Annual Seed Collection and Hunting Trip

Posted on: November 3, 2022 Posted by: admin Comments: 0

Annual Seed Collection and Hunting Trip

We were all packed and ready to head out with our B Train (one ton truck, 5th wheel and flat deck carrying our side by side) on Fri., Sept. 23, 2022. I had to return on Sunday to get a delivery of plants out for the TransEd project Monday morning and check on our critters, so I followed Steve in my Rogue. Our final destination was just south of Fox Creek, but since we left later than we had hoped and it was getting dark, we opted to pull in at the Nakoda gas station and stay there for the night, along with all the big rigs. All was good when we headed out again Sat. morning until the wind picked up on the highway. From my vantage point in the rear I could see a piece of the fiberglass siding at the front corner of the fifth wheel flap, and then fly right off, along with some insulation across two lanes and into the median. Steve saw it too so we pulled over to the shoulder to assess the situation. Some of the vehicles moved to adjacent lanes and/or slowed down as they passed, but others did not, making for a less than optimal place to try have a look at the trailer. The damage of course, was on the driver’s side. From the inside I could practically stick my hand through my closet space in the bedroom area – I had visions of my underwear flying along the highway, but thankfully I had not lost any clothing. Steve opted to unhook and run to the nearest town for supplies, while I waited in the trailer. I could feel the trailer shudder at every wind gust and semi that blew by. Steve returned after some time with some screws, bolts, lath and a sheet of puck board. Miraculously he had also salvaged the insulation and fiberglass from the median. Of course they gave him the wrong screws at the hardware store so he went back a second time. Upon his return we opted for a quick patch with some lath screwed to the side until we could get somewhere a bit safer. It was a bit nerve-wracking for me to yell, “Truck!” for almost every other screw, at which point Steve would have to scoot over to avoid potentially becoming human asphalt.

We limped into Windfall where we were pleasantly surprised to find a nice open site to work on the trailer and stay overnight in. I would have been happy to stay there as we were right by the river and only had one neighbor. We decided to take a relaxing night to ourselves and do the repairs in the morning since we were stressed and tired. Of course Steve set up the Starlink so we could have internet and watch a show while enjoying our meal.

When the sun came up I took Eihwaz for a walk along the river. We crossed a shallow spot to explore a

Trailer repair

sand bar and I quickly decided to rename it the wildlife bar. Deer tracks, beaver tracks, wolf, fox, bear, possibly even a mink- you name it, everyone turned up at this party place at some point during the night. We returned to help Steve complete our patch job (including the almighty duct tape of course) and pack up, before resuming onward to our intended destination.

Between the crappy road and the trailer situation, we took our time and arrived at

RV setup on the Athabasca

the main camp at sunset. The RVs parked right on the river rock next to the Athabasca river, while tenters set up in the trees next to the communal fire pit. Quite a sight to wake up to each morning! It almost made the bad start seem worth it.

Unfortunately I only had one night at the new camp before I had to return for the

Athabasca River

plant delivery. I hated to go, but at least the scenery was pleasant and I had Eihwaz with me. I came home to two forlorn horses staring at the core of the round bale they had rolled out of their paddock. Good thing mom came home to save them from starving (eye roll and groan). The dog was happy to do zoomies around her dog run after the long ride home and I went inside to see what the cats had been up to. As soon as they heard me come in 2 meowing faces were glued to the french door, hoping I would let them outside after being stuck in the house for an entire 2 days (second eye roll and groan). “You’ll have to wait until tomorrow kitties. It’s dark out now and there are things out there that eat little furries like you”. They just gave me the evil squinty stare anyway.

The next order of business was my business. Bathroom time! Definitely was not expecting the mouse in the toilet. HTF did that even happen??? The lid was down. Cat’s were closed in the other part of the house. The dog was with me. No one else had been here. All I could think of was that fall seems to be the favourite time of year for deer mice to try to come in before winter, and this one would rather commit suicide rather than face the wrath of the felines. Before I could use the facilities I had to get a plastic bag to play bobbing for rodents since I had left the latex gloves at camp. Yeck! I was so done after that I think I just cleaned up and went to bed.

