The First Hunt and what it takes to be a Mountain Hunter

Jenny Ly has returned from her Woodland Caribou hunt in Northern BC. This is her account of the adventure.

Before the caribou hunt, a lot of anxiety came from the fact I wasn’t going to be able to keep up or pack out as much as the men in my group. I didn’t want to feel like a burden, or that I wasn’t pulling my weight. The insecurities that developed made me feel like I was interfering with the “boys club”, even though that was far from the truth.

It had an adverse effect on me because I was always on the defence or felt like I continuously had to prove my worth; which often doesn’t translate well. I think one of my biggest takeaways is to be vocal about these thoughts. Being vulnerable is not a sign of weakness, it can be your greatest strength.

Jenny Ly
Photo Credit: Jenny Ly

The positive was that I used these insecurities to motivate myself to adhere to an intense training schedule of running, weightlifting and rucking. Let me tell you, while up in those mountains I was grateful I put in the work. I wouldn’t advise anyone planning a backpacking hunt without some mountain conditioning.

On opening day, we crossed paths with a group packing out a successful morning, and it just so happened I knew one of the fellows. For those that are curious about hunting, the hunting world is small and supportive, you’ll quickly make friends. Unearthing this community has been a delightful surprise, since starting this journey I have only stumbled across the kindest and most welcoming individuals.

The crew was kind in giving us advice, words of encouragement and even feeding us a few bites of delicious caribou ribs they had roasting over an open fire. They were genuinely in awe that three rookies were attempting such a massive hunt, entirely unguided. We apparently were, “doing it all backwards.”

first hunt
Photo Credit: Jenny Ly

Hiking up and down mountains weighed down by sheets of ice-cold rain, hail, snow blizzards, and fog so thick we were often turned around trying to walk a straight line. Worst of all, we were in grizzly country. I remember feeling so defeated, I picked up an antler shed because I was about to give up and accept I was going home empty handed.

But with grit, on the fourth day, after what felt like a two-hour stalk, we were finally successful. I’ll admit tears were brimming around my eyes as I stood staring at the bull. Initially, I had thought they were tears of sadness, but now I’ve had some time to reflect on the hunt, I would say they were tears of gratitude. I started out on this journey to reconnect myself with my food; including the fur, bones and guts. To know exactly where my food came from, how it was harvested and what it was raised on is a hunters blessing.

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Photo Credit: Jenny Ly

The real work began when we found success. It took 20 hours to carry our harvest down the mountain. At times I had about 75lbs on my back, often I wanted to burst into tears from exhaustion.

In our caribou crew, we often laughed at the fact that no matter what we talk about it would always circle back to food. During our 20-hour pack out we would banter about all the amazing foods we’ve had on our travels to Denmark, Japan, and Portugal. Where to get the best burger, ramen and tacos in Vancouver. We even listed off our favourite items in our local specialized shops for teas and hot sauce.

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Photo Credit: Jenny Ly

How ironic it was it that we were packing out about 250lbs of the best meat in the world while eating freeze dried meals. But I guess it’s only fair our stomachs must suffer a bit for the reward.

After being snowed in for 2.5 days, it was finally clear enough for the floatplane to come pick us up. The pilot was a little taken aback when he saw our load and said, “I’ve never seen anyone pack out so much meat before.”

For a momentary amount of despair and suffering, I now can look back on it and share a story of persistence, and the reward that comes with it. I take pride in knowing I worked darn hard for the food on my table.

In this pursuit of heeding the call of my inner wild, I found not only my passion but my purpose in life has quickly presented itself.  I am now heavily involved in wildlife conservation in our beautiful province. I enjoy every moment I spend working on keeping our wild lands thriving for generations to enjoy. Furthermore, I cannot wait for my next adventure!

Until the next adventure
Photo Credit: Jenny Ly

You can read more of Jenny’s stories on her blog: Chasing Food

Elk Sausage Rolls

Sossy Outdoors: Elk Sausage Rolls

Colder weather always means heartier meals and snacks for family and friends. I have a good amount of Elk in my freezer from the fall hunt, so I have been creating some delicious recipes to enjoy this winter season. Holiday entertaining and outdoor activities translates to hearty appetites! And what better way to feed your family then with Elk meat.  Elk is one of those rare foods that is not only very healthy for you but tastes great! It is naturally low in fat, low in cholesterol  and high in protein.  Elk meat can be substituted for beef in most recipes. If cooked too much, it can dry out and become tough. Sausage rolls are usually made with pork meat. In this recipe, I added ground pork to add a bit of fat due to the leanness of the Elk. The flavor and texture of these Elk Sausage Rolls is wonderful! They are not greasy, have a great meaty texture, and the fresh herbs and spices perfectly accentuate this dish.

