Rosie vs the Cougar

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The very first photo of a cougar at Canadian Acres

It is a rare thing to hear a story these days that holds some truth, let alone a story that becomes truthfully grander as time goes on. Most hunting, fishing, and outdoor adventuring type stories become farther from the truth each time they are told, each time the audience reacts and each time the story-teller gets excited to share a tale. Well folks, around these parts, we take our story-telling very seriously, as well as our wildlife and apparently, as well as our barn cats.

As summer started to dwindle and nights became darker and colder, the family found it’s way to a fun-filled wedding weekend in Edmonton. We got to trade our muck boots and mud for high-heels and tuxes and left the farm to it’s own devices for just a few short days. Upon return, my husband reported that everything looked ok. The horses looked fat and happy, our Mama cat Rosie and her new kitten were good and the only problem was that we had lost one chicken by his account. There were feather’s everywhere on the lawn (that is the extent of his account because my husband has absolutely no idea how many chickens we have, what their names are or what color they might be). Bummed for the one loss, I was happy that our only issue was this. Our initial assumption was that a hawk had found it’s way into the chicken run and that was that.

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An adorable reminder of what our chicken coop/run looks like

Our chicken coop is a revamped sea-can with a large, fenced, partially covered outdoor run. The fencing is buried into the ground, but does have open areas above. The run itself is nature-scaped with plenty of natural trees and shrubs for cover, and for the most part, the chickens are pretty safe in there. When I returned home the next day, I did some sleuthing… checking out the feathers on the lawn (odd place for a predator to stop for a snack?) I realized it was one of my current Mama hens, so it would have been very strange for her to be so far away from the coop. The predator must have carried her to this place. Her chicks were accounted for and thankfully an Aunty had stepped in to care for them. Upon further inspection, I noticed a large hole in our run door that hadn’t been there before, and surmised that a coyote or fox probably got into the run and grabbed Mama. Well, mystery solved and farm life is hard and all that jazz. We stapled up the hole and moved on with our lives.

A few days later, I was sitting on the couch feeding my son. I heard the unmistakeable sound of my rooster Rollo alerting the flock to danger. I got up and looked out at the chicken run, where the chickens were all running and showing major signs of distress. Last summer we lost a few chickens to a black bear who I had to shoot (this is a story for another time) and I knew exactly what I was seeing… there was a predator in our yard. Thinking that the coyote had returned, I put my flip-flops on and headed out to scare it away. Typical day on the farm!

Coyotes aren’t the bravest animals on the planet and they usually just run off at the sight of a human. If it was a bear, I’d see or hear it and could run back to the house for the gun. As soon as the chickens saw me they booked it to the front steps (save yourself!) and left me for dead. I couldn’t hear or see anything, which was odd. I got up to the front of the chicken run and started to look around. It was very quiet. Too quiet.

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Rosie & Rollo

Suddenly I saw our barn cat Rosie fly out of nowhere into the air behind the run and go after something like a Mama bear on a hiker.  Rosie had previously kicked the sh*t out of a friends dog after having her kitten in July so I knew she was in full-on Mama bear mode. Then a very large animal jumped up out of the bush and turned tail to book it, with Rosie tasmania-deviling it out of the yard. Now Rosie is not a large domesticated cat, far from it. She is an itty-bitty thing, but has never had much fear growing up with two pit bulls, a toddler, a big ole rooster and the wild. But man did she just go toe-to-toe with this thing. Full body throttle.

This all happened very quickly and I immediately ran for the gun. How odd, I thought, for a coyote to just sit there and watch me as I looked for it, and how badass for Rosie to chase a coyote out of the yard! I grabbed our lever action 30-30 and headed back out to the road towards the Wolf Woods area of our farm. For those of you who remember, the Wolf Woods are where our pit bull Wyatt fought off several wolves about 100 ft from our house and lived to tell the tale (story here – I told you we take our wildlife seriously). Rosie came prancing back into the driveway, puffed up tail wagging and quiet proud of herself and I wasn’t about to go traipsing in Wolf Woods by myself. I gathered the chickens, locked them up and headed back for the house. But I couldn’t shake something… that it very much looked like a large cat turning to run, like, it used both of its back feet to push off and coyotes, and wolves and bears don’t run like that. Hmmmm… weird. Had to have been a coyote.

