A Little Link Love – Or Later, Link, As The Case May Be

October 31, 2015

I haven’t done a lot of updating in my blog rolls in a while, but in case you noticed the sudden absence of three key links, I thought I’d share the reasoning… and maybe make a call for action.

As much as I’ve enjoyed the writing of Bill Heavey, Phil Bourjailly, and (most of the time) Dave Petzal, I have removed all links to the Field and Stream blogs from my site.  This is due, in main part, to the fact that I’m sick to death of auto-play, video advertisements that pop up the moment I enter the site.  I’ve commented on this before, and have made my opinion clear on the blogs and on the F&S Facebook feed.

I know the loss of me as a reader, and the loss of those links from my little blog really aren’t going to mean much to the corporation that owns and operates Field and Stream.  But you’ve got to take a stance somewhere, right, so here’s my fart in the whirlwind.

But hey, if you’d care to join this Quixotic tilt, I encourage you to do so.  But, before you drop out, drop in on their blogs and leave a comment calling for an end to the auto-play ads.  Let them know what it is you object to.  It probably won’t mean shit, but then again, maybe it will.

(And yes, I know there are ad-blockers and settings I can adjust on my side to limit this sort of advertising, but it seems odd to me that the onus should always fall on the consumer.)


Coyotes In Dixie – Bane Or Bounty?

October 29, 2015

When I left North Carolina in 1996, the thought of coyotes ranging through the coastal swamps and forests never crossed my mind.  Canis latrans aren’t native to the east coast, and with all the range and habitat out west, why would they even come this way?  That was fairly short-sighted of me, I know, but I honestly never gave coyotes a ton of thought.

What a difference a couple of decades makes!

In August, a couple of weeks after I bought this new place, Iggy and I were scouting deer sign.  He picked up some kind of trail and took off.  I paid no real attention, as he’s subject to doing that from time to time, and I figured it wouldn’t hurt anything.  A few minutes later, he came back and wandered out into the soybean field.  Not two minutes behind him, I caught a glimpse of grey fur coming through the pines, and a coyote materialized, hot on his trail.

It was my first live, eastern coyote, and I looked at him (or her, I dunno) with a mix of emotions.  But I’ll be honest.  My initial thought was, “I wish I had thought to bring the pistol.”

Back in CA, I was always hesitant to shoot coyotes, and I would only do so at the direct request of a landowner where I was hunting.  Part of it was their resemblance to dogs, and part of it is the fact that they’re more a natural part of that landscape than I am.  As a natural part of the ecosystem, they have a role to play.  And, of course, to sit and listen to them sing on a starlit night is to feel the very essence of the West.

But in NC, it’s not so simple.  As newcomers to the region they are, essentially, a non-native species.  The population appears to be booming, and it’s not entirely clear what sort of impact they’ll have on the local habitat.  Given the rapidly dwindling quail populations, and struggles to re-establish the wild turkey flocks, coyotes could mean bad news.  Hence, my first thought was to shoot the invader.

Here’s the thing, though.  It’s pretty well established that shooting the occasional coyote on sight has no real impact on populations.  Even focused predator hunting doesn’t seem to do a lot to manage their numbers.  My shooting that coyote wouldn’t make a bit of difference, except maybe to give me a conflicted sense of satisfaction and a scraggly, summer hide.

I know predator hunting is an ongoing topic of discussion, especially since the advent of social media has provided a platform for every critic and proponent.  It’s a conversation that hasn’t changed much over the years, except that it’s no longer just, “a western thing.”  On the one hand are the hunters, from California to the Carolinas, who claim that the coyotes have to be controlled or the game populations will be decimated.  “Shoot a ‘yote, save a fawn,” is the common mantra.

Diametrically opposed are the animal lovers who claim that the ‘yotes are good and necessary, and that they have the “right” to exist and expand wherever they will.  “They were here first,” is a common rallying cry.  “We’ve invaded their habitat.”

As usual, somewhere in the middle dwells Reason.

Unfortunately, Reason is not well provided with non-conflicting information.  It’s still unclear what impact coyotes have on wildlife populations.  Research is ongoing, of course, but coyotes live in a staggeringly wide range of habitats and they can survive on everything from fruit to fawns (as well as full-grown deer).  In some places, there’s more than enough prey to satisfy their hunger, while in others, it’s possible that coyote predation can suppress or even deplete the resource.  Add to this the complexity of identifying causality in a dynamic ecosystem, where everything is connected to everything else, and it’s an uphill fight to get a clear picture of the coyote’s impact in NC.

