Despite there being a variety of activities to keep us busy in the outdoors over the winter, some of my very favourite moments are the slow-paced, dimly lit mornings and evenings where you can settle in and just kick back in an old recliner. We can get so caught up in the hustle and planning of all our adventures that snow-filled days are a good chance to sit down with a book and absorb some good old-fashioned knowledge.
As a new hunter, I would spend hours poring over videos that explained shot placement and how to deal with an animal once it had hit the ground. But some of the images that have stuck clearly in my mind have come from magazine articles or hunting reference books that illustrated the process for me. Although no replacement for hands-on learning, I felt a little more confident (especially when hunting alone) to have a small reference book in my hunting pack for how to process an animal.
And I must admit – the older I have gotten, the more I have leaned towards taking in a lot of non-fiction and reference books. There are the classics that I reference all the time, many of which are dog-eared, highlighted and worn from years of being packed around in a cruiser vest or referenced for work. My favourite is from the Lone Pine Field Guide series, an old copy of Plants of Northern British Columbia that my dad gave to me over a decade ago. I have most of the books on my shelf, but for anyone interested in foraging, all you need is to pick up one that is relevant to the region you will be foraging in.
Another of my favourites is The Boreal Herbal by Beverley Gray. Although it may not contain information about as many plant, tree, and shrub species as a field guide does, it covers, in detail, many of the common species that we can forage for in northern BC. I also love that she explains many of the medicinal and nutritional properties of the plants – a great book to have on hand.
Reference books are a great way to learn, but sometimes you just want those hit-you-in-the-heart stories that remind you of what it means to be an outdoorsperson. One book that particularly comes to mind is Gene Hill’s A Hunter’s Fireside Book. Maybe it’s the nostalgia of it (my dad used to read stories out of it to me and my sister when we were kids), or maybe it’s because a lot of the sentiments ring true to me the more time I spend in the outdoors. Whatever it is, I have never laughed nor cried as much while reading a book as I have while thumbing through his stories of hunting with his beloved dogs.
So, during these last couple months of winter, I encourage you to settle down with a good book in your hands and brush up on some good old-fashioned knowledge. It’s a great season to dream for the new year and reflect on those past.