The next night, Clay went off to hunt for elk and I was outside at dusk doing evening chores. The kids were in bed and the chickens were tucked in and I was having a nice moment of enjoying the fresh air and night befalling the farm. I thought I saw something odd to the right of our house and headed that way to get a better look. Nothing scary odd, just, out of place, different? I don’t really know. As I started off in the direction of the oddity, Rosie cat came running up to join me. It is not unusual for any of my walks to be joined by some sort of farm critter, wether they have hair, fur or feathers so I was glad for the company. But she wouldn’t let me walk. She started attacking my legs and biting my feet, hard. I tried to shake her off, telling her she was a silly cat, but she persisted. After a particularly hard bite, I knew something was up. I stopped walking, told her (loudly) “okay, we won’t go that way anymore” and turned around for home. We both ran to the porch and I quickly went inside. A rush of panic flowed through me and I just didn’t know why… but I knew there was something out there and Rosie knew it. Clay soon got home after a scaredy pants text from me and all was well once again.

The next morning, Clay went out for an early elk hunt. Just as the sun was shining it’s full morning strength and the kids and I were having breakfast we heard a large “BANG!” from the driveway. I rushed to the door and saw Clay with his gun drawn staring into Wolf Woods. I opened the door and shouted “The coyote? Did you get it?” He looked at me and said “Nope. It was a cougar and I f*&%ing missed.” WHAT?!

He stayed out a few more minutes searching but figured the cat took off after being shot at. He came inside, sat down looking a bit shaken and told me he had run into a cougar coming out of our cabin road onto the driveway. He slammed on his breaks, grabbed his gun and his shells and ran up the road to see if he could still see it. Once he got around the corner, he had a split second to take a shot as it jumped into Wolf Woods (damn freaking woods!) and barely missed it. This was the first sighting of a cougar on our property in the five years we’ve been here and he was in shock. And.so.was.I.

All of a sudden it all made so much sense, the series of events over the past few days came together like a puzzle piece. A freaking big-ass-cat puzzle piece. WTF. Ok, cool, so I just had a cougar taking out my chickens, watching me like a sneaky bastard while I hoedy-doe’d around in my flip-flops, hanging out on the farm like it’s no big thang because I’m a mutha-effing COUGAR! I don’t trust a small house cat let alone a large man-killing cat just hanging out ready to maul me and my kin at a minutes notice, what the what. Wait, scratch that, I TOTALLY TRUST A SMALL CAT BECAUSE ROSIE IS A BADASS!!! We were officially on high alert. We tracked cougar tracks all over the yard and into the bush. The Conservation Officer that we called wasn’t interested in our story, just told us to keep the chickens enclosed and make sure we supervise our children (really?). We didn’t really know what to do other than hope that it had been scared off and be extra aware. The 30-30 was hung above the door (Pa Ingalls would be proud) and we did what we could, but to say we were shaken in a whole new way on the farm is an understatement. I did a few stories on my instagram, word got out around town, there was talk of hounds and hunters but mostly, things quieted down.

A few weeks have gone by and no new sights or incidents have occurred that we know of. The chickens have been free ranging again without incident, our guard puppy is growing, Rosie got spayed, we have a dead bear hanging from the tractor, you know, back to our farm normal (bear season is open and we have a plethora on our land). We finally had time to switch out some game camera cards last night after a busy week of hosting my parents and we were excited to see what we got (Game cam picture viewing is a big deal at our house). Like I said, in the five years we’ve lived on our property we’ve never once seen a cougar or captured one on our many game cams. It’s actually pretty unheard of in this area to do either. We know that they’re “around” but they’re cats, they are supposed to keep to themselves. Well ladies and gentlemen, I present to you our findings from a game cam posted about a quarter mile from my front door, just past our horse corrals:

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Mama Cougar, a few hours after Clay’s shot

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Oh sure, just lay down for a bit

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No rush

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Wait… what?!

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A big-ass cub

Not one cougar, but two. Two. Cougars. As in more than one cougar. Like, two cougars. TWO COUGARS.

