Monday, June 29, 2009


Returning home from an enjoyable weekend in my hometown of Oakland, Oregon, Jess spotted this adult peregrine twisting and burning across the I-84 corridor in the Columbia River gorge. We love chancing upon wildlife during our drives and the wild peregrine is certainly one of the rarest and most enjoyable. This turned out to be a family with several fledged young still hanging about the eyrie cliff.Here is the eyrie. It is easily seen from the highway if you know where to look.

One of the fledged young hanging out just below the eyrie.

The same young falcon from a different angle.

I almost missed this bird completely as it took off from the rock cliff. I would have loved to capture the whole thing, but the picture still has a wonderful sense of motion as if the peregrine is flying completely out of picture frame, which is exactly what it is doing.

We were fortunate enough to spot four bighorn rams along the gorge, but were unable to get pictures. What a treat for the road weary traveler, wild sheep and wild peregrines!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Of course all these pictures of me out running around hunting, fishing, and working in the far north only show half the picture. Here is my beautiful better half, my bride and the mother of my children. She is amazing. She lets me go hunting whenever I want (as long as she can buy as much yarn and fabric as she wants). She manages the home with a loving spirit and a kind heart (and fresh baked bread every other day!). I owe everything to I knocked her up good. Yep, we are pregnant, due December 31st and I believe its a girl. I love you, Jess! (and I didn't even mention that you made me post this, so you owe me one)

Oh, and she wanted me to mention that she knitted my cool wool hat that I'm wearing in many of the pictures :)

Kodiak Island, Alaska!

This May I got on as a packer with Dennis Harms, owner of Alaska Trophy Safaris on a Kodiak Island brown bear hunt. What an incredible experience! Here are a few photos of the hunt:

Here I am picking my nose before boarding the Beaver in Kodiak. I was sick the night before and had already "emptied out." It was not a pleasant flight.

I called shotgun and was pretty excited to see some country from the cockpit. I saw a lot of the plane floor between my knees. I was ok by the next morning, but it was a rotten start.
Here is base camp at the north end of Frazer lake. Notice the ice breaking up on the lake. In four days the ice that is six to eight inches thick in this picture would be gone completely.
The hunter arriving in the Beaver. It was sunny and blue skied every day I was on Kodiak!

This is spike camp early one morning, two and a half miles north of base camp.

Walt, the old bear guide. He's been at it for thirty-nine years. He is a soft spoken Kentukian farmer who has no front teeth, chews a couple bags of Redman a day, and drinks vodka like its water. We hit it off pretty well.

This is what we did twelve hours a day. The pipe was pleasant and we saw enough bears to keep us sharp.

Here is one of those Kodiak bruins. He won't set any records but he was pretty and blonde and close! The hunter, Josh, shot him from thirty yards and only six hundred yards from camp!

Walt and I are fleshing the hide with the mountain where we first saw the bear in the background. Josh first spotted him on top of the peak on the right and we watched him walk down through the snow drifts towards camp. We shot him at the base of the mountain just above Walt's head.

The thick, blonde hide. Very nice.

I was packing over a hundred pounds on the way out, but I'm not sure how much. I took my time.
At sixty-three years old, he sure packs his share!
Over all I had a helluva good time. I can't believe I got paid to do what I did. We finished on Kodiak early and I got back to Anchorage with a week left to spare. So I bought a black bear tag and headed up Eagle River trailhead with another packer from Kodiak. We saw more moose, goats, sheep and bears than we could keep track of and unfortunately I left my camera in Anchorage. It was an awesome five days and a completely different bear hunt than Kodiak. I can't wait to get back north.
On our way to Rock Lake this winter we happened upon this poor fellow resting by the road. He was in pretty bad shape, all ribs and hip bones. I hope he survived the winter. Just a few miles down the road we bumped into a large herd of elk. What a fine wintry morning!

Here is Greg later that morning on the edge of Rock Lake with a brace of birds behind him. Yes, one is a big triumphant sprigtail! I didn't take my opportunity to shoot another big pintail because looking throught the branches of the blind I thought he was out of range. Greg swore he swung through at twenty five yards. Oh well, you can't have them all.

