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A Ride On The “Elk Highway”

Urban Huntress 4


I met Larysa Switlyk four years ago at the SHOT Show convention in Las Vegas. Since the day we met she has told me about her epic adventures hunting elk on a ranch in New Mexico.

Switlyk hosts a hunting show just like mine and we became close friends almost immediately. We always talked about going on hunts together, but nothing ever came of it until this past season.

We finally got together at the Quinlan Ranch (575-209-1618; quinlanranch.com) to hunt my first elk ever. It might sound strange that I had never shot an elk, but for some reason it just never came together for me. I tried in Montana (California Sportsman, January 2015), but the weather just wouldn’t cooperate. This time was different.

The hunt was booked at the perfect time, as there were elk everywhere. The 17,000-acre ranch is in northern New Mexico, about two hours north of Santa Fe and right in the middle of what they call the “elk highway.” There are also a ton of mule deer moving through this area.

I brought my Legendary Arms Works .300 Win Mag with me and had it set to zero at 200 yards. We hit the range first thing in the morning and checked the guns. Larysa was after a mule deer and was borrowing a gun from the ranch.

When both guns were dead-on we went back to the lodge for breakfast. The hunt would begin that afternoon. The chef at the Quinlan Ranch is our good friend, Austin. He is an unbelievable cook and kept us fed and happy the entire hunt.

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WE SET OUT that afternoon in the truck. The plan was to drive around and get the lay of the land while looking for any obvious signs of elk. It was clear that there were plenty of animals around but no perfect situations presented themselves. We cruised around and got out to walk here and there, but eventually we headed back to camp empty-handed. We had plenty of time and no one was stressed; the situation looked very promising from the little drive we had done. The next day we planned to hunt hard.

We headed out early and parked on top of a hill and set out on foot. We made a giant loop and saw a bachelor herd of elk, but all of them were too young to shoot. After that, we took the truck to a high lookout point and decided to glass for a while.

There were a few cow elk milling around in the bushes way below us. We spotted one decent bull, but he was about 1,000 yards away and next to impossible to get to.

It was nearing lunchtime and getting warm out, so we decided to head back down and hunt our way back to the lodge for a meal. We bumped another group of young bulls on our way, but that was all.

Still, having only hunted for elk on public land in Montana, I was thrilled just seeing elk throughout the day! We had a feast for lunch and then headed straight back out.

We worked our way along the base of a ridge, carefully checking the thick timber above for movement. At last a big bull was standing just above us at around 200 yards. I thought, “This is my moment!”

I set up on shooting sticks, and just as my face touched the stock, the elk was gone. Only dust was visible in the scope. The timber was so thick that the animal disappeared in a millisecond.

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GETTING THAT CLOSE and then not pulling the trigger was a major letdown. I kept thinking that if I had moved just a little quicker or taken two fewer steps, perhaps the bull would’ve been mine.

We continued walking while I beat myself up over the elk that got away, and to my surprise another bull was standing dead-still on the ridge. It had obviously spotted us and was hoping we would not spy it. This time I was just a tad quicker setting up and I had the shoulder in my crosshairs before the animal could move.

I took my shot, heard the bullet hit and watched the elk turn downhill and take off into the timber. We stood silent, then heard crashing as the elk rolled down the hill.

It took a while to hike to the elk, and when we got to it, we found that a tree had stopped the momentum of its fall. It was a magnificent bull. It had beautiful whale tails and some interesting curvy tines.

But it was also in a very steep spot, and it was going to be difficult to get it out. We decided to do our field-dressing there and call for backup.

It was getting dark by this point, but fortunately we got a few good pictures before the light disappeared. Help arrived and we got the elk out.

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I am so thrilled and fortunate to have harvested this magnificent animal and am absolutely going back to New Mexico for another! CS

Editor’s note: Brittany Boddington is a Los Angeles-based hunter, journalist and adventure. For more, go to brittanyboddington.com or facebook.com/brittanyboddington. Like Quinlan Ranch at facebook.com/The-Quinlan-Ranch-1474478329486894.  

