Where do I even start? How about one foot in front of the other on this muddy trail? Or how about turning down that dusty dirt road, or maybe that one? Or how about just straight through the bush?
I’m just going to bush whack all over that forest, climb that mountain, wander that creek bed, and travel around that country side. I’m off to hunt, forage, fish and gather all the wild natural foods and medicines from the forest. A bush girl’s gotta do what a bush girl gotta do.
I was raised on venison and fish. When I turned 13, I started hunting my own game, mainly upland game birds such as grouse. During my teenage years, I was woken up by my father on weekend mornings to head out to the bush. He taught me how to scout for large game. I quickly developed a keen eye for spotting deer and moose. “DAD! There’s one!” I would often shout in the passenger side of the truck. If we were walking, a quick gasp and a jab to the arm would get his attention. When I was 23 years old, the opportunity presented itself and I got my first deer. Ten years of learning and listening to my father paid off. At the time, I was living with my future husband and I brought home meat for our freezer. Free range, all natural meat.
My husband is a hunter as well. He was new at hunting large game at the time I met him. He harvested a moose a year before I met him. In skill level, we were pretty equal and we have been learning ever since. In truth, you do not stop learning when you are hunting and foraging.
We started having children in 2007. As the children grew (they are seven and nine now), we became more aware of the food and medicines we were putting into our bodies, and also where they were coming from. Foods that are factory processed or sprayed with chemicals. Animals that are unethically raised and injected with antibiotics. Food that is grown thousands of kilometers away. The list goes on. I refer to these foods as “convenient foods” as they are convenient; only a grocery store or fast food restaurant away.
Oh! Plus the Internet or magazine articles…the articles of how these foods make us sick. Feel free to ‘Google’ these articles of our “convenient food”. If you are reading my blog, you are probably already aware of the harmful effects of our modern-age diet.
So what is a mother to do? How about getting back to basics and getting back to our roots? Hunting and gathering. I got the hunting part down, now to gathering. Gather the food wherever it may be. Most years, I have a backyard garden. It’s small. It pretty much provides fresh snacking throughout the summer and fall. I hope to expand on the scale of it on the next growing season. In-between the seed sowing, plant watering and weed pulling, I’m out in the bush looking for what I can bring home to the table. I have been foraging for only a few years. There is a lot to learn.
Each time I head out in nature, a story often develops. These stories often start in nature with the phrase “What’s over there!?” and often ends at home with “Look what I got!”
Please follow my stories of hunting and gathering. I’ll take you on a journey amongst the trees, along the forest paths, into the blue waters, through the tall grasses and into the wild.
They sit there and wait until someone or something comes along and then they hook on, getting a ride until they are either picked off or rubbed off.
I’m sure a good strong wind can disperse these velcro-like seed pods too.
I’ve picked countless of burrs off my dog and myself; sometimes a few meters away from the parent plant, and sometimes kilometres away. They lay scattered on the ground to take up new residence, grow a new plant, and make burrs again. They cycle continues, just in new places and new habitats.
So much to do, so little time.
When I started writing blogs, I had this idea that I would write about everything I did on foraging, hunting, and fishing and all the little details that go along with those activities. Well, it turns out that there is not enough time to write about it all. If I didn’t have other responsibilities, maybe I could write about it all, but I rather like spending time with my family too and I have to take care of them.
As it is foraging season, I’m out in the bush and along the trails a few times a week. I realize that foraging can be a full time job. At this time of year, the opportunities to forage for things are plentiful. I can only pick a few things at a time, as time will only let me pick so much and process so much at home. As I said earlier, I have responsibilities at home.
I have made it my mission to at least learn a few new things to forage every year. Learning about new things also takes time. I find myself gravitating towards easily identifiable plants such as the cattail and the hawthorn bush. Aside from the long list of plants and fungi I already know about, I will add these two plants to my list to research and find out what I can make out of them: food or medicine?
