Ask Zimo: Take your best shot at treating water to eliminate giardia

pzimowsky@idahostatesman.comSeptember 5, 2013 

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Idaho Statesman outdoors writer Pete Zimowsky, along the Boise River.


Q: Can you use a shot of whiskey to purify your water? I don’t want to try it if it’s going to waste good whiskey.


A: This has been an ongoing debate around the campfire for as long as I can remember.

The first argument you get is that good whiskey is for sipping, not diluting in water. That debate can get as hot as a good campfire.

Then there’s the notion that whiskey and branch water go hand in hand.

Then there’s the idea that why would you want to pollute good spring water with whiskey?

I remember a group of old fly anglers in southeast Idaho who’d always stop at a spring by Whiskey Flat (no kidding) near the Preuss Mountain Range, and toast the day’s fishing at Crow and Stump creeks. Those creeks on the Idaho-Wyoming border were incredible cutthroat waters back in the day.

They’d always mixed their whiskey with that “sweet-tasting” branch water, and I never heard of one of them ever getting a stomach ailment like giardia.

Of course, it was a fresh underground spring seeing daylight for the first time at their watering hole along the forest road on their way home.

Anyway, I remembered reading something about whiskey and water purification in Backpacker magazine a while back. It stuck in my mind. After a little research, I found the article from October 2010 where wilderness-medicine guru Buck Tilton said “add a shot to your liter of water and then wait 20 minutes.

“You want dead — not drunk — giardia,” he said.

I like the idea of being able to purify drinking water with a shot of good Canadian whiskey, but I’m still a little leery of not using a water filter. Debate or no debate, I’ve had giardia, and it isn’t fun. It’s something you long remember. Driving Idaho 21 from Stanley to Boise and hitting every outhouse along the way tends to make you remember the ailment.

That’s enough details on the effects of giardia; now back to the sipping versus mixing-with-water debate.

Do you use a shot from your $50-a-bottle Canadian whiskey to kill giardia, or do you use $10-a-bottle tequila?

Oh well, I’ll sip the expensive stuff by the campfire after a good day of fishing and use my water filter for purification.


Q: I am looking for a place nearby to take my son and grandson dove hunting. I live in Meridian and I see hundreds of them flying around.


A: With so much private land in the Treasure Valley close to town, your best bet is to hit one of Idaho Fish and Game’s wildlife management areas. They are open to hunting and offer lots of opportunities.

Those located in southwest Idaho are: Fort Boise WMA near Parma, Boise River WMA near Boise, Payette River WMA near New Plymouth, Montour WMA between Horseshoe Bend and Emmett, and C.J. Strike WMA near Bruneau and Grand View.

There are a lot of hunting possibilities, from doves to quail and pheasants to ducks when the seasons open.

You won’t be alone. WMAs get a lot of hunting pressure because they are among the few public places open for hunting close to the Valley.

Another option is at the Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge lands around Lake Lowell.

Click here for more information about hunting at the refuge, and be prepared to leave the lead shot at home.

You can also head south and explore public lands in the Owyhees, or go north into Forest Service land to get away from the crowds.

Another option is to check Idaho Fish and Game’s Access Yes properties.

Good hunting.


Q: What kind of berries are in the photo you posted on your Facebook page?

ANGELA H., via Facebook

A: They’re black currants. The berries are ripe and, in some places, plentiful at about 7,000 feet in elevation.

My wife and I were hunting for grouse this weekend and came upon several bushes just full of the berries. Although they are not as sweet as huckleberries, black currants have a tart, flowery flavor if you beat the bears to them and eat them right off the bush.

However, we just use them for jams and syrups, or to cook with upland game birds like grouse.

After all, the berries are found where you are supposed to find grouse, so they go hand in hand.

We got the berries, but we didn’t get grouse.

Pete Zimowsky: 377-6445, Twitter: @Zimosoutdoors

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