Celebrating Robbie Burns Day.

Today is Robbie Burns Day — a celebration of literature, music and fine cuisine.

Robert Burns was an 18th Century Scottish poet and lyricist, who wrote in a state of abject poverty, defiance and despair.

He spared no one. The church and the devil, peasants and lairds were flogged with Burns’ withering satire and comedic vision. He mined new depths of self-pity.

While ploughing the rocky fields of his farm, Burns penned some of the most tender expressions of human affection for people in their struggle for survival, framed within an apology to a mouse he had made homeless with his plow. His was a fellowship to all no matter how small.

Born on Jan. 25, 1759, he died in 1796, deep in debt, disease and obscure ignominy.

After his death, Burns became known as a peer of Shakespeare. He influenced literature and music from Byron to Beethoven to John Steinbeck, who used a Burns poem for the title of his book “Of Mice and Men.”

People, to this day, still sing the Burns song “Auld Lang Syn” as part of a New Year’s celebration.

Across the pond in Victoria, Robbie Burns Day is a week-long party with concerts, readings and dinners.

The centerpiece of any Robbie Burns Day dinner is the haggis. This traditional Scottish dish epitomizes the phrase, “waste not, want not,” using heart, liver, lungs, oatmeal, onions and spices stuffed in a sheep’s stomach and steamed to perfection.

Served with a mash of rutabagas and potatoes, care must be taken to prick the haggis to release the pent-up steam before the thing explodes.

A Robbie Burns dinner takes planning. With supply chain issues, sheep stomachs are not available at this time.

I had to make do with an elk stomach, which I was assured would be a part of a front page spread on the Saturday Peninsula Daily News’ Elk Season Edition with the headline: “Pat Neal Shoots Legal Elk!” but it must have got lost in the newsroom.

That’s OK, I know they’re just jealous.

Stuffing an elk stomach with innards is a chore. Getting it in the oven was a feat. Just then, a demented shriek of terror pierced the gloaming.

A celestial green light had been observed in the Northern sky. A comet! A harbinger of evil tidings since ancient times.

The Babylonians blamed a comet for their Great Flood.

The Mongols called a comet the “Daughter of the Devil” for bringing storms and frost.

The Inca said a comet foreshadowed Pizarro’s brutal invasion.

In Europe, a comet presaged the Black Death.

The Pope excommunicated Halley’s Comet for being an instrument of the devil.

This latest comet to pass by Earth, known officially as C/2022E3(ZTF), is returning after its last visit 50,000 years ago.

In this age of conspiracy theories, superstitions and ignorance, comets are more alarming than ever — causing questions to be asked. Would the comet cause something worse than all the hard knocks on humanity put together?

Might happen. Conjectures were startling.

One theory maintained the comet could cause the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to close the steelhead season. Something had to be done.

“Burn the witch,” the diners chanted — until I explained the difficulties of getting a fire started in the rainforest in winter.

“Sacrifice the virgin,” they demanded — despite the improbability of finding a virgin this far upriver in winter.

Just then, there was a muffled explosion. I forgot to prick the haggis!

The oven door blew open, splattering the kitchen with various and diverse gut meats.

The haggis was ruined.

We dined on hot dogs instead.

The Tale of the Hundred Pound Salmon.

PAT NEAL: The tale of the 100-pound salmon

Who says there’s no good news? A new world-record Chinook salmon weighing over 105 pounds was recently landed by a lucky angler.

This beats the old record set on the Kenai River in Alaska in 1985 — it was a 97-pound monster.

It also beat another contender caught in 2021, in Rivers Inlet, by a lucky British Columbian who released this king salmon in front of dozens of other anglers. This giant Chinook was 55 inches long and 38 inches wide and estimated to weigh about 100 pounds.

The phrase, “hundred-pound salmon” should ring a bell on the Olympic Peninsula.

In 1790, the Spanish Capt. Manuel Quimper bought two salmon weighing 100 pounds that came from the Elwha River.

