This little piggy went to the farm…

It has been over 20 years since I spent 10 days working on a pig farm at a friend’s place.  There were 800 pigs running around and it was a very different place from Grassroots Organics and how they raise their pigs as part of the Kawartha Ecological Growers.

Mark and his family have a small number of pigs – I believe the total is 5.  They have free access to the open air and (literally) muck about the yard.  They are practically domesticated and appeared to run towards us as they were called.

We had a quick lesson on the utility of raising pigs on a farm such as this and I found it fascinating.  A small number of pigs are raised at the farm each year and they are given free range of a different part of the property each time.  As they eat, walk, play, fertilize and dig in the ground, they actually do a wonderful job preparing it for planting in following years.  It is just by living their lives that they transform hardened earth into a garden which can be planter year-after-year.

I love hearing stories of clever farming such as this.  It’s another dramatic reason supporting the idea of diversification on a farm and how one can work with nature to help nurture and grow her bounty.

I also think that the pigs are adorable and, once again, wanted to share some pictures:

This little piggy went to the farm... November

This little piggy went to the farm... November

Some of these remind me a lot of Babe: Pig in the City.  I recently saw the movie again – it was as bizarre as the first time I saw it!

Life’s like a box of….Turkeys?

When we enter the local grocery store we are so often presented with the illusion of choice and plenty.  Garlic is a great illustration of this – there are at least 10 sub-types of garlic with up to 600 variations on those themes yet we are offered one or two.  Grocery stores often choose the food which grows easiest, cheapest, fastest, in biggest quantities or simply travels the best.

There are more than 600 types of tomatoes.  Watermelon has many different types as do peppers and, certainly hot peppers.  There are many different colors of carrots available and potatoes don’t stop merely at boiling or baking.

Livestock is also similar.  Our recent visit to Grassroots Organic farm (one of the hubs of the Kawartha Ecological Growers Community Shared Agriculture Program) was a reminder of this.  A small flock of different heritage breeds of Turkey roam the farm freely.

I loved how different each one was from the other.  They traveled in a small flock group; their attitudes alternated between a proud mob to a scared collective of individuals.

We took some time to take some portraits and thought you might enjoy the photos…

Lifes like a box of....Turkeys? November

Lifes like a box of....Turkeys? November

Trick or Treat – at Grassroots Organic Farm

We recently visited the home of one of our favorite farmers for a great Halloween ShindigMark Trealout and family and their band of merry men and women (Kawartha Ecological Growers) have been mentioned here a lot through the summer and fall.  I love the work that this first generation farmer is doing and how hard he is trying to do things the way he sees as right.  When the average age of a farmer is nearing 60, it is hear warming to see someone in their 30s risking everything to follow their beliefs.

The Trealouts hosted a fundraiser at their farm on Halloween.  Cold weather and rain held some people back but those who attended (including us) had an awesome time.  It was a fantastic country party – lots of costumes, big fires, wonderful food, kids, dogs and livestock all running together.  It was a fantastic day.  A full sized piano provided the heart of the bonfire that warmed us all as we ate homemade caramel corn and enjoyed the company of family and new friends.

I grew up in the country for my first 5 or 6 years and spent a fair bit of time visiting friends and relatives in later years.  Summer and fall were always great times and gatherings such as these built communities unlike most I know in the city.  Being invited to kitchen parties, garage parties, beach parties and festivities like these on farms is a rare honor and something that I highly recommend not skipping.  Most of these days center around people, food, food that people make, bring and grow and the occasional libation if desired.  It’s also great family fun.

In a case like this it was also an opportunity to support a group of people who work so hard for the benefit of the rest of us.

Join us in the next three days as we post pictures of the day, the livestock and the bonfire!  I challenge you to think about your local farmers, fishermen and women and the people who work to bring you your food and consider finding ways to support them and their missions!

Trick or Treat   at Grassroots Organic Farm November

Trick or Treat   at Grassroots Organic Farm November

Moose Hunt – Day 9 – A surprise ending

I woke up this morning for the hunt to find out that it was over.  To steal a sentence from earlier in the week, `plans change quickly when you don`t have any.`

I`m not entirely sure what the reasons were.  We certainly are happy with our results, the weather has been getting tougher and we`ve all been here for a week.  Perhaps it`s simply time to go - some of the guys will be back up for deer season which starts 10 days from now and lasts 2 weeks.  I`ll be in Scotland for most of it (a work-related trip) and it looks like I will miss another year of deer season.

It was an excellent hunt and I`m very happy with the results and time we got to spend together.

