Monthly Archive: October 2015

Youth Pheasant Hunt Opens Oct. 3

JEROME • Idaho’s youth pheasant season opens statewide Saturday, Oct. 3, and runs through Oct. 9 for all licensed hunters 15 or younger.

The week-long hunt opens a half-hour before sunrise in Areas 1, 2 and 3, except on the C.J. Strike, Fort Boise, Montour, Niagara Springs, Payette River and Sterling wildlife management areas, where shooting hours begin at 10 a.m.

Youth hunters must be accompanied by a licensed hunter 18 or older; one adult may accompany more than one youth.

The daily bag limit is three cocks and the possession limit is nine, except on wildlife management areas where pheasants are stocked; there, the daily limit is two cocks and six in possession, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game said.

Youth hunters do not need a WMA pheasant permit to hunt on Fish and Game wildlife management areas. Pheasants will be stocked on the C.J. Strike, Fort Boise, Montour, Niagara Springs, Payette, Sterling and Market Lake wildlife management areas before the youth hunt season.

All upland game hunters are required to wear hunter orange during the pheasant season when hunting on wildlife management areas where pheasants are stocked. A hunter orange hat meets this requirement.

The 2014-15 Upland Game, Furbearer and Turkey Seasons and Rules brochure is available at Fish and Game offices, license vendors and Fishandgame.idaho.gov/public/hunt/rules/?getPage=67.


St. Luke’s Offers Help for Cancer Patients, Survivors

TWIN FALLS • St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute offers a variety of services for cancer patients and survivors.

Here’s a glance at resources in Twin Falls:

Healing Art Group

The group is open to patients, cancer survivors and their family members. It meets from 1-3 p.m. the fourth Thursday of every month in the chestnut conference room off the MSTI main lobby.

There are two sessions left this year: Mask making on Oct. 22 and prayer flags on Nov. 19.

In the art therapy group, participants express themselves and connect through projects. An artistic background isn’t a requirement.

More information: social worker Nicole Thomas, 208-814-1699

Oncology Social Workers

Oncology social workers provide services such as counseling, crisis intervention and referrals to mental health resources.

Plus, they connect patients with transportation, temporary housing during treatment, home health and hospice care, and help with accessing financial assistance.

And they help patients find information to understand their diagnosis and make decisions about treatments.

More information: 208-814-1600

Integrative Medicine

St. Luke’s MSTI has an integrative care program, which provides “whole person” care to patients and caregivers.

Treatments can help address challenges that come with cancer treatment, such as pain, fatigue, anxiety, headaches, sleep disturbance and lymphedema, an accumulation of fluid that causes swelling.

Classes are free, while some services — such as a message — are available for a fee.

Jodi Thiel leads an eight-week session of “Yoga for Cancer Survivors.” Registration in advance is required.

Messages by Rachel Koch are available by appointment on Wednesdays. The cost is $20.25 for 30 minutes or $40.50 for 60 minutes. Scholarships are available and information is available from MSTI social workers.

More information or to sign up: 208-706-5287 or integrativemedicine@slhs.org.

Christmas Party

St. Luke’s MSTI is holding a Christmas celebration for patients, cancer survivors, caregivers and family members.

The event is slated for 4:30-7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 10 in the MSTI lobby. It will include food, activities and a possible visit from Santa Claus.


Leslie Gulch Offers Entry into Oregon’s Side of Owyhee Canyonlands

HOMEDALE • The road trip to Succor Creek Natural Area and Leslie Gulch in eastern Oregon has long been a popular day trip for southern Idaho residents who want to experience deep canyons, tall spires and arches of volcanic ash.

I drove to the area, about two hours from Boise, in part to see how much the Soda Fire had reached into this corner of the largest shrub-steppe ecosystem in western North America. The answer is a lot since the 279,000-acre fire burned in Succor Creek Natural Area and a large expanse around it.

Another fire burned into Leslie Gulch’s backcountry earlier this summer. Neither dramatically changed the stunning scenery that makes these two natural areas oases in a sea of remoteness. But the fires did put more strain on the struggling sage grouse that is the icon of this ecosystem.

The drive begins in Homedale, just west of the Idaho border where Idaho 19 turns into Oregon 201. A sign directs you to the left turn onto Succor Creek Road to Succor Creek State Park. The gravel road crosses a wide expanse of the sagebrush steppe, empty and secluded like it has been since relatives of the Shoshone and Paiute Indians first arrived here 15,000 years ago.

Then you reach the state park, a canyon lush with trees along the trickling water of Succor Creek. The next leg of the drive takes you nine miles past a series of ranches until you get to a right turn into Leslie Gulch. The road begins with a panoramic view of the Snake River country and then drops into the canyon, a labyrinth of side canyons, rocky towers and stair-like benches that ends at Owyhee Reservoir.

This day trip took me to the edge of the heart of nowhere — the great Owyhee Canyonlands that stretch from the Jarbidge country on the east into Nevada at the headwaters of the Owyhee River and north to Reynolds Creek and Hard Trigger canyons in Owyhee County.