But wait, there’s even more, and this is where I think things get a little bit foggy.

Whitetail deer across many parts of the eastern seaboard, particularly the southeast, are overpopulated.  The problem is, they’ve been overpopulated for so long, that many hunters today take the high numbers for granted… even expected.  In a lot of areas, hunter success is consistently high.  I think a lot of these guys don’t really understand what it will mean if the whitetail herd is reduced to a healthy level (if that’s even possible), but in general, it will almost certainly mean a decrease in deer sightings, lower hunter success, and a reduced season/bag limit… and I can almost guarantee that most hunters will not like that.

At the same time, one of the most common arguments hunters make in support of hunting is the need to manage/reduce the deer populations.  While I’m sure this is said un-ironically, it sort of flies in the face of some of their actions.  For example, in states where deer sightings have dropped off, hunters are quick to blame wild predators such as coyotes, mountain lions, or even bears… and immediately call for increased hunting opportunities on these predators.  It doesn’t really seem to matter that the reduced deer herd is specifically the goal of management programs, nor does it matter whether the decline is in line with those management goals.

That creates a conflict in my mind which I find challenging to reconcile.

If coyotes are actually helping to reduce the whitetail population to healthier levels, then that’s a net win for the habitat and for other species that share it (including us).  This is what we want, or at least what many of us claim to want.  According to research down in South Carolina, this is also exactly what’s happening, at least in the study area.  Note, by the way, that the research suggested that the coyotes in combination with hunters, were making a difference.

There are still a lot of open questions here.  Whitetail deer are not the only prey animals in the ecosystem in question, and some of those other critters are not overpopulated at all.  Since, when it comes to whitetail predation, coyotes in the southeast are primarily feeding on fawns, that leaves several months of the year where they’ll be looking for other prey.  What will this mean for quail, cottontail rabbits, turkeys, and other ground-nesting birds?  How will coyotes impact other, small predators such as foxes and bobcats?

Time and research will tell, I suppose.  In the meantime, it’s pretty clear that the August encounter will not be my last.  I’m not sure how I’ll respond the next time, but I’m pretty sure it’ll be a tough call either way.








Field Care And Processing Advice For The Neophyte Nimrod

October 20, 2015

Are you new to hunting, or maybe just new to dressing and processing your own game?

Don’t be ashamed.  We were all there once.

Some of us had the benefit of family and friends to guide us through the learning process.  Others learned the hard way, through trial and error.  And some studied books, magazines, and more recently, the Internet.  (I expect there are several of us who’ve leveraged all of this.)

There’s an awful lot of really good information out there. There are any number of real experts sharing their knowledge in writing and videos, and some of it is actually useful to the novice.  You can look up just about anything you want on YouTube or Google.  There are also many quality websites, like my friend, Hank Shaw’s Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook.

That all said, in my opinion, the worst possible source of information for the new hunter is social media.  Just don’t do it, as tempting as it may be to get that instantaneous gratification.  Everyone on social media is an expert in their own minds, and every piece of advice is self-perceived perfection… sometimes couched in experience, but as often as not, it’s little more than theory expounded to the extreme.

So I’ve taken the long way around to my point, but that’s sort of the point itself… there’s a LOT of information about how to turn your game into quality meat.  It can be overwhelming.  It can make you want to give up.

Don’t do that.

In keeping with the title of this piece, I’ve got some advice.  But it’s not going to be detailed, step-by-step procedures for field dressing or butchering.  You can find that anywhere.  No, my advice is about how to utilize that information without getting an aneurysm or a PhD.

First things first, taking care of your game after you put it down is not rocket science.  There are some basic rules, but there are only a couple of ways you can really screw it up.  Keep that in the top of your mind.

There are only a couple of ways to really screw it up.  

So don’t be afraid.

Start with field dressing.

One of the ways to really screw up is to put off the field dressing for too long.  I’m not going to offer the complicated explanation of why this is bad.  It just boils down to the simple fact that you’re essentially marinating the meat in blood and guts.  If you don’t want the meat to taste like blood and guts, you need to remove them quickly.

