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Hunters may break records for elk, deer harvest in Idaho

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Happy elk hunter (courtesy Flying B Ranch)

By Steve Stuebner

Idaho’s outfitters are busy packing gear into the backcountry to get ready for a busy season of deer and elk hunting this fall, one of the busiest seasons in years.

Big game hunting in Idaho is coming back with a vengeance this year on the heels of a very good year in 2015, when elk hunters harvested 4,000 more animals than the year before and nearly reached an overall harvest level of 25,000 elk, a milestone that’s only been reached three times in the last 40 years.

Part of the reason for the increasing elk harvest is that more hunting tags are available to hunt elk on private lands, where ranchers are seeing an increase in the number of animals causing damage to crops and pasture fields, and the elk are getting wiser in dealing with wolves.

BullElk-600x400If outfitters have permits, leases or access agreements with private landowners, the hunting can be very productive. Matt Craig with Boulder Creek Outfitters said they hunt on 60,000 acres of private ranch land in the Joseph Plains area, in the high reaches of the Lower Salmon River canyon near the Hells Canyon confluence.

“We’ve been taking lots of deer and elk out of there,” Craig said. “The bulls aren’t huge in terms of trophy scores but we’ve been taking a lot of nice six-point bulls.”

Elk numbers seem to be on the rebound in the Sawtooth unit in Central Idaho and in the Salmon area as well. Darl Allred with Sawtooth Wilderness Outfitters noted that Idaho residents bought up all the resident elk tags in 55 minutes when the Sawtooth tags went on sale. “Non-resident tags sold out in six hours,” Allred said.

Elk populations are increasing in the Sawtooth zone because of less wolves, caps on the number of hunters, and improved habitat from recent wildfires. “It should be a good season,” he said.

deer hunting

Deer numbers are nearing all-time highs in Idaho … both whitetail and mule deer

Joseph Peterson with Flying B Ranch in the Clearwater River Country, based in Kamiah in northcentral Idaho, is looking forward to taking elk hunters on a week-long backcountry hunt. He thinks the wolves in that area are preying more on deer, allowing elk numbers to come back.

“It’s still not like it used to be but the wolves don’t seem to be bothering the elk as much,” Peterson says. “The elk are definitely getting smarter, too. They don’t use the mountain meadows as much as they used to. They’re hiding in the steeper, middle country, and the wolves can’t find them as easily.”

Like many Idaho elk outfitters, the Flying B packs their hunters into the backcountry for a week, and they stalk and hunt by foot. “If you want to experience the Idaho backcountry at its finest, enjoy great eating and comfortable quarters, this is the hunt for you,” he said. “Plus, you’ll have a chance to harvest a decent bull.”

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Darl Allred packs out an elk in the Sawtooth Wilderness (courtesy Sawtooth Wilderness Outfitters)

At the Flying B Ranch, hunters never run out of things to do. People who come to go deer hunting at the ranch can also go bird hunting or steelhead fishing after they harvest a nice buck.

“We have a 5,000-acre private ranch where we can spot and stalk deer all day long,” he says. “You’re going to see 10-20 four-point or better white tails or mule deer bucks every day. It can be ridiculously easy or extremely hard, depending on the circumstances. We do a lot of walking and glassing to find the right bucks for people.”

After bagging a buck, folks can bird hunt for pheasants, chukars, Hungarian partridge, quail, ruffed grouse and blue grouse. The Flying B is busy with bird hunters in the fall so be sure to make your reservations soon. Steelhead season starts in late September and runs through the winter and spring.

Dave Melton of Bighorn Outfitters loaded his pack string of horses and mules to take a big load into the Bighorn Crags recently to get ready for elk hunting in one of Idaho’s most scenic wilderness areas. Wolves have had an impact on the elk numbers in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, but Melton is optimistic.

“It should be good,” he says. “We know we can show elk hunters a great time in the backcountry with excellent guides and great food.”

Elk medowLike most outfitters, Bighorn Outfitters provides 1-on-1 guiding on elk hunters or 1 guide for every 2 hunters. They’ve even got a hot springs at one of their base camps. “That’s pretty nice after a rough day,” Melton says.

Elk hunters who go on backcountry hunts are encouraged to purchase deer tags in case they run into a mule deer or whitetail deer, plus the deer tag can be used to harvest a black bear, mountain lion or a wolf while they’re out in the woods.

To have that many options when you’re out big game hunting is a real bonus! If you haven’t booked a big game hunting trip with an Idaho outfitter yet, see the “Hunt Idaho” web site to look for outfitters in the hunting zone where you’d like to hunt.

The Idaho Fish and Game hunt planner is another excellent resource for researching where you’d like to hunt, the success rate for different big game units in Idaho, how many hunters like to hunt in that unit, and more.