People have been coming to the Olympic Peninsula searching for these legendary fish ever since then. The 100-pound salmon was the mascot for the Elwha Dam Removal Project that began in 2011.

Billed as the largest salmon restoration project in the world, it was hoped that the removal of the Elwha dams would allow the river to run free from the mountains to the sea, and eventually restore the historic run of salmon on the river to an estimated population of 400,000 fish.

Unfortunately, this optimistic prediction overlooked the fact that no other river on the Peninsula that has not been dammed, running free from the mountains to the sea, has retained its historic runs of fish.

By any measurement of fisheries restoration, the Elwha Dam Removal Project has been a bitter disappointment.

At first, a five-year fishing moratorium was declared on the Elwha. This was increased to seven years and is now going on 12 years after dam removal. With millions being spent on standard salmon restoration strategies — building log jams, buying property and planting native vegetation — there is not even a rumor of the Elwha ever being open to fishing again.

This is a normal state of affairs in Washington, since our salmon restoration industry does not pretend it will restore our salmon, but only the conditions in which the salmon might one day theoretically return.

As to why salmon are not returning to the pristine salmon habitat within Olympic National Park, a U.N. Biosphere Reserve, it is theorized that something might be happening to the salmon once they leave this pristine habitat.

Duh.

We can only hope someone is studying the problem.

We have only to look at the Elwha’s neighbor, the Dungeness River, to see how 30 years and millions of dollars spent in salmon restoration has failed to produce anything but more threatened or endangered fish in this once legendary salmon and steelhead stream.

It should come as no surprise that this new world record 100-pound Chinook salmon did not come from any stream in Washington.

It was not even caught in North America. It was caught in Chile!

It’s ironic that the world-class Chinook salmon fishing in Chile was created by planting eggs from Washington State fish hatcheries in their rivers back in the 1980s.

Here in Washington, we have been deluded into believing that fish raised in fish hatcheries are genetically inferior.

After over 100 years of planting hatchery fish in every river in Washington, we are told to believe that it is better to have dead rivers with no fish than rivers full of hatchery fish.

This makes sense to the salmon restoration industry that has been able to monetize the extinction of our salmon and profit from this environmental disaster.

Perhaps you believe that a 100-pound hatchery Chinook is genetically deficient, but it’s better than no Chinook at all.

 

What Happened to Dollie?

IN LAST WEEK’S episode, the Press Expedition of 1889-90, a motley collection of six men, four dogs named Daisy, Tweed, Bud and Dike, and one remaining mule, Dollie, were floundering through the snow in upper Elwha somewhere above today’s Whiskey Bend.
After months of pushing up the Elwha, the Press boys had ditched their 30-foot party barge Gertie. It was impossible to drag the craft upriver. They had lost Jennie the mule, who had fallen off a cliff on a ridge ominously named the Devil’s Backbone.
The men were suffering from dysentery. The dogs were hungry and the remaining mule Dollie was reduced to eating Oregon Grape.
The men supposed that Dollie would be fine if they could just make it to the center of the Olympic Mountains, where the locals had assured the expedition there was a bunch grass prairie and a lake. The expedition leader James Christie came to the hard realization that “From the thousand and one advices received and the mass of rubbish poured out for the education of our party, I can get no information regarding the country.”
Unfortunately for the Press Expedition, telling tall tales to tourists was a proud pioneer tradition — variations of which have survived to the present. A flourishing tourist industry lures crowds of people to the Olympic Peninsula for solitude in the wilderness, if they can get a reservation and a permit.
By the time the expedition reached Geyser Valley, half of their provisions were gone. They were saved by a wealth of steelhead, elk and deer.
The expedition stopped and built a smokehouse.
Here is one of the great mysteries of the Press Expedition. They heard rumbling sounds with a duration of about four minutes that the men thought could be caused by geysers.
Having spent decades in the fruitless search for the geysers in Geyser Valley, we can only suspect tales of the geysers may have been a form of revenge for the faulty intelligence the expedition was supplied by the townsfolk. Who knows?
The dogs and mules were the most important members of the expedition. The mules packed the grub. The dogs kept the humans from freezing to death while sleeping in the snow in a blanket. The dogs were hunters, saving the expedition from starvation during the most desperate point of the journey.
Dike was killed by a bull elk up in Press Valley.
Dollie laid down and refused to get up. This was on a disastrous detour where the expedition left the broad, level valley of the Elwha to struggle up the impossibly rugged Goldie River, only to find it was a dead end that led back down to the Elwha just upstream from where they left it.
Dollie was relieved of her halter and, “turned adrift to make her living as the elk do.”
This was a desperate measure, but it might not have been the end of Dollie.
Instead of ending up as cougar bait, she may have done what many a mule has done before.
Anytime you least expect it, a mule is liable to whirl around with a second wind and head back down the trail to the starting point — a trick that has left many a mule-skinner in the wilderness without their outfit.
As for the dogs, they stuck with the expedition, eating what was left of the bacon, but saving the men from starvation by chasing down bears at Low Divide.
From there it was all downhill to the Quinault, where possibly, the descendants of these dogs may survive to the present. Who knows?

