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The Warden's Words

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The snow is leaving the high country and access is improving. I want to stress that you still cannot drive everywhere yet. I keep reminding folks to have shovels and such with them in case of being stuck in the soft snow. And boy, am I glad I listened to myself for once. One thing I did learn is that the old adage, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is not entirely true. This old dog learned something new.

Some of you may have noticed a new piece of equipment in my truck. The Department has retired my motorcycle and replaced it with a new ATV. I have been learning the ins and outs of operating this machine and figuring out just what it can do and where. I have been watching ATVs crossing the East Fork on Lightning Creek for a number of years. Some make it and some don’t during the runoff. I felt like I wanted to try the crossing, but then I reminded myself that I wasn’t an invincible 30 anymore and wouldn’t enjoy explaining, to Boise, how the new ATV ended up in the Clark Fork River. 

However, I did see tracks in the snow heading down into Unit 4A and I figured this would be a good test of its capabilities. So after checking Antelope Lake I headed to the High Drive. After off-loading the machine and strapping on my pack, I headed down into Beaver Basin. Deciding to be safe I turned around, before I got too far, and strapped on my snowmobile shovel. As I came to the first stretch of snow I just plowed ahead and came to an abrupt stop. The snow was too soft and deep for the machine. I’m thinking, 'This is going to be a very short test,' when I tried again, only higher up, and the ATV just glided across the top of the snowpack without leaving a track. With each succeeding pile of snow the same thing happened, as long as I stayed high and to the outside. This was going to be a very useful tool for my work. 

After checking out the bottoms for activity I then proceeded to head out. The ATV rode right over the first little batch of snow and I was able to skirt the second, but then came the third. As I tried to get into my previous tracks I could only make about five yards before the back end would dig in and then high center. So out would come the shovel—back down—try again. No matter what I tried I just could not move that machine through the snow uphill. After about three hours of trying, (I felt like I had shoveled the world’s longest driveway), I resigned myself to parking the machine and hiking out. I figured if I returned early in the morning when the temperatures were lower, then maybe the snow would be harder. 

Of course, nighttime temperatures remained in the 40s, but the snow was a little firmer. After continuing much the same as the day before I was just about resigned to leaving the machine there until I could get my truck down when I gave it one last try and finally got the tires up on some hard snow. I can tell you that I didn’t stop until I had dirt under the tires. I still had three long batches of snow until I was on top again, but those went a little smoother. As I loaded my machine into the truck I decided that this old dog had learned something new.

FREE FISHING DAY is fast approaching (June 12th) and I want to advise you of some changes for the Clark Fork area. Usually we hold our clinic at the old Clark Fork Hatchery on Spring Creek. NOT THIS YEAR!!! This year we will be trying the little holding pond just past the motel as you head east from town. This pond is on private property but the motel manager and the new owner have given their blessing for us to use the pond for the day. There will be parking at the RV Park and we hope to have a port-a-potty on site for your use. I plan to put up information sheets in various locations around the area to remind everyone, but I am sure that I will have at least ten calls by Saturday noon wanting to know where we had the clinic. Don’t be one of those calls. Mark it down for the kids and the grandparents. We always have fun and everyone goes home with fish. 

As usual we will provide bait and gear, if needed, for anyone wanting to try fishing. We encourage our elderly to show up and dunk a worm. I know my mom will be there and she is bringing friends. As always, we will have a great crew from the hatchery, reservists, and my neighbor Ruth there to assist. Believe me, watching the faces of the children and our senior citizens as they reel in their fish can keep me going for several weeks.

Bear season is beginning to pick up in Unit 1 with folks seeing more and more critters. Please be sure of your target!!!!! Let us not kill any sows with cubs. That means you need to eyeball your target long and hard before pulling the trigger and after, you need to be sure to bring out the meat. Remember, if you do not want the meat let me know and I will find a family for it. 

Snow is finally leaving Schweitzer Basin so my mother is telling me it is time to plant her tomatoes and flowers. I guess I know what I will be doing next week. Whatever you choose to do next week, be sure to enjoy what we have, enjoy it with the family and leave it better than when you found it. 

JJ

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Author info

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

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