For more information, go to http://huntingidaho.org

 

Expect a stellar floating, fishing season in Idaho this summer

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Heather hooks a nice Chinook salmon on the Salmon River (courtesy Mountain River Outfitters)

By Steve Stuebner

Fishing and floating outfitters are hard to catch right now because they’re really busy showing their guests a great time fishing for Chinook salmon on the Clearwater and Salmon rivers, or floating rivers all over the state of Idaho.

Following a robust winter that brought bountiful powder snow for skiing and snowmobiling, all of that snow is running down the mountains into Idaho’s world-class rivers now, translating to a long summer of whitewater rafting, jet boating and ideal water levels for fishing and floating.

Some might say we live in the land of “milk and honey.” For adventure seekers, it’s going to be an endless summer of fun rapids, camping under the stars and catching lots of fish!

Get the whole family involved in a fishing trip!

Get the whole family involved in a fishing trip!

“It’s definitely looking like a great summer season,” says Jared Hopkinson, owner of Sawtooth Adventure Company in Stanley, a Middle Fork and Salmon River outfitter. “A lot of our Middle Fork trips are filling up for the summer, and we’re got a ton of bookings for day trips on the Salmon River.”

“We’re having a great season!” adds Olin Gardner, owner of Idaho Guide Service in Hagerman. Gardner has been leading raft trips in the Hagerman reach, SUP trips on the mid-Snake, birds of prey tours on the Snake River, and early-season Salmon River trips.

The Salmon and Clearwater rivers have been dropping from peak flows just in time for the relatively short Chinook salmon season that’s under way right now. “The river is coming down super fast, so the fishing is going to be good while it lasts,” says Jess Baugh, owner of Mountain River Outfitters and Salmon River Tours.

The rapids on the Salmon River should be big fun and playful this summer. (Courtesy Sawtooth Adventure Co.)

The rapids on the Salmon River should be big fun and playful this summer. (Courtesy Sawtooth Adventure Co.)

The salmon fishing hasn’t been a “barn-burner,” fishing guides say, but anglers are catching up to 2-4 fish per day, sometimes just one a day. But even one Chinook salmon is, undoubtedly, a beautiful prize! The fish run over 10 pounds, and once they’re filleted, they provide a tasty feast.

“There’s nothing better than fresh-caught salmon,” Baugh says.

In North Idaho, the classic Memorial Day rendezvous occurred on the Lochsa River with flows in the 5-foot range, a perfect level for big fun and big wave action, especially in Lochsa Falls, a Class 4 rapids, where people cheer on the river bank next to U.S. 12.

Whitewater trips on the Lochsa River are always a blast! (Courtesy ROW Adventures)

Whitewater trips on the Lochsa River are always a blast! (Courtesy ROW Adventures)

ROW Adventures will continue to run trips on the Lochsa into June, and trips on the St. Joe River start the first week of June, according to Candy Bening, sales manager for ROW Adventures in Coeur d’Alene.

“We’re so excited about our river trips this year,” Bening says. “People are pumped about the bigger water. It’s going to be an awesome season.”

A number of Idaho outfitters have been busy running rare trips on the Owyhee River and Jarbidge/Bruneau rivers this year because of deep snow. ROW Adventures notched three Bruneau trips in a row and one Owyhee, while Wilderness River Outfitters ran an East Fork Owyhee, Middle Owyhee and three trips on the Jarbidge and Bruneau rivers, a week-long adventure in a narrow, spectacular box canyon. Inquire with ROW and WRO about catching those trips next year.

The Owyhee River is a spectacular place ... (courtesy ROW Adventures)

The Owyhee River is a spectacular place … (courtesy ROW Adventures)

“To have a run on the Owyhee and Bruneau river systems like that was just incredible. We haven’t had a spring like that in a long time,” said Seth Tonsmeire, WRO operations manager and guide. “Even people who have gone on Middle Fork Salmon trips with us said they thought the scenery in the Bruneau Canyon was even more spectacular. To visit that canyon multiple weeks in a row was a real treat.”

Because of the solid river flows expected, fishing outfitters in Eastern Idaho are gearing up for a long productive season on the Henrys Fork and South Fork Snake River. The same is true of outfitters who offer fishing trips on the Salmon and Snake River in Hells Canyon.

Guest cabins at China Bar allow guests to sleep in a real bed and enjoy the Frank Church Wilderness.

Guest cabins at China Bar allow guests to sleep in a real bed, enjoy home-cooked meals and enjoy the Frank Church Wilderness.

Mountain River Outfitters/Salmon River Tours has a lodge at China Bar in the wilderness section of the River of No Return, allowing people to book multi-day trips. “We’re calling it a 2- to 3-day wilderness retreat,” Baugh says. “People can fish, go sight-seeing or hang out in the wilderness. If you’re a corporate person, this is a great place to get away and de-stress in the Frank Church Wilderness.”

