Category Archives: Deer Hunting Tips

What Does the Malheur Occupation Mean for Hunters?

Idiot ranchers

Image: news.yahoo.com/

As you probably already know, a ragtag group of armed deadbeats, G.I. Joes, and absentee foster parents are currently occupying the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in protest of the federal government. Over the last three weeks, the focus of the protest has shifted from the issue of Dwight and Steve Hammond (ranchers who were both convicted of setting fire to federal land to coverup their poaching activities) to the federal government’s role in land management in general. It should also be noted that the Hammonds, who turned themselves in immediately, want nothing to do with the group’s cause.

The group is led by Ammon Bundy, son of the bigot and freeloading rancher Cliven Bundy whose cattle are currently grazing for free on federal land on your dime. Those of you familiar with the Bible will know that Ammon and his brother Moab were the sons of an incestuous relationship between Lot and his daughters. This seems to suggest that Ammon is from a family that doesn’t always think things through.

Mule deer at Malheur NWF

Mule deer at Malheur NWF. [Image: www.popsci.com/]

But beyond the hilarity of grown men deciding to occupy a remote bird sanctuary without adequate supplies, something larger and more sinister is at play, which could impact future public land hunting in a big way. Whether they know it or not, Bundy and his group are the grassroots extension of a movement gaining support in the Senate to transfer control of federal land to states. Now why would you want to transfer vast tracts of expensive-to-maintain federal land to small-budget states? Will states better manage them? If by manage you mean divestiture, then yes, states have an excellent track record of selling public land for private use. The oil, gas, timber, and mining interests behind this push know full well that states, in addition to being much softer legal targets, cannot take on the huge expenses of managing these lands, and as a result, will sell to the highest bidder.

In the western states, 70 percent of hunters hunt on land owned and managed by the federal government. While powerful lobbyists groups like the NRA try to make the issue of guns seem like the biggest threat facing hunters today, the real threat comes from the loss of wildlife habitat and hunter access. As anybody who has ever looked at the history of wildlife conversation knows, it was the privatization of land, which included market hunting, that led to the near-complete destruction of the American megafauna at the turn of the century. If the Bundys of the world got their way, they would put us on that same path of destruction, which hunters and environmentalists have since worked so hard to undo.

Mountains

Image: www.terrysteelenaturephotography.com/

This is OUR land, and it needs to stay that way. It’s best for the animals, and it’s best for us hunters.

Are Deer Hunting Cartridges Arbitrary?

How many times has picking the wrong rifle cartridge ended a hunt prematurely versus being unfit to hunt due to cold or poor conditioning? Nobody has ever gone into the woods to hunt deer with a .243 only to give up after seeing a big buck because they didn’t have a .300 Win Mag. Almost ritualistically, we continue to rehash the same arguments over guns and ammo at the expense of other items that have more bearing on actual hunting.

Type of hunting cartridges.

Image: 1source.basspro.com/

My point isn’t that big game rounds aren’t different, but that most white-tailed deer hunters are unable to take advantage of their differences. The task of deer hunting west of the Mississippi doesn’t really discriminate between a .243 or a .300 Win Mag. Because of modern bullet construction and the fact that most white-tailed deer are taken under 200 yards, a deer shot in the vitals with a .243 is just as dead as a deer shot with a .300 Win Mag. Yet we keep asking ourselves the same stupid question: What is the most effective deer round? The only answer to that question is, how much recoil can you stand? Everything else is basically meaningless.

Image: www.statesymbolsusa.org

Image: www.statesymbolsusa.org/

In my early 20s, I bought a 7mm Remington Magnum because I loved the look and feel of the gun, an older Sako Finnbear. It was an aesthetic choice. All I knew about the cartridge at the time was that it was plenty capable of taking a deer. Since then I’ve killed a couple deer with it, but never at distances greater than 100 yards. Where I hunt in Pennsylvania, it’s rare that you get a shot over 100 yards unless you want it that way or you’re hunting over an agricultural field. So what is a 7mm Remington Mag? At 50 yards, a 7mm Mag produces an obscene amount of energy—around 3,000 ft-lbf. What distinguishes a 7mm Mag from a .30-30 is that the 7mm Mag has the same energy at 500 yards that a .30-30 does at 50. They are vastly different cartridges. But again, I’ve never taken a shot over 200 yards, so I might as well be shooting a .30-30 (or any other deer cartridge for that matter) because I’m nowhere near being able to make use of its downrange energy. It’s not a problem, but it goes to show how arbitrary rifle calibre selection is when you’re shooting under 200–300 yards.

