Early Season

KevinBig Game, Black Bear, Elk, From The Wild, MooseLeave a Comment

ELKFrom The Wild episodes are planned out quite a few months ahead of time, and on the roster for season 3 is me going into my family’s ‘moose camp’. I’ve actually never been with tag in hand, as they always call bulls during rut, and I’ve always been chasing calves. The older I get, the more I want to participate, at least once, in this family tradition. There’s a 2 year priority wait for a bull tag there during rifle season, so this year, all I could get for a moose tag was a general archery tag. Hunting rules are complicated.

All that to say, I was in the boreal during early season, while moose archery was open. There was this window of time between Sept 17 when early elk season was open with a rifle, and Sept 24 when moose archery closed. Whitetail was open, bear was open. I was pretty sure we’d find something to harvest for From The Wild. My major cop-out from long, protracted blog posts is and will be: ‘watch the episode‘. A picture is worth a thousand words. An episode is about 31,000 pictures. [this one will be S2E8, released sometime in spring of 2016]

The short of it. I got to hear for the first time, elk bugling all around me, and our hunting party was successful at harvesting one opening morning. There was an explosion in the black bear population such that they’d spotted somewhere between 15-20 just on their ~1/2 section of land alone in 2-3 days. I ended up butchering 5 sides of bear. I brought in Allan Suddaby to do the cookery segment in the episode, which was long overdue. Overall, a crazy opener to what’s continued to be a stellar hunting season.


KevinApples, Cider, Cider Making, From the Cellar, From the Garden, Fruit from the Yard, Pears1 Comment

CIDER 2015 - PEARSLast year there was no cider season for me. I got back from New Brunswick filming for Slow Food Canada [as an aside, both films will be in DEVOUR film fest this coming November!!] and as apples ripened, I finished up the season with Lactuca, was in the field solid filming for the university and the beef industry, slamming out episodes of From The Wild, and by the time the end of cider season hit I was taking a photo of the apples on my tree, unpicked. It was upsetting, really. I decided to not let that happen again. Ever.

To ease my load, I sold my shares of Lactuca to my business partner, stepped away from Shovel & Fork, and promised myself a cider vintage in 2015. I haven’t really posted about my exits from those projects, but I’m happy to report that both were functional and healthy exits. The issue wasn’t the success of those projects or lack thereof, it was that my production business absolutely exploded, and it’s where I wanted to spend my time. I’ve been flat-out since.

CIDER 2015 - MY PEAR The pears top left are from a yard who’s owner I’ve made friends with over the past few years. A classic case of ‘Please save me the work of cleaning up this mess of fruit‘, and grateful we oblige. That single tree yielded 400-500lbs of pears this year. You don’t blame the owner for not putting it all up for the winter, now do you.

The singleton pear on the left is on the tree in my front yard – the first notable fruiting of the young tree. It pleases me to no end thinking about picking a few hundred pounds of pears from my own yard in a few years. It’s coming.

Pears have become a significant focus in our cider making. Most of our ‘apple ciders’ consist of at least 20% pear, and it’s normal to go up to 50%. Pears tend to crush and press really well, and are high juice yielders. Apples can be pretty variable. These pears have a nice acidity to them, are beautifully aromatic and taste the part. We make single varietal pear cider that’s austere in acidity but can smell like pear pie. And we consume the rich juice straight off the press in wine glasses. It’s glorious.


This is the first year I have a utility trailer with side walls – extremely helpful. Post pear pick, we picked the neighbour’s dolgo, picked a few branches of my cousin’s tree, and headed home to pick mine. So essentially a morning. To pick about 1000lbs of fruit, with a couple friends.

What does that yield? Years ago I figured out some ballpark figures that have stood the test of time:

100lbs FRUIT = 20L JUICE



20L of cider is a lot, pretty much. The carboys are 23L, so 20 would be your approximate net yield. 40 500ml flip tops. Doesn’t sound like much, perhaps, until you’re consuming #20, and you still have 20 to go. That, and when you don’t just have one carboy, you have 8. Legal limit in Alberta is 400L, in case you were wondering.