Guests can hop in the jet boat to fish the mouth of a productive creek, or visit the Jim Moore homestead and hike around a century-old orchard. Or, they can head downriver to visit Buckskin Bill’s place, home of a quirky mountain man, buy souvenirs and an ice cream bar, or visit the Polly Bemis ranch. Inquire with Mountain River Outfitters about pricing.

Jim Moore PlaceIn Hells Canyon, the nation’s deepest gorge, Idaho outfitters offer scenic tours, fishing trips on jet boats, and multi-day whitewater rafting trips on the biggest river in Idaho. You can fish for sturgeon, bass and trout during the summer and fall Chinook and steelhead in the fall.

“The fishing in Hells Canyon should be consistently good,” Baugh says. “The small-mouth are constantly on the bite. And the fall Chinook fishery is getting better and better every year.”

For more information, go to Fish Idaho, Raft Idaho or the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association web site.

Deep mountain snow translates to favorable 2015 whitewater season

Snowpack in the Main Salmon drainage was 94% of normal on Feb. 20 – great news for the 2015 rafting season!

IOGA press release Feb. 20, 2015
BOISE, Idaho — While parts of the American West are suffering from a lack of snow, Idaho mountain snowpack levels are ranging from 75 to 94 percent of normal in Central Idaho, home of the nationally popular Salmon, Lochsa and Payette rivers.

“We look to our neighbors, and we look pretty good,” says Ron Abramovich, water supply specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

“It looks to me that we have solid snowpack where it counts,” adds John May, executive director of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association (IOGA). “We’re already seeing some national media coverage of the drought in California, and we just want folks to know that our world-renowned whitewater rivers are going to have a great season.”

IOGA recently launched the newly branded web site Raft Idaho (raftidaho.org) to make it easier for customers to select river trips and outfitters for a trip-of-a-lifetime rafting experience. Idaho is nationally known for its whitewater, with more than 3,000 miles of white-knuckle rapids, the most in the lower 48 states.

Snowpack map dated today, Friday, Feb. 20 Source: NRCS

Snowpack levels for the Selway River are 106 percent of normal, the Lochsa 93 percent of normal, the Middle Fork Salmon River 94 percent of normal, the Main Salmon 94 percent of normal, and the upper Snake River 108 percent of normal, according to NRCS snowtel data.

“The water levels look great like always for the Lochsa and Selway,” Abramovich said. “Kayakers are out there boating right now.”

All of the key reservoirs on the Payette and Snake rivers should fill to 100 percent of capacity, storing water for irrigation and recreation, Abramovich said.

“So far, we’re in really good shape,” says Chris Swersey, owner of Silver Cloud Expeditions, an outfitter in Salmon that runs fishing and rafting trips on the famed Salmon River – River of No Return. “We’re really excited about the summer season. We’re feeling really good about it.”

“I’ve been talking to a lot of people in California who think we’re in the same situation that they are, and I’ve assured we’re looking good,” adds Jerry Hughes, owner of Hughes River Expeditions. “I’m pretty optimistic that we’re going to have a great season.”

Rafting on the Lochsa River. Lots of teamwork and fun!

National Weather Service officials said a weather front moving into Idaho on Friday should bring temperatures down to normal levels next week after several weeks of above-average temperatures. The 30-day and 90-day weather forecasts call for “equal chances” of precipitation in the long term.

Deep snow in the Upper Snake region usually translates to a fun-filled summer in the Middle Snake River region near Twin Falls, says Olin Gardner, owner of Idaho Guide Service.  They’ve seen a big increase in Stand-up Paddle Board use on their flatwater trips to the base of Shoshone Falls, and on the Hagerman whitewater section of the Snake River.

“2015 is looking to be an epic  season for us,” said Gardner said.

Americans love to visit Idaho for outdoorsy activities

Playing in the Sawtooth Mountains in Central Idaho (Courtesy Idaho Statesman)

By Steve Stuebner

American travel and tourism trends show that Idaho is growing in popularity as a primo destination for outdoorsy visitors, and contrary to national trends, people are staying longer on overnight trips to enjoy quality outdoor-adventure activities.

Visitors are twice as likely to come to Idaho to engage in outdoor activities, compared to national norms, where folks may travel to go shopping or visit friends and relatives.

And when people come to Idaho, they like to go hiking, whitewater rafting, camping, fishing, swimming, hunting, birding, and relax on the beach or in a comfy cabin, according to a recent study by Longwoods International.

