How to Find Late Season Winter Mushrooms

How to Find Late Season Winter Mushrooms

Last December, just before the new year, a big storm absolutely hammered our house with record-breaking snowfall. Our touristy ski town gets flooded with people when it snows. But when it gets really, really snowy, people panic and instead of sticking around and riding it 

How to Plan a Successful Hunting Trip – Rethinking Success

How to Plan a Successful Hunting Trip – Rethinking Success

When my brother took this photo, I was right there but I didn’t notice the beauty in front of me. I was steaming up the hillside, shotgun in hand, completely consumed by the sound of chukar calling from the distant rim rocks above. In a 

How to Find a Good Hunting Spot During the Off-Season

How to Find a Good Hunting Spot During the Off-Season

Elk Skull
Bones definitely aren’t good sign to find, but if you find them out in the woods away from any roads, you can be fairly sure that here at least were animals in the area at some point. This skull is from a cow elk.

If you’re an experienced hunter, this article probably isn’t for you. But if you’re an experienced hunter and have friends that don’t hunt, you might want to send this article to them so they can keep an eye out for you. It can’t hurt…

For those of you who are interested in hunting or are maybe just getting started, finding good hunting locations can be discouraging and one of the bigger obstacles to get by.

Unless another hunter is willing to share a hunting area with you, think of it as a step-by-step process that will take hiking and process of elimination – you’re probably going to find more spots to eliminate than spots to hunt.

Our scouting usually starts online with ONX and Google Earth – there are other tools for online scouting and this is a whole subject in itself and for another day.

This article will focus on basic game sign to look out for specifically during the non-hunting seasons (winter, spring, and summer).

I am covering this subject now because between now and next fall, chances are that if you are someone who is interested in hunting, you will be in the outdoors hiking, camping, and spending time in places that may in fact be great areas to hunt. Without a knowledge of basic things to look out for, you might be walking right past a great hunting spot. Having a general knowledge of game sign allows you to keep an eye out year-round while you’re doing other stuff in the outdoors.

Keep in mind, though, that animals migrate – where there is sign now may not be where the animals are in the fall. Generally you can think of Rocky Mountain Elk and Mule Deer being more migratory, and think of Rosevelt Elk and Blacktail as not.

We were out a couple of weeks ago on a short hike, and we saw a lot of deer sign. Now we have a new area to check back on when the hunting season approaches.

Deer tracks
This deer trail went up a steep embankment above an old road

Some of the more common and important types of sign to look out for are:







As you spend more time in the woods, you get better at distinguishing fresh tracks from old tracks, and elk tracks from deer tracks. It sounds silly to someone who has hunted for a long time, but it really does take some time to start figuring it out.

This old logging road had tons of fresh elk tracks. In this muddy area, it’s hard to tell how fresh they are with the recent rain.
I pulled over on a drive recently to let the dogs out, and found that this road was covered in elk tracks.

Here’s the thing about tracks: If you find fresh tracks during the hunting season, that’s great. But if it is a different season, the animals might not be there in the fall.

Keep an eye out for tracks, for sure, and maybe check those areas again in the late summer or early fall, but there are better things to keep an eye out for during the off-seasons.


Elk and deer scat are similar to tracks – it takes a little learning to figure out the difference between elk and deer scat, and how old it might be. Over time, you get to a point where you can tell if scat is from that day, a day or two old, or much older. This is extremely helpful while you’re out hunting, and helpful if the hunting season is coming up.

If you find fresh scat during the hunting season, you should be alert. If it’s not the hunting season, it’s good information but may not be super useful for Mule Deer or Elk that will likely move.

Fresh scat is shiny and soft.
Old elk scat
Older scat dries out and often hardens, and is not shiny.

In the photos above, you can see the difference between really fresh scat and really old scat. While you’re out scouting you’ll find everything in between, which is where it gets tough to tell how old it is.

Fortunately, there are better things than scat and tracks to look for during the off-season.


For scouting during the off-season, we like to find trails because they often represent repeated use of an area. You might notice a trail traversing on a steep hillside, which is useful, but the best trails to find are ones around feeding and bedding areas. This photo is from an area near our house that we discovered while we were looking for oyster mushrooms.

The trail in this photo is from elk (and probably some deer, too) entering and leaving a big meadow. This is a really good find because it’s clearly and area that the elk use consistently.

Not far away, there were trampled down trails above this dirt road that made it obvious this is a very well-used area for elk. A lot of times elk trails are so worn that they might look like a human-made trail to someone who isn’t interested or paying attention. We love finding well-used trails, but there are still things we like finding even more.


Rubs are created when a male deer or elk rubs its antlers on a tree. Rubs are one of the best things to find while scouting during the off season because they are usually made in the late summer or fall. This means that if you find a rub, this is potentially an area where they will return this hunting season.

Rubs are often along trails or old roads where deer and elk are traveling. Look for small trees where all of the bark is rubbed off. If you’re unsure if something is a rub or not, check for hair. A lot of times there will be a few pieces of hair that get stuck and left behind on the rub. Fresher rubs (like the one in the photo below) will be lighter in color, and the tree won’t have healed much. Really fresh rubs will often smell strongly like fresh sap.

Telling the difference between a deer rub and an elk rub can be tricky at first. You want to look carefully at the height of the rub and the diameter of the tree.

Generally deer will rub small trees or woody-stemmed brush with small diameter stems, about 1-2″ or so or even less than 1″. We’ve seen deer rubs on much larger trees that were 4-5″ in diameter or more, but it’s not as common. Deer rubs are usually lower to the ground, starting almost at the ground and going up a few feet, sometimes higher. Here are a couple more examples of deer rubs in Western Washington.

Deer rub
This is an older rub that was near a fresh one. This means it is probably and area that is used year-to-year.

Elk rubs are even more obvious than deer rubs. They are usually on larger diameter trees, 2″ or much greater, and usually go from about 2-3 feet off of the ground and can extend upwards well above head-height.

Here is an example of a fresh elk rub.

Here’s an older elk rub with a view!


Wallows are one of our favorite types of sign to find, though we’ve only ever found them to be made by elk. If you’re planing on elk hunting and you find a wallow in your unit, it’s definitely an area to check out once the season is open.

Wallows are essentially small, muddy pools of water where elk will do a little excavating to make a tub of mud/water to cool off. They become central areas for bull elk to mark their territory and are visited by both cow and bull elk. Once they’re built, we have seen lots of sign from other animals including bears that are also using them to cool off in the late summer and early fall.

We hope this post had some good information for anyone that is excited about this coming hunting season and wanted some tips on what to look for while scouting.

Good luck out there this fall!

