner at my sister’s house on Christmas Day with her daughter’s husband and children from Las Vegas.

Getting our two families together for Christmas Eve and Christmas day dinner is a tradition also. We have a program where everyone participates, and I tell a Christmas story about miners, cowboys or others in the old West during the mid to late 1800s. Usually I’m asked to tell the story about the gold miner’s having Santa Claus visit them at the Yankee Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho. After all the funny stuff, my niece’s husband — who is the serious member of the family — reads the Christmas story to remind us what Christmas is really about.

This year, we were treated to my sister’s oldest son playing “Silent Night” on a mini kazoo, my sister’s niece doing a circular presentation of being cooked in a micro wave oven, my sister reciting a poem, my niece reading a story about a toboggan running over a bobcat, which was presumed dead and waking up at exactly the wrong moment. Funny stuff.

It is fun to get together with family and learn of each others talents. I had never heard “Silent Night” played on a mini kazoo, and I’m not sure I want to have that experience again. At the time, I was disappointed that he only played one verse, but it was probably for the best. I also learned that portraying a chicken being roasted in a micro wave oven is an art form.

We decided not to stay for the Muppet Christmas movie, as we had a couple of dogs at the house and we needed to get home and see what they had been up to.

The snow we woke up to on Christmas morning was a welcome sight. My wife had been praying for a white Christmas but with no snow by late Monday night, it didn’t look like a white Christmas would happen this year. Before I could get dressed and shovel our drive way and sidewalk, the youth in the neighborhood beat me to it. That was a nice surprise. My only worry was that they do that primarily for the old folks who aren’t able to shovel their own driveways and sidewalks and might slip and fall. Are those kids trying to tell us something?

Smokey Merkley was raised in Idaho and has been hunting since he was 10 years old. He can be contacted at mokeydo41245@hotmail.com.

Netflix hunting show opens headquarters in Bozeman

Inspired by Montana’s culture of outdoor recreation, a popular hunting show is moving its headquarters to Bozeman.

“MeatEater,” currently in its seventh season, follows its host Steven Rinella as he hunts, fishes and cooks game around the world. It’s also part of an outdoor media company that regularly posts recipes and articles about conservation to its website.

The show has filmed several times in Montana and hosts plan on shooting more episodes in the state, after receiving a $40,000 film grant from the Montana Department of Commerce to feature Montana locations in the video series. It will be the first Netflix series shot in Montana with support from the Big Sky Film Grant. Montana-based investment firm Next Frontier Capital has also invested in the show.

“We’ve filmed from South America to Alaska,” Rinella said. “It’s always been a goal of mine to get back here, especially after having kids.”

Rinella has been hunting since he was a kid and would trap muskrats with his friends to sell them for their hides. He previously lived in Montana for about 10 years, after getting his master of fine arts in creative nonfiction from the University in Montana.

He has written for Outside magazine and a few other publications.

The show originally started in 2012 with four staff members, but it has grown to 18 employees, and Rinella said it plans to hire more from within and outside Bozeman. There was a consensus among employees that Bozeman was the right place to base operations, he said, with a university to draw from and plenty of amenities to make people want to make the town their home.

The show and its media company offer content contributor, editorial, leadership and production positions. It has already hired Kevin Sloan as its CEO, the former president of Sitka hunting gear.

There wasn’t really a second choice for relocation after Bozeman, which offers a well-connected airport, quality workforce and a culture of outdoor recreation. Not to mention, Montana’s known for its public land.

“There’s literally no other place I’d rather live, nor a more authentic home for ‘MeatEater,’” Rinella said in a press release.

Smoking salmon

There was definitely a miracle on 34th Street or whatever street the Claycomb house is on the night before Christmas Eve. While digging through the freezer to find something or the other, I found one last package of salmon fillets. It was a fillet of silvers from two years ago while fishing with Alaska Expedition. The Claycomb girls were rejoicing — which brings up the topic of this week’s article: How to smoke salmon.

There are a lot of good ways to cook salmon but the two favorite methods in my house are blackened and smoked.

Blackening is not hard. Skin the salmon. I like to use a pair of needle-nose pliers and pull out all of the bones. Next, melt a little butter in a Lodge cast iron skillet. Drop the fillet in the butter and then flip. Pull it out and sprinkle on heavily some Paul Prudhomme’s Blackened Redfish spices. The butter will cause the spices to stick to the fillet.