An Historic Hard Winter.

BY NOW, I think we have all had it up to here with winter — even though it has just started. And yet, things could be so much worse.

That is the value of history, to look back and see how good you have it now.

We need only go back a little more than 100 years to observe a brutal winter in the Olympic Mountains, endured by some of the most clueless campers in history.

That would be the Press Expedition of 1889-90 when six men, four dogs (Daisy, Tweed, Bud and Dike), and two mules (Jennie and Dollie) relied on advice from the locals to buy lumber and build a boat to cruise up the Elwha.

Thirty feet long and 5 feet wide, the flat-bottomed Gertie “began to take on water like a thirsty fish” when she was launched and loaded with 2,000 pounds of supplies, including 50 pounds of fireworks on Dec. 30, 1889.

While it’s easy to judge historical figures from the comfort of our electrically heated homes, we were not there dragging a boat through waist-deep water or hip-deep snow, exhausted, hungry, cold and lost in 16-degree weather, so don’t judge the past by the present.

By Jan. 18, 1890, the Expedition had only made it upstream a few miles to the mouth of Indian Creek, where a massive log jam, used by the locals to cross the Elwha, stopped Gertie. Expedition leader James Christie employed a “clever strategy,” otherwise known as extortion, to threaten the locals with either helping to drag the Gertie over the log jam or the Press boys would cut it and deprive the pioneers of a river crossing.

Seven men showed up to drag the Gertie over the log jam.

The bridge and the expedition were saved.

Gertie was abandoned just upstream. The snow was too deep for Jennie and Dollie to pack anything so the expedition fabricated some failed contraptions to sled their supplies that worked about as well as the Gertie.

Somewhere near the present Olympic National Park boundary, they met a camp of S’Klallam hunters with elk meat hanging whom Christie declared “utterly ignorant of the country.”

More likely the S’Klallam hunters had already learned the fate of the buffalo and were reluctant to share information on the elk, whose near extinction through market-hunting by the white man would occur a few years later.

The S’Klallam had villages and camps all along the Elwha. In fact, the expedition spent the night in an abandoned S’Klallam house above the Glines Canyon dam site.

The country was not unknown to the S’Klallam.

It had been depopulated by disease and the 1855 Point No Point Treaty, which forced the S’Klallam onto a reservation at the mouth of the Elwha.

By the end of February, the expedition had traveled less than a fifth of the distance across the Olympics, but had used up half its supplies.

Loading the mules with 200-pound packs, they started across the Devil’s Backbone, the steep ridge above the Elwha Ranger Station.

At one point, Jennie fell off a 400-foot cliff, breaking her back. The expedition “felt blue,” knowing they would now have to pack Jennie’s load on their backs.

By March, every member of the expedition was suffering from dysentery, which could have been contracted from any number of sources from polluted water to questionable hygiene.