How quickly?  As quickly as practical.  You’ll hear a lot of “experts” who make it sound like you need to race right out to the animal and strip the guts out before its heart has fairly stopped beating.  If that’s realistic in your situation, then there’s absolutely no argument against the sooner, the better approach.  It is a fact that the sooner you can get the carcass cooled down, the less likely you are see tainted or spoiled meat.  (Just, for your own sake and a little humanity, make sure the critter is actually dead before you start cutting.)

The truth is that you’ve got some time.   The amount of time you have depends on things like the weather (heat is the enemy), the kind of animal (pork and bear can turn pretty rapidly, while venison is much more forgiving), and where the shot went (the nastier the body fluid, e.g. gut shot, the faster you want it out).  But even on a 90-degree, early season day, you’ve got a couple of hours if you need them.  Don’t panic.  The very worst that will happen is that you’ll lose some meat… a shame, no doubt, but it’s not going to kill you.

How do you know it’s lost?  Rinse it off well, and then smell it.  Is it something you would put in your mouth?  Truly spoiled meat can be harmful, but by that point, it’s usually going to smell too bad to eat anyway.  

Field dressing really entails two, simple steps.  You have to take out the guts, and take off the skin (not always in that order).  There are a lot of mistakes you can make during these two steps, but honestly, none of them are irreversible.

In fact, when it comes to skinning, pretty much the worst thing you can do is maybe cut off some good, edible meat or get hair on the carcass.  Does that sound like the end of the world?  Here is critical data point, #1… it’s not the end of the world.  For the most part, you can rinse a little hair off when the skinning and gutting is done.  A more thorough clean-up should also take place during butchering.

Sure, food safety experts will warn that hair can carry bacteria, or that your knife blade can be so sullied from cutting the skin that it will contaminate the meat with any number of nasty microorganisms.  Just remember, those experts work in a world of sterile laboratories and Petri dishes, not the field or the skinning shed.  I wouldn’t cut up an animal with a feces-covered blade, but it’s pretty much impossible to maintain sterile equipment during the field dressing process.  Just try to be reasonably clean.  Wipe the blade off if it gets nasty, and keep at it.

Gutting the animal can be a little trickier, but even here, there’s just not much you can do to ruin the job.  If you ask for instruction or advice about gutting an animal, you’re going to hear a lot about not cutting into the paunch, slicing the large intestine, or nicking the bladder.  The warnings can be so dire that I know hunters who are afraid to field dress their own animals.  Don’t let them get to you.

First of all, there’s no doubt that cutting into the paunch or spilling feces and urine can make for an unpleasant field dressing experience.  The paunch, in particular, can be gag-a-maggot foul.  I’ve seen grown men choke and turn away at the stench.  The only thing that touches the paunch contents for nastiness, in my experience, is the rumen (sort of the “cud”).

Of course, none of this is something you want to marinate your meat in.  So don’t let it marinate.  If you cut the paunch or spill the bladder, finish gutting the animal and rinse the cavity out thoroughly.  That usually takes care of any risk of flavoring the meat.

Let’s be clear here, now.  I’m not advocating being sloppy or careless when you field dress.  You want to avoid spilling waste or body fluids on the meat if you can.  Take your time and pay attention to what you’re doing, and you reduce the chances of doing so.  But if you slip (and even the best of us do), it doesn’t mean you have to throw the meat to the dogs.

By the way, this is why I often prefer waiting to field dress an animal until I get back to the barn, where I have the equipment to do a clean job.  Tools like proper lighting, a gambrel, hanging pole, and a water hose can ensure that you can work carefully and cleanly.  If you can get the animal back to camp within a reasonable amount of time and with a reasonable effort, the benefits can outweigh the risks.

What about butchering and such?

When you look at a skinned, big game animal, it’s pretty easy to see certain “cuts”.  The hams, for example, are hard to miss.  Shoulders are right there.  The “backstrap” or loin is not difficult to pick out.  The tenderloins are invisible from the outside, of course, but if you look inside the cavity, they’re pretty much the only show in town.  And that’s the basics.

There is definitely a “right” way to butcher a big game animal… especially if you require textbook cuts to show off to your foodie friends.  That said, just like any other endeavor, it’s also nice to be able to do a good and proper job.  Butchering game has a bit of a manly overtone, I suppose, and it’s a skill set that is widely lacking in current society.  So there is some rationale to study up, learn the charts, and do it like a pro.