Our `driveway`is abotu 700 meters to our main logging road.  Four-wheel drive trucks are made for eating roads like this and my two-wheel drive takes it slow and steady and it`s a small relief when I make it to the main road where we drive another 12 or 13 kilometers back to an actual road and the start of civilization.

When I got to the logging road, I realized that we had forgotten the partridge in the hanging shed.  Many of the guys were busy hooking up trailers and making for the final trek out so I decided to go back to get them.  Because of the condition of the road, I opted to walk in to get them.

It was a wonderful walk back to the camp.  I must admit I felt like I was  on some sort of reality show and I had made it to the final episode.  I walked a road I`ve known for more than 30 years and recounted where Jack used to park his truck, laughed at the place I got a truck stuck for the first time, vowed to come back to visit a patch of wild blueberries that my Mother pointed out in the fall and smiled at the memory of passing Ralph in the middle of a mud puddle about 5 years ago.

The walk was reflective – even more so on the way back as I carried the two birds back to the vehicle.  I finished cleaning them (removing their feathers) back at the truck and made a few simple cuts with a knife that my previous dog had `given`me for Christmas.  One of our other hunters had engraved my name in it for me.

Moose Hunt – Day 9 – A surprise ending wellpreservedgoesmoosehunting November

I`m pretty certain that I would not be a hunter if I didn`t grow up with it.  I`m prepared to venture one step further and suggest I`d likely be anti-hunting.

But I did grow up with it.  And growing up with it helped me understand that hunting and killing were not simply synonyms.  I have learned, for me, that there is far more to hunting than I may have otherwise thought.

I still hunt birds with my Grandfathers shotgun.  I walk differently in the woods because of lessons taught to me – both by nature herself and the elders of my camp that have passed their traditions to me.  I have learned ways (and continue to) to make even more use of the animals we harvest and the traditions we continue.  It is in my memory and those around me that names of places live on and that they are not forgotten.

I have stood in the foundation of rock homes that were abandoned 100 years ago and have been seen by less than 10 people since.  I have helped rebuild loose stone walls that were placed there in the 1800`s out of respect for those before me who settled these lands.  I have learned that we are preserving far more than food on these journeys that I once struggled so dearly with.

I have come to terms with my hunt and the traditions which endure.

Moose Hunt – Day 9 – A surprise ending wellpreservedgoesmoosehunting November

As indicated in an early post, I have skipped many stories in these posts which tell much bigger stories of what happens as we hunt which would explain far more about our trip and our `tribe.`  I haven`t skipped hunting stories – simply skipped deep personal stories of sharing, teaching, helping and guiding each other that is a part of these trips.  One could generalize these stories as those of `male bonding` – I like to think of them more as the sharing between brothers, fathers and sons of my second family.  Sharing these stories would betray such sacred trust but you`ll have to take my word that there is far more to these journeys than simply killing.  I am, after all, one of the newer hunters and I`ve been there (full-time) for almost 15 years.

For those of you who have stuck with us through these posts – thank you.  I am sure that they haven`t all been easy to read.  I know (based on traffic), that they are certainly not the most popular subject we have posted on.  Our stats have taken a dramatic hit while posting on hunting and I know it`s been difficult for many to stick with it.  I am not asking for your support or approval – each will make up their own mind.  I simply thank you for sticking it out, keeping an open mind and joining us in thinking about what we eat.  The comments and emails have been honest, open and moving.

It`s time to leave the woods behind and get back to some different topics around food, design and thinking about what we eat.  I hope you have enjoyed and, again, thank you for your support and curiosity.  Writing these posts has been some of the most difficult writing I have ever done.

Moose Hunt – Day 8 – A Rainy Friday

8.30AM
Late fall turned into early winter yesterday.  I can’t beleive the difference in the last 8-15 days (since the start of the hunt and the end of canadian Thanksgiving).

Some snow started last night and the morning ground is crisp with frost.  I’m back to where I’ve spent most of my watches this week on Wolf Road.  Waiting.

We’re down to 12 men now – we’ll be at 10 by nightfall.  The meat was taken to the butcher today (ironic since the temperature is now plenty enough to hold it but we had to honour our appointment).

You can’t bring game to just any butcher – our laws and regulations are far too prohibitive.  A butcher has to clear it’s shop of all domestic meat, clean, process the game, empty it out of their shop and clean again.  This can be especially difficult as a balance of regular customers and a flood of animals are balanced (regular customers have to shop elsewhere during processing and cannot buy meat from wild game as its sale is illegal in Ontario).

