Willow Creek to Picabo to The Trask and Back - The Fall Tour Tour


Above the Hills

A crisp morning greeted the opening of mule deer hunting in Southeastern Oregon. From our position above Buzzards Roost, the sage covered hills rolled out below us.

We manned the hilltop glassing the draws and coverts for mule deer resting in the shaded eaves and under juniper trees. After about an hour, no deer were spotted. Quickly forming a new plan, we decided to flush out the long draw below the rocks. The hike was on.

My route would take me west over the crest and then across the face walking toward a grove of junipers ringed by diatomaceous earth on the south side. The grove drops into a deep pocket and is usually a great place for muley's to hang out.

No sign. No deer. No regrets. Taking the .270 for a three hour trek is great for the soul. Unfortunately, the rest of the season stacked up to be a giant goose egg. No venison for the freezer this year.

Crossing the Green

After tromping through the sage for a week, The Fall Tour took a hard right and descended upon Willow Creek to chase quail and pheasant. As usual, the neighbors set out an appropriate greeting to the hunters.

Even with the furtive plea, the crew opted for the green hay fields and standing corn where the dogs are keen to please and the shooting chaotic at its best.

Like years past, the usual suspects gathered after the first push to consult with the dogs and replenish  with a few cigars and morning brews.

This trip featured a couple of new arrivals. One of them, Sage, a year old Springer Spaniel, nailed her first rooster in a wild flush at the bottom of a ditch. The bird broke for the air and was dropped by the Redneck in expert fashion. Sage quickly pounced on the bird and brought it back to hand. A fitting close to a great day in the field.

To Water

 As in years past, the adventure continued in central Idaho just outside the little town (a gas station, store, fly shop and farm store) of Picabo and Silver Creek. For three days we roamed the gin clear waters, casting the tiniest dry flies and emergers we could find, but the stream beat us.

A big weather change was on its way, so I figure the barometric pressure influence of the fish was the main reason we didn't bring many to hand. However, the activity in camp was enough to keep us interested.

Just when you thought there was nothing left to see, along comes a small herd of moose. A Momma, Daddy and a couple recent arrivals. A yearling and a calf.

Idaho moose are Shiras moose, the smallest of the four North American subspecies, weighing between 600-1400 pounds. Bulls can grow to seven feet tall at the shoulder and can be 10 feet in length. Females are about three quarters the size. In the last half century, Idaho's Shiras moose population has grown from a thousand animals to an estimated 10,000 to 12,000.

Up the South Fork

The tour took a different course this year. Unfortunately, I was unable to take part in the annual archery elk hunt in Northeastern Oregon, or the pheasant hunt in North Dakota. With the mule deer hunt yielding a goose egg, I opted to try the Oregon coast range for elk during the second season rifle hunt. After scouting different areas, my hunting partner Ben and I choose the south fork of the Trask River as the unit that would most likely give us the opportunity to fill our tags.

Hunting elk is never easy. Hunting Roosevelt Elk in Oregon's Coast Range presents a few extra difficulties usually not experienced hunting Rocky Mountain Elk east of the Cascades. 
First, it's usually raining, which means even if you're wearing great rain gear, you're wet. In addition, the terrain is vertical and crowded with underbrush except in clear cuts and rare meadows, making it difficult to impossible to stalk and see. The Trask Unit is also designated as a "spike only" hunt, limiting the available animals a hunter can harvest.

Four days leading up to Thanksgiving, we drove logging roads all along the south fork and posted up in the evenings and mornings in clear cuts waiting for the forest ghosts to emerge. Throughout the week, we didn't hear a shot echo across the hills or see any elk. But that's the nature of hunting. Sometimes you score. Sometimes you don't.

Roads End

So there it is. Stay tuned.

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The Art of Driving Around and Looking at (Stuff) - D.A.L.A.S.

The Art of Driving Around and Looking at (Stuff) is a particular art-form practiced by anyone who takes up a fishing rod or firearm and ventures into the far reaches of the unknown.  
Commonly referred to as D.A.L.A.S, the art-form doesn't really demand anything but time, and, well,  maybe gas money. Its best utilized on days when the river is out and running chocolate, or the wind is too strong for pheasants to fly, or you're committed to finding an access point in an area you know nothing about and you were too broke or stupid to hire a guide.

Once you've decided to D.A.L.A.S., anything can happen. You can:

1.  Race around western North Dakota or northeastern Montana chasing the sunset because 1) you're out of beer, and 2) you're lost.