But you don’t have to.  If you start whacking away and accidentally cut your sirloins into stew meat, then the worst that happens is you have some really good stew meat.  The primary purpose to butchering is to separate the parts you want to eat from the parts you don’t want to eat.  Everything beyond that is finesse, and you learn finesse through experience.  You can learn a lot from just diving in and getting it done.

You’ll hear a lot, especially on social media (because I know you looked there, even though I told you not to) about hanging, or aging, venison.  To hear some people, you’d think venison is inedible if it’s not aged anywhere from 24 hours to a month.  That’s not true.

What is true is that aging can make some cuts of meat very tasty and tender.  It’s an excellent practice to adopt, if you have the proper place to get it done.  But it is absolutely not a requirement for good meat, and if you screw it up by letting your meat get too warm or moist, it will ruin the whole danged thing.

The point is, if you don’t hunt in a place where the temps are chilly all season, or if you don’t have a spare refrigerator or walk-in cooler handy, you don’t need to go buy one to “properly” care for your deer.  If, like a lot of hunters around the country, you’re only likely to go out and kill one deer every couple of years, it’s hardly worth the cost or effort.  It will be OK to cut and freeze your animal in fairly short order, and if you took reasonably good care of it after the shot, it’s still going to be wonderful.

So there it is, for what it’s worth.  My intent is not to dispel “myths” about game meat care, because a lot of the advice and information out there is valid… in its own, overkill sort of way.  But I think it’s important, especially for the new hunter, to recognize that there is no deep mystery or magic to proper game care.  You can do it yourself, and there’s a good chance that when you do, it will deepen the value of the hunting experience for you.



Pay Dirt… After A Fashion

October 18, 2015

Apologies if you would like photos.  I didn’t take any.  Just imagine a couple of whitetail does, dead, and my smiling mug.

I’m sitting here, typing this as I pick a little, grilled venison heart out of my teeth.  The heart was beating wildly at 08:20 yesterday morning, as a little beagle dog yelped on her trail… maybe a quarter mile behind.  She bounded across the soybean field, and then bailed out of the field, directly under my stand.

I wasn’t going to shoot her at first, but the realization set in that, if I didn’t, the dog would continue to run her all over the property.  Besides, it was opening day of rifle season and I had not killed a deer yet this year.  So I turned around in my seat, settled the crosshairs in the blurry clump of fur that was her head (at 15 feet, more or less), and dropped her.  She was a decent sized nanny, not a huge old thing, but fat and mature.

By 13:00, she was cut up, vacuum packed, and mostly in my seriously overflowing freezer.  The big, chest freezer is at Kat’s townhouse in Raleigh (and the meat is all happily ensconced there now).  We ran some errands and took a nap before heading back out for the evening.

I put Kat in my treestand, overlooking the soybeans for this hunt, and took the new 20ga SxS with some buckshot back into the thickets in hopes that the big buck might be sneaking around.  About a half hour before dark, a single shot startled me.  The .243 had spoken once, and that usually means one thing.

I headed back out and checked in with Kat, who, to her credit, was still in the stand.  She’d taken the shot at about 110 yards, and she was pretty confident that it was good.  But the doe had turned and run back into the woods, and Kat wasn’t sure that she could see any obvious injury.

I asked her to direct me to the spot where the deer had been standing, and I found a set of tracks that spun and dug into the sandy soil.  However, I could not find any blood at all, even in the thick brush where she’d gone back into the woods.  I thought it over, though, and decided to go get Iggy the Wonder Dog and come back to the spot.  Kat’s a damned good shot, and that little Browning .243 is a wicked accurate rifle.  I would have bet money that the deer hadn’t gone far, but without some obvious blood, I figured the added benefit Iggy’s blood-trailing skills would be useful.

And it was.

The doe hadn’t run far, but the first drops of blood didn’t appear for 15 or 20 yards.  Iggy, though, didn’t need to see blood.  I’m not sure how he knows, but he hit that trail like an old pro.  Once we found blood, it was easy to follow.  The doe had run straight back into the woods, and dove into some ridiculously thick brush.  The total trail was less than 50 yards, but honestly, without the dog I probably would have spent the whole night out there.

