Tag Archives: bear

You have been lied to…

How does that make you feel? To know that people have been feeding you full of lies for years. Maybe it was an accident, and they didn’t know any better. Maybe they had other motives when they intentionally steered you astray? Maybe they thought it was for your own good. I know what you are thinking, “Grant’s back on the keyboard, this is going to be a long blog about guns, break out the tinfoil hats!”. Well if that’s what you were thinking, I’m sorry to inform you that you are wrong (even though I could totally go for a long rant about hunting rifles, effectiveness of personal defence pistols calibers, or the use of light’s and lasers on firearms). But today were talking wild game.

There are definitely 2 sides to every story, wild game is no exception. Some people will flat-out tell you that wild game is disgusting. Deer is too gamey, duck is too fatty, bear too greasy, catfish taste like mud, squirrels are just big mice, and rabbit are supposed to be pets, not your main course. The other side will tell you  “anything with fins, fur or feathers is edible”. That is correct as for North American game, but we all know that just because you can, doesn’t always mean that you should. Take probably the biggest meat-eating, hunting, fishing,  red-blooded American we have walking the planet right now, Steven Rinella, and listen to his Podcasts. He talks about it all the time because people always ask him if a certain animal is edible. To which he almost always replies(and I paraphrase), “Hell yeah you “CAN” eat it, question is if you want to, and how does it taste?” To an extent, I have a little bit of a soft spot for people who fall into the first class, because most times people make such broad judgements about wild game meat from personal experience (often times consisting of a single experience). Any one who has spent any amount of time hunting, and processing game meat knows that you have to treat wild game slightly different then you would domesticated stock. In that you will also get different flavor characteristics, and poorly executed “experiments” with game meat have been one of the leading causes of people’s dislike of game meat all together, and it would be hard to blame them. Imagine if you will, that you had never ate beef in your whole life, and someone offered to make you a hamburger. Not having any experience with burger, that would be your basis of what all beef is like. Now imagine that first burger was overly salted, overworked, and burnt to a crisp. What would your general feelings of all beef be? It’s dry, its dense, and it lacks flavor. You and I both know that a good hamburger is none of those things, they are always delicious, juicy, and tender. Even at that, a hamburger is not the measuring stick of which all beef should be measured. Each cut is different and perfect to be used in different ways to enhance the natural character of the cut. Wild game is no different. Without breaking down every cut from every game animal, I say we address some common misconception’s (read LIES) that I am sure that you have either read or been told through the years.

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  • “Deer is too gamey” : All animals have a distinctive flavor profile wild or domesticated, don’t believe me? Eat a piece of chicken fried steak and a piece a fried chicken back to back (if you are going to cook both in a single day, at least have the decency to invite me over). both cooking processes are the exact same, both coating the exact same, but neither one taste exactly like the other. Why? because beef taste like beef, and chicken taste like chicken. If all you ate was chicken, beef would have a “gamey” flavor, and vise-versa. Deer just has a more pronounced flavor than domesticated beef (and in all reality “beef” bought from a super market hardly resembles what beef use to be. If given the chance try grass finished beef, as opposed to grain finished beef. it is amazing how much more flavor the grass finished beef has over the counterpart. Any one who has had the privilege to having high quality beef knows exactly what im talking about.) Venison does have one thing that most non-hunters are not accustomed to. It is lean (lacking marbling from fat content.), a 3.5 oz. portion of beef has between 150-180 calories, 2-6.5% fat and 22-22.7 grams of protein. Mule deer on the other hand has 145 calories, 1.3% fat, and 23.7 grams of protein. Fewer calories, less fat, more protein, completely grass-fed, completely free-range, non-gmo, what else do people want? I would guess that more times than not, the real cause of overly gamey meat is due to poor handling, improper cleaning, cooling and aging techniques. Don’t stress the animal, clean and cool it as quickly as possible, and I would put money on the fact that you will have delicious tender meat. (And while you are at it, there is no need to cook venison to “well done”, if you don’t trust an eye test, use a meat thermomater and aim for 145 degrees. then let it rest before serving. You wouldnt cook a filet mignon to well done, and I would recommend that you treat deer filet the same way.)

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  • “Duck is just to fatty for me”: This may very well be true as to domesticated duck which is around 4.25% fat, but wild ducks tend to be less then half of that at around 2% fat. No they are not as lean as domesticated chicken (at around .7% fat) but what they pick up in fat, they also gain in flavor. Wild duck meat is surprisingly dark and muscular. To quote the writer Jim Harrison ( The author of “legends of the fall”) “it is a crime against God and man to skin a game bird…” In truth, duck breast that has been boned out, with skin plucked and left attached is truly one of the greatest gifts from mother nature. The skin crisps quickly, and seals the juices into the meat. I tend to go with my “6 minutes or 6 hours rule” meaning I will sear them quickly on a grill and eat them medium rare (I know what you are thinking “Pink center bird meat! Your gonna get salmonella.” but in all actuality, wild ducks, having never been domesticated, carries almost no chance of salmonilla.) or I want to slow cook them all day. Waterfowl tends to toughen up when cooked too long (say to “medium well” doneness). But, much like beef brisket, if you cook water fowl for extremely long times at very low temperatures, the meat fibers will break down and become tender again. Smoked pulled duck sandwiches anyone?