Lessons Pay Off For Young Archers In Program


Photo courtesy of CDFW

Photo courtesy of CDFW

The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

The California National Archery in the Schools Program (CalNASP), hosted by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), has concluded its sixth annual Virtual State Archery Tournament and the students wrapped up the season with some impressive scores.

“We would like to congratulate all of the students that participated in this year’s Virtual State Archery Tournament and we would especially like to commend the top boy and girl shooter of the tournament,” said Lesa Johnston, CDFW CalNASP Coordinator. “These young archers took their training very seriously and worked hard throughout the school year to develop the skill it takes to be precise and consistent in a competition.”

Manly Arvizo, a 12th grader at Sultana High School in San Bernardino County came in as the top boy shooter and top overall shooter in the state competition with a score of 290 points out of a possible score of 300. Manly came in second in last year’s tournament. Manly is planning to enter the Marine Corps after graduation, so when he is not practicing archery, he focuses on physical fitness training. Manly is also a member of his school’s Outdoor Club and enjoys a variety of outdoor pursuits.

Melissa Osorio, an 11th grader from Kearny High School in San Diego County, is the top girl shooter for the second year in a row with a score of 284 out of a possible 300. Melissa also came in second place as overall shooter in the tournament. When Melissa is not practicing archery, she enjoys spending time with her friends, playing tennis or watching movies.

Both shooters will each receive a new Genesis Special Edition compound bow donated by the manufacturer to the schools. Their coaches will present the bows to them.

The Virtual State Archery Tournament is designed to give students the opportunity to challenge their mastery of the sport in a supportive environment in which they can compete with other students statewide without traveling. Students compete at their own school either in a gymnasium or an outdoor range and their scores are posted in a national database that not only ranks the state scores, but also provides coaches with national rankings to report to students. The state tournament is a qualifier for the national tournament, which will be held in Kentucky this May.

Honorable mentions were given to: James Bui, ninth grader from Sultana High School, rank two as the overall boy shooter and third overall state shooter; Selena Schmidt, 10th grader from Sultana High School, second place overall girl shooter and fourth overall state shooter; Lilly Bell, 12th grader from Sultana High School, tied for second place overall girl shooter and fourth overall state shooter; Patrick Allain, 12th grader from Calaveras High School in northern California, third overall boy shooter and number five shooter in the overall state ranking.

Archery is a sport that can be enjoyed by students of all abilities and sizes – it can be enjoyed outdoors and encourages students to lead a more active lifestyle. For more information about CalNASP and how it can be implemented into your community schools, please visitwww.wildlife.ca.gov/calnasp.

A Remarkable Dog Rescue And Survival Story

Photo by ABC News

Photo by ABC News

This is one of those you can’t believe it stories until you believe it. But the dog pictured above was part of a heartwarming rescue after what had to be a harrowing ordeal at sea. From ABC News:

A dog who fell off a fishing boat in the Pacific Ocean and had been “presumed dead” more than a month ago has now been found alive by Navy officials on an island 80 miles off the coast of San Diego, California.

The 1-year-old German Shepherd, named Luna, was first reported missing the morning of Feb. 10 about 2 miles off of San Clemente Island by her owner — Nick Hayworth, a fisherman — according to Sandy DeMunnik, public affairs officer for the US Navy’s Naval Base Coronado.

“He told us Luna was a very powerful swimmer and that he was 90 percent sure she’d head for shore,” DeMunnik said. “So our staff searched the island, but with no luck. He stayed in the area for two more days to look for her, and after a week, we considered her lost at sea and presumed dead.”

Only Luna somehow was alive when Navy personnel found her on the island. She was deemed healthy besides being  a little malnourished, having probably sustained on mice.  Luna is one tough and brave dog!