So the new place has paid out twice this season.  I’m giving them a short break before heading back out to hunt for that big 8-point now.  The other does are safe for a little while, although I have promised my neighbor some venison.  I figure we’ll want to put at least one or two more away, but I’ve got until New Year’s to do it.

And so it goes…

Deer Season (Firearms) Eve

October 15, 2015

Well, actually, that’s tomorrow (Friday), but since tomorrow promises to be pretty busy, I figured I’d better write this now.

I had, honestly, expected to be writing about my success with the bow, or at least with the new Barnett RAZR at this point, but it just hasn’t panned out.  It’s my own fault for passing up some “sure things” in favor of waiting on that big buck, but in my defense, I’ve still got a freezer full of meat and the season runs until New Year’s Day, so there’s no real urgency on my part.  I’m just enjoying sitting the stand and watching the critters.

Saturday morning will bring the firearm opener in this area, and I’m a bit anxious as to what that’s really going to mean around here.  As I’ve alluded a time or two, running deer with dogs is still a big tradition down in this area.  I don’t have a general issue with the practice, and truth-be-told, it’s how I started out as a deer hunter.  I made some pretty great memories listening to the hounds run

Still, the tradition has lost some of its discipline over the years and there’s an apparent (is perception reality?) uptick in the number of houndsmen who tend to disregard courtesy and respect for their neighbors.  Trespassing is far too frequent, and it’s often conducted under the guise of, “well, I’m just collecting my dogs.”

What really happens, at least in some cases, is that less scrupulous houndsmen will drop their dogs at the edge of a private parcel, in hopes that the dogs will run through (they can’t read the signs) and push the deer to standers on legal property.  Some of the more brazen of these guys will go onto the private land, and if uncontested, will shoot the deer there.  If they’re caught, they claim to be chasing dogs.

They used to have the law on their side, technically.  Under the antiquated livestock laws, you couldn’t stop someone from coming on your property to claim their animals.  Although they couldn’t legally hunt in the process, it was always a grey area and a lot of deer were killed on private land this way.  The law has changed now, though, and it favors the landowner.  Still, it’s an unwelcome conflict with a lot of the onus on the landowner.  It’s also potentially dangerous, as any conflict with armed individuals can go bad.  There have been several shootings over the years.

Not that I’m trying to make this out to be more than it is, but I am waiting for Saturday with a little trepidation.  Outweighing that, however, is the excitement that maybe I’ll get my shot on that big 8-point!  Sure, I’d prefer to take him with archery tackle, but it will be pretty awesome to put the crosshairs on him too.

And who knows?  Maybe I’ll watch him for a minute, and let the gun back down.  There’s still plenty of time to get him into bow range.

Yeah… that’s unlikely.


Hog Blog Gear Review: Dialing-in The Barnett RAZR

October 12, 2015

Sighting In

Iggy, the crossbow expert dawg, is gently coaching me through the sight-in process.

I couldn’t make myself wait to buy a new target.

After my initial experience with the Barnett RAZR and its total disdain for the stopping power of my worn-out archery targets, I figured it was time to finally replace the poor, old things.  Hell, the Black Hole target has been sitting out in one backyard or another for well over six years.  Even the Mathews occasionally sends one clean through.

But I’m a relatively long ways from a good outdoors shop, and the eagerness to play with the new “toy” was just too much.

Necessity…invention… mothers… or maybe I’m just cheap… but I decided that if I lined up the Black Hole and the Yellow Jacket, their combined forces would stop one of these bolts.  So I did and they did, and handily.  I can happily report that I have only destroyed one more bolt since implementation of my target “fix”.

I’ve heard, time and again, from people who bought their crossbows from the shop, brought them home, and they were already dialed dead on.  I guess I should have known it was too much to hope for, and my doubts were verified when my first shots were over a foot low.  I had to come up quite a bit on the scope, but once I had it where I wanted it, the accuracy and consistency were pretty amazing.

Iggy is a patient coach, but it took some effort to cock this bow.

Iggy is a patient coach, but it took some effort to cock this bow.

With all the shooting, there was a lot of loading and cocking the bow.  Cocking the RAZR is not difficult, but it’s not easy.  The rope cocking device uses pulleys and leverage to cut the draw weight in half.  Still, half of 185 pounds is 92.5, and even with good technique, that puts some pull on the old back and shoulders.  I let Kat try, and she really couldn’t budge it.  They make a crank for folks who can’t pull the bow back, but I didn’t order one.