How to Train Your Eye to Find Morel Mushrooms

How to Train Your Eye to Find Morel Mushrooms

Morels are truly a spring delicacy. They exist all over the northern U.S. and can be found anywhere from orchards to alpine forests, but out west we’ve usually harvested them from April-June in forests that burned in recent years. They’re super fun to hunt for 

How to Pick Wild Morel Mushrooms Safely

How to Pick Wild Morel Mushrooms Safely

Morel mushrooms are a prized delicacy and it is well known that the best way to find them is to search through burn areas during the spring(s) following a wildfire. Recent fire seasons out west have been unprecedented, so it’s safe to say that morel 

How to Find Morels – Our Favorite Spring Mushrooms

How to Find Morels – Our Favorite Spring Mushrooms

First of all, this post isn’t about identifying morels but that’s obviously a very crucial part of any foraging. We have a brief post here where we provide recommendations for resources to learn to I.D. morels.

Here is a mushroom that looks similar to a morel, but it is NOT A MOREL!

If this looks like a morel to you, or you don’t know, make sure you know how to identify them before you consider harvesting and cooking them.

For those who are comfortable with mushroom I.D. and have been looking for morels but can’t find them – this article is for you!

A couple of years ago we had our most successful morel hunt yet. It wasn’t just successful because of the quantity of mushrooms that we harvested. It was successful because we picked a place on a map that we had never been to before, we drove 5 hours to get there, and while we were setting up camp we literally parked on top of morels. They were growing in the road and we soon discovered that they were everywhere.

Planning a trip out-of-town can be intimidating but it can also be rewarding!

With a few lessons that we have learned, we hope we can point you in the right direction for planning a morel hunt. Like any other type of wild food, it’s all about timing and location.

In a very basic sense, you are most likely to find morels in a FORESTED area that burned in the last couple of years.

We look for morels in areas that burned anywhere from 1 year ago to 5 years ago or so. 2-3 year-old burns are our favorite.

I exaggerated the word “forested” because I think this can be overlooked by beginners. You aren’t going to find morels in a high desert, grassland, or anything like that. Generally, out West, you are mostly looking for higher elevations – we like 4000 to 8000 feet, but they can absolutely be found outside of that range. A common exception can be river bottoms in lower elevations, but if you are looking for your first time and want to be successful, start up in the forest.

The beautiful mushroom in the photo below was growing in the cottonwoods next to a river down at 3,500 feet, far away from the pine and fir trees where we usually find them.

Another common mistake people make is that they are looking too close to the coast.

If you are in Washington or Oregon I would head up and over to the east side of the Cascades or at least be near the crest. I wouldn’t bother spending too much time looking down in the wet coastal range. Although it’s definitely possible to find them there, you’ll get more bang for your buck if you head a little further East.

To narrow down your search to burn areas, you are going to need to find maps of burn areas. For this, we use ONX maps.

If you haven’t given the ONX app a shot, we highly recommend it. They have a 7-day free trial and the $30 a year is incredibly worth it for a single-state membership.

The ONX mapping app can be installed on your smartphone and turns your phone into a GPS even when you don’t have cell service. It has a very handy map layer that shows all historical wildfires. This means that with one app you can plan a trip and then use it for navigation once you are out in the woods.

ONX shows pretty much all roads and trails, and property ownership too. You can also toggle between satellite imagery and topographic maps which can be very handy.

Anyway, if you don’t want to use ONX you’ll just need to find another way to find recent wildfires. If you live out west, it’s likely that there have been plenty in the last few years near where you live.

After you’ve chosen a likely area, it’s all about timing. Morels can flush as early as February and as late as July, and with the changing climate, the window is probably growing. We like to head into the woods to start looking in April and we’re usually done poking around in June. The month of May has been our most successful month for morels so far.

Timing can be tricky, though. Most people can’t go as often as they’d like to. That’s why we’d recommend using social media to see where others are having success.

Search for some mushroom social groups on Facebook and join. You’ll be pleasantly surprised with how much you can learn.

We don’t recommend asking for specific mushroom hunting spots, but lots of mushroom hunters are happy to share information like the elevation where they were successful last weekend. This information is not only super helpful for success, it’s highly motivating! If you can see that people have been doing well at 5,000 to 6,000 feet in the last week, get out there and start looking at that elevation.

Another important factor to consider is the aspect where you are hunting.

Aspect is just the direction that a slope faces. We have had successful morel trips where the mushrooms are only flushing on north or east-facing slopes. A couple years ago we were hiking up a bowl and we were finding tons of morels, but as soon as got to the top and started down the other side of the mountain, we found nothing. Lots of the time this is because south and west-facing slopes are drier than north and east-facing slopes. Just pay attention to the aspect of the slopes you are looking on, and if you aren’t finding anything make sure to try a different aspect. If you start paying attention to where you’re finding mushrooms, you’ll start to notice patterns, and then you know you’re really onto something great.

Do you see the morels in the photo above? You can also do all of the right planning and get to a great spot and walk right past morels.

They are hard to see, and it takes a bit of time for your eyes to get better at noticing them. Check out our other post here where we have some pictures to help train your eye.

We hope this article was helpful, please feel free to comment if you have any questions or tips that you’d like to share!

What do I need to do to go Hunting?

What do I need to do to go Hunting?

Wow, we’ve been busy. We went from wildfire evacuation directly into a big hunting trip for two weeks. We followed that up with moving and here we are. We are barely settled in our new home but we’re back to hunting before it’s over for 

Our “Famous” Maple Venison Breakfast Sausage Recipe

Our “Famous” Maple Venison Breakfast Sausage Recipe

We have been perfecting this recipe over the years, but it all started after a successful elk hunt in Idaho. I had been daydreaming about maple breakfast sausage, so after I got my first bull and a friend loaned us his grinder, it was on. 

Our Super Trusty, Cheap, and Simple DIY Awning

Our Super Trusty, Cheap, and Simple DIY Awning

diy awning
Several of our friends have asked us for instructions for our DIY awning, so here you go! Sorry for the mediocre photos – we wanted to get this out to a few friends before hunting season so we’re working with what we had – please feel free to ask us if you have any questions.

A few years ago we made this awning on a whim and it has worked amazingly since. It’s 8 feet wide by 10 feet long, but you can use these plans to make whatever size you want.

The main idea behind it is that “guy lines”, AKA small ropes/cords that connect the awning to stakes on the ground, are tightened with adjustable guy line knots to make the awning very sturdy.

An obvious alternative is to buy an awning system for your vehicle, but those are often expensive and aren’t customizable. A lot of pre-made awnings expand out to cover the side of a vehicle which isn’t ideal if you want to have the dry area be behind your vehicle (like we do for our truck).

This awning is made from stuff you can get at any hardware store for about $40 to $50 depending on the size and quality of the tarp and other materials.

