What do Rattlesnakes and Snow Have in Common?

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Note: this post was first published on my Nature’s Apprentice blog: http://wapitisriversedge.wordpress.com/2011/10/ on Nov 30, 2011

As today is the last one in November, it is perhaps prudent to tell a rattlesnake story or two. Why now? Two reasons. I like to semi- follow protocol of many native storytelling traditions, where only certain stories can be told at certain seasons. Like fish stories when fish begin to arrive, or bird stories when waterfowl begin to migrate, or other when events occur that coincide together.  Reason two, this month reminds me of the time I saw a rattlesnake in November. Yep, November.

Interestingly, I had a doctor from back east call me up to inquire about going chukar hunting.  ” Have you ever been chukar hunting,” I asked.  “Sure have” he answered. “Then you know they are not like flat lander birds, but rather  like the precipitous terrain in nose bleed country” I continued. “Yep, I know, and am readily up for it.”

“One more thing”, he replied,  ”I just broke my ankle about two weeks ago, but have a good walking cast.”  “Are you serious? ” I asked. He sure was, and talked me into letting him go hunting with his friend for a say on the steep slopes of the Salmon River.  So he signed up for a day trip on the 24th of November. There had been snow on the ground for several days, but some had melted off, leaving mostly pocketed patches that appeared  similar to what terrain with measles would look like.

When the day arrived for his trip, and we floated down to where we were to begin our climb for finding some birds, he hobbled out of the boat and tackled the terrain like a peg legged pirate. And, to my amazement, he actually made it to the tops of the ridges and outcrops his buddy and myself were traversing. Not as fast, but he traveled  just as far and hard, as we were pursuing birds. I was flabbergasted and always wondered if he had been using some super pain pills or something.

It was afternoon when we landed on top, where most of the birds were, and though it was freezing when we started our trip in the morning hours, it was sunny and warm by then.  Birds were taking advantage of open ridges where wind and sun had melted snow, where they could also look for foraging. But, so too, did a less likely critter.

“Hey, I found a rattlesnake” he called to me on the radio. I didn’t believe him, so told him to stand guard on the snake until I could get there. It took me a few minutes to reach them, but the snake was coiled, not moving, and just basking in the relatively warmth of the afternoon sun.  Sure enough, it was a rattlesnake. It wasn’t dead, just confused, I guess.  They should be following the logic of bears this time of year, but apparently  there is as much ignorance in rattlesnake world as there is in people world.

Most snakes like a little warmer weather than what November normally provides.  Like last year, when I was hunting with only one dog in October on another guided hunt.  A guest came along who has the sister (Izzy)  to my dog Ember. We had gotten cut off from each other  by going around in different directions around some very rocky terrain, cliffs,  and steep talus slopes.  All of a sudden Ember went on point about five feet in front of me. She was locked on chukars about 30 yards away.  But, for some reason I just happened to look down and see that she was straddle directly over the top of a coiled up rattlesnake. Adrenalin hit the red line in my survival meter. Instinctively, I pushed her forward as hard as I could, while at the same time jumping away from the snake myself.  It worked, and we were both spared a different ending to this story.

Fortunately, we don’t have Diamond Backs or any of the larger varieties of rattlesnakes on the Salmon River. They are Western Pacific Rattlesnakes, and most adults average about  two feet long. Their venom is also not as toxic as most other subspecies, but I still wouldn’t want to get bitten by one, all the same.   But, funny how everything on the mountain starts to look like a rattlesnake, once you have a close encounter with one.

We rarely see that many throughout a season, and I personally cover a ton of terrain, in all seasons, when not floating on the river.  And most try to hide, get away, and will only bite when threatened or mistakenly stepped on. Which reminds me of another story, but the timing isn’t right to tell that one.

Suffice it to say,  hopefully, by not killing any snakes (unless for food) I will continue with my appreciation for brother snakes  real value, and hope the feeling will be mutual. My practice is to live by the motto, ” I won’t hurt you, if you won’t hurt me.”  I’m not sure if snakes have ears, but it doesn’t require a set of ears to hear what I am saying.  Spirit talk requires only an open heart to be heard.

So before November slips away, I have to get this  time appropriate  story in.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.
For river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.comor
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Riverdoryfun

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Chukar Elk Paradox

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Note: this post was first published on my Nature’s Apprentice blog: http://wapitisriversedge.wordpress.com/2011/10/ on Nov 26, 2011

While hunting chukars on a recent “hike your butt off” climb, I ended up seeing more elk in bird habitat than chukars. The next day I went big game  hunting, and saw more chukars in elk  habitat than I did big game.  It wasn’t the my first time to see deer and elk in chukar habitat, as they do share the same range grasses, forbs, and browse during the winter.  But it was the first time I had seen chukars in dense forest of mixed conifer (Doug Fir and Ponderosa Pine) with Ninebark/ Snowberry/Oceanspray thick shrub understory.

