Monday, January 30, 2017

Gettting the kiddos outside

I have always loved winter; playing outside, sledding, snowmobiling and skiing. It wasn’t until recently that I started ice fishing and snowshoeing. Now that I have a kiddo who also loves the outdoors, we have to find ways to get outside, even when it’s snowing.

Tracking animals
: Winter is the perfect time to figure out what kind of animals you have around your home or property. It is a great scouting tool and it helps kids understand what animals are near their home and how to identify them by the tracks they leave in the snow. Deer are some of the easiest and we have spent hours following deer trails to see where the deer are traveling. This is especially fun if you know where the deer herd yards up and can look for sheds while out in the woods. Snowshoe hare leave unique tracks and they change color throughout the year, which is always appealing to kids. We don’t love seeing coyote tracks but as a hunter, it helps you understand where they are moving and kids can see how canines leave nail tracks with their paw prints as opposed to any cat track like a bobcat. Turkey are easy to follow as well and it’s amazing to see where they travel compared to where you have traveled.

Ice fishing: We have been fortunate to have friends who know how and where to ice fish and my kiddo has loved every adventure out. Last February, we went to a small pond and set up the traps. Every time a flag would go up, the kiddo would jump into the green plastic sled that we brought (the ice was too slick and we wore crampons to get around) and we would run to the bright orange flag flying. He would get out and start pulling on the line, almost before an adult could help.

As we pulled up pickerel and bass, he learned what each type of fish looked like, which ones have teeth and how to stick his thumb into the mouth of a bass in order to hold it up before putting it back into the water. He would also help with putting the bait fish into the water. We brought home a 18 inch small mouth that my son would have hugged the entire 3 hours back home had we let him. When we cooked it, he ate more than any of us.

Sledding and snowmobiling: There is no better way to see some of the remote places of Maine, than by snowmobile. My family has always had snowmobiles and I have many great memories of sitting behind Mom or Dad exploring the woods and smaller trails. We would go to dinner at nearby restaurants and get there via snowmobile. It offers up a brand new look at the scenery. I also remember lots of great trips on the inner tube or big black sled that we would tie to the back of the snowmobile and go for rides around the nearby fields. Sure, we would fall off and get face full of snow, but that was just par for the course.

There are so many ways to get outside and enjoy the snow this time of year. Getting kids outside helps to create and maintain their love of the outdoors and appreciation for all of the great seasons that we have here in Maine.




Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Learning to eat wild game

I wrote the following for the Northwoods Sporting Journal. What are your thoughts on eating wild game and teaching kids about where their food really comes from?



On the Monday after rifle season began, my three year old’s preschool asked him what he had done over the weekend. Straight faced, he looked at her and said, “Daddy shot a deer and I ate the heart” and walked off to play with his friends. She looked at me in disbelief and all I could do was smile and nod.

The excitement of getting a deer was at its peak for him when we drove into the driveway with my husband’s deer. That same three year old rubbed his hands down the back of the deer, held onto its antlers and when we hung it in the barn, he stuck his head almost inside the chest cavity and asked, “Is this all steak?” At three he knows that an animal, in animal form, will end up as pieces of meat on our plates.

I don’t think that we are doing anything special to teach him where his food comes from. We are hunters and have hunting and trapping friends. We go into the woods for the sole purpose of bringing back food. And maybe that is it; as a society we have become so disconnected from where our food comes from that it is almost taboo to talk about the gut pile associated with every piece of meat that we eat. Think back to the bear referendum and if you had to tell anyone that bears were hunted because they taste good. If it is not a common game animal (deer, moose and turkey), people seem incredibly hesitant to try it. Maybe that is why we rename our food so often; it sounds fancier if you call it venison, beef, pork etc. instead of bear, beaver and moose. If we make a conscious effort to educate everyone on what they are eating and which animal it came from, then maybe we would have more people willing to try new foods.

Over the past few months, we have been lucky enough to have bear, wild turkey, moose, beaver and deer meat end up on our plates. Co-workers and even my parents gave me odd looks when I talked about the beaver roast that I was making in the crockpot thanks to the trapping talents of my friend Staci, but my kiddo will sit down and eat all of it. His favorite is bear meat! Game meat is so delicious, organic and about as free range as you can get.

We owe it to ourselves and our kids to learn and try new types of game meat. And what is the easiest way to do that? Try a game dinner. There are a bunch of them across Maine and Unity College puts a great one on each spring. It was there that I tried bear, beaver and Axis deer for the first time and all were delicious.

I encourage you to try a new type of game this year! Why not try bear meat or be willing to bring the heart of your deer home to fry up? It might become your new favorite.