Things we like

  • It sets up in just a few minutes
  • It covers the back area of our truck so that we have a dry area when we exit the camper
  • Set up properly, it’s super rugged. It has survived through several years and trips where we experienced heavy winds, rain, and snow
  • It can be built to whatever size you want for your vehicle
  • If something goes wrong and you ruin the tarp, it’s cheap to replace
  • We often just un-clip it from the truck and leave it behind at camp for the day without worrying about it being stolen (because it’s cheap and we have too much faith in humanity).
  • You can adjust the angle of the awning by increasing or decreasing the angle of the legs

Some drawbacks

  • We roll the awning up and put it inside of our truck when we are traveling with it. It would be nice to have it be stored on the top of the truck.
  • It takes time and energy to make, and it takes a little more time and energy to set up and take down than an electric awning or something like that.
  • This awning doesn’t have walls – in the future we’d like to buy or make one that has at least one wall. And maybe a wood stove. And windows. And a bar. Why not?


*We chose to make an 8×10 foot awning so all of the parts correspond to that size.


We chose to use a white, 8×10 foot tarp in the heaviest duty they had at the local hardware store. It has held up very well.

4 galvanized pipes cut to 8 feet

awning pipes

The pipes that are labeled “1” and “2” are the legs. The pipe that’s labeled “3” connects the two legs with two elbows to form the rear cross-bar. The pipe labeled “4” runs across at the top to make the front cross-bar and connects the tarp to the truck.

2 elbows

I just grabbed the first two elbows that I saw at the hardware store. These ones have set screws but we don’t use them.

Parachute cord

You’ll need about 60 feet to make the guy lines. We chose orange so that they would be highly visible. Learn to tie a “guy line” knot and use this knot to connect the corners of the awning to stakes on the ground. This knot basically slides up or down to tighten the loop around each stake. You can tie any knot you want, but guy line knots will make it so you don’t have to tie a knot every time you set it up – you just put the loop over the stake and slide the knot up to tighten the guy line. From each corner, you will want to run one guy line backwards (i.e. #2) and one guy line to the side (i.e. #1).

awning guylines

Zip Ties

We used zip ties to attach the tarp grommets to the front and back cross bars.

2 clips or carbiners

We used some old rope (parachute cord would work fine) and a couple of clips from the hardware store to attach the front “cross-bar” to the roof rack on our truck. We also bought a couple of sleeves that slide onto the pipe to keep the rope from sliding – you could also just drill a hole in the pipe and run the rope through that. Or tie a knot that doesn’t slide. What you choose to use for clips will depend on how you plan on attaching the awning to your vehicle.

2 heavy-duty “nail” stakes

These two stakes get hammered into the ground at an angle and the bottoms of the two leg pipes slide over them.

4 tent stakes

We use these 4 stakes to attach the guy lines to the ground. Sorry, you can only see one stake in the photo above.

A Couple of Notes

  • Make sure to set it up so that it drains water away from your vehicle – do this by lowering the angle of the legs.
  • We have used this awning in all conditions, and we believe one of the reasons it has held up to heavy snow and high winds is the thicker (and more expensive) tarp material. Don’t go for the cheap, thin stuff.
  • Here’s a photo of what it looks like rolled up and ready to go.
awning rolled up
The Unforseen Value of our Skoolie – Running from the Caldor Fire

The Unforseen Value of our Skoolie – Running from the Caldor Fire

If everything were going as planned, Olivia would have her full attention on finishing out her first school semester and I’d be working hard to prepare for the upcoming hunting season. Instead, we’ve packed some of our belongings and we’ve left home to get away 

How to Make Your Life Chaotic – Get a Puppy and Convert a School Bus

How to Make Your Life Chaotic – Get a Puppy and Convert a School Bus

It’s safe to say that this spring was hectic. We worked on our school bus every chance we could, often running late into the night. We also got a puppy who we named after one of our favorite towns in Idaho – “Stanley”. Stanley is 

The Ultimate Hunting and Fishing Mobile – Our School Bus Conversion

The Ultimate Hunting and Fishing Mobile – Our School Bus Conversion

That’s right, one of Olivia’s many dreams came true. She bought a school bus. It’s going to be a big project converting it, but it’ll be really fun.

Olivia thinks the main purpose of the bus is for her to live in while she is in grad school, but we all know that the main purpose is to have a hunting and fishing machine – It’ll have a big enough freezer to freeze an entire elk. It will have kayak racks. It will have bike racks. It will have a special spot for our raft. It’ll have a huge barbecue. Welllllllllllllll these are some things that I hope for, but more realistically it will have a bed, a kitchen, a shower, a portable toilet, a couch, a desk, and a big enough freezer for a good day of ocean fishing and mayyyyybe a whole deer. We’ll see.

It is, after all, her bus for school. I am so happy and excited to help her turn it into a safe, comfortable living space. And it’ll have a fish-cleaning station. And maybe some rod holders on the ceiling. It’s long enough even for my fly fishing poles.

Olivia picked it up and drove it home a couple weeks ago and so far we’ve just ripped it apart and cleaned it. Soon we’ll get to the fun stuff, but first we have to do a little more of the boring jobs – caulking, ordering stuff, planning, blah blah blah.

I’m just kidding. Every night I sit at my computer looking at school bus stuff. It’s so fun. Backup cameras. LED lights. Sweet cabinetry. Bamboo floors. Home Alone meets James Bond – style security. Beware creepers, Olivia might just be shooting pepper spray in your face with a remote control button from inside of the bus.

We went back and forth for a while about whether or not to bother sharing the bus conversion on our blog, or what we would share if we did put it online. We ended up deciding that we’ll just share generally what were up to and anything we think is worth sharing that’s not already covered online. School bus conversion stuff is already covered in exhausting detail.

Anyway, without further ado, here she is:

school bus

It’s a 22 foot, 5-window short bus. Inside, it has about 13 by 8 feet of open space in the back. It’s a little over 6 feet tall in the middle, and it’s a beautiful 70,000 miles young.

You might have noticed the words “Navajo Head Start” on the side. Olivia bought it from a bus sales company in Phoenix and it came to them by way of a school in New Mexico. By law in some states, you have to repaint a converted school bus, so that’s on our to-do list this spring when we have good enough weather to do it. I’m thinking camo would be best but I think Olivia probably has other plans.

Here are a couple “before” photos of the inside of the bus.

For our first weekend, we got in the bus with a bunch of tools and ripped it all apart. We had to be careful in a couple of areas but for the most part it was just a lot of aggressive hammering, prying, cursing, and destroying drill bits. The bus came with one passenger bench seat which we removed and might reuse.

We thought the bus would have either Phillips-head screws or aluminum rivets holding all of the paneling on, but it had steel rivets that were difficult to drill through and really hard to pry out.