So, here ends my truthful tale, one in which ended up grander than where we began. Never in a million years would we have guessed we had a problem cougar let along two problem cougars. We think it’s probably a Mama cat and a yearling “cub” (ha!) and hope to hope that they have moved on out of our neck of the woods. I guess we can now start calling it Cougar Wolf Woods? Sounds like something a hipster would name their child. Good lord. It’s a good lesson in following your instincts (I knew it was a cat – I knew Rosie was trying to tell me something) and to always, always listen to your Mama.

And Rosie cat… you have forever earned my respect and fellowship and I am so honoured to have you on the Canadian Acres team. You are an original gangster and a legend. Wyatt would be proud.

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Stay safe folks and always have your 30-30 handy.

Katy

 

 

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Wyatt vs the Wolves

*disclaimer: graphic images

Total "Peter and the Wolf" soundtrack moment... I'm expecting Scut Farcus to show up at any moment

A lone wolf caught on our game cam last May

Yesterday morning, one of my biggest farm fears was realized.

I was awoken with a call from the front door, “Katy, get up, something’s happened to Wyatt.”

Clay had gone out to start his truck for work and found Wyatt at the end of the driveway, stumbling and bleeding. Help Dad look on his face. His eyes were glazed over, he was shaking violently, had a large gash on his shoulder and puncture type wound on his back/neck area. I looked him over, noted he wasn’t actively bleeding although there was blood, quickly wrapped him in a towel and my husband rushed him to the vet clinic in town, 20 minutes away. At first we couldn’t figure out what had happened. Was it a neighbor dog fight? (no… Wyatt would have won that). Did he get down to his number one arch nemeses, the horses? Coyotes? What had happened to my old man as he did his morning business? He had only been outside for 15-20 minutes.

After calling the vet clinic to give the heads up, I bundled up, grabbed my .243 and headed out to follow Wyatt’s blood trail to get a better idea on what might have happened. I followed it to the near by woods, lost it and decided to head to the corrals to see if he had taken any paths leading to the horses. Sake, our cat, decided to accompany me on this short walk and I was grateful for it. Something just didn’t feel right.

I received a text from Clay saying that Wyatt was in surgery getting stitched up and the vet stated it was an attack, multiple assailants. In that very moment, I was surrounded by the sound. The undeniable sound of a wolf howl. Multiple wolf howls – two above me and one below. I took one look at Sake and we booked it for home. I texted back with alarm “Could it have been wolves?”

“Definitely coyotes,” was the reply I received. “My Conservation Officer (CO) buddy said that if it was wolves, he wouldn’t have come back.”

After ensuring the chickens were safe and that Maynard was by my side, I heard it again. A lone howl this time, calling, calling. It was coming from our upper field. I sat and listened on the back deck for 5 minutes or so.

I called our CO friend immediately.

Once again, it was unlikely it was a wolf attack because lets face it, what dog makes it out alive. But he did mention it was weird that I thought I was hearing a wolf as he didn’t believe in coincidences. He called his father (a retired CO) to come out and told me he’d be on his way later. At least we could start to piece the puzzle together.

Meanwhile, Clay starts sending photos of Wyatt and his injuries. Something had picked him up by the back of the neck and torn all of the skin away from the muscle…The vet said he was very lucky to be alive. I knew that coyotes aren’t large enough to pick up Wyatt like that, I mean he is a tank. But it couldn’t be wolves. He wouldn’t have gotten away, right?

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Jugular puncture wounds, back of neck

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He had two drains placed on his upper back, they criss cross one another

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The third drain and retreat puncture wounds

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His back got the worst of it… good thing he’s pure muscle and super top heavy

Three drains, 10 wounds and 20+ stitches later, Wyatt came home and started to fully come out of the sedation. He was afraid and disoriented, but wagged his tail any chance he could. The retired CO arrived and said he had found two pairs of fresh wolf tracks above the house. He took a look at Wyatt’s wounds, looked at me very seriously and asked where I had lost the blood trail. I walked him out to the spot, and he immediately found what I had missed – a blood covered bush that lead through barbed wire up a path trailed with blood. Not very far from the house at all. He set off and I went inside.

He came back, quickly. It was a wolf attack. He found a fresh kill site not more than 100 yards from our house, at least three different sets of wolf tracks and he had followed their pursuit and attack on Wyatt. How he made it home, alive, we do not know. It kept being repeated – he is very lucky to be alive.

So, we assume Wyatt was on his morning rounds and went to check out the new smells and the raven party, only to find some not very nice creatures on the other side.

