Monday, December 29, 2014

Hunting Quail At Last...

Costa Hummingbird (female)
Three days after leaving Montana we arrived at Lake Mead. The plan was to hang with our Montana pals, Bert and Janie Gidart through Xmas; then head to Arizona to hunt quail. Needless to say, while we enjoyed visiting with Bert and Janie, we--Gale, Annie and me--could not quite shake dreaming the upcoming hunt. And while this little costa girl's constant, nearly non-stop visits to Gale's feeder were certainly was entertaining to say nothing of Gale's hoping that just maybe the dearth of hummers to her AZ feeder monkey might now be off her back. I think in all the years we've hunted AZ just one or two total have showed up and none that I recall made more than a single stop...how cruel is that?

Anyway, day after we hitched up trailer and made our way to Kingman to load up on groceries, water and gas for generator then on to our traditonal first stop, Burro Creek Campground, south of Wikieup. Next day we made our first hunt in a familiar and sometimes productive wash--though not so the past couple seasons. A three hour loop produced just one covey, which Annie pointed solidly but the birds took off wrong side of a juniper and no shots resulted...A small covey, maybe 6-8 birds, I probably would not have shot anyway.

So now we are encamped in our best spot for hunting Gambel's. This morning, despite dire reports of few even no birds, we found one small covey and one pretty big one. Alas, though I knocked down a bird from each, we failed to find either one...One vanished completely while the other went underground beneath a large, impenetrable prickly pear...no way could we get to the hole and no way anyway would I allow Annie to dig for it...rattlers you know love pack rat holes...

But the good news is the hunt she is underway, we got a good camp and seems like a fair number quails so stay tuned.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Dramatic Photo Time Series, 1912-2010 Yellowstone National Park

The below link was forwarded onto me by Allen Shallenberger (double click to open it).  It is a photograph time series from 1912 to 2010 of the Madison River near the Seven Mile Bridge in Yellowstone National Park.  This photo series does and incredible job of demonstrating the types of vegetation community changes that have occurred across our landscape in as little as 100 years.  In this particular case, the complete conversion of a willow and aspen dominated riparian area to a much drier grassland type.  I would hypothesis that even in the complete absence of hunting, moose occurrence on this particular landscape has trended from common to little or none, because there is no longer moose habitat present.  

 Dean Waltee, Wildlife Biologist, Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks. 

Monday, December 8, 2014


Braised Deer Shanks 

Nearly sixty years ago I shot my first deer. Most years since, I've downed at least one and sometimes several. I butchered all but one or two. I enjoy making my own meat almost as much as the hunt itself with but one exception...I find boning out and rendering the shanks edible a real pain in the you know what.

Comes now a revelation. Thanks to Tom Dickson (Montana Outdoors magazine) via Hank Shaw (Hunter, Gatherer, Gardener, Cook) Gale and I discovered how easy, fun and delicious braised shanks. So yummy, like Dickson, I plan to hunt only eight-legged deer from now on...Trust me, once you try 'em faced with a tough as hell shank, you too will never again even think about wielding trusty boning knife, either.

Both Photos Filed Under: Really Good Eats.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Eat More Wild Chicken...

A long time ago I muffed a really slam dunk shot at a nice buck. No surprise there, we all miss once in awhile but…We all can take measures to at least minimize the misses.  After agonizing over the muffed shot I came to the conclusion if I practiced diligently and took only those shots I “knew” would make, passed up shots I “thought” could make, well hell man, you ain’t about to ever miss again. And while I have muffed a couple since the hits far and away outnumber the misses…and looking back, guess what, the misses all came during periods when for whatever reasons I slacked off the practice sessions and/or took iffy shots. In other words rocket science it ain’t.

Shotgun artistry is different. I don’t know and don’t expect to ever meet a wild bird, upland or waterfowl, hunter doesn’t miss sometimes. We all muff even the easiest shots once in awhile…some of us (me) way too often. Like rifle shots I strive to only take those wingshots I “know” can make and, especially avoid anything close to a Hail Mary or those you ethical waterfowlers label, “sky busting”.

Alas, despite nearly 6 decades semi-serious to downright serious wild upland bird hunting under my belt, not a single season even close to perfection. And I don’t harbor any greater expectations in the few seasons I have left. But that doesn’t mean I can’t continue trying my damnedest to get there.  Clearly diligent practice in the off season translates directly to fewer misses in the field. For me to get better I need to repeat often: don’t lift your head, watch your gun mount, focus on the bird, no you dummy, not the whole bird, his eye, focus on his eye and swing, keep swinging and don’t you dare even think about aiming.

I believe strongly in old adage “beware the man with one gun, in all likelihood he knows how to use it.” I also believe strongly with today’s shot cups at the sort of ranges most insure clean kills say, sub 40 yards, open chokes—cylinder, skeet, improved cylinder—work best. And only on rare upland occasions , say late season roosters, is it necessary to use shot larger than #6; for what its worth I shoot #7-1/2 at least 90% the time, no matter what bird. I don’t do much waterfowl hunting and when I do ducks at modest ranges are about it so…#6 Hevi-shot seems to get ‘er done pretty darn well.
My mantra then goes like this: When I hit ‘em we eat wild chicken, when I miss ‘em its Safeway brand…shot size be damned.

Bottom Line: When I practice regularly, take only sure shots, remember to not lift my head, watch my gun mount, focus on the bird, the eye if possible, keep swinging and never, ever take aim, I do pretty well…Slack off any part the operation and the results are not so hot; really its that simple.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Venison Steak To Die For...

Montana Venison Glaze and Middle East Marinade
Middle East Marinade

1/3 C. olive oil
1 T. white vinegar
1 t. cumin
1/2 t. coriander
1/4 t. paprika
1 glove garlic, minced or crushed
1/2 t. salt
2 venison steaks


Mix marinade ingredients in a bowl. Place in a Ziploc bag, add venison and seal tightly. Marinade for 4 to 8 hours. Remove venison and grill adding glaze as below.

Montana Venison Glaze

3 T. maple syrup
1 T. chili powder
1 T. black pepper
1 T. cumin
1/2 t. coriander
1/2 t. ground cloves
3 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
3 T. olive oil
2 venison steaks

Mix glaze ingredients in a bowl. On high flame grill steaks 3 minutes on each side. Rub paste on each side of steaks, grill each side 2 more minutes and remove. Cover with foil and let sit for 5 minutes before serving with mashed potatoes and your favorite veggie.