Author: Tom G.
As we passed through the end of July and into early August the heat arrived with a vengeance. The last week brought scorching temperatures and made it easy for me to forget how cool and wet our spring and early summer was.
Due to our unusually wet early summer, the huckleberries have been a little late to ripen this year. To make matters even worse, on July 9th we were hit by a massive hailstorm here in the valley that damaged property and summer crops. The following weekend I began scouting our usual picking areas and did not find much at all for ripe berries. I was amazed there were any berries at all after I saw how badly the prior week’s hailstorm had damaged many of the bushes.
As I made my way up the mountain, I was surprised to find that in spite of the damage, many of the bushes were still holding a significant crop of not yet ripe berries. On this trip I covered about six miles in all and managed to get a little early elk scouting done as well.
On July 24th we finally made our first trip out with the huckleberry buckets. The first area we picked was fairly sparse. Lots of bushes with heavily damaged leaves and not very many berries. After a bit we moved up the mountain just a bit and got into the berries! Gemma (the huckleberry hound) accompanied us on this trip and had a grand time chasing squirrels, digging holes and eating berries right off the bush like a bear.
After a couple hours of picking we loaded our berries up in the truck, washed Gemma off in a creek and headed for home where I cleaned, dried and packaged our first berries of the year. It was incredibly satisfying as I stacked the year’s first bags into the freezer.
On the 30th we were up early and at it again, working our way up the mountain, filling our buckets and snacking on berries as we went. By about ten thirty in the morning it was getting hot so we loaded up and headed for home. We will repeat this adventure a couple of times a week until the berries are gone or the first day of bow season rolls around, whichever comes first!
I would like to take a moment to remind everyone who heads out to pick these tasty little berries that it is not all just fun and games. It is hard work to pick these little guys which is what makes it so rewarding to make a batch of huckleberry pancakes or muffins while the snow is flying mid winter. Also remember that we are not the only animals out there who enjoy this tasty fruit.
If you are picking berries, you are in bear country. Being aware and prepared greatly reduce your chances of having a negative bear encounter. We use bear bells, carry bear spray and firearms at all times. Have fun out there and be safe while you’re getting “Hucked” up!