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Does and Fawns collared this winter

Mule Deer
Volunteer, Brad Siemens helps collar a doe.

Our Southern Interior Mule Deer Project team was busy throughout December capturing more adult does and fawns in our study areas.  They have captured deer via net-gunning from helicopters and ground darting.  They will be moving to ground capture with clover traps in the coming weeks.  Given this is a first effort at such a large-scale project for B.C. we are learning a lot about capturing and collaring deer.

Thank you to the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation who provided funding for fawn collars for the project. This winter, the team plans on capturing and collaring 60 mule deer fawns spread throughout the three study areas.

Most of our collared adult does had returned to winter range by the middle of October, with some moving back as early as September.  This may result in changes to the low elevation mule deer (non-migratory) limited entry hunting season which currently occurs in October in the central Okanagan region to ensure the season is in fact targeting non-migratory deer.

Southern Interior Mule Deer project (5)Volunteers, and team members from the Fish and Wildlife Branch, Okanagan Nation Alliance, UBC-O, and University of Idaho will continue to catch deer until March.  We are hoping to get collars on 90 adult does, and 60 fawns for 2019.

Camera traps will be going out this spring once our research team has collected a full year of deer movement data. This data will then ensure that we are placing our camera traps in a variety of habitats used by mule deer in both their winter and summer ranges.

The team is meeting in early March to evaluate our progress to date and coordinate activities between our partners for the coming year.  We will be conducting more mortality investigation training and hosting camera trap training for our volunteers as well.

The Southern Interior Mule Deer project is the largest collaborative mule deer research project in British Columbia history. We rely on the dedicated volunteers and team members of the Okanagan Nation Alliance, BCWF members and clubs, Fish and Wildlife Branch, UBCO and the University of Idaho. This project would not be possible without your help, nor would it be possible without the contributions from our various supporters. A big thanks goes out to our direct members who have donated to this project and to the following clubs and associations:

Kelowna and District Fish & Game Club, East Kootenay Hunters Association, Summerland Sportsmen’s Association, Traditional BowHunters of BC, G.F Wildlife Association, Okanagan Region BC Wildlife Federation, Vernon Fish & Game Club, Kamloops and District Fish & Game Association, Vernon Fish and Game Club, North Shore Fish & Game Club, Oceola Fish & Game Club, Kettle Wildlife Association, Southern Okanagan Sportsmen’s Association, and the Mission and District Rod & Gun Club.

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Populism and the Ban on the Grizzly Hunt

Several questions have come up after the recent news of a guide outfitting company launching a class-action suit against B.C.’s ban on the grizzly bear hunt.

The BC Wildlife Federation will take no position on this matter because, as a conservation organization, the BCWF is not in the business of supporting court cases for guide-outfitters or any other industry that seeks compensation from the government. It is important to point out that this lawsuit will not affect the interests of resident hunters. It is simply about compensation for these guide-outfitters who represent a small population of hunters.

Nevertheless, the BCWF continues to be in full support of the re-opening of the grizzly bear hunt. The BCWF will continue to support science-based decision making, not populist-based decision making. The decision by the B.C. government to ban the regulated grizzly hunt to all but Indigenous hunters is a prime example of a populist-based decision.

The Cambridge Dictionary defines “populism” as: Political ideas and activities that are intended to get the support of ordinary people by giving them what they want. The ideas are often put forward in the absence of science or analysis of the long-term policy implications. The threshold for populism is often driven by “popular support” for an idea, not because it is rational, stable or in the best interests of the resource, but because it is politically popular and in the short term will garner political support.

The question is, do you want your government to make the popular decision, or the rational decision? The former is driven by the public opinion, the latter by rigorous analysis of the consequences in terms of what is in the best interests of the resource and the populace.

grizzly-1180556_1920In B.C., 78 percent of the public, according to the government is against the hunting of grizzly bears. But a rigorous analysis was conducted by the B.C. Auditor General and the conclusion was that hunting was not seen as a threat to grizzly bear sustainability and was considered a minor factor within the issue of larger habitat management.

Prior to a final decision on grizzly bear hunting, government was left with two choices; leave the status quo or ban all licensed hunting of grizzly bears.

Populism won the day and now there is no hunt. First Nations can continue to hunt if they choose. The larger issue is this constitutionally protected right will be hollow when their fish and wildlife populations are gone. The right to gain economically from commercial uses of natural resources under the UN Declaration of Indigenous Peoples is also in question. First Nations have strong voices and can speak for themselves on how, where and why they want to engage in the grizzly bear debate.

As for what the BCWF is doing about the grizzly bear hunt ban, it is anticipated that some First Nations will initiate grizzly hunts as early as this spring, as they have the constitutional right to do so. This may well lead to some opportunity to re-open the discussion with government. If and when such opportunity arises, we will take the same stance as we did before – hunt based on science.

At the Heart of the Fraser

Submitted by Jenny Ly

Since the BCWF Fall Harvest Celebration, hosted to applaud those that have worked endlessly to save the heart of the Fraser River and continue to raise awareness of the issues at hand, I have spent a lot of time pondering on the discussions given.

I’m shocked at the events actively happening around the area. I am also failing to understand why anyone presented with the facts would want to do harm to an ecosystem. Especially since it has such a direct impact on all the things we love about our beautiful British Columbia, such as our cherished salmon and sturgeon.

In case you missed the Fall Harvest Celebration… 

IMG_1301I’m so grateful to have been invited to such a lovely evening filled with food, friendly faces, and festivities. Walking into the event, hosted appropriately at the Fraser River Discovery Centre, I was surprised at the lofty fun space, a hidden gem in New Westminster and the grand set up of the Fall Harvest.

On one side of the space, there were tables lined with generously donated silent auction items from local wines, outdoor adventures and art. The other side was where I spent the majority of time connecting with the guest – can you guess what that area contained? If your mind wandered off to the food and wine, you’re correct! Oh, it was a gorgeous spread of a continuous supply of cheese, meat, and seafood bites. The highlight was the warm bites which included things like wild game meatballs created by Chef Tammy Wood and Tiffany Bader. Heck, there was even deep fried cheese! Both ladies had dreamed up a menu that pleased all palates and delighted the guests.

Things you should know about the “heart of the Fraser River”

Jenny Ly and Marvin RosenauThe guest speakers of the evening included Harvey Andrusak, Mark Angelo, Ken Ashley, Marvin Rosenau, and Jesse Zeman. Below are some important highlights of the discussions these men hosted:

– The heart of the Fraser consists of islands that make up a (very rare) large area of gravel beds from Hope to Chilliwack and is considered a global treasure.

– There are only five islands left, and most of them are logged. The motivation to develop the area is for cheap land and profit.

– Currently, developers have applied to build a bridge connecting from the mainland to one of these islands, if built it will lead to the destruction of critical fish habitat.

– When these islands flood, the gravel areas are perfect spawning conditions for salmon and the ancient sturgeon.

– The area is home to about 40 species of fish in many stages of their life.

– Destroying this area will have a direct impact on the salmon run and salmon are a prime food source for our already declining population of killer whales.

Action items you can take to help defend this crucial habitat

  1. Follow BCWF for more information and updates on efforts made: http://bcwf.bc.ca/
  2. Sign the Heart of the Fraser river petition: https://www.heartofthefraser.ca/

I strongly feel that everyone should be aware of what is happening at the heart of our Fraser River. Please share this article with those that you feel would appreciate a high-level overview of the matters at hand.

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.

fina dish

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.

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