Idaho provides adventures
By: John Martino
Indiana may not be the premier state for outdoor opportunities like those west of the Mississippi but it is my home. Because of that I have been partial to Hoosier land and know that quality hunting and fishing does exist if you are willing to look for it. But every once in a while it does the soul good to explore other parts of our great country. The experiences, scenery and people you meet along the way add to the richness of life and this year would be no exception.
Several weeks ago, with my friends Jeff Fager, Corey Fields and his son Avery, we made our annual trip to the wild areas of Eastern Idaho. Located a few miles from Montana and Wyoming, this area is a true cathedral of spectacular scenery for sure. Many still consider it part of the Yellowstone ecosystem.
A person gets to understand the true meaning of “panoramic”, especially when Mother Nature sets her mind to it. This western state contains some of the most beautiful wild areas and is also hunter friendly, meaning licenses are easy to come by. Our intentions were to camp in the Rocky Mountains hunting bull elk. We also purchased licenses for gray wolf, in an effort to help the elk and deer herds.
Before the season opened we spent several days scouting the overwhelming vast expanses of mountains that seemed to reach for the sky. Dark timber, canyons of sage, pines and snow covered peaks seemed to go on forever.
But this year things were a bit different. It was more about the people we met. It all began one day while glassing the steep slopes and timbered canyons. About mid-day, when traversing the winding and sometimes dangerous mountain roads, we ran into Idaho resident Dan Wood. At age 67, Wood is a contractor from Idaho Falls and lifelong hunter with many big game animals under his belt. He invited us to his camp to meet his entire family who were spending the week hunting elk, mule deer and black bear. His adult sons spent time showing us on my map some of the best areas. They were so cordial they even invited us to eat with them but our mission to hunt superseded our growing hunger.
The next day Fager and I planned to grab our packs and hike over a ridge to spend a morning glassing a promising looking canyon. That’s when we ran into Rob Shaffer and his son Devin. They also were camping in the Caribou range hunting elk and wolf. At age 58 Rob lives in San Diego and has spent his career in the navy. His job was to insert seal teams into the special areas they were assigned overseas. He was extremely cordial and humble to the point we spent an afternoon hunting a long canyon together.
After several days passed something ironic happened. The Fields came upon a group of hunters. “Where you guys from one” one of them asked. When Fields mentioned Kokomo “No way” they said. It turned out to be former Kokomo resident Lowell Graber. He has since moved, now residing in northern Idaho, but the majority of his family still makes their home in the Kokomo area.
A few hours later while picking our way down the mountain Fager and I came upon the group. “Are you Mr. Martino” said Lowell. “Nope I’m just John,” I replied. “Mr. Martino passed away in 2004” I said, referring to my late father. Lowell was also hunting the same million acre wilderness area with his sons Derek and Terrel. We spent some time talking about mutual friends and the time we originally met in the early 1980s at Alley Tackle.
Although spending time in any wilderness area is a unique and uplifting experience. This trip was memorable because of the people we met. It was like being in a fraternity of like-minded people with similar interests.
It reinforced hunting shouldn’t be so much about the kill but the entire ride. After visiting any true wilderness area you can’t help but leave with an attitude of deep respect. The sites and excitement of being an active participant in our nation’s wild areas is an exhilaration only those know who have been there.
“I can’t begin to tell how great it is to spend time with my dad in this type of beautiful country,” Avery Fields said, while overlooking their camp site. “I don’t even care if we get anything." His father Corey echoed those same sentiments. “To spend time with my son and friends out here is indescribable,” he added.
As for Fager, “the trip was exciting, challenging but unbelievably rewarding,” he said, as we packed our equipment for the return trip home. “I can’t say enough about the great people we had a chance of meeting along the way,” he added.
Although this year’s trip didn’t result in meat in the freezer it did result in the creations of new friendships and the reaffirming of old ones. And that lasts much longer than a freezer of meat.
Kokomo’s Phil Reel and Roby Ahnert again proved their expertise, coming away with a first place finish in this season’s end of the year Seniors Bass Fishing Tournament Trail. The event took place on Lake Wawasee. The local anglers carried in their five fish limit dropping the scales at 18.8 pounds. They caught their fish using jigs and swim baits.
Greentown residents Rodney Ellis and Aaron Hochstedler also reaped the rewards of their combined knowledge by winning the Anglers Choice bass tourney held on Morse Reservoir. They won the event with five fish totaling 15.6 pounds. They were also using jigs.