The Lochsa River provides oodles of fun. (Courtesy Bear Paw Outfitters)

This makes sense for a state that’s known as the “whitewater capital” of the United States with popular kayaking and rafting destinations such as the Salmon River, Hells Canyon, Payette and Lochsa, and nationally known fishing destinations such as Silver Creek, the Henrys Fork and South Fork of the Snake River. Plus, nearly two-thirds of Idaho is comprised of national forest and public lands where people can go skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, hiking, biking, camping, fishing, hunting, mountain climbing, rock climbing and more.

Idaho outfitters provide guided trips to all of these activities for people who don’t have the equipment, know-how or experience to do it on their own. See ioga.org and raftidaho.org for a menu of outfitters to contact about outdoorsy trips.

Hanging out around the campfire is one of the bonuses of going on a multi-day outdoor adventure …

Diane Norton, Manager of the Idaho Tourism Division for the Idaho Department of Commerce, said she’s not surprised by the findings of the Longwoods study. “We’re above the national norm on all of the outdoor activities,” Norton said. “It’s what we’re known for.”

An America Outdoors report on national outfitted travel trends shows that the top activities in outdoor travel in 2013 were lodging and cabin rentals, Standup Paddle (SUP) boarding, and canoe and kayak rentals. Guided trips of shorter duration were more popular on a national basis, than longer trips, said David Brown, executive director of America Outdoors.

Stand up paddle boarding, SUP for short, is one of the most popular outdoor recreation activities nationwide. In Idaho, you can SUP on lakes and rivers. (Courtesy Gregg Mizuta)

“Lower risk trips close to metro areas are growing dramatically,” Brown says.

But in Idaho, the length of stay is increasing. “Our trips of 4-7 days are going up, which shows that people are buying a pre-packaged trip,” Norton says. “And our day trips are increasing, too.”

Plus, Idaho’s many river outfitters provide SUP experiences as part of day trips and multi-day trips.

On a national level, approximately 70 percent of outfitters saw their profit margins increase in 2014, a good sign indicating that the grip of the recession is ending when it comes to leisure and adventure travel, officials said.

Elk hunting trips are seeing a resurgence in growth in Idaho.

John May, executive director of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, said he’s hearing the same thing from Idaho outfitters. “The general trend is that Idaho is doing better than the national average,” May said. “We had a good whitewater season, fishing trips were up, our hunting trips were up with bookings increasing for next year, and our lodging trips were up.”

Idaho trips are increasing because the state didn’t suffer the effects of the recession as badly as some other states, tourism officials said. People coming to Idaho tend to come from adjoining states like Washington, Utah, California and Oregon. Visitors also came from Texas, Florida, Arizona, New York and Montana, the study showed.

Just from casual conversation with the owners of lodging businesses, people enjoy coming to stay in a lodge or a private cabin while they can go horseback riding, hiking and biking, May said. They like to do a mix of leisure activities and come back to a comfy bed in a heated quarters.

“They want to experience the West, but not necessarily in a hard-core way,” he says.

“Glamping” on the Salmon River. Looks pretty comfy! (Courtesy glampinghub.com)

Glamping” is another activity that outfitted guests enjoy, where the women are pampered with yoga and massage activities, gourmet food is served on fine china with cloth tablecloths and fine wine, and sleeping quarters are very comfortable with nice sheets and blankets on raised beds or cots in Safari-quality wall tents.

“This kind of activity is now on the urban dweller’s bucket list,” May said. “They now realize that they can go “rough it” outdoors and enjoy a surprising list of amenities.”

Another reason people come to Idaho, Norton says, is that “we’re a bargain” compared to many other destinations in terms of lodging and trip costs. Plus, many people know that they can enjoy outdoor activities in Idaho without feeling pinched by thousands of other tourists doing the same thing.

We call that the “Private Idaho” experience. Come visit and find out what that’s all about!

For more information, go to ioga.org, raftidaho.org or visitidaho.org.

Idaho snowpack levels look “stellar” for 2014 whitewater season

Whitewater rafting on the Payette River. Photo courtesy Cascade Raft.

Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BOISE, Idaho — (March 6, 2014) — Idaho mountain snowpack levels and anticipated streamflows in the popular Salmon, Snake, Lochsa and Payette river basins are ranging from 90-120 percent of normal, which should provide for a stellar, fun-filled whitewater river season in the summer of 2014, officials said Thursday.

“Our bookings are very strong this year and we feel lucky to have such a fabulous snowpack, especially compared to much of the West,” said Peter Grubb, owner of ROW Adventures in Coeur d’Alene. “Folks planning to raft in Idaho this season shouldn’t wait much longer before signing up.”

Idaho’s snowpack levels are much stronger than levels well below 50 percent in California and Nevada, Grubb notes.

