• Trail Rides

    Front and Backcountry Journeys

    See the best of Idaho on a trail ride

Outdoor writer to detail sexual harrassment in Colo. river-guiding industry at IOGA annual meeting

By Steve Stuebner

Jayme MoyeJayme Moye, a widely published outdoor journalist who wrote an exposé about sexual harassment in the river-guiding industry in Colorado and inside the National Park Service, Grand Canyon District, will be the lunch speaker on Thursday, Dec. 14th, during the 63rd annual meeting of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association (IOGA) in Boise.

The IOGA meeting runs from Tuesday, Dec. 12, through Thursday, Dec. 15 at the Riverside Hotel in Boise, culminating with The Thaw Fundraiser, a super-fun dinner banquet and silent/live auction on the evening of Thursday the 15th, starting at 5:30 p.m. Here’s the full agenda.

Moye’s talk will be extremely timely considering the recent spate of sexual harassment charges that have led to the firings or resignations of prominent national people such as Charlie Rose of CBS News, Matt Lauer of the Today show, Hollywood executive producer Harvey Weinstein, and Garrison Keillor, host of the Prairie Home Companion, on Minnesota Public Radio. Numerous politicians also have been called out on the issue.

“Clearly, the river-guiding industry is a male-dominated business,” says Bob Volpert, co-owner of Idaho River Journeys, based in Salmon. “Moye will speak about her investigative stories about sexual harassment in the river-guiding business on Colorado rivers and on the Grand Canyon, and I think she’ll say it’s just the tip of the iceberg, and it’s probably happening on Idaho rivers as well.”

Volpert, a member and past president of the Middle Fork Outfitters Association, and other members drafted a policy statement in November 2016 about sexual harassment in the river workplace. It provided a list of suggested guidelines for outfitters to adopt to be proactive about the issue.

“I think her talk is going to get people stirred up a little bit about the issue,” Volpert said. “Hopefully, it’ll lead to some positive discussions.”

1-grandMoye said she will take the audience through the experience of investigating sexual misconduct inside the National Park Service agency, Grand Canyon District, which led her down a path to writing about sexual discrimination in the river-guiding industry in Colorado and broader complaints from women about sexual discrimination in the outdoor industry as a whole.

Moye details different levels of sexual harassment that occurred, from unwanted sexual advances, to inappropriate language, to complaints about guides sleeping with guests during a trip, to instances where if a female guide did not consent to a lead guide’s sexual advances, she might be relegated to taking care of the portable toilet or washing dishes.

Her reporting on these stories for Men’s Journal and other publications led to significant chatter about sexual discrimination on Facebook, and she was able to find good sources from those online discussions to meet with and interview, she said.

“Now we’re seeing an extensive outcry about the whole outdoor industry,” she said. “Hopefully my articles and these discussions will be a catalyst for positive changes in the river-guiding industry and the entire outdoor industry.”

The IOGA meeting will feature a number of other presentations of interest, including an annual outfitting industry update from David Brown with the American Outdoors Association, and a presentation on how science can inform the recovery of salmon and steelhead in Idaho and the Pacific Northwest.

Idaho steelheadThe 2017 steelhead run is being singled out as one of the worst in the last 30 years in Idaho. As of late November, the number of steelhead passing by Lower Granite Dam was 68,000 (11,400 wild fish) as of Nov. 27, compared to a 10-year average of 165,000, according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game.

The low numbers caused IDFG to close steelhead fishing seasons statewide in the fall, and since that time, seasons have been opened on the Salmon, Snake and Clearwater rivers with smaller bag limits than normal and size limitations on the Clearwater River.

“The situation is pretty grim,” says Dr. Rick Williams, who will give an overview of the salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia and Snake River Basins. “The numbers of fish we had returning to Idaho this year were similar to the lows we had in the early 1990s, when the fish were first listed under the Endangered Species Act.”

Williams said he will emphasize the importance of preserving wild steelhead and wild chinook salmon in Idaho. “They’re the foundation for the long-term sustainability of those fish runs.”