Our butcher – a new one to us in the last few years is an oddity in that he disects the entire animal with only the aid of a knife.  He does not use saws or other such technology.  I can’t imagine the skill involved in preparing our meals like this.

Moose Hunt – Day 8 – A Rainy Friday wellpreservedgoesmoosehunting November

we’ve also decided to have some sausage done (I beleive) this year.  It’s been years since I’ve had moose sausage and it’s an exciting promise.  The meat is mixed with about 30% pork (mostly fat) to create a rich taste of the hunt.  This also makes moose a breakfast option and it’s nice to have the variety.

Another hunter just made a moose call – this represents the start of the hunt.  Time to watch.  And listen.

10.20
First run is over.  Holding ground – doggers are walking a circle (about 4 kilometers) to start the hunt again from a different angle.  Waiting.

11.00AM
Run hasn’t started.  Still holding.  Cold.

Moose Hunt – Day 8 – A Rainy Friday wellpreservedgoesmoosehunting November

11.10
3 moose are appraently in play.  A dogger has seen signs early on.  This bodes well – there won’t be 3 cows together so there is lkely at least 1 elidgible animal near.  It’s very early in the run though.

11.20
Doggers start.  Waiting.

12:00
2 of 3 doggers are out – we will wait for the third before heading back to camp for warmth and soup.  I’ll have a different outfit on this afternoon, it’s been a bitter morning.

1:50
Back on the watch – out for 2 runs and dressed for winter.  Raining.  Waiting.

3:10
15 minute reset.  here we go again, waiting.

7.00
I was out until dark fell once again.  Though I haven’t written about most of my evening hunts, I have been out each and every night this week until near dark.  I tend to jump on the ATV and go for a ride through the woods on the off chance I will see something.  I also like to keep an eye on who is in the forest these days (in terms of other camps and road hunters).

The early week was great for evening hunts.  I nearly froze solid last evening and I thought I was going to be washed away tonight.  I drove almost 40 kilometers on an ATV in the cold rain this evening with little to show from it.  My gear will have to hang for a long time in the sauna to dry for the morrow.

Rain is tough to hunt in for those who wear glasses (myself included).  You run out of dry material to clear your glasses very quickly and impaired vision is a definitive hinderance.  Rain also fills the woods with sounds and hearing anything becomes a very difficult task.  Of course it also has a nasty side effect of erasing any footprints.  If all of that were not bad enough, many animals also hunker down and don’t like to move about in the rain.  Unless you are tracking through the woods (of which I don’t nearly have the talent), hunting in the rain calls for a lot of luck or a good team of doggers.  Solo hunting on an ATV in the rain is akin to buying a lottery ticket – you know you will likely fail but have to play just to confirm that.

As I drove a certain section of road I noticed that 5 chickadees emerged from the forest and flew by my side for a few hundred feet.  This little act was barely notable except for the fact that they have been coming out to greet me every time I pass this stretch of road.  It’s happened 6 or 7 times this week at the same place.  It is always the same number at the same spot and I assume that these are the same group.  I’ve now been in these woods for 8 days and this is the type of observation and interaction that you can only make after staying in the woods for a solid chunk of time like this.  I feel welcomed by them and glad to be part of their week.

I called home on my way back to camp.  It was a brief chat – tough to talk for too long when one is virtually swimming in the early dark and cold of winter’s start.

We laughed at ourselves toady – if people knew how often we simply sat still in the rain and/or cold I think they would calculate that we are daft.  I’m pretty sure they’d be right.  Time to relax with the guys, have a few beer and warm back up – tomorrow is the first Saturday hunt in a long time.

Moose Hunt – Day 7 – Time for chores before more fun in the woods

Moose Hunt – Day 7 – Time for chores before more fun in the woods wellpreservedgoesmoosehunting November

1.45PM
A very different pace today – combination of rain and “3 in the tree” has us toiling at camp.  We were becoming concerned that it was too warm to age the meat safelt and we called the butcher for an opnion.  He is full but offered to take our harvest tomorrow.

We skinned, trimmed and quartered the moose today and they are hanging in our dry shed as I write this.  Some of the hunters are taking afternoon watches in the afternoon.  I’m going to get the sauna going before heading out for a late afternoon/ early evening ATV ride and hunt (something I have done every night so far).  Dad is heading to a neighboring camp to visit and pass a message that he’s not going to join them in a visit to a further camp as previously planned.  It’s about 5km away on the bike and reminds me of a time when tribes of natives or settlers sent messengers to deliver news to one another. 

Last night brought another insight as to why we do this.  I need to travel back in time to the afternoon to before last night’s escapades will make any sense.

