Canadian Food Experience: My Fall Harvest is Hunting Moose

This is our fifth month participating in the Canadian Food Experience Project which began June 7 2013. As more than 80 participants share our collective stories across the vastness of our Canadian landscape through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity through the cadence of our concerted Canadian voice. This months theme is the fall harvest.  You can see all of our posts in this series here.

Unlike last month’s theme (preserving) which turned out to be a painful exercise in choosing a topic; this month’s was an easy pick for me.  We’ve been challenged to write about the Canadian Harvest.  In my case, that means hunting.

Regular readers know that I publish my hunting diary each year (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013).  They’re long and somewhat (intentionally) boring.  It’s my hope that reading the posts simulate the experience of the hunt which involves prolonged periods of quiet solitude contrasted with moments of physical and mental tests that almost dares you to continue.

Canadian Food Experience: My Fall Harvest is Hunting Moose November moose Canadian Food Experience [Read more...]

Moose Hunt 2013 – Days 7 and 8

This is our 5th year of writing about hunting; if you’re new to our posts on the subject, here’s a few things you should know.  1) There will be no gory photos (if we change this decision in the future you will have ample warning before scrolling to see them).  2)  We eat everything we hunt; in years that our cabin doesn’t kill animals, we eat far less meat (and already live on a meat-reduced diet).  3)  If you’re looking for the basics of where to start or how I’ve decided to do this (even after years of living as a near-vegetarian), my article An Introduction To Hunting in Ontario (Moose, Deer and Birds; Confessions of a one-time “Vegetarian” is a great place to start.  4) This series will run through Friday.  You can find this years series here.

Thursday, October 24th, 2013.  8:30AM

We got off to a slow start this morning.

The pressure is off the hunt and we only have calf tags left.  There’s no great passion in harvesting (killing) calves except:

  1. 1 out of 2 will perish through the winter.  Culling calves (in much the same way that other herds and plants) will make more food available to the survivors.  The hunt is a controlled hunt meant to maximize the population for future hunts (and others to enjoy as well of course).
  2. It’s good learning and we’re here to hunt.  As someone who’s hunted for 25 years and never had the opportunity to shoot anything larger than a bird, the challenge looms over my head.  I’m sure that’s difficult for some to read but it’s the full truth – I’ve never had the opportunity to shoot a moose and I won’t know if I can until the opportunity presents itself, thus it’s something I long for. [Read more...]

Moose Hunt 2013 – Day 6

This is our 5th year of writing about hunting; if you’re new to our posts on the subject, here’s a few things you should know.  1) There will be no gory photos (if we change this decision in the future you will have ample warning before scrolling to see them).  2)  We eat everything we hunt; in years that our cabin doesn’t kill animals, we eat far less meat (and already live on a meat-reduced diet).  3)  If you’re looking for the basics of where to start or how I’ve decided to do this (even after years of living as a near-vegetarian), my article An Introduction To Hunting in Ontario (Moose, Deer and Birds; Confessions of a one-time “Vegetarian” is a great place to start.  4) This series will run through Friday.  You can find this years series here.

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013.  5:15AM

I woke up with a playful kick to the pillow.  It was my Father.  “Time to get up Joel.”

Despite feeling very rested, I would have loved to have stayed in bed.  The cabin was cold and dark and my bunk was warm in cozy.  I could hear from the pitter-patter on the roof that it was drizzling and wet outside.  I didn’t want any part of it but pushed myself to slide out of my bed.

Despite being a fairly regular coffee drinker, I rarely drink it on weekends or during holidays, including hunting.  I made an exception on Wednesday morning and warmed my hands on a warm cup of coffee as the camp slowly came to life.

We were heading back to the same ground we’ve hunted all three mornings.  We made the decision last evening after a decent debate; there’s a delicate balance between hunting an area that has fresh sign (a good thing) and over-hunting it and possibly pushing the animals out of the area to parts unknown.  The first two days of hunting have been fruitful but tension was starting to creep in as it was suddenly apparent that the hunt would be more than halfway complete by sundown and we hadn’t taken a shot yet.  It was still a mildly hot-topic of discussion as the day began.

But a plan is a plan… [Read more...]

Moose Hunt 2013 – Day 4 (continued) and 5

This is our 5th year of writing about hunting; if you’re new to our posts on the subject, here’s a few things you should know.  1) There will be no gory photos (if we change this decision in the future you will have ample warning before scrolling to see them).  2)  We eat everything we hunt; in years that our cabin doesn’t kill animals, we eat far less meat (and already live on a meat-reduced diet).  3)  If you’re looking for the basics of where to start or how I’ve decided to do this (even after years of living as a near-vegetarian), my article An Introduction To Hunting in Ontario (Moose, Deer and Birds; Confessions of a one-time “Vegetarian” is a great place to start.  4) This series will run through Friday.  You can find this years series here.

Monday, Oct 21st – 12:01PM

The second hunt was fruitless.  It wasn’t frustrating, there just wasn’t a whole lot of sign and there was an increasing amount of rain.

Rain means three things to doggers:

  1. You are going to get soaked.  There’s no avoiding it.  Wearing a poncho is of no use – it means that you’ll sweat your way through your clothes and get wet from the inside out.  Waterproof clothing helps to some degree but eventually water will fall from trees and pour down your neck or soak through your clothes.
  2. Hunting is far more difficult.  Rain is surprisingly loud in the middle of the forest and it’s almost impossible to hear animals moving through the woods because of the noise.
  3. Animals tend to move less and many will run for the cover of swamps and thick forest.  When I’m dogging in the rain I tend to walk through the thickest forest and toughest swamps in hopes to push something out.  This means tough walking and more opportunity to get wet.

