Weekend with the Elk + 10 Tips for Camping in Mountains with Horses

Imagine riding into your camping spot, and along the way seeing some elk here and there, and then arriving to your location to find you are surrounded by 600 head of elk. That is precisely what happened last weekend when Joe and I and the four best friends headed to the mountains. The elk sightings began before we even hit the trail. While driving to the trail head a herd of about 15 came at a dead run over the top of a huge ridge and across the road in front of us, and finally came to a stop in the pasture on the other side. I have never seen elk with their tongues hanging out and panting like dogs, like these were. They were given a run for their lives.

Here is a glimpse of the weekend: Yolanda and Taz taking a break before crossing the Wiggins Fork. We had to step off the horses here anyway to walk down the steep hill to the river bottom.  DSC01326 Wiggins Fork- We crossed the river and rode along the opposite ridge before climbing over the top. DSC01328 Do you see the drive line? Sheepeater Indians, a branch of the Shoshone, used this as a drive line for hunting. We passed another structure further up the trail coming home. DSC01334Camp ???????????????????????????????View through my binoculars of some of the hundreds of elk across the valley from where we were camped. To the west, there was another small group and we could see one spike still with his horns from last year.??????????????????????????????? Ponies eating their cubes with elk watching from above. ??????????????????????????????? Time for human supper! We always carry this grate for cooking, it’s lightweight and portable. DSC01343 Note from Joe- Always double your paper plates if you don’t want greasy pants!  DSC01345 The herd moving in behind the tent at dusk. During the night they stampeded by us. DSC01349 Sliver of moon.  ??????????????????????????????? Waking up to Taz grazing by our heads. When I opened the front tent door, a group of about twenty elk stood 50 yards away, along with a single mule deer and our three horses. DSC01351 Boiling drinking water from the creek for the day. Last summer with the strict fire bans across our area and much of the West, I bought this jet boil for hunting season, and the day before our elk hunting trip the ban was lifted and we didn’t take it. So we tried it out on this trip, it really does boil fast. I used Folger’s coffee “tea bags” and enjoyed a nice cup of coffee too. DSC01352 Elk watching us and the horses with curiosity. ??????????????????????????????? On the way out. ??????????????????????????????? 10 Tips for Camping with Horses in the Mountains

1. Hobbles- Take hobbles for your stock and know how well they can use them. If it’s the first time you are putting them on a new horse, as we were with Slim, monitor them until you see how they do, or practice at home first. Some horses need encouragement to move forward if they are not used to wearing them. Similarly, know if your horses are skilled hobble-hoppers and will leave the country in them.  It is no fun running through the woods chasing hobbled horses, trust me. Some horses cannot handle mormon hobbles and do better in the kind that look like handcuffs and have just a chain link between them, like Strawberry. See what works for them.

2. Feed situation- Know the feed situation for the area you are going into. Prepare for how many nights you will be out and how much stock you have. Weed-free alfalfa cubes are about $10 for a 50 lb. bag from feed stores and can easily be packed in. We packed in one bag (split in half into another empty feed sack) in order to feed our four horses for one night. Give horses the option to drink before bed if they cannot access the water themselves during the night.

3. Keep at least one animal secured during the night- Even if you know your horses and their habits, keep at least one animal secured during the night if you are leaving the others out hobbled or in an electric fence corral. Secure horses on a high line, in a sturdy corral, or to a tree. Electric fence can get stampeded through and some horses can really move on hobbles. You don’t want to wake up and be left on foot to search. Strawberry cannot do mormon hobbles and we left her chain link pair at home, so she was chosen to be kept in a small corral overnight.

4. Headlights- Headlights are valuable to have as they enable you full use of your hands to check on horses at night or to go catch them in the dark.

5. Bring your glasses and sleep next to them- This is really only for those who wear contacts and are blind without them, which would be me. I always bring my pair of glasses and sleep with them next to my head. When you have to get up in the middle of the night to catch and re-tie horses or check on what that noise was, you want to be able to quickly see what you are doing. I don’t want to be blind if I have a bear in camp at night.

6. Banamine- Always pack a dose of banamine with you. Yolanda almost died four years ago on my first multi-night elk hunting trip with Joe. We were fifteen miles into the wilderness. We left from Brooks Lake, and on day two of the hunt the horses munched on some green grass during lunchtime. Two hours later, still an hour from our camping spot, Yolanda promptly stopped in the trail and laid down with me still on her. I got off in a hurry and luckily she didn’t break my rifle when she rolled on it. She coliced on that green grass and I spent the next three hours walking in circles with her while she sweat and shook and then finally took a crap. I was lucky she pulled through it and always carry a syringe of banamine. You can buy it from your local vet.