Idaho is known nationally as the “whitewater state” with more than 3,000 miles of thrilling whitewater rapids, the most of any state in the lower 48. Thousands will take week-long wilderness river vacations on the Salmon River, the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, the Selway River or Hells Canyon of the Snake with Idaho outfitters. Whitewater enthusiasts also will book day trips on the Payette, Snake, Salmon, Lochsa, St. Joe and Moyie rivers with Idaho outfitters. Great water conditions will benefit jet boat trips as well on the Salmon River and in Hells Canyon. Now is a great time to reserve your spot for a unique and unforgettable vacation, outfitters say.

Rafting the Salmon River in the River of No Return section is one of the best family vacations available in North America. Photo courtesy Silver Cloud Expeditions.

A wet month in February featuring precipitation levels exceeding 200 percent of normal in the Boise and Snake river basins and 150 percent of normal in the Salmon and Payette River Basin is what boosted snowpack levels to what they are now, experts say.

“It’s all good news! It just keeps getting better every day,” said Ron Abramovich, water supply specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). “We need the cool temperatures to continue in the mountains and normal precipitation levels to continue in the spring to maintain these forecasts.”

It’s always interesting to stop and check out Native American pictographs on Idaho river trips. Photo courtesy Silver Cloud Expeditions.

Main Salmon and Payette River outfitters are excited about the snowpack levels, too.  “The Main Salmon River has an amazing snow pack this year so rafting season is going to be great: big water, beautiful sandy beaches and exciting rapids,” said Mary Wright of Silver Cloud Expeditions. “The word is out. We have several full trips already and are looking forward to a fantastic summer. Now is the time to plan your family vacation.”

“The water outlook on the Payette River system looks solid at over 92 percent of normal,” said Kenneth Long of Cascade Raft and Kayak. “There is still plenty of time to collect a bit more precipitation, which will put the icing on the cake. Both rafting and kayaking look great for the entire summer, with super whitewater levels on the South Fork through Labor Day and on the Main Payette through mid-September.”

Deep snowpacks in the Upper Snake Basin should provide enough flows for the Bureau of Reclamation to provide boatable flows through the white-knuckle Murtaugh section near Twin Falls this spring. That’s always a bonus for whitewater boaters.

Rafting on the Lochsa should be awesome this year, with tons of runoff and all of the thrills and adrenaline of a big-water experience. Photo courtesy Bear Paw Expeditions.

The only downside this year are below-normal snowpacks in the Owyhee and Bruneau river basins, which are 52 and 68 percent of normal right now. Those rivers may not get high enough for rafting this year, but should be doable by kayak.

For more information about booking an Idaho whitewater river trip, go to the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association web site, http://ioga.org/rafting or call 208-342-1438.

Bronco blue turf, Idaho potatoes could help boost Idaho tourism

Commerce Director Jeff Sayer with his wife, Laurel, on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River.

By Steve Stuebner

Jeff Sayer, Director of the Idaho Department of Commerce, had a life-changing experience on a Middle Fork Salmon River trip, and he said that helps him understand the intrinsic value of outfitted trips in a speech to the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association at the annual meeting.

The Middle Fork trip was a U.S. Forest Service trip that involved several Idaho outfitters and guides, Sayer said. He rode with Dirk Gibson, owner of Adventure Guides, a Middle Fork outfitter, and Gibson proceeded to grill him about his life and priorities as they floated down the beautiful canyon.

“It was a time when I was ready to change and start something different,” Sayer said. “That trip literally changed my life.”

As director of Commerce, an agency that oversees the $3.4 billion travel and tourism industry in the state, Sayer said he hopes to help Idaho get more national recognition for its travel and tourism assets. “Idaho has so much to offer, but it seems that we’re just scratching the surface,” he said. “There’s a lot of good things happening in Idaho. We’ve got a great story to tell.”

The Boise State Broncos and the blue turf are a nationally recognized icon that Idaho tourism could benefit from, Sayer said.

Two things that get a lot of national recognition are the Boise State Broncos’ blue AstroTurf and Idaho potatoes, Sayer said. “Those are two things that I’d like to piggy-back on to give us more recognition,” he said.

Technology is changing rapidly in American society, he noted, and it behooves tourism officials, as well as outfitters, to stay on top of those trends to capture more customers. Smart phones are one area that’s seeing big growth. Web sites should be retooled to ensure that they’re friendly for smart phone users, he said. He mentioned a web platform called Responsive Design that readily adapts to the devices using the web site.

“The latest  information I have is that one-half of all travel trips will be booked with smart phones in the near future,” he said. “This is one change we should be ready for.”

In a vacation in the Black Hills, Sayer and his wife, used their smart phones to access a guided tour of the area on their smart phones. They clicked on a QR code, and “the whole Black Hills experience was opened up to us on our phones,” he said. A narrator explained the sights and sounds of the area, greatly enhancing the drive.

IOGA Executive Director John May with Director Sayer at the IOGA annual meeting.

