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Archive for October, 2009

I did not write on the Saturday – it is a day when the majority of our group arrives and we have a lot of work, fun and a party to celebrate the annual reunion.  I was working with my Father early in the morning when we realized we needed supplies and I decided to make a quick run to town – it would be the last time I would see civilization for 8 days.

We drive 13 kilometers on a closed logging road.  You could drive a car, depending on the condition of the road.  It’s an awful mess in winter that even a four-wheeler (ATV) would struggle to navigate.  I carry an unloaded shotgun with me on this road (as many do) in bird season.  When I get to pavement I lock and store the gun, go to town and unlock it once off the road again.  It must be unloaded in the vehicle – this is acceptable because we are not officially on a road.

On my way into town I saw a partridge.  It takes a few careful moments to stop, get out, load, aim and shoot.  I was successful.

The attached video DOES NOT show the bird.

When you harvest a partridge, you “clean” it immediately.  It’s a dirty job – there are no knives involved, simply your hands and eyes to guide you.  Sometimes I find this easy, other times it is very difficult.  I generally find it more difficult to clean a bird than a moose.  A moose feeds so many of us so often – a bird seems like a much more extravagant harvest.  1 life for 1 meal for 1 or 2.  I find a bigger guilt associated with fowl than larger animals for this reason.

As I drove down the road I felt queasy (I am bound to be teased for writing and sharing this :)).  I shot a brief video trying to capture that moment – one of the tougher moments of the hunt for me.  This was shot within minutes of harvesting the bird (which is currently in our freezer):


I know that some may have a problem with the word “respect” associated with killing an animal.  It is something I debate a fair bit – I know many hunters (including myself) who would claim to respect and/or even love the animals they hunt.  I also know many farmers who would lay claim to the same of the animals they rear.  Can one really love something it hunts?  These are questions I’m not sure that there are answers to – but they certainly make me think and am conscious of them.

Saturday night was a party before the hunt began Monday morning – stay tuned for the day by day…

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Written 1 week ago today – the day I left for the moose hunt.

12:30PM.
Lunch time.  I’m at work.  I got up at 5:00am this morning.  A quick walk of the dog, some last minute packing and I was off to work.  Today is a day when a surprising amount gets accomplished – I like to leave knowing that most things are looked after and that the phone won’t ring while I’m away or that I will come back to an avalanche.  An ounce of preparation matched with an awesome team is enough to make my vacations remain as vacations and my returns be fairly smooth.

This will be the last day I work with a beard this year.  I grow it exclusively for the hunt every year – it’s a fun tradition and one that helps keep me warmer on cold days (at least that’s my theory).

I also find that staying focused makes an otherwise long day go quickly.

I will leave around 4 or 5 and head north with few errands to go.  I’ll be in camp around 9 or 10.

7.45PM
Arrival in Huntsville.  Buy beer, snacks for the week and a couple of small items left on my list.  I know there’s a small crew of retired guys (including my Dad) waiting.  I am bouncing off the walls.

I also saw 3 deer on the side of the road outside of Huntsville.  It’s not deer season but that could be a good omen.  I’m a bit nervous – it was a tough year last year.  It had been a difficult year outside of camp for many and the complete lack of hunting success added to the tension.  I hunted from early morning to past sunset every day (30 minutes after is legal).

It is great knowing that there is a small group of guys in camp (they came up yesterday and today).  There will be 6 of us tonight, most of the rest arrive tomorrow and 3 (including a mystery guest that only my father knows the identity of) will arrive.

8.30PM
I am in the middle of the forest in my pickup truck.  I was driving the abandoned logging road that leads to our cabin (13 kilometers from the nearest “real” road.  I thought my headlights were flickering on far away trees before I realized there was something other than light running in front of me.

I thought it was a dog at first and sped up when I knew it wasn’t.  I was chasing a bear up the center of the road without even realizing it!  It was bigger than a cub but not a monster – about 300-400 pounds.  I backed off and he turned into the woods.  It is shocking to see an animal run around 30 kilometers an hour (about 18 miles per hour) turn into the pitch black woods and keep running the same speed.

I stopped and listened to him scamper.  He ran for 2 or 3 seconds before going completely quiet – did he stop and look back?  I wasn’t waiting to find out and took off a little freaked out.  I have driven another kilometer since  and have another 9 to get to camp.

Will write when there’s more to write about the actual hunt.

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Before we get to the larger portion of this post, I’m sure some of you are simply here to learn how to cool beer (without freezing it) while in the woods.  This lesson works year round and will work in any body of water:

Full cans of beer float (in this case we used barrels of rainwater)!  Note that this doesn’t work so well with cans of pop which simply sink (I think the can is heavier).  This will chill warm beer in the summer and – as long as the water doesn’t freeze – will keep your beer cold without going to ice.  In the summer you can use the water in a lake or a stream to chill them out.

Regular readers will know that I have just returned from a week in the woods hunting moose.  I had pre-written a series of posts and tweets about my general perspective on hunting and how different it is from what many may (or may not) think.  I’ve been back for 4 days and am glad to say it was a great hunt.

When I was in the woods I kept a journal of all 9 days of my hunt.  I will be posting each of these in order from tomorrow through next week and post each one exactly one week after each happened (i.e. tomorrows post is from hand written notes from exactly a week before).

I am hoping that this format gives readers an idea of what a group hunt is really like and shares insight into the world of sustenance hunting.  It won’t always be the easiest thing to read and all of it is my interpretation of the hunt.

I will not include gory photos or stories about the hunters themselves.  The personal stories are powerful and a massive part of why I go hunting – but this is not the venue to talk about stories of others – that’s not the deal they signed up for and not fair to them.  Taking this part of the story out of the story only paints a small part of a much bigger whole – I am hoping that the stories we posted in previous weeks would give some idea as to the bigger picture.  It is tough knowing that these stories would share a much bigger value to what we do – you’ll have to take my word on it (or not :)).

