Christmas Tree Hunt

This Christmas tree may look a little sad, but the experience getting it was a fun family adventure.

For the second time in 20 years we ventured into the hills to cut our own Christmas tree. We should have learned from our past experience that this isn’t really a good idea. Here is what I wrote about that:

“On Thanksgiving morning, my kids went to the woods, permit in hand, to cut our Christmas tree.  They returned triumphant with a lodgepole pine, fully twelve feet tall and eight feet wide.  The tree has, as an optimist might say, character.  The top lists to the left and there are holes you could drive Santa’s sleigh through.  In the ugly department, it has pushed last year’s tree, the here-to-fore undisputed ugliest tree champion, into shameful obscurity.”

This year’s tree was described by my wife on her Facebook page thus: “The tree looks a little “Charlie Brownish,” but Jake’s family helped us find it, cut it and decorate it so it’s perfect.”

After a short drive up a snowy-slick road, we hiked up the hill each looking for the picture-perfect tree. We gathered in the snow around potential victims and discussed the merits and shortcomings of each of them individually. I could quickly see and point out the flaws in each tree—there were no perfect ones—but the kids were excited and after a few wifely glares my way, and not wanting the process to last until we could see stars, I stopped offering an opinion and recognized my role as simply the chainsaw executioner of whichever quarry was selected.

Cutting a Christmas tree on public land (with the requisite permits of course) as I have learned, is far more about the experience than it is to save money or to find that flawless tree. Neither of those things is likely to happen, even if you live in a forest surrounded by trees. In fact, years ago, we switched to an artificial tree for those very reasons.

  Now that we are back in the real Christmas tree business, more reasons to switch to an artificial tree came flooding back, starting with having to buy a new tree stand when just last year I finally gave away a better one. Then we found that the base of our selected tree was too small, leading to braces and spacers and strings from the ceiling and wall just to keep the dang thing upright. Even then, it tipped over once, spilling onto the carpet the gallon of water we had so carefully poured into the base. Then it was time to get poked in the face repeatedly as we adjusted the tree so that the worst of the holes was against the wall.

I don’t suspect I will ever get back into the sane world of artificial Christmas trees, so this summer we are going to take our time and identify our prey well in advance. Then there may be some hope that this evergreen embellishment that occupies our house for one twelfth of the year may actually abide without apology or excuse as part of our decor.

Still, Christmas tree hunting makes a great early season winter adventure, one the entire family can enjoy. Next year we may make it an all-day event with hot chocolate, sledding and a fire. As my wonderful wife points out, the experience makes even a less-than-ideally-shaped tree just perfect.


Help Idaho Wildlife

When we traveled across the state in October 2017, most of the vehicles we saw using the wildlife management areas did not have wildlife plates. Buying wildlife plates is a great way for non-hunters and hunters alike to support wildlife-based recreation like birding.

C'mon folks, let's help Idaho's wildlife by proudly buying and displaying a wildlife license plate on each of our vehicles! 

See below for information on Idaho plates. Most states have wildlife plates so if you live outside Idaho, check with your state's wildlife department or vehicle licensing division for availability of state wildlife plates where you live. 

And tell them that you heard about it from!

Wildlife License Plates

Idaho Wildlife license plates provide essential funding that benefits the great diversity of native plants and wildlife that are not hunted, fished or trapped—over 10,000 species or 98% of Idaho’s species diversity. Game species that share the same habitats (such as elk, deer, antelope, sage-grouse, salmon, trout) also benefit from these specialty plates.

No state tax dollars are provided for wildlife diversity, conservation education and recreation programs. Neither are any revenues from the sale of hunting or fishing licenses spent on nongame species. Instead, these species depend on direct donations, federal grants, fundraising initiatives—and the Idaho Wildlife license plates.

Both my vehicles have Bluebird Plates. I prefer the bluebird because the nongame program gets 70 percent of the money from bluebird plates, but only 60 percent of the money from elk and trout plates - 10 percent of the money from elk plates supports wildlife disease monitoring and testing programs (to benefit the livestock industry) and 10 percent from cutthroat plates supports non-motorized boat access.

Incidentally, in 2014, the Idaho Legislature denied the Department of Fish and Game the ability to add new plates or even to change the name of the elk and cutthroat plates (very specific) to wildlife and fish plates, a move that would have allowed for changing images occasionally and generating more revenue. It would seem that they believe that we Idahoans don't want a well funded wildlife program.

I think it is time we let the Legislature know that Idahoan support wildlife funding and that we would like to see these generic plates come to fruition.

"WOW. What a phenomenal piece you wrote. You are amazing." Jennifer Jackson

That is embarrassing, but actually a fairly typical response to my nature essays. Since The Best of Nature is created from the very best of 16 years of these nature essays published weekly in the Idaho Falls Post Register (online readership 70,000), it is a fine read. It covers a wide variety of topics including humorous glimpses of nature, philosophy, natural history, and conservation. Readers praise the style, breadth of subject matter and my ability to communicate complex and emotional topics in a relaxed and understandable manner.

Everyone can find something to love in this book. From teenagers to octogenarians, from the coffee shop to the school room, these nature essays are widely read and enjoyed.

Some of the essays here are my personal favorites, others seemed to strike a chord with readers. Most have an important message or lesson that will resonate with you. They are written with a goal to simultaneously entertain and educate about the wonderful workings of nature. Some will make you laugh out loud and others will bring a tear to the eye and warm your heart.

Readers Write:

"You hit a home run with your article on, Big Questions in Nature. It should be required reading for everyone who has lost touch with nature...great job!" Joe Chapman

"We enjoyed your column, Bloom Where Planted. Some of the best writing yet. The Post Register is fortunate to have your weekly columns." Lou Griffin.

To read more and to order a copy, click here or get the Kindle version 


Copies are also available at:

Post Register

Island Park Builders Supply (upstairs)

Barnes and Noble in Idaho Falls

Harriman State Park, Island Park

Museum of Idaho

Valley Books, Jackson Wyoming

Avocet Corner Bookstore, Bear River National Wildlife Refuge, Brigham City, Utah

Craters of the Moon National Monument Bookstore, Arco, Idaho

TAX DAY is coming! Here is a chance to do something good with a bit of your tax return and make the day less painful.

Donate part of your tax return to support wildlife in Idaho!

On the second page of the Idaho Individual Tax form 40 you have the opportunity to donate to the “Nongame Wildlife Conservation Fund”.

Check-off this box on your next return or ask your tax preparer to mark the Nongame check-off on your behalf. You can donate any amount you wish, it all helps to support the wildlife you love.

If you are not from Idaho, check with your own state wildlife agency about how you can help. Many states have a similar program.