Although the “free deer skinning” sign was not out by Highway 20 when I drove by on Monday, I took a chance and drove into Katie Russell’s place north of Twisp. Turns out that she and her two friends, Rollean and Callie, were there but had so much work they had pulled the sign down — 100 deer skinned compared to last year’s 80. Plus, two black bears and one (road kill) skunk that Katie will make into a hat for the customer.
Katie had just returned to the valley from the west side, where she taught a workshop at Alderleaf Wilderness College. At the time when she committed to the teaching gig, hunting season dates had not been set. Rollean and Callie were able to hold down the fort while Katie was away, but there were just so many deer this year — and lots of return customers. Katie has run the business for eight years.
Her house back off the highway now has indoor plumbing, an amenity that she is really enjoying. She looks forward to riding her horse, Flint, once the hunters leave. Katie will once again go to Montana in late winter to help with the Buffalo Bridge Yellowstone buffalo hunt.
At Thomson’s Custom Meats in Twisp, the door to the game processing areas was open to a stream of customers, coming and going. One hunter picked up two bucks and two trophy heads for mounting (these had been kept in the freezer). Could the warm weather have been the reason that the Thomsons’ business tripled this year? There were 580 carcasses hung in the cooler on Monday. Hunters know the necessity of keeping their deer cool, so perhaps that played a part, but the number of deer was up from 2014 as was the size of each kill.
Seth Thomson told me the average buck was weighing in at 150 pounds. Some of the racks of antlers were larger, too. A customer picked up one buck head that had seven points on one side and eight on the other. I’m not certain of the correct nomenclature to use, but this guy had a head of antlers to be proud of. Despite the size of the deer, I watched Seth pull a carcass off a hook, throw the deer’s cotton-shrouded body over his shoulder and carry it outside to a customer’s car.
Seth’s wife, Katie, shot her first buck this year. She says she spent a lot of time learning to use her gun so she could have a clean kill. Seth himself has been too busy taking care of other people’s deer to have time to get one of his own.
Bill Bailey and his family have hunted on U.S. Forest Service land up Beaver Creek for more than 20 years. They set up their camp a few days before the season opens and stay until everyone gets a deer — even to the last day when necessary. For this 2015 season, Bill was joined for the hunt by his daughter Emilee Bailey, her sister Melissa Tomandl, her two brothers, Jake and Tyler, and their wives, Maria and Beth. The experienced hunters bagged six deer, several much larger than in previous seasons, and they did their own processing.
Two of 52 winning bidders took home a different kind of trophy from the ninth annual Soup Dinner for Room One at the Winthrop Barn on Saturday (Oct. 24). Patty Yates’ sunflower bowl and Michael Caldwell’s medley of aspens each brought $1,000 for Room One. That’s a lotta dollars. Congratulations to the artists and the people who got to take the bowls home.
The $40 and $70 tickets sold out quickly. One hundred volunteers worked in the kitchen as servers and ticket-takers, etc. Close to 300 guests attended. The fundraiser provides 70 percent of Room One’s operating budget.