It was on this hunt that I decided on a bit of a plan for 2009. I'd been talking with Greg about his summers guiding salmon fishing on the Nushagak in Alaska and was getting a serious itch. I finally determined that nothing, absolutely nothing, was standing between me and my childhood dreams of guiding in Alaska. So I went home that night, talked to Jess and the next day began a job search for packer/apprentice guide.


The view from the bridge of the famous (at least locally famous) Grande Rhonde River in extreme southeastern Washington. This river gets a good run of Steelhead and as the summer heats up the Smallmouth fishing is reportedly excellent.

Greg with a nice hen. They don't get huge on the Rhonde but they are plentiful and accessible and a helluva lotta fun.

I fished four days solid on the Rhonde and the Clearwater in north Idaho before returning to the Rhonde with Jess and the boys to catch my first steelhead. Not the biggest fish in the sea, but my first and a cherished memory!

The Last Hurrah

Big Jonny with an early morning honker outside of Rearden. We thought we'd nailed the scout and were tucked in for the rest of the honks when they promptly flew southwest a couple miles and dumped in another field. Lesson learned: scouting two days early is too early! We didn't get skunked though!
Greg and I were looking for options when a cold snap swept through and turned all the water to solid ice. Greg knew about this little spring creek in a secret location (if I told you, I'd have to kill you, or you'd have to buy me a lot of beer) and when we arrived and slogged through a half mile of knee deep snow we found this happy bubbling little creek loaded with green vegetation! It was -15 degrees when we arrived and the high that day was 2 degrees. We stayed sun-up to sun-down and had a helluva hunt! Nothing but brutally cold, heroic good times

The snipe were flying up and down the creek all day and I managed to put a couple beauties in the bag.

All greenheads and my first drake pintail! Tucker was an absolute trooper. He sat all day long in that blind with his balls on the snow and ice without a single wimper. Thats my boy!
This was a great late season hunt north of Moses Lake again. We got greedy and chased mallards first thing that morning before setting up on the habitually late-arriving geese. We watched as a thousand mallards flew over us, some working our dekes, most just flying over. I somehow managed to kill the only mallard that morning, but what a sight!
After picking up and high-tailing it back to the goose field we were shocked to find the geese on an early morning program. What could we do? We busted them out and proceeded to set up and hope for the best. We finished one goose short of a four man limit and I killed my first triple with a double gun! Good times!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

This is a tiercel (male) northern Goshawk that I attempted to train and hunt with. He was a fine bird to man, easy going for a Gos. A magnificient creature.
Tucker and the Gos. Unfortunately I lost him after only having him for a couple months.

The beginning of something special. A Thanksgiving morning father-son hunt with Malachi during the first hard freeze and snow of the year. The lake was frozen so I popped the keels off the dekes and slid them out on the ice. I shot everything that came in that morning to the great excitement and celebrations of the five-year-old. The best of times!

Malachi, the little hunter in the blind. It was a wonderful experience for both of us.

Of course, Josiah could not be left out of the fun. This was his first hunt ever, a week later, and was also a great success, though he was less aware of his surroundings and the goings-on outside the blind than his older brother was. He was very excited about the "fox" that was shot by my buddy Greg, from the blind.
Tucker and I in the duck blind, hunting the roost again (it took me a few times to really figure this one out). I believe this morning hunt accounted for one duck, but the picture is priceless.

This was my first education in feet-down-wing-locked-crazy-ass-goose-action. I believe the three man, 12 bird limit took us about fifteen minutes once the first flock hit the ground. Another lesson learned: being on the "X" is what its all about. This day the "X" happened to be right outside the city limits. I'm not compaining!

I couldn't decide which picture I like better so I posted them both. Tucker with a brace of Lessors north of Moses Lake. We killed more geese that day and had a fun hunt despite the morning fog that kept flock after flock wary and at bay.