My main advice for choosing tools for demoing a school bus would be to have lots of bits for different fasteners – ours mainly had rivets but there were plenty of other fasteners too (T25s, Philips, flat heads, and a large variety of bolt sizes).

Other than removing fasteners and prying with a flat bar, we did do a little bit of cutting with the angle grinder and sheers to speed things up.

By the end of the first weekend we had finished removing all of the paneling and the floor as well. We did decide to keep some of the original white metal paneling in the cab. You gotta keep some of the original stuff to properly honor the bus’s previous life.

This weekend we decided to take the time to do a good cleaning. It turns out that when 20 kids go in and out of a small space for 15 years, every day, they leave some dirt behind.

It’s ok, dirt isn’t toxic. We just washed the whole floor out with a hose and it’ll be ready for caulking and paint as soon as it’s dry.

We also started a little bit of investigation into the existing electrical system. There are a bunch of alarm switches on the doors and emergency hatch and other alarms, and the bus won’t start if the back door is locked with the deadbolt.

That’s a big problem because if, for whatever reason, we were to feel unsafe where we were parked, we don’t want to have to unlock the back door in order to drive the bus away. This will be an easy problem to fix and it’s one of the first things we’ll take care of next before we start building.

Stay tuned for some (hopefully) more exciting posts about our bus conversion coming soon!

The Lion, the Wolf, and the Moose – Part 5

The Lion, the Wolf, and the Moose – Part 5

If you haven’t read parts 1-4, you can find them here. I started my first afternoon of Rosie hunting disappointed. As I took my first look with my binoculars, I spotted an ATV down where I was planning on hunting. Bundles of fog were quickly 

The Lion, the Wolf, and the Moose – Part 4

The Lion, the Wolf, and the Moose – Part 4

If you haven’t read parts 1-3, you can find them here. You would think that after camping in super cold weather for three days we would be ready to head home with a truck load of meat. Instead, we dropped the meat off at a 

The Lion, the Wolf, and the Moose – Part 3

The Lion, the Wolf, and the Moose – Part 3

If you haven’t read parts 1 or 2, you can find them here.

The next day, we decided to head straight to our plan A area – we had to put chains on the truck just to drive in. I use the heavy duty v-bar style chains which I highly recommend for this type of trip. They’re great for packed-down, icy dirt roads.

For most of day 3, we didn’t see much in the way of big game – a small group of elk with a couple of really young bulls, a couple of deer, and that was it. Our plan A zone looked great in terms of habitat, but we just couldn’t spot much for elk.


It seemed like the area we discovered on the way in was better than our Plan A, so we headed back towards camp with the intention of looking for the group of elk that we had seen on our first day on the way into town.

Before we made it there, we spotted the same huge herd of elk that we had gone after the night before. They had moved up and over the top of a mountain and then down and across the next drainage, and they were feeding across an open ridge on the other side. It was afternoon, so I knew we would have to hurry if we were going to have a chance before it got dark.

We parked at a creepy abandoned mine and started our way up towards the elk. As we headed up the hill we saw a truck coming our way with an ATV in the back. We were far enough up the hill that we knew if we hurried we would at least be on the road in the way when he headed in on his ATV. We hoped maybe he would be courteous and turn around if we were already walking in. With our packs on, we pretty much ran up the hill to stay ahead of him.

As we got closer to the elk, the ATV never appeared. When we got to a point where we were about 1000 yards away, Scott opted to stay behind and let me go ahead alone – the less movement the better. At this point the elk were towards the top of the patch of sagebrush, hidden behind the tree in the foreground of the photo below.

sage brush

I decided to go to the right through the timber across the small drainage from the elk. After a long, careful stalk, I got to a point where I could see elk feeding across the opposite hill through a small window through the timber (you might see elk if you zoom wayyyyyyyy in on the photo below).

rifle on pack

I set up my pack and laid down in the snow, prone. I used my rangefinder and noted that elk that were at the bottom of the hill were 200 yards away, and at the top of the hill they were 300.

As the elk fed across and to the right, I found I didn’t have time to get a good look at them before they disappeared from the opening in the timber. There were so many and they were moving fast enough that while I was lying there, several smaller bulls walked across my window before I could get a good look, let alone a good shot.

Meanwhile, about 40 yards to my right I heard a cow call and noticed that elk were filing across in a line right next to me. The herd was so big that they had wrapped around the drainage that I was looking across, and the front of the herd was now within archery range. I stayed still and kept my eyes on a swivel, knowing that one of the bigger bulls could step out in the window across from me, or directly to my right, at any time.

After several minutes of heart pounding excitement, a bull stepped into the opening across at the bottom of my window and stopped – 200 yards away. I knew that I would only have a matter of seconds before he continued on, so I quickly put my crosshairs on him, waited a second to make sure I was stable, and took a shot.

It’s always so surreal when everything is so quiet that you can hear the slightest of noises – even footsteps from the elk walking above me – and then your gun goes off right next to your face. This time it was even more shocking because my rifle scope hit my face. I’ve never been “scoped” before, but I think because I was on such a steep slope, and was in an awkward position where I could be ready to swing to my right if a bull stepped out nearby, or maybe just because I was so focused on making a good shot. I don’t know what happened but I immediately knew I got scoped.

I was very confident that I had made a great shot. The bull didn’t move but I could tell he was in shock, so I shot again. And again. And one more time. Four times. Scott was down in the bottom of the canyon wondering if I was just making hasty shots and missing – the type of shots that my grandmother might imagine me taking. Nope, I was just making sure that that elk died right there and died quickly. And it did. I shot until I watched it fall and slide down the hill out of my view.

I’ve never taken so many shots at an animal, but it stood there in shock and gave me the opportunity so I took it until I couldn’t anymore. I wasn’t carelessly flinging bullets. I was taking my time in between each pull of the trigger to make sure I was steady and getting an ethical shot in each time.

There are too many stories of hunters thinking they’ve made a good shot and then never finding the elk. If you get another chance to make a good shot, take it (carefully), because elk are big animals and you don’t want to be walking through the woods in the dark tracking an animal if you can avoid it. More importantly you don’t want to wound and lose an animal, causing prolonged suffering.

After some time I headed down and across the drainage and found that the bull hadn’t gone anywhere. He slid down the hill a little ways and stopped. This was what I walked up to, and I was so happy to see it. I was happy because I knew that that elk had died a quick death, and I knew that we were going to have that organic, free range, amazing meat for another year.

bull elk

To take the life of something so majestic can almost feel wrong. Elk are so incredibly beautiful. When you see them up close you get the chance to truly appreciate the beauty of their impressive mass, sleek antlers, and thick fur.

