Woods and Waters An outdoor blog by John McCoy

Sleuthing out a famous fishing book

I am an unabashed fan of Norman Maclean’s classic book, “A River Runs Through It.”

Not only is the story achingly well written, it centers on a family of fly fishermen. Maclean’s vivid scene-setting helps me imagine what those long-ago scenes on Montana’s Big Blackfoot River must have looked like.

And apparently I’m not the only one.

Other fans of Maclean’s superb novella have made a pastime out of locating the exact spots described in the story simply by matching the written description with features along the river. A reporter for the Missoula, Mont.,- based Missoulian newspaper wrote a fascinating feature story about those angling sleuths. If you’d like to check it out, here’s the link.

OK, this is cool. A young couple from Tunbridge, Maine, wanted a hunting-themed wedding, so they decided to hold it in a Cabela’s store!

Darrell and Ariel Colson wore camouflage-accented clothing, and the ring bearer brought the rings on a camo fishing pole. The complete story is here, in the West Lebanon Valley News. Cute story, nice read!

Fallen tree leads to campers’ lawsuit

Wow. Apparently if someone gets hurt — even out in the wilds of nature — it has to be someone else’s fault.

From the Associated Press comes a report that an Idaho couple has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the U.S. Forest service because a tree fell on the place they chose to camp, injuring their son:

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — An Idaho family has sued the U.S. Forest Service demanding more than $1 million after a large dead tree at a remote campsite fell and injured their young son.
Richard and Melinda Armstrong, of Caldwell, said their family was camping in the Boise National Forest in September 2010 when a gust of wind blew over the dead tree. It fell on their son, resulting in a large laceration, a compound fracture and a puncture wound in his back that impaired his breathing.
The boy, who was 6 at the time, was taken by helicopter to a hospital in Boise.
The couple said the Forest Service was negligent because it didn’t remove the tree, which was a hazard. They’re suing for more than $1 million in damages and emotional stress in federal court.
“The tree was clearly dead — had been dead for years — and was within eight feet of the fire ring, and within 48 feet of the Forest Service road,” said Eric Rossman, their attorney in Boise, on Wednesday. “It was an obvious hazard.”
Rossman said the Armstrong’s son has undergone multiple surgeries and suffered “severe permanent impairment” of his leg.
David Olson, spokesman for the Boise National Forest, cited agency policy that prevents comment on pending litigation.
At issue is whether the federal agency had a responsibility to ensure that a site where people frequented and was near a public road was adequately protected from a potentially dangerous tree.
There have been similar lawsuits elsewhere, including an Oregon man who sued the Forest Service in 2010 after he was struck and injured by a tree while driving in his truck. That case was settled earlier this year and has been dismissed.
The Armstrongs’ camping trip took them about 50 miles north of Boise, to a remote Forest Service road east of the hamlet of Ola in Gem County. They contend the place along Squaw Creek where they were overnighting was, in fact, a developed campsite, according to the Forest Service’s definition.
But even if the campsite was not considered to be developed, according to their complaint, the improvements there, including a fire ring made of rocks, and the Forest Service’s knowledge that it was a place where people camped regularly created a duty for the agency “to take immediate measures to inspect and remove the tree, close the site and/or warn user at the site of the serious risk of injury, death or property damage.”

Hat tip: J.R. Absher in The Outdoor Pressroom.

A wildlife photographer shares some secrets

Mike Furtman

My friend Mike Furtman is a phenomenal wildlife photographer. His images have appeared in dozens of regional and national magazines.

Interestingly, he takes many of his photos inside the city limits of his hometown — Duluth, Minn.

Sam Cook, the superb outdoors writer for the Duluth News Tribune, got Mike to tell how he gets such great photos in an otherwise urban area. The article is here. Check it out; it’s a good read, and the pictures are terrific.

Another good reason to go deer hunting

When Roger Custer of Levittown, Pa., returned home from a deer hunt, he handed a Powerball lottery ticket he’d purchased to his wife and asked her to check it “to see how many millions we’ve won.”

She checked it — and, much to her astonishment and delight, found that she and her husband were $50 million richer. After taxes, they took home a check for more than $33 million.

The Philadelphia Inquirer has the full story.

When asked what he planned to do with his winnings, Custer said what any other red-blooded outdoorsman would say — “spend more time hunting and fishing.” Gotta love it.