Most big game cartridges offer perfectly adequate performance under real-life hunting conditions. The constant hair-splitting over the ballistics of big game cartridges is mostly hypothetical nonsense that benefits gun makers but not hunters—it simply sells guns. To me, a discussion about the merits of different Vibram boot soles is more valuable and interesting than whether the .270 or .308 is a better deer round. We’ve somehow managed to equate hunting with shooting when, in many aspects, the shot is the least important component of the hunt. Guns don’t kill animals; smart hunters do.

New Year’s Hunting Resolutions

It’s time for the annual tradition of setting up unrealistic personal goals in order to thoroughly undermine them over the course of the new year. In terms of hunting, 2015 was a pretty good year for me. I gave myself ample time, hunted hard when the time came, and was fortunate enough to get a nice buck while still hunting (a first for me) during rifle season. But there is always room for improvement. Here are my five hunting resolutions for the 2016 season.

1. Go West

Image: hqworld.net

Image: hqworld.net

My grandfather was an Idaho elk hunter who died before I took up hunting. I can trace my interest in hunting and wild game to his stories of hunting the Idaho backcountry. Having hunted exclusively in the Northeast, I’ve always dreamed of going West for a backcountry elk or mule deer hunt. So this year I’m going to buy an Idaho mule deer tag and hunt the same mountains my grandfather hunted.

2. Farewell, Wood and Blued Steel

Tikka T3 Lite Stainless [Image: loomisadventures.com]

Tikka T3 Lite Stainless [Image: loomisadventures.com]

I love my pre-Garcia Sako Finnbear, but it’s nine pounds scoped and prone to surface rust during foul weather. It shoots cloverleafs all day long and has the smoothest action I’ve ever cycled. But it’s over nine pounds. One of the lightest rifles on the market, Kimber’s 84m, weighs just over five pounds. After a day of hunting with the Finnbear, I can barely lift my arms. It’s time to move on. Tikka T3 Lite Stainless, I see you.

3. Butchering

Image: guide.sportsmansguide.com

Image: guide.sportsmansguide.com

I’ve butchered deer and sent them to the butcher. The butcher charged me $70, which is very reasonable, but I didn’t get nearly as much meat as when I butchered the deer myself. While I appreciate the convenience of dropping a deer off at the butcher when you’re tired and beat up after hunting, doing it yourself yields more meat (usually) and gives you more control over how it’s processed. Butchering is also a great way to bring friends and family together. Sharpen the knives, invite some friends over, pour some drinks, and get cracking.

4. Take a Friend Hunting

Friends that hunt together stay together [Image: hdimagelib.com]

Friends that hunt together stay together. [Image: hdimagelib.com]

In 2015, I took my roommate (who had never fired a gun before) deer hunting, and he loved it. I truly enjoyed the process of sharing my knowledge with him, and in turn, was pushed to learn even more in order to better answer his questions. Maybe he’ll never hunt again, but at least now he has an understanding of the woods that he didn’t have before. My goal for 2016 is to take another friend hunting.

5. ALTADIFOY

Image: www.easttennesseewildflowers.com

Image: www.easttennesseewildflowers.com

ALTADIFOY stands for “Act Like There Are Deer In Front Of You.” I always seem to bump deer when I don’t think there are deer ahead. As everybody who hunts knows firsthand, just because you can’t see them doesn’t mean they’re not there. So if you act like there are deer ahead of you (pausing every couple of feet, being alert, scanning ahead of you, etc.), even when they’re not, you’ll have a much better chance at finding them when they are there. What’s to lose? If you’re out hunting you might as well be the best hunter you can be.

4 Awesome Baconless Venison Recipes

Many absurd people treat venison as a meat that requires other kinds of meat to make it more palatable. When did we become such wusses? When I see bacon-wrapped venison tenderloin I want to cry. You put your blood, sweat, and tears into hunting this animal so you can wrap it in some cheap pork you got from the supermarket? What would your deer think about you two-timing it with some two-bit pig? Here are five simple recipes to impress your holiday guests that don’t attempt to hide the richness of venison behind additional fat.

Medieval Spit Roasted Venison

During the Middle Ages, open fire cooking was the standard method of both medieval chefs and the Roman Catholic Church. Follow chef and culinary historian Heston Blumenthal as he spit roasts an entire deer in the medieval style.

Corned Venison

Recipe adapted from Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook

Corned venison.

