- Associated Press - Sunday, October 30, 2016

CENTRALIA, Wash. (AP) - When you shake Carl Ulrich’s hand, you better be sure to bring your best vice grip.

“I can tell a lot about a person by their handshake. If it feels like you’re shaking a dead chinook, there might be something dubious about them,” insists Ulrich.

At a spry 86 years old, Ulrich has been hunting in the Willapa Hills between Adna and Raymond for three-quarters of a century. His father was the one who got him hooked on hunting, and now it’s simply second nature to him, reported The Chronicle (https://bit.ly/2ekxmak).

“It’s in my blood,” said Ulrich, who downed a three point buck in the midst of what was supposed to be a storm for the ages during the much anticipated general deer season opener.

That modest harvest pales in comparison to one of Ulrich’s father’s best gets though, and the antlers of that prize buck still hang on the wall of the Swiss Hall in Frances.

Ulrich’s father was a huge influence on him in many ways. Like his father, Ulrich has been a logger by trade, a farmer by lifestyle and a hunter by choice. Because of that active lifestyle, Ulrich says his father, who lived a full 95 years, “never got old. He just wore out.”

In Ulrich’s life, some things have changed but many have remained the same.

He was born in a farmhouse in Pacific County and grew up in the Lebam and Menlo area before graduating from Willapa Valley High School. Today, he lives in a farmhouse on state Route 6 in Adna.

In some regards, Ulrich is as practical a man as one can imagine. He values his family. He milked his cows consistently for 40 years, once going five years straight without missing a morning or evening milking.

Other times, Ulrich will catch you spellbound when he begins to quote Shakespeare, Greek and Roman mythology, while sprinkling in references to the Mesopotamian cradle of civilization for good measure.

“The poet’s mind is a subtle thing. The lifting of the fog. The dissipation of a storm cloud. What’s ahead and what’s behind,” noted Ulrich in the midst of talking bare bones hunting.

These are the ruminations that keep his mind young.

When Ulrich was born, as he tells it, he was inordinately hairy. A brown Swiss cow salesman visiting the family farm where he was born called him “Bouze.” According to Ulrich, Bouze means ball of lint or fuzz ball in Swiss. His friends and acquaintances use the unusual moniker to this day.

These days, while Ulrich is a little less hairy up top, he insists on hunting with the “young bucks” in order to make up the difference.

“I don’t hunt with anyone my own age,” insists Ulrich.

That’s partly because there aren’t many 86-year-olds traipsing through the woods in a wind and rain storm, and partly because he enjoys the energy of vigorous youth.

“The game situation is a far cry from what it once was. A lot of the old guys are disappointed,” explained Ulrich. He noted the decided lack of game and lack of old growth compared to the good ol’ days as reasons that keep his peers from hitting the hunting trails with him.

“When I grew up there were endless tracts of timber that nobody even hunted because you couldn’t walk in and back to your truck in one day,” remembered Ulrich.

While his most recent kill was that three point buck, deer are not his true passion.

“I’m just consumed with elk hunting. Just truly possessed,” admitted Ulrich, who says he got his first elk in 1952 out on Fork Creek.

He also remembers the very first licensed elk hunt in Washington back in 1939.

“And let me tell you, those men brought in some big horns,” said Ulrich. “Back in those days if you wanted to roll your sleeves up you were nearly certain to get a bull elk.”

Ulrich says that when he first started hunting licenses cost $2.50 and a deer tag was 50 cents. Back then, Ulrich earned his pocket cash by trapping muskrats along the banks of the Willapa River and sending them into the Sears-Roebuck Company. A big muskrat would fetch $4.50, while a mink pelt could bring in $25-30. Coyotes and bobcats had a $5 bounty and cougars were worth a whopping $50 each before the tally was bumped up to a staggering $75.

“I remember old retired, crippled up loggers who would take (trapping) up and make a pretty good living at it,” told Ulrich.

Once, Ulrich even hung a dead coyote from a light pole on his property alongside state Route 6. He says he was just showing off and sending a message of fair warning to other coyotes around his farm, until a sheriff’s office deputy came by while he was away and cut it down.

He’s hunted bigger game just for the fun of it, too.

“I’ve also killed a lot of bear” said Ulrich, who claims to have killed 12 bears alone in 1952.

Why did he kill so many? The answer is simple.

“Because they were there,” explained Ulrich. “In those days the timber companies wanted to get everything out of there.”

One of his bears is proudly displayed in his living room in the form of a striking, room-filling, bear skin rug. When it was alive, the bear stood 7-foot-2. The massive and shiny bleached skull rests in the corner waiting to be gawked at.

For all of his fond memories and continued effort, there are a few things that really stick in Ulrich’s craw these days. In particular, he disapproves of the way that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife manages game animals and hunting seasons.

“Many of these animals have a price tag on their head,” said Ulrich, who adamantly frowns upon the practice of hunting female ungulates in the fall when they are pregnant more often than not.

“I will never kill a cow elk or a doe deer . You’re not much of a man if you enjoy something like that.”

Ulrich wishes that the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife would hold regular local meetings where “grey whiskered men” could impart their wisdom, memories and suggestions for the future on the decision makers of today.

The way things are now, Ulrich believes that the general public is being fed lies by the WDFW regarding historic population numbers and hunting practices. But, he says, there is nothing to be done because there is nobody around to set the record straight based on personal, wet-footed and moss-backed experience.

Ulrich also believes that the shuttering of logging gates and increased land access fees by prominent timber companies around the state has put the pinch on hunters with families to support and mortgages to pay. He says the fees are not a problem for a retired man with a paid off farm like himself, but if he were a younger man trying to get ahead in life, he’s afraid he’d be priced right out of the woods.

Looking back on his modest three-point buck harvest, Ulrich noted, “The young bucks are more pumped up than I am.” The young bucks that he refers to are his hunting partners who are far closer to their 40s than their nonagenarian celebrations.

Ulrich has been married to his wife, Alice, for 62 years. They have two children and a wealth of grandchildren and great-grandchildren to show for their fastidious familial efforts.

No matter if a person is kin or simply kindred, Ulrich is happy to share his life lessons with those that he encounters and who share an inkling to listen.

“You get older and you should sure as thunder wisen up, otherwise you’re just clinging to a rainbow for the rest of your life,” said Ulrich in his own brand of titillating language.

Much of his particularly unique knowledge has to do with the vast expanses of the Willapa Hills, where he has undertaken all of his extensive hunting efforts.

“In my 20s I was going a lot further than most people penetrate,” said Ulrich. “I know the Willapa Hills as well as they can be known.”

His wife, Alice, agrees with Carl, noting that, “You could drop him off anywhere in a helicopter and he’d know which way to go to get out.”

One interesting tidbit that Ulrich shared from state Route 6 country is that the town of Lebam was supposedly named by an old railroad surveyor in honor of his daughter, Mabel. Lebam, he says, is simply Mabel spelled backward.

As we headed outside to view Ulrich’s many dozens of dried pelts hanging in his barns, he paused in the mudroom.

“I’ve got to throw in my chewing tobacco. I’ve still got a few habits that I brought out of the woods with me,” said a nearly giddy Ulrich as he slipped on his well-worn rubber boots.

As he showed off his impressive collection of racks, pelts, tractors, antique logging equipment and quick growing feeder pigs, Ulrich said, “I’ve seen the best of times, boys, and they were during the war when there weren’t any young men your age to be found in the woods. You wouldn’t hardly bump into anyone that you didn’t know out there.”

___

Information from: The Chronicle, https://www.chronline.com

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