Northwest

Nothing is simple anymore is it? Used to as a kid, I grabbed my trusty ole’ double barrel .20 gauge whether I was going dove, quail, duck, goose or turkey hunting. Now? Ha, everyone thinks they need three to five different shotguns and four to five different chokes.

MCCALL — The trails program on the Payette National Forest’s McCall and New Meadows Ranger Districts have a busy 2021 field season planned. A news release announced that priority projects include three bridge replacements which were funded in part by an Idaho Parks and Recreation grant and work under the Great American Outdoors Act, in addition to annual maintenance of the trail system.

One of the many wonderful things about birding as a hobby is that you can do it anywhere, anytime. You really don’t need any equipment if you are happy just to listen. At most, a pair of binocular puts you in the club.

Idaho Press, in conjunction with Idaho Parks and Recreation, presents a series that takes a close look at the breathtaking, natural beauty and amenities surrounding us in “Exploring Idaho Parks.”

Storm clouds, rough surf, winds and slightly colder temperatures. It doesn’t sound like a tourist ad for visiting the Oregon Coast, but March is one of my favorite times to get an ocean fix for a change of pace in the winter.

The end of ski/snowboarding season always seems to creep up on us and leave an empty space for exhilarating, mountain-air fun that must wait until the next year rolls around to be fulfilled again. But local resorts are putting the kibosh to the end-of-season blues.

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The International Fly Fishing Film Festival announced it is coming virtually to all of Idaho and Montana beginning on Feb. 24, featuring 11 films, 6- to 16-minutes in length, from all corners of the globe showcasing “the passion, lifestyle, and culture of fly fishing,” said the press release.

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For the next two columns I was about to write a couple of turkey articles but since I went varmint hunting Tuesday, I had to do one last varmint hunting article for the winter. On this hunt a buddy and I were checking out a new ranch. The rancher had invited us down so it was more of an exploratory visit/scouting trip than a hunt this time.

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It doesn’t seem quite right that some birds eat other birds. I’m not sure why that strikes me as slightly off kilter. Maybe it’s just me. Mammals (us) eat mammals (cow), fish (salmon) eat fish (herring), reptiles (alligators) eat reptiles (turtles), and amphibians (bullfrogs) eat amphibians (other frogs). By the way, like us, bullfrogs eat just about every other thing out there. If a bullfrog can get it in its mouth, down it goes.

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Rocket boxes are common place on everything from SUVs to pickup trucks. Got to carry all your outdoors gear, right?

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BOISE — Mike Cooley and Tom Platt, who built George’s Cycles into a Boise dynasty over the last 40 years, fell in love with riding 10-speeds when they were 15. Once they learned how to race bikes, and then bought George’s in 1981, they put the hammer down, as they say in cycling lingo.

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On April 29, 2020, in my column “Owls in the House,” I talked about a small part of our experience with western screech-owls nesting in a nest box in our yard in the spring of 2020. On Jan. 23 of this year, a western screech-owl made its first return to the box (that we know of) while we were eating breakfast. We don’t know if a pair will nest again, but it’s a good time to talk about this species, the box, and the video camera set up. Maybe you can have owls, too.

It’s always fun to discover a new place to take a stroll, and there are plenty of them in Idaho from the high desert to mountain ridges.

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I’ve been in South Dakota the last two weeks. I got out just in time before the Arctic Blast hit. It is -14 there this morning. I’m sure if you live in South Dakota spring is the furthest thing from your mind. But flying back into Boise Friday night I was greeted by warm weather. Saturday, I woke up and came to the realization that I had narrowly escaped the second Ice Age and spring may only be two-three months off here at home!

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The annual snow goose spectacle at Fort Boise Wildlife Management Area (WMA) will not occur this spring, as the wetlands that attract the birds are without water due to construction.

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Two picnic areas are being developed on the upper end of Lucky Peak Reservoir that will make a couple of neat areas to enjoy the canyon just below Arrowrock Dam.

Ok, I’m not a hard-core died-in-the-wool ice fisherman. I’m a fair weathered ice fisherman. Well, I guess there’s no such thing as a fair weathered fisherman or you’d never go ice fishing. It’s always cold or there’s no ice. Let me give you a couple of examples.

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There are several annual events in the world of birding. I wrote about the Audubon Christmas Bird Count several weeks ago. The Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) is another one. This year, it will be held Feb. 12-15, 2021.

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“Communion with the spirits is perpetuated through contact with the soil in which the ancestors of the tribe lie buried.”