Dollie, the remaining mule, was reduced to eating Oregon Grape. She would have to “survive on faith” until reaching the bunch grass prairie that the locals said was near the hidden lake at the center of the Olympics.

New Year’s Resolutions.

THE BEST NEW Year’s resolution I ever heard belonged to the American author Louisa May Alcott. She was also a feminist, abolitionist and nurse who overcame a life of poverty, illness and discrimination by resolving to “take fate by the throat and shake a living out of her.”

This is a stark comparison to today’s most popular New Year’s resolutions — losing weight, making money and spending more time with family and friends. All of which are superior to my New Year’s resolutions, which include going to the dump, shoveling out the house, attaining a state of hibernation and getting better friends.

When making New Year’s resolutions, avoid unrealistic expectations.

The sooner you realize your expectations are unrealistic, the better.

Despite my best efforts, I can’t get better friends.

My chances of making it to the dump this year are roughly similar to winning the Nobel Prize for fishing.

As for shoveling out the house, I’ve never found a shovel that fit my hand. I’m not about to risk permanent hand injury that could jeopardize a promising career as a wilderness gossip columnist.

That leaves hibernation as a realistic goal for this year’s resolution.

Even if I was unable to achieve a true state of hibernation, like our iconic Olympic Marmots or members of Congress, at least it could go a long way to avoiding the worst month of the year, January.

Known for its bad weather, bad bill collectors and bad moods from sunlight deprivation, January is the month all the rabid chickens come home to roost. I’d just as soon skip it.

Even if I fail to attain a state of true hibernation, there are plenty of other New Year’s resolutions just waiting to be resolved. The best resolutions are the ones that help people.

I can think of no better way to achieve this lofty goal than to uncover the mysteries contained within the 150-odd pages of our Washington State fishing regulations. In addition to my other resolutions, this year’s New Year’s resolution will be to translate our fishing laws into English.

Also known as the Fish Cop Employment Security Handbook, Washington’s fishing regulations are so complicated that very few anglers can figure out what they say. Many anglers have given up fishing altogether, which is a tragedy since people who fish are the only ones that care about protecting, enhancing and restoring our fisheries.

The Hoh River is divided into seven different zones. Each with its own seasons, limits and gear restrictions. These zones are not on any map. Then there are the so-called emergency regulations that shut down the seasons when you least expect it. There are never any emergency fishing season openers when a bigger-than-expected run of fish comes in. If fishing is good, they’ll shut it down with another emergency regulation.

In his book “Game Warden Gone Rogue” (Amazon 2022), retired game warden Greg Haw exposed “the ambiguous, nonsensical and all too often unlawful regulations, as they pertain to the recreational hunting and fishing regulation pamphlets. Previous administrations at WDFW have admitted publicly that recreational regulations in their current form are too often unenforceable or ambiguous, and far too complex for the average angler/hunter to understand. Because of ‘strict liability’ associated with the game code, law-abiding people often find themselves in violation, all too often without any prerequisite intent on their part.”

This is from a man who spent 39 years enforcing fish and game laws.

It’s time to translate our fish and game laws into English. We’ll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.

The Perfect Tree.

SOMETIMES IT SEEMS like the warmth and happiness of the holiday season is enough to drive the average person right over the brink.

The best way to eliminate holiday stress is to discard outdated notions of the perfect Christmas. Do you think the first Christmas was perfect? Jesus was born in a barn! Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect.

Unless you are talking about the perfect Christmas tree.

The perfect tree can be tough to find due to the simple fact that a tree’s degree of perfection occurs at an inverse ratio to its distance from a road.

We’re not after just any tree here. We are after the perfect alpine fir Christmas tree.

Abies lasiocarpa grows in the mountains and there’s snow up there in December.

Sometimes you have to hunt around for a while to find a perfect Christmas tree and it’s not a job you want to rush.

A low winter’s sun found me at the end of the road, where the climb up the side of the mountain began. There was only a foot or so of snow, but it had a good crust that made it perfect for skidding a tree back down the hill.

