Fall is my favorite time of the year so I am always looking for a reason to get out and enjoy it. I had a spot I wanted to scout out for the upcoming deer season so I decided I would do a camp the weekend of October 3rd – 5, 2008. Small game season had just started, and the area was covered in pinon trees with cones that were just starting to open. I decided that it would be the perfect opportunity to do my first Aux Aliments du Pays camp.
"On the whole, this mountain may be set down as one of the most remarkable phenomenas of nature. Its top is covered with the pinone tree, bearing a kind of mast, which the natives are very fond of, and which they collect for winter provision." — Narrative of the Adventures of Zenas Leonard, pg 80
I headed out Friday after work, and made it to the site around 6pm. It was drizzling a bit on the way in, so I found myself a sheltered location under a Ponderosa and threw down my bedroll. My camp was on the west side of a hill overlooking Sevenmile Creek. I did not bother setting up any kind of tent as I didn't expect the weather to be too bad, plus I had sufficient shelter from the tree. There was a little rock cave which I could use in keeping either my gear or wood dry if needed.
After getting things situated, I headed out in search of some food. I collected some rosehips down near the creek and some pinon nuts. Most of the cones were not yet open, but I was still able to gather quite a bit. Along the way I found a mano, a round stone used for grinding, left behind by a Ute hundreds of years ago. I checked a couple of spots I have previously seen rabbits, but saw no game so I headed back to camp.
Dinner was raw pinon nuts and rosehip tea. So far hunger has not bothered me. Pinon nuts have a high amount of protein and have an appetite suppressant effect 1. It continued to drizzle off and on all night. I listened to some coyotes in the distance and then drifted off to sleep.
Last night was not too cold, and I slept fairly well. I woke up with the sun and headed out. I did not make a fire, as I had nothing to cook. I headed over to the next ridge and sat watching the surrounding area for deer. I snacked on pinon nuts as I waited, but I did not see anything.
The clouds rolled in late morning and stayed the rest of the day.
After a while I continued on my way in search of game. I found a tree with a lot of nuts and decided to take a rest and gather some nuts. As I was hidden under the tree quietly picking nuts four does wandered by unaware of my presence. When I turned around I surprised them and they just stared at me for a moment before running off and joining some others nearby. I was happy to see some deer; unfortunately I had to watch a meal pass me by.
I made a large loop then came back to the creek collecting pinon nuts along the way. A pine squirrel barked at me from the top of a cottonwood. I debated shooting it, but decided it would be too hard to find it in the brush and creek below the tree. I continued on but found nothing, and I started wishing I had shot the squirrel. At least I was not too hungry, but I was getting extremely tired from covering so much ground. I made my way back to camp mid-afternoon and took a nap for an hour or two.
When I woke I was determined to get out and find some dinner. I jumped a doe with two fawns on the next ridge and continued on my way. I found an old beaver skull up a hill about a 1/4 mile from the creek. Up until 2 years ago this creek had been dry, but I had noticed some recent activity. It's good to see the beaver moving back in.
I was not having any luck finding game so I decided to start making my way back to camp. I heard a noise in the bushes but figured it was just a bird, so I continued on. A cottontail rabbit ran out and stopped about 20 yards away. I brought up my smoothbore and pulled the trigger. I finished it off with the butt of my gun, and carried it back to camp with my spirits up.
I started a fire with some dry grass I collected earlier in the day then proceeded to clean the rabbit. Hunger had not really bothered me much until I had to sit and watch that rabbit roast on a spit. I also roasted some pinon nuts and made more rosehip tea for dinner. I prefer the nuts roasted, but they need to be roasted slowly and without much heat. If they get too hot they explode! The rabbit sure was good and filling.
I sat by the fire until I was out of wood and it died down. It was a peaceful night and the skies finally cleared up. When you're alone you have a lot of time to sit and think about the past.
I slept well with a full belly, and felt quite refreshed. The skies were mostly clear this morning and it is good to see the sun again. The nearby mountain peaks got a new coat of snow last night, but nothing down here in the valley.
I headed back to where I saw the four does yesterday, and picked some more nuts under the tree. I did not see anymore deer this morning so I headed further west. I saw a rabbit near a Juniper tree, but decided not to shoot since I didn't need it. I followed a draw and filled my pockets with nuts before crossing the creek and climbing to the top of a ridge. I saw three more deer.
Around noon I headed back to camp, packed up my gear and cleaned up the site. I did a bit of target practice before packing out. This was a wonderful experience for me and something I plan to do again in the future.