The western portion is in Oregon, broken only by three paved roads and inhabited by hardy ranchers who graze their cattle in the steep-sided canyons laid down by volcanic activity from the same hotspot that created Yellowstone National Park. I also found motorcyclists, four-wheelers, campers and anglers fishing in the waters of tree-lined Succor Creek.

These two areas are a part of a 2.5 million landscape on the Oregon side of the line that a coalition wants protected the same way as Idaho’s Owyhee uplands and canyons. The proposal would designate 2 million acres as wilderness within a National Conservation Area. This area goes south to the Three Forks area and includes the canyons of the Owyhee River. Edward Abbey, author of the environmental classic “Desert Solitaire,” called the Owyhee one of the great rivers of the world. Floaters love this stretch in the spring.

Hikers and backpackers have hundreds of miles of trails to choose from, including the Little Owyhee River canyon. Leslie Creek has a series of excellent hikes for people of all experience levels.

Already, 518,000 acres are protected as wilderness in the Idaho part of this area that is twice the size of Yellowstone National Park. The Oregon side has only three paved roads crossing it.

The Owyhee Canyonlands is the largest undeveloped, unprotected expanse in the lower 48 states. Its red-rock canyons, pristine rivers and intact sagebrush uplands are home to native redband trout and one of the largest herds of California bighorn sheep in the nation. One of the six most important areas in the nation for the survival of sage-grouse lies in the southern reaches of the Owyhee.

“This high-desert country is more fragile than you’d think,” said Walt Van Dyke, a longtime Ontario, Ore., resident and retired wildlife biologist and avid hunter. “I don’t think we can rely on remoteness to keep the sort of impacts we don’t want from happening here.”

Camping is available near Leslie Gulch area by the Owyhee River at Slocum Creek. It has 12 tightly spaced sites with little shade, but there are canopies over the picnic tables. Campsites are congregated in a small space, so don’t expect a lot of privacy. I wouldn’t take a large RV into the gulch because the road is steep.


Conservation Groups Allow Short-term Grazing on Hailey Site

HAILEY • Over the next two months, cattle will graze at Rock Creek Ranch as part of a short-term effort to help an Idaho family whose ranching operations were burned by the Soda Fire, landowners said Wednesday.

The ranch will remain open to the public. However, visitors are asked to watch out for cattle and close gates behind them.

The Wood River Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy in Idaho purchased Rock Creek Ranch in 2014 to conserve habitat for fish and wildlife, while allowing sustainable grazing practices and public recreation. The 10,400-acre ranch encompasses the entire Rock Creek drainage southwest of Hailey and consists of sagebrush-steppe habitat, aspen forest and river miles along Rock Creek.

The short-term grazing lease does not replace developing a long-term plan for the ranch that includes using modern rotational grazing practices compatibly with recreation and the protection of habitat for fish and wildlife, the two organizations said in their joint release.


4 Idaho anglers; 4 cutthroat subspecies; 1,600 miles in 6 days

Sometimes the planning of a thing is as satisfying as the doing.

That's the way it was for four members of the Clearwater Flycasters, who fashioned a 1,600-mile, six-day road trip that would take them to three states in pursuit of the four subspecies of cutthroat trout native to Idaho.

In July, Cliff Swanson and Mark Ratzlaff of Troy, and Paul Agidius and Steve Bush of Moscow left the Palouse in pursuit of their self-styled Idaho cutthroat slam. Their goal was to each catch a westslope, Bonneville, Snake River fine spotted and Yellowstone cutthroat trout during the trip.

Westslope would be the easiest to check off the list. The fish are abundant in the Lochsa, North Fork of the Clearwater, Selway and St. Joe rivers, and each man had caught countless numbers of them on numerous trips over the years.

The others, each occupying a small sliver of territory just inside the state line in Idaho's southeastern quadrant, would require some serious windshield time. That's where the three states come into play. Blame Idaho's vertical geography and its vast wild center where there are no roads. It's easier to head east and south and weave in and out of Montana and Wyoming, instead of driving south and hooking a left at Boise when trying to reach destinations deep in the southeastern corner. It's a place that is as little known to some residents of north-central Idaho as the Clearwater basin is to much of the population south of the Salmon River.

A few of them had fished down there before, but never with such a single-minded goal. So they spent hours poring over maps, talking to Idaho Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Forest Service biologists and consulting fisheries tomes to craft a strategy.

"It was the planning of it that was just as much fun as anything; trying to figure out where these fish existed," Bush said.

They would also have to map out camping spots, make sure they packed the right gear and coordinate meals. This would be a college-style trip, done on the cheap. There would be a few restaurants but no hotels.

Their first stop was the Lochsa River at Powell, where two of them hooked and landed westslope cutties that afternoon. Swanson and Bush were skunked but they didn't worry about it. They planned to come back the same way and figured they could easily finish off the slam during the home stretch.

So early the next morning they climbed over Lolo Pass and headed south before crossing back into Idaho, and after a long day made camp near St. Charles Creek in the Bear Lake drainage, which is almost in Utah.