Image: http://honest-food.net/

Corning is an unbelievably simple process and a great weapon in your cooking arsenal. Corning venison is really no different from corning beef. One advantage to venison over beef is that it contains equal amounts of protein but much less fat. It’s basically diet corned beef. The question when it comes to corning is whether or not you want to use nitrates. I say go ahead and use them because your venison will taste slightly better AND, assuming you take the proper precautions, you won’t get botulism.

Ingredients:

  • 3-5 pound venison roast
  • Enough water to submerge your roast in a stock pot (1/2 gallon or 2 quarts)
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 ounce saltpeter/sodium nitrate
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon coriander
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 10–15 whole juniper berries
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 6 cloves

Directions:

  1. Place everything in your stockpot except the roast and bring to a boil. Remove the heat and cover until your brine has reached room temperature. This will take a couple hours. Pour brine in a large container or 2 gallon Ziploc bag and add the roast.
  2. The key to getting this step right is to make sure your roast is completely submerged during the brining process. Once submerged, place your roast in the refrigerator for 5–7 days. Feel free to flip the roast or stir the brine every couple of days.
  3. A week has passed, and you now have corned venison. Well, almost. Next you want to drain the brine and place your roast in a pot with fresh water. Don’t use a ton of water otherwise you’ll dilute the flavor. Cover the pot and simmer for 3–5 hours.
  4. Congratulations, you are now the proud owner of corned venison. Enjoy hot or cold.

Venison Tacos al Pastor 

Recipe adapted from Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook

Venison tacos al pastor.

Image: www.dishmaps.com

Al Pastor has many different regional variations, but essentially it’s heavily seasoned roast pork (in this case venison) with pineapple and chilies. The only way you can mess this up is by eating it with flour instead of corn tortillas. Honestly, wet cardboard has more flavor than a flour tortilla. Don’t even get me started on whole wheat tortillas—the horror!

Ingredients: 

  • 5 guajillo chiles
  • 5 ancho chiles
  • 1 chipotle pepper
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 can pineapple chunks
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 1/2 pounds of boneless deer roast
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • corn tortillas
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime cut into wedges

Directions:

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add guajillo and ancho chiles. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until chiles soften, about 10 minutes. Remove the chiles and discard stem and seeds. Meanwhile, coarsely chop one onion in half; reserve remaining half. Strain pineapples, but keep the juice for the next step.
  2. Using a food processor or blender, puree all of your chiles, chopped onion, pineapple juice, vinegar, garlic, and cumin until smooth. Transfer chile mixture to a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring your chile mixture to a boil and cook for about 2 minutes. Let the mixture sit until cool. Now combine your marinade (mixture), venison cubes, and pineapple chunks in a large container or Ziploc bag, and transfer to refrigerator. Let marinate for up to 24 hours. 
  3. Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. After straining the marinade, cook your pineapple and venison cubes until golden brown.
  4. Finely dice the other half of your onion and combine with cilantro in a small bowl. Serve on warm tortillas with onion, cilantro, and a spritz of lime.

Nittany Jack’s Preacher Meat and Kale Sandwich

Sliced venison.

Image: manvsmeat.com

If you don’t already know, venison and dijon mustard are a match made in heaven. The tart, stinging bite of a good dijon is the perfect compliment to the earthy and slightly nutty flavor of venison. The key is to not overcook the venison. You don’t exactly want sashimi, but you also don’t not want sashimi—do you know what I mean? This is my go-to venison dish when I don’t have a ton of time and want something delicious and moderately healthy.

Ingredients:

  • Venison backstrap or tenderloin (1/4 of a whole backstrap or 1/2 of one loin) sliced into 1-inch thick pieces
  • Baguette or ciabatta
  • Salt & pepper
  • Kale
  • Horseradish
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Tablespoon of olive oil
  • Pickled garlic or one clove of fresh garlic
  • Dijon mustard
  • Vegetable oil

Directions: 

  1. Sometimes I like my kale raw, other times I like it sautéed. For sandwich building, however, sautéed kale tends to work better because the moisture helps bind things together. Heat some olive oil on low-medium heat in a small pan. Add your kale and garlic. Once the kales cooks down and starts to wilt, add a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar. Cook for another couple minutes then remove.
  2. Heat your vegetable oil in a cast iron skillet on medium-high. Pan sear 2–3 venison slices at a time until rare or medium rare. Remove.
  3. Now lay your sliced bread face down in the same dirty skillet that you cooked the venison (very important). The bread will toast while it absorbs the remaining venison juices.
  4. Now slap everything together with some dijon and a touch of horseradish. Wrap the sandwich in a paper towel as they tend to get messy.

