Peaches and Cream Grouse

For some reason my neighbors thought it would be a good idea to let me borrow one of their 90cc dirt bikes one archery season when I was in high school. They also thought it would be a good idea to let me stay in their “cabin” near Stanley Idaho. I must have had someone fooled but I took advantage of the situation.

Me and the 1960’s era dirt bike with my bow strapped to the front found more goat trails and nearly inaccessible areas than my legs ever would have. The problem, I was a young hunter, was all the noise I was making. The concept that wild animals did not wait around to see what the loud noise coming down the trail was didn’t occur to me. After all, the grouse still hung around.Wrong Decade, Wrong State, but still a cool bird

And man would I see a lot of those birds. Families of 5-6 running then fluttering up into a pine tree at eye level. I had never shot one so I just left them alone. Back at the cabin that night I looked up these seemingly slow birds in the upland regulations. I could shoot two and the season had opened the same day as my archery tag. Sweet.

The next morning I found the birds fifty yards from were they had been the night before. They seemed way to calm as I approached them, arrow on the nock.

The first one that I shot was with a blunt. Bad idea. The treed grouse was only about 20 feet away when I gave it hell out of my 55# compound. The blunt went clear through the breast of the bird and both came crumbling out of the tree. I tried saving as much of the bird as I could but the breast meat was essentially ruined.

The next grouse I shot was with a broad head, out of a tree again. I am fairly sure that an archeologist will find an arrow is stuck in a tree in the SawtoothNational Forest that has my name on it. The bird, luckily, came sliding off the shaft of the arrow and tumbled to the ground. Yet again most of the breast meat was ruined.

Limited out on grouse I went back to thinking a deer would be standing in the road just around the next corner, to no avail.

Back at the cabin I boiled up the remainder of the meat and had a nice snack. I vowed that I would figure out a non-wasteful manner of harvesting these birds with my bow. That…or just come back up with the dog and shotgun.

Tips for grouse hunting

With a bow I have found that a good judo point works great on grounded and treed grouse. I carry a judo point on my bow during archery season that I mark a special color, easier to identify. I would hate to have a judo point on the knock when sneaking on a buck.

Good six shot is normally more than enough for a grouse. But sometimes they flush fast after some pressure. At that point I switch to a size four “long shot” on my 16 gauge. These seem to give me an extra 10 yards or so of range and that comes in handy putting birds down.

Turkey season is a great time to do some grouse “scouting”. In the spring the mating call of a grouse is a distinctive low tuned thumping noise. The males pick a location, often a fallen log, and make that there home base. They hang near this log all year round. If you hear the thumping in the spring remember the location, or better yet mark it as a waypoint on your GPS. The bird should be within a few hundred yards of where you heard him in the spring.

Young grouse are just flat stupid; they are called “fool hens” for a reason. These birds make awesome “practice” for young bow hunters. I would carry my bow behind my father all season just for a shot on a young grouse. In grouse prone areas I have even made self bows and arrows and hunted the birds for more sport. Nothing says “mountain man” like coming out of the woods with a grouse and a self made bow.

Flocks of Sage Hen tend to frequent the same areas year after year. They stay in “stands” and when you know a flocks location keep it a secret. I have hunted the same bowl in OwyheeCounty for 4 years in a row. Limiting out by 8am most days.

Know your different types of grouse. Some areas have sharp-tail and sage hen, but only sharp-tail is open season. Shooting the first chicken that takes off can lead to some tense moments if the wrong type of bird is on the ground.

Know the coverage that holds birds. In tree lined areas I tend to hunt the ridgelines with the buck brush. In heavy cover I tend to hunt the logging roads. Your area is different so take notes from year to year about what type of area holds birds and what does not.

Tips for cooking Grouse –

A grouse, aside from a sage hen, is just about the closest wild-game animal to a chicken that I can think of. As such, I treat the bird as if it was a chicken. First, I will decapitate and then pluck the bird. Then I will disembowel, saving the heart and liver for a fireside snack. A big grouse will then surprisingly resemble a skinny legged chicken.