I noticed there are a lot of specific blogs and articles about what people do with their foraging finds. Until I have more time to blog about step-by-step instructions on how to make this, or how to identify that, etc., I will just have to share my little on-goings and finds. I’m dying to share them with you because I think everything that you find and collect with your own two hands is just amazing and fun. In chronological order, may I present the following:
False Soloman Seal
Sauteéd False Seal
Above: False Soloman Seal
The Ostrich Fern Fiddle Head
A few pounds worth
Making Arnica Oil
First find of the season
Arnica, Morels and Dandelion heads
Above: Arnica, Morels and Dandelion heads. I am making Arnica salve with the Arnica flowers. I gobbled up the Morels and I made Dandelion Syrup with the Dandelion flowers.
Rainbow Trout, a whole lotta ’em.
Preparing the rainbow trout for smoking. They turned out wonderful.
Above: A plethora of Rainbow Trout getting ready for the smoker.
Making pickled Spruce tips and Cattail shoots
The finished product
Above: Spruce tips and Cattail shoots all pickled up.
The Oyster Mushroom found on a Popular tree
Growing Oyster Mycelium
Above: Oyster mushrooms. I am making my own Oyster Spawn in attempts to grow it at home. Will I be successful?
One jar of Rhubarb Chutney and 5 jars of pickled Rhubarb
Strawberry and Rhubarb Compote
Above: Rhubarb goodies. First thing that was harvested from the garden.
There you have it folks. A little bit of this and a little bit of that. I’ll let you know how the oil and salves works out as the jars have to sit in the sun for a month. Also I’ll let you know how all the pickled creations turned out. I have not eaten any as I’m letting the flavors soak and meld with each other. I can say that the Birch Syrup is absolutely wonderful, the tea I make with the Chaga is nice, and the Strawberry Rhubarb compote is wonderful.
I received good news today, I won the Lotto. I was successful in the LEH draw: Limited Entry Hunting.
I was fortunate enough to win a Bison Draw and a Bull Moose draw.
I have been applying for Bison for years with no luck. This year, my luck has changed. It’s quite the prospect; most people regard this as a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity. I must remember however, just because I got the draw, doesn’t mean I’m going to harvest the animal. That will require more luck and more blessings. Actually, I can’t leave it all up to luck and blessings: it will take time, skill and knowledge. I can shoot and my aim is true, but I don’t know the animal’s habits and the terrain. It is foreign territory to me. Last year, I read about a few local boys that hiked for miles in and out of the wintry terrain, hauling their animal out by quarters. They had to get off the road and go deep in the valley to find where the herd was. They said never worked so hard in their life for their meat.
I know my husband and I will be educating ourselves on the Bison of the Liard region of British Columbia. I wish we could go to the area and educate ourselves on the terrain before hunting season, but it’s just a bit too far with our limited time. It’s more than a hop, skip and a jump away. We will have too Google Map it and go based on other peoples accounts of the area. Whatever happens, I’m sure I will have an adventure of a lifetime with my husband: my hunting partner, my rock.
Now, the Bull Moose draw…
Back in the year of 2012 I got my first Bull Moose draw. The draw entitles you to hunt any moose with any size of antlers. If you do not get that draw, you are looking for the ‘unicorn”, a 2-point moose (a moose with at least two tines greater than one inch on one antler). Those 2 pointers are hard to come by. I’ve seen three myself in all the time I’ve been hunting; two of those were in city limits in a no hunting zone. Anyways, in 2012, I got an LEH draw and I was fortunate enough to get my first 7×8 bull moose. He was gorgeous (as gorgeous as a moose can get) and when he was packed away in the freezer, he gave us 565lbs of all-natural wild meat. He was a hefty boy considering his antler size.
I waited years again before I go another draw. In 2016 I received another piece of paper in the mail giving me permission to harvest any Bull Moose. Again, I was blessed to come across another Bull Moose and harvest him. I call him my ‘pretty boy’ as he was a pretty bull. Sleek and shiny coat, beautiful long tines, long legs with the whitish-grey coloring below his knees. He wasn’t a large moose, but he provided us with 395 lbs of meat.
Ahhh…I got to stay on topic. I will have to share these specific hunting memories with you one day.
