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The Warden's Words

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The frantic pace of fall

Not being a born writer nor generally considered a very talkative person has been a real detriment to me every couple of weeks when the “calm center of tranquility” wants to know where in heck is her column. I grumble and mumble because I know that for next two to three hours I will be in front of this dang computer. I usually have a few things I need to write about, but then the long blank stares take over. When I mentioned my difficulties to an old-timer, he said to write from the heart, as I used to do, and the words will fill the pages. Well, I am here to say that advice has not lessened the length of the blank stare

The slow, lazy pace of summer is giving way to the frantic pace of fall. The honey-do list needs to be finished and the winter wood cut. Isn’t it amazing what a little change in the weather can accomplish when it comes to how we view things? Even though we know we will still have some nice, warm weather to enjoy, these cool nights and rainy days have signaled a definite change in our patterns.

The same types of changes are happening to our wildlife and for the same reasons. Water temperatures are cooling and the fish are biting better on the big lake and smaller lakes. Your hatchery crew has been out planting fish for the fall anglers. By the way, young Zach Olson, hatchery worker at Sandpoint and Clark Fork, had a nasty fall at the Sandpoint facility. While tending to his duties he fell, cracking several ribs and mashing his spleen some. After some time in the hospital he is home trying to recover and avoid some major surgery. Take it easy, Zach, and get better.

The cool nights have signaled our big game that they need to start putting on the weight to make it through the winter and breeding seasons. The sunsets and the full moons have been magnificent.

September signals the start of your wardens’ work season. Most are on 24/7 and the phone rings off the hook. Patrols are generally pointed toward specific areas and reasons. I usually clean out my truck and reload it with food and a sleeping bag. I keep a change of clothes and some warmer clothes available in the truck. I also throw a .410 shotgun in the back in case I find a grouse trying to commit suicide. One thing we wardens have learned over the years is to be prepared for anything every day. A simple local patrol can end up taking you to Montana or spending the night on a hillside. A planned day off can suddenly turn into a 14-hour workday.  These are the things we have come to expect and, in truth, they are the type of things that keep the work interesting. If you would like to know more about our profession you might check your TV listings for a channel called Animal Planet. They will be presenting a program, “Game Warden Journal,” which will feature stories about work and cases from agencies around the country. I have to admit I have not been able to see it yet—too busy—but I expect it should be pretty interesting.

Here comes another of my annual WHINES. The hunting seasons are upon us and the weather is still moderate. This means that if you are heading into the hills to hunt elk, moose or bear you must be prepared to take care of the meat. You owe the critter that much respect. Taking care of the meat means ensuring that none of the meat spoils—period. There is absolutely no reason or excuse to lose any meat. If you feel that it is too warm to hunt and bring the meat out, then please stay home. A good hunter will carry enough gear to ensure the meat will be used and brought out. Think about it, folks. If you drop a nice elk and the weather is 75 degrees, then you need to expect to spend whatever time is necessary to gut, skin, and hang the meat to make sure it cools down. If you’re on an open hillside, you may have to haul the quarters to the nearest trees to hang. Once the meat has been properly cleaned and cooled then you can worry about getting it home.

Just this past week a hunter killed a nice, 6x7 bull but figured it would be an easy matter to have some friends with horses come haul it out. So the animal was left on the hillside—ungutted—while they tried to get the horses. Of course, the horses were being used for something else and it was several days before they could get back to the elk. The hunter was surprised that the elk had spoiled and that a bear had claimed the kill. But, being a great hunter, he managed to fight off the bear and save the antlers for a wall mount. Ticket time!! Don’t be like this guy and have to explain why you saved the rack but not the meat.

It is the time of year for young folks to be heading back to school and here in the valley it means it is time for me to teach the Hunter Safety course. Pretty soon I will be teaching the grandkids of the first class I taught. Now that is a scary thought!

Anyway, I have scheduled my class to begin on the 13th of September, a Monday, and to finish on the 22nd. The class will be at the Hope School and will commence after school (3 pm?) and run until 5 pm each day. On Saturday, September 18, we will have the practical portion of the class at the state highway shed in Clark Fork. If for some reason you cannot make this class, you will need to sign up for the Sandpoint classes.

Well, I have babbled on and now I need to get busy. The long Labor Day Weekend is here and folks are trying to squeeze in the last hurrah. Whatever you are doing this weekend please be safe and remember to enjoy what we have, enjoy it with the family and leave it better than when you found it.
-You can reach JJ at 208-266-1501

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JJ Scott JJ Scott was a Fish & Game warden for the state of Idaho, now retired

Tagged as:

hatchery, September, meat preparation, hunter safety

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