This was our "Suicide Lessor." He came in after the previous photos were snapped, the truck was parked by the field, the decoys in bags and stacks waiting to be thrown in the back of the truck and Big Jonny, Tucker and I walking around the field picking up. He was a sucker for high pitched clucks and fell to one wicked sixty yard shot by sexy Big Jonny.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Early Waterfowl

This is my good friend Cap'n Tom Blakeney with his fine pointing lab, Ben, and Tucker during an early season hunt on Long Lake that turned into a not entirely unsuccessful comedy of errors. Good people, Good times.

Tucker and four handsome honkers, the results of our first goose hunt of the season. Big Jonny did the homework, the calling, and was responsible for the two of those big beautiful birds.

These are wonderful pics of a hunt that didn't go so spendidly. A perfect lesson in scouting: don't do it a month early and expect results. Didn't see a single duck in three hours but had a great-horned owl come down to the waters edge in front of the blind and drink from the pond. Malachi still remembers that big magnificient raptor and his haunting call.

Josiah, Tucker and Malachi with the results of a solo morning hunt. Another valuable lesson learned, though I would repeat this mistake a few times throughout the season: don't hunt the roost and expect results. Worth watching the morning sun greet a glorious autumn day on the pond? Absolutely!

Catching up one post at a time...

Hmmm, I just noticed that I haven't updated my blog since August of last year. Maybe blogging just isn't my cup of tea. A lot of life has happened since then, though, so the least I could do is update with some photos. This may take several posts but the following highlight my last nine months or so of outdoor exploits. Enjoy.

Tucker, my Deutsch Drathtaar, and I at the HZP in October near beautiful Omak, WA.

Tucker and I with judges in the background. Two of the judges flew in from Germany to attend this test. Tucker performed better than I did and we earned the high score of the day with a 179. Later that evening the German judges presented Tucker and I with a fine pewter plaque.

Tucker receiving some well deserved love from Big Jonny on our way home from Omak.

Tucker with our first game of the year, a plump ruffed grouse taken during a respite from deer hunting in the Okanogan.

After missing two different bucks on opening weekend, I passed this nice muley up to play guide and watch Big Jonny bag his first buck. It was definitely worth it! (Especially since I got to eat most of the steaks!!!)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Sunday, August 17, 2008

living, breathing, thinking...consequence

So, I picked up Bodio yesterday. Specifically his collection of essays, On the Edge of the Wild (1998). I flipped back and forth, perused, absorbed, and eventually turned to the opening essay, "Stuck With Consequence." This is what I read.

The old people, the old cultures, knew something about consequence that the new ones don't. (p. 8)

What the old ones really knew in their bones was that death exists, that all life eates and kills to eat, that all lives end, that energy goes on. They knew that humans are
participants, not spectators. Their work and play and rituals affirmed and reinforced
this knowledge. (p. 9)

Still, I had hoped we might grow a different kind of culture here. Doing what, exactly? Maybe living with and in, not "off" or beside, the land and its creatures. Christians kill predators. The echt-Greenie thinks he or she kills nothing, and is delude. Better to eat and respect. Consequence. Those who avoid or deny those choices think evolution, or God, got it wrong. I don't. (p. 13)
Of course, Bodio stabs his pen to the gritty essence of things, while my previous ramblings were vague and unconvincing. Yet, here it is: consequence. I must confess that I have read this essay before, a bit more than two years ago. Last night, however, the words unfurled rather surprisingly and I could only nod and smile knowingly. Why? For the past twelve months I've been living, breathing, thinking consequence. My previous post's ramblings were nothing more than a spontaneous exercise in "thinking out loud" that anyone who knows me,
knows too well.

This month of August, my wife and I, our children and family will mourn the one year anniversary of the death of our dear little Ezra. Consequence is on my mind, in my bowels; the soles upon which I walk and the blood coursing through these veins. Fuck the well-wishers, well-doers, their goddamn explanations and pathetic condolences. I find a great comfort in the knowledge that Life is dynamic yet frail. By clawing, grasping and hanging on with our very tissues, veins and fingernails can we experience its riches with the full knowledge that at some unknowing moment it will slip through us, through everything we have to cling with, it will dissolve and fade into mystery leaving us gaping, gasping, ragged, bloody, knowing all is as it should be. And peace. Acceptance. A depth of center. A love for the way things are.

