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Hunting and Gathering



Rifle season starts tomorrow and I’ve been thinking about hunting and gathering instincts a lot. Something about spending so much time living out of my backpack in the summer sends me into full-on domestic mode in the fall. I’ve been canning and dehydrating all kinds of foraged fruits- huckleberry-gooseberry jam, rosehip jam, rosehip jelly, plum jam, dried plums, dried cherries, frozen cherries. Hopefully soon there will be some game to cram into our freezer. We’re lucky to live in a place where hunting and gathering are both fruitful and status quo. When we tell people that we’re working on a new map of the Bob Marshall they often joke that we should put good hunting or berry picking spots on it. Some people even express concern that somehow we’ll give away they’re secret spot fishing hole or favorite hunting spot. Trying to include all those places on a map would clutter it (and ruin the fun), but we’ve certainly affirmed that the “Bob” is full of good spots.

rosehip jelly

Jamie often jokes that he needs a cattle prod to keep me hiking down the trail when it’s berry season. My urge to pick berries is almost uncontrollable. I could pick berries all day- something about the level of challenge, the meditative rhythm, the way it’s quiet enough to hear your own thoughts but busy enough to keep from being overwhelmed by them. When I used to work on farms picking strawberries or raspberries was my favorite task and huckleberries are the same. Something about having huckleberries (or any produce) preserved in the freezer (or canned) gives me a sense of security. It’s like having a piece of summer to take with me makes me feel more at ease with the transition to winter.

ready for the freezer

While Jamie doesn’t have the patience for foraging that I have, I don’t have nearly the patience for hunting that he has. I’ve gone along a few times and sitting quietly on a hillside waiting for something to happen just doesn’t do it for me. For one thing I freeze. For another I’m used to cruising along through the woods, hiking hard. Sitting there, or wandering around without a real destination I get bored. My thoughts feel too loud, time slows down. Still, it feels good to know that the ancestral  instincts to hunt and gather are alive and well, even in modern humans. Walking down the trail Jamie will spot a deer frozen a few dozen yards from the trail that I would never notice. But he’ll walk straight though the densest, biggest huckleberry patch that I’ve ever seen without pausing. It works out well in the freezer though.


After a string of teasingly warm days it’s raining today and fall feels like it’s here to stay. We’re shifting our focus from the mad rush of hiking as many miles as possible to carefully putting all that data together to create some beautiful maps. Spending more time in the office means we finally have time to address some of the projects that have been on the to-do list for months. This blog being one of them. We want to bring you behind the scenes here at Cairn Cartographics and share pictures, tell trip stories, and discuss wilderness-related issues or events. Most of all we hope to inspire you to get out and explore some of the wild and beautiful places here in Western Montana or beyond. Check back soon for updates!