The retired CO spent the rest of the day tracking on the property, I ended up seeing one grey wolf cross our upper field, but we didn’t have much luck catching the buggers. Wyatt was in a lot of pain and really freaked out, but was starting to come out of shock. Our CO friend showed up at the house and he and Clay were ready to hunt. Following the blood trail to the kill site is the second eeriest moment of that day for me, the first, y’know, that whole being surrounded by wolves thing. Still sends shivers down my spine.

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Wyatt’s journey home

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The kill site, a mule deer

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Yep, that’s our house from the kill site…

Although they staked out the kill site, no wolves returned. Clay set up the game cam and we got to witness the coyotes and ravens clean up the site. More fresh wolf tracks today to go along with the howling I heard throughout the night, but still no actual sightings close enough for a shot. Wyatt had a terrible night, I think part pain, part trauma, but we got through it. Nothing like sleeping on the floor holding your dogs paw just to let him know you’re there and that he is safe. He’s a hero in my book… thank god he found them first. I can’t imagine if I’d been doing chores and stumbled across them unarmed or if I had to go look for him and found a bigger mess than I was prepared to tangle with…. he came home, he came to warn us. My heart breaks for him, but am I am so so happy that he came home. How? We will never know, but he definitely earned his “bad ass farm dog” award. He didn’t give up, he didn’t submit, he didn’t lay down, he has two bad hips and a bad knee and still ran like hell… He won’t be winning any beauty contests any time soon, but that’s just fine with me. He has also once again lived up to his Wyatt Earp namesake, the baddest doggy in the west. I guess that makes Maynard your huckleberry…

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I took Maynard up to the site this morning to take some photos and check the game cam. He smelled out his brothers trail immediately and led me the entire way through it

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One of the smaller wolf tracks on site

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Nothing left but the carcass and bones after the coyotes and the ravens got to it

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It seems so small

Today is a new day. Wyatt is alive and we are on the hunt. For those of you who may feel sorry for the wolves and think it is not right that we kill them, please remember that the safety of myself and my family is at stake. I refuse to walk around my property being afraid of the big bad wolf. I will not constantly look over my shoulder, or worry that one of the dogs, chickens, horses could be killed at any moment because wolves are in our territory. We share this land, but we must stake claim to what is our safety zone. I’ve run across countless kills on my hikes/walks/skis and never once felt in danger as they were not 100 yards away from my house. I have no problem staking claim on our homestead and defending my brave dog, frankly it would be stupid not to. He lived to tell the tale for a reason. The night is dark and full of terrors, but Mama’s got her .243 and she’s not ashamed to use it.

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“I’m your huckleberry”

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Everything is pretty swollen, but draining well

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The criss-crossed drains

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Fraken-doggy

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It’s going to be a long road ahead…

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Happy to be here with Mama… I think he just might make it

Keep you dogs safe and your guns close folks, homesteading is not for the faint of heart.

And wolves… we’re coming for you. I hope Wyatt got a chunk or two for himself.

Now, if I could only get the Peter and the Wolf soundtrack out of my head when I am walking the property, that would be great.

Thanks to all who sent prayers, concerns and well wishes – Wyatt knows he is very loved.

~Katy

 

Wild Wednesday – Coyote Hunting

This past weekend brought warm (very warm) temperatures and blue skies. In February. We weren’t complaining (too much). What’s good for the spring yearning is bad for our farm road. It’s such a love hate relationship with that damn farm road. But we persevered and are back to cold weather, a frozen road and grey skies. I guess you can’t have it all.

Clay has been itching to get out and hunt some coyotes. He hunts coyotes for a number of reasons, mainly of which is to keep the predator population down on the farm to help protect our deer populations and our precious chickens. He also said he would someday make me a coyote blanket, which is awesome because I will then be straight up Game of Thrones Winterfell legit. Eat your heart out Ned Stark.

Anyway, we had some friends join us on Sunday for a lovely snowshoe, some unsuccessful hunting and overall a perfectly gorgeous afternoon.

We saw four coyotes, three moose, a bald eagle and copious amounts of mule deer.

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The mighty Peace River

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The hunting crew

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Mule deer in our yard

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Mule deer on the move because we showed up

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Coyote on the ridge

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Lucky duck

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We had an audience

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Moose down in a gully

I must say, being able to snowshoe, hike and hunt on our very own property with views like this is probably one of my favorite parts of our lifestyle change.

