The Lion, the Wolf, and the Moose – Part 4

camper with wood stove

If you haven’t read parts 1-3, you can find them here.

You would think that after camping in super cold weather for three days we would be ready to head home with a truck load of meat. Instead, we dropped the meat off at a cold storage business and went fishing.

We spent the majority of two days camping on my favorite river and “road fishing”, a new experience for Scott. He’s used to walking in to where he fishes, but in this case, I’m familiar with the river and know about a lot of great spots you can access from the road that are somehow still kept fairly secret. Luckily my memory served me right, and we we’re able to catch some nice trout. This was the first fish I caught – a beautiful wild cutthroat.

The fishing wasn’t incredible, but the fish that we did manage to catch were good-sized wild fish that we gladly released back into the river.

On this particular river (and on many others) if you find foam you’re likely to find trout.

Any of the big eddies that build up a layer of foam also build up a layer of insects on the surface. I’ve found that as long as it is a calm day, the wind won’t blow the foam away. These spots have produced good trout fishing for me very consistently.

trout online

If the fish are there feeding, you can see small ripples in the foam where they are slurping at the surface. It can be sort of hard to see because the fish don’t jump, they just slurp. If you hang out long enough you will probably see them in there.

cutthroat trout

Of course it’s not that these are the only places that hold fish. But if I only have a day or two to fish my favorite river, driving up the river to fish each of these holes is the best way to go. This strategy hasn’t failed me yet.

We had a relaxing couple of days fishing and camping on the river, but at this point in the trip I had another tag in my pocket for Roosevelt Elk on the Washington coast, and I was ready to process my bull and move on to the next hunt. I’ve never had the opportunity to hunt for elk in two states before, let alone back-to-back. At this point, though, I had an entire elk to process.

Luckily for me my mom is awesome and she spent two days with me out in the cold garage helping me process my bull. It’s a tedious, time consuming process, especially if you are careful and try to minimize the amount of meat that ends up in the meat grinder.

I try to keep as much of the animal in whole steaks and roasts as I can.

All of the really tough, inedible pieces of tendon and things like that go into a separate bag to be made into dog treats, so nothing gets wasted. Even if you don’t own a dog, consider making some for a friend’s dog. They’ll definitely love you for it. We pop it into the oven on low heat for a few hours then finish it in the dehydrator. The end result is a tough chew that any dog will be happy to gobble up.

elk dog treats

Despite the amount of work, I couldn’t stop feeling the immense sense of gratitude I feel when I get to harvest a big game animal. This time I kept thinking about how I would absolutely defend this meat from a mountain lion again.

elk hind quarter

Breaking down elk quarters isn’t complicated, just tedious. I pretty much just slap the quarter down on a covered table and trim the meat into sections where it wants to be trimmed. By following the natural divisions of muscle, you end up with a bunch of big cuts of meat and separate trimmings for the meat grinder.

elk meat

As I have progressed as a hunter, I have also progressed as a cook, and one of the main things that I have changed with my processing it to just do less.

It’s simple – the less you do with the meat initially, the more options you have later.

Instead of cutting backstrap into small steaks, leave it in bigger pieces that can be grilled like a tri-tip. You can always cut it into steaks later if you want.

Same with ground meat. This year we froze chunks of meat to be ground later and I am stoked to be able to take meat out of the freezer and have freshly ground burgers and taco meat. The texture of freshly ground meat is far superior to ground meat that’s been frozen.

That said, we do like to do some initial processing to provide fast, easy dinners for later: sausages, burger meat, and seasoned meats like teriyaki meatballs, chorizo, and spicy Italian are a few we have done.

packaged elk meat

After two days of visiting with family, cleaning up my gear, and processing meat, the freezer was full of packaged meat and I was ready to hit the road and start hunting again.

Last year I hunted for Roosevelt Elk in Washington and was unsuccessful. I came really close to harvesting an animal and I was super excited to try again in 2020. In Washington most western units have an early season in September and some units have a late season in the end of November and early December. Earlier this fall, I had to cancel my planned early-season hunt because of smoke and fire danger in the area I wanted to hunt. This was a huge bummer, but I knew I might still have an opportunity to hunt the late season which kept me looking forward.

Luckily, the timing worked out well to tack on a few more days of hunting before I had to head back to work. I was excited to hunt with another good friend and I was excited to get deep into the jungle of Western Washington again.

I arrived to my first hunting spot mid-day to a typical wet, foggy Washington scene. Low thick clouds were blowing through at a fast pace, so I could see pretty far off until I couldn’t see anything at all a moment later.

western washington mist

In Washington I primarily hunt private timber lands. A lot of the private timber lands require a costly permit but the lands I hunt are free. However, they are only open to day use and nonmotorized traffic. Another reason I prefer them – no motorized traffic to deal with.

The habitat in private timber lands is something in itself to figure out.

Leaving the logging roads can be anything from easy to pretty much impossible. It all depends on the age of the timber.

Fresh clear cuts are huntable for a few years, then they become too thick to walk through. After some time (I am not sure how many years), trees get old and tall enough that they block out the understory and become navigable again.

I started off my Washington hunt by making sure my bow was in tune. As much as I wanted to ditch the truck and take off into the woods, I had carried it with me for a week of driving around on bumpy roads and it’s obviously very important to double check and make sure it hasn’t been bumped out of tune. I made 20 or 30 shots at my foam target and all was well, so I set off on foot for what would become another awesome adventure.

You can find part 5 here.

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