7. Bear Proof- Bear proof your camp for the safety of you and your stock. Check your saddlebags for any food or scented items and store them away with your food during the night, either hung from a tree with a lash rope or in a designated bear-proof pannier. Listen to your horses at night, they will make some noise if an intruder enters camp. If your horses are restless or making a fuss, get up and check. I sleep with a .41 and bear spray next to my head (alongside those glasses and my headlight), and Joe’s pistol between us.

8. Trash- Have a plan for packing out your trash. Especially if there is a fire ban! Bring a plastic grocery sack if it’s an overnight, or a real trash bag if longer. Also, remember to pack out aluminum foil, tin cans, and other objects that don’t fully burn. Make sure bags are heavy enough that they won’t rip in the panniers and make a mess. Also, for multi-night trips make sure to hang your trash at night, or secure it safely in a bear-proof pannier with the rest of your food.

9. Feet and Shoes- Check the condition of your horses feet in the days before heading out overnight. Make sure no shoes are missing, and check to see if any trimming is needed.

10. First Aid- Many items in a human first aid kit can also be used on horses to stop bleeding. I always carry a small survival kit and a full human first aid kit in my saddle bags. I choose not to carry additional first aid for the horses, but a homemade kit would be easy to make. I have in the past had to duct tape frozen water bottles to Yolanda’s leg overnight to prevent swelling while in camp. While working as a camp cook I carried a ziplock bag with antiseptic spray “Blue coat” and gall salve, as those were the two most common injuries that routinely occurred with those horses. Common sense and precaution will help prevent many injuries, but accidents happen. Have a plan and have some first aid gear for where you are and what you are doing.

Slim

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Yolanda and Slim (in back)

It has been a wet weekend here with rain and snow providing some much-needed moisture. This morning before the rain moved in again I got outside for the first ride of the year in the mountains with the newest member of the family–Slim.

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About three weeks ago Joe and I bought a 7-year old gelding. We had been looking on and off for another horse for the past year, now that Taz is 27 years old and can no longer do multi-night trips. He still does great on day rides, and spent a week in hunting camp last year day-riding from camp with Dave and Clare. Taz was a trooper on our four-day, 40 mile elk hunting trip last fall too, but the long pull back out to the trail head loaded with the front quarters of an elk was a bit much for him and from then on we have been seriously looking to add to the herd. Since our two saddle horses are mares, we had to narrow the search to a gelding. We rode Slim in the arena along with eight other head before buying him, but today was the first time actually riding out. It was sunny for a while!

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We did about a seven-mile loop, enough for Slim and Yolanda to break a little sweat and for Joe and I to wake up some leg muscles, and two deer horns later, made our way back to the truck.  It was really nice to get outside! Hope you were able to get some fresh air this weekend too. Slim is a great addition and will be used in hunting camp this fall …he will become an important part of the process of making meals from the mountains.

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Crockpot BBQ Elk Round Steak with Veggies

I came up with this recipe a few weeks ago after not having had time to marinade the elk steaks I pulled from the freezer, or plan a meal for dinner that night. During my lunch break I threw this together using what I had in the fridge and left the crockpot to do its job during the afternoon. I picked up a brown gravy packet on the way home from work to finish off the meal. Cooking the round steaks LOW and SLOW with the BBQ sauce and steak seasoning made the meat tender and gave it a nice spicy flavor. No gamey taste at all.

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Crockpot BBQ Elk Round Steak with Veggies 

Serves 2

  • 3/4 lb. elk (or venison) round steak
  • ~14 baby carrots
  • 1/4 c yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 russet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 head (about 1.5 cups) broccoli
  • 1 Tbsp. margarine or butter
  • 1/2 cup cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/4 cup beef broth
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Worchestshire
  • 1 package brown gravy mix (I used low-sodium)
  • 2 Tbsp. BBQ Sauce
  • Steak seasoning- I used this from Hi Mountain Seasonings
  • Garlic salt
  • Montreal Chicken Seasoning
  • Season Salt
  • Black pepper

Clean and chop vegetables. Feel free to use more onion, I didn’t have time during my lunch break to peel and cut another one, so I just used up what I had.

Melt margarine in frying pan and saute vegetables until carrots, onion, and broccoli are tender, about 10-15 minutes. I had to had a small amount of water to the pan two or three times to keep the veggies from buring. Potatoes should be softer but not yet fully cooked. Season vegetables with montreal chicken seasoning, garlic salt, and black pepper.
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Place steaks in a bowl and season liberally with steak seasoning. Pour on BBQ sauce and swirl steaks around in the bowl so that the meat is coated completely.

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Place cream of mushroom, beef broth, worchestshire, and partially cooked vegetables into the bottom of the crockpot.

Lay steaks on top. Sprinkle everything lightly with a pinch of season salt.

Cook on LOW for 6 hours. Liquid will form in the crockpot while cooking–this is good– you will want to save and use this! Pour off and measure one cup of the liquid that forms in the crockpot to use to make the gravy.