IMGP0142All things being equal, research shows that even in places where the salmon and steelhead habitat is pristine, such as in the Middle Fork Salmon River drainage, those wild fish are showing the same downward trends as the other fish stocks, Williams says. “It’s the downstream mortality that’s really out of our control,” said.

As always, the IOGA annual meeting culminates in the Thaw fundraiser. A long list of silent auction items already have been donated, including outdoor gear, outdoor books and cookbooks, fishing trips, trail rides and rafting day trips, knives, bags and clothing items.

There also is an impressive list of live-auction items and a rifle raffle, featuring a Ruger American 30.06 Rifle with a Vortex Crossfire II scope, provided by Buckhorn Gun Shop of Boise.P1160062r-900x601

The live auction items include:

  • A one-week South Africa Safari in the Limpopo Province for two hunters, $6,218 value, provided by Namzaan Safaris (namzaansafaris.com).
  • A luxury two-day Fly Fishing Trip with Three Rivers Ranch in Eastern Idaho, featuring world-class options such as the Henrys Fork, South Fork Snake River or the Teton River, $5,113 value.
  • Five-day Main Salmon trip on the Salmon River River of No Return wilderness section with Action Whitewater Adventures (riverguide.com), $3,380 value.



  • 12-person sleigh ride in Garden Valley to feed elk during the winter of 2017-18, $250 value.
  • Inflatable AIRE couch, $549 value.
  • A multi-day visit to a guest ranch near Stanley in the Frank Church Wilderness, $1,000 value, or a multi-day visit to a Challis-area guest ranch, $900 value.
  • Spring day trip tour of the Salmon River in a jet boat, provided by Whitewater Expeditions, $800 value. Trip will include stops to historic spots such as the Polly Bemis homestead, Shepp Ranch, Buckskin Bill’s Museum and the Painter Mine. Trip is set up for five people, but up to 20 more people could be added at list price. $800 value for five people.
  • Middle Snake River day trip for five people on the Hagerman section of the Snake River with Idaho Guide Service (idahoguideservice.com)
  • Breakfast backcountry flight from McCall to the Flying B Ranch on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River for up to three people, $500 value

Silent auction items compiled thus far include:

Med Frodo dry bag
Alaska Adventure Bag
Boise Basket
Buck Knife “special” (1)
Charter Bus Service
Personal Box
Salmon River Country Book
7003 Days written by Jim Akenson
Owyhee Canyonlands
Sawtooth White Cloud By Nicole Lefavour
River Food Cookbook
Color Print
1 ton alfalfa cubes
Hand Wash Station
River Barrel Pump
Hand Wash Station
Premium Seats at the Potato Bowl (2 tickets)
Beer Mugs + Beer
Margarita Basket set
Gem Air Flight
Hells Canyon Shuttle for 2018-one vehicle
6 Paddles
Wildlife Mount
1 Night Stay – Inn America
1 Night Stay – Red Lion Hotel
Video Basket
Fire pan bag
Folding Stove Bag
Poco Grande
Half Day Charter Fishing for 4
Watercolor Print
Silverback sleeping pad
Cascade Roll-top Duffel dry bag 100L
Silverback sleeping pad
Cascade Siesta Pad (1)
Cascade Siesta Pad (2)
Cascade Boat Tote (1)
Boss Growler w/infuser (1)
Boss Growler w/infuser (2)
Payette Lake Boat Tour for 2
Half Day Trail Ride for 2
Bills 3.8 lite dry bag
Assorted Mustards
20 lb. case wild Bristol Bay Sockeye
1 Night’s lodging – Springhill Suites
Roaring Springs Day Pass for 2
River Bank Toilet System
Full Day Rafting for 2
Gift Card – $50 Texas Roadhouse
One night stay for 2 – Wallace Inn
1 Hour Private Country Dance Lessons
Mini-golf passes (2)
Couples Conference Registration – Wild Sheep Foundation 2018
SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger
Cap & Bino Straps
Cap & Scope Protector
Kryptex WSF Logo Vest
Knife, Paklite Caper

For more information, go to: http://ioga.org/meetings-events/

Now’s the time to catch a big steelhead in Idaho!