A Day on the Mountain

I hunt from dark to dark each day because if I climb down the mountain, I know I won’t climb back up. My feet get cold, I run out of food and water, but I tell myself it’s worth it because there are two weeks during the year when I can do this, and I can only get off work for one. I also enjoy the limitation of not being able to do anything but hunt. So I maroon myself. Two weeks ago in Maine, I put in 50 hours without seeing anything—not a single deer. I was now approaching 80 hours of hunting, and my body was feeling it. I was beginning to doubt myself as well.

As I was walked home at the end of the third day of the 2015 Pennsylvania rifle season, a Jeep stopped behind me. The driver offered to give me a ride to the bottom. We talked about what we saw that day. He was a real Pennsylvania hunter. He had his own names for all the different topographical features in the area. He also spoke with the thickest Western Pennsylvania accent I’ve ever head. My speech is a clumsy hodgepodge of all the places I’ve lived plus television influences. When he spoke, it was like listening to flute music. His name was Lewis, and I said thanks for ride.

The next day—Thursday—I decided to take my walking stick. The day before, I slipped in some mud and hit my kneecap on a tree stump. When I got home, I couldn’t bend my leg. I kept waking up in the middle of night worried that I might not being able to hunt in the morning. Then I remembered my walking stick. Walking sticks are also useful for slowing you down, which is key when you’re still hunting.

Later that day I was walking along in this manner when I heard a nearby shot. A few seconds later a small buck came running out of the brush and stopped 15 yards in front of me. I raised my rifle instinctively and peered at him through the scope. My first thought was that he was legal. I could shoot this deer if it hasn’t already been shot. But then his right leg dropped and he fell over. I watched him draw his breath through the scope. Then I walked over. His antlers were still green, meaning the deer was actively making rubs. The stringy bark of birch and maple saplings clung to his brow tines. I looked towards the shot and saw a hunter crouched behind a fallen tree. I waved him over. It was Lewis. He shot the deer open-sighted and offhand with his great grandfather’s Remington Model 14. It’s an odd and beautiful gun. The twist on the magazine tube is oddly mesmerizing. I told him congratulations and moved on.

Once I was out of sight, I sat against an oak tree and had a sandwich. I texted my friend to say the going was tough. He texted back saying, “Shoot the next buck you see.” OK.

I decided to still hunt my way over to a ridge below where there are several narrow benches that deer use when feeding and traveling. The area my course would take me through is the only part of the mountain that I haven’t spent extensive time on. The soil there is sandy and the trees, mostly birch and maple, are smaller and so tightly packed together that you sometimes have to thread your gun through them like a needle. The trees provide excellent cover and deer sign is everywhere.

By 1:30 in the afternoon, I made way through to top of the ridge. My plan now was to hunt the ridgeline until I felt it was late enough to wait out the evening above one of the benches. I bumped a group of does while waking the ridgeline and chided myself for being clumsy. Slow down.

It was then I noticed a particularly active deer trail leading down over the top and decided to go have a look. As I peered down, I saw the backend of a deer as it disappeared into some mountain laurel. I stopped and listened for movement. Something was making its way toward me from my left. The wind was in my favor, and if he kept the same direction, I’d be able to see him before long. Then i saw a flick of a tail about 80 yards below. Through my binoculars I saw a flash of white bone through the dense cover. I slowly knelt to a seated position in case I was going to have a shot. I looked through my binoculars again, and as I did, the buck walked out of the thicket. I saw three up and raised my rifle. I put the crosshair behind his shoulder and followed him until he stopped. He raised his head, and I fired.

IMG_0912

As he tumbled over, I saw the white of his belly. He kicked a few times and was gone. I lit a rare cigarette and sat against the deer to let it sink in. When I went to wipe the sweat off my brow, my hand came back full of blood. The scope had cut a nice gash on my forehead.

Skin a Deer or Elk with an Air Compressor

Are you ready to explore the unexpected relationship between skinning large game and compressed air? If you are and find yourself in possession of an air compressor, I highly recommend this clean and quick method to skin your next deer or elk, brought to our attention by @SMHuntington.

Image: www.quincycompressor.com

Image: www.quincycompressor.com

1. Hang It Up

You can hang your deer head up or head down, but if you hang it head up by the antlers, you risk detaching one or both. This is more likely to happen later in the season as the bone base weakens following the rut. The other advantage of hanging a deer head down is that it tends to be more stable because the legs form a wider base than the head. Butchers, for example, hang deer head down.

