Some of my earliest memories as a kid are connected to a white, 100+ year-old house with a huge multi-burner wood stove in it, and the smell of grassland sages. My dad would take my brother and I there a few times a year, mostly chasing waterfowl, the odd grouse, and later deer. They’ve been going down there for 40 going on 50 years, and they have known the farmers and residents of the isolated area for decades. When it came time to choosing where to chase mule deer, going back to my roots was a no brainer. As residents of Alberta, we could hunt any gender of mule or whitetail deer – but only with a bow. Rifle season wasn’t open until November, and getting drawn took years.
Jeff and I had to date been skunked on chasing moose, day after day, with a bow – despite seeing rifle ranged opportunity day after day. We’d not connected on a deer. Or an elk. It was mid October, and the hunting season that theoretically would fill our freezers was seeming evasive. The trip to the grasslands seemed like a recipe to see more of not much, until we got there. We kept calling it a safari – wide open plains with big game animals, upland birds, and waterfowl – everywhere. Finding mule deer to stalk wasn’t going to be the challenge. Walking in on them in their bedroom was.
Quadcopters are an amazing piece of production technology, when they’re not crashing.
When I was researching buying one, I’d read things like ‘just a matter of time before you crash one‘. Boy were they right. I’ve crashed mine into rocks in the mountains. I’ve learned about “uncontrolled descent” by splooshing it into a lake – only learned later what had happened from an actual helicopter pilot while shooting in an actual helicopter. And just this week, my hardest impact crash yet – took a rotor blade off and bent an arm of the gimbal upward. The gopro didn’t seem to care. Had just flown it 5 minutes prior, but lights were acting weird so recalibrated compass [which I now suspect may have been damaged in the under-water-lake-crash], launched fine, as you can see in the video, flew fine into the field as intended but quickly became uncontrollable, eventually flipping sideways and sending a plume of snow up 5-10 feet as it slammed into the field. These things cannot be flipped sideways – it’s one of the great things about the technology. Except when they do it themselves.
Wanted to post this to 1] give a heads up to people who may not have the cash to burn to repair and replace said technology 2] justification for why I won’t fly them near people or buildings. Remote locations only for this guy, thanks. Video below shows the footage from shortly after take off.
Three years. It’s only been three years that I’ve actually enjoyed ice fishing, all starting with this trip, and the discovery of ice fishing shelters. When you’re not cold, and even more importantly can see the fish down the hole, ice fishing’s vastly more fun. Two years ago, something of a tradition started with our friends at Nature’s Green Acres hosting a weekend in January at Buck Lake, Alberta. Like wine, ice fishing is still enjoyable alone, but far more enjoyable with friends. We were able to land some pike for dinner, a memorable moment being the raw milt from pike dipped in soy. One more piece of off-cut that now is in regular use in the kitchen. Took a big bowl of the stuff done right in Japan while shooting Springhammer to open my eyes. I know people will ask ‘but how do you prepare it?!?‘: you take it out of the fish [white stuff where a roe sac would be on a female], pull off a piece, and pop it in the mouth. The dip in soy does give the creamy fattiness some needed salt. The finish is fantastic.
This break with friends seemed like a good time to produce a short about being on the ice – wanted to release something free other than an episode trailer as I hadn’t for ages.
Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months. This is unquestionably the longest hunt I’ve ever been involved with. This one’s the conclusion to S1E8, the last of the unplanned multi-part episodes from season one.
I’m not sure the story line could better put into question the issue of bow hunting vs rifle hunting, at least for us. It’s a long standing debate often creating divisive lines within the hunting community. Debate’s probably the wrong word. I’ve seldom heard of rifle hunters slagging bow hunters, but often hear bow hunters slagging rifle hunters. I think my conclusion is that the weapon of choice is not really in question, it’s the approach to the hunt, or methodology I guess. S1E8 gets to explore this a bit further.
This one also sees chef Blair Lebsack back to do some outdoor campfire cookery, sharing some ideas on how to approach big game cookery having been handed what amounts to a ‘black box’ of ingredients, with which he handily crafts one of the best big game meals [arguably the most memorable] that Jeff and I have ever had. No joke. As always, full episode available here.
When I started cutting this episode, I looked at the date of the footage and thought “that can’t be right”. The opening sequence was shot on September 23rd. The footage of us skinning the black bear from S1E6 also reads September 23rd. We pretty much went to bed at 3:30am on Sep 23, got up in the morning, shot the interviews for S1E5/6, and got on with shooting the next episode. We may just be crazy.
It took Jeff 4 years to get drawn for antlered moose in the WMU near his home. I’m used to hunting calf moose every year or every other year at worst, so 4 years seemed like an awfully long wait. So when bow season started, the obsessive hunt for Jeff’s moose began on the third quarter of Trevor’s land. The third quarter seemed to be a sweet spot – it had dense marshy cover where moose were bedding, a 30-40 acre chunk of bush for them to feed and hide in, 100+ acres of alfalfa to feed on, and a piece of bush across the road they liked to run to when in danger. Counting the number of moose sightings on the third quarter in 2014 would take multiple hands. They were there. We were there. We had an arrow, and were learning the bush. They had swords on their heads and already intimately knew the bush that was their home.
