The dew settled heavy on the pasture grass for the first time in months and the morning air blew cold through the screened windows with dead flies lining the sills. Each day the sun grew a little slower to rise and the threat of precipitation became palpable through the static.

As the hot coffee burbled on the burner he found himself reaching for his favorite hooded sweatshirt. That’s when he knew – Summer is over, and his old friend was gone for good.

Typically this time of year would have been reserved for long days in his rusted pickup, winding along rutted gravel roads with his life’s truest companion at his side. This year, though, it was all going to be different.

When he was a younger man, still a bit towheaded up top and baby soft in the face, he had brought her home one day on a whim. From that day forward they were nearly inseparable traversing the wild west together in a coming of age story that would set the course for the rest of their lives. They bushwhacked through the timber thickets of the Cascades and romped along the barren coastline of the upper Olympic Peninsula. They surfed waves in golden sands at San Diego’s dog beach and narrowly evaded capture by policia outside of Tijuana.

They trekked the red rock martian terrains of Utah and then stared down the grim reaper together while retracing the footsteps of the first Americans at Chaco Canyon. They’d rung in a new year on the streets of Vancouver, B.C. and lived in a van down by the river. They’d forded swollen streams and fallen asleep together in the sun. They’d woken up beneath the stars and sat silent and still amid the rustling reeds of some old farmer’s forgotten field.

Most reliably though she could be found sitting content on the tattered bench seat of that old pickup truck, fogging up the windows with her sleepy wet breath. When the bald tires would crunch to a stop and the door would fling open, though, she would always snap to and scamper out of the cab hellbent on discovering whatever there was at the other end of the trail.

She would rustle rabbits and game birds outs of their bushes. She would scavenge abandoned carrion and laugh a joker’s smile at her enduring good luck. She would bark tough at chipmunks and flee in quivering fear from the fresh musk of a bear.

These days the gray in his beard matches the tones in her muzzle and their hair has taken on the same bristly texture that hints at so many long days on the move. She still curls up in her customary bench seat spot but she no longer bounds in and out of the truck. He has to pick his old puppy up now so she can come along for the ride but the trail is far too much for her failing joints and eroding muscles that once rippled like shockwaves as she ran.

One day, like most days, she snored away in the garden soaking up the lazy last days of summer that she’s earned over a decade and half of hard play and fierce love for her people.

As a V-formation of Canada geese filled the horizon overhead their honking coursed through the valley and woke the old poocher from her slumber as she looked around for the source of the commotion. In that moment he wished that they could spend another day in the wilderness together. Mostly though, he just wished she could stay curled up and comfortable and within arm’s reach as he continues to navigate new backroads into a future forever shrouded in fog.

After all, he’d never had to be a man without his best friend by his side.

FISHIN’

Anglers hoping to hit the Cowlitz River during the coming weeks will need to take notice of a pair of maintenance closures to popular boat ramps.

On Wednesday the WDFW announced that both the Barrier Dam Boat Launch and the Blue Creek boat launch will be shuttered soon for routine maintenance operations. However, only one boat launch will be closed at a time. The closure at barrier dam will take place from Sept. 10-11, while Blue Creek will be closed from Sept. 12-14.

“We hope this is helpful to anglers in the region,” read a tweet from the WDFW.

Fishing on the Cowlitz River is threatening to perk up with a drop in air and water temperatures along with a rash of rain anticipated on the horizon. Last week employees at the Cowlitz salmon hatchery collected 116 spring Chinook adults, one jacks, 66 summer-run steelhead, 70 fall Chinook, 20 jacks, one coho and 21 cutthroat trout. Those fish handlers also released 68 spring Chinook adults and three cutthroat trout into the Cispus River near Randle, along with 37 spring Chinook adults, one jack and two cutthroat trout at the Franklin Bridge release site in Packwood. Workers also placed 68 fall Chinook adults, 19 fall Chinook jacks, one coho adult and four cutthroat trout into the Tilton River at Gust Backstrom Park in Morton.

“(The) Cowlitz has some ok steelhead fishing in the lower river the last few weeks. Kings are starting to show and should be going good by mid September, followed by coho,” wrote Andy Coleman of Andy’s Angling Adventures in an email to the FishRap command center here at The Chronicle.