Hat tip: J.R. Absher in The Outdoor Pressroom.

‘Outdoor classroom’ to open soon in W.Va.

Getting kids interested in the outdoors isn’t easy nowadays. Video games, texting and the Internet are difficult to compete with, but a new “outdoor classroom” being built in Shepherdstown, W.Va., might just have enough pizazz to do the trick.

From the Associated Press:

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. (AP) — A special kind of outdoor classroom opening soon in West Virginia is intended to be a national model for nature-based learning.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will celebrate the opening of the Nature Explore Classroom and Children’s Tree House Learning Center in Shepherdstown on June 16.
Both are at the National Conservation Training Center. It was selected for the project along with the Creston National Fish Hatchery in Montana.
The outdoor classrooms are designed to let children climb, crawl, think and create using their five senses in a natural setting.
The project also created jobs for young people. Students from the Harpers Ferry Job Corps installed materials, built walkways and created unique features for the children.
Role model?

Ah, pop culture! You’ve gotta love it.

From the Associated Press:

NEW YORK (AP) — In schools and backyards, for their birthdays and out with their dads, kids are gaga for archery four weeks into the box office run of “The Hunger Games” and less than 100 days before the London Olympics.
“All of a sudden sales of bows have, like, tripled,” said Paul Haines, a salesman at the Ramsey Outdoor store in Paramus, N.J.
A manager there made a sign for the hunting department: “Quality bows for serious archers and girls who saw the movie,” he said.
Archery ranges around the country have enjoyed a steady uptick among kids of both sexes since the movie began cleaning up at the box office March 23, though heroine Katniss — a deadly shot with an arrow — seems to resonate more with girls.
“Katniss is so inspiring,” said Gabby Lee, who asked for archery lessons for her 12th birthday in February after reading the wildly popular book trilogy by Suzanne Collins.
“I’m not very sportsy,” she offers, but now she belongs to a youth archery league near her Hasbrouck Heights, N.J., home. “It feels really good because I’m usually the girl who sits and reads.”
While some young archers have been doing it for years, motivated by generations of hunters in their families, the parents of others love it for its focus, independence and because they, too, have kids not drawn to more typical team or contact sports.
At 7, Christa Mattessich is too young for the gruesome dystopian world that thrusts 16-year-old Katniss and her fellow child tributes into the arena for a battle to the death, a battle Katniss wins thanks to the archery skills she honed while hunting game in the woods of her native District 12.
But Christa loves archery just as much and has been shooting for about two years at the same range as Gabby, Targeteers Archery in Saddle Brook, N.J., said dad Anthony Mattessich in Oakland.
“I’m an avid bow hunter,” he said. “At her age, with other sports, they’re just running with each other and chasing a ball, then the ice cream truck comes and that’s that. For archery, they’re a little bit more dedicated.”
Abbey Fitzpatrick in Sandy Creek, N.Y., turned 11 on April 10. She also asked for and received her own bow and arrows for her birthday. “It’s black. It really looks like Katniss’s bow,” Abbey said. “She was so brave and very heroic in the games.”
Like more than 2 million kids in nearly every state and several other countries, Abbey did archery in gym class this year as part of the decade-old National Archery in the Schools Program that trains teachers in the sport and offers discounts on equipment.
“There’s a lot of buzz among young people about archery right now. They want to shoot bows and arrows so badly they’re willing to follow the rules,” said Roy Grimes, the organization’s president.