I considered taking a tarp along so the tree wouldn’t lose any needles, but then I thought I’d pack light when I took a look at the hill. I started climbing.

By the time I remembered I’d forgotten my water bottle, I was sweating like a walrus. At least I remembered the axe.

I’ll never forget that sunset, when I reached the crest of the ridge. It looked like a burning city of clouds the night before the end of the world. By then, I was too lost to appreciate the view. There was nothing to do but keep going. I needed a perfect tree and the holiday stress was mounting.

Then I came out into a clearing in the forest and found the perfect tree. It was perfectly symmetrical without a limb out of place. There were little cones in the branches near the crown. This tree was so perfect it was already decorated for Christmas with strands of silver lichen and a Canada Jay’s nest in the branches.

I remembered the old Indian curse about messing with a camp-robber’s nest, but I had to cut it down.

By then, the sun was down and it was getting dark. The belly of a moon showed beneath an ocean of clouds, so I could see pretty good until I got down in the timber. That’s when I lost the perfect tree. We started sliding down an icy slope. It was me or the tree, so I let go.

After a while, I worked my way to the bottom of the cliff the tree fell off. The top was busted, but I figured I could haywire the top back on with the angel and nobody would know.

I didn’t want to lose the tree again, so I took off my belt and used it to lower the tree down the mountain. This is tough to do with your pants falling off.

I knew I was getting closer to the road once I hit the overgrown slash of an old clear-cut.

By the time I dragged the tree through that mess, the cones, bird nest and a lot of the bark and needles were gone. A couple of limbs were broken clear off.

None of that mattered once I blundered into the road and found my truck.

It was another successful mission. Christmas was saved. I’d found the perfect tree.

Steelhead Season.

IT WAS ANOTHER tough week in the news, when the state Department of Fish and Wildlife decided to end steelhead fishing on many of our rivers even before the steelhead season opened — ending an angling tradition that stretches back through the mists of time as long as we can remember.

If you don’t know what a steelhead is, you are probably not from around here.

Steelhead are a rainbow trout that migrate out to the ocean then return to the rivers where they were born much like the salmon.

Unlike the salmon, steelhead do not die after they spawn.

In fact, one female steelhead in the Hoh River was found to have spawned six times based upon an analysis of her scales, which, much like the rings of a tree, can document the life of the fish.

The fact that steelhead are able to spawn multiple times has made them much harder to eradicate from the ecosystem than our salmon, which can only spawn once.

Never fear. Using the best available science, coupled with best available Disney movies, the co-managers of this precious resource have been working tirelessly to transform this magnificent fish from a public resource we could all enjoy into an endangered species.

Through the miracle of the Endangered Species Act, it is hoped that millions of federal dollars will soon become available to study the problem. Meanwhile, just about all we have left of our steelhead culture and traditions have become a distant memory.

Nobody who ever caught a steelhead will forget their first one.

This is my story.

We were camping in the rainforest sometime in the last century. It was raining. And not just a sprinkle. It was pounding on our tent like a thousand little hammers. However, we had a wood stove in the tent, so it was warm but a little moist. Unfortunately, we had forgotten a ground sheet and since we were camping in a meadow, the floor was a wet patch of grass. Once the turf warmed up inside the tent, every bug in the country woke up and sprang out of hibernation ready for a meal.

Outside, flakes of snow mixed with rain. Inside, it was mosquito season as hundreds of bugs filled the tent like a cloud of misery. Somehow, we survived until morning and it was time to fish. We did not catch a thing, but we saw a guy walking along the river carrying a fish as long as his leg.

Once I caught a steelhead, I was hooked.

Steelhead are not for eating anymore. According to the government, steelhead are now so rare that some rivers, like the Queets, have been shut down to even catch-and-release fishing — causing questions to be asked.

Isn’t the Queets River, protected almost its entire length within Olympic National Park, the most pristine environment this side of Alaska? If the steelhead have become so rare in the Queets, is there something besides the habitat endangering our fish? And isn’t the Queets still open to tribal gillnetting?