2.  Have a rousing non-political conversation with a South Carolina goober flyfishing the Missouri.

3.  Travel the old John Wayne Trail in the Palouse country of eastern Washington and find a little creek called Rock Creek famous for its lunker brown trout and difficult access. You'll also figure out that stepping on the rocks in the river will keep you out of the way of rattlesnakes.

 4.  Sit and watch the rain splatter on the windshield while a pretty girl dead-drifts a nymph through a tight seam at Max Canyon on Oregon's Deschutes River.

You can pull off the dirt road and watch in wonder as the sun comes up for a new day and the next adventure ahead.

So there it is. Stay tuned.
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Brushing Bunny and Other Tales of the CF Guide Service

Springtime on the Missouri River brings out the best. Half way between Helena and Great Falls, Montana, the Mo hosts a stretch of fine water that's home to huge wild rainbow and brown trout. Upriver, and downstream from Craig MT, the water is clear, cold and at varying depths, fishable from the bank or from a drifter.

The American White Pelican is also a fan of the Missouri. These birds are one of the longest birds native to North America, weighing in around 11 to 30 lbs, with a wingspan up to 120 (10 ft.) inches. They prefer to feed in groups, swimming across the water to scoop up fish near the surface, with incredible grace and agility.

Typical American White Pelican equipped with a wading stick, Orvis fly rod and sunscreen.

Most of the other fishermen on the Mo are graceful and deadly except for the human kind ballooned in waders, clutching a fly rod and wading stick, humping an overfilled fishing vest through knee deep water to slide a streamer pattern through a nice looking seam. It's a sight you see a lot of during the spring, especially if unseasonable warm weather kicks-off the snow melt early, blowing out most of the other rivers on both sides of the Rockies with high, muddy water.

The CFGS Trudges Onward

The Cluster F#$%$# Guide Service holds a regular annual meeting each spring on the Missouri to plan the years' activities such as pheasant hunting in eastern Oregon and North Dakota, deer, elk and antelope hunts, fly fishing the Deschutes and Yakima Rivers, steelhead on the Grande Ronde and other such adventures in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Carolina, West Virginia and Vermont.

Aptly named because the meetings are truly a cluster - there's a lot of "brushing bunny"-screwing around trying to get ones stuff into one pile etc. etc. etc.

 CFGS meetings regularly feature the mundane and usual broken rods, run-over shotguns, lost knives, forgotten wading boots, holed waders, dog bites, mud stuck vehicles, lost fly boxes and occasional hangover. The meetings have even seen a broken rib, pulled groin muscle, sprained ankle, blown wheel bearings, wind damaged trailer, a truck in the ditch and every other sort of screw up inherent to men of a certain age acting like boys of a certain age.

 The springtime meet is indeed a planning session, but for the most part, it's all about the fish. The first days on the river turned out to be the best. Cool, slight breeze and heavy overcast turned out to be the perfect condition for dry fly and nymph fishing. As usual, we hooked up with a guide from Headhunters Flyshop out of Craig, MT and set off for a day on the river. Around 10 am, the insect activity really started to come off with fish rising in several areas we crossed.

Under the tutelage of guide Brent Lobbestael from Headhunters, the Redneck and I worked the river hard through mid morning and the afternoon. We didn't catch a lot of fish, but the ones we caught were in the 18 inch to 22 inch range. A good selection of rainbow and brown. If you want a good day on the river, call Headhunters and ask for Brent. He'll treat you right.  http://www.headhuntersflyshop.com

The other members of CFGS teamed up with Pruitt guide Darrel Deleon and enjoyed a good day with dry flies and nymphs. By all accounts, they had a stellar day casting dry flies and landing big fish.

The Scenery Can Steal The Show

No doubt about it. Montana in the spring is one stunning space. Snow capped mountains and velvety green hills and fields. Crystal clear water and crisp blue skies touched with a cool breeze keeps the spirits right in line with the wild adventures.

A Quick Salute to Headhunters Flyshop

In the three years I've been coming to the Missouri to fish, we've always used Headhunter's as the go to flyshop and guide service and had zero complaints. They do things right. And one of the those things happens to be their Veteran Boat program. If you're a Veteran, Headhunters has two boats that they lend out on a first come, first serve basis at no charge. We took advantage of the program on two occasions and are totally grateful for the service. Thanks again Headhunters. 

What About the Writing?