In Hartland, Mich., enthusiast Robert Jellison teaches seventh-grade science and has incorporated archery through NASP into his lessons on kinetic and potential energy, eye-hand coordination and the properties of pulleys and levers.
Jellison was invited in March with some of his students to perform a demonstration at the local library as part of a “Hunger Games” reading.
“Some of the kids there went out that day and signed up for archery,” he said. “A lot of people look at archery as, ‘Oh, you know, is it a real sport?’ All of a sudden there’s all this excitement.”
Bobbi Bowles owns archery shop K.C.’s Outdoors with her husband in Spicewood, Texas, outside Austin. Sales of equipment have doubled in the last few weeks, she said, and they’re adding beginner classes to accommodate more new recruits young and older.
At the Austin Archery Club, “The movie is sending a lot of people our way who are interested in archery, the crossbow and survival skills,” said a director, Roy Wenmohs. “At a recent tournament we had about 10 young people, from ages 10 to 15,” he said. “About half were new. Last year we had three.”
Games of a different sort are hoping for a “Hunger Games” bump come July, though kids in North America looking to catch Olympic archery will likely be sleeping during live competition.
“We’re thrilled with the awareness and the excitement that ‘The Hunger Games’ has brought to the sport of archery,” said Denise Parker, CEO of USA Archery, the U.S. training and selection body for the Olympics, Paralympics, Pan American Games and other world events.
“We’re already receiving feedback from our youth clubs that interest in archery programs in their areas is up significantly,” she said.
Alexis Fleming, 14, in Manor, Pa., has Olympic dreams. She shot last fall as part of the Junior Olympic Archery Development program after first picking up a bow through 4H.
“I like the fact you can ignore the world around you and just focus on where the arrow is going to go,” she said.
Nicole Donzella, 15, may not be Olympic bound, but she knows her way around a bull’s-eye and plans to DVR archery from London.
Her dad, hunter Bart Donzella, got her started in the sport at age 5, and later her younger sister, leaving “girly girl things” to their mother while he bonded with them through kayaking and other outdoor activities.
“I had a little mini-bow. It was really cute. I shot from five yards back then,” Nicole said.
Now up to 20 yards with a top score of 298 out of 300, she shoots weekly in the same youth league as Gabby at Targeteers in northern New Jersey.
“I like that it’s an individual sport but at the same time there’s other people around you so you can still socialize,” said Nicole, from nearby Fair Lawn. “It’s the only thing I’m good at and it’s really nice to do with my dad.”
She’s a Katniss fan, too. “I like that she’s making archery cool.”
Targeteers owner Rob Cerone said he averages five or six archery birthday parties a month, up from about half that six months ago. He’s filling up early for weeklong summer camps, where he teaches kids how to shoot, make their own arrows and put a bow together.
“The Hunger Games have helped, especially with the girls,” Cerone said.
Richard Johnson in Manchester, Conn., has archery in his blood. His dad, Butch Johnson, is hoping to qualify for the London Games and become one of just a few Americans to compete in six Olympiads. He brought home gold in 1996 and team bronze in 2000.
At Hall’s Arrow Indoor Archery Range, where the younger Johnson is business manager, the Katniss bump is alive and well. “We’ve had a lot of parents saying, ‘Hey, little Johnny has seen this movie, what do I have to do to get him into archery?'”
The Johnsons are looking ahead to summer, hoping the profile will be higher for Olympic archery this time around and anticipating the Pixar-produced “Brave.” The fantasy in 3-D computer animation features another young, headstrong archer, Merida, who brings chaos to her kingdom in Scotland.
“We had such a good boost after ‘Hunger Games,'” Richard Johnson said. “The same thing could happen.”
Bison leaving Yellowstone via the Gardiner entrance (AP Photo)

