Huckleberry News Stories Archive

More Huckleberry Picking Reports

Posted August 14, 2017 By sandy

Some interesting stories from huckleberry pickers around the region:

More Huckleberry Picking Reports

I’m Your Huckleberry

Huckleberries may quite possibly be the best thing about summer in McCall. These round purple berries have a tart kick that make them the perfect addition to pies, ice cream, pancakes, syrup and more. …

Finding a bountiful huckleberry patch can require a bit of adventure. Start by getting to the right elevation (between 4,000 and 6,000 feet). Forest Service and old logging roads are a great way to access these high country areas. Huckleberry shrubs range in size from 2 feet to 6 feet and some of the best patches can be found in shaded areas. The leaves of a huckleberry bush are deep green with thin stems while the berries are small and range from deep red to purple to blue-black. Huckleberries typically ripen between July and September in the McCall area.

Check out the full story for a detailed list of picking tips

 

Personal Foodstory: Tart, sweet and wild, huckleberries represent this family of foraging jokesters

… If you’ve ever been huckleberry picking, you know that to reach even the halfgallon mark takes approximately an eternity. …

Huckleberrying requires patience, grit and awkward crouching. Swatting mosquitos and sweating in the summer heat, you must crawl through mountainous underbrush as scraggly branches and sticky spider webs collide with your face, only to pluck four meager berries from an entire bush.

With stained fingers and dirty jeans, you remind yourself that: Every. Berry. Counts.

If you drop one berry, you desperately hunt it down and place the precious fruit back in your picking container. Otherwise your hard labor was wasted…

Read the rest of this humorous story

 

Experts say this is the best season for huckleberry picking in years

One month in to huckleberry picking season, with up to 100 pickers each weekend, Nathan May with Washington State Parks said, “there’s still tons of huckleberries to be picked.” …

Rangers and pickers are even finding huckleberries pop up in places they never been found before….you just may have to go off the beaten path to find them.

The only place pickers haven’t had much luck is in areas with direct sunlight. as the extreme heat has hurt the bushes.

Kathy Grier has gone huckleberry picking twice already this season. Last weekend she headed to higher elevations and says she could sit on the ground and fill a quarter of a bag easily. …

More on this story

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Commercial Picking Still Illegal in North Idaho

Posted August 11, 2017 By sandy

Forest Service announced that commercial huckleberry picking in north Idaho’s Boundary County is illegal, but they nor the sheriff’s office are able to enforce the restriction.

Commercial Picking still Illegal in North Idaho

Here is the story from Rick Landers, Spokesman’s Outdoor Editor:

Illegal commercial huckleberry pickers out of county authority’s reach

Forest Service announcements that commercial huckleberry picking is illegal on Idaho Panhandle National Forests have prompted a flurry of calls to county sheriff’s offices regarding violators in North Idaho….

“Boundary County Sheriff’s Office does not have the authority to enforce the commercial  huckleberry picking restriction, that is a charge that needs to be investigated by the Forest Service as we do not have an Idaho law pertaining to commercial picking and selling of huckleberries,” the release says. 
 
“What we can enforce are any violations of the Idaho code, which may include littering, threats etc.  We encourage the public to notify the Forest Service of any suspected commercial huckleberry picking camps and to also notify our office of any camps where there may be violations of Idaho law.
 
“We will have an increased presence in the forest and popular huckleberry picking locations to help keep potential problems down.  The Sheriff’s Office has started a back-country patrol program with the use of a dual-sport motorbike and ATVs to more easily check some of these areas.  We have a few of our volunteer Reserve Officers that assist us in these patrol checks.”
 
Commercial huckleberry picking is prohibited on the national forests to prevent resource damage, avoid conflicts, assure public recreation and to preserve some of a crop that’s an important food source for bears.
 
Here are the details from the Idaho Panhandle National Forest:
It is huckleberry season! The Idaho Panhandle National Forests is reminding huckleberry pickers that commercial picking of huckleberries is not permitted. Picking huckleberries with the intent to sell them is considered commercial gathering.
 