Another idea Sayer shared was about marketing the activities in Idaho that are special, and not necessarily just  the Idaho brand. For example, web sites could focus on the activity, such as hunting, whitewater rafting or recreation. “Why not choose the activity and make that the destination?” he said.

Along those lines, Idaho Outfitters and Guides have been working on creating a brand and web site called “Raft Idaho.” More on that topic to come.

“You guys represent the best of what Idaho’s backcountry has to offer,” Sayer said. “We’ve got to get creative and work on this together. Why not call Idaho “America’s Backcountry?” I’m excited to work with your new director, John May, on lots of these new ideas.”

Doug Tims receives IOGA Lifetime Membership Award

Doug Tims at Campbell’s Ferry (Courtesy Steve Coyle photography)

For decades, IOGA has been blessed to have Doug Tims as an active member and leader. He was elected to the IOGA board of directors soon after becoming a licensed outfitter on the Middle Fork of the Salmon in the late 1980s. He served as both board vice president and president of the IOGA.

Tims has a knack for telling colorful stories with his telltale Mississippi accent. “His oral and written communication skills are exemplary and have been constantly on display on behalf of the industry that is very diverse,” noted Grant Simonds as he presented the award to his longtime friend and associate.

Here’s Doug with IOGA board members (L to R) Jim Thrash, Gov. Cecil Andrus, Barb Opdahl, Harlan Opdahl, Steve Jones and Grant Simonds

Tims’ involvement and leadership with both IOGA and America Outdoors Association enhanced the profile and standing of Idaho outfitters and guides, bringing their practices and standards into the national spotlight, Simonds said.

Although Tims’ recently published book, “Merciless Eden,” written with his wife, Phyllis, is not really a book about outfitting per se, he makes many references to the outfitting industry, presenting both the joys and challenges inherent in the profession. The history and politics of outfitting is a passion. And now he gets to live at Campbell’s Ferry, on the banks of the Salmon River.

“Doug has honored our industry with decades of passion and support for our profession. As one colleague recently remarked, “Doug put IOGA and outfitters ahead of his own agenda. His word is his bond.” Congratulations, Doug, on your outfitting career, one that is truly worthy of IOGA Honorary Lifetime membership,” Simonds said to loud applause at the IOGA annual meeting.

Doug with Les Bechdel, middle, and Steve Zettel

“I can’t tell you how much this means to me,” Tims said. “Forty years ago, I went on a trip in Hells Canyon with Curtis Chang (OARS), and then we did a Lower Salmon trip and a Middle Fork trip in 1980. By then, I was hooked, and I fell in love with Idaho.”

Tims dropped his insurance business, bought an ownership interest in Maravia, a raft and inflatables manufacturing company, and bought a Middle Fork of the Salmon, and later a Selway River outfitting business. He was infatuated with rivers.

Doug believed in show-me trips on Idaho rivers to discuss recreation and management issues … L-R, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, Idaho Congressman Larry LaRocco, Doug and Congressman George Miller of California.

After meeting a few outfitters, Tims wanted to get involved with IOGA, he recalls. “This old Mississippi boy felt really lucky to be associated with this great group of people. I just love to hang out with you guys!” Tims says. “I wasn’t born here, but I was smart enough to move up here to Idaho.”

In his own outfitting business, Tims was committed to providing his clientele with the history, geography, flora and fauna, and culture of the surrounding lands, thereby exemplifying the value added and responsible, shared use themes of outfitting and guiding that he championed, Simonds said. 

Doug and Phillis on the Selway River

Merciless Eden” is full of historical tales about Campbell’s Ferry, Idaho’s early mining history, Salmon River pioneers, wilderness, and much more. Living in a remote homestead in the middle of the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness can be both “beautiful and brutal,” Tims says.

“Sometimes I hear voices of those pioneers when I’m out working on building fence,” he says, noting that he has much respect for the people who tried to eke out a living in such a remote and unforgiving area.

Tims also touches on the history of the Central Idaho Wilderness Act in the book, the law that created “the Frank,” and he describes how former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus, who was then Secretary of Interior, convinced President Carter to float the Middle Fork of the Salmon River with longtime Idaho outfitter Norm Guth. But the day Carter was available to start the Middle Fork trip was one day off from Guth’s assigned launch date. “Can you imagine having to change your launch date by one day today,” he notes, to chuckles in the crowd. “You’d be dead in the water.”

But through a series of well-placed phone calls, Forest Service officials made an exception for President Carter, and the rest, they say, is history. The late Sen. Frank Church, D-Idaho, led the efforts to create the River of No Return Wilderness, the largest forest wilderness in the lower 48.

Doug and Phyllis at Campbell’s Ferry

The next time you’re on the Salmon River, go visit Tims at Campbell’s Ferry. There’s a convenient eddy next to the pack bridge leading to the old homestead. It’s a beautiful place, and Doug and Phyllis can tell you all about it.