I’m not exactly a Luddite, but I must admit that the proliferation of smart-phone apps is simply stunning. There’s an app for this, an app for that, and even an app for finding wildlife in Yellowstone National Park.

From the Associated Press:

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — For wildlife enthusiasts hoping to catch a glimpse of wolves, grizzly bears and bison at Yellowstone National Park, the best place to be on the lookout may soon be a cellphone.
New smartphone apps enable people to pinpoint where they’ve recently seen critters in Yellowstone. People who drive to those locations can — at least in theory — improve their odds of seeing wildlife compared to the typical tourist’s dumb luck.
One app called Where’s a Bear promises “up to the second” animal sightings in Yellowstone. Recently a website called Yellowstone Wildlife began offering a similar app.
Websites long have kept track of animal sightings in Yellowstone. Already this spring the Yellowstone Wildlife site shows signs of life: Mule deer near park headquarters at Mammoth, bison in the area of a landmark petrified tree.
A message on the site warns of grizzlies feeding on a bison carcass near the Yellowstone River Trail. The statement relayed from the National Park Service could save a life. Grizzly attacks killed two tourists in Yellowstone last summer.
But not everybody thinks that making a lot of wildlife sighting information readily retrievable by phone is a hot idea. As it is, the crowds that stop to gawk at roadside wildlife in Yellowstone can grow to hundreds of people, pointed out Vicky Kraft, of Pine Mountain, Calif., who maintains a Facebook group about Yellowstone.
Grizzlies are especially challenging for park rangers who have to both direct traffic and keep people a safe distance away.
“It’s crazy. There’s no parking. People sideswipe each other because they’re looking at the bear,” Kraft said Monday.
Wildlife becoming too comfortable around people is another concern. A grizzly habituated to people is even more dangerous than your average bear.
“I think there’s a responsibility that a person should have if they really like Yellowstone to say, ‘Gee, is this going to be bad for the animals? Is it bad for the ranger? Is it bad for the park?’ And I think when you look at a situation with that app, the answer would have to be yes,” Kraft said.
Attempts to reach the app developers through their websites Monday and Tuesday were unsuccessful.
Yellowstone officials said the apps could become a problem depending on their popularity.
“If it did take off it would be a concern. It’s got other applications but at its worst core it would send more people to wildlife jams,” Yellowstone spokesman Dan Hottle said.
Though there’s no app for Grand Teton National Park, officials there share the concern. Two mother bears and their cubs already draw crowds and stop traffic at the park without any tech help.
“It could add to an already congested situation we’re experiencing with roadside bears,” Grand Teton spokeswoman Jackie Skaggs said.
One technical problem with the apps is the vast majority of Yellowstone doesn’t have cellphone coverage. Also, it’s not like anybody is going to persuade a moose, elk, or bald eagle to wait around for the next tourist to show up.
On the other hand, a pack of wolves seen killing a bison might stick around for days while they fed on the meat, suggested Tom Mangelsen, a wildlife photographer who lives in Jackson Hole, just south of Yellowstone.
“I imagine it would be helpful, certainly for tourists or people who aren’t familiar with Yellowstone, and I suppose for people like me, too,” Mangelsen said.
Mangelsen counts himself among the many photographers and tourists who have been watching a popular grizzly in Grand Teton over the past few years. The grizzly recently emerged from hibernation with her three cubs — big news in Jackson Hole.
Mangelsen said he didn’t rush off to share the news online.
“I haven’t been on one of those websites more than three times in my life to see what’s going on in Yellowstone,” he said. “But I know people live by it.”

Birder arrested after moving hawk’s body

Sometimes it’s possible to get in trouble for trying to do the right thing. From the Associated Press:

NEW YORK (AP) — A longtime observer of celebrated New York City red-tailed hawk Pale Male was arrested after finding the body of the bird’s yearlong mate, authorities said Tuesday.
State Department of Environmental Conservation said Lincoln Karim, a broadcast engineer for Associated Press Television News, was arrested on charges including illegal possession of a raptor. He was later released.
Karim said he had taken the body of Pale Male’s mate, Lima, after finding it dead in Central Park over the weekend and taking photographs of it.
Concerned that an animal would eat it or a maintenance worker would toss it away, he said he put the body in a grocery bag and took it to his apartment, where he stowed away the carcass on his fire escape.
He said he intended to have the bird’s body examined to determine a cause of death by taking it to the State Wildlife Pathology laboratory in Delmar, N.Y.
“I did the right thing,” he said. “If I had photographed the hawk and walked away — I couldn’t do that.”
DEC police contacted him Monday and requested he turn the bird over to them.
He initially refused, saying he feared the DEC would not investigate Lima’s death properly.
He said he was arrested when he returned the bird to the park.
Emily DeSantis, a spokeswoman for the DEC, said that before his arrest he had agreed to meet with a DEC conservation officer to turn over Lima’s body. “Karim did not cooperate and caused the officer to go to multiple locations over several hours,” she said in a statement.
Pale Male took up with Lima after his longtime mate, Lola, disappeared in December 2010.
Pale Mate and Lola famously built a nest on a Fifth Avenue high-rise ledge before they were evicted by the co-op. They were allowed to rebuild their nest after an outcry from bird lovers.

Cabela’s eyes further expansion

The new Cabela’s store, scheduled to open near Charleston late this summer, is only part of the company’s expansion into the Appalachian foothills.

Two other stores — one in Columbus, Ohio, and the other in Louisville, Ky., are scheduled for completion in 2013. According to this article on the NASDAQ website, the company has been doing a booming business at its retail outlets and plans to accelerate its retail expansion.

Hat tip: J.R. Absher in The Outdoor Pressroom.