You see, here in British Columbia, once you get an LEH draw for a Moose or a Bison, you are at reduced odds for 3 years. Because I got a draw last year, I was automatically put in for reduced odds. It doesn’t matter if you harvested an animal or not. To get another draw this year, well, is pretty much a miracle. That is why I consider it a blessing to have another opportunity to hunt a Bull Moose. I hope and pray we are lucky again this year; our family appreciates the meat. It’s great to be in the right place at the right time. If we don’t harvest something, that’s ok as there is a chance for new memories, new stories and new bonding opportunities with my fellow hunting partners. In life, I already won the lottery with the country I live in, the friends I have, and the family I have. Let’s just say however, winning this LEH draw for a Bison and for the second year in a row, a Bull Moose, is icing on the cake.
Even though they are not a native species to Canada, I don’t mind them being in my back yard. I don’t mind their singing and I’m just happy they are not crows. Also, they have been ridding our yard of insects such as the Carpenter Ant and the Cabbage Moth; both insects I do not care to have in my yard. Win Win.
All Photos are copyrighted and belong to Jennifer Côté
Sometimes it is cool to know people. I happen to know Hank, he is a good dude. That said – the man has launched an ambitious new book, backed by a Kickstarter Campaign, on cooking venison called Buck, Buck, Moose. Take a gander at the interview below – or on the Stands with the new issue of […]
I round the corner on the dirt road and come to a sudden halt. The Tacoma tires stirs up dust and it floats in front of my view. I pay no heed to it; I am focused on the animal that now appears in front of me. I see the bear 120 yards away on the side of the road looking back at the truck.
My friend, who is in the passenger side, has one hand up to her mouth shoving sunflower seeds into her mouth; “Bear!” she mumbles fervently through a full mouth of Spitz.
I quickly scan the scene.
Big enough? Yes.
The road behind the bear clear? Yes.
I’m going for it.
I swing the door open and jump out. There is still a small haze of dust in front of me. No matter: I can see through it well enough and I have target fixation.
The bear doesn’t like our presence and it starts to walk down the road, away from us. I feel like I will turn sideways and run into the bush in moments. I have no gun rest. I have to do it free hand.
I take aim. I have the bear in my sights, but it’s not a good shot. It would be an ass shot, and that would be a waste of meat. I just remind myself to be patient; wait until it turns broadside. It does. It’s now only a few meters away from the bush line. If I don’t take the shot now, it will disappear into the bush. I see its vitals in my cross hairs and take the shot.
It runs full tilt into the bush.
“Damn!” I say under my breath.
Still with sunflower seeds in her mouth, my friend mumbles, “Oh, you missed”.
I look at her and remark, “Not necessarily. I may have wounded it”.
I have a sinking feeling that I may have missed it. At 120 yards however, with a 300 short mag rifle, I should have knocked it off its feet and dropped it right there and then. But at a 120 yards…clear shot…there is no reason I would have missed. Besides, I have never missed an animal….yet. I think to myself.
When you are hunting though, everything can happen very fast: since the time I saw it, stopped and took the shot, it was less than a minute.
I jump back into the truck and pull it over to the edge of the dirt road.
A few tree planters in a truck pass by.
I wander over to where I think I shot it. I see the claw marks in the road. I analyze the area for blood.
Bingo. I see drops of blood.
I wander back to the truck. I laugh because my friend is still sitting in the passenger seat eating sunflower seeds.
For a newbie, just along for the ride, she is quite calm. I’m full of adrenaline and excitement.
I flash her a smile. “I got it!” I exclaim.
Her eyes widen. “You did! That’s awesome! How do you know?”
I take her over to the blood drops.
She looks down. I can see her vision narrow and her eyebrows come up. “That’s blood? It’s the colour of raspberries…squished raspberries”.
I explain to her we have to wait 20 minutes to give time for the animal to settle. Should we go in now after it and it is wounded, not only could it get up and go further into the bush (which means a harder pack out, or not finding it at all), it could also mean danger…a wounded bear is an angry bear.