In order to provide plentiful opportunities for recreational huckleberry, the forest does not issue commercial permits. Minimum fines for commercial picking start at $250, and can increase based on the severity of the offense. Recreational huckleberry pickers are encouraged to pick only what they can consume so that others may enjoy the fun of picking and the delicious taste of our state fruit.
 
Methods for huckleberry gathering vary widely, but pickers are strongly encouraged to hand pick their berries. This ensures that the bushes are not damaged and only ripe berries are harvested. We want our huckleberry bushes to remain healthy and productive for many years to come!  Any methods that damage or destroy the bushes are illegal and may result in a fine for damaging natural resources….
 

…. For more information about huckleberry picking on the Idaho Panhandle National Forests, please contact your local Forest Service office.

You can find more information here.

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Huckleberry Picking Reports around the Region

Posted July 22, 2017 By sandy

From the information we are receiving from huckleberry pickers, the crop is really looking abundant this season.

Around the web, stories are coming in from pickers around the area about their experiences in the woods.  Here are a few of them:

Huckleberry Picking Reports around the Region

 

Landers: Huckleberry pickers enjoying bumper crop

As predicted after seeing bountiful blooms during June hikes, the region is enjoying a bumper crop of huckleberries from all reports….

Happenings on the Hilltop

It’s huckleberry picking season again! Everyone’s favorite summer pastime has started. Huckleberries have been spotted out on Fidler and Mussleshell, among other local areas….

 

Protecting their turf: Huckleberry pickers know when they’ve struck purple gold

LOON LAKE, Wash. – It’s huckleberry season in the Inland Northwest, and pickers are staking their territory….

Huckleberry pickers typically won’t find the tarter, sweeter, and juicer version of the blueberry until they reach elevations beyond 4,000 feet.

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Huckleberries are not only enjoyed by avid pickers, but they are a major source of food for the grizzly bear.

According to the Daily Inter Lake website, 17-year old Hunter Dana found out how dangerous bears can be during his recent huckleberry picking expedition.

Berry picker has harrowing grizzly bear encounter

… Dana, of Columbia Falls, hiked up to his family’s usual huckleberry-picking spot near Hungry Horse and sat down to pick. Dana’s mother, Jennifer Wheat-Dana, said that her son reported “something didn’t feel right.”

One of Dana’s empty gallon jugs clanked against another jug and the sow came flying out of the woods.

“She kept coming after him,” Wheat-Dana said. “He would spray her, get away, and she was coming again. She followed him clear around the lake.”

At one point, the sow charged Dana, he sprayed her, and her nail caught his pant leg and tripped him. The spray had subdued her enough for him to get up and get moving, she said.

Dana is scratched from the underbrush and hit the ground hard but is uninjured. He lost his voice from screaming at the bear.

Dana’s father was on the phone with him during the attack, and simultaneously called 911 with a co-worker’s phone.

When Wheat-Dana arrived, Flathead County Sheriff’s deputies and a game warden had already arrived. Dana was picked up at the south end of the lake…

NBC Montana also picked up the story and included a video interview with Dana.  Check it out here: Kalispell teenager’s bear scare serves as a reminder. 

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The Pinchot Partners from the Packard, Washington area are working with the Gifford Pinchot National Forest to aid in the restoration of the forest and huckleberry crop.

According to The Chronicle, serving the greater Lewis County, Washington area, a meeting was held on May 24 to discuss the problem:

Those in attendance will learn about huckleberry areas in the forest and how the interested public can get involved with huckleberry restoration efforts. Information will also be available about huckleberry picking in the forest….

The Pinchot Partners and the Forest Service have worked together for the past seven years to improve huckleberry habitat. Harvesting trees commercially to “daylight” the huckleberry bushes, hand removal of competing vegetation, and conducting prescribed burning are all methods that can improve huckleberry production.

The Pinchot Partners was recently awarded two grants from the Weyerhaeuser Family Foundation to develop a forestwide strategy for restoring huckleberry habitat in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. 

