Milestone of a Young Hunter

A little Jake came into view about 100 yards away. He briskly walked the barbed wire fence line towards our set up, but he was way out of range. I nudged the young man asleep on the ground next to me. Noah is nearly 12, he stands 5’9” tall and weighs in at about 135 pounds. He is my man sized child, but he really is just a kid, and I have to remind myself of that. My kid and I am one proud papa.

He awoke with a startled look on his face, like he was shocked to be asleep at all. I told him I saw a turkey and pointed. With a somber and determined face he slowly sat up, putting his back to a tree and grabbed his gun. With a nod I started calling, my box call resonating down the valley.

The Jake kept moving, like something had disturbed him, then another turkey, a large Tom, appeared from the tree line. This bird was nearly running after the little Jake. I gave him a few clucks from the old box call. His head snapped up and I watched as his attention turned to the decoy I had set 10 yards in front of us.

The bird ran up the hill, stopping with a good view of the hen at about 45 yards and began his gobbler dance. He strutted and gobbled, then strutted some more. He slowly snaked his way toward the decoy.

Noah and I had set ourselves up on a fence line tree grove. We had seen the birds congregate in this area many times and knew there patterns from the year prior. The bird closed the distance quickly, not playing out the call and dance routine. As the Tom closed the distance he stayed right on the fence line, downhill from us.

The birds head disappeared behind a small tree and I whispered for Noah to raise his gun. Then the bird stopped, I am certain that he heard us. The old Tom deflated his body, feathers falling and head now looking at the trees, not at the decoy. He took a few more cautious steps in our direction.

Unfortunately, I had chosen a poor set up tactic. I was on the downhill side of Noah. For him to shoot he would have to do a half cross over my body. That is just a bad idea.

We both froze, the toms red head bobbing up and down trying to figure out just what these odd looking trees were. His head went behind another tree, Noah swung his gun at the bird.

The first bird.

The first bird.

I whispered for him to shoot. He said “No, you are to close.”

As low as I could mutter – my lips barley moving and my heart pounding more than if I held the gun – I told Noah to shoot as soon as I moved. I slowly placed my hands on the dirt beside me. The Tom noticed and started back down the hill. With as much mojo as I could muster I pushed myself backwards and prone. Out of the way of the muzzle blast…and out of the shot picture for Noah.

BANG! I moved and he shot. Perfect.

The bird fell, did the dead turkey flop and settled at the bottom of the hill. We grabbed our gear and make quick work of the evisceration. We high fived, we hugged…I nearly cried. He asked when deer season started. My heart filled.

Noah had done everything right on his first turkey. He didn’t shoot when it wasn’t as safe. He waited until the bird was within range. He gutted the animal quickly, thanking it for its life and accepting the meat that it would provide. He hauled the bird out on his own. He even decided what we should make out of its breast meat, cured turkey “ham”. (Recipe will be posted soon)

Maybe I am waxing philosophically about this milestone in this young outdoorsman’s life, but I truly hope it was formative. Those two minutes of turkey hunting will be burned into his mind forever. I know my first bird is still – 22 years later – very vivid.

He is a good kid and if he keeps it up he will be a great man. I love you Noah.

 

Categories: Blog | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Turkey Wings

If you are like me a turkey is a big prize. I have shot roughly triple the number of mule deer than turkeys in my life. So I like to make the most of the meat when I get it.

Frequently recipes for wild birds are all about the breast meat. Sure, that’s it the bulk of the score but other bits can inspire interesting dishes – think wings, drumsticks, liver and heart.

Unfortunately, with most wild birds, the wings often get trimmed off at the shoulder and tossed. This is a shame, especially if you can collect a few. They make an impressive party snack, like pterodactyl wings with BBQ sauce. Trukey Drumsticks

Sticky Turkey Wings

Sticky Sauce

½ cup green onions

¼ cup honey

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 Tablespoons black bean paste

2 Tablespoons siracha

1 Tablespoon fresh ginger, grated

Combine all of the above ingredients in a small bowl. Reserve.