Other than having to get up extra early to unload the car and then reload it with plants for TransEd, the delivery went relatively well. I came back to let the cats out for a romp (cats rejoice) while reloading the car with supplies, topping up the water and hay for the horses, cleaning the kitty litter and refueling the cat dishes. I spot watered the plants, loaded up Eihwaz and was off again.

I couldn’t resist stopping when I came across some Indian Paintbrush and Ostrich Fern along the side of the road. I gathered some seed and fern fronds heavy with sori full of spores. Eoh was happy to explore. I believe we arrived back at camp just in time to go out on the evening hunt. I was tired but enjoyed the beautiful scenery. As a side note to those that question hunting, we hunt as humanely as possible, hunt for food, and adhere to all hunting regulations. As natural predators are depleted in many areas we feel it is up to us to act as stewards and help keep the balance. Overpopulation of ungulates, birds etc. can lead to more horrific road accidents, epidemics like chronic wasting disease and avian flu to run rampant, and depletion of biodiversity in some habitat areas. Hunters are also a good part of citizen science, providing much needed information to scientists and organizations like Fish and Wildlife to help determine future wildlife management plans.

We fell into a pattern of visiting around the campfire in the evenings, getting up

before dawn to go out in the trucks or UTVs looking for big game, and then finishing the morning grouse hunting. I would of course sneak in some seed collecting whenever I could. I valued coming back to camp for breakfast and a nap to ready myself for an afternoon outing with the dog, trying my hand at mountain whitefish, or leisurely exploring the trails with Steve in the side by side. I would help him find birds and he would help me collect seed – a perfect match in my mind!

Tall Larkspur

I was excited to find what looked to be Tall Larkspur not very far from camp as we quickly learned there were both black and grizzly bears in the area. That meant bear spray, or traveling in groups or vehicles for the most part, so finding something close was awesome! They were fairly dried out, but I was still able to get some seed from a few of them so we’ll cross our fingers for next season;)

One beautiful afternoon Steve and I took the side by side out for a relaxing tour while the others went on a river boat ride. We hadn’t even turned the first corner when a Spruce Grouse was spotted picking up gravel right on the road in front of us. I’ve always found grouse habits odd, as they don’t spook easily. I’ve seen someone shoot and the bird literally returns to the same spot, and when they do fly, it is generally not far or very high into the trees. It makes me wonder how they survive, until I realize they have large clutches and pretty much all species have feather colouration that blends unbelievably well into their landscape. Many times Steve or one of the others would lose a flying bird as soon as it went still in the bush. I’ll go further into detail about Spruce and Ruffed Grouse in another blog, but I will share the

Contents of grouse crop

contents of one grouse’s crop (maybe not everyone’s cup of tea, but as a nature nut I find things like this fascinating, so perhaps some others out there will as well) as it had just eaten a hardy meal of snowberry, bunchberry, bearberry and rosehips among other things. I thank the bird for supplying me with seeds. Though these ones were fairly fresh, many times further processed ones can be direct sown without scarification, as the bird’s digestive tract helps remove protective coatings on the seeds. Birds are great helpers in spreading partially digested seeds to continue the germination process and biodiversity of many areas. If one is wanting to attract wildlife it is also helpful to know what plants or parts of plants they eat and at what times of the year.

