All posts by BC Wildlife Federation Blog

The BC Wildlife Federation is a province-wide voluntary conservation organization representing all British Columbians. This blog aims to showcase the people, programs, and projects that protect, enhance and promote the wise use of B.C.'s environment for the benefit of present and future generations.

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.

Venison Osso Buco

Sossy Outdoors: Venison Osso Buco

As hunting season nears to an end, you may start wondering what delicious meal you will prepare with the buck that is now nicely portioned and packaged away in your freezer. Try out this Venison Osso Buco. The meat is tender and juicy and the meal is sure to keep your stomache warm as winter creeps closer.

Ingredients:

6 Venison Shank Portions

¾ cup flour

1 tsp each of Kosher salt, black pepper, dried basil leaves

Olive Oil for pan

16 oz Diced canned tomato

½ cup red wine

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped celery

2 cups sliced carrot, nice chunky pieces

6-8 Juniper Berries

2 cups venison or beef stock

4-5 sprigs Thyme

½ cup finely diced Parsley

¼ cup Lemon Zest

1 Garlic clove, diced

Method:

flouring

Put flour in a small bowl with kosher salt, pepper, and basil leaves. Mix well. Put on a piece of parchment paper or a plate. Take the shank pieces and dust well with the flour mix. Warm olive oil in a pan to medium high. Place the shank pieces in the pan, browning all sides till golden brown and crispy.

searing

Place the shanks at the bottom of your crock pot.

Add onions, carrots, and celery to your pan, stirring in all the bits left from the shanks. Sprinkle with kosher salt, and place the thyme sprigs in. As it starts to sizzle and cook slightly, add the wine and stir. Add the tomatoes, juniper berries, and broth.

boiling

Add everything into the crock pot over the shank pieces.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours, or until shank pieces are freely pulling away from the bone.

Take your Venison shanks out of the Crock pot and cover with tinfoil on a cutting board.

Remove thyme sticks from juices, along with the Juniper berries.  Pour into a deep skillet, cook and reduce to 1/3 .

Mix your minced Parsley, minced Garlic, lemon zest and salt in a small bowl, set aside.

Place Venison Osso Buco on a plate and pour reduced sauce over top. Garnish the tops with your fresh Gremolata.

This dish is complimented very well with a Risotto alla Milanese, which is a delicious Parmesan, Saffron Risotto.

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The Cottonwoods of the Heart of the Fraser

Black cottonwood trees, the biggest poplars on earth and one of the fastest growing, inhabit the banks, islands and surrounding areas of the Heart of the Fraser. Imagine a tree the height of a 12-storey building with a trunk close to 12 meters round and a crown the size of a large house. Now imagine a whole forest of those trees, and that’s how the Heart of the Fraser used to look.

Cottonwoods are fabulous wildlife trees. When their huge limbs break off, they get cavities in them, allowing room for owls to nest in them. Eagles and heron colonies make their nests as high as they can amongst the branches of the tall trees. Thus, in the Heart of the Fraser, cottonwoods are an essential species ecologically.

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As the trees age and wither they fall into the coves, inlets and channels that surround these islands, providing hiding places for fish and cover for a variety of other species associated with the landscape. These massive trees also provide stability to the islands and slow their erosion to a steady rate, so the islands do not disappear all at once.

Everything eventually comes back to the water, but it is not just the water that is crucial to this landscape. The trees, riparian areas and the islands create the makeup of this habitat. The river is a central point in the ecosystem and provides a continuous connection of fish, wildlife and habitat from the Heart of the Fraser as far upstream as Prince George. The Fraser River and the ecosystems around it are what binds the landscape together. Having native and natural vegetation in place is crucial to that function.

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Please help us defend the cottonwoods that grow in the Heart of the Fraser by signing the petition to oppose the approval of a permanent bridge and development on the Heart of the Fraser islands.

Sign the Petition today!

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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.

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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.

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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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