Wings

2 each turkey wings, cut at the elbow joint

Sticky Sauce

2 cups water, or more

Toss the wings in the sauce and add them to a crock pot. Pour on remaining sauce. Add enough water to almost cover the wings. In my crock pot this is about 2 cups, yours might be different. Turn crock onto “low” and cover. Let cook for about 6-8 hours. I did mine overnight getting up to check on them at about 3am.

Depending on your crock pot your water level will need adjusted. Also, the black bean sauce will make the reduced sauce look burned. It is not, usually.

When the wings are fall off the bone tender turn off the heat, let cool for an hour and then refrigerate overnight if you can. This extra time allows the flavors to more fully develop in the wings.

Re-heat tightly covered in the microwave make sure to use the sauce that is left in the pan. Garnish with green onions and enjoy!

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

Jesse Morris – A Killer Chef

Every now and then you meet a kindred spirit in the world. Jesse Morris is a hunter, chef, duck hunting guide and owner of Killerchefs.com. I was fortunate enough to meet Jesse a few months back in Texas at Smoke, an incredible BBQ restaurant. We talked guns, hogs, ducks, dogs, children and food – the good stuff in life. I recently caught up with Jesse for an interview – check out my conversation with this Killer Chef below. (Come back soon for a guest recipe from Jesse!)

KIllerchefs.com

KIllerchefs.com

Q: Season is over – how’d it go?

A: We had a great season! I started off in northern Alberta hunting Canada geese and ducks in early September and ended our season in Texas jumped on the highway and headed north to Oklahoma to finish my waterfowl season chasing geese with the rest of the duks-r-us crew.

Q: So, what is your favorite duck to hunt? What’s your favorite duck to eat?

A: I’m not a picky guy. I love getting mallards in the spread but I think different species all have their challenges and I enjoy trying to figure out what’s going to make them commit.

A good speck belly is hard to beat when you’re going to eat them (not your question but I have some waiting for me to clean and I’m excited about that)

Q: What is your favorite section of the duck – innards, the quack, breast meat?

A: It is good to use as much of the animal as you can but the breast meat is you prime cut but  I am working more and more with leg and thigh meat. That’s good for me cause that’s about all I can get when clients just want the breast.

Q: Tell me about the hound…

A: Cash is my four year old lab he is tall, lean and muscular. He has better eyes than me, and has a heart full of fire.

Q: So you guide? Where and how to we get set up on a hunt?

A: Get on www.Duks-r-us.com and book early.

Q: Tell me about Killerchefs.com?

A: I grew up on a old dirt road in Oklahoma I had as much space to run, hunt and fish as I wanted. I learned the value of an animal’s life for food and my mother was always a good cook. Killerchefs came about when I had children and decided that nights and weekends weren’t conducive to a great home life. So I took the hit and changed professions but still wanted to continue cooking. What better way to do that but to mix the outdoors and my love for food, travel and photography.

Q: I remember you saying that you have a heck of a good time in Canada on the snow geese, something about cheese wiz and Quakers…what was that story again?

A: The folks in Canada love some cheese wiz. They had pallets of it at the stores. The guides would eat it for every meal. Guess there wasn’t much of a story there.

Q: Quick cooking tip for the hunter?

A: Take care of the game when you shoot it. Make sure and get the core temperature down as quick as possible. To ensure you have the best game flavor you can get put the work in the beginning so it’s easy by the time you get to the iron.