Salmon River steelhead courtesy Mountain River Outfitters

By Steve Stuebner

It’s late fall, and steelhead season is kicking into high gear in Idaho! The fish are moving upstream into the Snake, Salmon and Clearwater rivers as we speak. Now is the time to book a steelhead trip with an fishing outfitter to catch a big one with your friends and family.

Late fall also means the IOGA annual meeting is coming up! It’s scheduled for Dec. 13-15 at the Riverside Hotel in Boise, including the super-fun fund-raiser, silent/live auction, raffles and live music on Thursday night, Dec. 15. Save the date! More about that in a moment …

The big highlight with this year’s steelhead season, according to experts, is an abundance of B-run steelhead (i.e. big fish) to catch, but not as many A-run fish (smaller fish that only went to the ocean for one year) in the river.

“The good news is that we’ve got a great run of B-run steelhead this year,” says Jess Baugh of Mountain River Outfitters in Riggins. “These are some of the best-lookin’ fish we’ve seen in years. There won’t be as many fish in the river this year, but the quality of the fish is so high they’ll be wall-mounters.”

idaho-steelhead-jetboat1-mroIndeed, the fish counts, according to Idaho Department of Fish and Game, are down, compared to the five-year, average. But so far, more than 89,440 steelhead have passed Lower Granite Dam, and they’re heading to the Snake, Clearwater and Salmon rivers for anglers to catch. The catch-and-keep season on the Clearwater started on Oct. 15 and runs through the spring.

People are catching fish in Riggins and in Central Idaho on the Salmon River as well right now. “The whole river system is full of fish now,” Baugh says.

Anglers can choose from booking day trips with guides on float boats or jet boats, or they can choose a more deluxe option and book a multiday trip and stay in river-side lodging accommodations. That’s what we did with Idaho Adventures on the Salmon River, staying in a different lodge every night, where you can look forward to a hearty hot meal and a warm place to sleep. That’s a welcome treat after a full day of fishing on the river in cold-weather conditions.

Mountain River Outfitters has a fishing lodge at China Bar on the Salmon River and at Mackay Bar. At the  Flying B Ranch near Kamiah, take the top-shelf experience and drift-fish for steelhead, and then go bird-hunting or deer hunting on their vast private hunting preserve. That’s quite a full-meal deal for the fishing and hunting enthusiast!

For the most fun, gather up some friends or family members for a memorable steelhead fishing adventure. Day trips typically range from $195 to $250 per person (minimum two people) for drift boats or jet boats, and trips with overnight lodging (including meals) range from $450/night to $1,800 to $2,500 for a 5-day trip with lodging.


The IOGA fund-raiser is always a great time. The event is open to the public.

Now, back to the IOGA meeting. The public is invited and encouraged to attend the fund-raiser, silent/live auction, raffles and live music on Thursday night, Dec. 15, at the Riverside Hotel in Garden City. The fun kicks off at 5:30 p.m. and runs through 10 p.m.

The IOGA annual meeting is well attended by Idaho outfitters, guides and agency personnel including the Forest Service, BLM, Idaho Fish & Game and the Idaho Outfitters & Guides Licensing Board. On Wednesday, Dec. 14, about 28 outdoor equipment manufacturers will be displaying their goods from 2-5 p.m. that afternoon at the Riverside.

Highlights from meeting presentations include the opening general session with comments about the state of the Idaho outfitting and guiding industry from Steve Burson, IOGA president, Grant Simonds, IOGA Government Affairs Liaison, and Janey Bruesch, IOGA office manager.

David Brown, executive director of the America Outdoors Association, will give an update on the state of the national outfitting and guiding industry, overall recreation trends and regulatory issues that may affect outfitting businesses across America. This presentation is scheduled for Tuesday at 1:00 p.m.


The live auction always has some excellent values for sale including firearms, outdoor gear and outfitted trips!

On Wednesday, Dec. 14 at lunchtime, Bruce Reichert, executive producer of the award-winning program, “Outdoor Idaho,” will present “The Outfitters,” which prominently features long-time IOGA member and Salmon-based outfitter Bill Bernt, owner of Aggipah River Trips, among outfitters profiled.