“Merciless Eden”, which retails for $19.95, is available from Amazon.com and Cascade Outfitters. Doug also can be reached on his Facebook page.

National travel and outfitting trends look positive for 2014

Stand Up Paddle (SUP) boarding is exploding in popularity on lakes, oceans and rivers nationwide. The sport is big in Idaho, too.

By Steve Stuebner

People are less concerned about the economy when making decisions about their summer vacations, and overall, there appears to be an increasing trend of people selecting shorter, and more relaxing and easy-going outdoor adventures vs. high octane adrenaline-filled trips, experts say.

David Brown, executive director of America Outdoors Association, said he expects adventure travel to increase in 2014 over last year at the annual meeting of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association.

Idaho Tourism Division officials are expecting the same thing. Outfitted and guiding activities contribute to a $3.4 billion tourism economy in Idaho, which generates more than 26,000 jobs and more than $500 million in local, state and federal taxes.

“We’re on the cusp of recovery,” Brown says, echoing national economic trends.

Lodging stays picked up at the Western Pleasure Guest Ranch near Sandpoint in 2013 as well, tracking national trends.

Janice Schoonover, co-owner of the Western Pleasure Guest Ranch in Sandpoint, agrees that with the improved economy, business is picking up. “2007 was our last, best year before the crash, and 2013 was our best year ever,” Schoonover says. “So I would agree that we’re coming back alive.”

On a national level, the leading outdoor recreation activities showing the most demand and growth in 2013 were:

  • Stand Up Paddle (SUP) surfing and flatwater paddling trips, with 83 percent of outfitters reporting an increase in activity.
  • Guided trips with interpretation and education showed 76 percent growth.
  • Guided fishing trips went up 40 percent.
  • Trips that involved lodging and cabin rentals increased by 45 percent.
  • Hunting and whitewater river trips both went up over 20 percent.

“Softer” trips, family trips and 3-4 day trips are all gaining in popularity, Brown said. “But there’s still a lot of interest in week-long family vacations, especially as the economy improves, he said.

Family trips are increasing as well … Photo courtesy ROW Adventures and Chad Case Photography

Peter Grubb, owner of ROW Adventures in Coeur d’Alene, agreed that interest in family trips is still “pretty strong” and it’s an important component to outdoor trips in general. “You’re introducing the next generation to the outdoors.”

Grubb also has seen an increase in interest in flat-water trips with SUPs on his lake kayaking business on Lake Coeur d’Alene. SUPs are being seen more and more on lakes and rivers in Idaho. Some Salmon River outfitters are offering SUP experiences on the Salmon River, as well as other day-trip rivers such as the Payette.

Trips with education and interpretation are popular, too. Courtesy ROW Adventures

Trips with a strong interpretation component are seen as being valuable by outfitted guests, Grubb said, but they’re hard to market in the brochure and the web site.

“We made interpretation a stronger focus 15-20 years ago, and we teach our guides the material and the techniques on how to share this information,” he said. “Once our guests experience that, they really like it. It’s something that becomes a real highlight of their trip.”

Many of Idaho’s outfitted trips lend themselves to natural interpretive information because of the abundance of wildlife that people see, not to mention Indian pictographs, petroglyphs, plants, trees, geology and more.

“It’s a big added value,” Grubb says. “We do our best to make sure that our guides bring that added value to the trip.”

Interest in fishing trips is on the rise as well. Photo courtesy Shepp Ranch

Idaho outfitters are seeing an increase in trips that involve lodging, too. Western Pleasure Guest Ranch saw increases in lodging last year, and so did Shepp Ranch on the Salmon River. Some outfitters partner with Shepp so their guests can stay one night at a dude ranch as part of their Salmon River experience. That led to more lodging with summer guests, Lynn Demerse said.

As the American population ages, more people may prefer to sleep in a bed at night versus sleeping in a tent, Schoonover said. “The grandparents enjoy doing trips with their children and grandchildren, but they probably don’t want to sleep on the ground at night,” she said.

For more information about Idaho’s guided adventures, see www.ioga.org.

IOGA hires tourism pro John May as Executive Director

Here’s John with a nice salmon caught on the Columbia River

BOISE, Idaho — (Sept. 27, 2013) — The Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association has hired John May, a longtime tourism and hospitality industry professional in Boise, as its new executive director. May will begin work for IOGA on Oct. 1.

May replaces Grant Simonds, who served with distinction as the executive director of IOGA for 28 years, and will continue service for IOGA as its governmental affairs liaison.

Rafting in Hells Canyon

May is the former general manager of the Owyhee Hotel, served for six years on the Idaho Travel Council, and held leadership positions on the Idaho Lodging and Restaurant Association and the Treasure Valley Lodging Association, among others. He’s also a native Idahoan who loves to play outdoors.

