Showing posts with label Hunting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hunting. Show all posts

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Resources for New Hunters

From time to time I get asked by friends who know someone who is interested in learning more about hunting to recommend where they should start.  If you know where to look, there are lots of great resources for new hunters and hunting curious people.

I'll break this down into 3 categories, hunting curious people, hunter education, and new hunters.

 

 

Resources for Hunting Curious People


If you didn't grow up around hunting, you may have negative preconceptions or concerns about hunting.  I know I did. Also, the whole idea of hiking through the woods and shooting an animal might seem completely scary or foreign, not to mention the whole idea of gutting and butchering.

Why do you hunt?


Why I hunt comes down to food and being outdoors. It is very hard to explain how, in spite of camping and hiking for my whole life, it wasn't until I became a hunter that I really felt I fully appreciated BC's nature and beauty.  Learning about animals and their habitat, and then spending the long weeks in their world that it takes to have a chance to harvest one is unlike any other experience.  The best part of it all is being able to cook and share meals with friends, while telling the story of the adventure that made that meal possible.

Venison Osso Buco


There are many reasons why people hunt.  For some tradition plays a role, for others food is a great incentive, but I think for all hunters, it is because they love being in nature and how rewarding the whole experience is.  One thing is for sure, it's hard to put it in words. 1Campfire does a great job of distilling all of that into a couple of short videos.

 1campfire.com

What is hunting like?


Many people have concerns about hunting that stem from when the worst of the worst ends up on the 6 o'clock news.  Yes, there are slob hunters out there who are just yahoo-macho-rednecks with guns.  They make us all look bad and, unfortunately, a lot of hunting TV is targeted to them. So, please don't let most hunting TV shows give you the impression about what hunting is really like.  However, there are a couple shows which portray hunting in a way most hunters I know aspire to emulate and practice.




MeatEater on Netflix - The best of the best.  It shows hunting for what it is at the highest level of ethics, conservation, and passion about nature. This is the way everyone I know strives to hunt.  If you want to get an idea of what it's like to go hunting, check out this show.

Other notable shows: Solo Hunter

Do you care about animals?


It may seem reasonable to assume that because hunters kill animals that they don't care about them.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Hunters are the loudest and most persistent advocates for protecting and restoring habitat and wildlife populations.  After spending months or years of one's lifetime in nature, close to animals, it is impossible not to develop a deep passion for protecting the beauty and wildness of untouched places.  A lot of hunters put a lot of time into conservation, political advocacy, and boots on the ground work to restore habitat and help scientists.  A great example is the new Faces of Wildlife podcast.  It highlights important conservation issues and just so happens to be hosted by hunters.

Faces of Wildlife Podcast

Are There Rules You Have to Follow?


It's not obvious to many non-hunters that there are rules that hunters must follow.  Broadly speaking, there are two sets of rules that hunters must follow.  These are the hunting and trapping regulations and Canada's firearms regulations if you plan to hunt with a firearm rather than a bow.


Download here

Canada's firearms licensing and regulations are complex and more information can be found here: http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/en/firearms



Hunter Education


Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Education (CORE)


To become a hunter, you must take a course called the Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Education (CORE) program.  This course teaches all the basics of the current hunting regulations as well as basic outdoor safety and survival.  Additionally, this course teaches you where to find and look up the latest changes in the regulations.

Many organizations and groups offer the CORE program.  You can find a local examiner or organization through the BC Wildlife Federation (BCWF)

https://bcwf.bc.ca/core/

It is also worth checking out EatWild.  They offer the CORE and PAL course, as well as many other outdoor education and hunter skills courses.

https://www.eatwild.ca/

Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL)


Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL)
The Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL) is the licence a person must obtain to own firearms in Canada.  Many organizations offer the firearms safety course required to apply for a PAL.  I recommend that you take a course that includes not only non-restricted firearms (rifles and shotguns), but also restricted firearms (handguns and some specifically restricted rifles).  The addition of the restricted firearms to the course is only a few additional hours and marginal increase in cost, but it will help you become more versed in firearms safety and also means that you don't have to take the whole course again if you decide to take up target shooting with handguns.

New Hunters

Vancouver Hunter


Haha! You're already in the right place!
My most useful posts for new hunters are likely:
First Hunting Trip and Gear List Part 1: Looking After Yourself
First Hunting Trip and Gear List Part 2: Hunting Essentials
Choosing Your First Hunting Rifle

Conservation Groups


For several years I tried to get involved with conservation and meet fellow hunters through various groups.  I tried my fish and game club, the BCWF, and the Wild Sheep Society of BC.  For whatever reason, it never seemed to work out that I could get involved with something my speed until I went to a pint night with the BC chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. The BCBHA holds monthly pint-nights across BC which is a great way to get connected with other hunters, make friends, and dip your toes into conservation with a very low barrier to entry.  To quote Jenny Ly (BHA and Chasing Food Club), "I found my people" when I joined the BCBHA and started attending their monthly pint nights. 

The Region 2 (Lower Mainland) pint night is always the last Thrusday of the month at 7:00pm.  It is usually held at the Burnaby Lakes Rugby Club unless there is a special event (like this January 2020) because they have space to have a meeting while also having a pretty selection of beer. Come check it out and meet hunters!

This month the BCBHA has organized a live podcast instead of the usual pint night.  The event is Jan 30, 2020, 7:00pm. See the event poster and click the link below for tickets.

Click here to buy tickets


Podcasts


Podcasts are downloaded radio programs that you can listen to on your smartphone while you're driving or working. There are many great podcasts that I listen to regularly to stay up to date on hunting issues.  In fact, there are too many to listen to them all.

My top favourites are:

Rookie Hunter Podcast - Hunting from a new hunter in BC perspective
EatWild Podcast - Conservation and hunting education in BC
Faces of Wildlife Podcast - Conservation in BC 
MeatEater Podcast - Conservation and hunting topics mostly in the US
Cutting the Distance Podcast -Tips and Tactics for hunting from an Expert
Cal's Week In Review - Conservation news from across North America

https://www.themeateater.com/listen/cutting-the-distance

YouTube


I use YouTube for learning to call moose and elk, as well as tips for field skills like field dressing game. Type in the skill you want to learn and you'll likely find a very helpful video.


Books


Between the CORE program course manual and the Hunting, Butchering, and Cooking Wild Game book by Steven Rinella, you have most of your hunter skills covered in great detail.

It is also worth purchasing the Backroads Mapbooks for anywhere you plan on hunting.