  • “Catfish taste like mud” : If I have heard this once, I have heard it a thousand times. Yes sometimes catfish do have a muddy taste, and sometimes they taste as clean as could be. Until lately I never knew why, it turns out that the sometimes muddy flavor that you get from catfish is mostly held in the belly meat and the fat of the fish. So how do we guarantee that we will have better tasting catfish? Firstly stay away from the belly, or any meat that takes on a yellow tint. Secondly, when processing out catfish fillets you will notice that there is an area where the back  and side meat come together that will often have a look of light purple or red (kind of looks like a bruise that runs the whole junction between the two parts) that is the area where a lot of the fat is stored, remove it and you will have removed most of that muddy taste. Keeping the fish in ice-cold water before trimming will also help you more easily trim the fat away from the fillets, as well as clean the fish. Then all that’s left is to do is start-up the fryer, mix up the hush puppies, and get prepared for a wonderful non-muddy catfish fry.

  • “Bear meat is greasy”: Well lets look at that observation a little bit. We have all heard that bears are closely related to pigs… Turn out that isn’t true either. (now you can bust out that aluminum foil hat) pigs belong to the Suidae family, and bears belong to the Ursidae family. Pigs are actually closer related to deer, camels, giraffe and cattle. Bears on the other hand are closer related to dogs, seals and skunks. Now that I can take my Carl Linnaeus (considered to be the father of taxonomy) members only lab coat off, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty about bear meat. Bear meat should be handled and cooked like pork, both tend to (depending on the time of the year) carry a bit of fat, the animals can both be cooked in similar manners (I have a friend whose father makes wonderful bear bacon), and any recipes that calls for pork, you can substitute bear meat into. Bears and pigs both share one more thing… Potential for trichinosis, or a round worm like parasite that can infect you if you do not cook the meat up to spec. Best way to deal with the potential risk is to cook all pork and bear the same, get it up to 165 degrees and rest easy knowing that you killed what ever parasites were inside. Bear meat is tasty, but the way that it is prepared is the usual reason why people believe that it is greasy. Most people (under the advise of their butcher) make bear into pepperoni sticks and summer sausages. Both of those products are incredibly greasy to start with. If you ask a knowledgable butch (or better yet a hound hunter who pursues bears) most will recommend getting the shoulders turned into hams and roasts. both are super tasty and a fun way to better experience your game. Slow smoked bear roasts finished in the crock pot make for one of the better pulled style bbq sandwiches, or enchilada fillings that you could ask for. Neither will be greasy in the least.

When it comes to wild game we have all been misled, misinformed, or just been the victims of crappy cooking. What is important is to not perpetuate these mistakes. Each time a new person tries wild game and finds it tasty, we add another friend to the cause. Meals created solely from food that we have harvested are made wonderfully special, and are a great way to come together not only as families, but as sportsmen. Next time your buddy starts hassling you about getting home late from hunting and how your  spouse is going to make you eat crow, just tell them you have recently visited crowbusters.com and come to find out they have a dozen recipes that don’t look to bad.

-Grant Willoughby 05/21/2017-

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Why is your freezer empty…

If you are reading this on a Sunday, we can draw a couple conclusions…

Conclusion #1: There is a chance that you are a fantastic hunter. With archery elk opening on September 6th, archery deer opening on August 30th, and fall bear (you pick the weapon) being open since August 30th also, there is a chance that you have already tagged out on all of your big game for the year. Now you are just biding your time until October 1 so that you can slay a bunch of ducks and geese. If that’s you… Got any ideas how a fella could fill his freezer that you would like to share? If Not, then we can move on.

Conclusion#2: You  have been out hunting a few times already and are wishing that you had bought a B tag, and never decided to pursue critters with stick and string.You just needed a break. Hey I been there too my friend. There is a reason why people say that any animal that is harvested with a bow is a trophy, The amount of miles covered (quietly) and the amount of work entailed in  putting yourself into range with a bow is truly commendable. But you know as well as I do that the chances of shooting a critter from your couch are really limited. (If you regularly shoot critters from your couch, and you decide that you want to adopt a 33 year old fat guy… I might just know one. 🙂 )

Conclusion #3:You either go to church on Sundays, or Sunday is your “family day”. Both are acceptable answers, and I respect both answers equally. We would all love to spend every waking moment in the woods chasing dinner, but most of us have regular jobs that allow us very little free time. With only 2 days a week that don’t require a time clock, it is pretty hard to juggle your real priorities, God, Family, and Hunting! I personally try to limit my hunting excursions to one day out of the weekend (and boy is that hard to do when you got onto a good scrape the night before, or saw a ton of green heads land  just after shooting light  when you were picking up dec’s.) But, as for me at least, I feel that it is important to spend some time with the fam. Now when my boy gets old enough to carry a rifle and give it a go himself… Well, I should  just start apologizing to my wife now…

All things being considered, I think most people fall into group #3. That being said, It is always important to hedge your bet a bit by being proactive. So here are a few things that you can do before rifle season opens so that you don’t have to waste what little hunting time that you have getting ready.