In a follow up article from The Chronicle, the issue facing the Gifford Pinchot National Forest was described in detail:

As it turns out, huckleberries need a little bit of assistance from either nature or human hands in order to thrive among the dense thickets of forest that blanket the Cascade foothills. Namely, huckleberries require plenty of open canopy space in order to grow and ripen. Over the last 120 years, a combination of changing logging practices and increased fire suppression has created a forest that is choking out the once common huckleberry.

“Native Americans used to do burning to keep areas open and even logging helped,” explained Jamie Tolfree, coordinator for the Pinchot Partners. “The habitat is encroaching, bottom line.”

As the forest came under control of the U.S. Forest Service and logging operations began to dwindle, the forest grew denser. During that same time, Native Americans lost their right to conduct the controlled burns that cleared the underbrush where huckleberry bushes grow, and increasingly aggressive wildfire suppression efforts have prevented the natural thinning of timber stands.

John Squires, treasurer for the Pinchot Partners, says he’s been an eyewitness over the last few decades as formerly prime huckleberry habitat has begun to wither.

“I can remember being purple handed and purple faced and bringing my dad not very many huckleberries because most of them went in my mouth,” said Squires with a smile.

Squires used to regularly go picking up at the Midway Guard Station. Now, he says the terrain is covered in trees too thick to let the sun shine through. 

“You see the meadows just getting smaller and smaller,” said Squires, who estimates that about three-quarters of the huckleberry habitat in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest has been lost over the past 50 years or so. “We feel that if we’re not proactive and manage it appropriately it will disappear.”

In spite of the changing landscape, Squires still goes picking, but the task is much more difficult than before. He says he prefers to look in old clearcuts, but refused to divulge much more information than that. It seems huckleberry gatherers are as protective of their prime spots as golddiggers and mushroom pickers. 

“I’ll never tell you where I go picking,” said Squires. “That’s proprietary information.”

Squires said prime huckleberry season usually stretches from the end of July to the end of September, and amateur huckleberry hounds like himself don’t need a permit to go picking so long as they pick no more than 1 gallon per day or 3 gallons in a year. With huckleberries selling upwards of $30 per pound these days, Squires says that the health of their habitat is vital to the economy of Lewis County and other rural counties in Washington. He noted that huckleberries have never been domesticated, and commercial huckleberry harvesting permits typically sell out within two hours when they go on sale. 

After identifying the need to address the huckleberry problem eight years ago, the first hands-on huckleberry management efforts that the Pinchot Partners were involved in began about four years later. Those efforts include commercial logging of tall timbers and non-commercial cuts intended to clear out spindly trees and thick underbrush. The Pinchot Partners hope to monitor those sites as long as possible in order to study how those clearing efforts help to bring bright blue, purple and orange berries back to the landscape….

More info about the Gifford Pinchot National Forest

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What are Huckleberries?

Posted February 9, 2017 By sandy

If you are not familiar with our wonderful huckleberries, either you don’t eat fruit or you live under a rock ….  No, seriously, I would like to share some general information about huckleberries.

What are Huckleberries?

Ask Define, shares the following definition of huckleberries:

… Huckleberry is a name used in North America for several plants in two closely related genera in the family Ericaceae: Gaylussacia and Vaccinium. The Huckleberry is the state fruit of Idaho.
 
While some Vaccinium species, such as the Red Huckleberry, are always called huckleberries, other species may be called blueberries or huckleberries depending upon local custom. Usually, the distinction between them is that blueberries have numerous tiny seeds, while huckleberries have 10 larger seeds (making them more difficult to eat)….
 
In the Pacific Northwest of North America, the huckleberry plant can be found in mid-alpine regions, often on the lower slopes of mountains. The plant grows best in damp, acidic soil. Under optimal conditions, huckleberries can be as much as 1.5-2 m (about 5-6.5 feet) high, and usually ripen in mid-to-late summer; later at higher elevations. …
Loveland Report-Herald shares the following information:
 
… If you’ve never seen a wild one, the berries are small and round, 5-10 mm in diameter and look like large (relatively) dark blueberries. Some are tart and some are sweet (much like teenage girls as I recall dimly).