Magazines



https://www.bcoutdoorsmagazine.com/
BC Outdoors magazine is probably the best and most useful magazine when it comes to resources for hunters.  There is also:

Backcountry Journal https://www.backcountryhunters.org/tags/backcountry_journal

Journal of Mountain Hunting https://journalofmountainhunting.com/

 

 

Other Blogs and Instagram

 

Blogs and Instagram are another great way to learn abotu hunting and get involved.  Definitely check out these:

Chasing Food Club

Chris Pryn on Instagram


Final Thoughts


Everyone is connected to wildlife, whether or not they are aware of it.  Roads, power lines, pipelines, train tracks, and all of our houses exist in the habitat of BC's fish and wildlife.  Becoming a hunter makes you acutely aware of our impact and connection with nature.  I hope more and more people are able to experience and enjoy the outdoors in BC and gain an appreciation for this special place we live.



Wednesday, 21 August 2019

Don't Laugh, But Crocs are the Best!

I love my Crocs so much that they deserve their own post.  I'm not going to lie and claim that I came up with Crocs as being a critical piece of hunting gear.  No, that honour belongs to the Rookie Hunter Podcast.  Fuck! They were right!



Not only do I use my crocs around the house for taking out the trash or doing home renovation, but they are part of my critical kit whenever I am camping or hunting.

After a long day in hunting boots, it is great to take off the boots and pad around camp in a pair of Crocs.  They let your feet and boots air out, reducing moisture and the chance of blisters, and give you space to let your toes wiggle while you're sitting around the fire.  With a pair of wool socks, they are plenty warm for even sub-zero nights sitting around a fire, and as a bonus, they are quick to slip on for a midnight pee.  I've even used them to wade through a river crossing.  They weigh nothing and make no noise so you can strap them to the outside of your pack on backpack hunts.

There is one downside of bringing Crocs hunting.  You might get teased relentlessly.  Trust me, they are just jealous.  You won't be disappointed with having a pair of Crocs, and before you know it, others will be wanting their own too. 

Tuesday, 6 August 2019

First Hunting Trip and Gear List Part 2: Hunting Essentials

It's summer and we're all looking forward to the upcoming fall hunting season.  Last summer I wrote the first part of a guide for hunting-curious people or new hunters who might be accompanying an experienced hunter into the woods for the first time.  Click here to take a look and read Part 1: Looking After Yourself.

For Part 2, we'll assume you now have a PAL (Possession and Acquisition Licence, ie. gun licence), have taken your CORE course (Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Education), and have all the basic skills and equipment from Part 1.


Scenario


So, you've been invited along on a multi-day hunt where the plan is to set up a base camp with wall tents and trailers and strike out daily from there.  What do you need to know and what do you need to bring?

The goal of it all is to have a good time and be invited back.  On the show MeatEater, they call not being invited back OTC, or "Out of The Club".  There are lots of reasons you may become OTC.  Here's some tips on how to avoid that.

Things to Know

 

Committing to the Trip

 

If you're like most of us, you have limited days of vacation per year that you can spend on a hunting trip.  By committing to a trip, it's not just you relying on others, but they are also counting on you.  They may not have invited someone else in favour of taking you. They may have prepared or made special arrangements on your behalf.  They may be counting on your help to deal with logistics.  While flaking out may seem like it's not a big deal to our generation, for a group trip like a hunting trip, flaking can result in serious bad blood.

If you are going to agree to go on a hunting trip with someone then you need to be onboard 100%.  That means you need to prepare for the trip adequately, perhaps physically training, learning about the area and perhaps also procuring the right gear.

Spots, Locations, Campsites are Closely Guarded Secrets

 

The saying "loose lips sink ships" applies to hunting as much as anything.  People and groups guard their spots, locations, and campsite as precious secrets to prevent them from becoming overrun with other hunters.  Finding a good spot to hunt and camp can take years of scouting and trial and error.  If you are being invited to join then the expectation is that you will hold the group's locations secret.  Posting on social media or even telling a close friend the location of a hunt is crossing a line and totally uncool.  Personally, if I am told of a spot, or invited to join a group, I don't even like to say what management unit it is in and I will certainly never take someone there. In fact, if I am going to go hunting with someone, I'll avoid going anywhere near spots that I was shown or told about. 

When I am telling someone about a hunting success and use a vague term like "South of Vanderhoof" some people are very good at effortlessly and casually inserting pointed questions about where exactly and how far along the road with phrases like "Oh yeah, past ####" expecting you'll say yes or no.

If you are "in the club" and have been let in on some prime hunting spots then it is your job to keep those spots a secret, not just for you, but for the group.  I made the mistake of telling people who were camping in the same rec site as our group where I was successful with my first deer and for the next 3 days they hunted my spot.  It was a lesson I learned the hard way and won't make again.

Carpooling and Cargo


Before planning your trip with the group, you should find out who is riding with who and how much space you have for your gear.  If you are sharing a ride with someone it is good to find out early how much space you have for your gear.

Sleeping Arrangements


No one will have any fun if they don't get a good night's sleep.  It's really important to know where you'll be sleeping.  Do you have to bring your own tent? Do you need a cot? Can you just get away with a sleeping bag?  Pro Tip: Bring earplugs, either for yourself or for your tent-mates!

Trip Preparation and Packing


Different groups do things differently.  You may be expected to bring pre-prepared meals to share.  You may have to look after yourself.  You may do a group shopping and have to cook from time to time.  You may have to help pack group equipment.  Ask questions and pull your weight, and then some, if you want to be invited back. Pro Tip: Prepare a tasty dish or dinner for the group.  Everyone likes a good cook!

Know the Current Rules


A few years ago while hanging around the campfire a debate broke out about bag limits, regional vs. provincial, for deer.  There were as many opinions about the rules as there were people around the campfire.  As the newbie of the group, I was pretty sure I had the most recent knowledge from my CORE course the previous year, but rather than make an fool of myself I decided to go get the regulations and read them aloud for the group.  After that, more than a few people were surprised at the current rules.

Rules change from year to year.  Most recently, one of the changes was the rules about evidence of sex and species for deer and ungulates.  Each time the regulations are printed, the changes are highlighted in bold green text, but nevertheless, people often miss the rule changes.  Ignorance of a rule change is not an excuse in the eyes of a conservation officer, so don't put your group-mates in a difficult position by making a mistake because you aren't aware of the current rules.

Meat Sharing


Every group has different practices and traditions when it comes to sharing meat.  Don't expect to keep all of your own meat nor share in anyone else's.  It can lead to a lot of bad feelings if there is a misunderstanding about if/how meat will be shared. It's best to ask the question and sort out any confusion before the trip, or at the very least, before an animal is hanging back at camp.

Cost Sharing


A hunting trip costs money.  It might be fuel, butchering fees, camp consumables, motels on the way, or any number of things.  Make sure you contribute your share, especially if your host is providing a lot of the camping gear.  If you have an opportunity to cover the cost of the wear and tear on a host's gear, you'll certainly endear yourself to them and the group.