2.  Cut a Slit and Insert Nozzle

Use a knife to make a very small incision in the skin covering the deer’s thigh. The hole should be not wider than the nozzle so that when you insert the nozzle it forms an airtight seal. If your cut is too wide or the hide rips, insert the nozzle and seal the edges with duct tape.

3. Air Time

Once you turn on the air, the skin should start to separate from the muscle. If your progress is slowed by air leaking from a large entrance or existing wounds, turn the air off and seal the holes with duct tape. It shouldn’t have to be perfectly airtight to work. Lastly, you’ll want tie the deer down with an anchor rope to prevent it from floating away after it fills with air. Deer balloons are a hazard to aircraft.

4. Rinse and Repeat

Assuming your first effort was not a resounding success, repeat the first three steps as needed. The goal is to completely separate the skin from the layer of fat between the hide and muscle. Once separated, the skin will appear loose and flabby.

5. Peel

How you perform this step depends on how you intend to use the hide. If you want a complete hide, make the traditional cuts along the inner thighs and down the belly so that the hide peels off in one oval-shaped piece. If you’re not particular about the hide, you can pretty much cut anywhere and begin peeling. Keep your knife handy for any spots that may not have separated.

Tasty Wild Game Recipes for Fall

As the fall weather makes its chilly descent and hunting season (finally) starts back up, we find ourselves craving some of our favorite wild game recipes. There’s nothing quite like knowing you were involved in the entire process of catching, dressing, and finally cooking your own meal—the joy behind it is, at times, unexplainable. Plus there are no long lines out in the woods. Here are some recipes that we tend to lean toward once fall rears its head. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite among our list!

Grouse Northwoods

Courtesy of Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook

Cooked grouse.

Image: http://honest-food.net/

Ingredients  

  • 1.5 cups wild rice
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 4 grouse skinned breasts
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1-2 pounds fresh mushrooms
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 cup fresh cranberries
  • 1/4 cup fruit syrup
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar

Directions

  • Salt grouse breasts and set aside at room temperature.
  • Simmer 1 cup wild rice in the grouse (or chicken) broth until tender, 20-50 minutes. When rice is done, drain and set aside in covered bowl.
  • Grind remaining wild rice in spice grinder into a powder (larger bits, are fine). Mix with flour and dredge grouse breasts in it.
  • Heat 3 tsp. of butter in large pan and sauté grouse breasts until they are just barely done (about 4 to 5 minutes per side). Set aside.
  • Put remaining butter in pan and turn heat to high. Add mushrooms until sautéed. Sprinkle with salt and add garlic and thyme. Let mushrooms sear for 1-2 minutes until brown.
  • Add cranberries and toss to combine. Cook until they start popping, then add wild rice, vinegar, and fruit syrup. Toss to combine, and serve with the grouse.

Pan Seared Venison with Rosemary and Dried Cherries

Courtesy of Broken Arrow Ranch

Pan seared vension.

Image: http://eat.snooth.com/

Ingredients

  • 1.5 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tsp. coriander seeds
  • 1 large garlic clove
  • 1.5 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 (1lb) venison boneless loin
  • 1/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1/4 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/4 cup fat-free beef broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • 2 tbsp. black-currant jelly

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  • Grind 1 tsp. rosemary with coriander seeds and garlic to make a paste. Stir in 1/2 tsp. olive oil.
  • Pat venison dry and put in bowl, then rub with paste. Season well with pepper. Cover and chill 20 minutes.
  • Add remaining olive oil to hot skillet. Season venison well with salt, then brown both sides (about 6 minutes total).
  • Roast venison until instant-read thermometer inserted diagonally into center registers 125 degrees (about 7 to 10 minutes). Transfer meat to plate and cover with foil.
  • Add wine and cherries to skillet and deglaze by boiling on moderately high heat, stirring and scraping up brown bits.
  • Stir together broth, water, cornstarch, and remaining rosemary in a bowl and add to skillet. Simmer, stirring until thickened for about 5 minutes. Whisk in jelly and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Cut venison into 1/4 inch thick slices and serve with sauce.

Venison Tenderloin

Courtesy of Field & Stream, contributed by Terrace Brennan (chef at Picholine Restaurant and Artisanal Bistro and Wine Bar)

Venison tenderloin.