Recipe Filling Ingredients:

1 pound ground Elk

1 pound ground Pork

1 cup thinly minced onion

1 tablespoon Salt

1 teaspoon Pepper

2 tablespoons ground Coriander

1 tablespoon freshly minced Sage Leaves

2 tablespoons freshly minced Parsley

1 teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

1 teaspoon Thyme

½ teaspoon Nutmeg

½ teaspoon Poppy Seeds

Pastry Recipe:

3 cups flour

1 teaspoon Salt

1 cup butter

¾ cup cold water

2 egg yolks whisked with a bit of water to create an egg wash

Application:

In a large bowl, combined the Elk and Pork meat.  Mix very well till colors are blended.  Add all spices, onion and herbs to the meat mixture. Using your hands, mix the spices evenly into the meat.  Divide mixture into eight equal pieces, and roll each piece into a nine inch sausage length. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to chill.

mix

For the Butter Pastry Recipe, place three cups of flour with the salt in a large bowl and mix well. Cut butter into pieces and place into the flour. Gently crumble the butter into the flour till it resembles oatmeal with your hands or pastry cutter. Slowly add the cold water and mix with a fork. If you find the flour too dry, you can always add a bit more water. Dust your hands with flour and mix the dough ball with your hands till it pulls cleanly away from the bowl.  Some like to chill the pastry dough for an hour, I don’t always find it necessary. I like working with dough that is a bit more pliable.

butter

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Roll pastry into a rectangle 9 inches by 24 inches. Cut rectangle lengthwise and crosswise to form four rectangles that measure 4 ½ inches by 12 inches.  Lay one sausage in the center of each rectangle and brush with egg wash on exposed pastry. Wrap the dough around the sausage and press edges together to make a log. With the seam side down, cut the sausage roll into whatever sizes you wish.

Line a cookies sheet with parchment paper and arrange the sausage rolls. Brush each one with egg wash and lightly sprinkle with a few Poppy Seeds. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the pastry is a beautiful golden brown.  You can serve them warm or room temperature.  I like to make a Dijon mustard dip with a bit of mayonnaise for dipping.

cooked

 

Urban Huntress: Feeding her soul

Meet Jenny Ly. She is a young woman living in downtown Vancouver. She loves food and loves to eat healthy, that is why, with little prior knowledge, she embarked on the challenge to become a hunter. This is her story.

Why I hunt: To serve others through my obsession with food.

I’ll admit I associate most memories with the meals I’ve had during periods of delight, despair, and victory.

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For as long as I can remember, I’ve been searching for that one thing that fueled my passion. I have always felt admiration for, yet envious of people who can shed blood, sweat, and tears for that “thing that makes them tick.” During my short time on earth, I’ve attempted to establish interest in a handful of musical instruments, drawing, poetry, rugby, wrestling, woodworking, leatherworking and even computer coding. While I value these skills, I’m more enthused over a plate of pasta than a paintbrush or HTML code. At one point, I felt I had no talents beyond eating (albeit doing it well).

Harvesting my own food always seemed natural to me because of my family’s hobby farm in Vietnam. I would go stay on our farm every summer as a child and I would help in the farm tasks that would put food on our table. I think this experience is why hunting has always been at the back of my mind, it was just shoved into retirement with the bustle of city life. What propelled my curiosity for wild meat was after my first taste of Elk, prepared raw as a tartare. I couldn’t believe how sweet and clean the meat tasted. It didn’t have that store-bought funk.

My city-living-oblivious-self was also shocked to learn about the fish, wildlife and habitat conservation efforts made possible by hunters and anglers.

I think this realization was when I finally found my calling.

My motivation to hunt was triggered by my obsession with food. The horrors of factory farmed meat drove me to become a vegan but that didn’t last long. Buying organic, grass-fed, hormone-free meat would have been a much more reasonable route to go about things, but I’m not known for being practical.

Not to mention, as a modern woman I was not going to depend on any man to bring home the meat. Really, my only option was to go out and get it myself.

Heeding to the call of my inner wild has awoken a primal instinct from its deep slumber I never knew existed. The adventure that lays ahead makes me feel uncomfortable, challenged and leaves me restless on most nights before a hunt. But I’m addicted to the adrenaline, the uncertainty, and the challenge of it all. The fact is, I don’t necessarily enjoy sitting for hours out in the rain or bug invested woods, but I can’t stop and to be honest, I’m in too deep to turn back.

Hunting has motivated me to train harder. I can run faster, hike higher, and lift more weight than ever before. Reconnecting with the source of my food (fur, bones, guts and all) has been the most liberating adventure I’ve pursued.

It’s not just hunting but also finding delight in the microworlds in a handful of soil. Attempting to grasp the wildlife around me has made me fall in love with my Canadian heritage. I finally feel like I’ve found my purpose in life.