On Thursday morning, Dec. 15, experts will talk about key topics of interest for the operations side of running an outfitting business – technology, what the meaning of “may” mean in the Wilderness Act relative to wilderness outfitter operations, guiding philosophies, relationships between guides and outfitters, and wilderness regulations.

Following that presentation, outfitting experts will present “Guide Tracks” — educational discussions on a new state law that allows outfitters and guides to administer epinephrine to guests in the field (training required), how to handle tips, and minimum wage and overtime law.

For more information about the IOGA meeting, go to http://ioga.org/meetings-events.

Outdoor writer and author Steve Stuebner is a regular contributor to the IOGA blog.  

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.

“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

Orange Torpedo Lower Salmon trips

Sturgeon Fishing with Hughes

Western Pleasure Guest Ranch

Sun Valley Heli-Ski adventure

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

Idaho mountain snowpack levels look favorable for 2013 whitewater season

Rafting on the Lochsa River with Bearpaw River Expeditions

Idaho mountain snowpack levels and anticipated streamflows in the popular Salmon, Snake, Lochsa and Payette river basins are hovering near 90 percent of normal, which should provide for a fun-filled whitewater river season, according to officials with the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association.

“The current levels in mid-March are looking excellent,” said Justin Walsh, owner of Bear Paw Expeditions, which runs day trips on the Lochsa River in North Idaho, east of Lewiston. Snowpack levels in the Clearwater Basin were 87 percent of normal as of mid-March, with more spring precipitation expected. “I’m really confident we’ll have plenty of water for a great season,” Walsh said.

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. Now is the time when many families are planning their summer vacations; 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.

These trips are packed with fun and feature great people, magnificent scenery, delicious Dutch oven meals, entertaining river guides, wildlife, and more. By the end of the day on the river, guests kick back on sandy beaches, relax with a favorite beverage, and swap stories about their river day.

One of the best parts of river trips is hanging out in camp in the evening around the fire …

Whitewater enthusiasts also will book day trips with Idaho outfitters on the Payette, Snake, Salmon, Lochsa, St. Joe and Moyie rivers. Now is a great time to reserve your spot for a unique and unforgettable vacation, outfitters say.

Chuck Boyd of Salmon River Experience said he is glad to see snowpack levels hovering around 90 percent. “My best years are when it’s a little bit below normal,” Boyd said. “I like the snowpack right where it is.”

Side-hiking on the Salmon River quickly reveals how deep the canyon truly is …

When snowpack levels are super high, the Salmon River can surge to dangerous flood-stage levels for several weeks at a time when it’s unsafe to run raft trips or jet boat excursions, he said. With slightly lower flows, the Salmon River tends to peak a little earlier in May, providing a longer floating season from June – September, the water warms up sooner for swimming, and good fishing kicks in earlier.

Ron Abramovich, water supply specialist for the Natural Resources Conservation Service, said early, high-elevation snows in November and December set up Idaho’s mountains and rivers for a good season.

“We got a lot of snow above 7,000-foot elevation, it piled up several feet deep and that put us above normal,” Abramovich said. “We know there’s a lot of snow up there. That’s kind of the kicker for this river season. It may be a real bonus when it comes off.”

A few river basins in southwest Idaho are showing lower snowpack levels, such as the Boise at 68 percent of normal, and the Owyhee at 68 percent of normal. The Payette basin is at 77 percent of normal, but reservoir storage is 115 percent of average on the North Fork of the Payette, and the South Fork, elevating streamflow predictions to 88 percent of normal, Abramovich said. “The Payette Basin will be fine because of reservoir storage,” he said.

River floaters will have to watch the Owyhee gauge closely to time trips correctly, Abramovich said. “You’ll have to be quick to catch the Owyhee this year,” he said.

The spectacular Bruneau River, however, is hovering at about 90 percent of normal snowpack. Seth Tonsmeire of Wilderness River Outfitters near Salmon, said his company is hoping to run at least one guided trip on the Jarbidge and Bruneau rivers when the weather warms up. “We’re a little more optimistic about running the Bruneau this year, and we know the Salmon River is going to be great,” he said.

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.

IOGA Lobby Day is a must-do event, especially the food!!!

