"There are some who can live without wild things and some who cannot." - Aldo Leopold

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mississippi Duck Hunting

Greetings from the Blind
A Ross and Cackler Goose
The private land we hunted near Ruleville, MS in the Delta Region of the state was 3 parts mud, 1 part waterfowl. Despite this being my first trip to Mississippi, having long read about the great duck and goose hunting in this part of the world, I wasn't exactly blindsided. Neither was I that, despite the amount of waterfowl in the area, this late-season hunt was a tough one of wary birds.

I've never killed a pintail; nothing changed after this trip. Oh, we saw tons, dropping from the clouds, those long necks peering down into the pit blinds. No matter the concealment, I just felt naked under their jeweler's eyes. One gorgeous sprig landed just out of decoy range but will remain well within memory for years to come.

Drake Greenwing Teal

The mallards I expected, in full plume this time of year, but almost as spooky as the pintail. And I've seen shovelers - or "smallards" or "Hollywoods" or " Spoonies" or whatever the code name was at the moment for these birds - but not in the numbers that floated across the flooded corn fields. We busted a few gadwall the first morning in a flooded timber situation. It'd been 10 years since I've shot a greenwing teal, and I placed a great deal of thought into having a drake mounted, but the damage was too significant.

The Ol' Specklebelly

So, too, with my specklebelly, my first goose of any breed. The geese - the geese were incredible to a fellow not in any way accustomed to the numbers and the noise. Thousands of snows, cacklers, specks, blues...all morning and night, their laughs and honks carrying across the open. After my speck, Harris took down a Ross and a cackler. For me, the variety of game was like an exotic hunt in a faraway land.

Which it wasn't, of course. It was downright easy to get to Mississippi from Florida, and I'm glad I did. Wish I'd taken a few more pics, but I simply enjoyed the scenery, hunting, and camaraderie too much to be lost in a lens.
A little bit of everything

But, here, I wanted to share what pics we took. Hope you enjoy and had a successful duck season yourself.

Max helped, too.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Hen Story

I poach posts from this website all the time for my other blog, Good Hunt - think it's about time to cut back across the grain. If you've not checked out Good Hunt or Polk Outdoors, please do so. 

Hope everyone's had a great hunting season, and I'll get to some original material soon enough!!!

"You only get one shot, do not miss your chance to blow; This opportunity comes once in a lifetime" - Eminem

So one of the neat things about hunting some of Florida's WMA's is the opportunity to harvest a hen turkey during the fall, ostensibly while deer hunting. I can't imagine anyone would set out to do such a thing as its own hobby, so its gotta be a Luck of the Draw kinda deal. All I know is the rules prohibit private land hunters from doing so.

The only wrinkle is, you've got to shoot them during archery season. No easy feat on a 8-10 pound bird.

I first noticed this quirk in the regs while hunting Upper Hillsborough WMA several years back. Ever since, I've been unable to get this challenge out of my mind, but the opportunity to stick an egg-layer has never presented itself.

Why I care about such an esoteric pursuit is beyond me. It could be because I know no one else who's accomplished such a thing. Just look at all these variables involved and you'll understand the magnitude of this accomplishment. You'd be a hero.

Skittish Hen Turkey + Public Lands + Bow & Arrow + 20 Feet Up a Climber = Hunting Immortality

Straight to the taxidermist if success ever smiled on me.

So there I was last Saturday afternoon, lounging in my Summit Viper at the aforementioned Upper Hills WMA. One of the weird things about hunting Upper Hills is that it is very close to Sky Dive City in Zephyrhills. From dawn til dusk, all you hear is the drone of Twin Otters ascending to the proper altitude and descending back to the airfield. In between will come the sound of the violent unfurling of parachutes. Hold an empty plastic grocery bag out of the window next time you drive home from Publix, then magnify that noise by 100. Add that to the throttling engine noises and this should give you an idea of the cacophony associated with pulling a tag on this property.

All. Day. Long.

Anyhow, it's noisy hunting and almost impossible to discern the crunching of hoofbeats through the dry leaves of the cypress swamps, a near necessity to know when something is approaching in that thick environment. But crunching footsteps I did hear. Whatever it was made a ruckus.

