The Opening Day of Elk Season.

IT WAS DAYLIGHT in the swamp on the opening day of elk season.

It is a day steeped in a tradition that harkens back to an earlier time when people depended on getting an elk for their winter’s meat.

With the European invasion, the Olympic elk were market hunted for their meat, antlers, hides and ivory teeth, or just shot and left to rot by thrill-seeking lowlifes who liked to watch them fall.

In 1905, the Washington State Legislature stopped all elk hunting.

In 1909,President Teddy Roosevelt, one of the greatest elk hunters who ever lived, established Mount Olympus National Monument, a precursor of Olympic National Park, to save the elk.

The government put a bounty on wolves, bears and cougars.

Varmint hunting became respectable.

It was a way many homestead families could survive the Great Depression in the wilderness.

By 1937, the elk had expanded beyond the carrying capacity of many parts of their range.

Elk were starving and loaded with internal parasites.

The Game Commission opened an eight-day season in October and November in Clallam and Jefferson counties for any and all elk.

William (Billy) Welsh a columnist for the Port Angeles Evening News, a forerunner of the Peninsula Daily News, journeyed to the upper Hoh River that October to cover what he called “The Elk War.”

Welch, described the opening-day salvo as 5,280 elk hunters opened fire on previously unhunted elk as a “battle.”

As with any battle, there were casualties.

Before our current emphasis on hunter safety, it was a common practice for groups of hunters to surround an unsuspecting elk herd and open fire.

This meant the hunters were often firing at each other while blazing away at the elk.

One man died in a fusillade of bullets fired at a bull elk.

A boy shot himself in the leg while cleaning his gun.

Three hunters were badly burned when one of the nimrods shot a can of gasoline inside their tent.

Another drowned trying to drive through the flooding Hoh River before the invention of four-wheel drive.

The casualties might have been higher, but a gully-washer dumped 10 inches of rain. The elk hunters were forced to concentrate on just trying to survive.

Welch described the sorry spectacle when thousands of soaking-wet elk hunters tried to drown their sorrows in liquor.

They descended upon Forks, which had run out of whiskey long before the elk season had even started.

All Forks had left was some gin, which was never very popular on the frontier.

In all, an estimated 800 elk, one donkey and a pack horse were killed.

In his book, “The Last Wilderness,” Murray Morgan described a farmer’s cow that was mistaken for an elk and shot.

The farmer propped the cow up against a tree, where it kept getting shot all season long by confused hunters.

As the story goes, after elk season, the farmer melted her down for lead.

This past opening day of elk season was mighty quiet.

I did not hear a single shot fired.

Things have changed. The wolves may be gone, but the cougars and bears are protected by laws against hound hunting.

Their numbers have sky-rocketed.

Meanwhile, the elk have been hunted to near death.

The big herds of 60 or 70 elk are gone — replaced by bunches of a dozen or so with few legal bulls.

I quit and went home before noon.

There were fresh elk tracks in the lawn.

If I had just slept in and stayed home, I might have got an elk.

Oh well, maybe next year.

The Day After the Election.

“THE WHOLE COUNTRY is going to hell in a bucket now that we’ve elected those idiots,” my fancy friend shrieked the day after the election.

“Which idiot is that?” I asked, pretending to care.

There’s nothing like talking politics to ruin a perfectly beautiful fall day spent floating down the river catching salmon.

When you’re hooked up to a big king salmon, you generally don’t care who the president is.

Once the fishing gets slow, people get bored and start bad-mouthing politicians, no matter who they are.

America is a nation of laws.

I don’t make the rules, but I try to follow them.

Similarly, there are rules at the fish camp that allow a free discourse of opposing ideas about the cuisine, the weather and the estimated weight of a fish, while preserving a civilized decorum of relaxation and good taste.

I like to celebrate diversity of opinion as much as the next guy.

We have even let a fly fisherman into the fish camp in the interest of burying the hatchet on the row vs. wade controversy.

Fly fishermen typically wade the river. I row a boat down the river.

Can’t we all get along?

The first rule in any fish camp is, no arguments before breakfast.

Chances are if you wait until after breakfast, you’ll forget what you were arguing about.

Rule No. 2, no bear meat in the chili contest. That should be self-explanatory.

The final and most important rule in any fish camp is no politics.

Start talking politics and you are gone.

Politics has always been a nasty business.

Aristophanes said it best when he summed up what constitutes a popular politician, “a horrible voice, bad breeding and a vulgar manner.”

Since then, the abuse of politicians has become the great American pastime, where we conveniently forget we voted them into office against our own self-interest in the first place and keep them enthroned until they are rich and old.

But if you think we bad-mouth politicians now, it’s nothing compared to the good old days.

George Washington was the father of our country, but he had an enemy list as long as your arm.

Fortunately, these events occurred in a period of our history when journalists had a command of the English language.

James Thomson Callender, a reporter for The Richmond Recorder, called President Washington, “the grand lama of the federal adoration, in immaculate divinity of Mount Vernon.”

Callender described our second president, John Adams, as a “hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force nor firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”

He accused Adams of wanting to crown himself king and said “it would have been best to have President Jefferson beheaded five minutes before his inaugural address.”

Journalism has always been a risky business.

Destitute and drunk, Callender was found drowned in 3 feet of water in the James River in Virginia.

Not much has changed since the time of our founding fathers.

We are still using the Electoral College to elect our president.

Journalists still use eye-catching headlines to increase sales. And if we have to exaggerate and speculate to educate, so much the better.

In this age of misinformation, all news is suspect.

Journalists have to face the facts these days that nobody will believe what we write anyway.

Still, at the end of the day, Americans can be proud that we elected the best politicians money can buy.

In these uncertain times, only one thing is certain:

Have some faith — the country will change, but it will survive.