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