That report differed slightly from the official report from the WDFW, which conducted creel sampling on the Cowlitz River last week. They found no action to report below the I-5 Bridge but between the freeway and the barrier dam 18 bank anglers showed one keeper steelhead while 98 rods on 34 boats kept 28 Chinook and 18 steelhead while releasing 20 Chinook, 13 jacks and six steelhead. On Monday river visibility was reported at 14 feet with a water temperature of 53.6 degrees. That same day the flow was reported at 2,400 cubic feet per second below Mayfield Dam. By Monday that reading had risen to 2,990 cubic feet per second.

Other tributaries to the Columbia River that will likely see a spike in fishing opportunity in September include the Kalama, Lewis, Washougal, and Klickitat rivers, along with Drano Lake.

On the mainstem Columbia River last month anglers took 12,200 Chinook during the Buoy 10 fishery that ended on Aug. 24. That haul is about 3,000 fish shy of the annual catch guideline.

“Fishing has been great in the Columbia the last few days out of the mouth of the Lewis. Limits have been coming before noon daily with some big kings from day to day for me,” added the adventurous Andy Coleman.

This month the focus will shift to silver salmon from the mouth up to Rocky Point/Tongue Point as the coho begin to filter in. Anglers are allowed to keep Chinook upriver of Rocky Point in September but retention is closed below Warrior Rock and the waters below Bonneville Dam will close on Sept. 15. WDFW biologist Joe Hymer noted in a prospect report that anglers will need to pay special attention to regulation changes and what gear to utilize as conditions and run data fluxuates.

“It’s easy to catch fish during years of high returns and less restrictive rules,” Hymer said in the report. “But anglers can still be successful if they employ the right techniques in the right place at the right time.”

Sturgeon anglers will also have opportunities to pull big fish from the mighty river this month during a limited harvest window. While catch and release fishing remains open each day anglers will be able to keep sturgeon on Sept. 15 and again on Sept. 22 from the Wauna Powerlines upstream to Bonneville Dam. White sturgeon must be between 44 and 50 inches long in order to harvest, with a limit of one fish per day. Anglers are allowed to keep two white sturgeon per year but retention of green sturgeon is prohibited.

North of the Cowlitz River the salmon angling opportunities are threatening to pick up at any time. Salmon fishing opened up on Sept. 1 on the Humptulips and Clearwater Rivers and the Hoh will open on Sept. 16. Salmon fishing remains open on the Chehalis, Naselle, North Nemah, and Willapa rivers. However, the Chehalis will be closed for a fortnite between Sept. 15 and Oct. 1. Anglers are currently allowed six salmon per day but must release all adults. On the Naselle, North Nemah, and Willapa rivers anglers may also keep six salmon, four of which may be adults, including up to one wild coho. However, anglers must release all wild Chinook.

The Nisqually and Puyallup rivers are also open for salmon fishing. Anglers on those rivers are allowed to keep up to six salmon per day, two of which may be adults. On the Nisqually anglers are required to release chum, coho and wild Chinook, while Puyallup anglers must release all wild salmon. The Nisqually is also closed each week from Sunday through Tuesday and night closures apply to each river. On Wednesday flow on the Nisqually River was reported at 897 cubic feet per second below the LaGrande Dam.

Trout fishing is another option as we round the corner into autumn. Last week 2,600 rainbow trout were planted in Mayfield Lake. Those fish, along with about 3,500 rainbows planted at Merwin Reservoir in July have been keeping angling odds piqued in both dam pools. Mayfield has been planted with more than 8,000 trout this summer and fishing has been especially good near the Mossyrock Hatchery and Ike Kinswa State Park. Anglers have also had sustained success with landlocked silvers and smallmouth bass at Riffe Lake, while walleye fishing has been good in at the John Day and Dalles dams. Mineral Lake has also been putting fish on poles recently, along with Council and Takhlakh lakes. Kokanee can be found at Yale Reservoir.

HUNTIN’

Anyone with a rabid hunter in their life should be sure to hug them and say goodbye because some of the most popular hunts of the year get underway this month in Western Washington.

