Out in the woods with a Fisheries Technician

Meet Heather Vainionpaa. She is a Fisheries Technician with a Diploma from BCIT’s Fish, Wildlife and Recreation Program and a BSc. in Biology (Ecology, Evolution and Conservation). She has a pet fish named Charles and a few dozen house plants taking up every inch of window space in her house. This is her story:

IMG_1443Growing up we always had game in the freezer. My dad was, and continues to be, an avid hunter, as was his dad before him.  I was interested in hunting but was slow to start as I always had school in the fall, so it wasn’t until I was 22 and had finished my undergrad that I took the C.O.R.E. training to get my license. Even then I didn’t go on my first hunt for another year or so; looking back I’m not sure why I waited so long. The push that finally got me out there was my grandpa passing away.  He had been super keen to get me out hunting and I remember him showing me his .243 that he wanted me to hunt with.  He and my dad were always hunting buddies, so that first fall without him I finally got my butt in gear and went with my dad. I really regret not having the opportunity to go hunting with both my Pappa and my dad together, as I have so much fun with my dad every trip- regardless of whether we come home with a bag full of meat or just new stories.

I continue to hunt for a number of reasons. Firstly, I really enjoy the time spent in nature with my dad. There’s a camaraderie that comes from sharing a hunting trip with someone, or with a group of people.  I also just love being outdoors and hiking into areas that not a lot of people see. I love finding tracks of any kind and trying to guess what it is and where they’re going, and frequently nerd-out over plant ID or spotting different types of fungi.  I enjoy the challenge of hunting, trying to move quietly while being alert to your surroundings. I also really enjoy eating game.  Sitting down to a meal that you provided for yourself is immensely satisfying. It also comes with the added benefit of knowing exactly where your meat came from.  I continue to hunt because I want to learn more and become a better hunter, I’m still a bit of a rookie in a lot of ways.

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My greatest hunting experience is a tough one to answer, if I was forced to choose it would probably be from my first moose hunt. We had a Bull Moose draw and were maybe 4 or 5 days into our trip. I had just shot my very first grouse and my dad and I were celebrating when he glanced over my shoulder and his eyes went huge.

IMG_1547A massive 13 point bull moose had just strolled out of the trees up the road from us. It was pretty nuts, after days of hiking into tricky spots and staking out for hours calling, we just happened upon one through sheer luck. I guess that would be my beginner’s luck kicking in.  It was a pretty cool moment to share with my dad.

I love the new experiences that hunting brings, I’ve seen so much in the short time that I’ve been hunting. I’ve drifted down a river while a beaver slapped his tail at me; I’ve sat for hours watching a Northern Harrier hunt; I’ve stood still while a buck strolled around me through the woods 10 metres away; I’ve watched two grizzlies wander through a meadow through binoculars.

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Hunting is important to me because through it I find both a connection to people and to nature, and I want to keep having more new experiences like these.

Heather and her dad will be heading out this weekend for their first hunt together for the season.

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