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Modoc Expo brings crowd to Alturas

By Frank Galusha
06/23/14 -- Attendance at the 3rd annual Modoc Expo in Alturas was 2 to 3 times larger this time as a great many more families came with their children to enjoy the many well organized events for the kids.

Modoc, alturus outdoors expo, duck calling
It seems many Modoc youngsters are born with a duck call in their mouth. Even if not, they quickly learned how to call in the ducks. Photo by author

In addition to an extremely popular kid’s duck calling contest on Saturday, a great deal of fun was supplied by a kid’s fishing pond stocked with hefty trout that were very willing to give many of the youngsters a shot at catching their first fish.

frank Galusha on hang gliding simulator, modoc outdoors expo
An exhibit featuring a simulated hang glider flight was quite real. That’s me in this shot. I learned how the experts of these flying machines moved the bar to gain and lose altitude and turn left and right. Photo by Jean Bilodeaux

Other attractions that drew crowds were the archery shoots, the Atlatl (Indian hatchet) throw, a virtual shoot [many different target games using an authentic-looking laser pistol and shotgun], simulated hang glider flights and scads of prizes and raffles for outdoor equipment.

Kristy Santucci of Kittle’s Outdoor and Sport Co. in Colusa was present with her husband Domenic Santucci who was leader of the duck calling contest. About 38 kids took part in the calling as Domenic Santucci gave lessons in how to do a hail or long distance call, a mating or lonely hen call, a feeding or chatter call, a comeback call and more. For a few minutes after each set of instructions, the sounds coming from the Desert Rose Casino Event Building were so intense and so convincing, every duck and goose within miles flew over to see what was going on. Representatives from Ducks Unlimited, the Modoc Wildlife Refuge and Domenic Santucci did the judging. [Winner’s name and other info will be added to this post when available.]

Members of the CA Highway Patrol escorted some visitors from the nearby Warner Mountains through the exhibit hall. Photo by Frank Galusha, Modoc outdoors expo
Members of the CA Highway Patrol escorted some visitors from the nearby Warner Mountains through the exhibit hall. Photo by author

Many folks found the trip to Alturas was a great way to learn more about this great region. All of the major resource agencies were there to pass out brochures and provide information. Before or after attending the Expo, visitors took side trips to Surprise Valley and other surrounding attractions.

Gary Heffley, manager of the Gift Bar and Camping Department at the Sportsman’s Warehouse in Redding was there with a booth well-stocked with Sportsman’s Warehouse Reward Card applications as well as a large cooler full of useful outdoor items that were given away in one of the many prize drawings held during the two-day event.

Many visitors heard about MyOutdoorBuddy for the first time as well and being adjacent to the Sportsman’s Warehouse booth was a big help as nearly every visitor stopped to see what was available in the Redding store.

On both days, Gary and I took time to explore places such as Cedar Pass, Cedarville, Lake City, Fort Bidwell, New Pine Creek, Davis Creek, Dorris Reservoir, the Modoc National Wildlife Refuge and even Blue Lake on the Lassen/Modoc County line. We fished Blue Lake for about 45 minutes Sunday morning during which time Gary out-fished me 5 to 0. He caught and released a limit of five planter sized brookies using a Daredevil Spoon while I managed only one grab and that fish came unhooked while tossing my old faithful: a Mepp’s Spinner.

tristan and Peter Hall, holding large brown trout taken from Blue Lake, Photo by Frank Galusha
This exceptionally large brown trout was taken Sunday morning from Blue Lake by Tristan Hall and his Dad, Peter, of Alturas. They had been trolling through the lake’s deep water but caught the fish near the top early in the day. Photo by author

However, I outdid Gary in one respect. While he was catching his last trout I rushed over to the dock with camera in hand to get the above photo of Peter and Tristan Hall of Alturas. Hall had been fishing in a motorized canoe for a few hours. Young Tristan was holding the rod when a 5-6 lb. German Brown trout hit his rod. “I started to help him land the fish when I realized it wasn’t going to be easy so I took over the rod and made sure we got this monster into the net. It was one of the largest fish I have ever caught from Blue Lake and we were very excited,” Peter Hall said.

Kids fish at Modoc/Alturus outdoor expo
Many trout were caught by the kids at the fish pond set up under some large trees near the Event Building. Over 500 trout were placed in the tank, the majority of which were caught and many were cooked on the spot by Valerie Lantz of the Backcountry Horsemen. Tristan Talbott of Alturas caught this “really big one” on Sunday. Photo by author

Young Berkeley Talbott, also of Alturas was equally excited about catching his first fish at the Kids Fish Pond. I saw one of the volunteers bait his hook with a tiny live grasshopper. Berkeley’s line and bobber weren’t in the water more than a couple of seconds before one of the trout in the pond pulled the bobber under, and then the battle was on. Berkeley fought hard and after a long fight had the fish under control and pulled it within range of the fishing net.

Backcounry Horsemen, Modoc County, Kathy Zanstra

Back Country Horsewomen, Sandy Jansen and Laurel Marsters packing in trout to Patterson Lake in 2013. 2014 will be the 14th year that the High Country Unit of Back Country Horsemen have packed in fish to the high lakes within the South Warner Wilderness located in Modoc County. The High Country Unit and Fish & Wildlife are now planning the 2014 fish packing for July. Photo by Kathy Zanstra

Many youngsters had the opportunity to have their catch cooked on the spot by Valerie Lantz, one the representatives present from the Backcountry Horsemen. Lantz said a lot of the kids took advantage of the offer to not only catch their fish but also to see it cooked and served to them and their families for lunch. Some of the fish in the tank were large enough to feed a family. One was so large its head hung over one side of the frying pan and its tail over the other. “The young boy insisted he wanted his fish cooked whole and I obliged even though I was not too thrilled with the idea, and it did get a little unnerving to watch the eyes get cooked,” Lantz said.

If you missed this event this year, be sure to mark your calendars for June of 2015 as there will be a 4th annual expo about that time. My advice is don’t miss the chance to have a good time, take part in many different events, enjoy excellent food and pay a visit to the many attractions in the nearby Devil’s Garden area, the Warner Mountains, Surprise Valley, the refuge and even the Lava Beds National Monument, which is only an hour’s drive to the northwest.

Hats off to the sponsors and organizers especially Lorissa “Reese” Soriano and the Modoc Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Group, those who helped the public recognize the importance of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, Friends of the Modoc National Wildlife Refuge, the Desert Rose Casino and the many exhibitors who showcased a wide range of products and services to be found in or around Modoc County. There were also exhibitors from as far away as Klamath Falls, Oregon and Idaho.

Thanks also to the Rim Rock Motel for providing great lodging in Alturas and to the Basque Restaurant, the Brass Rail, also in Alturas for a terrific family-style dinner of rib-eye steak with garlic, rice with chicken wings and livers, soup, salad, bread and a great serving of rainbow sherbet.

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Website Design Photo Credits: thanks the following individuals for contributing photographs for use on our Home and Section pages: Anders Tomlinson of, Casey Allen of Bayside, CA; Jason Haley of Medford, OR; Steve Breth of Burney, CA; Tracy McCormack of Eureka, CA; Grant Thompson of Grand Junction, CO; Richard Bott of Shingletown, CA; Ron Loftus of Yreka, CA; Scott Caldwell of Montague, CA; Lorissa Soriano of Alturas, CA and the late Dave Menke, formerly with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex.

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