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After providing countless days of outdoor recreation for hunters this fall and winter, Fish and Game’s Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) are ready for a rest and a refocus.

My wife and I cross-country ski quite often at Bear Basin Nordic Center east of New Meadows. We drive by the Little Ski Hill all the time. Recently, we decided to stop and take a look.

Hunters wanting to participate in this spring’s controlled hunts for turkey can apply from Feb. 1 through March 1. Spring 2021 turkey controlled hunt information is in the 2020-21 Upland Game, Turkey and Furbearer Seasons and Rules book.

Horsethief Reservoir continues to be a camping and fishing destination for outdoor enthusiasts across Idaho. As visitation continues to increase, the need has arisen to provide more structured camping to protect the very environment that visitors travel to Horsethief to enjoy.

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After we first got married, Katy periodically referred to me as the eternal tightwad. I told her that I wasn’t a tightwad, that I didn’t have much as a kid and that I’m just thrifty. She put both hands on her hips and said, well, you’ve carried it to a new level. You’re not a kid anymore and have a good job. Quit buying cheap stuff. OK, maybe I had carried it to a new level. Then one of my good buddy’s was of the same mindset as Katy. They soon had me persuaded.

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As I was talking to my wife about possible new topics for this column, she casually threw out the idea, “How about songs about birds or songs with birds in them?” I thought, that’s a fun idea. I can think of a few right off the bat I can work with — “Blackbird” by The Beatles, “Free Bird” by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and one of my favorite songs of all time, “White Bird” by It’s A Beautiful Day.

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Winter anglers in southern Idaho will have more opportunity to pursue rainbow trout because of donations from local fish producers.

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JACKSON — Zach Turnbull could barely make out the emaciated grizzly bear’s inside-lip tattoo, and when he did decipher the digits — 168 — they just didn’t seem right.

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For the most part hunting is over. Yea, there may be a couple of late season depredation hunts around the country but still it’s pretty much done for the winter. But back away from the edge. Before you jump, read on.

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We’ve already looked at the 18 most common birds on feeders in Idaho last winter. These data come from Project FeederWatch, one of many excellent programs at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. You can visit the FeederWatch website and explore population trends of these bird species and many others at feederwatch.org.

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The intensity in those wise eyes. The resolute expression on his lean, weathered face. I’m fixated on watching him, but his gaze is locked straight up; he’s fixated on sussing out the route. John is completely focused, almost unaware of me, standing there, staring as intently at him as he is at the cliff face above.

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Those are the findings from a study led by University of Idaho graduate student Savannah Rogers and associate professor of wildlife sciences Ryan Long. Their research, published in Functional Ecology, shows that grizzly bears in Yellowstone National Park bathe in cool water to prevent overheating.

The Snake River is the lifeblood of southern Idaho and a mighty force. Across millennia, its waters have carved deep canyons in the desert basalt, plunging over waterfalls of staggering heights, irrigating the agricultural heartland of the state, and providing drinking water for over 300,000 Idahoans that derives from the vast Eastern Snake Plain Aquifer. It also creates some of the most surprising and wild geologic features found anywhere in the state.

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Had a fun week last week. The owner of Knives of Alaska, Charles Allen, called me a while back and asked me if I’d be interested in helping him do a project in which we’d bone out a wagyu steer, a hog and a deer.

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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology has been the center of bird science in the U.S., and in many ways the world, since it was created by Arthur A. Allen in 1915. Showing that birds weren’t always the star of wildlife research, the lab was originally located in the university’s entomology (bugs) and limnology (fresh water) department.

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FAIRFIELD — Soldier Mountain announced in a press release it fired up its new snow guns Saturday night. As a result, the resort was able to open up its new magic carpet and the beginner hill Sunday for the first time this season.

The Idaho Chapter of the Sierra Club announced the “Wild & Scenic Film Festival” is coming virtually to Idaho on Friday, Jan. 8. The film festival aims “to kickstart and inspire another year of conservation history in Idaho,” the press release said.

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Ok, I don’t want to say that hunting—and—fishing has eternal consequences but since most people are going to break their New Year’s resolutions let’s at least make some temporal outdoor New Year’s resolutions!

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The Ethiopia border is still shut. Alternate routes through South Sudan or Somalia are tempting, but a tad too treacherous for my taste.

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We’ve been working our way through the top 25 feeder birds in Idaho last winter (2019-2020), as reported by Project FeederWatch. We’re down to No. 14, the mourning dove. This native dove has been on a downward trend since at least the winter of 2007-2008. Last winter’s ranking was the lowest yet.