[Read more...]

Moose Hunt 2013 – Day 4 – Day 1 of the Hunt (Part 1)

This is our 5th year of writing about hunting; if you’re new to our posts on the subject, here’s a few things you should know.  1) There will be no gory photos (if we change this decision in the future you will have ample warning before scrolling to see them).  2)  We eat everything we hunt; in years that our cabin doesn’t kill animals, we eat far less meat (and already live on a meat-reduced diet).  3)  If you’re looking for the basics of where to start or how I’ve decided to do this (even after years of living as a near-vegetarian), my article An Introduction To Hunting in Ontario (Moose, Deer and Birds; Confessions of a one-time “Vegetarian” is a great place to start.  4) This series will run through Friday.  You can find this years series here.

5:00AM

Chaos.

The alarm goes off and guys jump out of bed – or that’s how it seems to me.  More than half our cabin either are or were firefighters.  They don’t question the alarm clock – it beckons them to service and they are obligated to answer the call.  There’s a flurry of activity as guys scramble to get to the kitchen where they wait for the coffee to percolate until it’s strong enough to to rise them from the dullness of sleep.

I usually sleep through all of it.

I routinely wake up between 5:00AM and 6:00AM at home – but my bunk at the camp swallows me deeper than the city ever could.  The darkness of the cabin doesn’t compete with the bright lights or screeching street cars that the city offers.  My bunk prefers to offer me a stone silence (often interrupted by the roars of men snoring during the hunt) and a darkness that is so stark that I struggle to see my hand even when it touches my face. [Read more...]

Moose Hunt 2013 – Days 1-3 (Part 1 of 5) – Before the Hunt

This is our 5th year of writing about hunting; if you’re new to our posts on the subject, here’s a few things you should know.  1) There will be no gory photos (if we change this decision in the future you will have ample warning before scrolling to see them).  2)  We eat everything we hunt; in years that our cabin doesn’t kill animals, we eat far less meat (and already live on a meat-reduced diet).  3)  If you’re looking for the basics of where to start or how I’ve decided to do this (even after years of living as a near-vegetarian), my article An Introduction To Hunting in Ontario (Moose, Deer and Birds; Confessions of a one-time “Vegetarian” is a great place to start.  4) This series will run through Friday.  You can find this years series here.

Friday, October 18th

I’m back!  It’s been three or four years since I’ve arrived for moose hunting on the Friday night instead of Saturday afternoon.  Recent years have kept me away until the Saturday because of annual work event.  The agenda changed this year so I got to come into camp on Friday instead of Saturday.

And I’m so happy!

Arriving Friday night means I am greeted by all the retired guys (who head into camp on Wednesday or Thursday).  It’s the calm before the storm; a chance to absorb the woods and get some quality time in before the chaos of a full camp takes over.  This year is bound to be less chaotic; like many of the hunt camps in Ontario, our members are getting older and the nights are getting quieter.  At 40 years old, I’m still one of the ‘young guys.’

I’ve hunted with most of these guys (on and off) for 25 years.  I’ve spent more than 7 months combined time with them – 7 months away from their kids (unless they hunt with us too) and spouses.  I don’t speak to most of them a lot through the year but they are close friends – men you great with a burley hug and that leave you with a bit of an empty spot when they leave you.

Being a hunter means that I have friends – close friends – who are in a very different age range than I am.  Some of my close friends are more than twice my age (which wasn’t so unusual at 20 but becomes mathematically challenging as I continue to accumulate birthdays).  The unusual pace of friendship (10 remote days locked into a cabin together and then months of not talking), makes the savage effects of time really easy to see.  Without going into details that the guys would feel uncomfortable with, several are struggling with major illness, many can’t physically do what they used to and some have been sidelined due to injuries (including a fully dislocated ankle) that didn’t seem to happen when we were all younger. [Read more...]

How to Cook a Heart (Moose in this case)

Heart is rich comfort food that splits the difference between liver and other more common muscles.  I find it best when it’s slow braised in lots of liquid and it can be easily prepared in a slow cooker in a pot on a bbq using indirect heat.

How to Cook a Heart (Moose in this case) Offal nose to tail moose Heart December [Read more...]

Have a Heart? How (and why) to Brine it…

When I grew up, we rarely ate the heart of the animals we harvested (although we did have another tradition involving it that’s best told in person – so if we ever meet, you’ll have to ask!)

The main reason for not consuming it?  We just didn’t know what to do.  A few of the hunters I hunt with have been on a mission to use a few of the ‘odd bits’ in the last few years and we’ve had a great success with hearts in the last few years.  I’ve also seen them for sale at farmers markets and they tend to be remarkably affordable compared to other parts of the animal.

Have a Heart? How (and why) to Brine it... Offal November nose to tail moose Heart [Read more...]

Moose Hunter Diaries (2012) – Day 2 – Quiet as a Monk

This is the second in an 8-part mini-series chronicling my experiences in the 2012 Ontario Moose Hunt.  You can find the entire series here (it will update daily as it’s published) or check out previous years (2009, 2010, 2011).  The posts appear exactly one-week after they were experienced.

Grey and drippy.  This weather makes me feel a bit like I’m living within a Salvidor Dali painting and I’m just waiting for the forest to start melting.

Moose Hunter Diaries (2012)   Day 2   Quiet as a Monk October moose [Read more...]