Some of the posts will be tough to read for many – this will not be a glamorized image of the hunt.  I, of course, have my own biases but hope to paint a whole picture of the hunt and went I went through of part of it.  I am hoping the last 10 days has been a good intro to my perspective about a topic that is difficult for many.  If you want an idea of what it’s like to be on a group hunt (hint: it’s a lot of sitting still), I hope this gives you an idea of what it’s like to be a hunter – and a member of a very real tribe.

We’ll be returning to food posts once the play-by-play of the hunt is over.  By then I’ll have a stockpile of information and topics to share – including several posts from another trip to the UK (I leave on Tuesday).  In the meantime, hope to see comments (including respectful challenges and questions) to continue as we go!

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Back to preserving – options for local are diminishing so we’ll do the odd batch of something special – there will be 3 or 4 things made in the next month or so which will be part of our late December and early January celebrations with family and friends.  Todays batch is lemon confit – some of which may end up within our Turkey stuffing or a salad.

I’ve never tried to make – or eat – lemon confit before.  But I am super excited and found the process a lot of fun.  It’s also the super easiest batch of preserves I’ve ever made.  The entire process is very fast – although a little on the pricey side (2 jars of salt for 1.5 lemons).  A different sized jar (a bigger opening to fit half-slices as recommended by my recipe) may have reduced the need for salt by some degree.

1 clean jar (we used a 1.5 liter mason jar though any non-reactive jar would do, especially since this size is only available in Canada for the most part).
Lemons (clean)
Coarse salt

Cut lemons lengthwise (we had to quarter them to fit inside of the jar).  Place a piece in jar.  Cover each piece in salt (you don’t want the lemons touching  each other or the side of jar).

Place in a cool dark place 2-3 months (that is correct, no sealing needed).

When it comes time to use them, pull them from the salt and rinse (they will be a darker colour than when they went in).  Remove the pulp and pith and do what you will with the rind – mince, slice or shred.  Blanch in simmering water if using it uncooked.

I adore surprises and can’t wait to see what these look like coming out of the spa in a few months!  It’s fascinating to think about the chemical changes they are going through now as they are being dried by the salt and hands of time.

If you make some this weekend, it will be ready for late December and January – not local for us but a delectable treat.

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Freezer Pesto

I don’t know if you are tiring of hearing of the woods and the traditions we hold dear in the north – let’s take a break and head to the kitchen for some of the easiest preserving (and most practical) known to man, woman or child.

Do you have a selection of herbs that you are afraid may turn the corner of freshness?  Are you worried about losing a fridgefull – or even a garden full – of them?  When we run into this, we make pesto and whatever we don’t use we freeze in cupcake liners.

These handy little packages freeze well from 9-12 months and can be added (sans paper) to soup, stew, dips, sauces or other meals as needed.  They are a wonderful flavour boost that we use through the winter to remind us of summers bounty and hold us through to the next year.

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Shotglasses

The cabin is also refuge to shot glasses from all around the world.  We have a traditional camp song which we chant on special occasions (toasts, birthdays, weddings, hunts or the fact that it’s Tuesday are all special occasions for us).

We have a very strict policy that hunting and drinking are never to be combined – once the guns are put away shot glasses (and liquids to pour inside them) appear from all corners of the globe.  We have drank elixirs from the middle east, potions from South America, tonics from Easter Europe and mysterious drinks from places yet to be named.  I’m not sure where it all comes from – but it all goes into these glasses and none are immune (though portions may be moderated for the faint of heart!)

As a bonus to today’s post is the following shot (it is not Southern nor is it in any way comforting):

The small contents remaining in that bottle are enough to twist the brim of 6 or 8 peoples hats.  It is a form of bathtub moonshine that we trade for in the middle of the forest with an other camp.  Trade of commodities such as this are somewhat commonplace – homemade moonshine, maple syrup and commercial sweets are not uncommon.  Our neighbours are our friends and we share tradition (and libation) with them commonly.

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Is there anything better than a hodgepodge of plates in a cottage?

I love the apparent random collections of plates that fill a cabin.  What appears to be a series of random glassware is often anything but.  We have plates that are collected from years of potlucks, drop-ins, forgotten leave behinds and good will donations from visitors and members of our cabin.

Many of the plates in our cabin have been around for it’s entire history – which reminds me of the infamous winter of 1969 and my father’s first visit to the cabin that spring (I was born 4 years later).

The drive to the cabin was very different in the 1960s and 1970s.  The road was tricky (at best) and could take up to 5 hours to travel about 10 kilometres from pavement.  The drive was conducted by tractor, jeep or land rover and included a scary drive up steep incline which also functioned as a torrent creek.  Getting to the cabin in the winter was not an option.

A quick drive to the cabin in the mid spring revealed disaster – a heavy load of snow had caused the roof to collapse.  All four walls were laying on the ground and the roof was on the floor of the cabin.  A series of phone calls made there way to my father who was part of the rebuilding crew who stayed in tents and raised the roof again.

The remarkable part of this story is that none of the windows (or plates) were broken.  It was as if a giant had lifted the roof, gently rested each wall on the ground and placed the roof on the floor.  A single pane of glass was broken (in a cabinet if I recall correctly).  A large sliding door, all windows and some of these plates survived.

The reality of the story is fascinating, if not remarkable.  The massive amount of snow which crippled the roof was the same thing that saved the glass – when the walls gave way they were stopped from crashing to the ground by massive snow banks which slowly placed the roof n the floor as they melted over weeks.  It would make for stunning time-lapse photography!

We posted a similar post recently on coffee cups – see that here.

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