The answer to all these questions is yes. The tribes have a treaty right to fish.

Using native brood stock to enhance the runs, they plant more fish than they catch — making the Tribal section of the Queets and Quinault rivers the best steelhead fishing in the United States in terms of size and numbers of fish.

The answer to the survival of our steelhead is obvious.

Let the Tribes manage our steelhead. They are the only ones doing it.

We’ll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.

Pearl Harbor Day

“December 7, 1941 – a date which will live in infamy.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt said these words many years ago. Today, Dec. 7 might mean one less shopping day until Christmas, but it means something else to “The Greatest Generation,” the people who fought World War II.

The debate over whether Roosevelt knew of the impending attack on the Pacific Fleet bottled up in Pearl Harbor continues to this day. Whether the attack on Pearl Harbor was indeed a surprise or a cynical manipulation in a geopolitical chess game didn’t matter to my mom at the time.

Mom’s cousin Jack Abernathy, U.S. Navy, got bombed at Pearl Harbor. That got her Irish up! It was payback time for Tojo. There was a war on! Mom could see the need for long-range strategic bombers in America’s war against the Axis Powers. She found a sleepy little airplane factory down along the Duwamish River in her home town, Seattle. In no time mom had the Boeing plant whipped into apple pie order. At one point in the war, she was rolling a B-17 Flying Fortress out the door every 49 minutes! Powered by four 1,200 horsepower engines, the B-17 could carry a crew of 10 at speeds of up to 250 miles per hour. It could cruise 400 miles with a ceiling of 35,000 feet. Most importantly, the Flying Fortress could fly even when it was “shot to hell.”

Cousin Donny (Donald Abernathy, Army Air Corps) always said he worked at a flower shop in the war, no. He was a tail gunner in a B-17, flying support for Uncle Jack’s (Jack Lopresti, U.S. Army) European Expeditionary Force. The B-17 specialized in precision daylight raids, which made them an easy target for the Germans’ deadly accurate 88mm Flak guns.

After the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942, the United States began an island campaign to protect America’s lifeline to Australia. At midnight Aug. 6, 1942, the U.S. Navy’s first amphibious assault began on Guadalcanal. To protect the landing mom’s B-17s turned the Japanese fleet headquarters at Rabaul into what Admiral “Bull” Halsey called “rubble” while bombing and strafing Japanese reinforcements attempting to retake Guadalcanal.

On Nov. 1, 1943, my uncle Len (Leonard Neal, U.S.M.C.) landed in heavy surf on Bougainville with the 3rd Marine Corps to face an estimated 35,000 tough, veteran Japanese troops of the 6th Imperial Division infamous for the Rape of Nanking. Meanwhile a Japanese naval force of two heavy cruisers, two light cruisers and six destroyers was approaching to shell the beachhead where the Marines were dug into shallow foxholes in the pouring rain.

Fortunately, Dad’s Navy Task Force 39 of four light cruisers and eight destroyers ambushed the Japanese using torpedoes and radar to range their guns in a night action that forced a sudden retreat and saved the beachhead that was only 50 miles away.

Uncle Len and about 34,000 other troops established a defensive perimeter one mile deep and five miles long while the Seabees finished the impossible task of turning swamp into an airfield.

Meanwhile Mom was determined to march north and secure an airbase that was within bombing range of Tokyo. The rugged 30-mile-long island of Guam was ideally suited for the Japanese defenders when a combined force of U.S. Army and Marine veterans of Guadalcanal came ashore on July 21, 1944. Over 3,500 Japanese and 1,500 Americans died in a battle that continued in isolated pockets until the end of the war. The last Japanese soldier on Guam did not surrender until 1972. My Dad (Duane Neal, U.S.N.) ran an airfield on Guam for Mom’s long- and medium-range bomber fleet to conduct reconnaissance and bombing missions.