Huckleberries are found tasty by birds, deer, humans and bears. Never disturb a bear with blue/purple chops.

Red huckleberries can be found in the maritime-influenced plant community from coastal Central California to southern Washington and British Columbia. If you wander inward in an easterly direction to the mountains of Montana and Idaho, you will find black and blue huckleberries in mid-alpine regions up to 11,500 feet in elevation.

The plants grow best in damp acidic soil having volcanic origin, explaining their presence in the coastal Northwest. They can grow to heights of one to two meters….

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Origin of “I’m Your Huckleberry”

Posted January 13, 2017 By sandy

Have you ever pondered where the saying, “I’m your huckleberry” came from and what it actually means?

Maybe you remember the line that was made famous by Val Kilmer in the movie:  “Tombstone”.  But where did he get the phrase?

Victoria Wilcox:  The Art of Story website shares some information on the topic:

I’m Your Huckleberry

Historical Background … From World Wide Words: Quite how I’m your huckleberry came out of all that with the sense of the man for the job isn’t obvious. It seems that the word came to be given as a mark of affection or comradeship to one’s partner or sidekick. There is often an identification of oneself as a willing helper or assistant about it, as here in True to Himself, by Edward Stratemeyer, dated 1900: “ ‘I will pay you for whatever you do for me.’ ‘Then I’m your huckleberry. Who are you and what do you want to know?’ ”. Despite the obvious associations, it doesn’t seem to derive directly from Mark Twain’s books….

Literary Background …  (From Walter Noble Burns 1927 novel,Tombstone: An Iliad of the Southwest”).

“They say you’re the gamest man in the Earp crowd, Doc,” Ringo said. “I don’t need but three feet to do my fighting. Here’s my handkerchief. Take hold.”

Holliday took a quick step toward him.

I’m your huckleberry, Ringo,” replied the cheerful doctor. “That’s just my game.”

Holliday put out a hand and grasped the handkerchief. Both men reached for their six-shooters.

“No, you don’t,” cried Mayor Thomas, springing between them. “You’ll fight no handkerchief duel here. There’s been enough killing in Tombstone, and it’s got to stop.”

That ended it. Holliday went into the saloon. Ringo withdrew across the street.

According to Victoria ….

Huckleberries hold a place in archaic American English slang. The tiny size of the berries led to their use as a way of referring to something small, often affectionately as in the lyrics of Moon River. The phrase “a huckleberry over my persimmon” was used to mean “a bit beyond my abilities”. “I’m your huckleberry” is a way of saying that one is just the right person for a given job. The range of slang meanings of huckleberry in the 19th century was fairly large, also referring to significant persons or nice persons.

So, there you have it!

 

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Beware of Bears

Posted August 31, 2016 By sandy

Huckleberries are an important source of food for bears, so if you are out picking, make sure to watch!

Here is a recent story published in the Spokesman Review Outdoors Blog by Rich Landers …

Berry picker suffers bites after surprising grizzly

A park employee, while off duty picking huckleberries in the Swiftcurrent valley, surprised what is believed to be a grizzly bear. She sustained non-life threatening injuries to the leg and the hands. The surprise encounter which led to a non-predatory attack occurred on Saturday in the early evening.

The woman walked most of the Swiftcurrent Pass Trail back before she was met by park rangers an taken to medical help.

She was carrying bear spray but it was not deployed. Hikers reported a grizzly bear sow and two cubs leaving the area shortly after the incident.

The last Glacier National Park visitor injury by a grizzly bear was on Sept. 29, 2015, when a 65-year old male hiker surprised a sow grizzly with two sub-adult cubs, receiving puncture wounds to his lower leg and injuries to his hand.

