Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Ticket please

It's an hour in the truck each way. Leaving home with tempered expectations, the season a disappointment so far, a new spot not being any more of a risk than the old ones.

It's the game warden telling you there really aren't many birds on this property. Then again, he might be a bird hunter.  Dismissed with a polite "Thanks."

It's borrowing your wife's nice camera, figuring that at the very least it would be a good day to take some pictures. And when you power up the camera (an hour from home) you get a message about a memory card not being installed.

It's realizing that three hours with no one around can be time well spent.

It is looking down and finding you're covered with beggar's lice.

Quail roost
It's your dog going on point and there's nothing there but a roost. Birds don't stray too far from the roost.

It's one bird flushing wild off to your right, then two more, then the whole covey blows up. Normally you only shoot pointed birds, but it's been a long season.

It's killing a bird and coming home empty-handed. Karma.

It's looking at your watch and realizing these birds need time to covey up before dark.

This is the price of admission.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Some props for Hank Shaw

Wild game at the table is an art, something requiring equal doses of creativity, knowledge and touch. Too much or too little of any of these will leave you hungry and headed for Mexican take-out. Most of you will agree, however, that when you get it right, wild game cannot be surpassed.

I've been a closet fan of Hank Shaw's for several years. If you  haven't heard of him, visit his Hunter Angler Gardener Cook website. He does some amazing things with wild game and does it in a way that's not the least bit intimidating to a non-professional chef. Two dishes I've enjoyed more than once are his Belgian venison medallions and poached dove with roasted peppers. The wife and kids are at the in-laws tonight which is usually an occasion to dive into the game stash uninhibited. Bad news if you're a venison backstrap but bacchanalia if you're a taste bud.

Belgian venison

I had a few thin strips of backstrap so rather than cut them into medallions I left them whole and draped them across a scruffy pile of garlic mashed potatoes. If the presentation offends you, get over it. I did.

I'll confess that I've taken liberties from time to time with his work, substituting here and there for stuff I had at hand. Some of the items he uses may be difficult to come by depending on where you live but if you don't get too funky there's no worry. I've gained a minor education in all kinds of vegetables, salts, oils, nuts and such, things that carry over into all types of cuisine. And I've learned what's caused some of my game dishes to fail (it's not always over-cooking).

All in all it's a great place to spend some time. If you like what you see, pick up one of his books and you'll have a field day in the kitchen. Many thanks, Hank.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Time warp

Seems like barely yesterday that the leaves were changing colors and the nights brought a chill with them. Every day held thoughts of guns and dogs and birds and every weekend took shape around the hunt.

Then the leaves were gone and the annual weight gain otherwise known as the holiday season rolled into town. Turkey, family, football, holly, Santa, empty boxes and wrapping paper and then all of that was gone too. Still, it was bird season and soon there would be no competing for the woods with the deer hunters.

Now, staring at the last two weeks of the season it doesn't seem possible that the next eight months will ever pass, nor does it seem possible that the last four months are gone. In truth they pass more quickly every year, same as the right-hand digits of my age, and remain utterly indifferent to all efforts designed to slow or stretch them.

There are still a few fires left to burn but most of the wood in the rack will get to simmer over the summer before it gets a turn, patiently waiting for the time when 50 degrees will be reason to break out a pullover instead of a welcome warm spell. Were it not for the certainty that autumn returns every year this would be a most depressing time.