Courtesy of Travis Rathbone [Image: http://www.fieldandstream.com/]

Ingredients

  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1⁄2 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1⁄4 tsp. ground star anise
  • 1⁄4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 cup and 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • 4 venison tenderloins, 6–7 oz. each
  • 1⁄4 cup (packed) prunes, chopped in 1⁄4 inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp. Armagnac (optional)
  • 12 tbsp. softened unsalted butter, cut in tablespoon-size pieces
  • 2 cups peeled cheese pumpkin, cut in 1⁄4 inch dice
  • 10 minced sage leaves

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Stir together 1-1⁄2 tsp. salt, 1⁄2 tsp. pepper, allspice, star anise, and cinnamon in bowl. Whisk in 2 tbsp. of oil. Rub mixture on both sides of each venison loin.
  •  Put prunes in another bowl. If using Armagnac, pour over prunes and set aside to soak.
  • Heat 2 tbsp. oil and 2 tbsp. butter in sauté pan over medium heat. Add pumpkin and cook, tossing and stirring every few minutes until lightly caramelized on all sides (about 15 to 18 minutes). Toss in prunes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Put 2 tbsp. of oil and butter in 12 inch ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add venison loins when butter starts to sizzle and foam. Sear for 1 minute.
  • Turn loins over and transfer pan to oven. Roast until an instant-read thermometer inserted to the center of loin reads 120 degrees for rare. Remove pan from oven and let venison rest on clean, dry surface for 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Heat sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add remaining butter and cook until it melts and turns brown (about 1 minute).
  • Remove pan from heat and stir in sage leaves. Set sage leaves aside once crispy.
  • Divide pumpkin and prunes evenly around plates. Top each portion with venison loin, drizzle of brown butter, and crisped sage.

Ducks in the Orchard

Courtesy of Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook

Cooked duck.

Image: http://honest-food.net/

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 lbs. duck breast
  • 1 tbsp. duck fat or butter
  • 2 firm apples
  • 1 lemon
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp. brown sugar or maple sugar
  • Cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup apple cider
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped mint
  • Hawaiian red salt or coarse sea salt

Directions

  • Salt duck breasts lightly. Let sit at room temperature for 25 minutes.
  • Squeeze lemon juice into bowl of water. Slice apples into quarter slices (about 1/4 inch thick) and put in lemon juice. Coat all sides.
  • Heat large sauté pan over high heat. Add duck fat or butter and coat the pan. Place duck breasts skin side down, turn heat to medium, and cook for 5 to 8 minutes until golden brown. Remove duck breasts and tent loosely with foil.
  • Spoon off all but about 3 tbsp. of fat. Cook apples over medium-high heat. Brown apples lightly on both sides.
  • Sprinkle brown sugar over everything and swirl to combine while apples continue to cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Pour cider in pan and put heat up high. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and cayenne into pan. Boil down by 2/3.
  • Slice duck breast pieces roughly the same width as apples.
  • Make rosette of alternating duck breast and apple in center of plate. Spoon small amount of reduced cider on each piece of duck and one more spoonful in center of rosette. Sprinkle with fresh mint and Hawaiian red salt.

The Epistemology of Hunting

Image: artpassions.wordpress.com

Image: artpassions.wordpress.com

How exactly does one become a better hunter? Knowledge and experience, obviously. But while credible knowledge on the subject is readily available from a variety of sources, the greater question is how to make it useful in practice. While we like to assume that knowledge is powerful in itself, that’s rarely the case. In most fields, you need a certain basic level of understanding to make use of more specialized kinds of knowledge. Likewise, you need a certain amount of experience to make full sense of another’s experience.

Much like Freud’s tripartite theory of the individual psyche, there are three fundamental factors at play whenever you are hunting. First and foremost, there is you: the hunter, the person walking around the forest or sitting in a tree stand. Second is the version of you who is a better hunter than the current you. The thing about this person is that they don’t exist yet. Third is your quarry. If you hunt on public land or under the conditions defined as “fair chase,” then it is almost guaranteed that your quarry is better at evading you than you are at finding it. What this means for you—the current you, that is—is that in a perfect world, your quarry and the very best version of you as a hunter are nearly one and the same thing. The goal therefore is to become closer to the better you—the very best version of you that current you can imagine.

However, there’s a problem with this.

The problem is that the very best version of you is limited by what you currently know about hunting. Your idea of the better hunter is not the best possible hunter, but the best possible hunter as imagined by you right now. And the best version of you is nowhere near as good as the animal you’re hunting. So how exactly do you become a better hunter? How do you enable yourself to imagine ever better versions of you?