Court: Alameda County Development Company Violated Wildlife Act


The following press release is courtesy of the U.S. Department of Justice 

Wildlife Management, LLC, an Alameda County development company, and its President, James Tong, were sentenced today for securities fraud and violations of the Endangered Species Act, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Brian J. Stretch and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Special Agent in Charge Jill Birchell. Today’s sentence, handed down by the Honorable Jon S. Tigar, U.S. District Judge, is a global resolution of state and federal criminal charges against the defendants that will include payments totaling $1 million in restitution to entities that protect the environment and a conservation easement on 107 acres of land in Contra Costa County.

Wildlife Management, LLC, based in Dublin, Calif., financed and developed residential and commercial real estate projects in the East Bay.  Real estate developers like Wildlife Management are required to mitigate for the loss of threatened or endangered species when a project impacts a protected species or its habitat.  During the development of the Dublin Ranch North real estate project in Dublin, a person acting on behalf of Wildlife Management submitted to the City of Dublin a forged $3.2 million mitigation receipt from the Ohlone Preserve Conservation Bank with the intent to deceive the City into believing Wildlife Management had purchased mitigation credits when it had not.  Wildlife Management pleaded guilty to securities fraud, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 513(a), on January 8, 2016.

As part of the sentence, Judge Tigar ordered Wildlife Management to serve one year probation and pay $175,000 in restitution to resolve the federal case.  The restitution will be paid to the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, a non-profit organization established by Congress to administer such funds.

Tong, 70, of Pleasanton, Calif., and President of Wildlife Management, pleaded guilty to a criminal violation of the Endangered Species Act, 16 U.S.C. §§ 1538(a)(1)(G) and 1540(b)(1), on January 8, 2016. In his plea agreement, Tong admitted that he directed the grading activities at Dublin Ranch North without the City’s required mitigation measure and without authorization from wildlife officials.  The grading activities caused sediment to run off into a pond that provided habitat for the California Tiger Salamander.  In the federal case, Tong was charged with one count of violating the Endangered Species Act.  Tong also pleaded nolo contendere to a criminal forgery charge pending against him in state court.  To resolve both the federal and state criminal cases, Tong has agreed to pay $350,000 to the Alameda County Fish and Game Commission, $175,000 to the Contra Costa County Fish and Wildlife Propagation Fund, and $300,000 to the California Department Fish and Wildlife.  The funds paid to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife will be split equally between the Pollution Account and the Preservation Fund.  Judge Tigar’s sentence today converts the parties’ agreements to an order of the Court.  Judge Tigar also ordered Tong to serve one year of probation, to serve four months home detention, and to provide a conservation easement on a 107-acre parcel of land in Contra Costa known as the Brown Ranch.  The conservation easement provides habitat for endangered species and will prohibit any future owners from developing the property.  The easement has an estimated value of $3 million.  In addition, Judge Tigar ordered Tong to place more than $300,000 into an account to manage the Brown Ranch conservation easement in perpetuity.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Maureen Bessette is prosecuting the federal case with the assistance of Melissa Dorton.  Deputy Attorney Generals Jason Malinsky and Brett Morris prosecuted the state case.  The prosecution was the result of an investigation by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the USFWS Office of Law Enforcement.

Pacific Fishery Management Council Announces Salmon Season Alternatives

Photo by MSJ Guide Service

Photos by MSJ Guide Service

With California’s expected king salmon run in question after was was reported as horrendous spawning numbers, the Pacifc Fishery Management Council released its 2016 ocean salmon fishing options today for the West Coast, including California.

Here’s some of the council’s take on what to expect:

The Pacific Fishery Management Council yesterday adopted three public review alternatives for the 2016 salmon season off the West Coast of the United States. The Council will select a final alternative at their next meeting in Vancouver, Washington on April 9-14. Detailed information about season starting dates, areas open, and catch limits for all three alternatives are available on the Council’s website at http://tinyurl.com/salmon2016. “The mix of salmon runs this year is unusual,” said outgoing Executive Director Donald McIsaac. “In the north, the return of fall Chinook to the Columbia River is forecast to be exceptionally high again, but expectations for wild coho runs to the Washington Coast and Puget Sound areas can only be described as disastrous. In the south, the Sacramento River fall Chinook are healthy, but Klamath River fall Chinook are so poor that the Council’s policy calls for a low ‘de minimis’ catch in ocean fisheries.” “This will be a challenging year for salmon fisheries. Several key stocks are less abundant than usual due to environmental conditions like the California drought and El Niño, which have affected ocean abundance for some stocks. However, there are alternatives that provide opportunities for both commercial and recreational salmon fishing coastwide,” said Council Vice-Chair Herb Pollard.