Legislators look forward to eating delicious fresh-cooked food at IOGA’s “Taste of Idaho Outfitting”

Hi all,

The Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association is once again sponsoring IOGA Lobby Day, a wonderful event in which member-outfitters descend on the Idaho Statehouse to chat with legislators about issues of interest, and it all culminates in the “Taste of Idaho Outfitting, ” a delightful Dutch oven feed.

IOGA Lobby Day is set for Wednesday, Feb. 13. The food part is scheduled for 5-8 p.m. at the Basque Center, 601 Grove St., in downtown Boise.

Have you ever had deer pizza?

House Majority Leader and Eagle legislator Mike Moyle said he always looks forward to IOGA Lobby Day. “They always have a good turnout and great food — a lot of variety,” Moyle said. “It’s definitely one of the most unique dinners that we attend during the session, and it’s a favorite … a lot of legislators love it.”

State Senator Michelle Stennett of Ketchum agrees. “IOGA’s Dutch oven dinner event is a unique, delicious experience,” she said. “As a fledgling Dutch oven chef, I know the labor it takes to treat us legislators to this wonderful event. I am always on the lookout for good recipes! Thank you for sharing your time and culinary talents with us.”

Another important part of IOGA Lobby Day is the opportunity for IOGA members to talk to their legislators about various issues. “I’m looking forward to meeting our representatives and talk about issues that are important to us as outfitters,” said Mary Wright of Silver Cloud Expeditions in Salmon. “It’s important to maintain our presence with the legislators.

Rep. Mike Moyle chats with outfitters Scott Farr and Will Judge

“And I know that our Dutch oven dinners are a big hit with legislators because we’re great cooks!”

Idaho outfitters are great cooks … they’re not boasting, they’re just stating the facts. Hundreds and hundreds of customers have been wowed by the outdoor cooking provided by outfitters in hunting camp, on river trips, backcountry pack trip adventures and much more.

Cowboy hats in the Statehouse … and these guys are outfitters, not cattle ranchers …

Barbara Judge of St. Joe Outfitters & Guides in St. Maries also is looking forward to the event. “It’s such an important event and a unique opportunity to chat one-on-one with legislators in a relaxed setting over really good food.”

IOGA is tracking several legislative issues, according to lobbyist Tyler Mallard. The possible repeal of personal property tax, discussion of state takeover of federal lands in Idaho, and several Idaho Fish and Game issues are being monitored, Mallard said.

Please RSVP to IOGA if you’d like to attend the “Taste of Idaho Outfitting” by calling 342-1438 or emailing idoutfitt@cableone.net.

Oufitters know how to cook outdoors … and have fun doing it!


Five reasons to hunt big game in Idaho

Now is the time when hunters, outfitters and state Fish and Game officials are flocking to sportsmen’s shows around the United States, and hunters are making decisions about where to hunt in 2013.

We want hunters to know about the advantages of hunting in Idaho … Here’s our list of 5 reasons to hunt big game in Idaho:

  1. Go with a Pro. Idaho outfitters and guides know the country, they know where the big game animals are, and they’ll take great care of you in elk camp.
  2. Solitude. Guided hunts in Idaho have a lot of elbow room in wilderness and roadless areas … no worries about getting buzzed by an ATV or seeing hundreds of other hunters while you’re out hunting. Go find your private Idaho.
  3. Big game bonanza. On a fall backcountry hunt, you can buy tags for and potentially harvest a mule deer, white-tailed deer, elk, wolf, black bear and mountain lion during a week-long hunt. How much room do you have in your freezer?
  4. Best drawing odds for trophy species. No preference points or bonus points are needed to draw prized tags for bighorn sheep, mountain goat or moose. Central Idaho is a premium destination for these highly sought-after species.
  5. Introduce your kids to big game hunting for $1.75. Idaho has a new program for junior mentor tags. Adults with a big game license can buy a hunting passport for kids 8 and over for $1.75. No hunter education classes are required, either. The program also is open to adults who have never hunter before.