While we wait, we pack the items we need to gut the bear and pack it out. I call my husband too and tell him the good news. I’m surprised we have cell reception.
My friend is excited. I learn that she has never partaken in the gutting or the processing of an animal. Well, there is a first time for everything. “Until today, I never heard a real gunshot either” she tells me. Wow, what did I get myself into? I think amused.
I go into the bush line first with my gun ready. I see the massive amounts of blow down strewn all over the forest floor. Oi! I pray it didn’t go far. I pray that it is dead. Otherwise it will be one hell of a pack out.
I notice that there are very few drops of blood…too few. I quickly get discouraged again.
My mind starts to race with possible answers about my folly: Not a kill shot? What went wrong? What did I do wrong? Did I pull?
My mind doesn’t answer back.
We are about ten meters into the bush and there is no more blood. We stand at the last spot where there is one smear of blood on a spruce tree. I probably would have missed it, but I found out that my friend has a keen eye. Two heads are better than one.
Placing my hands on my hips, I shake my head in regret. But there, in the corner of my eye, I see it:
THE BEAR COMES CHARGING AT US FROM A FEW METERS AWAY!
We duck, cover and roll.
No, just kidding.
I take one last scan of the woods in front of me and there I see it – the black fur is another ten meters in front of me
I’m elated. “Got it!” I say in a quiet but excited voice.
My friend is surprised, happy and sad all at the same time. She is happy for me, but sad for the bear. She knows though, that my family and I eat the meat; it’s not a life wasted.
I’m 99.9% sure it’s dead. It fell 20 meters into the bush and if it were alive, I would have seen it move or hear it. I still decide to be cautious and slowly wander up to it.
Upon my approach, I notice that it’s way smaller than I thought. It looked so big on the road. I will learn to tell the sizes of bears as I hunt them more. Oh well, it’s meat and it’s one less potential future calf/fawn killer.
I place my hand on the animal and do a silent prayer to it and to God for the life and the blessing.
I set to work gutting the bear. I see that the shot went right where I aimed: in the vitals. The bullet passed through. It didn’t know what hit it. I see why it hardly left any blood on the ground: It all pooled inside the lung cavity.
The gutting doesn’t take long and we haul it over the blow downs. Despite the smaller size of the bear, we work up a sweat getting it out and into the back of the truck.
This is my first animal harvest without a man. It will be quite the experience on a larger animal. My friend was a great help and company. I see more hunting adventures with her.
We start heading for home. The sun is beginning to set behind us. The warm spring breeze passes through the cab of the truck while the windows are down. We make light chit chat and just enjoy the occasional silence. We hit the highway and the kilometres slip by. Life is good.
Wait…where’s my gun?
Authors note: Negative comments will be removed. If you don't like what you read or see, don't come to my page. I eat what I shoot, I shoot what I eat. I have great respect for wild animals. Hunting is a way of life where I live and it's part of conservation.
This is the most personal blog I’ll probably ever write about, so read and take heed.
I’m a hostage to the Ash.
I was out in the forest the other day, to the ‘burn’ as I call it. I was mushroom hunting for Morels. Two years ago, a forest fire raged through hectares and hectares of forest and left vast devastation. I saw the carnage of it all last year and I didn’t think much on it. This is all part of nature. It will regrow and burns are great for Morels! This year however, the forest fire impacted in a way I didn’t expect. The still charred land in front of me…was me…is me.
Lucky for me, there is new healthy growth raising from the ashes in that charred and burnt woodland.
You see, metaphorically speaking, I am rising out of the ashes.
A little while ago, I allowed an ember to burn and it eventually got out of control. It almost burned my whole forest to the ground. It also burned and scarred adjacent forests.
Embers you see, can be nice to look at, maybe even throw a little bit of warmth your way. But don’t be fooled…they can be dangerous if they are not put out. Don’t feed it the life force it needs to grow into a raging fire.