Yesterday’s shooter made a very difficult shot to connect with the calf yesterday.  It was enough to fatally wound the animal but it did not die instantly.  He waited quietly in hopes that the animal would lie down to rest and pass quickly.  If they feel pursued they often run further away and prolong the inevitable.

When the tracking begain it was easy to find sign.  Two guys tracked the cow and calf to a thick swamp where they could hear the cow guarded her calf.  The trackers were within 30 feet of the cow when I found them – we could not see her through the thick cover.

Moose Hunt – Day 7 – Time for chores before more fun in the woods wellpreservedgoesmoosehunting November

5.30
Plans change fast when you don’t have any – I left mid story to go on two hunts.  I got back to camp around 4.30 (c-c-c-cold).

Back to the previous story…

We could hear the cow growl and threaten.  Some of our party could hear her menace from 500 meters away.  We were much closer and knew the danger.  Two guys had sat in place for about 45 minutes with the intent of waiting her out.  If I hadn’t received a radio message I woulc have accidentally walked in her path.

Two of us got the nerve to approach a little closer as a third watched us and a fourth flanked the swamp to try and get a better view.

It took me about 3 minutes to get 4 feet closer through the thick swamp.  THis is scary business, knowing that she could charge through this terrain at full speed.  I slipped and snapped a twig and she begain to move.  The two of us ran back past where we started like some form of action stars.  It took 6 of us about 45 minutes to scare her off so we could safely harvest the calf.  Danger was present the entire time and we interacted with the cow the entire time.  If you beleive that we are an equal part of nature (and not superior to her), it is a fascinating dance and a dramatic stage.

Although exciting (and I am certain that there is a measure of adrenalin involved), that’s not whay I’m writing about this here – it is simply the back story.

Another massive reason why we do what we do is the opportunity to learn first hand about the world around us.  Last night featured a lot of discussion, sharing and teaching.  Few of us have ever experienced anything close to this.  We discussed and emulated the sounds we heard. debated what they meant and determined what we could isolate and learn from the experience.

Understand that some of our party have 50 years of experience in the woods and as hunters.

A moment of tension was broken when one of the guys snuck up behind 2 others and growled loudly.  A panic worthy of Looney Toones followed.

One hunter lamented over last years hunt.  It now seems that sounds he heard last year and thought were bear were more likely those of a cow calling her a seperated calf.  If we knew then what we know now, the results of the hunt may have had different fortunes than they ended with.

When tracking the second Calf, I used a technique that had been taught to me last year after losing a trail.  It is quite possible (and even probable), that without this knowlege, the trail may have been lost this year.

Regardless, 3 hours in the woods, rain and sleet has me cold and tired (even though I’ve been back for 90 minutes).  Time for a nap before a big meal.

8.01PM
Steak night – always a highlight.  They are cooked over a wood fire which is built inside a tire rim.

I missed seeing visitors tonight – 3 acquaintences of camp were driving 25 kilometers off road and returning to their homes.

It sounds like most guys are calling home to make arrangements to stay an extra day in case the bull is not captured tomorrow.  We would all like to get home on Saturday – tomorrow is a big day.

Moose Hunt – Day 6 – Half way through moose season

7.40AM
It’s day 3 of the 6-day moose season in our region.Today is a very different day from the last 2 – for one thing I know that my chances of seeing a moose have dramatically dropped.  And I’m OK with that.

I’m a dogger today – I wait for the others to get into position and then for the woods to settle around them before walking through the heart of the forest to them.  There are no trails in this country – a compass and GPS form a close bond with me today.  Neither one is foolproof – I nearly spent a night in the woods about 5 years ago even though I knew I was less than 500 meters from the road and my waiting friends.  Everywhere I looked was bathed in 4-6 feet of icy water.  At that point your GPS, radio and compass offer limited support and staying calm is the closest thing you have to a tool.

Moose Hunt – Day 6 – Half way through moose season wellpreservedgoesmoosehunting November

(A faraway shot just sounded – it isnt’ likely us).

My clothes are very different today.  I’m only sitting for about an hour before trudging through the forest.  I’m in layers and dressed relatively lightly; it gets hot fast.  I am also wearing very soft material including a lot of polar fleece.  This gives me the option to be as quiet as I want when walking through the thickest parts of the bush.  A doggers job is to make noise to “push” the animals towards our line of friends but the option of stealth always has a time and place.

Dogging has a fantastic rythym to it and I love it.  I’m 800 meters away from my destination right now and it will take me 2-3 times that distance as I meander through the bush.  Fresh track could take me even further.  I’ll only walk 5-10 steps at a time before pausing, listening and looking around.  The forest has her own rythym and I will try to study it.