Early archery hunts for deer began on Sept. 1 and will run through Sept. 23 or Sept. 28, depending on the unit. This year’s deer population is believed to be slightly depressed due to the cold snap of 2016-17, but surveys showed that fawn survival has since returned to normal.

The first elk archery hunts will run from Sept. 8-20 in area that include some of Southwest Washington’s prime grounds. Those openings will include GMUs 520 (Winston), 506 (Willapa Hills), 530 (Ryderwood), 550 (Coweeman) and 560 (Lewis River). Hunters who are willing to travel to the Olympic Peninsula for Roosevelt elk will find the most mature bulls around the Quinault Ridge (638), Matheny (618), and Clearwater (615) units.

However, the WDFW is warning hunters to prepare for a less bountiful year than usual due to that hard winter two years ago. Hoof disease is another issue to consider for elk hunters in Washington. While the disease is not known to take a toll on humans it is fatal to elk. In an effort to limit the spread of the disease hunters are required to sever the feet of harvested elk and then leave them at the kill site.

Early goose seasons have been underway since the beginning of September and will continue through Sept. 9 in Goose Management Area 2, which includes Cowlitz, Grays Harbor, Pacific, Wahkiakum and Clark counties. From Sept. 8-13 hunters will be allowed to target geese in areas 1 and 3, which includes Lewis, Thurston, Pierce, Clallam, Jefferson, Mason, Kitsap, and Skamania counties. Just as last year, hunters are allowed a daily limit of 10 white-fronted geese, 6 white geese, and four Canada geese. A pair of special youth and senior hunts for birds will also be held this year. The hunt for ducks and geese is set for Sept. 22-23 in western Washington and Sep. 29-30 in eastern Washington. The limit this year will be 10 white-fronted geese in addition to four Canada geese. A youth hunt for pheasants will also take place statewide from Sept. 22-23. Senior hunters and those with disabilities will be able to hunt pheasants from Sept. 24-28, with one extra day tacked on the end for seniors.

Upland game seasons also got underway this month including opportunities for forest grouse, cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares. Grouse hunters in Thurston and Pierce counties will need to focus below 2,500 feet of elevation, especially in shady timber. Some of the biggest populations can be found on JBLM (GMU 652), Elbe Hills and Tahoma State Forests (GMU 654), Weyerhaeuser’s Vail Tree Farm (GMU 667), and Capitol State Forest (GMU 663). This year the WDFW is asking hunters to return the wings and tails of forest grouse for a long-term study. Collection barrels will be placed strategically around the state and the WDFW asks that hunters freeze the remains if they are not able to return them on the day of harvest.

“Our goal is to build datasets to evaluate changes in species composition, sex and age structure of harvested grouse over time,” said Sarah Kindschuh, a WDFW wildlife biologist, in a press release. “This information will provide insight into trends in our grouse harvest and populations.”

Pheasants, quail and northern bobwhite will all find themselves in the general season crosshairs beginning Sept. 29 in Western Washington. First though, band-tailed pigeon hunts will run statewide from Sept. 15-23. In Grays Harbor and Pacific counties there is only one mineral site where those pigeons are known to congregate but band-tailed pigeons are also known to flock to patches of red elderberry and cascara, which are most abundant in 5-10 year old clearcuts.

Bear hunts will continue through Nov. 15 in Washington where hunters are allowed to take two bears per season. Only one of those bears can be taken in eastern Washington, and western Washington odds are best in Clallam and west Jefferson counties. Cougar hunting is also prime in those counties, as well as the forests of Piece, Lewis and Thurston counties. Specifically, the Skookumchuck area (GMU 667) typically produces the largest number of cougar harvests in the district.

A hunter in Oregon recently shot a pet pot-bellied pig named Porky after he mistook it for a feral hog. The 167-pound domestic pig had escaped its home on Aug. 31 before being shot near Pilot Rock. The carcass was seized as evidence but no charges have been filed as of yet. Still, the episode provides an excellent opportunity to remember that identification of a target and backdrop are essential for safe hunting.

As always, legal hunters are allowed to blast away at coyotes in Washington, no matter the time of day, or year.

CLAMMIN’

The WDFW has released a tentative list of razor clam digs that are set to begin in October and then run intermittently through the end of the year. Final approval for the digs will be dependent upon results of marine toxin testing conducted closer to the digging dates.