Since the meat on a grouse is white it will need to be cooked until it is well done or 165 degrees. This will kill just about any bug or parasite that the fool hen might have.

When cooking a grouse, just like a chicken, the recipes for the breast are always the easy ones to come up with. Chicken Parmesan, chicken alfredo, chicken piccatta are all great classic ways to eat the bird. The one problem with those recipes – what the heck do you do with the rest of the grouse.

One cool thing that I like to do is separate the “tenderloin” off of the breast meat and then use it as stuffing for the thigh meat. First I breast the bird out just like I would normally. On the bottom side of the bird will be a little finger of meat that is no longer attached to the breast. This is the “tender” or the “strip” that has accompanied countless kids meals for the past 100 years. Remove the tender and set it aside.

Then, I take the legs and separate them out at the thigh/knee joint. With the tip of a sharp knife I will then remove the equivalent of the femur bone from the thigh meat. Folding the tender onto itself I then will place the meat back where the femur had come from. Using the skin and a thin slice of Prosciutto (cured Italian pork leg) I then wrap the whole package, placing it seam side down to allow the natural moisture to form a seal.

These little thigh/tender bundles are great for grilling. Bacon will also work as a substitute for the Prosciutto but it will often over power the flavor of the grouse.

Peaches and Cream Grouse Bundles, Serves 2

4 ea Prosciutto grouse bundles (see above)

1 ea almost ripe peach

1 shallot, fine diced

1 tablespoon butter

¼ cup heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon honey

Salt and pepper

Mint sprigs

Heat grill to medium high. Bring a small sauce pot of water to a boil, just big enough to hold the peach. Cut an X on the bottom of the peach and, with a pair of tongs, submerge it into the boiling water and count to 20. Carefully remove peach and run under cold tap water for one minute. The skin should come right off. Core the peach and slice thinly.

Grill the grouse bundles until the juices start to run clear, about 3 minutes on each side.

Heat butter in a medium sized sauté pan on medium high. When butter is melted and clear add the shallots and sauté them until just tuning brown. Add the peaches and the honey to the pan. Let cook for a few moments until the peaches begin to brown.

Add the cream and reduce the heat to low. Let simmer for 2-3 minutes or until the cream gets thicker. Taste the sauce and then season with salt and pepper as needed.

You can serve the grouse bundles whole or sliced, both presentations look good. Serve with mashed potatoes. Dip the bundles in the peaches and cream sauce and enjoy a classic!

Categories: Birds, Not Waterfowl, Blog, Recipes | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Pepper Crusted Venison

The French classic of pepper corn steak, updated for a Northwestern flare. The sweetness of the apples and the apple juice are what makes this dish. It calms the pepper down in your mouth but still lets the flavors have a nice bite. Using a local apple, something firm like a Fuji, works great.

Pepper Crusted Venison Steaks IMG_0043

6-8 4oz Venison Steaks, Sirloin Makes a great choice

3 Tablespoons Cracked Black Pepper


1 tablespoon olive oil

2ea Fuji or Granny Smith Apples, peeled, cored and sliced into ¼ inch wedges

1 tablespoon Flour

¼ cup apple juice (brandy or bourbon works great here too)

½ cup milk

1 sprig rosemary (optional)


Turn oven on to “warm” and place a plate inside. Heat large heavy bottomed pan on medium. Pour the cracked peppercorns onto a small plate. Firmly press each of the steaks into the cracked peppercorns, just one side. Lightly season both sides with salt.

Pour oil into pan, it should be on the verge of smoking hot. Place the steaks in the pan peppercorn side down and let brown for 2-3 minutes. The steaks should be a nice golden browned before flipping.

Flip and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes. Remove promptly from heat if blood starts to show on the top of the pepper crusted section, this will mean that they are about medium. Place steaks on the plate in the oven to keep warm.