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When ready to serve, prepare the gravy: In a small saucepan, add the 1 cup of liquid reserved from the crockpot to the brown gravy mix and whisk on medium heat for 2 minutes until gravy thickens.

Serve steak and vegetables with brown gravy.

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Interesting Reads:

Viewing Wyoming’s bighorn sheep herds

Primal eating plan

Supreme-ly Good Elk Sausage Pizza

 

Happy Friday to all! I don’t think I could have made it another day without the weekend arriving…it has been a long and fast-paced week.  For the past seven days my life has been consumed by the excitement and work that goes along with moving. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to move into a larger house, which is conveniently located next door to where we were living. Cabinet space, a mudroom, and wood stove are among the highlights, not to mention more than twice the amount of house for us and a bigger fenced-in yard for Jade. Each night after work I have been deep cleaning the old house, and last night I finally finished! So now we are officially moved and can work on organizing and putting things away this weekend. Meals have been on the fly this week, squeezed in between working til 5 and cleaning until it’s dark. I realized tonight that four out of the past five days we have eaten elk, and tonight a Friday night pizza night sounded perfect to me, although I didn’t know if I was up to the effort of making a homemade one. So I compromised–although I have a good pizza crust recipe, I decided to lessen the work and prep time involved by buying a Jiffy pizza crust (for .86 cents!). It’s the first time I have ever bought a crust, and I must say it was worth it. I already had veggies and elk sausage on hand, so the assembly was a piece of cake.

Supreme-ly Good Elk Sausage Pizza

Serves 3

  • 1 Jiffy Pizza Crust
  • 1/2 c warm water
  • 2 slices bacon, diced
  • 3/4 cup cooked elk breakfast sausage, crumbled
  • 1/2 c marinated artichoke hearts, chopped into pieces
  • 1/2 c Italian style diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup black olives
  • 1/4 cup sweet onion
  • 2 Tbsp. Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
  • 1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 425.

2. Cook bacon. I cooked mine in the oven on a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil to prevent bacon grease splatter from frying.

DSC012643. While bacon is cooking, make pizza crust according to directions: add 1/2 cup warm water to the crust mix in a bowl and stir to combine.

4.  Allow to sit in warm place for 5 minutes. I set mine on the stove top while the bacon was cooking inside.

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5. Flour a cutting board or hard surface and knead dough until smooth and elastic.

6. Meanwhile, cook the elk sausage in a frying pan on medium heat. Set aside.

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7. When bacon is done, wash off the cookie sheet, pat dry, and spray with cooking spray. Wipe off excess with a paper towel.

8. Chop vegetables.

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9. Next, form crust into a round pizza shape on the cookie sheet.

10. Spread a thin layer of pesto on the crust along with the tomatoes and a little of the juice from the can.

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11. Pre-bake the pizza for 3-4 minutes BEFORE adding remaining ingredients.

12. Add remaining veggie and meat toppings.

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Then sprinkle evenly with the  mozzarella cheese.

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13. Cook for 15 minutes on 425, or until crust is golden brown.

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Cut yourself a slice or two and enjoy.
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Almond Butter Birthday Brownies

Almond butter brownies with label

On my birthday eve last week, I decided I finally had reason enough to try out a new brownie recipe that contains no flour and relies on almond butter and greek yogurt as the base. I played around with the original recipe, because I was hesitant to use all the almond butter it called for, one because the potential for creating a calorie bomb, and two, because I can only get almond butter when I go grocery shopping out of town, and didn’t want to use all mine up!

I would definately make this recipe again how I did, I woudn’t change a thing. Some “healthified” brownie recipes I have tried in the past have wound up being a far cry from a real brownie.  The almond butter in these brownies makes them very rich– although they are relatively low-carb and high in protein for a brownie. After having one while still warm and one on my birthday, I froze the rest. They are even better frozen! It tastes like eating a square of rich chocolate fudge. These make a nice healthy snack, especially if you need a little kick in the pants or a birthday treat.

Almond Butter Brownies

Yield- 12

You Will Need:

  • 1/2 cup almond butter
  • 1/4 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup almond milk ( I use Silk vanilla)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 8×8 inch pan

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  • Preheat oven to 350. Spray an 8×8 inch pan with cooking spray and wipe off excess with paper towel.
  • Whisk together almond butter, milk, eggs, vanilla, salt, and yogurt.
  • Add the cocoa powder and sugar.
  • Pour into pan and bake for 20-25 minutes. I pulled mine out after 22, but like them a little soft.

The Finished Product–

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Cut into 12 squares.

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Enjoy with a glass of cold milk. Freeze leftovers if desired.

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Nutritional Stats: Per 1/12 square: 111 Calories, 6.7 g Fat, 10 g Carbohydrates, 3.5 g protein http://www.livestrong.com/recipes/mos-paleo-almond-butter-brownies/