The trick, as best I can tell, is to do it all in one, smooth movement.  If you stop halfway, you may as well let it down, take a breath, and start over.  Iggy was patient and encouraging… really the perfect coach.

I call this out, by the way, not as criticism but as a reality check.  One of the reasons some hunters switch to the crossbow is because of shoulder or back issues that prevent them from drawing or holding a regular bow.  I can just about promise that, if you have those sorts of physical limitations, you will not be able to draw this crossbow (or any crossbow with this kind of draw weight).  The crank device will pretty much be a requirement.

Kat's hamming for the camera a little here, but she shoots the RAZR very well.

Kat’s hamming for the camera a little here, but she shoots the RAZR very well.

So, it’s cocked and sighted in?  Now for the fun part!

As a kid, I was never good at sharing my toys.  I’m slightly more mature now, though, so I wanted Kat to shoot the RAZR.   She couldn’t cock it, but once I set it up, she shoots it as well as she shoots her rifle, which is pretty danged well.

And, seriously, one of the reasons I got this was so she could hunt with me during archery season.  Of course, now that it’s here and set up, rifle season opens in a few days so it’s kind of a moot point.

I am hunting with it, though.

The RAZR is fun to shoot!

The RAZR is fun to shoot!

I packed the RAZR instead of my Mathews yesterday evening, just to get a feel for it.  I’ve outfitted it with the Rage 2-blade Crossbow broadheads.  I’m typically a little skeptical about mechanical broadheads, but the reputation of Rage is so good, and I know this bow delivers a crap-load of speed and energy, so I feel pretty confident they’ll work as advertised (and if they don’t, you can believe you’ll hear about it here).

Unfortunately, my neighbor chose yesterday evening to fire up his bush hog and mow his cow pasture, which adjoins my place.  As a result, there was very little movement.  A nice eight-point (not the one I’ve been watching) got up from his bed in the middle of the soybeans and bolted out of the field, and a big doe came out tentatively, but ran off when the tractor turned and started coming in her direction.

Finally, just at dark, a deer stepped out at 40 yards and started working towards me.  She was obscured by some brush, so I eased the bow up and readied myself.  Swinging this thing around in the tree stand is definitely a different feeling from either a rifle or a vertical bow, and I was thankful for the screen of bushes.   I relaxed though, when she stepped out into the open and I could see she was just a little thing, probably just born this spring.

I’ll be heading out this evening for another go.

Stay tuned!



A Quickie

October 6, 2015

In passing, since insomnia seems to be the order of the day (or night, more appropriately)…

Barnett sent me the cocking device for the RAZR, and I had the chance to play with it yesterday.  A couple notes:

First of all… holy crap!

This thing is fast. I don’t have a chrono, but it’s advertised at 400 fps, and I have no doubt these bolts are reaching something near that speed.  There’s a catch, though, since the bolts at such a high velocity are blasting right through my disintegrating Black Hole target.  They also pass almost completely through my Yellow Jacket.

The problem with the Yellow Jacket is that whatever that magical stuff is inside tends to grab hold of the fletched end of the bolt, and it’s pretty much impossible to retrieve it without stripping the fletches off.

Summary note:  I need more crossbow bolts.  It doesn’t take long to destroy three of them.  I also need a new, serious, crossbow target.  Time for a stop at Gander Mountain, next time I’m up in Raleigh/Durham.

Why Gander Mountain?

Well, in short, Kat stopped in to buy a gun recently, and her experience was wonderful.  The guys in the shop treated her like a customer, not an unwelcome intruder (a la some shops back in CA and TX).  They were appropriately attentive, not patronizing, and professionally friendly.  She can’t stop talking about it, and to me, that’s a pretty big deal.

In other news…

I’m starting to think I am going to need a rifle to kill this 8-point.  I’ve seen him almost every evening I’ve been in the stand, but never closer than 100 yards.  Tonight he really messed with me by feeding out into the soybeans, and then standing broadside at 132 yards for at least five minutes.  This is starting to feel like a challenge!

That’s all for now.

We return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

An Opportunity To Be A Patron Of The Arts… Culinary Literature

October 5, 2015

Hank Shaw doesn’t just write cookbooks.