The emotions I feel when I first walk up to an animal that I have killed are deep sorrow, responsibility, and gratitude. I am SO sorry for what I have done, accept responsibility for what I did, and feel incredibly grateful for being able to harvest such incredible meat.

bull elk

Scott made his way up to me and we quickly got started on what would become a long night of work ahead of us. Scott tied the bull’s antlers to a live sage brush bush uphill to make sure the elk wouldn’t slide down the hill while we were processing it – a good reason to bring extra p-cord.

As we started quartering the elk, it got dark. In this area, there are wolves, black bears, mountain lions, wolverines, small cats, and very rarely (legend has it) grizzly bears. Of all of the predators, none of them have ever concerned me too much besides grizzly bears – they terrify me.

Regardless, I let Scott know that my rifle was going to stay loaded and I set it down near by with the safety on. When we got about halfway done with the elk I told Scott I was going to take some layers off and drink some water. As we stopped and I looked up, something was right there looking back at us. It’s eyes were glowing in the shine of my headlamp, and they weren’t small.

As I said “is that a wolf?”, it made a sound, but I couldn’t hear it very well because I was talking. Scott immediately said “no, it’s a cat. It hissed” or something like that. From the size and spacing of its eyes, I knew it had to be a mountain lion.

I grabbed my rifle, Scott plugged his years, and I shot hight into the air and yelled, “YAWWWW, GIT OUT OF HERE, YAWWWWW, GIT!” as loud as I could. I probably looked crazed, but I was completely serious. It started to run off, but I decided to shoot again for good measure – unfortunately Scott had unplugged his ears (sorry, Scott).

It was out of there, fast. I don’t think it had realized we were humans when it first walked up and hissed at us. Scott asked if I had any more bullets. I did. Three more bullets. From now on, I am bringing more bullets.

As I continued butchering the elk, Scott built a raging sage brush fire in the snow and stood guard. At that point we really didn’t think it (or anything else) would come near us again, but I picked up the pace and finished up with the elk.

We opted not to shuttle the meat down one quarter at a time because we didn’t want to leave meat at the carcass for any ballsy predators, and we definitely didn’t want to come back to meet those predators. So we both took a quarter (plus backstraps, etc.) of the elk on our back and we each loaded a dry bag with another quarter. We tied rope to the quarters we had in the drybags and carefully slid them down the snowy hill while we made our way down.

If you’ve never carried an elk out of the woods, it’s probably hard to imagine how difficult this was. I’ll try and paint the picture: We each had about 80-100 pounds of meat (and bones for stocks and broths) plus all of our hiking gear, plus my rifle, all on our backs. Carrying that much weight on flat ground with good footing is difficult Try it while also trying to guide a huge bag of meat down a super steep snowy hill at a controlled fall, in the dark, when a lion was just hissing at you.

When we got down into the bottom of the canyon and into the timber we decided that sliding half of the meat out the rest of the way wasn’t an option, so we would hang half of the meat in a tree and come back for it the next day. This is what I usually do, though this time it was incredibly difficult. There weren’t any good trees with good branches to hang the meat, and it was super steep and slippery. Imagine two monkeys trying to hang a giant bag of bananas on a snowy hill, because that’s probably how we looked. To say the least, it was a struggle that took us way longer than it should have.

I have always used parachute cord and it has always worked well, but I will never use it again unless I bring appropriate pulleys. This was one of the major lessons I took out of this hunt: I need to come up with a better system for hanging meat with pulleys that will make it quick and easy.

Despite the struggle, we finally got the elk hung up in a tree and started the trek out to the truck. It wasn’t too far, but this packout was the hardest I have ever done. I think it was just mentally exhausting having a mountain lion come in and hiss at us. It turned the whole night into a stressful rush and rushing in turn made everything harder and take longer.

The next day, we hiked back in for the second half of the elk and it felt like such an easy packout. Yes, we were packing heat. Lot’s of heat. Just in case. We scoured the area around the carcass for tracks but there were so many elk tracks and the snow had melted a bit, so we never found the lion’s tracks.

I took this photo from the carcass looking across at the timber where I had taken the shot from. It looks thick, but one of those small windows through the trees is where I was lying.

elk country

When we got to the meat, we were very pleased to see it still hanging in the tree, untouched.

packing elk meat

Hanging meat is just like hanging food when you are camping to keep it away from bears. It should be high enough that an animal can’t reach it from the ground, far enough away from the trunk of the tree that a bear can’t get it from there, and low enough from the branch it’s hanging from that they can’t climb out on the branch to get to it. In this case it was plenty high (though it looks low in the photo due to the slope of the hill), but it was closer to the trunk than I would like, probably about two feet out. Either way it worked and we didn’t want to stick around any longer that night than we already had.

elk meat hung in tree

My new Kifaru pack was awesome for this packout. I was able to hike in with just water, my first aid kit, and my down jacket, and hike out with a whole quarter.

elk quarter in kifaru pack

I recently upgraded from a regular backpacking backpack, so I found it sort of satisfying watching Scott struggle with fitting a whole elk quarter into the inside of his pack and then have to figure out what to do with the rest of his stuff. Sorry again, Scott.

packing elk meat

All in all, Scott really got to experience the true Rocky Mountain elk hunting experience. In just three full days we had seen beautiful country, tons of wildlife, and had harvested a bull.

With two weeks off from work, though, and another elk tag in my pocket, the adventure was just getting started. I was excited to sign off on this hunt with hot springs that night and some trout fishing in one of my favorite rivers the next day.

You can find part 4 here.

The Lion, the Wolf, and the Moose – Part 2

The Lion, the Wolf, and the Moose – Part 2

If you haven’t read part 1, you can check it out here. By the end of our second day of hunting, we had seen dozens of antelope and mule deer, whitetail deer, several moose, bighorn sheep, and several herds of elk. This was enough to 

The Lion, the Wolf, and the Moose – Part 1

The Lion, the Wolf, and the Moose – Part 1

When I was visiting with family this fall my grandmother said something like, “your grandfather doesn’t like to kill things” and I immediately thought “Well, if I enjoyed killing things, that would make me a psychopath”. What she meant, really, was that my grandad wasn’t interested 

Checking Air Quality – How To Forecast Smoke with

Checking Air Quality – How To Forecast Smoke with

smoke layer

Today I was supposed to be leaving for a 9-day Roosevelt Elk hunt in Washington and instead I am sitting at my computer, unable to go outside because it’s too smoky. I’m delaying the hunt for now and I will probably end up bagging it all together unless we get a good amount of rain soon. We tend to hike hard and far on our hunts, so I made the difficult decision to stay home until we can get out there safely.

I’m not complaining, though. I am glad to be safe at home with no evacuation orders, and I realize that this isn’t the case for everyone out west right now.

