Category Archives: Wilderness Women

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.”

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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

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.