I mean, he does, of course.  His most recent book, Duck, Duck, Goose is essentially just that, a cookbook for waterfowl.  But his prose is not simply a collection of recipes and techniques… it’s often just damned good writing.  And sometimes, as in his first effort, Hunt, Gather, Cook – Finding the Forgotten Feast, it goes way beyond the rote of cups and teaspoons to tell his story as you go.

For someone like me, who seldom uses cookbooks or recipes except as an occasional source of inspiration (I’m no great chef, I’m just too damned hard-headed to follow someone else’s directions), good writing is a must to get me past the prologue.  I read all of Hank’s first book, and much of the second, just because it’s good reading.

But even if it were just cookbooks, they’re cookbooks for those of us who get our food from the woods, fields, and waterways.  Sure, you can apply the recipes from Duck, Duck, Goose to a store-bought bird, but what Hank does in his work is address the unique considerations that apply to birds that haven’t been raised on a constant diet of corn and “duck chow”, and that live on the wing instead of in a pen.  What’s more, he covers cooking the birds from one end to the other… from bill to butt, if you will.  I think that’s a much needed reference these days, as more and more people discover the joys of eating wild and of making the most out of the animals we kill.

When Hank started sharing the word that he was working on a third book, Buck, Buck, Moose, a lot of folks took notice… including me.  This time, he’d tackle venison, an often misunderstood and sometimes abused subject.  Hunters and cooks around the world have been ruining this meat for ages… overcooking, drowning in strong marinade, or overwhelming it in bacon (a little bacon is good, occasionally, but when it completely obscures the wonderful flavor of prime meat… well, that’s just a damned shame).  Also, as he did with the waterfowl book, he’ll look at preparing all of the animal, not just tenderloins, roasts, and sausage (although he’s a whiz at sausage and charcuterie).

I know there are other cookbooks out there with venison recipes.  Some might even be good.  I honestly couldn’t tell you because as I mentioned, I don’t generally read them.  But I’m pretty sure that Hank’s book will be very good.  I’m so sure, in fact, that I jumped in early on the KickStarter campaign he’s launched to fund the publication of the book.

Unfortunately, the big publishing houses don’t seem to think much of deer hunters or of books that will serve us.  That’s a shame, but given the growth and strength of popular press, self-publishing is a solid option.  And why put money in the coffers of the big corporations, even as they smile derisively down on us?

So, check it out.  Then, kick in!  You, too, can be a patron of the arts!


Resurrecting The Adam Henry Awards – Trophy Hunter Edition

October 1, 2015

There seems to have been a rash of trophy hunters behaving poorly of late.  While I’ve been known, on multiple occasions, to take my pot-shots at the antler fixation, my targets have largely been relatively innocuous… at least inasmuch as breaking the law to attain their goals.

But then I read about the yo-yo from Sportsman Channel’s The Syndicate poaching multiple species in Alaska… apparently for no better reason than to acquire footage for the TV show.  Another TV host was busted in the lower 48 for similar reasons, including trespassing and unlicensed hunting (unfortunately, I can’t find a current link for this one).  It’s enough to make me want to smack my head.

Truly, any of these guys would rate the Adam Henry Award (Adam Henry is an informal radio code used by some law enforcement and emergency services personnel to designate someone as an asshole, in case you didn’t know).  But then, as I was perusing the news releases Wednesday night, this gem lit up my screen.

Apparently, this young fellow, one Nick Davis, was so eager to make his bones, so to speak, that he actually screwed a monster set of antlers from a PA deer to a dead NC deer… and proceeded to have it scored as a new North Carolina state record!


Yeah, sadly enough, it’s absolutely serious.

And sad.  So fricking sad…  I mean, what an idiot move, right?

Better yet, though, the Blind Tom who scored and approved it… Joey Thompson, from the NC Bowhunters’ Association… didn’t seem to pick up on the discrepancy and is so upset, according to the article, that he might not score any deer “for a while.”

Really?  I sort of think it might be time to hang up the tape, amigo.  You know… just give it some thought.

On top of everything else, apparently our boy, Mr. Davis, took it a step further by shooting the NC deer (a 3-point, eastern count) with a rifle during archery season.

Honestly, this was all it took for me to blow the dust off of the Adam Henry Award.  Mr. Nick Davis, of Elkin, NC… you earned this!