You can access alternative plans for all waters, including in California, by clicking here.


Mountain Lion Wanders Into L.A. Zoo, Possibly Kills Koala

Camera footage from Los Angeles Zoo

Camera footage from Los Angeles Zoo

Call this is a reverse prison break. A mountain lion that’s known to roam throughout the Hollywood Hills may have gotten into the Los Angeles Zoo and killed a resident koala.

From USA Today via the Associated Press:

Los Angeles Zoo officials say the koala went missing on March 3 and its bloody, partially eaten remains were found a short time later found outside the zoo.

The night before the koala was found, a 7-year-old male puma known as P-22 was seen on black and white surveillance video near the zoo inside Griffith Park, the sprawling urban wilderness that he calls home.

The big cat may have managed to leap a 9-foot-high fence to reach the koala enclosure and snatch Killarney, a 14-year-old female that was the oldest koala in the exhibit.

She had a habit of leaving the trees and wandering around on the ground at night, zookeepers said.

However, the evidence is circumstantial, zoo director John Lewis and other officials acknowledged Thursday.

The attack itself wasn’t recorded, and there are other predators, such as bobcats and coyotes, that were capable of killing the koala.


Lake Davis: Plumas County Trout Gem




The following appears is in the March issue of California Sportsman:





Lake Davis has long been considered the best public stillwater for fly fishing in all of Northern California.

The lake sits at an elevation of 5,885 feet amongst a coniferous forest, mixed with willows, aspens, cottonwoods and meadowlands. Most of the west shore is shallow and offers the fertile flats and expansive weedbeds that make stalking trout from the shoreline so incredible. On the east shore, deeper water exists where you can find the Grizzly Creek channel that lies parallel to the lake.

With one of the biggest biomasses in the entire state, aquatic insect hatches can be profuse. As you can imagine, the fish get big on the abundant forage. Rainbow trout average 18 to 20 inches and display abundant girth; using 6- to 8-pound tippet and strong knots is a must to prevent these fish from breaking off. And best of all, Lake Davis is for fishing only – no waterskiing or Jet Skis allowed!


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The best times for the fly angler to visit are right after ice-out at the end of March, and mid-May through the first weeks of July. During this time, the famous damselfly hatch commences and resident rainbows will cruise the shallow water, eating nymphs as they migrate to the shore to hatch into adults.

The damselfly hatch offers sight fishing at its finest – like fishing the flats in the South Pacific – and casting to moving targets.

Another short-lived phenomenon that occurs in early spring is the flying ant hatch, where the rainbows come to the surface and gorge themselves when the wind blows this source of food from the forest to the water. It pays to have some carpenter ant patterns in your box during this time, as one never knows when the hatch will happen or how long it will last. Also during spring, there are blood midge hatches, several different species of chironomids and callibaetis mayflies.

When June arrives, during the last hour of light magic happens with a special hatch. The hexagenia is the biggest mayfly in North America; they are a vivid yellow in color, with females as large as a size 6, and males at a size 8. These big bugs bring trout to the surface and offer exciting dry fly fishing. Unlike Lake Almanor, about 90 miles northwest of Davis, making presentations with nymph patterns is fair at best. The rainbows prefer the emerger and the adult on the surface. The hexagenia mayfly appeared in Lake Davis only four years ago and it appears they were blown in from Lake Almanor, Mountain Meadows Reservoir or Antelope Lake, which all hold good populations of the hex.