I want to share a vivid memory of consequence, not quite as profound as the loss of an infant, but one that reminds me of him, because he was there, if not quite there, yet:

I ripped open the sleeping bag, tore through the tent -- ignored the shoes. Keys. Truck. Driving, bouncing, lurching in the sand. Where are my glasses? Salt spray on the windshield. No sign of the two track, must have washed with the tide or lost in the pre-dawn grey. Where are my fucking glasses?

There it is! Like a shrine to the gods of oil and shit, there it stood, blue molded plastic and signature odor. A Honey Bucket never looked so inviting! Once relieved (and greatly relieved I didn't relieve myself in the truck or outside the tent within view and smell of dozens of neighbors) I drove back to the tent.

There was no one on the river. The clock read four a.m. I was surprised. Five hours ago there were fifty fisherman on this stretch of the river, most were probably snoring away their booze. I rigged my rod and headed down to the waters edge. This was the Anchor River on the southern edge of the Kenai Peninsula. A small river, wadable at almost every point, it welcomed a strong run of native and hatchery kings every spring. What the fishery lacked in the sheer size of its fish (a very large Anchor king would be considered puny on the more famous rivers to the north) it made up in charm and intimacy. The local fisherman were the meat kind and friendly. The river gave up its secrets (and migratory denizens) with trusting ease. It was all wonderful, and only open to fishing a handful of weekends a year, to allow the bulk of the run free, unmolested access to its rich breeding grounds. Which is why I was surprised no one was fishing.

I paused, the river at my feet, the cold Cook Inlet lapping the sand a hundred yards to my rear. The sun was coming around (it never fully leaves this time of year) and the gulls and eagles were warming and on the wing. I dropped my rod and began to wade up river to where I could see it. I knew instantly what it was and what it meant. It wasn't the first and would not be the last. A total of three, actually, that I would stamp my card with this season. A fish, a small King, a hen full of eggs. She was struggling in the riffle just above my favorite hole, on her side, then righted and pumping, then sideways, washed down on her side again, then up and fighting again. She was dead, but refused to relinquish those primordial urges to swim, always upstream, to fight, to spawn. It is written in her DNA. It is coded in her tiny brain, exactly how is still a mystery to science. But it is there and it urges her on. She will not make it.

Last weekend I found another hen, exactly like this one, in this riffle, and spent an hour trying to revive her. It was futile, but I tried and tried, gently, desperately. In the end I walked back to camp with her, not squared and proud like usual, not this one. I walked with my head down, with work to do. I filleted her and sent her rich, nutrient rich carcass back to the gulls and eagles. This time I did not even try.

Both of these fish had been caught before, that is how they got this way. On the Anchor an individual is allowed to keep one fish per day, then he or she must stop fishing. Many anglers, myself included, who hook a salmon they do not wish to keep, simply release them back into the water and continue to fish, quite legally. Many anglers release fish that they have no business releasing, fish they played too hard, hooked too deep, fish that would not survive.

Bodio, in the same essay, "Stuck with Consequence," wrote, "Releasing a trout still leaves a mark on the river" (1998, p. 14). In this case, it left a mark on me. My family and I ate that fish. We nourished from it, enjoyed it, used it, and for a time, quite literally, we were that fish. And still are.

I was done fishing that day, for at four a.m. I marked my card and filleted my fish. The following day, however, I caught my own. A shining bright hen, chrome, firm. I reached my fingers into the gills of this fish and pulled sharp and hard. Her blood, crimson mercury in your hand, turned water to wine, a miracle of life, and death just a part of it all. Bled out, I walked her to the fire, where new friends, full of life and fish and beer and sweat, had thrown in an iron skillet. Butter, salt, pepper, fillet, and just a splash of soy sauce. She burned our mouths, our blood, our guts. Our minds were drunk with hot salmon, fresh, steam like smoke from this consumation of life and death and living and loving.

I remember her, she meant something. Raw life, unadorned, unadulterated, pure, essential, passing from one to another, everchanging, always the same.