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I hope through my experience I can start a movement of mindful eaters, erase the stigma of hunters, and encourage you to do what you love and do it often.

This September, I will be hunting woodland caribou, the largest herd in BC. To conserve the population, the hunt was a LEH hunt. I’m going with 2 other rookie hunters from Vancouver, and we’re all beyond excited to have this be our first fall hunt.

Having been involved in several wildlife conservation campaigns to preserve the woodland caribou in other parts of BC that are endangered, I’m honoured to be able to have the opportunity to even have a glance at these iconic Canadian symbols in the wild. I get a lot of confused looks from folks when I explain I’m fighting to conserve caribou but going to hunt them at the same time. I want to clarify the herd I’m hunting is healthy and thriving, while the herd I’m working to protect is located down south; they are in no way associated. It’s a strange paradox that is hard to grasp and believe me, I’ve had many internal conflicts with myself. Know that we are a group of food-focused hunters who are grateful for any animal we harvest and there will be zero waste. We plan on processing the whole animal ourselves from nose- to-tail, using everything from the bones, organs and hide.

I’m restless from excitement from being able to fly around Itcha on a floatplane and see the volcanic mountain range from up high! Regardless if we’re successful or not, it would be one heck of an adventure and there will be stories to tell.

You can read more from Jenny on her blog Chasing Food.

Bison Canape’

Sossy Outdoors: Bison Canape’

Here’s a quick dish that will have your guests talking! You can make it your own by changing up the balsamic drizzle, your aioli, even the mix greens you choose to place on top.

Ingredients: 

French baguette cut into 2- inch slices

Sliced Bison Tenderloin one- inch pieces

Kosher salt

Pepper

Micro greens 2 cups

Apple or fig balsamic All of Oils

Rosemary Olive Oil

Garlic Lemon Aioli ( 1 cup mayo, 1 cup parsley, 3 cloves crushed garlic, juice of 1 lemon, salt)

Butter

Parmesan wedge

Method:

Lay out Bison slices and sprinkle with Kosher salt and pepper. Heat up skillet and brown both sides to medium rare, about 2 minutes per side. Put in a container and set aside, cover.

Bison Canape

Melt butter in pan, and place baguette pieces down. Crisp, till golden brown and lay out on a wooden board.

Mix micro greens in a bowl with olive oil and kosher salt.

Lay out crostini’s, add aioli as first layer, add bison, top with microgreens and drizzle with apple or fig balsamic. Sprinkle with grated fresh parmesan and serve!

Bison Canape Close up

The Dinosaurs of the River

White sturgeon, Acipenser transmontanus, is an ancient species of ray-finned fishes found only in western North America. They have lived in the deep pools, eddies and estuary of the lower Fraser River Valley since time immemorial.

The white sturgeon is the biggest and longest-lived freshwater fish in Canada. Individual sturgeons can weigh over 450 kilos and be more than three metres long and 100 years in age!

The White Sturgeon
Photo Credit: Dusty Waite

Population decline over decades has led to the lower Fraser white sturgeon being designated Threatened by the independent Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

The recreational catch-and-release fishery, along with tagging studies, has provided precise population estimates for sturgeon in the Fraser River. While adult populations now appear to be stable or increasing slightly, habitat degradation continues, and juvenile populations are still on the decline.

The side channels of Herrling Island are one of the most important spawning areas on the lower river for white sturgeon. While little can be done to offset the enormous loss of floodplains due to diking, remaining habitats such as the Heart of the Fraser are especially crucial to rebuilding juvenile populations.

“10,000 years of post-glacial island production of fish, and it will be gone just like that.” – Dr. Marvin Rosenau

That’s why we are asking you to sign the petition to oppose further diking and bridge building in the Heart of the Fraser. Please help us protect essential white sturgeon spawning and rearing habitat.

Sign the Petition

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Saving the Eulachon of the Fraser

Small, oil-rich smelts called eulachon return to spawn each spring in the Fraser, Skeena, Nass and Klinaklini river systems in British Columbia. The scientific name for Pacific Ocean eulachon is Thaleichethys pacificus, which means rich ocean fish. Eulachon is also known as oolichan, ooligan or candlefish because their oil content is so high they can be lit like a candle when dried.

Eulachon has always been a cultural keystone species for Pacific Northwest Indigenous people. Eulachon grease was a valuable trading commodity, and there were at least 23 main “grease trail” trade routes connecting the coast to the interior of B.C.

Dave Gordon Eulochan
Photo credit: Dave Gordon

The once-abundant pacific eulachon species is now in decline. The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has assessed three populations in Canada: Fraser River as Endangered, Central Pacific Coast as Endangered and Nass/Skeena Rivers as species of Special Concern.