What did you do this Sunday?

~Katy

 

 

Wild Wednesdays: The Wild Birds of Canadian Acres

Is it Wednesday again already?!

The topic for today’s post may not be as exciting as bull elk in our field or a black bear mystery, but the wild birds of Canadian Acres have become a huge part of our day around the farm. Last winter I hung up two bird feeders in the poplar trees outside our back door and filled them with black sunflower seeds.

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I can’t help but sing “Feed the birds, tuppence a bag…tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag…”

The first year, we mostly had black capped chickadees and woodpeckers frequent the feeders with the occasional finch and snow bunting. This year, I’ve noticed a huge increase in not only quantities, but also different types of wild birds and I couldn’t be more delighted. There is just something so soothing about watching wild birds feed and fly around in their natural habitat. Wyatt has taken to being a full time old man who constantly watches the birds out the window. It’s pretty adorable. Although, he may just be upset that they are eating “his food” since he has an acquired taste for bird food. Weirdo.

Photographing these guys can be difficult since the feeders are so close to the house, but I do try. Here’s a little peek at some of our most frequent visitors:

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A pretty little female dusky grouse visits our back porch from time to time

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I’m pretty much obsessed with her feathered feet

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And mohawk…

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I’m not sure what this little guy is. Best guess is some type of finch?

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I love the texture of feather patterns

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These guys are pine grosbeak’s with an unidentified bird on the right… I should get better at birding… y’know, in my spare time

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We also have a bonafide bird hunter on our hands as Miss Sake has been known to not only patiently watch these critters, she’s also lumberjack climbed a tree or two. I don’t think she’s landed a bird just yet (and leaves the big chickens alone) but I witnessed her first mouse hunt last night so I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.

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Ever so focused in the chicken yard

These birds were feeding on a grey winter day, but don’t despair, as most grey days turn into magical evenings and we couldn’t feel more blessed than sunset time on the farm.

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Goodnight farm

I’m so lucky to have such a diverse habitat to call home.

~Katy

Wild Wednesdays – Bull Elk

One of my blog goals for 2015 is to post “Wild Wednesdays” highlighting the wild life on our property as well as our wild horses. It’s always amazing to me how beautiful morning coffee is around here… and evening time wine. Most of these photos were taken from our back deck, a perfect pairing with a nice cup of macadamia nut roast coffee or glass of my favorite Syrah.

These elk were very interested in our horse feed and were giving the horses a hard time. I chased them off of the bale last week and we haven’t seen them since. It’s warmed up a bit, so it doesn’t necessarily mean we’ve seen the last of them…

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Suggestions on anything else you’d like to see more of or learn more about are most welcome as I finalize my blogging plan for the year.

Hope you will enjoy “Wild Wednesdays” as much as we enjoy this wild life.

~Katy

Deck the Shed with Lots of Game Meat…

Fa la la la laa laa laa laa la…. ‘Tis the season to feast and eat… Fa la la la laa laa laa laa la.

Don we now camo apparel… Fa la la la la la laa laa laa. Tote around a single barrel… Fa la la la laa la laa la laa la.

Howdy folks, it’s officially my favorite time of the year. Not only is it the holiday season, it’s also a time we get to fill our freezers with tasty wild game meat. I’m not much of a hunter and as an animal lover, I must admit it’s a hard process for me to go through without crying, but I am a firm believer in knowing where my food comes from and that each animal lives a wild, healthy and happy life. Being able to hunt on the farm was a huge draw for us on deciding to homestead.

This November brought deer season and I was saddened by the amount of poaching that goes on in our area. I am thankful for our fences and signs as we do have the horses living amongst the wild game, but boy did people push the envelope. I mean, I can SEE you… you are in my neighbors field and you can obviously see my house. Sigh… I digress.

I am thankful that Clay had his mule deer tag and harvested us a beautiful 4 point buck in a single shot. I was so proud I promptly marched out and took a bunch of amazing photos, later to realize I didn’t have a memory card in my camera… blast! Anyway, Clay gutted it (with my leg holding assistance), skinned it and hung it up in our power shed. The whole process didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. This farm girl is growing up!

