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

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

To the Sunshine State or Whatever

Just ran across this AP article published in the Lakeland Ledger. Strange 2010 news from this strange state.

Guns. Alcohol. Iguana poisoning. Yeah, this peninsula we call home.

Florida in 2010 Made Weird News

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Recipe Review - Grilled Drunken Venison Chops

The December/January issue of Outdoor Life published venison recipes from various chefs. The one that caught my eye was the Grilled Drunken Venison Chops from John Reilly. It just so happened I had a few packs of recently wrapped chops courtesy of a North Carolina doe. The picture in the magazine looked awesome. Why not?

(Real quick, venison chops are a fantastic alternative to just cutting the whole backstrap loin out. Take the entire backbone with backstraps and tenderloins still attached to your local processor. It can be hell on cooler space, but it is worth it.)

Here’s a summary of the recipe:

Loin Chops
1 Cup Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbs. cracked black powder
½ cup olive oil
1 large shallot
2 sprigs thyme
1 Tbs. crushed juniper berries
Pinch plus Kosher Salt

Mix ingredients (except salt) and marinate for 2 – 12 hours
Grill. Let sit. Sprinkle with salt.


With recipes like this, ingredients are always a problem. I’m not Rachel Ray – my supply of spices like coriander and smoked ragweed is typically compromised. Professional cooks just can’t help but throw stuff like this in, and Mr. Reilly is no exception. Juniper berries. I don’t even know what a juniper is. I assumed some species of fidget bird - which made the berries sound awfully unappetizing for a meal. I asked the produce guy at Publix where I could find juniper berries. He looked at me as if I’d just told him I went speeding through a busy school zone, hit something, and was seeking a place to hide out until the heat died off.

Turns out a juniper is the vital ingredient in making gin, which, knowing the taste of gin, I still believe juniper berries could be bird crap. Just so happens I had a couple bottles of gin, a spoonful of which I could use as a substitute.

(Another aside – though my wife and I are in our 30’s, people come in and out of our home on a daily basis like a fraternity house to grab a drink and shoot the bull. On NFL Sundays it is positively infested with folks. Now, a number of these people, when out of refreshments of an adult nature, would suck the last drops from spent beer cans even if the lids were covered in cigarette ash and snot. I still can’t seem to get rid of this gin, however.)

The next issue was the wine. I’m not sure what Stag’s Leap Cabernet Sauvignon is – we had a bottle with a leaping Kangaroo on the front, which true oenophiles would faint in disgust if it were served to them.

So I whisked together all the ingredients and left the concoction in the fridge for about 6 hours. I got the grill red hot. When cooking these thin chops, cook very hot, very fast. The meat was dark purple from the wine. Smelled awesome.

And...they were OK. Carolyn wouldn’t request them if on Death Row. I ate four or five of them. Tender. Not bad, but it received a tepid response. The wine was a tad overpowering; I have had this trouble with other wine-based recipes in the past. Could just be my tastes.

No insult to Chef Reilly. My outcome could be the result of using gin instead of juniper. Or it could be the low-quality wine, wine that should be pressurized and used as insecticide, quite frankly.

Maybe someone can tell me what I did wrong. Mostly, this just illustrates the frustrations I have with recipes you find in such sources.

I shouldn’t be surprised.

Most of these magazines have been showing me how to kill big bucks for years, and I’ve had no luck there, either!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Introducing Mr. Hunting Expert

(Author's Note: Mr. Hunting Expert is a world-renowned authority on ALL things hunting. He has compiled a staggering mound of fan mail from those dancing in the street praying for the chance to lick the Tinks 69 from his Gore-Tex boots. For a fortunate few souls, he has graciously donated his time to answer their dithering questions.)

Q. I joined an 800 acre hunting lease back in the spring with 8 other guys. I spent all summer regaling friends with stories of the huge deer on this property. I hung a ladder stand during my first hunting trip there in November. The other members were surprising terse with me. I shot a button buck the first morning. Not satisfied with this, I moved my stand several times during the week and saw nothing. Other members of the lease reported seeing nothing either and left early in the hunt muttering under their breath. I guess there’s just no game on this land and will move on next year. This is the fifth lease I’ve been on in as many years. Do you know of any available leases that will guarantee deer with some friendly members?

- Restless Rookie, Randolph County, GA

A. Dear Restless: You, no doubt, are not typically invited back the next year and serve as a warm body so the others can afford the lease. It's their fault, though. They should have known better. My guess is you show up with all the latest gear and would involve yourself in B&C conversations with Jim Shockey – or worse, me – if you shared a camp. Yet, your stories all seem to end with “And that eight-point got away!”

Even that happened 10 years ago.