Once Len Neal’s Marines had secured Bougainville, he headed north to help General Douglas MacArthur return to the Philippines where an estimated quarter of a million Japanese troops were waiting under the command of General Yamashita, the “Tiger of Malaya.” On Oct. 21, 1944, an estimated ton of explosives was fired ashore for every man going to the beachhead with MacArthur at Leyte. Once again Uncle Len’s invasion force was saved from annihilation by Japanese battleships by Dad’s Navy in what has come to be known as the greatest naval battle in history: the three-day Battle of Leyte Gulf, that all but wiped out the Japanese Imperial Fleet. Meanwhile the Leyte invasion was stalled in a campaign reminiscent of the Western Front of World War I and forced the postponement of MacArthur’s optimistic invasion schedule for a month.

As Dad and Uncle Len’s island-hopping offensive drew closer to the Japanese home islands, both sides refined their tactics into more horrifying desperate measures. Admiral Onitsha sent bomb-laden fighter planes to crash into American ships. Named after the Divine Wind that scattered the Mongol fleet of 1281, the Kamikaze became one of the most effective weapons the Japanese used as a defense against the U.S Navy.

In Feb. 19, 1945, the U.S. Marines landed on Iwo Jima to secure an airfield so Mom’s planes had someplace to land if they were shot up trying to bomb Japan. The Japanese defended Iwo Jima with a series of caves and dugouts that withstood the pre-invasion bombardment and waited to ambush the Americans when they could inflict the greatest casualties. The B-17 was the Marine’s best friend on Iwo Jima, precision bombing enemy positions right next to the front lines.

By 1945, Mom was building the larger B-29 bomber. On March 10, 1945, 350 of her B-29s dropped 2,000 tons of magnesium, phosphorous and napalm on Tokyo, incinerating 16 square miles and killing 100,000 people. It remains the single deadliest attack ever inflicted on a civilization. Despite these heavy casualties, the Japanese military continued a fanatical but hopeless defense. That was until mom’s B-29 Bombers dropped two atomic bombs on Japan.

Mom built that bomber fleet, riveting them together in eight-foot sections, one plane at a time until the war was over and there was peace. After the war, Mom went on to create the post-war boom in America. She never let on that she was a war hero. Just another patriotic American teenager doing her part to bomb the Axis Powers back to the hell they came from. Thanks, Mom, from a proud son and a grateful nation.

Sympathy for the Fish Cop.

IT HAS BEEN a long-held suspicion that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is managing our fish and wildlife into extinction in an effort to end fishing and hunting in the Evergreen State. There could be many reasons for this.

A lot of it has to do with the unintended consequences of the Endangered Species Act. When fish or wildlife are declared endangered, millions of dollars become available to be spent with no expectation of actually restoring the endangered species, but rather to restore the habitat they might inhabit someday.

For example, the Bull Trout, a fish that feeds on young salmon and steelhead in our rivers, has been declared threatened and/or endangered and thereby given protection under the law and millions of dollars in habitat restoration funds in streams where they have never occurred. It is a perfect example of a management strategy that endangers salmon and steelhead, while providing millions of dollars to the myriad bureaucracies, non-profits and politicians for whom extinction is a highly profitable endeavor.

That is just one example, but I could go on.

Why is it illegal to keep a green crab? It’s an invasive species that could devastate our Dungeness crab and clam populations, but we must release them.

Why are we only allowed to keep salmon with a clipped adipose fin indicating it is a hatchery fish, when our hatchery fish are intentionally not clipped?

This is a question posed by Greg Haw in his latest book, “Game Warden Gone Rogue, How the Washington State Dept. of Fish and Wildlife compel outdoor enthusiasts to cheat” (2022 Amazon).

In the book, Haw tells of catching 24 salmon on a day in Sekiu, of which only one was a clipped hatchery fish. Haw writes, “using the WDFW’s own mortality numbers, I killed at least 5 wild fish. Had I been allowed to catch ‘any coho,’ my total impact on wilds would have been two at most.”