I will also be walking differently today than I normally do in the city – a technique called “flat footed.”  A human foot touches the ground twice for every step (heel before ball of foot).  There are no animals in the woods which share this trait – a double snap of a twig caused by human feet is a dead giveaway of a threat.  Each step I take requires careful placement of my foot flat on the surface of the forest floor.

Moose Hunt – Day 6 – Half way through moose season wellpreservedgoesmoosehunting November

8.02AM
2 Shots rang off.  Definitely us.  A third shot.  My heart is pumping.  Radio call – 3 shots were taken at a calf.  The calf is with a cow which we no longer have a license for and the shooter passes up the larger animal for that reason.  He isn’t sure that his shots connected – will confirm in due time.  He mentions that he can still hear the two animals; I can barely pick up the fading radio signals.

This is a very different year compared to last year – not a single shot or even a sighting of moose (until deer season).

It sounds like the animals have moved.  Another guy on the line confirms that her hears them moving.  We are all holding tight.

Weather plays many roles in the hunt.  We currently have about 1,200 pounds of moose (this will be far less in actual meat once butchered) hanging in our shed right now.  We want to drain and age the meat as long as possible without it rotting.  This becomes impossible if it gets too warm.  The last 2 days have been beautiful which puts a difficult decision on the table – the balance of aging them versus rotting (which is simply not an option we will accept).  We’ll know how warm it’s going to get in an hour or two and that will push our hand.  It may be time to head to the butcher once this hunt is over.

If it continues to get warm, we will lose the afternoon hunt.  Skinning, trimming and quartering 2 moose is plenty of work to keep us busy for a number of hours.  Ideally we’ll wait until closer to the weekend and hopefully have a Bull to go eith them.  Like preserving, the additional quantity seems to increase the work only marginally.

8.22
Static on the radio – dangerous half messages.  I think the calf is wounded and a sudden change of plans ensue.  The shooter is quietly tracking the calf and our line is now broken.  He will place ribbons through the trees as he goes and has asked us doggers to hold still.  Suddenly I’m a watcher and he’s a dogger – a cold day would be a real strugle in this outfit but today’s weather is looking after me.  Sitting.  Waiting.  Listening.

8.36
The rumble of a truck and trailer bounce across the main logging road (about 400 meters away).  Road hunters.  More about them later – Dad is done walking a small loop and it’s time to huddle with the doggers before deciding what to do.

8.42
Taking watches, waiting for an update.

8.53
Call is in – time to start the push.  I’ll be looking for sign, walking with purpose.

1.52PM
My heart is back in my throat.  En route to our second run and it’s raining.  I had a call that a big black bear was headed my way.  I saw two flashes as he past in a full run.  Too wet to write much more.

5.34
A long, wet afternoon comes to a merciful end.  After two hours of bouncing through unforgiving terrain (including swaps that swallow you to the knee), fallen trees that make you scale them and hills that seem to only go the wrong direction) it was back to camp to finish cleaning the heart and liver from this morning.  A quick call home to Dana before she leaves for a concert (Metric) that I’d love to be at.  Body is sore and tired but it’s been a good day.

The afternoon hunt was lacking much drama after the quick glimpse of the bear.  Another dogger saw a buck (adult male deer) near me before we started and that was all any of us saw for the rest of the hunt.

The morning was more eventful.  The calf was indeed hit and it was successfully tracked until it settled down in the cover of a swamp and we couldn’t get close.  The cow, protected by our lack of license and the heavy brush of a forest that  looked more like Dagobah (Yoda’s home in StarWars) than Huntsville.  She growled, snarled and hissed at us from 30 feet away (we could not see her in the thick bush).  At 1,000+ pounds and eight feet high, this is no idle threat and must be taken very seriously.

It’s amazing how a moose will protect its young like this.

Is it upsetting to think of an adult trying to protect it’s young offspring like this?  The answer is a very personal one and I am certain that’s different for each of us (meaning hunters as well as readers here).

Many of our crew are FireFighters.  My Father was one for 37 years.  I have learned that their unique view of many things, including death, is very different than most.  I think the same skew is granted to the children of these families – it was a consistent reality as a child that my Father could lose his life every time he went to work.  I had to learn to reconcile the intricate dance between life and death and the constant threat surgically removed some of the stigma of death.

Many of the guys grew up rurally where death of livestock is far more common to them than many of us who live in cities.  The view for many is simply altered by exposure.

I have a different twist altogether.  I have technically died twice and am certain I view life differently than I would have otherwise.  There’s a sadness for me but also a recognition that it is what it is.  I can’t fully explain this yet.