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As a wife, I seem to recall some sort of request for a tarp on the floor? Hmmmmm….

After hanging it for 10 days it was time for my very first large animal butcher session. I was a little intimidated, but once Clay started to bring in the quarters and I had fully gotten into my first glass of wine, everything came pretty easily. I just followed the natural lines of the muscle and trimmed, trimmed, trimmed. As an avid cook, I knew what I wanted to keep and what I didn’t. It was actually kind of fun. And man oh man, is venison a gorgeous meat! I mean, look at that color. Happy happy girl.

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Let the games begin…

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Our set up

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Yum

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Check me out and my mad skills

The dogs enjoyed a leg bone each… Wyatt got the crazy eyes and devoured his. It took Maynard about 15 minutes to warm up to the idea and realize it wasn’t there to kill him, and in the end, enjoyed it very much.

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A very unimpressed Maynard

After packaging all of the large cuts of venison with my handy dandy food saver, I set the remaining scraps aside in the fridge for next day grinding. We bought a grinder from Cabela’s a few months earlier and I was eager to try it.

So the next day, I trimmed and sliced about 2 lbs of jerky meat and fed the rest through our grinder. It was awesome! I was finished in like 20 minutes and that was running it through 2 different blades. It took longer to clean the darned thing. Ha ha! 10 lbs of beautiful ground venison for the freezer – am I a bad ass or what?! (Sorry, the new homestead skills have gone to my head quickly. Also, gotta keep the motivation up for our next much larger butcher session.)1-IMG_1585

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Gorgeous!

Fast forward one month to this week and we were on our next hunt. Mind you we enjoyed our first venison tenderloin steaks (delicious) and butchered 10 roosters within that time…  I can not stress enough that this lifestyle literally never has a dull moment.

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Grilled venison tenderloin with kale & almonds and potato galette

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It was their time to go… they were getting a little too organized and held way too many rallies

At the end of November we had a herd of elk move onto the property. What a breathtaking sight to enjoy my morning tea to. Elk are absolutely gorgeous animals and something I did not experience in Alaska. Clay and I enjoyed doing  a daily count, and watching the bulls try to woo the ladies. Mostly we anxiously awaited the arrival of December 1st, when Clay’s Limited Entry Hunt tag for a cow elk came into effect. We hoped they would stick around.

And they did.

The weather was warm, I got home at 4 pm, we geared up, he with his .338 and me with my camera and a hunting we did go. 20 minutes later we had our elk. I think I’ll start going on more hunts if it only takes 20 minutes. (I can feel Clay rolling his eyes from here.) I am amazed at how big elk are. She was beautiful and we both thanked her for her life and sacrifice for our family.

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Amazing night for a hunt

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There she is, standing on the left

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Happy hunter

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I had mixed feelings about posting this photo… but I am trying to be more present and proud of my new lifestyle and bounty that it gives so here I am… thankful

Clay’s dad came down to help haul it up to the house and they gutted, skinned and quartered it for the shed. Hooray! I haven’t bought red meat from the grocery store in a year and I won’t be starting anytime soon. I am excited to butcher my first elk and try my hand at elk jerky… the venison stuff only lasted for 2 days around our house. Nothing like jerky for breakfast 🙂

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Utilizing all of our resources 🙂

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Healthy gal

Another busy month leads us into the holidays and we remain thankful and blessed. We truly are living the sustainable lifestyle we dreamed about. Although, I keep having a stare down with the giant elk heart that’s in my fridge at the moment… I’m still a work in progress.

Now, time to increase my wild game meat recipe collection – what’s your favorite way to prepare venison or elk?

~Katy

 

 

 

 

Game Cam Whodunnit

A few weeks back Clay checked on our furthest game cam, about 1/2 mile down from our house. As he approached, he realized that something was wrong, it was facing a different angle. Upon further inspection it appeared as if someone had vandalized our camera! But how, oh how could we figure out this mystery?

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This guy seems legit…

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Not so sure about this one…

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Our first baby on the cam!

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Oh my goodness, those spots…

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Wait a minute….

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Hey, stop that!

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Oh so you’re the culprit…

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Returning to the scene of the crime to check on your handiwork I suppose?

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Well, now you’re just doing victory laps…

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Oh yeah, it’s never the moose

Now to figure out how to fix the broken strap holder… damn bears.

~Katy