"We fished in the morning and caught Bonneville cutthroats," Swanson said. "We are not going to brag about size; we wanted to just catch them and go."

That's just what they did, breaking camp around noon and poking into Wyoming on their way north to Palisades Reservoir, where they would fish McCoy Creek for fine-spotted cutthroat.

"Absolutely gorgeous area," Ratzlaff said. "A completely different environment than we have up here, beautiful country and lots and lots of small fish."

One by one they each caught a fine-spotted, a fish that Idaho doesn't officially recognize as different from Yellowstone cutthroat. But Wyoming and some fish scholars do. With another goal accomplished, the anglers were free to move onto the next destination, but they were captivated by the area's scenery and elected to stay another day.

After the layover, they headed for Bitch Creek, a popular tributary to the Teton River near Driggs that holds Yellowstone cutthroat.

"There is a reason they call it that; it's hard to crawl down into," Swanson said.

He, Agidius and Ratzlaff all hooked and landed fish there. But it was tough fishing and Bush was skunked. Their plan was to stop fishing as each accomplished a goal and serve as guides to those who hadn't yet caught one.

"We were just really helping and working with each other to make sure everybody got all four species," Bush said.

With that in mind, they decided to leave Bitch Creek and relocated to Squirrel Creek, a tributary of the Fall River that sees much less pressure. There Bush caught a Yellowstone.

"We kind of made a pact we are not leaving until each one catches a subspecies of each fish," Swanson said.

With all three of the southeastern Idaho cutthroats accounted for, they headed back north and stopped at the Lochsa again, where Bush and Swanson each caught a westslope cutthroat to finish off their goal.

Ratzlaff said it was worth all the effort. But he has advice for other anglers who might want to try it: "I would recommend if anyone else wants to do it to take a few more days and enjoy the country."

Wyoming has a certificate for anglers who accomplish similar cutthroat feats in the Cowboy State, but Idaho does not. So the men created their own. They were also given the CuttCatch Award by the International Federation of Flyfishers and are laying claim to holding a record of sorts.

"We think we are the first people that have done the cutt slam in Idaho in one trip," Swanson said. "To me that is pretty cool, we are taking those bragging rights. There is a lot of people who have caught them but not on the same trip."


Forest to Burn in Trinity Salvage, Boise Ridge Areas

MOUNTAIN HOME • Boise National Forest fire managers plan to start their annual fall prescribed burning program of nearly 3,000 acres this year which could last for several weeks depending on weather and fuel conditions.

Fire crews anticipate favorable weather conditions by early October, allowing them to ignite low-intensity prescribed fires that reduce potential wildfire fuel, improve wildlife habitat and reduce threats to nearby communities, a forest release said.

Fire officials advised hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts to determine the location and anticipated times of burns before leaving home.

The burning program includes 278 acres in the Mountain Home Ranger District: Boise Ridge (250 acres), in the Shafer Butte area, and Trinity Salvage (28 acres), west of Featherville, both will involve slash pile burning.

Signs will be posted on roads near all burn areas prior to and when burning is in progress.

Information: Mountain Home Ranger District, 208-587-7961; Boise National Forest headquarters, 208-373-4100; www.rxfire.com; or the prescribed fire hotline, 208-373-4208.


Idaho Power Seeking Contract for Gooding Hydro Project

GOODING • Idaho Power is asking state regulators to accept or reject a proposed power sale agreement with the developer of a hydroelectric project near Gooding.

The Public Utilities Commission is soliciting public comment on the 1.3-megawatt proposed project. North Gooding Main Hydro LLC, would deliver energy from April through October, Idaho Power said in a news release. The developer is Ted Sorenson of Idaho Falls.

The project qualifies for an “avoided cost” rate under federal regulations as a renewable project. The proposed all-hours energy price under the 20-year contract is $85.54 per megawatt hour, with lower rates should the project fail to meet at least 55 percent of its projected output. Idaho Power is expecting to sign the agreement with North Gooding by May 1, 2016, and the project to be operational on April 1, 2017.

Comments are being taken through Oct. 13. They can be filed online at www.puc.idaho.gov, faxed to 208-334-3762, or mailed to P.O. Box 83720, Boise ID, 83720.


Ask Fish and Game: Stopping at Check Stations

Question: Do I need to stop at an Idaho Department of Fish and Game check station even if I’m unsuccessful?

Answer: Yes. Idaho code requires that “all anglers, hunters or trappers must stop and report at a wildlife check station encountered on his route of travel.” This includes those with or without game. All those who are fishing, hunting or trapping that day, or returning from an overnight outing, are required to stop and follow directions of the roadside signs.

Those with fish or game are also required to produce all wildlife in possession for inspection.

At a check station, you will be asked a series of questions about how many occupants of the vehicle were fishing, hunting or trapping, which hunt unit they were in, and how many animals of which species were harvested.

The information collected, including information on unsuccessful trips, is recorded and compared with information from prior seasons. It both serves as an immediate measure of how the season is going and helps determine final season success and harvest figures, Fish and Game said.