Gear Coordination

 

 It's a good idea not to assume that everything is being provided for you.  Ask your group-mates if there is gear that you could bring for the group to use.  It's kind of funny when you show up and everyone has an axe for chopping wood when obviously the group could have shared a couple.  It's frustrating when everyone assumed someone would bring an axe, so no one has one.  Talk with your group about these kinds of things and offer to bring things you have or procure items if you can afford it.

Camp Chores are Not Optional


Well, they are optional if you don't want to be invited back again.  Camp chores involve everything from cutting firewood, preparing meals, cleaning up, doing dishes, fueling vehicles, and much more.  Every group has different traditions and expectations.  If you don't step up, ask how you can help, and volunteer to do more than your share, don't expect to be invited back.

Know the Area


Don't expect to be shown the best spots to go.  If you are lucky the group might point you in the right direction.  If you really want to do your part, use Google Earth to scout the area ahead of time and have an idea of where you want to hunt.  Be sure to communicate your intentions to go and hunt an area each day with the rest of the group so that you're not hunting someone else's area and they know where you are for safety.

Also, it is very important for your own safety to know the lay of the land.  It is a good idea to know which way to hike to find a landmark like a road or creek which will bring you to safety if you get lost.  No one wants to have to perform a search and rescue for the newbie.

Know the Animals 


Be sure to have a solid understanding of your quarry, its habits and the best hunting tactics.  No one likes someone who expects to be hand-held the whole time.

If you are going after an animal that is best hunted with the help of calling, YouTube is great!  I learned how to moose call from YouTube and learned how to use my elk calls from a DVD. MeatEater is also a great source of tips and tricks.  It isn't hard to learn to call and it is impressive if you show up with mad calling skills.

Knowing the animals includes knowing how to field dress and skin the animals in preparation for transport home.  Be aware that there are as many ways to do this as there are people on earth.  Expect experienced people to have strong opinions about the best way to field dress, quarter, and skin game.  Go with the flow and accept advice, but ultimately, with a little practice and advice from YouTube, you'll be better than many of the people you encounter in the bush and likely others in your group.

Dylan from EatWild has put together great videos for field skills such as field dressing and meat care which can be easy accessed through the EatWild app.  I strongly suggest downloading it or signing up for one of his courses.

http://www.eatwild.ca/
   
Also, if you want your butcher to like you, you'll want to do a very good job cleaning every last hair and piece of dirt and debris from the carcass long before it gets to them.  I recommend spending the time on the day you get the animal to make it perfect.  After it is hung and cleaned, use game bags to keep birds, bugs, and tree bark from dirtying your hard won meat.  Obviously watch the temperature and keep the meat cool and in the shade.  If you're worried about your meat, get it to a cooler or butcher ASAP.

Know How to Be Uncomfortable


Steven Rinella says hunting teaches you how to be uncomfortable.  It is often cold, rainy, hot, or tiring to go hunting.  No one wants to deal with your discomfort, so as prepared as possible to cope with discomfort without complaining.  Better yet, be as prepared as possible to minimize your discomfort. Pro Tip: Use Moleskin well before you get a blister.  If you feel rubbing or a hot spot on your foot, stop and deal with it right away!


Keep Your Spirits Up


Everyone who goes hunting wants to be successful in harvesting an animal.  It's only natural to suffer a decline in moral when things don't go to plan. However, that's no excuse for moral to drop so low that it ruins the trip.  The best advice I ever received was to go out into the woods with the mindset that you're there to practice and improve the many skills of hunting, and that just seeing an animal, let alone shooting one, is just a bonus.

It's better to see success in improving your ability to climb a ridge quietly, keeping the wind in your face, glassing, or remaining patiently still, than focus on whether or not you saw an animal or sign. If you improve your abilities as a hunter the animals will end up in front of you eventually.

Nevertheless, after days of not seeing animals, there are times when you need to take your mind off your quarry to get a fresh perspective and renew your resolve to hunt hard.  This is when it's great to have a .22 LR along with you so that you can go after some grouse that you may have seen while driving to a trailhead.  Alternatively, you might spend a morning fishing as a change of pace.  Often, the high tempo reward of a side hunt, or some good fishing, can lift the spirits of even the most frustrated hunter. 

Nail the Social Game

 

It may seem obvious, but being fun to hang out with is part of the experience of a group trip.  No one likes a complainer or a braggart.  No one likes a know-it-all or someone overly opinionated. It's annoying when someone over-indulges in booze or other substances and makes the evening around the campfire less enjoyable for others.  Be yourself, but make sure to be the best version of you. When in doubt, showing humility and holding back a little is better than talking big and being obnoxious. 

Be Present; Leave the Phone Alone


Most people go hunting to get away from it all, catch up with old friends, make new ones, and experience nature.  There is nothing more annoying than someone who spends more time on their phone than hanging out with the group around the campfire.  If your significant other is needy, tell them that you'll be out of cell phone coverage and turn your phone off.  Short of a death in the family, don't expect the group to go home early just because your significant other is getting lonely.  You're there for the experience, so experience it.

Be Ready to Hunt


It kind of goes without saying, but make sure you have the required licence and tags, physical fitness, and expect to get up very early, spend the whole day hiking or hunting, possibly alone, and have a mental plan of what to do when you see a legal animal.  Make sure you are ready to hunt, both mentally and physically.


Things to Bring

 

Tags

 

While it may seem obvious, people often forget to get their tags.  With the current rules, you need ALL OF YOUR TAGS FROM THE CURRENT SEASON, EVEN CANCELLED ONES, NO MATTER WHAT YOU ARE HUNTING!

There is nothing more annoying than someone wanting to stop on the way to pick up a tag or worse yet "shoot on your yag".  Don't be that guy or gal who inconveniences people with an unnecessary stop along the way to get tags you should have bought weeks or months ago, or worst of all, makes everyone uncomfortable with a request that is illegal. 

Firearm or Bow


Be sure you have firearm or bow that you know inside out, backwards and forwards, and in your sleep.  You should be so well practiced that if you see a legal animal that is within range and not moving, it shouldn't be a question whether or not you can take it.  Come prepared with an abundance of practice.

Choosing a rifle is not easy.  Check out the post about choosing a rifle.  I am sure choosing a bow is even more challenging, but I don't have any experience with that.