If you’re lucky like us and you’re considering any outdoor activities in the near future, check out the layers that has for air quality. We discovered this feature recently and use it to get a rough idea of what the air quality is going to be like.

After heading to, click on the Air Quality layer on the top right side of the page.


From there, you can choose either the PM 2.5 layer or the NO2 layer. PM 2.5 is particulate matter under 2.5 micrometers. NO2 is Nitrogen Dioxide which gets in the air from the burning of fuels. They’re both bad for you.

From these maps, you can see right away that the west coast isn’t doing well right now. If you zoom out, you can see that it’s the currently one of the worst places in the world for air quality, if not the worst.

Anyway, you can scroll through time just like you can when you’re looking at wind forecasts and get a rough idea of what the air quality might be like in the future (scrolling tool is down in the bottom left).

Overall, we thought this feature would be very worth sharing. Hopefully it will help some of you make it outside safely. As always, stay safe!

Linguine With Clam Sauce

Linguine With Clam Sauce

This recipe is relatively fast and easy, and a great way to use some of the frozen clams in your freezer. It’s a family favorite, and one that my mom makes every time I fly back east for a visit. Now that we harvest our 

One Backpack to Suit All Your Outdoor Needs

One Backpack to Suit All Your Outdoor Needs

The blue Osprey backpack that I used for years worked well for backpacking, but when we started having success big game hunting and it came time to haul large loads of meat (like the elk that Olivia harvested in the photo below) it was uncomfortable 

The Must Haves For Mushroom Harvesting

The Must Haves For Mushroom Harvesting

What to bring along for a successful and fun mushroom harvest

One of our favorite activities is mushroom hunting. We started to get passionate about fungi when we lived on the coast of California for a time. From our little home in the redwoods we could walk right out our door and into the forest, where we had endless access to public land and all the mushrooms we could ever want. The variety of coastal mushrooms is hard to beat, but we have lived in the mountains on and off for a long time, and always manage to hunt down some prized mushrooms in the hills we call home.

Whether we’re down in the moderate coastal zone foraging in the fall, or up in the mountains looking for morels in the spring soil, there are a few items we always bring along.

A good ID book – Even if you consider yourself a seasoned mycologist, we highly recommend bringing a reputable ID book with you on any mushroom hunt. We almost always run into a species we are unfamiliar with. When that happens, we usually don’t pick it, but it’s always fun to try and ID it. Our favorite book is definitely All That the Rain Promises and More by David Arora. It is easy to use, has some tasty recipes thrown in, and is quite entertaining.

A basket or mesh bag – We prefer a basket, or a few, as they do a better job preserving the mushrooms and preventing them from getting crushed under their own weight. Mesh bags work fine, but they tend to smash up the fungus a bit. On a particularly large expedition we purchased a cheap mesh laundry hamper with handles. It was wider than it was tall, and it worked very well for one of the most fruitful mushroom hunts we have ever been on. Most importantly, you want something that breathes. Mushrooms are damp, and they often come with some hitchhiking critters that have a chance to fall out as you walk through the woods. We have also been told by expert mushroom hunters that a breathable container allows the mushrooms to spread their spores as you move around, ensuring more growth for future expeditions.

A small knife – Most species can easily be sliced off at their base where they meet the soil or whatever substrate they’re growing out of. A little knife that can quickly open and close is essential. Trying to rip the stalk often leads to either losing some of the delicious fruiting body, or pulling up clumps of soil that gets tangled in the underground web of hyphae. It’s a pain when all your beautiful mushrooms get covered in dirt.

A small, stiff brush or toothbrush – While this isn’t an absolute necessity, it is nice to have. Lots of mushrooms grow in the soil, under leaves, and out of decomposing organic matter. It is their job after all, to decompose, and it can be a dirty one. Being able to brush off the messier mushrooms will pay off later when you don’t have to sit, hunched over in your kitchen, brushing off what would have been a fairly clean batch of mushrooms, just because a few dirty ones spoiled the bunch.

A plan and safety equipment – If you’re like us, a mushroom hunt can extend for many hours and many miles. Whether you’re walking out your back door or planning an extended trip, make sure someone knows where you’re headed, and when to expect you back. Bring your phone, a compass, a map, and/or a GPS, and be sure you’re not wandering onto private land. Living in Mendocino County, CA we often heard of people getting extremely lost in the expansive forest while on the quest for mushrooms. Don’t forget to check the rules for where you plan to pick. Is it state park land? National Forest? Is a permit required? Take care of all the particulars before you go so you don’t end up getting into trouble.

Most importantly, know before you go! Mushrooms are delicious and many are quite healthy, but only if you’re picking the right ones. Read the books, ask the experts, and double, triple, quadruple check before you go popping a yummy looking fungus into your mouth. There are plenty of look-alike species out there, and getting your ID wrong could land you in a very uncomfortable situation. There are many online communities that are extremely passionate about mushroom hunting. We suggest joining one, and maybe even finding a group in your area that is headed out for a hunt. It’s an excellent activity for all ages, and it feels like an easter egg hunt (but better)!

Seven Places to Kayak Fish in the Strait of Juan De Fuca

Seven Places to Kayak Fish in the Strait of Juan De Fuca

The last post I wrote about strategies for kayak halibut fishing received a lot of positive feedback so I decided to take it a step further. In the past couple of years we fished the Strait of Juan De Fuca fairly extensively, mostly by kayak 

Our Easiest Grilled Salmon Recipe – Teriyaki and Dill

Our Easiest Grilled Salmon Recipe – Teriyaki and Dill

Here’s our favorite, and definitely our easiest, grilled salmon recipe. My friend’s dad made it for me YEARS ago and I have made it ever since. It has even been a hit with friends who “don’t eat fish”. You only need two ingredients in addition 

How To Adventure With Your Dog

How To Adventure With Your Dog

dogs on trail
Our pack string of dogs. From left to right we have Koda, Joey, Kody, and Semper. The first two, Koda and Joey, are our boys. The other two belong to our friends, and they often join in on our adventures.

One thing you should know about us is that if we’re outside, chances are we have our dogs with us. The only exceptions are when we are actually hunting, or when we venture to areas where dogs aren’t allowed. Our boys come with us on fishing trips, any and all foraging adventures, and Joey has even learned to eat blueberries right off the bush. We love to get outside with our pups, and over the years we have learned a lot about doing it in ways that maximize everyone’s happiness.

We prepared a long list of our recommendations for things to consider when striking out into the wild with your fuzzy buddies. Whether it’s a quick overnight trip, or a longer hitch, you are responsible for you and your companion’s health and happiness. So read on, and please feel free to get in touch with us with any other helpful tips you have come up with during some of your adventures!