I had quite the beautiful forest; many creatures and forest folk visited and dwelled in it. It was so lush and green…so I thought. Part of my forest got sick and I didn’t see it. Well, I ignored it. There, the ember took hold and soon after, the fire spread. Many inhabitants were destroyed. Some managed to get out, but not unharmed.
Oh the inferno it caused!
The fringes of my forest still stand. Some of the creatures have come back. Some are gone forever.
It hurts. It hurts to know when you are the cause of such devastation. Hasn’t my mom always taught me not to play with fire? Oh so pretty ad warm though.
I have been breathing and choking on ashes for a while now, struggling for breath. Tripping over the fallen charred trees. All the while, looking over the barren grey and black landscape.
What have I done? What did I do?
I sought forgiveness. Some was given. Some wasn’t. Still so much ash in the air, and hot spots across the land.
Evidence of forest fires stay for years and years. Even if a tree survives and continues to grow, there is scar tissue on the inside. It never disappears. It heals, but the reminder is there…always…just underneath.
Given enough time, all things heal right? The classic old saying “time heals all wounds”. is now put through the test.
My forest is slowly rejuvenating . It’s slowly healing. The ash is settling and I see green tendrils reaching for the light. New promises and new hopes await. I didn’t think it would be possible.
My forest will never be the same again. But I do see it…just on the horizon of time… it will be renewed. I hope it will be renewed. New creatures and forest dwellers will enter and take a look around; perhaps even live and stay there. I must tend to it though; the inhabitants that have stayed with me throughout the forest fire, needs a healthy forest to live in. They need me to be healthy and whole again-lush and green. I feel guilty though; why should I become healthy and whole again after the destruction i caused? They tell me mistakes are made, let’s just never have a repeat. Ok?
I never want a repeat.
I miss some of the old inhabitants dearly. I shall always care for them. They taught me invaluable lessons. One the last lessons were ‘you play with fire, you are going to get burned.’ I really knew better. I still wonder why I didn’t listen my own judgment. Such a fool I am!
I know in reality how long it takes for forests to become, well, forests again after a fire. It disheartens me that it takes so long. Reminders will be evident for years. I search for the green daily. The ash that floats up when I’m trekking through my broken land adheres to my body. Every night, I wash it off. I look forward to the day where it’s not a ritual anymore. I’m a hostage to the ash, but its grip is loosening. There is less ash now.
There are a few quotes I try to remember on a continual basis:
“To every end, there is a beginning” and “where there is death, there is life”.
I try to count my blessings too. Some people who start forest fires do not make it out at all. They are burnt up entirely. Their world is utterly destroyed. I got out. Well, actually, I had a few people save me, along with the ultimate creator, God. If it wasn’t for them, I would be gone. I would be ash.
I forgot too, how many inhabitants of my forest depend on my woodlands and me. I must stay and be humble. I must continue. I must rise up.
But I am still sorry.
If there is ever an ember in your forest, don’t be a fool..squash it. It’s not worth the risk.
I sit here and sip my afternoon coffee and reflect.
Oh! The many miles this train diner car has traveled until it was put in its resting place. Now, it sits out of work and out of time.
As a diner car, I’m sure it listened to conversation upon conservation about its passengers travels, dreams, and lives. Now, it sits resting, listening to silence. As people walk by the diner car at the train museum, perhaps the odd, “oh…too bad it’s not needed anymore. It’s such a shame” or “back in my day, I ate in a diner car similar to that one” is said. I know I have said, this would be cool to convert into a guest house. So retro! Once and awhile this diner car gets to listen to tid-bits from passerby’s. Just not passengers.
In any case, I find this rusting piece of metal beautiful to look at. Green is my favorite color. The windows fascinate me too; countless people once looked out of those windows over the moving land. The windows would show constant moving reflections when the train was in motion. Now, it sits idle, only looking over the still land. Only showing still reflections. It does get lucky with birds flying by or the clouds passing by; the windows will show a moving reflection then. Birds and clouds, clouds and birds.
That is enough reflecting on reflecting. My coffee is done and something else demand my attention. It would have been cool to have been a passenger on this diner car…listening, watching, reflecting…