Binoculars


It is both illegal and unethical to point your rifle at something until you are certain it is a legal animal to hunt.  It is critical that you have decent binoculars to identify game.  A 10x magnification is more than adequate.  I strongly suggest you choose something with a good warranty.  Also, it is a good idea to get a binocular harness to keep your binos close at hand and reduce the pull on your neck.  I use Vortex Diamondback 10x and an Alps Outdoorz bino harness.
Vortex Diamondback 10x42mm, $350 Cabelas.ca

Alps Outdoorz Bino Harness $70 amazon.ca

Sleep System


A "Sleep System" is a fancy term for sleeping bag and mattress.  If you aren't sleeping well you'll have a miserable hunt.  It is far better to be too warm than too be cold.  If you are sleeping in a wall tent or trailer, it is a good idea to assume that the heat will die out during the night.  If there is a wood stove and a guy over 50, then you are likely to have someone who will feed the stove throughout the night when they get up to pee, but don't count on it.

If you are going hunting in the fall or winter, you can expect sub-zero temperatures.  The rating of a sleeping bag is typically 10 degrees C colder than is comfortable.  If you expect it to be - 5 C, you'll want a -15C bag to really feel comfortable. If you are doing backpack hunting, a low temperature sleeping bag that is light weight can be very expensive, but if you have the luxury of space in a truck for a large and heavy bag, it is not very expensive to get a -30C bag for wall tent/trailer hunting.

It is important to also point out that there are a lot of strong opinions about down vs. synthetic sleeping bags.  Generally down is more expensive and lighter than synthetic, but the downside with down is that it loses its insulative properties when it gets wet or packs down.  Down relies on "loft" which is a fancy term for fluffiness.  Moisture immediately eliminates loft, while even normal use slowly decreases it as the down packs together more tightly until you can put it in the dryer to fluff it back up.  Synthetic bags are heavier and bulkier, but keep you warm even when moist and don't suffer from a loss of loft.  

Pro Tip: If you have the space, bring an extra sleeping bag.  A spare sleeping bag doesn't have to be special or even very good, but I have been on several trips where after a day or two you find out that one of your friends is really cold at night and sleeping poorly.  Lending them a second bag to double up with will make you a friend for life.  On the other hand, if you need it for some reason then it's there.

-29C Ascend Whammy from Cabelas $180. Better for backpacking.  Takes up less room, but more restrictive while sleeping.

-29C Outfitter XLFrom Cabelas $230.Great when space is no issue.  Lots of room to sprawl out.


If you are in a trailer, it is likely that you'll have a mattress provided. In a wall tent you'll likely need a cot and perhaps a mattress.  It is actually more important to have good insulation on your mattress than above you.  As a mattress and sleeping bag compresses it loses its insulative properties.  It is actually the air which trapped by fluff that provides the insulation.  It is just as important to have a good mattress as it is to have a good bag.  If you are sleeping in a cot or on the ground, get the highest R-value mattress you can find.  R values from 4 to 6 are for below freezing.

Klymit Insulated Static V Sleeping Pad $100, R4.4
Cabelas Outfitter XL Cot $150

Communication


It is not a bad idea for beginners to bring a couple radios and give one to your closest hunting buddy.  Have a protocol such as that you'll turn it on after dark if one of you hasn't come back to camp or if you hear a shot.  Some waterproof radios for under $100 will serve you well.

Bear Spray


You may think that your rifle is the best bear defence there is.  Studies suggest bear spray can be as much as three times more effective in deterring a charging grizzly than a firearm (over 90% effective vs. around 30%).  Think about it.  Let's say that you have maybe 4 or 5 rounds in your rifle and a grizzly comes out of nowhere charging at you.  First, you have to decide if you are trying to kill the bear or scare it off with the noise.  If you feel like you have the time to scare it off, then you're using up both time and one of the rounds.  When a grizzly charged my father in law, the first shot made it charge faster.

Then, if you deciding to attempt to kill the bear, you need to aim and fatally shoot the bear.  Bears often don't charge in a straight line and in all likelihood, you have time for one, maybe two shots.  How confident are you that you will hit it in the central nervous system (brain or spine) and drop it in its tracks?  Even a heart or lung shot will still give the bear several minutes of life to maul you.   That is why the research suggests it is much less successful than bear spray.  Last of all, even if you are successful, you now need to report yourself to the conservation officers and prove your life was in danger to justify your actions in self defence.  All that said, if you make the decision that trying to kill a charging bear is your only option then keep shooting until you finish the job.


From the recent bear safety presentation at a BHA Region 2 Pint night, we were told that once the bear is down, don't approach it.  Check yourself for injuries, reload your rifle, compose yourself, take photos of the area and write down what happened and why you were justified in self defence.  Only after you are confident that the bear has expired, should you consider approaching the bear.  Follow the latest regulations for what to do if you have shot an animal in self defence or by accident.  If it says to field dress the animal and preserve the hide and meat, do so, and report the incident to a conservation officer in accordance with the rules.  An investigation will likely follow and they will likely look for holes in your story as part of a reason why you may be lying.  If you have acted in self defence and documented what happened it is less likely that you will face prosecution for unlawfully killing an animal.

Bear spray, on the other hand, is only useful if sprayed as a fog or cloud between you and a charging bear. Check out this video from Parks Canada for guidance for how to use bear spray.  Make sure it is easily accessible in a holster on either your hip or front backpack straps.  Bear spray will not help you if it is inside your pack or in a difficult to reach pocket.  If a bear charges, you will have scarce seconds to react, so you will want it within reach.  One nice thing with bear spray is that you don't have to be as accurate with the bear spray since it makes a cloud of deterrence between you and the bear.  You're more likely to be able to put the fog in between you and the bear than you are likely to fatally hit the bear with a bullet. 

 

Snacks, Food, Booze and Supplies


Everyone has to eat, drink and answer the call of nature.  Generally speaking, eating and drinking is a social event back at a hunting camp.  People tell stories, exaggerate (lie haha!), and tease each other to pass the time around a campfire.  Whether or not you drink, many of the other people will be drinking and so it's a good idea to have your own beverages or snacks along for the evenings.  Snacks also play a significant role in keeping up the moral when you are away from camp, cold, wet, tired, or just feeling down from seeing no animals.

Make sure you always have a toilet roll and Wet Ones in your pack and around camp when nature calls.  Trust me, Wet Ones are just friggin' magic for spending time in the bush without a shower.


Bonus

There are some things you can do to really help your chances of getting invited back.

Camp Skills

 

If you know how to chop wood and make fire and you take initiative in the mornings and evenings to get the fire going and have split wood on hand for the campfire and stoves you'll be very valuable to have around.

If you know how to use a chainsaw that can also be a valuable skill to share the load of gathering wood.

Knots

 

Some people think that "If you can't tie knots, just tie lots,".   As a former sailing instructor, that makes me sick to my stomach.  There are only two knots anyone really needs to know to get by.  Everyone should know how to tie a Bowline (pronounced boh-lin) and the Half Hitch. With these two knots you can set up a game pole, hoist game, and lash down or haul anything.