This episode was a turning point for me and this series. After quite a few months of talking to TV channels and an american distributor, and concluding that conventional television distribution wasn’t a good fit for this particular project, I finally got shooting to the kind of content I wanted to show – field dressing, harvesting of offal, skinning – things TV won’t or can’t show, basically. I get it, they have their reasons. But from day one, my gig hasn’t been about sanitizing the realities of how we obtain our food. Seemed to go against my values to start now.
This episode is one that I hope will shift the wild food culture in Canada, even if only a minute amount, and even if only after many years. I’d love for black bears to be seen as the choice food they can be, and not just hides and rugs. Much of the episode is Chef Blair Lebsack of RGE RD working with black bear, the prize being the copious fall black bear fat. We knew from the onset that we wanted to make black bear pastry with the bear fat instead of lard or butter. So he did. And it was awesome.
As always – trailer below, full episodes available here.
Back in the spring of 2014, I was approached to produce a video for Slow Food in Canada, with the broad mandate of exploring what Slow Food in Canada ‘is’. It meant trips to Vancouver, Vancouver Island, the Okanagan and Similkameen valleys, central Alberta, Montreal, Vallee de la Batiscan, Lanaudiere, Cocagne in New Brunswick, Toronto, Tatamagouche Nova Scotia, and more, it’s become obvious, at least to me, what it is. It’s a force, like a oversized kid that doesn’t know its own strength. As an aggregate, the projects the people on the ground are having across the country are dramatically changing the face of good, clean, and fair food. I’m convinced Canada’s food culture is shifting as a consequence. The intended outcome of the project was the video below – a 15 minute piece to be shown at Terra Madre in Turin, Italy. I shot so much more, so hope to be able to donate the time to get shorts edited for the convivia that gave the time to graciously host me, showing me the best of our country through the lens of Slow Food.
The piece is subtitled in both english and french.
This trip was intended to be easy. We were supposed to be going into a part of the province where game was rampant and our pockets burst with big game tags. Do a little fishing. Set up camp. It only ended up being a handful of those things.
One reality that didn’t make the edit but had a big impact on the trip was the flaky to zero cell reception. We were WAY back in the bush, trying to navigate with phones that often wouldn’t be of any assistance. When they did work, lines on the satellite maps that looked like roads would sometimes be impassable cutlines. Roads that were roads and looked like through roads would in fact be roads be then dead-end or otherwise be impassible. All the while, our heavy stock of fuel would decrease with every passing hour of trying to navigate our way out. And we’d find barrier, after barrier, after barrier.
I almost titled the time/hour on episodes 5 and 6. Episode 5 takes place over roughly a day and a half, the balance of Day 2 is in Episode 6. Sept 22, 2014 was one of the longest and most trying days of my life – it’d have been in the best of circumstances, but I also happened to have a solid head cold throughout.
A few takeaways: launching oneself deep into unknown territory is both 1) hard 2) lower probability of success and 3) heavy on adventure.
We made it. Season One of FROM THE WILD was a roller coaster to be involved with and produce – the insanely fun, adrenaline-filled, addictive kind that means Season Two is already in preproduction, with some exciting tweaks and improvements on deck.
I will never be able to say enough about the folks that are tuning in via pay-per-view. You’re what allows this project to continue. Early on in season one, we’d decided firmly against going with a TV broadcaster if one should come knocking. We felt that the edgier content we’d want to show, like has been done historically on this site, simply isn’t ‘allowed’ by broadcast corporations and sponsors. Then the TV interest came, a handful of channels and distributors. It was exciting and flattering to contemplate, but not surprisingly, because we decided to stick to values and show some not-TV-appropriate-material [see episode 6], we’ve secured our fate that it will be the viewers that will be our enablers, not a conventional media distribution middle man. What does this mean? Means we don’t have to do shameless plugs of sponsors. Means no ads. It means we can produce whatever inspires us without a filter. It means it’s pretty much the most exciting project of our lives, and we have you to thank for it. Thank you.
The success of this project has also birthed a sister project that will be announced in summer of 2015 once it’s in production.
Let this be evidence that I have one of the coolest jobs ever. I’m currently shooting a project for Slow Food Canada, capturing what ‘Slow Food’ means in Canada. In so doing, I’m driving and flying across the country doing and seeing some amazing stuff. Like this. The sockeye fishery in the Okanagan was in peril a relatively short time ago, and a variety of groups including many first nations groups got together, decided it was time to do something, and got about doing it. They started a myriad of projects that would give the sockeye a chance – everything from reintroducing fry to ‘ladders’ at dams along the Columbia river. It’s turned into an amazing success story of humans acknowledging some of our wrongdoing in food and making it right. It gives me hope for our species and those that we impact as we go about our lives.
I spent a glorious morning this week in a boat trolling for sockeye on Osoyoos lake. We caught 7 in an hour, and was certainly one of the most memorable salmon fishing trips I’ve been on. Salmon is squarely in my top 3 meat favourites, so I acknowledge my bias, but the Okanagan – which had me at the ridiculous abundance of fruits, vegetables, physical beauty, and increasingly good quality wine – has got me hook, line, and sinker now that salmon is part of the equation. Already planning the trip back in 2015, and so much more to say about this, but will leave it to the coming video.