The answer is, I think, in mistakes—both your mistakes and the mistakes of your quarry (let’s just call this luck for now). Mistakes, depending on how badly you want to become better at what you do, will either work for or against you. Learning from your mistakes is difficult enough, but by far the hardest thing in today’s world is making enough time to make mistakes. In hunting, mistakes are wonderful because they let you know exactly where you didn’t have or failed to apply knowledge. When you can successfully apply knowledge to an endeavor, it becomes stored as experience. Thus an experienced hunter is one whose knowledge has been tested in the crucible of experience. It’s that simple. Knowledge can come from within, such as when you learn from a mistake; or it can come from without, such as when a more experienced hunter gives it to you. But unless you verify it in the world, it is only potentially useful.

To sum up: A person new to hunting is not a good hunter because they cannot imagine what a better version of hunting looks like. But in five years, that same hunter (hopefully) will have turned mistake into knowledge. And with that knowledge, they’ll have made even better mistakes, mistakes more advanced than any novice could make, which in turn becomes the new theses of an ever-refining dialectic of experience. To free the unicorn from the mind’s stable, one simply has to imagine unfastening the latch.

5 Perfect Deer Knives

A deer knife should be between three and four inches, comfortable in the hand, and capable of holding its edge for the duration of the task. Not all knives will hold an edge, so it’s important to consider the kind of steel being used (just because you can get a knife razor sharp doesn’t mean it will hold an edge). In general, thinner blades will sharpen better than thicker ones, but keep in mind a deer knife is not a shaving razor. You want to be able to cut through muscle, tendon, cartilage, skin, and even bone if need be. Does your knife need a gut hook? No. Why? Because on a good knife, a gut hook is redundant, ugly, and tends to get in the way. Cutting open your deer without puncturing the stomach or intestines is easy assuming you don’t have a Rambo knife. Here are what I consider five perfect deer knives.

EnZo Trapper

EnZo with curly birch handle [Image: www.casstrom.se]

EnZo with curly birch handle. [Image: www.casstrom.se]

The EnZo trapper combines Scandinavian looks and blade geometry with the strength of a full tang bushcrafting knife. It is widely thought to be one of the best hunting/outdoor knives on the market today. The 3-3/4 inch blade is ideal for dressing deer and serves as a general purpose field knife. If you find a new one for $100 (as you sometimes can), don’t hesitate to pick it up. EnZo Trappers are also available in kit form for those of you looking to build your own.

Buck 110

Buck 110 [Image: www.youtube.com]

Buck 110 [Image: www.youtube.com]

The popular Buck 110 folder has dressed more deer than all the knives on this page combined. But what led to its rise as an icon for American outdoorsmen? The answer is versatility. Because of its robust handle and safe locking mechanism, it is stout enough to use with a baton or even as a hammer (I’ve done it, and I’m not proud). Yet the blade is thin and nimble enough for precision tasks like skinning, deboning, and slicing. The Buck 110’s combination of finesse and power had never been available in a folding knife before, and it changed the knife-making landscape forever.

Bark River Gunny Hunter

Gunny Hunter [Image: www.knivesshipfree.com]

Gunny Hunter [Image: www.knivesshipfree.com]

What I love about Bark River’s Gunny Hunter is the design’s fine synthesis of robustness and ergonomic comfort. It feels like an extension of your fingers when you hold it. One of the important differences between the Gunny and the Gunny Hunter is that the latter’s tip has been slightly lowered to give it more belly. At 3.7″ it is perfectly capable of dressing anything from rabbit to elk. The version in A2 steel offers both ease of sharpening and excellent edge retention. This is your knife if you’re looking for something to take into the big woods that will also perform basic bushcrafting tasks.

Morakniv Clipper

Mora Clipper [image: www.ebay.com]

Mora Clipper [image: www.ebay.com]

The Clipper is that knife you buy thinking it will be your beater but you end up liking it more than your “preferred” knife. Mora knives offer pure utilitarian value at the lowest possible price—it almost doesn’t make sense to buy any knife other than a Mora. At only $15, the Mora Clipper or Companion will perform as well as a knife that costs ten times as much. I personally don’t like the rubber handles or plastic sheaths, though.