Vehicle skills


If you are using ATVs, trucks, snowmobiles, horses, or boats, it is great if you have experience in the operation and finesse the various modes of transport.  It is a great idea if you know how to drive in snow and ice, while towing a trailer, in poor conditions, using a manual transmission, operation of outboards and inboards, and possibly even how to ride a horse.  Knowing your way around the various modes of transport can come in very handy.

Generators


Being able to operate and maintain generators can come in very handy.

Cooking


Being able to whip together a fantastic meal from limited ingredients and improvisation skills will endear you to most groups. 

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Gear I Can and Can't Live Without

Everyone has gear that they love and gear that didn't live up to expectation.  Sometimes it can be quite costly to figure out what gear works for you.  Over the last 5 years I've tried to build my kit with a budget in mind and there are certainly some great scores and some things which have been disappointing.


Can't Live Without


Obviously my boots and rifle are critical, so here are some of the unsung heroes that I can't live without.

Under Armour UA Enduro Pants


These pants are semi-waterproof and incredibly durable.  I struggled a lot in the beginning with finding pants which didn't limit flexibility in the crotch and knees.  These pants are quite good for the price ($90).  I do plan to upgrade one more time and spend whatever money I need to get durable and flexible pants when I find the right ones, but for now these are definitely an 8.5/10 and way better than any other paint I have tried.

Saxx Long Leg Underwear


https://www.saxxunderwear.ca/products/sxll70f_blk
If you have muscular or thick thighs like I have, chafing is a serious concern.  Saxx long leg underwear are a life saver, and best of all, they are Canadian.

Wet Ones

 


No question, the best thing to ever happen to shitting in the woods.  Honestly, I might be cleaner when I am hunting.

Can Live Without

 

ALPS Outdoorz Crossfire 

 

This is really hard because I like ALPS Outdoorz products, but this pack has been disappointing if I'm honest. First, the top corners of the pack wore through within one season where the wire of the frame pushes them out.   I wish I could say I used it hard, but it happened from being put down on the grown and picked up a few times.   Second, this pack is just too small.  The frame pushes the bag so far off your back and that really eats up all of the internal space of the bag.  This bag can barely fit a sweater in addition to some essentials like TP and Wet Ones.  If I have to take a layer off I am almost always strapping it to the outside of this pack, where it can get wet.  In the store, this pack looked good and had so many features I liked.  It's too bad, but I'll be replacing it for sure.

Currently I am struggling with two options.  Option 1 is to get the Cabela's  2500 cubic inch bow and rifle pack to use for my day pack.  Option 2 is buying a top end backpack hunting pack and using it for both backpack hunts and as a day pack. 

Cabelas MT50 Pants


When I bought these pants I wanted Gore-Tex pants but didn't want to spend a ton of money.  These pants seemed like a good compromise.  They aren't terrible, but they have poor flexibility in the knees and crotch and I just find myself getting tired whenever I am hiking in these pants.  The worst part about these pants is the lack of fly.  It is such a hassle whenever you have to take a leak.  Definitely replacing these with better, more flexible, pants which have a fly.

Primos Trigger Sticks Tall



The concept is great, but they are lacking some key features and quality.  I bought the bipod version and it became clear in the field that the collapsed length is too long.  If you strap them to your pack they are either hitting branches above your head or clattering on your legs as you walk.

Next, the leg spread doesn't lock.  I have had it several times when the handle suddenly starts to tilt over and almost lets my rifle fall off.  You have to steady these too much for them to be good for steadying a shot.  Lastly, they seized up after a few years.  I took them apart and found that they had rusted inside where the mechanism allows the legs to telescope.  I ended up just taking off the yoke and adapting it to use with my much more compact spotting scope tripod so that I could use it as a shooting rest when I am not glassing.

When I looked at the new generation the overall weight is much heavier than a lightweight spotting scope tripod and the length of the bipod version is still just as long.

Saturday, 13 July 2019

FRPA Engagement Responses


 The deadline is July 15th, 2019 at 4pm, so there isn't much time left to respond.  Here are my responses to the questions.  These answers have been informed by the conservation organizations I am a member of, the podcasts I listen to and my firsthand experiences in the backcountry.

How should the Province identify opportunities and priorities for adapting forest management to a changing climate, such as mitigating the effects of beetle infestations, drought and fire?

 

The Province should seek input from provincial biologists on how to manage forests for climate change.  The primary goal should be to maintain native biodiversity in both plant and animal species in the many climates and ecosystems of BC.  Second to that, maintaining forests with natural biodiversity for usage by both recreational users and industry should be balanced with the long term effects of climate change to ensure sustainability of plant and animal populations.  

What factors should be considered in the planning of forest operations to reduce the risks of wildfire around your community?

 

The mono-culture of pine trees by the forestry sector by spraying glyphosate and excessively eliminating fire from the landscape has had a catastrophic impact on the risk of wildfires across BC.  The mono-culture of only planting one type of fast growing tree has increased the fire risk which is naturally mitigated by biodiversity and leads to a the compounding effect of pine beetle kill.  Ultimately, when forests are managed as a large farm for the forestry sector, blights and disasters such as fire will have an increased impacted on both communities and the forest itself.  The best thing to reduce the risk of wildfires is to manage forests for natural biodiversity.  Forests go through a natural cycle of recovery after fire or deforestation, where grasses first, deciduous second, and finally coniferous trees reclaim the landscape.  Failing to replant a natural collection of plants and trees in favour of pine cultivation is detrimental.

A vital step in landscape-level planning is understanding what is important to the public. Based on what is important to you or your community, what information on the condition of resource values such as species-at-risk habitat do you think is necessary to support the planning process?

 

 The most important thing for me, my family, and my community is maintaining healthy and thriving habitat for wildlife and fish populations for the purpose of hunting and fishing.  For me and my community, hunting and fishing plays a central role in our lives.  It allows us to put organic, natural, healthy and ethically sourced food on the table and allows us to enjoy BC's natural beauty.  It is distressing to see the gradual loss of hunting and fishing opportunities as forestry sector and other resource sector jobs damage the environment with no accountability or enforcement or requirement for meaningful restoration and habitat recovery.  Jobs in rural BC are obviously very important as well, and the solution is not to simply halt forestry or create protected areas which the public has limited access to.  It is critical to balance both the jobs of rural BC with how imperative it is to protect, maintain, and enhance habitat to recover and increase wildlife populations.  This can be done with careful planning and the inclusion of provincial biologists in protecting and ensuring recourse activities have a net positive impact on habitat and wildlife populations through using increased fees paid by the resource sector to be directed back into wildlife management.  It is critical that provincial biologists and conservation officers have the funding and enforcement powers needed to manage habitat and wildlife for long term sustainability and growth.  The resource sector and healthy wildlife populations are not inherently opposing priorities.  Many jurisdictions in the United States have thriving and growing populations of game species as a result of habitat restoration and protection paid for by fees from the resource sector and excise taxes on outdoor recreation equipment.  It is not impossible to have your cake and eat it too in the area of enhancing wildlife populations and allowing sustainable resource sector jobs.