I have seen chukars in areas with sparse trees and edge-line forests, before,  but not that far away from what I always thought of as prime chukar habitat.  (300 yds from nearest bunchgrass slope). They were in 6 inches of snow and trying to get out of the 20-30 mph hour winds that was also freezing my body parts, too. So I thus learned another lesson from chukar world.

Apparently, their behavior (hunkered down to get out of the wind) made more sence than mine – hiking around in the middle of it all.  That is part of the problem of having a higher brain.  Our supposed smarts sometimes gets in our own way.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.
For river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.comor
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Riverdoryfun

Thanksgiving Turkey Chukar Dilemma

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Sugar:  Did you say turkey? Opps, my bad

Happy Hunting Thanksgiving Style

 

Note: this post was first published on my Nature’s Apprentice blog: http://wapitisriversedge.wordpress.com/2011/10/ on Nov 25, 2011

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.
For river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.comor
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Riverdoryfun

Inspired

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Note: this post was first published on my Nature’s Apprentice blog: http://wapitisriversedge.wordpress.com/2011/10/ on Nov 7, 2011

Funny how the mind works, and what things trigger it into the direction it takes.  But no matter where you go, it always goes with you. Ok, sometimes when high on a cliff side hunting chukar it might seem like you have lost your mind. Especially when you choose to take the more dangerous route rock climbing with all fours to save time, as opposed to the safer, but longer back-tracking route, does craziness begin to register.

But the other day when I was out in the middle of nowhere hunting chukars, I saw a huge spire that had always been visible from the river, but I had never seen before. At least, not until I saw it from a different angle and high advantage  on an opposing hill where it became much more noticeable.  It added to the feeling that I had entered some mysterious fantasy world, where it might even be possible there could exist some sort of  chukar hobbits.. I was inspired. OK, oxygen depleted.

In addition, it added to the wonderful feeling of being far away from civilization where one can still appreciate the value og undiluted purity of air, where it actually pleases the lungs to fill at full capacity. What a great place to escape the woes of our more populous industrial pollutions of the  world.  Or so it seems.

This isolated feeling triggered my mind to go back to a long ago memory of a similar time in another remote region of neighboring canyon country. I was guiding for Grand Canyon Dories, and it was my turn to kick back, while other guides took guests on a hike in Hells Canyon. I chose to enjoy my brief reprieve sitting in my dory boat floating around in a large eddy above Granite Rapids.  It was so cool. Every view was awesome, and bobbing around in the dory made me feel like a much closer part of the river.

Having always been active in fighting for various fish/wildlife/land and water issues over the years had been taking a toll on me. I always thought back about what Aldo Leopold (father of wildlife management) said about biologists (which I had trained to be): “One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make-believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”

Everywhere around me I had seen that as human numbers increased, habitats for fish and wildlife were diminished. Subdivisions subdued winter ranges, industrial smoke stacks dim visibility, hamper breathing,  and on and on.  I was tired of being like an ecological doctor and so had checked out mentally of paying attention to the politics of the day. I did not watch tv or  read newspapers for over two months time,  and tried to avoid encountering anything negative caused by humans by escaping to the natural world. So, sitting in that eddy, alone, in my dory, I had found paradisiacal freedom.

But, then I had a semi-epiphany. What if I continued on to  live in my dream world, not paying attention to what the outside world was doing? What could be the harm in that? Well, people could be making decisions that could lead to damming the river I was on, then my paradise would come crumbling down.  Could I make a difference? How could only one person make a difference?  Then I thought about the impacts of Rachael Carson and her book Silent Spring.  She alone helped birds of prey by fighting the pesticide industry through her words and action. Every persons vote counts, because ultimately, it only takes one vote to break equilibrium.

So, it was time for me to start paying attention again, to the politics of people and our effects on the natural world.  Thus is the medicinal value that wild places bring to peace of mind. We need these places to at least temporarily escape the harshness of the everyday routine of scurrying around trying to make a living.  And to think, all this cerebral rambling inspired by one spooky spire on the slopes of the Salmon River.  From chukar hunting to river running, my convoluted thoughts continue to swim in the eddies of my mind. No matter where I go, the center of my circle is everywhere. Once I get my medicine I can go anywhere to be everywhere, and somewhere to be nowhere.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.
For river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.comor
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Riverdoryfun

Stone Face, Eastern Islands-ish, on Idaho’s Salmon River Breaks

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Note: this post was first published on my Nature’s Apprentice blog: http://wapitisriversedge.wordpress.com/2011/10/ on Oct 29, 2011

Like being in some foreign lands far-away, so what?  Well, it is yet another example of why I like chukar hunting along the precipitous Salmon River Breaks.  There are so many cool things to see while hunting in far out terrain, and hard to get places.  The rewards of discovery await those willing to cover the ground less traveled.

Just the other day, I found an interesting Hoodoo, that gave the strange feeling I was either being watched by non-human landmarks, or had entered a fantasy world akin to tramping through Easter Island.  Maybe too much blood to my head getting to higher elevations, make my mind run rampant??