The short and easy answer is that I find it sad – deeply sad – but reconcilable.  I have justified it by comparing it to commercial agriculture practices (that I know little about in actuality), calculated the low survival rate of small calves like this one and looked for other answers.  I now simplify the entire process and accept it as sad and part of nature’s cycle – a part in which I play a measured role.  I will reflect on the spirit and acrifice of the animals we have culled.  in the meantime I will cherish the sustenance of body and soul that each provided us.

Our focus qill quickly move to finding a bull that has, so far, eluded us.

Moose Hunt – Day 5 – Second Day of the season

10.10AM
Woods are alarmingly still today.  It was a late start and Ive been on watch for about an hour.

It turned out that yesterdays final hauil was a cow and a calf.  I was relevied to see the cow met a quicker end than I originally thought – she was found less than 100 yards from where she was shot.

The rest of the day got busy fast.  It took about 5 hours to clean the animals, bring them back to camp and hang them (this is far shorter than when the camp started and the hunters would have to drag the moose by hand).  It was a successful hunt and a small celebration followed.  It is a definite releif that last years skunk is now a memory and not a streak of no luck.

Our land offers many luxuries to us – including the second spot known as flat rock.  It is a high point of land that, when all things fall into place, offers a cellphone signal.

Moose Hunt – Day 5 – Second Day of the season wellpreservedgoesmoosehunting November

I drove to flat rock last night to make calls home and thought of a few more traditions that may be interesting to share here.

The first is the phone call itself.  When I was young my Father would call on the Wednesday of the hunt.  Being pre-cellphone, this meant a tricky drive to town – up to 3 hours each way, often sitting on the flatbed of a hay wagon dragged behind a tractor.  A 30-minute car ride to town followed the wagon ordeal after a long day of hunting.

We still make our Wednesday call (for the most part) but the short drive to flat rock on the ATV shortens the process and allows for a call on special occasions like yesterday.

I got to flat rock around 9.00PM and made my first call.  By the time I made my second, flat rock was crawling with 3 others doing the same thing.  A fourth was on his way when I made my way back to camp.

Im not exactly sure why we call home after a successful hunt – it is something I do without thought.  Perhaps it is to seek approval ot to share news or to share excitement.  I dont know why we call after some successful hunts but not after others.  I wonder if, perhaps, there is some ancient program set in our brains which calculates that we have somehow provided for our families and want to let them know.  Maybe we are glowing or gloating.    Maybe we just want to be the one to be able to tell someone for the first time.

I dont know why the call is so important (beyond the obvious of wanting and needing to talk to those you love) but, having been on both sides of those calls my entire life, I know there is something special to them.

We missed the calls a few times as a child – getting a message was a bittersweet tonic; perhaps that is what finally reveals to me the importance of these calls – a connection to the outside that, in some way, teleports those we cherish to our sides during the important moments of a week we value deeply.

I also wanted to share my non-hunting Mothers reaction to the news of animals.  Delight would be the closest emotion I could describe.  She knows the work that goes into this – in fact she can take credit for her share of it.  It was her and friend Judy that filled the holes in the road with rocks (she has her own ATV and connects the trailer to it to do road work while Dad does other tasks).  She has spent 30-45 days here in the late summer and early fall and traipsed the woods with my Father looking for signs, patterns and animals.  My Father ensured that she was included in the toast as part of our traditional thanks to all involved in the hunt (which is always followed by a generous pour of anything alcoholic).

Moose Hunt – Day 5 – Second Day of the season wellpreservedgoesmoosehunting November

We cleaned the heart and liver last night – we are going to try to cook it this evening.  It is something we dont have a lot of experience with – I hope, in part, to change that.

It also occurred to me last night that we could try to get the bones of the animals and preserve stock for the winter with our pressure canner.  This is now a high priority and arrangements have been made for me to take the animals to the butcher and ask.  It is a very exciting prospect for me – as is any chance of using more of the animals that we harvest.

A final note as I have been writing for too long.  I have become quite adept at cleaning a moose and now feel I could do it without guidance if I had to.  While that isnt likely to happen, this could be very useful for deer (and that is certainly a possibility).

Other than 1 very loud chipmunk, it is shatteringly quiet here – my ears are actually ringing from silence and lack of wind.

1.20PM
Almost missed brunch.  I forgot my radio in the morning clamor and had a very quiet run.  The guys went past me unnoticed by 12.00.  I figured they were gone and started walking out when I met up with two who had come back looking for me.  A little embarassing but no real fault.  I am back on the watch where I started yesterday morning for 2 more runs before dark.  Waiting.