1. Safety

When venturing out into the wilderness, safety comes first, and the same rules definitely apply for your dogs. We pack a decent first aid kit, and in it we include some items for the pups, and some that work for both human and canine. A trip-ending injury or illness can hit you or your dogs any time, so you may as well be prepared! Considering us humans aren’t careening around in the bushes, sticks whipping us in the face, drinking dirty water, and chewing on soggy sticks, we should probably worry about our pup’s health a little differently.

Here are some of the items we keep in our first aid kit that can be used for the dogs.

-Ace bandage: a twisted limb can hurt and slow you down. Even if you have 3 other legs to walk on, wrapping it up in a supportive bandage can really help your pup out and make the trip back to the car more bearable. It can also be used to hold a dressing in place in case your dog gets a cut or abrasion that needs to be dressed and kept secure.

-Dressings: We keep a few non-adherent dressings with us to slap over any cuts or abrasions. They won’t dry and stick to the wound, which is great for when it comes time to remove it; no tearing whatever has healed back open. You and your dog will appreciate it. Sterile gauze, gauze wraps, and “vet wrap” or coban are good to wrap dressings up to keep them clean and in place. Coban can also be used like an ace bandage in a pinch.

-Vetbond: this is basically superglue for skin. It shouldn’t be used on humans (there are some brands out there that are approved for people) but it can prevent some suffering if your dog gets a good cut. It dries super fast so be ready to apply it and hold the wound shut. We have been told that it stings, so give your doggo some extra pats during the process.

-Meds: this is where we get into some tricky territory that we aren’t very comfortable advising people on. We do keep Benadryl in our first aid kit for both us and the dogs. Our boys have never had an allergic reaction to anything, but our old vet did recommend carrying it for rattlesnake bites. We STRONGLY urge you to talk to your vet about any medications you would consider giving your dog before relying on it in the backcountry. We keep the dosages our vet recommended in the container with the Benadryl for quick administration in case of an emergency.

-Doggy shoes: These don’t live in the first aid kit, but they do come with us on the bigger backpacking trips. Our boys are used to spending long days on their feet, so their pads are nice and tough. However, a cut to the paw can be dressed and then protected by the booties very nicely. We have also thrown them on when walking through really rough granite shale that slipped and slid under our feet. It was great peace of mind knowing that our dogs’ paws weren’t getting torn up by the hot, jagged, shifting granite under them.

dog booties

2. Food and water

Obviously your dog has to eat! Just like us, he probably appreciates some extra tasty meals after hiking all day. Plain kibble, or whatever your dog is used to, is fine. But we like to account for the extra calories burned and give them a little something more at each meal. We have also experimented with dehydrated food, but we don’t rely on it completely. We just mix some with water and stir that into a lovely kibble slurry that the boys love.

And just as we do for ourselves, we always budget for an unexpected day or two out in the woods, just in case. We pre-scoop the kibbles into bags and throw a few extra scoops in there just in case. Be sure to keep the kibbles in something sturdy that can withstand getting thrashed around in a dog backpack if you use one, as well as swinging from a bear hang if that’s your style, too.

Another very important consideration is water. We don’t filter our dog’s water, they just drink freely from the rivers and lakes like many other adventurous canines. However, we have gone on some really great trips that just don’t have any sources of fresh water for us or them. When this is the case we “camel up” by chugging what we have already filtered, then filtering more and filling our various vessels to the brim. We have taught our dogs to “go get water” on command, but you know what they say. You can lead a horse to water…Our boys don’t always understand planning ahead. So, if you’re adventuring somewhere arid, or hanging out up on a ridgeline without any streams or springs, plan to carry some water for your dog, or throw an extra bottle in their pack.

3. Leashed areas

Planning ahead is our motto. If you’re brining your pup along, you better check and make sure he’s even allowed. There are plenty of areas that are not dog friendly. For example, dogs are only allowed on paved areas on leash in national parks. Certain state parks don’t allow them at all. Wildlife refuges can vary, but chances are they’re not allowed or must be on leash. I hate putting the dogs on a leash when I know they would be much happier scampering around freely, but thems the rules! Also, there’s usually a pretty good reason the powers that be want them on a leash in the first place. Wildlife to harass, precious, native plants to pee on, and more. We can’t ruin it for everyone else. And let’s face it, a jaunt outside, on leash or not, is the best day ever for our pups, so just do it.

Speaking of harassing wildlife, sometimes it’s best to just keep your dog on a leash, even if it’s not required. Not a lot of dogs can resist a tempting wild animal that’s just asking to be chased. Big game, porcupines, skunks, anything that can bite really, is something you probably don’t want your dog mixing with. If your dog isn’t able to be controlled by your voice, it may be safer to keep him with you on the trail.

4. Knowing when your pup has had too much

Accidents happen, we all get tired, and not everyone is made for long-haul adventures. I am guilty of trying to keep going when the trail is getting a little too icy, or “I swear the lake is just around this next corner”, but you need to know when to quit while you and your dog are ahead. We have come across people very, very far out with a dog that just doesn’t look happy or well. We have passed by a group of people carrying their enormous dog out on a makeshift litter after he ran his paws bloody, and they had miles to go. Monitor your companion for any signs of fatigue, dehydration, heat exhaustion, or injury. They can’t speak up and tell you when they’ve had enough, and often they don’t slow down even when they should. You probably wouldn’t feel great getting up and hiking 15 miles barefoot with a fur coat on without any sort of physical conditioning, so why would your dog fare much better? If you want your dog to join you on your adventures, make sure he is physically ready to make the trip.

Joey gazing over the Goat Rocks Wilderness

5. Packs

We love our dogs to a ridiculous degree, and they are pretty spoiled, but they still have to carry their own weight. They each have a backpack which usually holds their kibble, collapsible bowls, booties, jackets, a few odds and ends like our bear bag rope, and then on the way out, our garbage. The packs are a little more like saddlebags, and they take some finessing to get just right. They are adjustable in all the right places and most quality brands have a sizing chart on their website. Our boys know that when the packs come out, some fun is in store. If you’re going on a multi-day hitch, you’ll have to play around with your packing arrangement to keep the weight even on both sides, so your dog isn’t running around with one side higher than the other, but it’s really quite easy and so worth it. The packs really can carry a lot and we certainly appreciate them.

Joey and Koda with packs

6. Sleeping arrangements

We keep our dogs in the tent with us at night. They both weigh around 50 lbs, and we have a fairly compact 2-person backpacking tent that we all fit into pretty comfortably. One of our dogs prefers to stretch out away from us, the other always snuggles up inside my sleeping bag with me. The reason we keep the boys in the tent is to keep them and the wildlife safe, and to keep them warm. They have pretty short fur, and they get very chilly. They would definitely freeze their tails off at night if they slept outside. We also don’t want them to patrol the tent site all night and get into mischief.

