Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Pheasant Hunting on the Snake River--15 years of Removing Invasive Bird Species from Wildland Ecosystems.

usbackroads destination--Pheasant Hunting on the Snake River--15 years of Removing Invasive Bird Species from Wildland Ecosystems.

It was 15 years ago that I was invited to my first Snake River Ecosystem Restoration Project.  The first year was interesting as we spent four or five days camping in a 21 foot boat whose cover was held together with duct tape.  The days were foggy with temperatures in the low 30's.  Three adults and three dogs in a rather small space.  The next year we switched to camping in my tent trailer and used the boat to access hunting area.

For the next few years it the three of us camping in the tent trailer.  We were then joined by three boys and one wife.  That meant four adults, three boys, and four dogs in the tent trailer and add-a-room.  It was warm and cozy.

Slowly the camping equipment was upgraded so by this year  the tent trailer was joined by a Class C motorhome and a 5th wheel trailer.  And for accessing hunting areas a SLED!!  Ah, the lap of luxury for our camping.

Given the near desert conditions of the Snake River region we have in the past had rain, cold weather, and hurricane winds.  Now that we have some great RV's to wait out the bad weather we ended up with 10 days of sunny, warm weather with nary a breeze.  It clouded up on departure day.

Our ecosystem restoration project appears to be successful as the pheasant population continues to drop year after year.  I suspect it has more to do with habitat change and rainy spring weather than our hunting abilities.  So the shooting was the worse ever, the hunting was as always, great.  But we did have one day when we took an awful long hike while carrying shotguns for no particular reason.  Final count was a dismal 17 pheasants and one hun.  Eight of those pheasants were provided by the wildlife mitigation program for the Snake River dams.

With little excitement hunting or the weather we had to generate our own.

Fortunately, Bugaboo was up to the task. First, Bugaboo decided to go over a barb wire fence.  He caught his leg on the top wire and did a complete flip landing on his back!   This was opening day leaving the truck.  Ouch.  For an encore he decided that next time he would go through the barb wire fence.  This left a puncture wound plus a rather long scar on his belly.  For some reason, two days before season the vet gave me some antibiotic and steroids in case he hurt himself.

Pheasant and deer season overlap by two days.  There are plenty of gut piles out and about for Bugaboo to sample while hunting.  Last winter, he ate something in the desert and we thought he might not make the night.  That small intestine from a deer was just to yummy to pass up.  So he ended up with intestinal issue AND a wound at the same time.

He stayed in the back of the truck and ignored his food.

On Wednesday, we decided on a ZERO day.  No hunting.  Bugaboo laid in the sunshine and ignored his food once again.

On Thursday, we got ready to go hunting and he immediately perked up.  Hunted for three days, before he ate any food.  Priorities.  The German Longhair Pointers live to hunt and they will not miss one outing!!  Yoho had a mini-stroke at age 13 so I gave her an aspirin and left her in the truck.  She quickly notified everybody within earshot that it was not acceptable to be left behind.

We did go ahead and try catching those elusive steelheads.  This year, however, nobody was catching many steelheads.

The neighbor was fishing for sturgeon and Paul decided to try our hand at it.  First, Paul took out the canoe and dropped the sturgeon bait in the middle of the river.  He then returned to shore.

The sturgeon bait was left out all day while we were hunting.  The boys minded the rod.  One of the advantages of being home schooled is that you can being going to school and fishing at the same time.  It seems that right in the middle of a math problem the sturgeon rod started screaming for attention.

When we came back from hunting that day the story was told.

It was six feet long and math class had to be cancelled for over an hour as he fought the fish.  They got it close to shore, but nets for six foot fish are hard to find.  I suspect the sturgeon took one look at the crew and decided to part company as quickly as possible.  Sturgeon on the Snake River are within a slot limit, so the fish might have been too large to become sturgeon steaks.  We are looking forward to listening to the story in future years to see if the fish grows in size.  The neighbor did catch and release a nine foot fish a couple of days before so there is plenty of room for the fish to grow in future years.  We will see if the boys are really fishermen.

More excitement due to the new SLED that was a present for Paul from his wife.  I must say that we were rather proud that after years of dropping hints to her she finally gave him that special gift.

Bugaboo quickly claimed a seat and asserted ownership therefore banishing the German Short-Hairs to various parts of the boat.

He even ignored the only female on the boat and left her on the rear deck.  Not acting like a good guest, but I guess once your neutered the interest in woman does go down.

We left one foggy morning to hunt a wildllife management area downstream from Little Goose Dam.  That gave us a trip through the locks.

Once in the lock we could look up at the lock gates.  Yep, we figured there was a 100 feet of water in there.

At the east end of the lock is the famous Little Goose Dam waterfall.  We wondered if the lock failed how quickly we would be flushed to Portland??  It is a nice touch to have a waterfall within the lock, but it does remind how much water is ABOVE you.

We motored downstream to start hunting.  One of the advantages of a sled is you can beach it anywhere and quickly get out of the boat if needed.

We did see several pheasants piling into a small brush patch next to the river.  Everybody hunts ducks from a boat, but we felt we had a unique opportunity to hunt pheasants from a boat.  Well, the dogs jumped from the boat and WAITED for us.  We kept telling them to find the birds and finally they got the drift.  Well, the comedy of errors resulted in one shot fired and seven roosters slinking away in the grass laughing their heads off.

The German Vacumn Cleaning company kept hunting.  We started out with Bugaboo and one short-hair. As the days past without many birds we kept adding short-hairs to the mix and by the end of the 10 days every dog was running around trying to find the missing birds.

There were enough birds for the traditional pheasant dinner with fine red wine from eastern Washington.  We are, wondering if our job is over on the Snake River.  Maybe next year it is time to head for the Dakota's and find a spot with more invasive pheasants that we can hunt from a sled.  

Do all traditions come to an end??  

So far this is the best use we have found for the fishing bobbers in 15 years.  Foreground object in a photo.