The Outdoors Is My Second Home by Rose Ann Contreras Atherton (Plus my favorite wild game green chili recipe!)

Roseanne Family Hunt.jpg

I was born and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona.  Every Thursday night, like clockwork, my husband, son, and I pack up our Fifth Wheel and prepare to head out into the woods the next day after work. 

During hunting season, we drive almost every weekend a few hours away to our favorite spots looking for deer, elk, and wild turkey. My husband and son always list Kaibab, Arizona as their number one choice in the lottery for a hunting permit, because the deer are humongous.

My 29 year-old son is a fourth generation hunter and fisherman. He started hunting when he was five, and he now uses a bow and arrow, while my husband uses a rifle. It’s a great time. It’s absolutely gorgeous. 

I don’t usually go with them on the morning hunt, because you have to go out super, super early. I stay back and hang out at camp and get breakfast ready for when they come back. They stay out for three or four hours, and when they come back, they’re hungry.  Then we sit around camp for a while, eat lunch, and then all go out together around 2 or 3.  If it’s my son’s hunt my husband drives, or vice versa.  I sit in the back seat with our tiny doggy and I keep my eyes open. If I see something, I point it out and they stop and do what they need to do.

Roseanne Son Hunt.jpg

After the hunt, we bring the wild game to a place that processes it into jerky, hamburger meat, chorizo, and all kinds of stuff. I like to do roasts in the crock pot, spaghetti, or green chili. (See my family's green chili recipe below.)

Hunting is more than a sport for us. It’s really about being with family in the outdoors. We go with other friends too, all with our RVs. We make our own little town. In the evenings you sit around the campfire and laugh.

Our beloved Fifth Wheel has a full-size bed, and a table and couch that also turn into beds. It sleeps six adults and two children comfortably. I love it. Before the Fifth Wheel we used to camp with my parents in tents.  My dad loved to heat coffee in an old-fashioned pot on the campfire, and we would boil water to take a sponge bath and do dishes. We roughed it.

I was raised in a Latino family as one of five kids. My dad worked in construction and my mom had little jobs here and there. Growing up we didn’t have a lot of money.  Hunting was a way to help put food on the table.  If my father shot something we’d have the meat processed and put some in the freezer, but he would also share with friends or family who were in our same situation, and they would do the same.  One year he shot a turkey that we ate for Thanksgiving.  We relied on these traditions of sharing food that the previous generations handed down to us, in order to put food on the table, especially with five kids.  This value of sharing food has strong roots in our Latino culture because of the importance of extended family and friends.

My father and grandfather hunted, plus my brother and uncles. It was always what I can remember forever and ever. We would have Thanksgiving dinner and all of the men would leave because elk season started the day after. We just love the outdoors.  Even when it’s not hunting season we ride around in the woods just looking at animals. I’ve been married for 40 years, and we’re always in the woods.

My three sisters can’t understand why I like spending so much time outdoors. I love the smell. I love that you can go for a walk for hours and you see something different every second.  The wildflowers are unbelievable. I love the quiet, the birds, and then you see a beautiful deer running through the woods.  You don’t have to answer to anybody.  In Kaibab our phones don’t even work.  I can’t even tell you the last time I stayed in a motel – it’s been years.

Growing up I was always out in the woods with my four siblings cutting firewood, selecting our own Christmas tree and picking piñon. That was our fun. For as long as I can remember I would say to myself, ‘that’s how I want my kid to grow up,’ and he sure did. Now I have a house full of animal heads.  

Roseanne Heads.jpg

I also go fishing a lot with my son and husband, just like I did with my dad. My dad had a boat and we’d go to Lake Powell, and now we have a little boat that we take out to Lake Mary here in Flagstaff.  I love the quiet, the water-- you’re sitting there on the boat and the fish are jumping. Our boat has a little radio and you’re playing music and it’s so relaxing.  We all have our fishing licenses, and I even have my own purple fishing pole. We do catch and release, unless the fish is a good size and then we bring it home to a friend who loves to eat fish, which we don’t. We would never fish and bring it home and throw it away. That’s not being a true sportsman.   

We are stewards of the land. We’ve taught my son that this is your forest and you have to keep it beautiful. We’ve taught him that you don’t litter in town or in the woods.  Now he comes unglued if he sees people throwing soda or beer cans out the window.  He will stop and put the trash in his car and take it to a trash can.

We’ve always kept my son very involved in hunting and sports.  It gives kids that sense of confidence and it keeps them away from trouble.  I truly believe it has taught my son to be a better person and that you don’t need substances to make you happy or successful.  All you really need is the outdoors. It’s free and wonderful clean fun.  

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Rose Ann’s Wild Game Green Chili Recipe:  

Wild Game Roast cut into bite size chunks

3 Tablespoon Vegetable oil

1 large onion, medium dice

1 can (14.5 oz) of diced tomatoes

1 Tablespoon Flour

8 Roasted Green Chilis, medium dice

1 teaspoon Onion Powder (more or less according to your taste)

1 teaspoon Garlic Powder (more or less according to your taste)

1 Quart Water or Beef Broth

Salt (to your taste)

 Note:  This green chili is like a stew. You can add more or less water depending on your preferred consistency. 

 Directions:  Cut up wild game roast in bite size pieces.  In a large pot, heat the vegetable oil and fry the meat until almost cooked.  Add one large onion chopped and 14.5 oz. can of chopped tomatoes. Cook for a bit longer. When done add the tablespoon of flour. While the meat is cooking, peel and chop the fresh roasted green chilis. Add the chili and water to the meat along with salt, onion powder and garlic powder.  Let boil on low for about 15 minutes and serve.