How would you like to be involved in the planning process?

 

I would like to be involved by having a single location online where I can sign up for notifications and read about planned activities in BC forests.  Also, it should be incumbent on anyone wishing to be involved in the planning process to prove their legitimacy as a stakeholder.  It is my deep concern that foreign funded organizations play an illegitimate role in shaping policy in forest and wildlife management.  The UK cosmetics company LUSH spends huge amounts of money funding anti-hunting organizations masquerading as environmental groups and mobilizes well-meaning but uninformed urbanites who have never and will never venture into the woods to support their anti-meat agenda, while the American forestry company Weyerhaeuser pretends to be advocating for jobs when really they are looking at profits.  Neither group is a legitimate stakeholder in how BC forests and wildlife should be managed.  The people who live, spend time, and make a living in the regions where the planning is taking place are the only legitimate stakeholders.  Please consult First Nations, hunters and anglers, outdoor recreation groups, and local residents of the region where the planning is taking place.

Resource roads are a valuable asset in the province as they provide access for the forest industry, ranchers, other resource users, and the public for commercial and recreation purposes. Yet, these same road networks are costly to maintain and have potential negative impacts on wildlife, water quality and fish habitat. What values do you believe are important to consider when planning new roads, road use and maintenance, and deactivation in your area?

 

 Roads have a scientifically proven impact on habitat, fish, and wildlife.  Numerous scientific papers confirm this.  Deactivation by simply pulling culverts has a negligible impact on mitigating their impact on ecosystems.  Reforesting roads is required to restore and recover habitat.  Obviously, a balanced approach is required to allow access for both industry and the public without unnecessarily or irreversibly harming wildlife and fish populations.  This is where scientific monitoring by provincial biologists and conservation officers should inform decision making on road deactivation and reforestation.  Wildlife and fish populations are the canary in the coal mine to inform decision making about the level road deactivation and reforesting that is required.  If wildlife or fish populations are declining, then deactivation and reforesting is more urgent.  If populations are sustainable or growing, then road density can be maintained.  Ultimately, we need to manage our forests for the long term health of BC plant and animal species.

How can the Province improve transparency and timelines of information regarding proposed operational and landscape-level objectives, plans and results?

 

It is critical that the government publish, in an easy to read format, at a central location online, objectives, plans and results of landscape-level planning.  It is also critical that objectives be measurable and meaningful with sufficient resources to monitor and enforce.  For decades we have seen the slow decline in fish and wildlife populations which indicates that the process is clearly failing, yet there is no transparency and even less accountability.  It should be mandated that having a net-positive impact on habitat, fish and wildlife populations, and biodiversity be a condition of resource sector operations which is planned for and monitored by provincial biologists and enforced by conservation officers and police.  

 

What information will help inform your feedback on plans that may impact you, your community or your business (e.g., maps of cutblocks and roads planned in your area, hydrological assessments, wildlife habitat areas or recreation opportunities, etc)?

 

Detailed maps, reports from biologists on native biodiversity, fish, and wildlife populations, and the criticality of the habitat, as well as a detailed plan of how the habitat impacts will be reversed  or restored following the resource sector operations or how they will be offset or mitigated would greatly help inform feedback on the impacts of planned resource extraction.


What additional values should be considered in FRPA that will allow us to manage forest and range practices in a better way?

 

 The values of hunter and angler conservationists should be considered in the FRPA.  Hunter and angler conservationists want to ensure fish and wildlife populations thrive in BC.  It is easy to assume this is simply because we want to hunt or hook these animals and fish.  While we do enjoy hunting and fishing, and enjoy the food it puts on the table, the main reason every hunter and angler I have ever met wants to ensure healthy and abundant fish and wildlife populations in BC is because when you spend weeks or months in the woods, quietly learning about the habitat and animals of BC, you gain an unparalleled love for the beauty and preciousness of nature.  The nature of BC is one of a kind and once it is gone, it may never come back. Healthy and thriving fish and wildlife populations mean that there is a healthy ecosystem with native biodiversity.  We are the custodians of this great natural beauty which can sustain us through hunting and fishing, recreation, and also industrial activities if they are managed carefully for long term sustainability.  Hunter and angler conservationists don't see nature as something to be exploited for profit or tamed for agriculture, but rather appreciate the richness of it simply remaining wild.  There are many countries in the would which have lost their native species hundreds of years ago to the ignorance or greed of development and there are many poor countries today that are trading their natural heritage for socioeconomic development.  BC stands at a crossroads where we can either become like Europe, which has lost most of its biodiversity, or make a serious stand and invest in protecting and restoring forests, fish, and wildlife populations so that we can still call ourselves Beautiful British Columbia for generations to come.

 

In what ways should the province strengthen government oversight and industry accountability regarding forest and range activities to better address the challenges of climate change and the interests of all British Columbians?

 

The province should strengthen oversight and industry accountability by funding forest, wildlife and habitat management to levels comparable to jurisdictions which are succeeding in maintaining healthy fish and wildlife populations.  This means roughly a ten times increase in funding.  The increase in funding can come from fees levied on resource extraction and forestry, excise taxes on outdoor recreation equipment, fees for tourism sector groups such as ski hills and whale watching, increased fees on hunting and fishing licences. With adequate funding, provincial biologists would have the resources to monitor the health of forests, streams, and wildlife, participate in planning of resource sector activities, monitor impacts, and recovery efforts, and work with conservation officers to enforce and maintain accountability.  Right now, provincial biologists and conservation officers barely have the funding required to monitor the free-fall declines in certain fish and wildlife populations, but do not have the resources to prevent, or reverse the trend.  Fish and wildlife managers across north America have proven they know how to use science to restore and maintain healthy wildlife populations if they have the resources and enforcement powers to do so.  We must use the best science and adequate funding to manage the effects of climate change so that we can maintain healthy wilderness in BC.