These new inhabitants have thrived since then due to the perfect habitat the nymph relies on to make its burrows, mud and clay. It’s safe to say they will be permanent residents of Lake Davis and a part of the ecosystem.

As summer approaches and water temperatures exceed 70 degrees on the surface, the trout head for deeper water near productive weedbeds
and dropoffs.

The one food item that has not been as prolific of late is the freshwater snail. In my opinion and from observations on the lake, the two rotenone treatments of 1997 and 2007 to eradicate illegally introduced northern pike affected the snails. When a lake is killed off and must begin again, the entire ecosystem is changed and unbalanced. There are still snails in Lake Davis, but not nearly in the numbers that were found pretreatment. Bulging crunchy trout bellies in the fall are a thing of the past, though we could see a change for the better in the future.

The other key time for the fly angler to visit is September through mid-November, when the water temps become too cold and winter takes over as the lake starts to freeze up. September can offer some incredibly good dry fly fishing as the season’s last brood of blood midges hatches, along with the return of the callibaetis mayflies.

During autumn the trout reappear in the shallows and gorge themselves to fatten up before winter. October is usually the peak of fall fishing and when the rainbows will stay in the shallows for longer periods of time. Also during this time the aspens, cottonwoods and willows blaze with glowing fall color, making for a spectacular backdrop.

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The most effective way to fish this stillwater is from a personal watercraft, from which you can either fish deep or skinny water, or get out and fish the shoreline.

Stripping flies slowly with pauses will result in success, as long as you are presenting your flies at the correct water depth. The trout graze like cattle and move slowly, like the aquatic insects they are feeding on.

Using a strike indicator is a very effective method at Lake Davis while hanging midge patterns underneath. Early morning is best to present your flies close to the bottom, and as the hatch progresses, having your flies 3 to 5 feet below the water’s surface will target the upper water column where the trout will be.

If the opportunity exists, presenting dry flies is the most popular, especially if you have active rising fish to cast amongst. When casting to a working fish, figure out their intended path and softly place your dry fly at least 3 feet ahead of them. To be able to see the take is the most fascinating aspect of fishing the dry.

Must-have fly patterns include the Sheep Creek Special, Jay Fair Wiggle Tails and Wooly Buggers in brown, olive, black and burnt orange, Pheasant Tail Flashback nymphs, and the Albino Wino midge pupa. For dry flies, blood midge emergers, Adams Parachutes, the Martis Monstrosity, RS ant, and Parachute Midge emergers are the most effective.

No matter what season you choose to visit, Lake Davis offers a variety of different ways to catch its large rainbows that will please any fly angler.

To get here from Sacramento, take I-80 east to exit 188A at Truckee and head north on Highways 89 and 49 and then Westside Road to Highway 70 just west of Beckwourth. Turn west and before you reach Portola, go north on Grizzly Road to the lake.

Besides great fishing, Lake Davis has excellent campgrounds, access areas, hiking trails, single-track mountain bike trails and the opportunity to kayak into the secluded coves for wildlife viewing. Portola has groceries, restaurants and gas. If you have never been here, it’s time to make a plan and visit Northern California’s legendary stillwater. CS

Editor’s note: Jon Baiocchi has been fly fishing and tying flies since 1972 and is a California-licensed fly fishing guide, published author, educator, innovative tyer and highly acclaimed public speaker. Jon now owns and operates Baiocchi’s Troutfitters Guide Service in Northern California, where he has been guiding for the last 19 years. Visit his website at Baiocchistroutfitters.com.

Shasta Hatchery Reopens

Photo courtesy of California Department of Fish and Widdlife

Photo courtesy of California Department of Fish and Widdlife


The following press release is courtesy of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife:

The Crystal Lake Hatchery in eastern Shasta County reopened to the public Thursday after being closed due to a major environmental restoration in nearby Rock Creek.