You are not above help, my son. Believe it or not, just because you throw money into a lease doesn’t mean the deer will pose for you. You must put work and research in almost immediately after you send the check. Scout the land during the summer. Ask others about the deer habits. Heck, ask locals at the grocery stores about when and how they like to hunt in that area. You know, learn something. Hang your stand before bow season and leave it be for the remainder of the year. Above all, if you can afford it, approach a lease like a multi-year commitment. Getting to know the land and the game in a season is unreasonable. Moving stands, driving your four-wheeler all over the lease, and trampling about will only spook the game and upset fine hunters such as Yours Truly.

Q. I am twenty and like to run dogs for hogs. Nothing thrills me more than staying out all night in the summer, chasing some old swine into a swamp, hacking through saw palmettos and spiderwebs. We’ve caught a few nice boars, but none of the Big Nasties. Any advice?

- Hawg Catcher, Wauchula, FL

A. Dear Hawg: Yes. Find a girlfriend.

Q. I pawned my Elvis Figurine collection and sold my Camaro to purchase my first airboat. I can go through anything now. We hunt the marshes of Lake Okeechobee, leaving dock at day break. We rarely kill any ducks but do a lot of shooting. All of my peers have become duck experts, why shouldn’t I?

- Fanboat Fiend, Moore Haven, FL

A. Dear FF: I saw you last weekend. My crew awoke at 3:30 in the morning to ready my vessel, and we rode 12 miles in the dark to set up well before first flight. We even – and I know this is tough to swallow for your ilk – let a flock of whistling ducks hover over our decoys before shooting light without pulling the trigger. After all of this, here you came revving directly towards our setup, whooping and hollering. We flashed you off our spot, and you kindly retreated all of 75 yards away and sky-banged at every avian species dumb enough to bumble by your station. I’m sure you heard the cursing. I would have had my people slap you had you not left an hour into the hunt.

Me being the gracious kind, I would suggest that next time you leave port before the stars run from the sun. Then keep moving if you happen across other hunters. I have been as allowing as suggesting to other well-meaning folks another place to hunt when they are in a pinch. Not all on the lake are this magnanimous.

This is all of my time you receive, knaves! If you have a query for Mr. Hunting Expert, feel free to e-mail.

But mind your P’s and Q’s, boy.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

South Florida Duck Hunting in Pictures

Some of us hunted Lake Okeechobee. Some of us hunted STA 3/4. All of us piled up the ducks. South Florida is really a fantastic destination for waterfowlers.

Instead of writing a long-winded post about this whole trip - most of which words can't totally cover anyhow - I figured we'd do a little picture diary.

So, let's get down with the Git Down.

Riding one of the main airboat paths Friday evening after a fruitful scouting mission on Lake Okeechobee. Pretty, huh?

Cole, PJ, and Drew riding dirty on the edge of the Big O.

Rumph's opening morning wallhanger bluewing teal drake courtesy of STA 3/4.

Handsome ducks, those BWT.

I was there, too! Fine morning on STA 3/4 though I, once more, could not hit a duck if it were sitting on a fence post. Ringers, BWT, mottled ducks, shovelers...all pictured here.

The other part of our rugged group had a productive morning on the Big Lake. They shot mottled ducks, teal, a fulvous, ringers, and...

A wigeon!!!

Our mode of transportation for Okeechobee. I must have one.

Gorgeous weekend. Great hunting. Friends. Always hate to leave, but I shall return.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Venison and Gravy Recipe

Carolyn claims her last meal, if she were ever on Death Row, would be my venison and gravy. Of course, if she does end up there, it will probably be for killing me, especially if I ever again wait til noon to call her when I go on one of these far-flung, gator-infested adventures down south.

When this does happen, I suppose it would be important to her - in my final acts of grace and charity - for me to pass around this recipe. It shouldn’t go wherever she buries me.

OK, venison and gravy. Start with a pound of cubed ham steaks. Soak in icy water for 30 minutes to remove excess blood and any lingering game taste. Pat dry and season with garlic salt.

Cut steaks into bite-sized pieces and dredge in flour spiked with additional garlic salt. Set meat aside and heat a skillet with just enough vegetable or peanut oil to coat the bottom of the pan.

In a separate container, mix two cans of Campbell’s Double Strength Beef Broth with two tablespoons of flour. Shake well and keep shaking.

Add the meat to the skillet and brown on both sides. Once done, remove from pan. Add the beef broth/flour mixture slowly, stirring and scraping up the fried bits of flour and goodness as you go. Keep stirring until mixture thickens and bubbles. Reduce heat and add venison bites. Cover and cook on low for 45 minutes.

The result is comfort food at its finest. The gravy is flavorful. The venison is tender. Serve over white rice with some bread for mopping up the mess.

Enjoy. It’s my legacy.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Outdoor Blogger Network - Blogger of the Week

I am proud to share with you that the fine folks at Outdoor Blogger Network have selected Yours Truly as a Featured Outdoor Blogger of the Week.