Thursday, 11 July 2019

Choosing Your First Hunting Rifle



There is so much information on the internet about rifles that trying to choose your first one can seem like a very daunting task.  Much of what can be found out there has either a sales pitch or falls into the category of people arguing over irrelevant nuance.  Before I bought my first rifle, I waded through countless forums and articles trying to find some insight into what to choose.  Then I went to Reliable Gun in Vancouver and Nick helped me choose my first rifle back in 2013.  I had such a good, no pressure, non-intimidating first experience there that it has become my go-to place for all things hunting and shooting.  Shane, Nick, and the rest of the staff consistently make me feel welcomed and are very patient with my questions.

https://www.reliablegun.com/en/

Here, I'll try to summarize it all and separate fact from fiction.  For this article, we'll assume you've taken the firearms safety course and have a basic familiarity with calibres and types of actions.


What are you hunting?

 

Most articles on this topic will tell you that different cartridges are best for different animals.  In short, that's crap.



For hunting in BC, there are small game rifles, big game rifles, and shotguns.  If you're going after small game such as rabbits, grouse or squirrels, then you should probably consider a .22 LR or other small, low recoil cartridge.  If you are going after waterfowl or upland birds, then a 12 gauge shotgun  with a 3" or 3 1/2" shells with a 26" to 30" barrel and changeable chokes will suite you well.  However, for hunting big game, meaning from deer to bison, you'll need a big game rifle.

For big game, there are really two approaches to take.  The first is choosing a rifle which can do it all, and the second is to choose the best rifle for a particular animal.  If you are budget constrained like me, then the first approach is likely best.

Choosing a do-it-all hunting rifle is not as hard as some would lead you to believe, but it does come with a few potential drawbacks.  A do-it-all rifle will come at the cost of being slightly more powerful than is required for smaller "big game animals" like deer.  This means that a poorly placed shot might result in more meat damage than might have been avoided with a smaller calibre.

A second potential drawback of a do-it-all is the increased recoil which could dissuade you from practicing at the range as much as you should or worse yet, could cause you to develop an accuracy robbing flinch.  Generally, most people can shoot a few boxes of ammo in a practice session through rifles up to 300 WIN MAG.  Beyond that, many people find the recoil too punishing with larger cartridges and consciously or subconsciously prefer not to shoot more than a couple rounds.  Having a firearm you dislike firing means you won't practice enough to be able to take ethical shots at animals. That said, the do-it-all cartridges are great and most people find them to be more than adequate for hunting any big game on the continent.

The do-it-all cartridges include 270 WIN, 7mm REM MAG, .308 WIN, .30-06 Springfield, 300 WIN MAG and many others in between.  All of these cartridges are capable of sending a 150 grain (grain is a measure of weight) bullet down range with plenty of speed and power for most game in BC.  The one exception being bison, where hunting rules mandate a 175 grain bullet with has retained at least 2000 ft-lbs of energy after flying 100m.  That rules out the 270 WIN, and limits the choices for ammo for a 7mm REM MAG, so if you are serious about bison then you'll need at least a .308 WIN or larger.

There are many other cartridges in and around the size of those I've listed, but they are less common which means that if you need to run out and get a box of ammo at the local sporting store in a remote corner of BC, you may be out of luck. For cartridges smaller than 270 WIN, most people start to consider them a deer only round.  For cartridges larger than a 300 WIN MAG the recoil becomes more and more punishing meaning people are less likely to practice and might develop a flinch, while they provide little to no benefit to hunting. 

If you are wondering about the difference between the do-it-all cartridges the answer is nothing.  Well, not nothing, but very little.  The animal doesn't know the difference.  It is a complete myth that any one of them is more or less accurate than another.  The larger ones have more recoil and the ones that send the bullet out of the barrel faster shoot a little flatter.  If you want the best accuracy, get the best rifle and optics you can afford, try a bunch of different brands and types of ammo, and practice a ton.  Shot placement is far more important to ethically shooting an animal than what bullet you choose or rifle you buy.

If you really twisted my arm, I would say it's a 3-way tie between .308 WIN, .30-06 Springfield, and 300 WIN MAG. 

 

Budget


Generally, you can get a good rifle from $600 to $1400 and comparable optics in the same range.  You should generally budget about as much for optics as for the rifle itself.  Anything below about $600 is likely inadequate and you'll come to regret your purchase when it doesn't perform or you outgrow it.

Also, consider the cost of practice. Most do-it-all rifles cost about the same amount to shoot and a lot of that comes down to the brand and type of bullet you choose.  If you want to get in some additional inexpensive practice, consider getting a .22 LR to practice the basic.  Ultimately, you'll still need to practice a lot with your hunting rifle so you develop the skill and muscle memory to take ethical shots at game.

 

Action


Bolt action rifles are simple and by far the most common for hunting.  There are certainly semi-automatic hunting rifles, but they are typically heavier and more expensive.  I would stick to bolt action for a first hunting rifle.

 

Weight


For a hunting rifle, remember, you'll be carrying this rifle all day, up and down hills, and may even have to hold for an offhand shot for several minutes without moving.  Many manufacturers make light weight rifles and they are very much worth considering, even at a slightly increased cost.

 

Stainless or Blued


If you are hunting in BC, you are likely to face changing weather, sudden storms, and moisture.  Many people have blued rifles which they have used in all weather conditions for years, but if neglected and left wet they can be susceptible to rust.  I prefer stainless for that peace of mind, never having to worry about moisture damaging my rifle.  Nowadays, you can get stainless rifles which are coloured black if you dislike the colour of a silver barrel.  Stainless also costs slightly more on average, but again, I think it's worth it.

Browning X-Bolt with stainless barrel and composite stock ~$1350 CAD

Browning X-Bolt with blued barrel and wood stock ~$1100 CAD

 

Detachable Magazine


In Canada it is illegal to have a loaded firearm in or on a vehicle, therefore, all rounds need to be removed from the firearm when in a car or on an ATV.  While we all want that picturesque experience where we hiked, stalked, and succeeded in getting an animal, it can easily happen that you see a legal animal while driving to and from the trailhead.  I have watched people fumble trying to load a round into their rifle's internal magazine and regret not having a detachable magazine when they miss an opportunity at game.  A detachable magazine is very much worth it.

Detachable magazine

 

Wood or Synthetic Stock


Mostly a matter of style preference, synthetic stocks are less susceptible to neglect than wood.  If you're like me, I prefer the look and love the durability of a synthetic stock, but to each their own.

 

Brands


Honestly, you get what you pay for.  Don't expect a $400 rifle to perform like a $1200 rifle, and the same goes for optics.  Personally, I really like Browning, Tikka, and Weatherby.  The best thing to do is handle the rifles at the gun store.  Feel the bolt cycle, dry fire it to see if you like the trigger, inspect it closely for defects and overall quality.  I went into the store thinking I wanted to buy a Remington 700, but much preferred everything about the Browning once I had it in my hands. 