 I am currently working on a new novel that should be finished in January...I hope. My other responsibilities as a contributing editor and fire columnist at Timber West Magazine and training duties at the Grand Avenue Boxing Club have increased, cutting into my writing time, thus pushing the end date for the new book further out. However, my latest novel, The Grow, in ebook and paperback, and short story collection, Six Short, for Kindle only, are available on Amazon. You are encouraged to seek them out and, of course, buy them.

On Sale NOW @ $2.99 - eBook
            $10.50 - Paperback
On Sale NOW @ $1.99  Kindle only

An author friend has also just released her latest book in her Quirky Landlord series. Entitled, The Quirky Landlord's Romp, Wrangle & Warble,is also available in paperback on Amazon.
$9.50 in paperback

So there it is. Stay tuned.

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Hip Shots 1.8

A mass of shorthairs play grab ass prior to getting down to the brass tacks of hunting up planted pheasant at the annual "Let's Run Our Dogs" pheasant shoot held this year at Mayville Flats.

Located near Condon, Mayville looks like it will be a favorite for the event, which is put together just so the dogs have something to do before the actual season six months down the road. It's also good for the handlers to get the recoil bump of 12 ga. shotguns.

Brings us all back to the reasons we hunt.

Notes From the Field

Our Texas compatriot, Sgt. Rob, writes about his exotic Texas hunt.:
  "In case you were unfamiliar, Texas has a lot of opportunity to hunt free range African game. Ranchers in the 1920's and 30's began importing all kinds of game to Texas to raise and provide hunting opportunities. This year I was one of 36 to hunt on 22,000 acres of state land north of Del Rio. The area has all kinds of wild sheep, Axis deer, wild hogs, javelina, white tail deer and more. 

"The most sought after sheep in the area is the Aoudad, or Barbary Sheep. I hunted 4 days in rough, middle eastern terrain but never connect with an aoudad. However, on the 3rd day, I stalked and shot two Corsican rams which made my 7 hour drive worthwhile... I had a great hunt."

New to the Crew

Word has it out of our crazy brother to the North that there's a new member to the dog crew, who may see some action in NDak later this fall. Her name is Sage. English Springer Spaniel. Damn good dogs.


Dogs give us great pleasure, frustration. humor and, ultimately in the end, great sorrow. They're with us for years as treasured loved ones, constant companions, hunting partners, confessors and counselors. Unfortunately, their life span isn't the same as ours. It's a hard fact that's even more difficult to realize when we have to say goodbye. They are never forgotten.
Mini Gun - Yellow Lab      

Zoey - Springer Spaniel
Buck - German Shorthair Pointer

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Keeping It in the Family 15

"December. The air was cold and sharp and held a rumor of snow. The general elk season closed and the special hunts ended last week. All them out-of-towners and trophy hunters were gone. Local boys from neighboring ranches came down from the mountains and gathered for the last hunt on the last day of the pheasant season. No paid hunters invited. It was an annual event. Drink a few tall one, shoot some roosters and roast hot dogs at 4 Mesa Ranch." - Days End at 4 Mesa

The annual "Family Hunt" was again well attended this year at the ranch. The local boys  converged early to stomp through soggy fields and corn stubble to kick out the remaining pheasants and quail before the end of the season slammed the door on upland hunting. 

It had been raining for several days prior to the hunt, slopping up the fields and making travel on dirt roads tricky. No one bitched about the rain. After record heat and a summer without water, any precipitation was welcomed. 

The hunt centered on ditch banks, corn stubble and CRP. Most of the hay fields were cut or turned for replanting. We decided to leave the chukar alone, so no one humped up the sage hills. Travel to the top would have meant chaining up ATV's or hiking muddy paths. Too much work for a laid back day chasing a pointer around in the drizzle.
Despite the dampness, the hunt turned in some fine numbers. Everyone got some shooting, some even got some hitting. The lunch break count was up from last year and we had the whole afternoon to hunt if the weather held.
However, nobody really cared at that point. It was time to burn the dogs...Elk Sausage hot dogs, cooked over an open fire on a unique farmer only apparatus - the pitchfork.
The chow hit the spot. The chef agreed to pose with his urban camo assault vehicle out near the corrals. Red solo cup and 12 ga. included.
Again, as tradition requires, the fire was stoked and the chairs positioned. Try to get the dogs in the photo if they behave. Fill the cup and smile.
It was a good day for the Willow Creek goobers.

What About the Writing?

Look for a collection of short stories entitle "Short Six" coming in February. It will be published in the Kindle format and available exclusively on Amazon. Some of the work has already been seen in a few different magazines, while other pieces debut in ink.
So there it is...Stay tuned.
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