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Recently I traded in my Grundens for camouflage and headed for the remote Oregon wilderness near Hells Canyon, the place where The Kitchen Wild all began.
When I married my husband in 2007, it was immediately apparent that I was marrying into a big hunting family. The Wiley family had been hunting in the same part of the Oregon wilderness — along the Imnaha River — since 1965, and this world of hunting, one of which I knew absolutely nothing about, was about to become my new normal. I was honored to have the opportunity to carry on the traditions of the women before me, but still incredibly nervous to enter into a world I knew absolutely nothing about.
Almost immediately I realized that hunting wasn’t at all how I imagined it to be. I had assumed that hunting was all brutality and gore, being carried out by people who didn’t care much about the animals they were hunting — but that couldn’t have been further from reality. Hunting is time for the people who love each other the very most to come together to tell stories of years’ past, reminisce about those who pioneered the way before them who are no longer with us and to create new memories along the way. Hunting is about respecting nature, education, honoring traditions, and passing these treasured moments and skills down to future generations of hunters. It was unlike anything I ever experienced before, and from that very first moment on, I fell deeply in love with hunting.
Now, 16 years later, as my husband and I are in this very spot along the Imnaha River with our own children, those hunting stories mean more than ever before. Stories 58 years in the making are now being told to our little ones of memorable moments that led to the nickname of hunting locations — like Lee-Cuts-A-String, when their grandfather, Lee, pulled back his bow accidentally nicking the string with his arrow and breaking it, therefore being unable harvest a huge bull elk standing directly in front of him. Or Moccasins Meadow, when their dad chased a heard of elk down the hill and over the river in leather moccasin slippers instead of his boots. Or Crap Point, a very bumpy ride that inevitably sent the boys running for the woods with toilet paper in their hands upon arrival every time. There are decades of stories leading to the nicknames of these locations, and one by one these stories are being told to our children by their grandfather for what could be the very last time in these woods.
Although they may not realize just how special these moments are at this age, I know they’re listening and, one by one, taking it all in. And someday these will be the very same stories told of their father, uncles, grandfather and great-grandfather they will pass down to their children, adding new memories of their own along the way.
For me, I can’t imagine what my life would be like without this place, these people or these stories. They have all made me who I am today, undoubtedly exactly who I was meant to be. I am so incredibly grateful to have the opportunity to carry on the traditions of the women in these hunting camps before me, raising up the next generation of Wiley hunters.
Time to make: 45 min
Also make with: beef, venison, moose
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