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1: A man is only as sharp as his knife: It sounds silly, but a sharp knife is one of the most important items that any outdoors men can have, especially a hunter. With a little practice and a small sharpening kit you can maintain your own blades in almost no time, and its always better to start with a sharp blade and be able to touch it up. Believe me, having to sharpen your knife mid-deer stinks. You can take an hour or two (after work) and probably sharpen all the knifes and hatchets that you will need for your hunt. Another nice tool to have especially for game processing is  the Piranta knife made by Havalon. They are basically a gutting and field dressing knife that uses replaceable 2 3/4″ hermetically sealed scalpel  blades. If a blade gets dull or breaks, just swap the blade out. Is it a replacement for a good fixed blade knife? I don’t know that I would say that. But I do know a guy who raises buffalo, and it is the only knife that he uses for processing them out (field dressing and caping) and that says a lot.

ob32: Shoot your rifle: Its the easiest thing to take for granted. “It shot straight when I put it away last year.” Yes it did, but it has been stoved up in a case or gun cabinet since then, it has been cleaned and oiled, and maybe it has even been knocked around a little bit. I try to pull my shootin irons out a couple weeks before season starts and give them a good once over. Make sure all the screws are tight, run a few dry patches through the bore, then take it out and put a few rounds down range. if all goes right, the rifle prints right where I’m aiming. At this point I DO NOT clean the bore until hunting season is over, a bore that is clean and oiled will shoot to a different of impact then one that has been shot in. because of the residual oil,  rifles will tend to ( but not always) throw the first couple rounds high, due to less drag, and settle as they wear off the oil. Plus it gives you a little time to re-familiarize yourself with your fire arm. I know it is expensive (I shoot a .338 Win Mag for elk, and at $50+ a box I feel your pain) But if you cant afford to burn a half a box sighting in, you probably cant afford to hunt.

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3: Batteries, batteries, batteries: What do you have in your hunting kit that uses batteries? If you said everything you are correct! GPS, walkies, range finders, flashlights, head lamps, if your lucky… a camera. Yep, you already thought about those, but what about for your ATV and truck?  Make sure everything has a good battery in it, and make sure they are all charged up and ready. Foul weather brings out the worst in everything electronic. While your at it, maybe change the oil, air filter, and even throw a little fuel additive in the gas tank. Be prepared for all the challenges that arise in the field, you know what they say about an ounce of prevention…

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4:Packs and survival gear: This is by far the easiest and most fun pre-hunt preparation you can do. Dig out your pack frame, your hike pack (hopefully if you have been listening, your survival gear will already be in there. 😉 ) and check the condition of both, as well as what you have in inventory. Do it in the living room, in the middle of the floor and get the kids involved. If they see what it takes to do what you do, they will be super excited about it when they get to do it themselves. Matches, lighters, fire starters, knives, sharpening stones, tinder, game processing bags, meat sacks, something to boil water in… Its awesome, it is exciting, and its what you are about. Share the experience, if you don’t have kids, do it with your hunting buddies, when you compare and contrast what you carry, you may just learn something new, or you may get to share some lessons that you had to learn the hard way.

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5: Fellowship: I am very lucky to have a group of friends that share the same values as myself. In that, most of our conversations usually are about either hunting, fishing or guns. Big surprise huh? No, that’s not all that we talk about, but much like every road in Idaho leads to the bunco, all conversations lead to those topics. If you want to get ready to go on your fall hunts this year, I have a super easy recipe that will get you there. Grab a 6 pack, wrangle up your buddies, and talk about hunting. Talk about how much fun last year was. Talk about the ones you got, the ones that you missed, and about “the Big One” that you just know is out there. Talk about how good the coffee was in the morning, and how tasty the beer was when you got back to camp. Talk about hunting camp breakfast! Talk about how much it rained, or snowed or whatever. Reliving last years adventure is a sure way to wet the taste buds for this year. The memories that you make afield, are addicting. The more you make the more you want to make. Start a tradition and stick to it. Wouldn’t you love to be able to one day talk to your great grand children about your hunting adventures and show them a picture like the one above?

22 days… That is all the time left before opening day of Idaho’s general elk and deer season. The time is running down, fall is in the air. I wish you all the best of luck in all of your adventures, if you don’t hunt, that’s fine, fall pike  fishing is some of the best of the year, no to mention the steelhead run on the Clearwater. In whatever you do, make memories and traditions that will last a lifetime. Even one day in the field, will make the five days that you spend in the salt mines well worth it. Be safe, and good huntin’.

-Grant Willoughby 9/18/2016-