It was about 3:00. I slowly rose from my seat, clipped my release onto the bow string, gently placed my iPhone down, and awaited what I was certain would be a big buck slip by my stand.

We've all been afield and heard thrashing in palmettos and expected something grand like a 10-point or giant boar or Swamp Ape to emerge from the shadows only to be disappointed and underwhelmed by an armadillo. This feeling was similar, but the disappointment shed quickly when I realized I might have my 1st shot at that hen I've long coveted.

A skinny bird, she took her time, slowly meandering through the bald cypress. She wasn't 30 yards away straight ahead, but the shooting lanes were all clogged - for an arrow, at least. A case could be made for a clear shot had I been allowed any sort of firearm. But, then, that wouldn't be part of the mystique, would it?

She'd have to hit spots 10 yards in front or 20 yards to either side to be in the money. The way she was trending, though, a shot was, for certain, in my future.

I figured I'd have at least a little wiggle room for movement, being that I was 25 feet up a tree and all, so I shifted just slightly anticipating a shot to my right. Well, on a breeze-less day, this rustled the branches of a tree that leaned against the cypress I had climbed.

Bang! The element of surprise was gone. She was alarmed.

The hen would poke her head up to look around for a few moments, take a couple steps and repeat. Minutes turned to hours. My heart was racing and brow dumping sweat now. She was so close to a clean shot, just a few more steps...

When I thought she was obscured from view behind one final myrtle, I pulled my PSE back, knowing her next four strides into the open would be her last. Somehow - somehow - she caught me and turned 15 yards into 35. She paused on a fallen log and I released the Rage hoping the Force or Lady Luck or a fortunate wind would direct my arrow into the Kill Zone.

Today I feel like a kicker who missed the winning field goal of the Super Bowl. A slugger who struck out with 3 on and 2 outs in Game 7. I've had a couple 2-hour breakfasts alone to ponder this tragedy and realized alcoholism and a tell-all book is my future now - which is pretty depressing since I've essentially told all already.

If you've ever had success plugging a hen Osceola in the state of Florida with a bow - legally - please share.

Those of you who have missed, like me, counseling sessions are every first Tuesday of the month at Bass Pro in Orlando.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Fried Blue Cheese-Stuffed Venison

Venison is such a healthy meat - low in fat, all-natural, free-range goodness. Frying it just feels wrong. Here God’s given you an opportunity to enjoy a meal sans saturated fats, and you bite your thumb at Him and pillory your heart and arteries.

Oh well.

Here’s my latest abomination. Fried Cubed Steaks Stuffed with Blue Cheese. If you smothered it with gravy it would be the perfect food, though that could be flying a little too close to the sun.


1lb. Venison Cube Steaks
Mazola Corn Plus! Oil (I use this brand because it has, in about 18 different languages, stickers that claim it is heart-healthy, as if I’m just some Willy off the Turnip Truck who doesn’t know better. But I can point it to my wife and convince her. Also, I like shooting deer over corn. The symmetry is too perfect.)
2 eggs beaten (PS – why was the chef arrested? He was caught beating an egg! Ha! Heard it on a commercial.)
1 cup Vigo Italian Bread Crumbs
Package Crumbled Blue Cheese

Soak the cube steaks in icy cold water for an hour or so to leach the blood. Pat dry and cut the steaks into pieces about the size of a standard issue chicken nugget, making sure to trim any silvery sinew or fat. Dash with your favorite steak seasoning.

Take a dollop of blue cheese and stuff it in the middle of the venison. Wrap the meat around the cheese and secure with a toothpick. In one bowl, mix flour with salt and pepper. In another, the egg. The last one, breadcrumbs.

As the oil is heating in the cast iron skillet, toss the venison in the flour, dip in egg, and then roll in the breadcrumbs making sure to press the crumbs well into the meat.

The oil is ready when it begins to shimmer. Flick a little flour in and if it bubbles on the surface, you are ready to go. It doesn’t take but a couple minutes before the outside is browned and crispy, and the cheese is oozing.

A-1 is my go-to sauce here; Frank’s Red Hot is worth a dabble. Next time, I’ll rig up a horseradish accompaniment and see what can be achieved.