1st Trip of 2009 in North-central Idaho

Well, our first trip of 2009 is behind us. Debbie and I traveled to beautiful north-central Idaho and hunted with Chuck, Lana and Anderson Melgin on their South Fork River Ranch near Grangeville. What a wonderful week we had with them! The ranch lies along the South Fork of the Clearwater River, one of the best steelhead fishing rivers in the U.S.. It was, in Debbie’s words, “Spectacular!”

The Melgin’s were a delight to be with. The food and accommodations were great. Lana can cook! And, Chuck worked harder to put us on a good buck that anybody I’ve ever hunted with. He put in countless miles of up and down hills (mostly up) trying to push a shootable buck by Debbie and me. This hunt was more like a sheep hunt than a whitetail hunt. How can you beat walking through some of the most beautiful country in North America, where a new magnificent vista awaits over every hill and around every corner, with rifle in tow and a whitetail tag in your pocket? You can’t! And thrown in new good friends like the Melgins, and you have a guaranteed good hunt!

Our October hunt took place about month before the rut, meaning we were hunting pre-rut bucks. That’s always tough when you’re after big mature bucks. For the first couple of days, we still-hunted in hopes of catching bucks doing what they do naturally. After a day or two, hunting pressure, both ours and that of surrounding properties, curbed natural movement, and we realized that we were going to have to resort to forced movement to put mature bucks in our sights. That’s when Chuck went to work burning shoe leather and “pushing the bush”. He drove dozens of bucks by us, but in the end, we just could not find a buck we wanted to shoot. To be honest, it became apparent that the deer herd was overcrowded and that bucks of the size we were after were few and far between. That did not slow us down, though, especially not Chuck. We worked hard to the last hour of the last day, but in the end, we could not find a “Tecomate” buck and came home empty.

Chuck and I spent a lot of time talking about what needed to be done to improve the quality of the deer there. It’s really simple – when you have too many deer for the available food, you can either reduce the deer to the available food or increase the food for the available deer, or a combination of the two. When possible, we at Tecomate prefer to increase the available food through management, mostly by using food plots, rather than reduce the number of deer. Give me more and bigger deer every time over fewer and smaller deer!

Besides a beautiful ranch, one other thing Chuck and Lana have in spades is some of the finest steelhead (sea-run rainbows) fishing in America. The South Fork of the Clearwater River averages about 100 feet wide and is fairly shallow … and crystal clear. When the steelhead run is on, usually in February, March and April, there are monster trout in that river, many of which are over 20 pounds! I just could not get my mind around the idea of rainbow trout “averaging” 15 to 20 pounds being in that relatively small river, but they are … big time! On one red letter day, four fly fishermen connected with 84 steelheads, nearly all of which were in the 15-20 pound range! Many people feel these powerful sea-run trout are, pound for pound, among the fightingest gamefish in the world. I’ll let you know – I’ve already booked my return trip there for one of those giant steelheads. For information on the South Fork River Ranch, go to http://www.southforkriverranch.com.

Next up – Colorado and Wyoming, back to back. Can’t wait!

Posted by David Morris

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