 

Optics


As a rule of thumb, you should spend half your budget on the rifle and half on the optics.  That's a pretty rough rule of thumb.  Generally, you get what you pay for with optics.  The low end optics won't hold their zero, leading to inaccuracy, and the high end optics will give you excellent clarity in the sight picture.  In the vast middle ground there are many good manufacturers.  Most people who hunt opt for a 3-9 times magnification scope. Generally that provides a good balance between field of view and zoom. Objective lens size makes little difference other than weight, so consider a smaller diameter lens.  These days, many manufacturers are offering unlimited warranties, but some others aren't, so consider that some time in the future you may drop your rifle and damage the scope.

Next there is reticle style.  Z-Plex reticles are zeroed at a point (usually 100m or 200m) where anywhere between you and that zero range the bullet's arc is within a couple inches of the centre, so for hunting that's good enough.  BDC stands for Bullet Drop Compensator reticle which gives you marks for approximately how far your bullet has dropped at different ranges beyond where you zero'ed it.  The zero point for a BDC is often 100 yards and the marks below are approximately how far your bullet will drop beyond that distance for a specific type and weight of bullet.  If you want to use a BDC reticle then make sure it matches your firearm's cartridge. MIL dot or MOA reticles use miliradians (MIL) or minutes of angle (MOA) marks to let adjust your aim based on what you have calculated for how far your bullet will drop due to gravity or how far it will drift due to the wind.



Beyond about 200m, wind and the arc of the bullet due to gravity start to make a difference that is significant enough to mean you could easily miss or wound an animal if you don't know what you're doing.  It is arrogant foolishness to shoot at an animal further away than you have practiced shooting. 

For a beginner, a Z-plex is more than adequate, a BDC if matched for your rifle is good if you want to practice out to 400m, and an angular measurement reticle (MOA or MIL) is great if you want to really put in the time at the range to perfect your shooting and learn the science of ballistics. 

 

Rings

Often overlooked, rings connect your scope to the rifle.  If they are poor quality then your accuracy will suffer.  Don't cheap out on rings.

 

Bipods

I like having a bipod,  It means I have more options to rest my rifle and get the best accuracy.  As a side benefit, when nature calls, you can put your rifle down on the ground without it getting dirty.  As an alternative to bipods, people shoot off their packs or camera/spotting scope tripods or shooting sticks.  Bipods are heavy, but I think a good quality Harris bipod is worth it.

 

Carry Straps


Honestly, I rarely use my strap, but many people swear by them.  I usually ready carry my rifle or cradle it in my crossed arms.  If I am with someone then I might strap it to my backpack during a long hike or climb.  The strap I bought is too wide and while you might think it spreads the load, I just find that it slides off my shoulder.  Ideally, my next strap will be narrower and sit nicely between my backpack strap and neck rather than span that distance and slide off.

 

Summary


Choose a rifle you like and one you will practice with at the range.  Most people will not practice nearly enough with their rifles to maintain or improve their skills.  Most of the decision making comes down to personal preference.  Generally, for a good first rifle you should expect to spend between $800 and $1200 for the rifle and between $600 to $1000 for optics.  I would pick a Tikka or Browning in either .308 WIN, or .30-06 Springfield, with a stainless barrel and synthetic stock and a 3-9x scope with a good warranty.

After getting the rifle, go to the range with as many different boxes of ammo as you can afford.  Pick different bullet weights, types, brands, and price points.  Set up a targets at 100m and shoot 4 bullet groups of each type of bullet, letting your rifle cool between groups.  You'll find what ammo your rifle likes best.  Then, just practice practice practice.

Monday, 18 February 2019

Elk Cottage Pie


Cottage Pie, also known as Shepherd's Pie (technically requires lamb) or Pâté Chinois if you add corn.  This recipe can be done with any red meat.  I have done it with venison and moose, but this one was done with elk.  Also, the photos shown are for a double recipe.  I freeze whatever I don't eat and it keeps for a shockingly long time in the freezer.
 

Ingredients

2 lbs ground Elk (Or other red meat)
4 Tbsp. Olive oil
1 large onion
4 cloves of garlic
1 cup of frozen peas and carrots
1 Tbsp. finely chopped or dry rosemary
1 Tbsp. finely chopped or dry thyme
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
4 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (at least lol!)
1 cup stock (I used moose stock, but beef or any red meat game stock will do)
1/4 cup all purpose flour 
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
2 kg of russet potato 
125 g salted butter
1/2 cup of half & half cream


Method


1) Peel the potatoes and get them on the stove right at the start in salted water that's twice as deep as the potatoes.  Boil until tender to mash.


2) Finely dice onion and garlic.  If using fresh rosemary or thyme, finely chop those as well.



3) On medium-might head, heat olive oil in a pan and sauté the onion, garlic, rosemary, and thyme until the onion is translucent and starting to brown.



 4) Add the meat! Break it apart with a spatula or spoon and cook until brown.



5) Reduce heat to medium and stir in the tomato paste, stock, and Worcestershire sauce.
6) Taste it!!!!
7) Add a little salt and pepper, maybe some more Worcestershire sauce and stir some more.
8) Repeat steps 6 and 7 until it is fucking amazing, but be careful not to over season it.  You can always add more salt, pepper, or Worcestershire sauce, but you can't take it out.


9) Sprinkle flour over the sauce and stir it in to thicken it.



10) TASTE IT!!!! Add more seasoning if required.


 11) Preheat the over to 350 degrees Fahrenheit


12) Strain potatoes and return them to the pot.
13) Lightly mash potatoes with butter and half & half
14) Taste!
15) Add a little salt to the mashed potatoes and stir.
16) Repeat steps 14 and 15 until your mash tastes perfect!


17) Decide how many portions to make and arrange casseroles, one large is probably fine.


 18) Add in meat mixture.


19) Add frozen peas and carrots, and mix in.



 20) Add a thick layer of mashed potatoes and make a nice pattern with a fork or other utensil.


21) Bake uncovered for 30 minutes on the top shelf in the oven.
22) Pass the time reading a wild game cookbook. 

The L.L. Bean Game & Fish Cookbook by Angus Cameron and Judith Jones is a classic!
 23) Now, this is where you can burn and ruin this dish if you look away for even a moment.  Use the oven broiler to brown the top.  Like seriously, if you walk away from the oven for more than 30 seconds your are going to go from no colour to cremated.  Don't say I didn't warn you.  If you are not comfortable with a broiler, skip this step.  It's easy to set off the fire alarm or burn down your house with the broiler.  LOL!



 24) Serve and enjoy!

This is the second piece! Haha! The first is always a disaster, and no, it didn't land on the plate this neatly! I used the classic Gordon Ramsay technique of wiping the plate before this photo. Also, Instagram filters make everything look more delicious!