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From the Mouth of the River

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Photo by Jay Mock Photo by Jay Mock

It's the annual wildlife report

Well it’s time again for my annual wildlife report. As you may know I live in the wildlife wintering grounds here where Trestle Creek intersects Highway 200. We have about three miles of low ridges, and creek bottom land along both sides of Trestle Creek. A saddle separates Trout Creek from Trestle Creek behind our home and is a main thoroughfare for migrating game.

When winter sets in and the snow starts to deepen it pushes the big game down out of the high country and their competition for winter food starts to heighten. As winter progresses the food diminishes and the game animals start to use up their stored fat. This is an annual event. The depth of the snow determines how high up the slopes deer and elk can find feed. The winter of 07/08 we had heavy snow. This forced strong competition for food and depleted our winter supply in the lower wintering grounds. Deer had it the hardest because the elk could move about in deeper snow, and therefore could feed on higher branches. However, the mortality on both species was significant. And most of the elk aborted their fawns early in the winter.

Out of the 30 cow elk that showed up in the winter grounds this winter, there were only five last year’s calves, and out of those there was only one bull calf. This winter (08/ 09) has been even harder on the game animals here. It will affect the birth rate for this year’s crop as well. Most of these cow elk are empty of calves. While there are more White tail and Mule deer than there are elk, they’re not doing all that great ether.

For both last winter and this, it’s been the carnivores that has profited from these bad winters. Two new coyote packs have been added to our wintering grounds, which may mean the cougar population is down. And the wolf pair that was seen in the upper regions of Trestle Creek last year has not explored our area. Any time a wolf pack moves in the coyotes thin out.

The winter of 06 and 07 we had a single wolf travel through our wintering grounds and make a deer kill each time. We have a lot of cougar on our side of the lake—in fact, the state record was taken just across the creek from Bear Paw camp grounds.

The Idaho Fish and Game Dept., whose job it is to regulate the hunting seasons, are unable to regulate either the weather or the hunters. After a bad winter it would seem fewer tags would be issued due to winter kill. Yet the hunters are getting so fat and lazy they only road hunt or ride around on their four-wheelers, hoping a game animal will cross the road and stop so they can shoot it. There’s even talk of taking road hunting laws off the books so at least some animals can be taken.

We have cow elk here that are older than most of the hunters. Bow hunters need to shoot at a spot on an animal, not at the whole animal. Having gut shot game animals walking around with arrows sticking out of their bodies doesn’t do much for your sport—it creates an agonizing death that sometimes takes days.

I will give the hunters of today credit for one thing. They’re no longer the slobs of the roads and their camps. It’s taken a long time to convince them to clean up after themselves. Now it’s the snowmobilers who use our roads and outback for their personal dumping grounds. It takes less room to haul it back than it did to haul it out there.

With the onslaught of development, our wildlife is being pushed farther back and up in the high country; they can no longer travel their migratory routes from their winter grounds to summer calving and feeding grounds without passing through someone’s private property. We here on Trestle Creek are making an effort to protect these wintering grounds along with the cooperation of the Game and Fish Dept.

Here’s what I propose should be done as far as hunting regulations goes for the fall of 2009: Open hunting season from Oct. 1 to Dec. 1. If you can’t find time  enough to get your game in two months, you’re just not a hunter in the first place. One hunting license, (tags) two doe, one buck (Mule deer or White tail) and two elk, one Bull and one cow. Draw for moose tags each year. Turkeys, just one gobbler but twenty-nine hens. Bears, if you need one, take it. Grouse, whatever you can run over while road hunting. Surely, you can kill something in two months, even road hunting.

As for the netting of Rainbow and lake trout in Pend Oreille, it has brought up the question as to what happens to the protected Bull Trout when they’re netted. The word is, (and I would like clarification on this) the netters poke holes in the fish’s air sack before they toss it back into the lake. This sends the fish to the bottom of the lake. It can’t regulate its flotation sack until it heals up. How long does that take?  As long as the fish is on the bottom of the lake, who knows if it lives or dies? It’s on the bottom of the lake!

The world famous K&K Derby has fallen on hard times, the once highly publicized and renowned fishing Derby of the past has been reduced to three days. You ask why? “We figure we can catch all the fish left in this lake in three days,” says a fisherman from Clark Fork. “Besides, there are no more Kokanee or Kamloops left in this lake.” There is a rumor floating around about a new fishing Derby that does not involve sport fishing but would do the lake more good than any other event taking place at this time—”The Pike Minnow Extravaganza.” Because most of the world doesn’t have a clue what a Pike Minnow is, it could be sold as a new sports fish of the Northwest. The netters have netted over three thousand lake trout since the first of the year and the White fish are knee deep all over the lake. Which raises the question, why do we (the public) need a fishing license to fish Pend Oreille? It should be free fishing for everyone until all the fish are caught; after all we are being paid to catch them, thanks to the rise in my electric bill!

Trying to get Fish and Game to cough up information is like trying to get a Republican to vote for a bill Obama comes up with. But the cat is sneaking out of the hole in the bag. It seems there are certain sections of our lake that have Walleye in good numbers as well as size; this in turn panics the Rainbow fisherman saying, there goes the neighbor hood while others are dancing in their canoes. I don’t know how many of you have eaten Walleye but if you like any kind fish, even salmon, you’ll slap your Momma to get the last piece of Walleye.

I personally feel it’s the Fish and Game’s job to regulate the seasons and the licenses and let Mother Nature regulate the wildlife. So far, every time we try to influence the outcome it backfires .

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Boots Reynolds Boots Reynolds The "internationally-renowned cowboy artist" Boots Reynolds has moved his comedic interpretation of life into the writing field with his regular column in the River Journal - From the Mouth of the River.

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