We found a great moose bog where I was able to collect a few black spruce cones. They can be tough as cones from multiple seasons are held on the tree, usually close to the bushy top, and accessibility can be an issue as they like moist boggy areas. Our group saw a number of moose but they were young, cows or not in a good position and only one person had a moose tag anyway. I didn’t get a chance to get any pics, but it was nice just to admire them. We went into a logging area which opened my eyes as well. At least these particular loggers had been improving their process. They left a number of standing trees behind, left logs, stumps and other brush on the ground, and took selective swaths rather than clear cutting an entire hillside. We could see where different areas had been replanted in addition to natural revegetation. It may not have been pristine old growth forest everywhere, but we could see the importance of having woodland in different degrees of growth. Elk prefer open meadows along woodland edges as they are actually grazers. Ruffed Grouse like newer to middle age deciduous areas to give them protection but also plenty of groundcover vegetation that provides food for them. Spruce Grouse like more coniferous areas and both species like a certain amount of gravel so logging roads supply that need. Of course moose gravitate to the wetland areas and deer like combination habitat that they can easily move through and have good vantage points from. I actually think that the different growth rates in these areas might actually be a part of why the wildlife is so diverse and plentiful here. I also realized the leftovers from the loggers made it so much easier for me to collect tree seed! Lodgepole Pine, Tamarack, Black Spruce – I could access volumes of it all much easier from cut branches laying on the ground.

Though all the hunters got were grouse, I was feeling pretty good about the trip. I had quite a stash of seed, and as always, was a bit sad to pack up to head home. I followed Steve’s B Train out again and we hadn’t even left the WMU before I flagged him to pull over. It was getting dark but the side by side sure looked like it was bouncing. As we walked toward the back of the trailer I realized the problem. One of

Side by side off trailer

the straps had come off (I didn’t even see a florescent orange ratchet strap go by???), and the side by side was now sitting with its front wheels straddling the flat deck’s bumper hitch. OMG! Even though it was not a good situation, we were so lucky it wasn’t worse. The spare tire mount on the hitch was bent but at least the side by side hadn’t gone into the back of the fifth wheel. Now we had to figure out how to get the side by side back on the flat deck properly. Obviously the front wheels were hooked over the front edge of the trailer so just firing it up and putting it in reverse was not an option. The winch would just pull it into the trailer unless we could get lift somehow. Hmmmm…..Then Steve had the brilliant idea of running 2

Getting side by side back on trailer

large ratchet straps over the roll cage of the side by side to the tow hooks on his truck. He backed the truck up slowly and the side by side crawled up and back onto the trailer deck. It worked like a dream!

As we sighed with relief and began putting the straps away and re-tying the side by side down, I noticed yet another issue – the fifth wheel coincidently had also incurred a flat tire. What bizarre game was this??!! It was beginning to seem like some omnipotent being was toying with us, by throwing out constant problems to solve, and yet always providing the means to some miracle solution. Only this time I wasn’t sure if there was a solution. We had everything we needed to change out the tire, except for a dual axle worthy jack. “If only a crane truck would just happen by,” I said scarcastically, knowing the odds of that happening in the dark on a remote gravel road was pretty slim. No word of a lie though. Not even 5 seconds after I spoke those words, a heavy duty crane truck pulled up along side of us and rolled down his window. “Hey, are you guys looking for moose? If you are I just passed by a huge bull just a ways back.” Steve and I met with open mouths and astonished eyes before almost saying in unison, “No, but we could sure use a hand with a flat on our fifth wheel!”

Peter (the name was embroidered on his coveralls), was such a nice guy, he didn’t even hesitate. “I’ll see what I can do,” he replied. In no time he had the entire right side of the fifth wheel hoisted up so Steve could swap tires. We offered him money but he wouldn’t take it. He believed in paying it forward and besides, he felt bad for accidently breaking one of the fifth wheel’s tail lights (definitely not a big deal!). After a lot of heart felt thank yous we were on the road again. Ironically we bumped into Peter once more in a gas station parking lot in Edson as we were getting gas and he was swapping out the crane truck for his pickup to go home in.

The remaining journey was uneventful other than the fact we didn’t arrive home until 5:00 am. Nothing like going to bed when the sun comes up. At least this is one trip we will never forget. I’m sure no one would ever believe us except we actually have pictures to prove it. Lol!