2.30PM
First run just ended.  Moving about 100 yards off trail to get ready for the next one.  Time to wait.

3.10PM
I learned how to make lemon confit while sitting on watch.  If I get it started right after moose it will be close to ready by the December Holiday season.  I am contemplating why traditions like these have not continued more commonly.

4.11PM
Grey feels like dark is coming early.  Reports have crossed the radio of a possible moose moving 3 watches (a few hundred yards) away.  A lot of distance – and hunters – between me and it.

4.17
Moose turned.  It is now closer – between 1 and 2 watches away.  Possibly headed back towards the doggers.

4.23
Confirmation has come in that the moose is likely headed this way on radio.  Mind games have been setting in for 3 minutes (had to put journal down there as those games continue).  I swear a hear something far away coming.  It is tough to keep heart and breathing regular and I must do so in case I have a sighting – it is difficult to aim otherwise.

It is starting to rain lightly; tough to hear anything now.  A radio call comes through – the doggers are out (2 of 3).  The hunt may have ended just that suddenly.  I am waiting to hear more – 7 hours of sitting for 7 minutes of possibly hearing something.  It is a game of deep patience.

(As a note of interest, retyping these words has brought back the tightness in my chest that I felt at the moments I scrawled this in pen originally).

As a side note, rain is 10 minutes in and still a gentle sprinkle.  I have yet to feel a single drop (3 open books are still dry).  I am sitting under a hemlock tree on the downward side of a hill; the lack of wind and thick green cover keeps me dry.

4.34
Back to waiting.  The excitement I had likely imagined is now over.  2 of 3 doggers have been out for some time – the last is turned around in a swamp.  He just called to say that the batteries in his GPS (Global Positioning Satelite) just died.  He knows our general direction and has asked us to whistle so he can confirm his assumption.  We have been whistling loud enough for our entire line of hunters to hear – but the dogger cannot hear it.  He is going to walk for another 5 minutes before trying the whistle again.

The misplaced dogger is an experienced woodsman and this is fairly routine so far – it is enough to get the heart going with many of us.

A twist now plays out – our lost hunter encounters a very fresh, very large moose track.  A tough decision to be made by him with darkness coming as he stumbles upon me.  Apparently that moose was very close – it is time to pack and go, the hunt is over.

5.11PM
I am 15 feet high in the forest ceiling.  The group hunt is over for most and many are back at camp unwinding and drying out.  I am testing my new moose call at an area we cleared on Sunday.  It is a lonely area at best and it is my new home until darkness falls.

Height has some natural advantages – perspective, range and less ground level scent.  There are also many disadvantages – mobility, reduced field of view (there is no spinning around up here in this small chair), and possibly tougher shooting to adjust for height.

It feels somehow cooler up here – like suddenly I am more of a hunter or know more than I actually do.  Of course this stand does not make me a better hunter – using it with the little knowledge I have may actually somehow hinder my overall skill.  But I do try.  And I wait.

12.00ISH (Midnight)
I finish the jounral from my bunk tonight.

A crack of thunder ended my perch.  From there I travelled the roads by ATV hoping to fluke a sighting.  I only saw 3 other groups of hunters – one of them being friendly with us and the other two unknown.

2 of us made a brine for the heart and tongues and they are bathing.  I am proud that we are using more of the animal and glad I brought the cookbooks I did for inspiration.  The alarm will ring at 6.00AM and I must make a very qucik move – I am dogging tomorrow.  There will be different gear and mindset and a lot more moving.  Will update then.

Not Far From the Tree – End of Season Party and a chance to win

WHEN WE POSTED THE FOLLOWING, THERE WERE STILL TICKETS AVAILABLE -SORRY (YET EXCITED) TO ANNOUNCE IT IS NOW SOLD OUT…

Remember Not Far From the Tree?

They are hosting an end of season party – Dana and I won’t be able to make it (she’s in pottery and I’ll be in Glasgow, Scotland) this Thursday evening.

Not Far From the Tree   End of Season Party and a chance to win November

We are donating some preserves and a preserving workshop (just like the one in the link above to see what it was like) as one of the door prizes.

It’s a mere $10 to attend (though I’m sure they would accept other donations to this amazing cause) and you can buy tickets here.  If you go we’d love to hear your experience in the comments – wish we could be there with ya!

Moose Hunt – Day 4 – The season opens and our first hunts

07.15
5:00AM came early.  I was last out of bed and coffee couldn’t come fast enough.