Fraser River eulachon comes home to spawn in the lower reaches of the river’s arm as far upstream as the Heart of the Fraser. Habitat loss, pollution, directed fisheries, logging, and marine mammal predation can all create adverse conditions for the fish. One of the threats to the eulachon’s recovery is streamflow alteration from banking and road building.

Please help us defend eulachon spawning and rearing habitat by signing the petition to oppose the approval of a permanent bridge and development on the Heart of the Fraser islands.

Sign the Petition

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Maple Crusted Toasted Elk Marrow

Ingredients

4-6 Elk Marrow Bones cut length wise

Kosher Salt, Pepper

1 cup, Maple Sugar

Parsley Salad

1 Bushel of curled parsley

Lemon zest off one lemon

Juice of one lemon

Kosher salt to taste

I cup of finely chopped scallions

Method:

waterImmerse Elk Bones in a bath of cold water over night to rid any impurities. Try and change the water occasionally.

Arrange on a cookie sheet with parchment paper. You may need to use a bit of rolled up tinfoil to keep the marrow bones from sitting sideways.

Sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper and place in a 400’ oven for 20-25 minutes or until the marrow is a bubbling golden brown.

butterWhile you are waiting, slice up your baguette into crostini size pieces, about one inch. Brush with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and bake in the oven on a cookie sheet at 300 till golden brown. Watch these carefully as they can burn. Take out and set aside.

Take the marrow bones out of the oven and generously sprinkle with maple sugar. You can put back in the oven on broil, carefully watching it, till the sugar is melted, or you can use a torch to achieve the same result.

toasted

After this step, allow to rest on your counter top while you prepare the parsley salad.

In a bowl, combined chopped parsley, lemon zest, juice of one lemon and finely chopped scallions. Mix very well, sprinkling with kosher salt.

Place the parsley salad generously on top of the elk marrow. Arrange on a plate, with crostini’s and some small appetizer spoons for scooping the marrow and placing on the crostini.

scoop

The Beat of the River

The stretch of the Fraser River that rambles the distance between Hope and Mission has extraordinary environmental value. Because of this, it has become known as the “Heart of the Fraser.”

Fraser River
Photo Credit: Jessica Rodriguez

In the depths of the water, there is a wondrous aquatic-ecosystem found in the gravel reach. This includes thirty or more different species of fish that spawn, rear and migrate through this part of the Fraser River. This area boasts one of the largest spawning populations of salmon in British Columbia and is a key spawning ground for sturgeon, not to mention, it is home to a myriad of increasingly-rare plants and animals. Historically this stretch of water comprises of one of the greatest salmonid and sturgeon network of channels, islands and wetlands of its type in the world.

Unfortunately, it has been estimated that over 90% of this landscape has been lost through clearing, diking, ditching, bank hardening, and draining.  These altered lands form the agricultural communities of Abbotsford, Mission, Chilliwack and Agassiz.  Approximately five large island complexes are remaining between the dikes that are still subject to natural fluvial processes.  Most of these rare and endangered islands and channel habitats that remain were turned in pulpwood (poplar-cottonwood) forests over the last several decades.

Herrling Island
Herrling Island before and after clearcutting for agriculture.

Two of these islands, located between Agassiz and Hope, are known to be key white sturgeon spawning habitats and comprise of some of the most important main channel chum salmon spawning and cutthroat trout, sockeye, and chinook juvenile salmon rearing areas. These islands, Carey and Herrling island, after being harvested for pulpwood have been sold to multiple landowners that have indicated that they are going to turn these properties into agricultural lands. Two bridges are also being proposed to be built across the islands. These developments involve stripping the vegetation, draining wetlands, filling in fish habitat and eventually ditching and diking.  This part of the Fraser River is subject to rapid natural erosion and armouring the banks of the stream to protect the land, will result in a complete disruption of the natural functioning of the fluvial processes under which sustains this ecosystem.  Because these are keystone properties for the Heart of the Fraser ecosystem and its white sturgeon populations, if they are continued to be developed, this ecosystem will ultimately collapse.

But there is an alternate fate for these islands. With the islands being cleared they provide a clean slate, with which to replant with a mixture of truly native plants.  A graduate student from BCIT is currently putting together an environmental restoration plan if the properties can be purchased and secured.

Fraser River
Photo Credit: Jessica Rodriguez

In the recognition that these ecosystem losses must be stopped and the lands secured, several private individuals, institutions and non-governmental environmental organizations have coalesced with the BC Wildlife Federation so we may work together to provide a living legacy for future generations at the Heart of the Fraser.

The first step of this coalition is to convince the government that bridges should not be built on these islands and to spread awareness about how important this area, The Heart of the Fraser, is to local hunters, anglers, and conservationists.

Help us Defend the Heart of the Fraser.

Sign the Petition

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