I will accept my hefty monetary award with great humility and begin paying off my expenses from this season.

Seriously, I have not given a shout of thanks in a while, so I will in Oscar-winning format.

I thank the OBN for featuring me. This is a fantastic website for anyone who has interest in the outdoors. There's hunting and fishing and hiking and just a wealth of talented writers. It is impressive.

Would like to thank the Lakeland Ledger's Polk Voice, The Florida Times-Union, and Central Florida Online for risking the wrath of anti-hunters and allowing me to publish to their websites.

Thanks to USA Hunting Pros, Backcountry Sportsmen, and The Outdoor Show for tolerating me posting my blog entries on their Forums. Thanks to the other bloggers who are so supportive. Check out my Blog Roll. Proud to have these writers listed.

I'd like to thank all the readers. Thanks to God of all for the Great Outdoors, the friends who put up with me in camp, and my wife for whom I must purchase lavish dinners in order to go hunting...and thanks too, honey, for the bow, the duck prints and antique decoys, new boots, for not throwing away my Petersen's Hunting magazines, and recognizing I'm in deep thought when I sit at the computer grunting trying to think of another "joke."

I hope I didn't forget anybody!

I love to write. Love to hunt. It was natural. I tried to write my first story when I was 15. Petersen's actually paid me for an article once upon a time. This format does wonders as a creative outlet and provides an opportunity to share with others the adventures that await Out There.

Thanks for reading!

And thanks again!!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Turkey Snatching

True story. All of it. I promise.

The flock of hens milled under a large water oak, the Boss Hen circling the edge of the group. They were close. The Boss kinda-sorta thought she saw me sitting there camo-clad and still. She just couldn’t be sure. Slowly, she’d bob her head back and forth - as turkey do - inch a step or two closer, peering through those beady peepers trying to catch me blink or shudder.

Not happening. I know my game. Never look ‘em in the eyes. It doesn’t matter if the whites of your eyes are tattooed camo, they will catch your pupils fixating on them. I sat motionless and observed the hen with peripherals.

I’ve long told people that if anyone catches a turkey by hand they blow by hero status and advance to legend. Over the years, a few turk-a-lurks have come close but stayed just out of reach of my ninja-like reflexes. Had more than one curious hen stroll by my boot laces. Once had a flock of jakes try to huddle under a myrtle bush with me. The tease of having that story recounted for generations around the campfire and the admiration of fellow hunters has eluded me.

This looked like my moment.

Now, Florida does have a long fall turkey season. Starting in September, one can hunt them with bows. Then blackpowder gear. Once rifle season starts on private property they are fair game, but only toms. No mention about using hands as lethal weapons, but none the less, hens are a no-no in these parts.

One must consider how far he or she will go to achieve legend status. The tales of Robin Hood haven’t survived the centuries because he championed welfare and social programs for the poor and persecuted. He broke the laws and defied authority. The odds of The Man catching me with a hen were miniscule. She could have easily been tucked away, no one more the wiser, except, of course, those I would later court with this story.

And the taxidermist.

Boss Hen continued to sloth closer to my haunt. I’m right-handed, so I needed her approach to be to that side. She was trending left, however. The first gobbler I killed I blasted from my left shoulder. About broke my nose from the creeping on the stock, but it worked. It’s not that I am crippled on the port side; I can get better momentum from the starboard. If you didn’t know already, turkey are quick moving critters.

She got to the end of my rubber boots and clucked a couple times. The other hens were alarmed. Boss Hen looked back and spoke something in Turkey. If they had voices, I would think it’d be a shrill cadence like that of Katharine Hepburn or Fran Drescher. Boss Hen seemed to be telling her people, “Quiet, wenches! I know what I am doing.”

The final last words of a fool.

She was just off my hip now. It would have to be a left-handed stab. In a spot like this, you just want to have Eminem’s Lose Yourself as the theme music.

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

Or Odysseus in the opening of Troy.

Men are haunted by the vastness of eternity. And so we ask ourselves: will our actions echo across the centuries? Will strangers hear our names long after we are gone, and wonder who we were, how bravely we fought, how fiercely we loved?

I snatched out with a left jab and...

...smacked my wife right across the chest. She shot up out of her pillows, half stunned, half crying, wailing about why I’d hit her when she was sleeping. The frenzy of actually catching a live turkey by hand would have been less chaotic.

I frantically apologized and sheepishly tried to relate the story. It would have to wait til the morning - it didn’t go over any better then. I finally returned to Dream Land, but the flock was long gone.

Carolyn has never particularly enjoyed me watching turkey hunting on TV while in bed.

This probably won’t play well come Spring. The fall from Legend can be a painful one.