Helle Symfoni

Helle Symfoni [Image: www.workwearcanada.com]

Helle Symfoni [Image: www.workwearcanada.com]

Maybe you can tell by now I’m a bit partial to Scandi knives. I like the Scandi grind for two reasons: They’re incredibly easy to sharpen because the bevel acts an angle guide, and two, Helle knives are proof that you don’t need a big, heavy knife to dress large game. The Sami people of Scandinavia have been dressing reindeer and moose with traditional three and four inch puukko knives (what Helle knives are based on) for millennia. Helle knives are incredibly lightweight and easy to carry. The Symfoni is a sleek, triple laminated, stainless knife with a razor sharp 3-1/2 inch blade. The blade’s medium length and thinness make it ideal for dressing deer and other medium to large game.

There is simply no reason for your deer knife to be longer than four and a half inches. Don’t be the guy who shows up to deer camp with a Rambo knife—show up with something sensible and efficient.

Top 5 YouTube Hunting and Outdoor Channels

Imagine if hunting was like the shows on Outdoor Channel: You get up at 8:00 a.m. (dang, that’s early!) and drive your camouflaged ATV 100 yards to a small condominium overlooking a soybean field where you can see in every direction for seven miles. After ten long minutes, the bucks start coming in, each bigger than the last and with names like Heart Attack and Linebacker because you’ve already ranked and catalogued them all on your trail camera. You pick the one you like because it has nice G4’s and a drop tine (it’s just like shopping), and then it magically appears in the back of a new Dodge Ram. Throw in some commercial breaks for Michael Waddell’s irresistible food coloring and corn syrup mineral licks, and that’s hunting. Fortunately there’s an alternative called YouTube, a democratized space where amateur videographers and outdoorsmen present alternative and more realistic depictions of hunting.

DIY Sportsman

The above video is probably the single best tutorial on public land scouting available on the web, and it’s yours for free thanks to Garrett Prahl aka DIY Sportsman. For the last three years, Garrett has built a small library of self-shot hunting and fishing videos set in Minnesota and Wisconsin that reflect his self-reliant philosophy of hunting. Garret is an extremely good hunter, but what I admire most his work is that he’s not afraid to make a video that reflects our most common experience as hunters: going home empty handed. There’s an elk hunting video on his channel where the high point is him waking up in the middle of the night to discover that his pants have frozen solid. How many of us screw things up while hunting? Yet every hunting show only depicts hunters getting it right. Garrett is able to pull this off because he knows you can learn as much from an unsuccessful hunt as a successful one. With each video, success or not, DIY Sportsman delivers an honest and informative take on hunting.

Virtuovice

I discovered Virtuovice’s channel a few years ago while looking for a tutorial on Japanese water stones. Virtuovice, also known as Wako, has since earned himself a cult following on YouTube for his expert knife reviews. Because Wako takes about 70 deer a year (the area where he lives is overrun), he’s personally field tested almost every quality hunting knife you can think of. This is real knowledge that can be useful for making your next purchase. Despite specializing in knife reviews, his self-shot sika deer hunts in the snowy mountains of Hokkaido are simply beautiful. I recommend this channel to anybody looking to buy their first hunting knife or learn the finer points of blade geometry.

Stuck N The Rut

Travis Schneider started Stuck N The Rut in 2010 to showcase his family’s free DIY hunting videos. The team’s excellent camera work, beautiful featured locales, and dedication to the concept of earning your hunt make Stuck N The Rut essential YouTube viewing. Although they’re young, these guys are absolute pros at what they do, and even the most experienced hunters can learn something new by watching them. Their Alaskan moose hunting videos are simply breathtaking.

Leatherwood Outdoors

Leatherwood Outdoors is a loose collective of truly dedicated and down-to-earth PA boys who document everything from hunting rattlesnakes and snapping turtles to using a flintlock shotgun for grouse. They’re rowdy, fun, and have no product to sell you. They simply love to hunt, and the videos capture their enthusiasm perfectly. If you’re just learning to hunt in the Northeast, this is great place to get some practical advice.

Primitive Pathways

Forget Bear Grylls: Billy Berger of Primitive Pathways is the guy you want on your side for the Apocalypse. In one video, he literally saws a branch off a tree, magically turns it into a longbow before your eyes, then proceeds to hunt with it. He’s as skilled a woodworker as he is a hunter. His videos on the use and effectiveness of stone and primitive weapons are both edifying and entertaining. This guy is the absolute real deal.

We just recently launched our Pocket Ranger® video channel where you can see even more hunting and fishing videos from contributors Bubba Rountree, Darcizzle Offshore, Fishing with Flair, Mr. Bluegill, Captain Ben Chancey from Chew on This, and more. Check it out, and make sure you download our Trophy Case mobile app before hunting season goes into full swing.