In the bottom of the pan should be a bunch of brown goodies stuck to the bottom, this is a good thing. Add the apples and flour. The juice from the apples should allow the flour to be absorbed and not clump. When the apples start to brown add the apple juice, about 1 additional minute. Use a wooden spoon and scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan. The flour should thicken the apple juice mix quickly. Add the milk, let simmer until it reduces and thickens to a thin “gravy” consistency.

Remove steaks from the oven. Pour off any blood from the platter and serve with roasted potatoes and sautéed kale. Garnish with rosemary if desired.

Categories: Big Game, Blog, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Elk Season Recipe

If I could shoot one animal per year for my freezer it would be a nice, youngish, cow elk. They are the perfect table fare. Tender, flavorful and ample in proportion elk are like giant whitetail deer.



With a large animal there is always scrap and trim that needs used. Cooking is not at its best with easy to use items – think backstrap – but when underutilized things are made to shine. One easy to make shine item is the shank meat. Shank meat is essentially the calf and forearm of an animal. In the fancy restaurants of my past I would serve lamb shanks in the winter like hotcakes. I would charge upwards of $35 a plate for them as well. When I started thinking back to all the shank meat on the deer and elk I had killed I realized most of it went through the grinder and into burger. A true shame.Shank meat is ungodly tough, right? What makes shank meat different is the very thing that makes it tough, connective tissue. That same tissue, if cooked long enough, melts into the most buttery and luscious sauce. What happens in the naturally occurring gelatin breaks down and incorporates into the cooking liquid. But this takes time, shanks are slow food. Mmm tasty slow food.

Anyway, enough science, how about a nice recipe?

Elk Shank with Red Wine and Rosemary

Pre heat oven to 300 degrees, or turn on crockpot to “low” setting.

1 elk hind shank, deboned, bone reserved (this should feed about four people, it will be very rich)

½ cup flour

2 tablespoons butter

Salt and pepper

1 ea white onion, chopped into large chunks

2 large carrots, peeled and chopped

10 cloves garlic

10 sprigs rosemary, 5 for the braising, 5 for the finishing sauce

2 cups red wine

2 quarts water

2 tablespoons thyme

Roll the deboned shank meat in the flour. Heat a large cast iron Dutch oven on medium and add the butter. Brown the shank meat on all sides in Dutch oven in butter. When brown add the onions and any remaining flour to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Stir onions around to avoid flour clumps from forming.

Next add the carrots, garlic and half the rosemary. Let cook for one minute and then add the red wine to “deglaze” the pan (remove the brown bits from the bottom of the pan, those are good things). When at a boil add the remaining water, just enough to cover the meat. This can change depending on the size of the pan, but two quarts should be more than enough.

Let cook in oven, covered very tightly, for 4-6 hours or until fork tender. Fork tender is defined as tender enough to stick a fork into the center and twist, feeling little resistance. When fork tender remove the Dutch from the oven and place on kitchen counter.

The cook is now faced with a dilemma – serve hot or let cool and serve the next day. Braised meat, as a rule, is always better the next day after having time to settle and reabsorb flavors. But, in the real world, this does not always happen.

Either way when you go to eat the shank remove the meat and reduce the sauce in in the pan. When it starts to thicken add the remaining rosemary and the thyme. This will brighten up the whole dish. Serve over mashed potatoes or polenta for a great, rib sticking meal.


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Alaska Caribou Photos

As the days grow shorter and my memory fades I am posting this photo blog about caribou hunting in Alaska. These photos are the ones that bring me back. Back to the soggy ground, back to the sore back, back to the feeling of invincibility. The hunt was unguided, DIY caribou 2500 miles from my home. I am proud of what we did, it was truly grand. I’d do it again any day, not sure the folks who went with me would.

