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Presents for 2008 outdoors characters

From selfless landowners and inspiring teenagers to stupid poachers and shiner-tossing "terrorists," Oregon's outdoors sure have been loaded with interesting and entertaining characters this past year.

And Christmas Day is time for some of them to collect their just deserts.

The good, the bad and the downright ugly of the outdoors have taken turns gracing and soiling this Oregon Outdoors section over the past year, making today a perfect time to toss them some Christmas booty they won't be finding under their own trees.

And in the spirit of Grants Pass resident Lyle Smith — the one-time deer poacher who believes karma has hunted him for decades — it's time for this year's cast of outdoors characters to collect their comeuppance for being either naughty or nice this past year.

BRIAN LAFAVER: He's the Wasco County man cited for allegedly veering off the road and crashing his pickup into Scruffy, the decoy deer, in an apparent meals-under-wheels poaching attempt. Oh, and police say he did so while Christmas-tree hunting with his wife and two kids.

LaFaver made his way Monday into Wasco County Circuit Court, where he pleaded guilty and was fined $40 for driving without a license, court records show. He's awaiting a Jan. 26 hearing on misdemeanor charges of second-degree criminal mischief — for breaking Scruffy's legs — and attempting to take wildlife.

What LaFaver gets for Christmas is a unicycle fitted with a bell and blinking lights to warn ground squirrels of his approach.

JACOB WALL: This Jacksonville teenager is holding his own among the South's best teen bass-casters as part of the Bass Federation National Championships.

This fall he placed third among kids ages 11 to 14, pasting some bassing credibility onto the salmon-happy Northwest.

Wall's dream is to become a pro bass fishermen with national sponsors, and for Christmas he gets a starter kit.

Wall gets a NASCAR jersey, a tin of tobacco and vocal coach to teach him the Southern drawl he'll need to get that bassin' cash.

GABE MARANOV: In this dyslexic version of "The Jungle Book," police say Maranov found what he thought was an orphaned black bear cub in May and took it home to teach it how to be wild.

After two weeks, the bear was confiscated by the Oregon State Police and taken to Wildlife Safari in Winston, where it will live out its days as yet another bruin ruined by humans.

Maranov had his case reclassified from a misdemeanor to a violation, earning a $100 fine in Josephine County Circuit Court.

Under his tree should be a ticket to understanding that you can't mess with any piece of wildlife and think you, or the animal, will come out all right.

So Maranov gets a front-row seat to a Siegfried and Roy tiger show at The Mirage in Las Vegas. What? The tiger show's cancelled, and Roy's hair still won't part right? Who would have thought?

DAVE NADLER: When it comes to helping kids fish away their Spring Break, Nadler's Trouters Society is like David verses the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's Goliath.

First, the ODFW stole Nadler's idea of holding fishing derbies to get kids away from the X-Boxes and outside during spring break. Then the ODFW spiced up their events by adding extra stocked trout for their gigs.

Still, Nadler's virtual one-man-show at Lost Creek Lake brings out the crowds and gives kids one real day away from their virtual worlds.

Under Nadler's tree should be a few more donations from local businesses so each kid gets a better prize next year.

DIAMOND LAKE SHINER-BRAINS: Whatever moron released hundreds of non-native golden shiners into recently cleansed Diamond Lake and threatening the fishery there will get a late Christmas present — but it'll come. You'll see.

He, she or they will get plenty of Outdoor Journal space en route to a jail cell, maybe even a federal penitentiary, for that one deed.

HATCHERY STEELHEAD: Last Valentine's Day was spent in the spawning house at the Cole Rivers Hatchery on the upper Rogue River, in expectation of a little piscatorial amorousness, a nod to Eros on the one day that even newspaper writers can lather up a little ambience.

Well, not quite.

Hatchery workers pair and spawn these steelhead in a Love Connection that has all the charm of a test of the Emergency Broadcast System.

The fish swim 157 miles, then mill around in that great mixer called a hatchery pond, bucks charming hens like it's a cowboy bar. Then the horn blows, an electric shock stuns them and they literally are mined for their eggs and milt into plastic buckets before the steelhead are tossed down a chute like they've just been sold whole at Seattle's Pike Place Market.

That's no way for your one-and-done chance at spreading your DNA.

For Christmas, the steelhead get to have their groove on slooooow, with a little Barry White piped into the speakers and some bubbly in the holding tub.


Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail mfreeman@mailtribune.com.