Categories: Blog | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

Cooking a Jackrabbit – with Chef Randy King

Categories: Recipes, Small Game | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Rabbit with Mustard Sauce

 

Delish

Delish

Each year when I see the turkey “Grand Slams” on TV, I pine for the experience, but I am a small game hunter to the bone. Being an optimist I figured I could create my own slam, right? On that note I figured that since I hunted rabbits a lot I had a good starting point. So this year I set out to get a Rabbit Grand Slam, I was going to hunt all four legal rabbit/hare species in Idaho – black-tailed jackrabbits, white-tailed jackrabbits, Cottontail rabbits and snowshoe hares. I managed ¾, not bad for a first attempt!To be clear, rabbits are not hares and hares are not rabbits but all belong to the Leporidae family. Hare meat, like the black tailed Jackrabbit and the white-tailed jackrabbit, is darker and much more flavorful than the chicken-y cotton tail rabbit meat. Snowshoes are hares as well, but often are less red and closer to the rabbit than hare.

Normally the meat is ranked, at least in my family, 1. cottontail rabbit, 2. snowshoe hare, 3. white-tailed jackrabbit, 3. black-tailed jackrabbit. Mind you this is not scientific but in terms of edibility it kind of makes sense.

Cottontails due the least amount of running, eat green veggies, and are a white meat species. They are almost bound to taste better. Snowshoes eat softer grasses and also tend to run very little, making the meat all the more tender. White-tailed and black-tailed jacks are a near tie on eating; I think my family enjoys white-tailed jacks more simply because of the novelty. Both black and white tend to eat sage brush and hard barks, not a culinary friendly diet.

Each of these species has its own habitat making an attempt at a grand slam all the more fun. Snowshoes are located in northern pine forests and often lurk in the darkest and thickest brush possible. I actually shot mine this year because it looked like snow had fallen inside a stump, but the cover was too thick for snow to reach that location. He stood out well on the brown undercover, his pure white body a beacon to me. On snow I would have never seen him.

Black-tailed jackrabbits are more the classic sagebrush dwellers. With just a little cover, a little water and plenty of open spaces jackrabbits can thrive. I often hunt them on the BLM private property boundaries near fields. They like the extra food and the fence lines often provide a good shooting lane.

White-tailed jackrabbits are a lot more elusive often being forced to high altitude ranges, by the more aggressive black-tailed jackrabbits, with sage brush. Most often I only see them in the headlights of my truck on my way mule deer hunting. These hares can get quite large and their dirty white coat in the winter had me convinced that I had discovered an isolated population of snowshoe hares one year. I was wrong.

Cottontails are my nostalgia rabbit. I’ve hunted them since I can remember, mostly at the brahma bull ranch I grew up next to. We were not allowed guns on the ranch when I was kids so we had to use wrist rockets and our bows. They lived under farm equipment, in the blackberry patches, the trash pile and in the old ditch slag. It was quite a feat to come home with a rabbit that you killed with a rock and rubber band, I’ll never forget it. I did not shoot a cottontail rabbit this past fall, much to my dismay.

This fall I actively hunted rabbits, making special trips in search for each. I found it an inexpensive way to add a little game to my hunting, add some tension and uncertainty. For a bonus I would routinely run into quail, chukar, huns and grouse. It was terrible and SUCH a burden to have to hunt those while after my rabbits. Next year I will be challenging myself to a Rabbit Grand Slam again, if for nothing else than to see some cool country and eat some amazing animals.

Recipe –

If you decide to do the Rabbit Grand Slam in your area your will certainly need a recipe or two. It never hurts to have a classic recipe at the ready. The classics are classic for a reason – they are typically awesome. Caesar Salad, Fettuccini Alfredo, Kentucky BBQ Ribs, Stairway to Heaven – all classics and all are wonderful. In the culinary world some wild game dishes have “classic” status associated with them. One clear example is Lapin a la Moutarde – or Rabbit with Mustard sauce.

The quick and easy of the recipe is to simmer rabbit until tender in white wine, then add cream, mustard and herbs. The combination is heavenly. But, as hunters, we are not often blessed with the most tender rabbit right out of a fancy French market. More often than not, at least for me, I don’t even shoot rabbits. Most often I shoot hares, a completely different species. To use a hare for a classic rabbit dish is close to heresy BUT we can do this, together.