We do have some friends that let their dogs sleep outside the tent. Their pups are much fuzzier, MUCH larger, and are very happy to hunker down next to the tent and let nature be in the name of a good snooze. These dogs are the sort that prefer to spend all day out on the porch getting snowed on during the winter than come inside. Our boys are not that tough. Just be sure there is enough room for the whole gang to sleep comfortably in your tent, or think ahead about safely letting your dog sleep outside for the night. Nighttime temps can get very low, so don’t leave your buddy out there to freeze while you’re happy and warm in your sleeping bag.

7. LNT

Finally, everyone’s favorite topic. Poop. When out backpacking, we let our dogs do the deed without much worry. Our old boy Joey does have an affinity for pooping in the middle of the trail, so we of course get rid of it with a quick flick of a stick. Our other boy, Koda, is much more of a shy pooper, so he just disappears into the bushes to manage things on his own. However, when we are on more heavily used trails closer to civilization, we like to bag up their poops and toss them in the nearest bin. We opt for a biodegradable poop bag that works just fine. And please, if you’re going to scoop some poop, throw it away. There is no point in bagging it just to plop it on the ground or on top of the nearest fence post. Just toss it when you can.

As always, be courteous to your fellow adventurers, no matter the species. Be aware that not everyone loves being approached by a dog, no matter how friendly that dog may be. Try to preserve the flora and fauna and leave no trace as best as you can!

Our Favorite Website for Wind Forecasts

Our Favorite Website for Wind Forecasts is a really awesome interactive website for wind forecasts. It’s easy to use – you just zoom in to the area you are interested in and click on the map and it will tell you the current wind speed and direction. – For a 

Fish Tacos with Mango Cucumber Salsa

Fish Tacos with Mango Cucumber Salsa

This recipe serves 2-3. It is one of our favorites and is super easy and fast! Ingredients The basics: 1/2 pound halibut, rockfish, lingcod, or any other white fish cut into boneless strips about 1/2″ thick. Corn tortillas For the salsa: 1/2 English cucumber, chopped 

Our Favorite Website for Marine Weather Forecasts

Our Favorite Website for Marine Weather Forecasts

We use for ocean weather forecasts for the same reasons that we use it for land forecasts – offers an accurate marine point forecast that is specific to the exact location where you plan on fishing.

If you’re interested in an ocean weather forecast, type in the name of the nearest town that you know of, and you will get a land forecast. Then click on the ocean on the map in the precise area where you plan on going, and it will automatically switch to ocean conditions and give you a point forecast for the day that includes information on swell, wind, and any marine weather advisories. For us, the point forecast has been the most reliable weather forecast for near-shore ocean fishing. 

We also like to use the Zone Forecast to get a more general idea of what’s happening in that marine area. Click on the link below the daily forecast that says: “Associated Zone Forecast Which Includes This Point”.

Marine Zone forecasts often predict wind and swell that are slightly more harsh than what you will observe near shore, but it is good to know about the general weather pattern in the area. 

If you’ve been looking for a solid website for marine forecasts, is it. We do, however, usually like to look at wind forecasts and a few other websites as well just to get the best possible idea of what it will be like on the day of our trip.

Why You Shouldn’t Use the Weather App on Your Phone – How to Read the Weather for Outdoor Activities

Why You Shouldn’t Use the Weather App on Your Phone – How to Read the Weather for Outdoor Activities

If you just look at an app on your phone to get the weather forecast before you go outdoors, you have been seriously missing out. If you want to catch more fish, find more mushrooms, avoid bad weather when hunting, and generally be a better 

Two Basic Websites for Understanding River Flows

Two Basic Websites for Understanding River Flows

– When we are planning a rafting, kayaking, or fishing trip on the river, the first and most important thing to look into is the river flow. Flows don’t only determine the conditions for safety but also the chance for success of fishing trips. With 

Deep Zoom – Free Interactive Map for Tides and Currents

Deep Zoom – Free Interactive Map for Tides and Currents

If you’re planning on fishing out on the salt, it’s essential to have an understanding of the tides and tidal current, especially if you plan on fishing from a kayak. For studying tides and tidal current, we highly recommend checking out Deep Zoom.

The main thing to not get confused about is that there are two types of guages you can click on: those for tides – the small yellow squares, and those for tidal current – the yellow arrows and/or standalone decimal numbers. The scroll bar at the bottom allows you to scroll through time to get a visual understanding of the tidal currents in an area.

Small yellow squares are tide guages
Numbers and arrows are for tidal current.

There is a big difference between tides and tidal current – tides are the vertical raising and lowering of water measured in vertical feet. Tidal current, however, is the horisontal flow of water from place to place (like a river) that is a result of the tides – measured in knots (1.15 mph).

The confusing thing is that when people say “high tide”, they are sometimes refering to when the current is slack, which can be after high tide. Think of it this way: the tide is coming into a bay and the current is moving in through the mouth of the bay (aka flooding). Once it becomes high tide, it takes time for the water to actually stop because of all the momentum. When it finally stops, that is “slack” tide.

This is a simple example, whereas in real bays, there are narrows, changes in depth, and all sorts of things that affect tidal currents. This gets back to why DeepZoom is such a great tool – play around with it for a while and you will develop a much better sense of how tides and tidal current interact in the area where you are interested in going.

Things can be confusing with tides and currents… here is a real example:

Here, you can see because of the large yellow arrows that the current is going out, or west, into the ocean, out of the Columbia river (aka ebbing). On the graph on the right, you can see that it’s about noon, and the value is -4.3. This means the current is going 4.3 knots (about 5 miles per hour) OUT, shown by the direction of the arrow. Positive numbers mean the current is coming in. Negative numbers mean the current is going out. Note that on the map, the numbers remain positive because direction is indicated by the arrow. The number zero means it’s “slack tide” – there is no current.

At a nearby tide guage:

It is still about noon, and the value is 2.0. This means the tide is positive 2 feet, and does not indicate anything at all about the current speed or direction. You can see from the graph that the tide is still falling, but remember that the current will continue flowing out until after low tide, when it is finally slack low.

Unfortunately, like all weather forecasting, DeepZoom does not substitute for a general knowledge of tides and currents and knowing local conditions. For example, tidal current can combine with surface current from winds to make especially strong currents.

While DeepZoom is an excellent tool, it can definitely be somewhat glitchy. For example, when you switch from a current gauge to tidal gauge, sometimes the units for the axes on the graphs don’t change.

Anyway, I hope that some of these tools are useful if not entertaining. They’ve sure been helpful for us. Stay tuned for a similar tutorial on some of our favorite mapping websites.