In addition to land forms, other discoveries also often await the curious eye.  Shed antlers, deer, elk, or bighorn sheep come to mind. I have found all, at various times over the years. Often they get carted home as a gift for my wife, and an incentive for her to keep on encouraging me to head out to the chukar slopes.

Another fun thing about hunting chukars is that it allows me to put my foot down in places very few people,  if any,  ever travel to.  Think about it. This can allow a person to feel like number one. Hero worship is all about following that elusive number. Ever watch football? Who doesn’t want to be on the winning side? It seems our entire culture (and perhaps human nature in general) is obsessed about winning, as is categorized by such words as best, biggest, or most, we so often use.

While your chance of being number one is quite limited in today’s world, these is a way to increase those odds. it just requires some effort. Like in, putting one foot in front of the other and pointing yourself in the direction less pursued.   Chukar world holds all these opportunities, so I take them whenever I can. So can you.

Traversing some remote bowl, tucked away in secluded terrain, invigorates more than just a person’s heart rate. It liberates the soul and inspires true personal freedom.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.
For river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.comor
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Riverdoryfun

Educated Chukars

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:Note:  this post was first published on my River’s Apprentice blog: http://wapitisriversedge.wordpress.com/2011/10/  on Oct 28, 2011

After one of my most arduous of chukar hunts of a very long time, just yesterday, I have come to the conclusion that chukars read my blog about Chukar Refuge.  Sure, I didn’t post it until after that hunt, but I think some mysterious force transformed my unpublished draft, via cyber waves to  chukar syntax and brain function. That tongue-in-cheek chukars guide turned into more of a tongue lashing. Like in hard panting for me and my dogs.

I was exploring a new area, one I had by-passed for eons (for good reason) due to the precipitous and verticalness of it all.  Hoping to find another secret hot spot, by virtue of extreme difficulty in accessing such, was the little voice inside my head urging me to continue.  Every time I stopped to rest, thinking about turning around, that little voice kept repeating something to the effect, just one more bench will reveal chukar Nirvana.

Well, while Nirvana transformed more into a nirvana with a small “n,” and less discovered  huntable chukar habitat than expected, the views were spectacular.  Me and the girls (Ember and Sugar – mother daughter team of Weims) did find some birds, but apparently they had read the chukar guide-book.  At least, except for one bird. It ended up in Embers mouth and soon, my bag. But that was an awefully ugly workout for just one mis-fortunate (for the chukar) chukar.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.
For river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.comor
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Riverdoryfun

Chukars Guide for Refuge from Hunters

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Note:  this post was first published on my Nature’s Apprentice blog: http://wapitisriversedge.wordpress.com/2011/10/  on Oct 28, 2011

Pay attention, youngsters. If you wish to see the green grass and feisty hoppers of yet another day on the slopes, heed these suggestions. Sure, four legged and winged predataors loom ever large.  That is a constant, 365 days a year.  However, for the fall, another predator of the two legged kind, hits the slopes. Not to worry,  that is, if you pay close attention and be ever wary.

Although these two-legged types carry a critter called a shot-gun, don’t  panic yet. These cold barreled fire-sticks sling a lot of pellets, but are relatively easy to avoid.  Despite the fact that these shoulder-kicking irons can extend the lethal reach of the human “hunter,” (as they call themselves) you have good options. You can duck behind a rock, dive off the edge, or get the hell out of Chukartown,  to pull off your timely escape in a hurry.

Fortunately, these type of predators are not quite as savvy as the “non-human” kind. They normally make plenty of noise and advertise their presence much more often. If they are not yelling at their dog, (coyotes brother), they holler a lot at their fellow hunters.  Thus, letting you know quite precisely where they are. Hunker down and remain calm.  If their dogs have not caught your scent yet, you are still safe.

Caution! Sometimes they use talking boxes, (walkie-talkies, as they like to call them) so they can use even more talk on the hill when they get tired  of long-range shouting.  This is your chance to hold tight, hit the air, or run uphill. The uphill part discourages even the more adventurous hunter, at some point or another. Note: the human being gets tired because they often feed on bowls of popcorn in front of their tv sets, thereby culturing more winter fat, than hard muscle needed to climb steep terrain.

And when they see you fly across to the next canyon it can really defeat their resolve and  discourage them more from following you. Often this little trick will also increase their desire to go back to their rigs, or at least remain on the same easy contour. They don’t like to do the yo-yo thing anymore than they have to. Knowing their habits is crucial to avoiding an encounter with them and chance to ruin your day.

The older mature ones often have knee problems or poor cardio, so they are easier to keep at a safer, far-off distance.  Note: the younger ones may be much more capable of negotiating rough topography, and sometimes don’t quit walking soon enough. They are more susceptible to getting cliffed-out and doing a lot of back-tracking. Wisdom comes with age, and not many short cuts. Note: it takes a human a long time to gain wisdom.

So, pay attention. Be ever skeptical and suspicious. That is the name of chukar survival. Lastly, if it walks like a human and talks like a human, it is probably a human.

Rivers make good medicine with us, we make good medicine with rivers.
 For river trip information, please go to our website: www.doryfun.comor
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/Riverdoryfun

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