I also get asked about how I bottle, etc. I still love the purist method of bottling before the cider ferments dry to capture a natural bottle ferment with the residual sugar. Probably my favourite, but as aforementioned, my schedule can be cranky, and doesn’t always allow the finessing of that timing. We now keg most of it, like you would beer. The kegs sit in our cellar. Most of the year we have cold cider on tap, whenever one wants. #wealth

Below: a shot of the fruit crusher we’d been wishing we had for many years. A friend picked one up when I was unavailable last year – a solid byproduct of my 2014 vintage failure. We’ve spent many dollars and loads of hours trying to put together what this thing can easily do. If you’re going to make cider for years, suck up the expense and buy one. Game changer. You can dump a whole box of apples in the top and it’ll zip through them. It kept 2 large presses going all day, and sat idle and wanting more most of the time. This means my large rack press will be exploring multiple cheese pressing with plastic racks next year – something we could never do because the crusher would overheat and needed to cool down before its next go. Not anymore.

Many thanks to the many friends that were here lending a hand with picking, crushing, pressing, the pommeau tasting, dinner, the pear dessert, all of it. Beautiful living, and satisfying work. I sure missed it.



KevinBison, COOK IT RAW, Cooking w/ Fire, Fish, Fishing, From The Wild, Northern PikeLeave a Comment

COOK IT RAW CAMPToday Cook It Raw launched the first teaser piece from our stay on Cucumber Island – pasting it below. The series will be broadcast on Munchies – the first piece on Sept 15, which happens to be my birthday. The second part is a mid-length piece explaining the project, and providing a glimpse of life on the island, our bison hunt, and the resulting dishes our Alberta chefs were inspired by. Part 3 will be filmed in October in Calgary and the Kananaskis, with the international chefs in tow – that one will be roughly 22 minutes.

I’ve had a few questions about what exactly Cook It Raw is about, and rather than answer it here, I’m confident I did a solid job of making it clear in Part 2, so I’ll just leave it at that.

Wanted to include a couple photos from camp life on Cucumber Island. My bunk buddies for 6 days were Alessandro Porcelli, Blair Lebsack, and Brayden Kozak. It was sunburn-hot during the days without a cloud in the sky for protection. The tent would be roasting and uninhabitable during the day. At night, it got so cold that one morning our water jug had ice in it. Yes, that’s my sweet cot at the back. From The Wild has me living in the field for 40 days or so every year – in S2E2 we slept 2 miles off shore on the ice of Lesser Slave lake. One eventually figures out how to be prepared.


My prospector tent. Note to self: bring a wood stove in May.

The first 3 days were without the big crew – it was largely just the 4 of us, and the odd guest who’d drop by the island to import supplies for the impending chaos. The island was completely uninhabited, and our days were consumed by hard labour building a wood oven on the beach, a huge grill, multiple fire-cookery stations for the incoming chefs, setting up camp – all on top of the usual day-to-day necessities like meal prep over fires, fishing for lunch, and drinks in the evenings around the fire. It was a memorable 3 days. My camera gear stayed in their cases, and we really just lived out there getting ready – ready for the boat to bring the rest of the Cook It Raw team, and for the adventures to begin.

COOK IT RAW CAMP - the wood oven

The wood oven base and its rock-pile prep counters.


The 4 of us around 10pm. The weather was so stable every night looked exactly the same.


Our pot for boiling water. Not the best place to learn that it leaked.

I feel really, really fortunate to have been chosen to work on the documentary pieces attached to this project – and really appreciate those that put in a good word for me [you know who you are]. Only a few more days and we’ll be back in the field.


KevinBurbot, Fish, Fishing, Food Politics, From The Wild, Ice FishingLeave a Comment

BURBOT“Oh man, you can’t show that…”

I’m sitting with the From The Wild crew, showing them some footage in the field. Keep in mind that over the years we’ve shown beef being decapitated on the kill floor, used a drone to film black bear being field dressed, got up close with a mule deer being field dressed after being arrowed in the guts, and a host of other ‘unpleasantries’. Unpleasantries that are the reality of killing animals in order to eat them. The intent has never been ’shock and awe’ – although it admittedly has that effect – the intent has been to close the loop on how we related to our food, if we’re going to be eating meat. To show field to plate, including the horrible moments required to get it there.

The scene I was showing the guys was of a burbot that some neighbouring fisherman had caught and put on the winter lake ice. Not bambi, but rather arguably the ugliest fish in our waters here. The issue was with how the fish died. Or rather, that while I was filming it, it hadn’t yet died. It was in the process of suffocating to death.

Sounds dramatic. We had this collective moment of realization that we’d never in a million years treat a pig, cow, deer, or any other animal intended to be eaten in that way. Suffocation over a period of many hours? Brutal. I’ve seen perch gills pumping a day or more after you’ve pulled them from the water. Do that to a lamb and you’d have an army of haters after you – the whole army. What happened to stress minimization, swift death, and humane animal handling systems?