Add a little butter to the skillet and turn up the heat. The Cajuns say to do this outside because you want the skillet smoking. I don’t cook it quite that hot, but you do want it to semi-burn a crust on the outside pretty fast. If the heat is too low, it will cook the fish throughout and be dry. You want to get a blackened crust on the outside, but the inside of the fillet should be almost rare or at least moist. Salmon is great blackened.

But the way that my girls like it best is smoked. So that’s what we’re going to focus on today. Here’s how I do it. Leave the skin on (I’ll explain why later). Pull the bones with a pair of needle-nose pliers.

Mix 3 to 4 cups of warm water with ¾ cup brown sugar, ¼ cup white sugar, salt, little pepper, ginger and stir. You can marinate your fillet in a cake pan or it works nice to put it in a plastic bag. Squeeze the air out of the bag so the marinade and bag are semi-tight against the fillet.

Marinating fish or jerky in a bag is nice because every hour you can massage it and not even get your hands dirty. On fish, I just flip it, which will help ensure that all surface areas are being marinated.

I like to let my salmon marinate at least four hours. In the old days, I’d smoke it on my smoker or grill on a piece of foil, skin side down. But that holds in the moisture so it tastes broiled instead of smoked. Here’s the best way. Smoke your salmon on a board, skin side down. The skin will stick to the board but no big deal because you aren’t going to eat the skin anyway.

The Native Americans will tell you to use a cedar plank but an oak cutting board or whatever will work fine. I soak my board in water before smoking to prevent it from burning, but most of my smoking boards are all charred on bottom.

For ease and consistency, I use a Camp Chef wood pellet grill. That way I can regulate the heat to a T, and it still has a good smoke flavor. I suppose any flavor of wood is good, but on fish I prefer apple.

Smoking on a wood plank lets the moisture run off so you get a dried fillet instead of a water-logged, broiled-tasting piece of fish.

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.

Lake Cascade perch fishing to remain good, but jumbos may decline

Since 2012, Fish and Game’s McCall fisheries staff has conducted annual fall surveys on Lake Cascade — which has produced two world record perch and several state records in recent years — by using gillnets and recording the species and sizes of captured fish.

Overall, perch numbers are similar to 2017 numbers, but down from annual surveys since 2012 at the lake, which is about 88 miles north of Boise. Also, perch greater than 10 inches dominate the population and have since 2014-2015.

This information is used by McCall’s fishery staff to manage game fish in the reservoir. In particular, biologists monitor yellow perch and northern pikeminnow populations.

Perch are the most popular fish for anglers in the lake, and pikeminnow predation is the single biggest threat to the perch population. Biologists also monitor smallmouth bass, rainbow trout and kokanee numbers.

Change is normal

Changes in the perch population since 2012 were expected because perch populations are cyclical by nature.

Over the past five years, anglers have enjoyed fishing on a very large group of large perch, commonly known as jumbos, which were produced shortly after perch fishery restoration work was completed in 2006.

In Lake Cascade, the main food source for perch is smaller perch. But from 2006 thru 2012, there was a new, and relatively small perch population with fewer large perch to eat the smaller perch.

That enabled a large portion of those smaller fish to survive and grow relatively unchecked into the amazing perch fishery that in recent years produced numerous trophy-sized fish, including two world records and several state records.

Highlights for 2018 included the new Idaho state catch-and-release record, and the North American Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame’s all tackle, catch-and-release world record, which was a 17-inch perch caught in May by David Ekmark.

The large number of big perch anglers enjoyed the last few years has had a huge impact on young perch survival. As you can see in the chart above, the numbers of 7 to 10 inch fish has declined over the last couple years. This is a direct result of predation on small perch.

Because there are fewer 7- to 10-inch perch to replace the big perch being harvested and dying of old age, the number of perch larger than 10 inches will decline over the next few years.

But as the number of big perch declines from old age and angler harvest, predation on small perch is also reduced, which allows more smaller perch to become the next generation of jumbos.

Small perch up to 8 inches are also the primary food for pikeminnow, and predation by pickminnows is the primary threat to the perch fishery in Lake Cascade, so biologists and staff have continued pikeminnow removal each spring since 2012.