I type this eating sushi at the San Francisco airport, wanting nothing more than to be home. But travel is necessary for work. It is a short life we all have, I realize that more and more each year. Kids are born and the generation above me ages. Shit happens and cancer sucks.

Next time I’m in Alaska, I hope to have my son with me. It will make one of those unforgettable family moments…much like the one I just had with my father.











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Grilled Rock Fish with Crab and Corn Sauce

Tuna (or Seabass) with “Creamed” Corn and Tarragon

Rock Fish with Corn and Crab Sauce

The ocean, and the things that come from it, are typically flown to me. I have cooked all sorts of fish from all over the world. But to be able to harvest, cook and eat my own seafood (in the same day!) is an unfortunately new feeling.

I am a sagebrush dweller. I love the open canyons and the high aspen stands of Southwest Idaho. It is my ancestral home; we ran supplies to silver mines in the area and never moved very far from it. Heck, my shotgun actually road shotgun on whiskey wagon transport deliveries in Southeast Oregon.

It was explained to me that once I went tuna fishing I would never be the same. They were right; I will never look at the ocean the same way again. I have always known that it could crush a boat but I have never experienced what that feeling was like. I was humbled beyond belief. Next time I go tuna fishing I hope to actually catch one.

When we got back to our shack near Waldport, under the giant “don’t even think about boiling crab in this house” sign we enjoyed the fish as simple as I can imagine, grilled with a fresh local sweet corn sauce. I was in heaven.

Grilled Albacore Tuna – or Seabass…if you are desperate

Four 6oz rockfish fillets – the ones from your favorite catch that day

Olive Oil

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon cracked pepper


1 tablespoon fennel seeds, rough cracked in spice grinder or mortar

Heat the briquettes or the gas grill, I’m not all that picky. When HOT take the rockfish out of the fridge and put it on a plate. Season the top with cracked pepper, garlic, salt and fennel seeds. Flip over and repeat. When your beer is open and you are near the grill pour JUST a little oil onto the fish and rub it in. If you add the oil as the first step the seasoning will fall off.

Grill for about 2 minutes per side. Pull of the BBQ and let sit for 5 minutes while reminiscing about how much of a fight she put up with while out on the water. Serve with sauce below. Eat, drink, be merry.

Sweet Corn and Dungeness Crab Sauce –

2 ears of corn husked and raw

1 cup chicken stock

1 clove garlic, crushed and chopped

¼ cup whipping cream

Picked meat from one large crab

Salt and Pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

Chive, as garnish

With a knife cut the corn kernels from the cob of the corn. The sharper your knife the better.  Next turn the blade of the knife over and carefully scrape the cut side of the cob down onto the cutting board with the backside of the knife. You will see a white viscous liquid come out of the cob, I call this corn juice, and it has a ton of flavor. Save this juice in a bowl with the corn kernels for the sauce.  Next cut the corn cobs, removed of the corn kernels, in half length- wise.

In a small sauce pot add the chicken stock and the corn cobs, bring the pot to a simmer. The corn cobs will make a great tasting broth. Let simmer for 20 minutes of so. Remove the cobs and throw them away. Next add the garlic, corn kernels and juice to the simmering chicken stock.

The freshness of the corn, time of year and other factors will affect this next step. The corn will start to thicken the chicken stock. You will just have to look and see, I can’t honestly tell you how long it will take. It could be five minutes of simmering or it could be 30 seconds. But either way the corn “starch” in the fresh kernels and the corn juice will tighten up the chicken stock to an almost sauce like consistency. When the sauce it slightly thickened add the cream and season with salt and pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings. Simmer for a few moments and remove from the heat. Your sauce is now ready.

Right before serving toss in the picked crab meat and fresh chopped tarragon.  Other herbs will work as well. Basil, parsley and even rosemary are all good substitute options if you do not like the licorice flavor profile of tarragon.  Season with salt and pepper. Use this sauce as the topper for fresh grilled Oregon Coast fish fillets.

Categories: Fish, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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