All of us around that table had been beating the drum of well-raised, ethically killed meat for years, yet this issue of how fish die had never even crossed our minds. Not once.

So why is it acceptable for us to kill fish that way? And by ‘us’, I mostly mean ‘you’. At least when I’m catching the fish we eat, I bonk the fish on the head to at least attempt to kill them swiftly. I admit the odd time they survive it, but we try. Now I’m not a betting man, but will wager a guess that the majority of commercially caught species that you’ve purchased either for home or on a restaurant plate were netted, put into a hold, without the luxury of being dispatched any time soon, if at all. Suffocation. And/or evisceration? Maybe a little from column A, little from column B?

“and, a lot of people would say ‘it’s just a fish’ – but I’ll tell you one thing, working in the slaughter business there’s one thing that’s for certain – and that is an animal is not a vegetable.” – Jeff Senger [FTW S2E2]

I realize I’m not proposing a solution. And I’m not trying to place blame. Just asking a question: why do the mighty ethics we carefully apply to killing creatures from the land evaporate when it comes to creatures from the water? Completely illogical.

I’m grateful this simple fallacy finally became obvious to us, and that when we’re in the field we have the opportunity to make it right – to even out this ethical playing field.


Yes, the burbot footage did make it into S2E2 of From The Wild, along with a discussion around the issue. A critical reason we’ve kept FTW online and not on broadcast – they’d never touch this kind of content. You can watch the trailer for the episode below, or the full discussion and footage in question via the full episode: vimeo.com/ondemand/fromthewild.


KevinAntelope, Big Game, Deer, From The Wild, Game Birds, Hunting, Upland Game, WaterfowlLeave a Comment

FTW S1E11 - SUNRISEThis is the first episode where we get to meet ‘the’ John Schneider – a dear friend who happens to have a former life as a high profile hunting and fishing guide. John also happens to be an organic grain farmer [@goldforestgrain]. John also happens to be a super nice guy. This episode, title included, is a nod to the story arc of his journey with hunting.

This was a difficult three days. The second half of the journey is one of the most fondly remembered legs of season one – the first half one of the least.

We’re starting to look tired on camera – I know I am. This episode was shot 4 days after getting home from S1E10. The very day I got home from this one I flew to Japan to shoot Springhammer 2. It was a busy time. One where I’m glad there were cameras involved all the while, as without them, it would just be a blur of insane memories. The big gift of post production is that I actually get to slow down and re-live some of the crazy moments when life is hammering me with its experience. I’m grateful.


KevinBig Game, Butchering, Butchering Game Meats, Deer, From The Wild, MooseLeave a Comment

FTW-S1E10-681x932Apologies for the cliff hanger in S1E9 – wasn’t the plan. Just so happened that when this journey hit the edit desk it was far too long for a single episode, so S1E10 resolves that piece for you, but we’re then thrown into a whole new mess.

We’ve had a lot of feedback on S1E9’s cinematography [positive feedback, thank you], and this episode is in a similar league. I’d like to give credit to the grasslands. A landscape that we thought could be boring, flat, and scarce of living things proved to be the exact opposite. Credit is also due to bowhunting itself – the very nature of the pursuit forcing the cameras into the fields multiple times a day on stalks, providing rich content. A big take away from season one was that some hunting styles are conducive to loads of visuals [these two episodes included], and some aren’t: S1E5 would be a good example. When copious hours are spent in a vehicle, the cameras don’t see much play. Season two has been designed accordingly.

Speaking of season two – shooting of S2E1 is wrapped, and we’re just about to leave on a longer than normal outing for S2E2. S1E11 will be out in April, S1E12 in May, and Season 2 should see the light of day come June 2015.

You can watch the full episode here.


KevinAntelope, Big Game, Deer, From The Wild, Game Birds, Hunting, Moose, WaterfowlLeave a Comment

FTW - S1E9 - MOOSESome 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.

You can watch the full episode here.

DJI Phantom2 Crash. Again.

KevinUncategorizedLeave a Comment

DJI CRASH TURNER VALLEYQuadcopters 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.


KevinFish, Fishing, From The Wild, Ice Fishing, Northern PikeLeave a Comment

buck lake ice holeThree 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.


KevinBig Game, Cooking w/ Fire, From The Wild, Grilling w/ Fire, MooseLeave a Comment

FTW S1E8 - BLAIRDays 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.