READ MORE HERE

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Huckleberry Stories in the News

Posted August 18, 2016 By sandy

So many huckleberry stories in the news …. mostly due to the more abundant crop this year.

So many stories, that I think I am going to list several of them here for you to check out:

Berry picking with Huckleberry Hound

By JERRY PAINTER from Post Register

Saturday, my wife, dog and I drove up into the hills past Kelly Canyon, threw up a tent, ate some dinner and went hunting for the tiny purple berries…

Sunny, a golden retriever, snacks on huckleberries in the Kelly Canyon area on Saturday. Sunny is now learning to answer to the name of Huckleberry Hound …

 

Researchers try to unlock berry mysteries

By Sam Wilson at the Daily Inter Lake

Huckleberry enthusiasm has been elevated to obsession in Northwest Montana, where purveyors of the seasonal fruit advertise products ranging from jams, pies, salads and milkshakes to candles, coffee, wine and beer — even huckleberry-flavored cartridges for electronic cigarettes.

Yet for the scientists who know that the berries play a key role in the ecosystems of Northern Rockies, a full understanding of the huckleberry plant remains elusive.

 

THE FOODIE FILES: How I Huckleberry

By Annie Fenn, MD  with the Planet Jackson Hole

NOTE:  This article has a yummy recipe for Huckleberry Chia Seed Jam!!

The problem with the huckleberry season around here is that it arrives in the middle of summer. As soon as I get wind that those wild little berries are in, I make grand plans to head out to the hills and fill my buckets. My intention is always to gather enough huckleberries to keep my family rolling in huckleberry pancakes, pies, and jam all winter long…

 

Huckleberry buyers reveal their secrets

By Lynne Haley at the Bonners Ferry Herald

Even though many of the old mines in North Idaho are long since played out, riches remain for those who know where to find them. The region’s wild huckleberries are ripe for the taking this time of year, and Bonners Ferry residents have a go-to source for turning the fruits of their labor into cold cash…..

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Restoring Huckleberries After Fires

Posted August 10, 2016 By sandy

Last year experienced one of the biggest fire seasons in the Pacific Northwest — including the burning of several acres of huckleberry habitat.  Restoring huckleberries after fires is a concern of every huckleberry picker.

Historically, Native Americans burned huckleberry fields to improve the health of the huckleberry patches.  The Gifford Pinchot National Forest Huckleberry webpage describes this process:

For thousands of years, American Indians spent summer and fall high in the mountains hunting, fishing, picking berries, and celebrating the plentiful gifts of the land. Once every few years, they burned the berry fields after harvest, to kill invading trees and to insure healthy fields the following year. The Indians in this area regarded the rituals of picking, preserving, and eating berries as a cultural and traditional use with religious significance….

Thousands of years ago, uncontrolled wildfires created openings in the vast forest. Huckleberries prospered in the sunlight caused by these natural openings. For countless years, repeated fires caused by lightning or set by Indians killed the invading trees and brush. But the forest is constantly trying to reclaim its lost territory. If it were not for fire, the berry fields of today would have long since been reclaimed by the forest. Today, scientists are trying to determine the best method of maintaining the huckleberries as a valuable forest resource…

Restoring Huckleberries After Fires

In this tradition, the Colville Indian tribe is working to restore huckleberry plants on their reservation in northeast Washington.  The Tribal Tribune posted two stories about this project:

Nearing the one year anniversary of the fire, several Tribal and BIA programs gathered in the burned scarred area of Upper Gold Creek in hopes of reintroducing huckleberries (also known as vaccinium membranaceum) back to the area.

On July 13-14, Jon Meyers Project Lead/Resource Specialist for the BAER Team and History and Archeology accompanied by his staff, Mount Tolman Fire Center, Forestry Reforestation Offices and TANF Summer Youth Workers assigned to Forestry planted 1,880 huckleberry plants purchased from the University of Idaho with funds from the BAER Emergency Stabilization Fund.

If 50 percent of the plants survive, this project will be considered successful.

Read more about their efforts:

 

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