Beginning in October 2015, construction work prompted the closure of the viewing area at the hatchery and the temporary cancellation of tours to ensure the safety of both the public and the workers. The hatchery continued to raise and plant trout during the construction. Although the construction project is ongoing, the facility is now free of any equipment and personnel that would prohibit the public from safely visiting.

The Rock Creek restoration project consists of re-routing the hatchery supply pipeline and moving a diversion dam on Upper Rock Creek to a new location downstream. The project will create habitat for the endangered Shasta crayfish while maintaining a continuous, clean water supply to the hatchery.

Crystal Lake Hatchery spawns, raises and releases catchable rainbow trout, brook trout and brown trout every year for planting in Northern California lakes. It is one of 23 state-run hatcheries that provide millions of fish for California anglers. Visitors may call the hatchery at (530) 335-4111 for more information.

A complete listing of state hatcheries is available atwww.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/hatcheries.


March Madness, Fishing Style

Courtesy of Trout Unlimited

Courtesy of Cheeky Fishing

This is such a fun time of year to be a sports fan. Pro basketball and hockey are into the stretch drive toward the playoffs, and baseball teams are preparing for the season at spring training. But in March, for me most other sports take a backseat to college basketball and the NCAA Tournament. March Madness – which I eventually found out the NCAA swiped from the Illinois high school basketball state tournament – has become a national obessiion. Filling out a bracket to choose the winners of the 68-team hoops orgy has become must do, not just by fans like me but my Bob in accounting and Betty in human resources. One of my colleagues here asked if March Madness involved hockey last season (she suprisingly didn’t win our office pool; then again, neither did I!). But she isn’t the only one who bases her picks off nicknames, school colors or whatever else one who doesn’t watch the game uses for the logic of picking UAB to beat powerful Iowa State (of course that happened last March, which is the point of the whole Madness thing).

Anyway, back to the point of this, which is fishing. Such a big part of pop culture has March Madness become that you can find a “bracket” to pick in just about any category you can think of. Check out this list that includes staging a tournament to decide, best Will Ferrell flicks (I have a Final Four of Old School, Talladega Nights, Anchorman and in one of the few times he actually “acted,” Stranger Than Fiction; candy brands (Reese’s vs. peanut M&M’s in the final); Muppets (those smart-asses from the balcony could pull off a first-round upset over Miss Piggy or Gonzo, but Kermit the Frog is the Kentucky of this tournament); and boy bands (do the Beach Boys qualify?).

So we give you CheekyFishing.com, a rod and reel retailer, which is staging a March Madness-style bracket tournament – “The Road To The Final Fish” – to determine the national champion of gamefish. It’s a great cause – the $10 donation benefits Trout Unlimted and Casting For Recovery, with several prizes. So enter here and make your picks. Watch out for that possible second-round matchup of king salmon vs. rainbow trout; that’s more like an Elite 8 game!



Fishing Restrictions Looming?



A really informative piece in the Sacramento Bee the probability that fishing restrictions for king salmon will be imminent this year after dreadful numbers were recorded for last year’s fall run.

Here’s Sac Bee reporter Ryan Sabalow:

Fishing trade groups say they’re expecting potentially severe curtailments to the upcoming fishing seasons for both recreational and commercial anglers. The estimates will be used by regulators in the next few weeks to set catch limits for both seasons, which tend to run from spring to fall.

Officials blame the poor numbers on unfavorable ocean and river conditions following years of drought.

The disappointing population estimates follow a challenging year for California’s commercial fishermen. Last year’s salmon-fishing season was restricted in some areas to protect endangered winter-run Chinook whose numbers have plummeted in California’s record drought.

Professional anglers had hoped a robust Dungeness crab season would help offset the losses. But California officials announced in November they were suspending the crab season because of a toxic algae bloom off the coast. The commercial Dungeness season remains closed statewide.

“It’s a 1-2-3 punch,” said Tim Sloane, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations. “We had a pretty poor 2015 season. We’ve had zero income from crabbing, and now we’re looking at 2016 that’s projected to be – just by sheer numbers in the ocean – half what 2015 was.”