Biologists have also monitored the harvest rates of perch over 10 inches with tagging studies to evaluate if harvest restrictions are needed to protect those larger fish.

The tagged fish anglers catch and report is valuable information to determine if harvest rates are too much to maintain large perch numbers. Results of those studies indicated most perch greater than 10 inches actually die of old age, or other natural causes, rather than being caught by anglers.

No walleyes is good news

The first and only documented walleye was caught by an angler in Lake Cascade in May of this year. Fish and Game is highly concerned about the illegal introduction of walleye in the lake because predation by pikeminnow caused the perch population to collapse in the 2000s. And illegal walleye stocking could add another predator that could potentially wipe out the perch fishery. Biologists did not collect any walleye during the fall survey.

Rainbows trout, smallmouth and kokanee population remain healthy

Cascade’s rainbow trout and kokanee fisheries are a direct result of annual stockings, and smallmouth bass are a self-sustaining population that Fish and Game monitors.

Surveys showed good numbers of rainbow trout in the fall, ranging from 12 to 25 inches, with most in the 10- to 16-inch range. Fish and Game recently switched to stocking 12-inch rainbows, which resulted in better survival. The fishing outlook is excellent for rainbow trout in 2019.

Surveys also showed kokanee at nearly every netting site in 2018. Most were in the 12-inch to 15-inch range.

Netting also collected a large number of 10-inch to 18-inch smallmouth bass, with half of those larger than 14 inches, and the largest at nearly 20 inches.

In summary, annual fish surveys are vital to managing Lake Cascade and its world-class perch fishery. While Fish and Game expects a decline in the number of jumbo perch over the next few years, biologists don’t expect them to vanish entirely.

Plus, they expect a strong rebound in the following years as long as pikeminnow numbers are held in check and illegal walleye introductions stop and fail to establish a population.

If anyone catches a walleye in Lake Cascade please report it with a picture to the McCall office at 208-634-8137, or the Nampa office at 208-465-8465.

People can salvage some road-killed wildlife in idaho

If people find animals struck by vehicles, many are legal to salvage

Winter is a tough time for wildlife, especially big game, because it can be among the most hazardous seasons for them. Deer, elk and other animals are usually congregated in lowlands commonly known as “winter range,” which is often near cities, communities and highways. That also puts them close to vehicle traffic, and road kills are evidence of the toll highways can take on wintering animals.

Motorists are encouraged to be especially watchful for wildlife during winter, especially at night, or during morning and evening hours when animals are most active. Vehicle/animal collisions are dangerous, expensive, and obviously harmful to wildlife.

If you encounter an animal that’s been hit by a vehicle, you’re allowed to salvage some animals. People can salvage and keep wildlife classified as upland birds, upland game animals, big game, furbearers and predators that are lawfully hunted or trapped in the event that one of those animals has been accidentally killed by a vehicle.

Here’s a list of salvageable species:

Unprotected non-game wildlife are also legal for salvage. However, many animals are not allowed for salvage, including protected non-game wildlife, animals that are federally protected under the Threatened or Endangered Species Act, migratory birds (which are also federally protected), and other wildlife species that cannot be lawfully hunted or trapped.

Before considering salvaging any animal, also remember there are rules you must follow:

Animal must have been struck by accidental vehicle collisions.

Before you claim any roadkill salvage, consider the safety of yourself and fellow travelers. Always abide by traffic and safety laws.

You have 24 hours to notify Fish and Game, and 72 hours to obtain a salvage permit. You may self-report online, or by phone to Fish and Game regional offices.

When calling after hours it’s important to leave your full name, phone number, address and location of the salvage so a permit can be mailed. If self-reporting online, a printable permit will be generated. Salvage permits are free.

People salvaging and consuming the meat do so at their own risk.

All mandatory check requirements still apply if an animal that’s salvaged requires check in. These animals include black bears, wolves, mountain lions, bobcats and otters.

On July 1, dispatch of wildlife severely injured in a vehicle collision also became legal under the following conditions:

A person considering dispatching a struck animal must follow all other laws, such as not discharging a firearm from or across a public highway, respecting trespass laws, and other general firearms statutes, transportation laws, or other provisions such as a city ordinance prohibiting discharge within city limits.

It is the responsibility of the person who dispatches the injured wildlife to do so safely and not create an additional traffic hazard.