"We're releasing a tentative schedule to give people plenty of time to make plans to go digging this fall,” said Dan Ayres, coastal shellfish manager for WDFW, in a press release.

The WDFW is anticipating a razor clam population that is significantly increased across the board compared to last season. However, Long Beach has still not recovered from a bout of low salinity in the winter of 2017 that resulted in the loss of many young clam sets. That depleted population meant a severely diminished set of digging days on the “World’s Longest Beach” last season.

"The good news is that future digging opportunities look really great, with some opportunity even at Long Beach,” Ayres said. “This is shaping up to be a great season for digging on the coast.”

Proposed razor clam digs through December are listed below, along with evening low tides and beaches:

· Oct. 11, Thursday, 8:58 p.m.; -0.6 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

· Oct. 12, Friday, 9:41 p.m.; -0.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis

· Oct. 13, Saturday, 10:26 p.m.; +0.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

· Oct. 25, Thursday, 7:55 p.m.; -0.5 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis

· Oct. 26, Friday, 8:36 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

· Oct. 27, Saturday, 9:19 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis

· Oct. 28, Sunday, 10:08 p.m.; -0.6 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

· Nov. 8, Thursday, 6:57 p.m.; -0.8 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

· Nov. 9, Friday, 7:36 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis

· Nov. 10, Saturday, 8:15 p.m.; -0.4 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

· Nov. 11, Sunday, 8:56 p.m.; 0.0 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis

· Nov. 22, Thursday, 5:55 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis

· Nov. 23, Friday, 6:36 p.m.; -1.1 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

· Nov. 24, Saturday, 7:20 p.m.; -1.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis, Mocrocks

· Nov. 25, Sunday, 8:05 p.m.; -1.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

· Dec. 6, Thursday, 6:01 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis

· Dec. 7, Friday, 6:40 p.m.; -0.7 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

· Dec. 8, Saturday, 7:16 p.m.; -0.6 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis

· Dec. 9, Sunday, 7:53 p.m.; -0.4 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

· Dec. 20, Thursday, 4:51 p.m.; -0.3 feet; Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

· Dec. 21, Friday, 5:35 p.m.; -1.0 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis

· Dec. 22, Saturday, 6:20 p.m.; -1.4 feet; Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks

· Dec. 23, Sunday, 7:05 p.m.; -1.6 feet; Twin Harbors, Copalis

In a press release the WDFW noted that its staff is working with staff at the Olympic National Park in order to assess the possibility of opening up Kalaloch Beach for additional digging dates. State shellfish managers are also seeking public input on management options, including scheduling for spring digs. Comments on the spring digs can be sent via email to razorclams@dfw.wa.gov.

The WDFW has also announced clam and oyster seasons for North Bay (Case Inlet) in Puget Sound. That ongoing season will continue through the end of September, with harvesting restricted to daylight hours.

RECREATIN’

The powers that be at the Gifford Pinchot National Forest are seeking proposals from the public for new recreation opportunities. Examples of those activities could include, but are not limited to group runs, endurance races, horse competitions, and snowmobile events.

The events should be applicable to the calendar year of 2019. Events selected would join the slate of existing events that take place within the borders of the forest. A total of 25 permits will be available and proposals will be accepted through Nov. 1.

According to a press release, “All new proposals will be reviewed under criteria intended to diversify recreation opportunities, reduce overlap with existing events, and increase opportunities for youth-focused events. Events should encourage fun and responsible outdoor recreation experiences. Events under existing permits must also submit applications during this period. At this time the forest is not accepting new trail runs on the Truman Trail, Boundary Trail, Loowit Trail, or within the Mount Margaret Backcountry.”

A list of existing events and an official application can be found online at https://tinyurl.com/gprecevents.

WATCHIN’

Wings Over Willapa will take place along the Long Beach Peninsula from Sept. 28-30. That bird festival will showcase the exceptional bird watching opportunities that exist along the 28-mile peninsula.

The event will take a look at the region’s birds and habitat through art, science, and observation on guided tours. Space is limited and required registration can be taken care of online at https://friendsofwillaparefuge.org/wings-over-willapa/.

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