Haw started his 39-year career enforcing fish and wildlife regulations in 1985 in Forks.

As a young officer, Haw was obsessed, in his own words, with catching salmon snaggers and poachers while working 12-hour days, seven days a week. He thought he was making a difference.

Upon retiring, Haw entered a period of bleak depression. He wondered if, after dedicating 39 years of his life working to protect the natural resources of Washington state in a hazardous profession, he had contributed nothing.

In his book, “Confessions of an Urban Fish and Wildlife Officer in Washington State” (2019, Amazon), Haw notes that, “nearly all economically valuable populations of fish, as well as much of our native flora and fauna, are in a sorry state. Recreational fishing and hunting opportunities are shrinking.”

In his second book, “Confessions of a Washington State Game Warden: An Insider Tells All” (2020, Amazon), Haw says, “WDFW’s recreational fishing regulations pamphlet is best described as an oversized catalog of largely useless and misleading information. Courts don’t take our cases because of this publication. Our ability to prosecute violators is limited. This publication is used by defendants to beat charges.”

This, from a man who dedicated his life to enforcing the fishing laws.

How could such a disastrous collection of unenforceable laws be allowed to grow larger every year?

Haw’s latest book goes a long way to answer this question. Haw explains how there are, “many victims of bad regulations, not the least of which are the natural resources that they are designed to protect and the law enforcement professionals that enforce them.”

It’s enough to give you sympathy for the fish cop.

 

Hunting with Bo.

 

WAY BACK WHEN, the Olympic elk were market hunted for their meat, antlers, hides and ivory teeth or just shot and left 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 preserved what is now Olympic National Park to save the elk. By 1937, the elk had expanded beyond the carrying capacity of many parts of their range. Elk were starving in the Hoh Valley. Washington opened an eight-day season in October and November in Clallam and Jefferson counties for any and all elk.

William D. Welch of the Port Angeles Evening News, the precursor of today’s Peninsula Daily News, journeyed to the upper Hoh River that October to cover what he called “The Elk War.”

Welch described the “red helmeted army of 5,280 hunters waging war against the Roosevelt elk in the West End of the Olympic Peninsula.”

As with any war, there were casualties. It was a common practice for hunters to surround the 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. A packhorse was shot while carrying an elk. In his book,”The Last Wilderness,” Murray Morgan told of a dairy cow that was shot so many times the farmer melted it down to salvage the lead after elk season was over. An estimated 700 elk were killed. The figure might have been much higher except for a sudden storm that dumped so much rain, hunting was out of the question.

Welch describes the sorry spectacle when thousands of soaking wet elk hunters descended upon nearby Forks, which had run out of whiskey before the elk season had even started. All Forks had left was some gin, which was never very popular on the frontier.

Things have changed in the 85 years since that first elk season. There is plenty of whiskey in Forks, but good luck finding ammunition!

Meanwhile, there are so many bears, cougars and human hunters in the woods that many elk have moved into the town of Forks for their health.

Elk hunting has always been tough, even when there were a lot more elk. These days, getting an elk is like winning the lottery. You need an edge.

Instead of 700 elk killed in the Hoh Valley, I’d estimate less than 20 were harvested in the entire watershed. This is my story.

I got my first elk back in the ’70s, hunting with my cousin Bo. We were hunting in one of the stupidest places you could ever want to pack an elk out of, the Dry Creek Basin west of Lake Cushman.

Not many of you reading this have ever quartered an elk in a blizzard, but if you did, Bo was the right man for the job. It took three days to pack the elk out. It should have taught us a lesson. Instead, we went on many more hunting trips. Bo was one of the toughest humans I ever met — wearing cowboy boots to pack in to Goat Lake.

Then I got the call. Bo had died of some obscure disease right during elk season. Talk about your bad timing.

The next day, through a bizarre series of coincidences, we ran into a herd of elk. I told my hunting partner that Bo had sent them. We had an edge. We got a year’s worth of meat.

If I said it once, I said it a million times: Thanks Bo, I needed that.