Most (including me) were in bed early; the last went to bed around midnight.  My Father popped out of bed at 11.30PM and thought it was time for the hunt – it’s like Christmas morning for grownups.

I’m on Wolf Road sitting near a creek – we call this place Flat Rock (one of two different places with the same name).  The grey sky is turning blue, weather is around freezing.  The doggers (these three guys sit in the woods like us for about an hour before getting up and walking through the deep forest towards us – in theory “pushing” any animals between toward us sitting on watches) will start their walk around 8.30.  All is quiet except for a single hunter who has gone back to camp to get his ammunition clips (and I’ve just realized that I’m not sure he knows where the keys are as I write this).

Moose Hunt – Day 4 – The season opens and our first hunts wellpreservedgoesmoosehunting November

8.30-9.00AM
Sun is starting to throw shadows.  Radio call came in – moose sighted on the watch next to me and is heading further from me to the next guy down the line.  I am less than 200 yards from a moose right now, waiting, listening, focus.  Heart is picking up speed – no clear sight (or shot) for anyone.  Yet.

9,30

First run just ended.  One of the doggers saw a buck (adult male deer) – he was alerted to the animal as it rubbed its antlers against a tree.  When the dogger stopped suddenly the deer got spooked and ran.  Two of the hunters had a brief sighting of a moose (that’s more than we had in 5 days last year).  One of them only saw legs and the other had a brief look at the side – gender and age are unknown.  Dad followed it’s tracks on his dogging run – figures it is a large adult.

2 of the watchers now move position and the rest of our group of sitters now rotate 180 degrees and face the other way.  We figure the moose ran between two of our sitters and past our line.  he doggers will push from the other side and I will sit in the same spot (facing the other way) for the next 1.5-2.5 hours.

Moose Hunt – Day 4 – The season opens and our first hunts wellpreservedgoesmoosehunting November

It’s a good start to the hunt – so close.

10.00AM
Moing animals cause chaos to our formation – moving chess pieces on a board with infinite spaces (and a fininte number of “good” moves) is made increasingly complex by our attempts to avoid getting lost or standing in the line of gunfire.  It’s taken over an hour and most of us are sitting within 100 feet of where we started.  I made a big move of about 100 yards.  Time to sit.  Wait.  Quiet.

Shot went off.  It was close.  Second shot.  The radios are silent.  Heart racing.  Moments take forever.  Code 2 just came in – this means that a cow (adult female) is down.

Adrenalin is rushing – meat for winter is now a certainty.  There is a bittersweetness that comes with the cull for me.  A formal excitement crossed with the reality of death of an animal I beleive I have love and respect for.

A correction has come across the radio – Code 2 has been changed to a code 1 – a young bull calf is down.  Having a bull, cow and many calf tags offer luxuries of choice and calls are always made on the safe side (too many of the wrong age and gender are a significant problem that we simply cannot afford).  Our tags grant a luxury to the first shooter of not needing to confirm age and gender – from now on we have to confirm both before firing.

The message of the young bull is relayed through the line.  We all stay in position – the hunt will continue until the doggers come back to the line and then we’ll work on cleaning and hanging the animal.

10.15AM
Possible cow sighting.  Holding tight.

This is a massive contrast from last year which saw us hunt for 4 days before even finding fresh sign of moose and coming home empty handed.

10.35
Another shot.  Big cow sighted – could be headed this way.  It’s a game of waiting and patience – the radio is once again silent.  She is between us and the doggers and a large lake forms the base of our trap.

More gunfire and reports that she is hit.  It’s an uncanny morning of action and an irregular hunt.

Reports of the cow – she has been hit and is on the run.  It’s not something that we like – it’s the worst part of the deal in fact.  A wounded animl does not paint a positive mental picture in my mind – the ideal happens when an animal is dropped without ever hearing the bang of the gun.  It really can be that quick.

Everyone sits tight.  A single dogger quietly tracks her trail  If she is not chased she will likely lie down and speed the ending.  We hear periodic reports on the radio and wait.  Of course she could have already passed and simply be waiting to be found as well.

It’s been about 20 minutes since the shots and they’re losing the trail.  Time for the tracker to sit still as well – this promotes the chance of her lying down.  We will resume the tracking after a small passage of time and track her past sunset if needed.  This could be a long day ahead.

11.05AM
The doggers are back to tracking the cow.  Radio traffic is getting heavy and it’s clearly an uneasy time until we find the cow.  Tension is apparant in voices – it reminds me of those TV shows which track the Alaskan Crab Fishermen.

This was the end of writing for the day, tomorrows post fills in the void of what happened from 11.05 onwards…  See you then!