First things first you must brine a hare for this type of cooking. Unless you stick a jackrabbit in a crock pot for 4-6 hours you are not going to get moist and tender meat. That said you can brine hare meat and fool everyone in 2 hours. Brining artificially overhydrates meat thus making it moist when cooked/overcooked.

Second thing – you must debone the hare leg. In the classic rabbit dish the thigh bone is left in. if this is done with a hare, it takes longer to cook. So, debone the leg, stuff it with thyme and mustard and tie it closed. It works great, see the pictures attached.

The Brine –

A brine is a salty water mix that adds flavor and moisture to meat. For hares, specifically my frequent query the black tailed jackrabbit, I brine for at least 24 hours.

1 quart hot water (4 cups)

1/3 cup salt

¼ cup brown sugar

1 clove garlic, smashes

1 sprig thyme

1 bay leaf

10 pepper corns

Stir all ingredients into the hot water. Make sure the water is as hot as your faucet can produce, or maybe even boil the water.

Let brine cool to room temp. Add cut up rabbit to brine and place all in the refrigerator, making sure to cover all the meat with brine. Let set for 24 hours.

See here for directions on how to properly cut up a rabbit/hare.

Deboning the hare leg

2 ea hare back legs

1 sprig thyme

1 tablespoon mustard

Butchers twine

The big back legs of a wild hare are daunting. They are a working muscle and are NOT tender cuts of meat. So, what does a hunter do with them?

After removing them from the body flip them so that the inside of the thigh is facing up. You will notice a line that follows the leg bone. Starting at the ball joint cut along this line until you reach the “knee” joint. Then work the tip of the knife under the leg bone working it free of the thigh.

When the done is removed from inside the thigh it will still be connected to the knee joint. At this point I use blunt force and twist the bone until I hear a crack of cartilage, then I will cut the connective ligaments and tendons and pull off the inside thigh bone.

Spread open the leg meat and place one sprig of thyme in each leg. Then spread half the mustard in each leg. Tie each leg closed.

Legs are now ready for the recipe.

Rabbit with Mustard Sauce

1 hare or rabbit cut up and brined

Salt and pepper

½ cup AP flour

2 tablespoons Butter or Olive Oil

½ small red onion, small diced

1 cup white wine (something good, drink the remainder during dinner)

Water

½ cup heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoons Dijon mustard

4 ea thyme sprigs (1.5 teaspoon dried)

Pat the brined rabbit dry with paper towels. Season them with salt and pepper. Roll the cuts in the flour and reserve on a dry plate.

In a medium sauté pan with a lid heat ½ the butter or oil. When hot, but not yet browning, add two or three of the rabbit or hare sections to brown. Cook on each side 2-3 minutes until a golden crust has formed, flip. When browned on both sides remove back to plate. Add remaining oil and brown the remaining rabbit sections.

When all the rabbit is brown add the onion to the pan. Let cook for 3 minutes then add all the rabbit/hare sections back to the pan and pour in the cup of white wine. Lower heat to a simmer and cover pan with a tight fitting lid. Let simmer for one hour, check the moisture level every 10 minutes or so and add more water if needed. After one hour check meat to see if it is fall off the bone tender. If the rabbit or hare is more than a year old, it will probably take more time.

Continue to add water and check tenderness until the meat is sufficiently tender. This should take no more than two hours.

When the meat is tender, remove it to a clean dry plate. Turn heat up to medium high and boil the remaining wine mix. Add the cream, mustard and thyme. Reduce heat to a simmer and reduce the mixture to a gravy consistency. This should only take 3-4 minutes. Taste the sauce, adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as needed.

When the sauce tastes good add the rabbit legs back to the pan, turn off the heat and cover with the lid. Let sit for 3 minutes. Remove legs to a platter and pour sauce over the top, garnish with fresh thyme sprigs.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Categories: Blog, Recipes, Small Game | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com. The Adventure Journal Theme.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 199 other followers