Here are some other benefits that Idaho outfitters and guides bring to the table …     

We need to underscore Point #2 … Idaho outfitters and guides are licensed with the state of Idaho. They must go through a rigorous process with a state licensing board to receive a license to outfit and guide hunters in Idaho. A number of states do not have this process, and unwitting hunters sometimes end up booking a trip with a fly-by-night outfitter who doesn’t have the skills, equipment and know-how to lead a quality successful hunt. That won’t happen to you in Idaho because of the licensing process. Idaho’s outfitters and guides are high-quality people who truly know the mountains and wildlife in their territory,  and they can be counted on to take care of your health, safety and welfare.

Here’s a video that shows what a guided elk hunt in Idaho is all about:watch?v=FKXjntnJliY

Here’s another top list from the Idaho Department of Fish and Game …Top 5 Reasons To Hunt in Idaho …

1. Buying big game tags is simple. Hunters can buy big game tags through their outfitter and go hunting. Idaho Fish and Game reserves a number of deer and elk set-aside and allocated big game elk tags for the outfitted public. A key advantage is that those tags can be purchased through Idaho outfitters long after other states have sold out.

2. We give you variety. Go elk hunting and bring steelhead home, too. We call it “cast and blast.” Combination fishing and bird-hunting trips are available, too.

3. Wide open spaces. Vast public lands provide variety, opportunity and fair chase.

4. We are always open. Hunt and fish 365 days a year.

5. Easy on the pocket book. Tap into the discount for a nonresident junior license and tags to mentor a young hunter.

Never heard of Idaho? Or just heard of it because of our famous potatoes? Well, former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus, a lifelong hunter, puts it this way: “Idaho is what America was.”

Enjoy this video titled “Dreaming of Idaho” and you’ll see that we’re about …watch?v=EYMxW-5_390

Come hunt with us in Idaho. To select a hunting outfitter in Idaho, visit our web site for a full listing of outfitters and guides

Thanks for visiting.

Leo and Dee Crane, Zeke West inducted as IOGA Lifetime Members

Dee and Leo at Tinker High Hunting Camp

Zeke West, right, at the helm

Three longtime IOGA members, Leo and Dee Crane of Orofino and Zeke West of Grangeville, were honored as Lifetime Members at the annual IOGA meeting last week in Boise.

Grant Simonds, executive director of the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Association, said the honor is the equivalent of a “lifetime achievement” award because of the many contributions that the Cranes and West made to their communities, IOGA and Idaho’s recreation industry.

Leo and Dee Crane operated Clearwater Outfitters, based in Orofino, for nearly five decades before selling their big game hunting business and starting a business they now operate on Dworshak Reservoir called “Lake and Leathers.”

Zeke West, owner of Whitewater Outfitters for nearly five decades, ran trips up and down the Salmon River and Snake River from Lewiston to Corn Creek, and he also was licensed on the Clearwater River from Kookia to Lewiston. He guided hunters in Units 20 and 20A adjacent to the Salmon River, and he guided bear and cougar hunters adjacent to the North Fork of the Clearwater River.

“Zeke was the consummate jet boat captain. He had a million-dollar smile, he provided quality customer service and he always operated in an exemplary, safe manner,” Simonds says. “Plus, he’d make himself available to assist other outfitters or other boaters with just about anything. He was a real gentleman.”

West purchased Whitewater Ranch in the late 1960s, and that was his base of operation on the Main Salmon River, long before it became the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness in 1980. The first jet boat he purchased in 1971 was a 24-foot Oaks. A decade later, he bought a 26-foot Bentz jet boat, which he used until after he retired. He also had a 30-foot Smith boat named “Old Faithful” that he bought from Mackay Bar.

In 1982, the Nez Perce National Forest gave Zeke an award for logging 2,000 hours of jet boat operation without an accident. When he sold his last boat in 2012, he was still accident free.  “That’s quite an achievement considering the wild nature of the Salmon River at many different water levels,” Simonds said. “Zeke’s outfitting career is the epitome of providing quality customer service while maintaining the health, safety and welfare of those who utilized his outfitting and guiding talents.”

Zeke had an exemplary safety record as a jet boat pilot.