“It seems like a perfect job for me,” says a delighted and excited May. “I’m looking forward to bringing folks to Idaho to enjoy all of the outdoor adventure opportunities that we have out there in our beautiful mountains and rivers. I’ve made a lot of friends and contacts through my work on the Idaho Travel Council, and hopefully I’ll bring a few new ideas to the table to build on the long-time success of IOGA in the great state of Idaho.”

Jet boating near Riggins

Jeff Sayer, Director of the Idaho Department of Commerce, said, “We are thrilled with the appointment of John May as executive director for IOGA. John was an active and charismatic member of the Idaho Travel Council for six years. His intimate knowledge of our marketing and grant programs will ensure a smooth transition and even presents new synergies that we look forward to cultivating regarding recreation technology and outdoor recreation marketing.

Fishing in Garden Valley with daughters Brooke, center, and Karlee

“After 28 years of great leadership, Grant Simonds is leaving some large shoes to fill,” said Steve Burson, owner of Storm Creek Outfitters and president of the IOGA Board of Directors. “John May was selected from a very strong field of candidates.  John is a long-time Boise resident, and his personal interests include bird hunting, fishing, whitewater rafting, camping and motorcycle riding, among other things.

John with wife, Jenny, in Garden Valley

“His professional experience includes over 25 years operational and management experience in the hotel, hospitality and tourism industry. John’s skills, knowledge and strong ties at the Statehouse and throughout Idaho will make him a key asset as he helps move IOGA into our next 60 years.”

John with fellow Idaho Travel Council members Diane Newman, left, and J.J. Jaeger, in a Sun Valley gondola

IOGA is a nonprofit trade and marketing organization that has approximately 250 members in all corners of the state, including licensed outfitting businesses, professional licensed guides and associate members. IOGA-member outfitters lead trips on Idaho’s world-class rivers, big-game hunting trips, steelhead fishing trips, heli-ski and snowcat skiing trips, summer horseback rides and fishing trips, and more. For more information, see http://ioga.org.

Relaxing on a Salmon River beach …

“Capture the Spirit of Idaho Guided Adventures” video contest

The Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association is stepping it up a notch this year in terms of looking for more fresh, entertaining and informative videos from IOGA members about all of the outstanding guided outdoor adventure activities in Idaho.

So, we’re launching a video contest this year, similar to our ever-popular photo contest. We’re calling the contest, “Capture the Spirit of Idaho Guided Adventures.” The winners will be selected at the IOGA annual meeting in December. Have fun with it! Try to capture the spirit of the outdoor adventures that you offer.

We’re hoping the videio contest will inspire IOGA members to shoot and produce more videos to promote their businesses on their web site and social media channels, and help IOGA promote your business on its web site and social media.

Please note that the contest is open to IOGA-member outfitters and their guides.

Here are some examples of IOGA member videos:

ROW family trips: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwYvDxjClCY&list=PLj4y86UyhyK0NUlxGBlv9Y5WVmZuIRYEP

Moose hunting with Bearpaw Outfitters
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBTyKSjdqIQ&list=FLVM68dd9ewaugdXSb1QosWA

Orange Torpedo Lower Salmon trips
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EjfCYACvThY&list=PLj4y86UyhyK0NUlxGBlv9Y5WVmZuIRYEP

Sturgeon Fishing with Hughes
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FkJrZorYSno&list=FLVM68dd9ewaugdXSb1QosWA

Western Pleasure Guest Ranch
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ypwncy_txg&list=FLVM68dd9ewaugdXSb1QosWA

Sun Valley Heli-Ski adventure
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HU3_myszkqM&list=FLVM68dd9ewaugdXSb1QosWA&index=1

Here are the video contest rules:

1. Only  IOGA-member outfitters and their guides are eligible to participate.

2. Videos should be 3 minutes in length or less.

3. There will be two categories for entry: a) Informative videos; b) Bloopers; People can submit up to three videos in each category.

4. Videos will be judged on how they represent the guided outdoor adventure activity presented, information and entertainment value.

5. Videos should be submitted to IOGA via a public online link, i.e., YouTube or Vimeo.

6. A panel of three judges will determine the winners.

7. All of the videos submitted by IOGA members will be shared on the IOGA YouTube channel. The winning videos will be shared on a future blog post and on the IOGA Facebook page.

8. There is a $5 entry fee for each video. Submit video links to Janey at idoutfitt@cableone.net.

9. Contest deadline is Dec. 8, 2013.

10. There will be cool prizes for the top three winning entries in both categories.

For more information, contact Steve Stuebner, IOGA media consultant, at sstuebner@cableone.net or 208-484-0295