Plus, West was part of a close-knit community of outfitters, guides, guest ranch owners and caretakers who live along the Salmon River in the remote and primitive wilderness section in Central Idaho.

Leo Crane first got his outfitting license in 1964 as the owner of Clearwater Outfitters. He’s been a member of IOGA since 1966. He started the IOGA Clearwater Valley Chapter in 1987. He also served on the Idaho Outfitters and Guides Licensing Board from 1987-1999, and the IOGA board from 206-2008.

Leo with Billy Mahanes and his nice bull elk

Crane took guests on big game hunts for elk, deer, mountain lions and black bears for many years.  He operated during the “glory days” of big game hunting in the Clearwater region for several decades, hunting in the popular Mallard-Larkins roadless area. After wolves affected that operation, he switched to leading fishing trips on Dworshak and white-tailed deer hunting trips.

“Leo has been a steady and reliable IOGA member who’s been willing to be involved in leadership posts over the years, and he’s continued to have an interest in being a volunteer leader on many levels,” Simonds said.

Leading up the IOGA Clearwater Valley Chapter for several decades, Crane helped with new membership recruitment and staying abreast of outfitting, land-management and Fish and Game issues with fellow members. More recently, Crane has been serving on the Clearwater Basin Collaborative on the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest and serving on IOGA’s wilderness committee.

Leo and Ken Smith man the BBQ at the Roundup fund-raiser

Both Leo and Dee have hosted “The Roundup” community event in Orofino since 2000, a fund-raiser  for the IOGA Clearwater Valley Chapter. The event raises scholarship money for local students and funds for I-CARE, a benefit fund for families coping with cancer. I-CARE stands for Cancer Assistance and Recovery Effort. Since 2008, I-CARE has raised $13,350 to benefit more than 30 families in the communities of Orofino, Pierce, Kamiah, Kooskia, Weippe, Deary, Ferdinand, Harpster and Peck.

The Roundup

“Leo and Dee are the epitome of small family-run outfitting businesses where the husband and wife work hand in hand,” Simonds says. “Their connection to the local community, and the way they give back to and support the community, has been really important to IOGA’s image.

“For decades IOGA has been blessed to have Leo and later Dee as active members,” Simonds continues. “At every turn they have stepped forward to provide IOGA with the leadership, knowledge and energy necessary for it to function as the leading statewide professional organization and effective advocate for outfitters in Idaho and America.”

Leo leads the pack string back to the trailhead for the last time …

Zeke West’s youngest son, Bob, reflects on the life that Zeke lived on the river.

“I awoke in the cabin to the fresh, damp forest air. The sun had not yet risen over the high green mountain top, but it was still daylight. The sun would not shine directly into the bottom of the canyon for another hour or so.  The world around me was wide awake. I could hear the cawing of the crows in the distance. The gentle roar of the river in the background, its frigid waters cascading through the rapids not 100 yards away. The gentle never ending voice of the thermal flow of life.  Small birds were singing and chirping and playing amongst themselves in the trees or the hill. The same birds had been there for years and years.

“I rose from my bunk and looked outside at the dew covered grass, the world filled with the air that still held the chill of night in the light of morning. The bees were already hard at work, dashing from blossom to blossom on the wild black raspberry bushes on the hill behind the house, the large log house where my father would soon emerge and whoop at me to come get breakfast. Even breakfast had the feeling of the country. The sourdough pancakes that magically formed from the same crock on the kitchen counter every day without fail.  Sometimes as a special treat my father would make sourdough biscuits and jerky gravy instead of sourdough pancakes.  There was the smell of bacon on the griddle, a smell made to wake up to.

“Conversation at the breakfast table would be of events of the day to come. How we had to take the jet boat 50 miles downriver to pick up the Forest Service workers: About the horses that had wandered to the neighbors again and had to be retrieved. (4 ½ miles downriver)  Somehow they always remembered the greener pastures at Campbell’s Ferry.  What green pastures they had. Natural Mountain pastures with no fences. Only a few fruit trees scattered sparsely through the pastures and surrounded by a blanket of evergreens and of course the timeless whisper of the river.”

Congratulations to Leo and Dee Crane, and Zeke West! Hats off to them!