Tag Archives: hunting

Perpetuate the sanctity of the harvest.

It’s been a long morning, and it isn’t even close to over yet. The light dusting of snow has made the world brighter, yet you know that it is far to early to get out of the truck and venture forth into this frigid November day in pursuit of your intended target. Venison! You look over at your partner in crime, this time it is your oldest boy. You know it was the right decision, being 13 and all, he has already reaped the delicious rewards of hard work and dedication, and he deserves it again. Taking a short swig of scalding coffee from the thermos you steal a glance at him. He’s a good-looking kid, smart, caring, every parents dream. You know that soon enough he will be away at college, and you will be all alone on these early morning voyages. But even that doesn’t pardon him from a little ribbing from Dad. “Get your eyes off that damn phone, and pay attention to what’s going on around you. I know it’s early but that doesn’t mean theres nothing to see, If I wanted to babysit I would have brought your little sister along!” He flashes back a smile, and turns the screen off on his phone. Conversation’s carry on like they always do, school, grades, sports and girls, spoken softly to pass the time. “You know”, you pause as you start one of those “Dad stories” you promised yourself you would never tell… “I wasn’t that much older than you the first time I met your mother…” “Dad wait, did you see that?” he questions you intently. You shake your head, signaling that you had not. You try to focus your attention without getting tunnel vision in the early morning gloom. You remind yourself to look for movement more than anything else… Out of the corner of your eye you finally see it. “That’s our boy right there” you whisper to your son as you nod out the left side of your snow covered windshield. In an instant he is trying desperately to open the passenger side door, power door lock have a hell of a way of  reminding people they have to stay patient. You take a look at your watch 9:25 A.M. “5 minutes kiddo then it’s game time.” As clockwork always does, the last moments crept by the slowest, then in a second everything changes, the lights come on, and neither of you can control your excitement. Both doors fly open in an instant, looking like mouse traps wired in reverse. The cold wind tears at your previously warm checks and the snow obscures your vision. You try to keep your footing on the icy ground, and make your way quickly and quietly toward your intended prey. As you silently slide into position, you ask your son if he is ready? “I been waiting for a whole year Dad, I’m definitely ready for this”. You smile, knowing exactly how he feels, and in one quick motion you open the door and you are greeted by warm air and the smell of curly fries. Arby’s has the Meats, and for a limited time… The Venison too!

Before you instantly hit that back button on your web browser, thinking that this a shameless plug for a fast food chain and wondering why you waste 15 minutes of your Sunday pilfering though my nutball half-baked theories about how rifles are more accurate than shooters, my love for 10 round ar-15 mags, and my infatuation with snow, hear me out. The Montana Wildlife Federation (WMF) has written a letter to the corporate offices of Arby’s expressing their displeasure with Arby’s decision to sell “Wild game” sandwiches. In case you didn’t see it last year, Arby’s broke ground in the overpriced not good for you food market by selling venison sandwiches in a few select (read 5 states, 17 restaurants) locations, that they believed were “prime” for such a sandwich. Problem was the demand was much larger than the supply, and they sold out quick! So being a caring company, (sorry I just gagged on sarcasm) Arby’s decided to re-release the sandwiches this year on October 21st in 3,300 locations nationwide, and if you are lucky enough to live in the states of  Montana, Wyoming or Colorado there is also an elk option. So why does Montana give two rips if Arby’s sells a wild game sandwich you might ask? Well first of all it’s not “wild game”, “wild game” cannot be sold in the United States, only “farm raised games animals” can. But they doesn’t have the ring of “wild game” does it? “This runs counter to Montana’s fair-chase hunting values by encouraging the commercialization of a public wildlife resource.” thats a direct quote from the letter, seems pretty solid to me. So where does this “venison” come from you may ask? Well it would be almost IMPOSSIBLE to procure enough deer meat from domestic markets, in so Arby’s has this “farm rased game meat” sent in from New Zealand. (outsource anyone?) Another fear of the department (which is why the community voted in the year 2000 to make new commercial farming of wild game animals illegal in their state) is “concerns about unethical captive shooting activities and the spread of disease”. (Which makes sense, wild birds don’t have salmonella, only domesticated birds do.) And as to “unethical shooting activities” I think we can all find a commen ground in undestanding that “some people” are so intoxicated with the idea of  their name in a record book, that they may be “persuaded” into pen raising an animal, filling it with whatever they can in order to promote giant horn growth, and harvesting it, only to later claim it as a potential State or World record. Some peoples kids right?

What do I think? Well if someone lives in an area where they may potentially never get to try deer meat (I don’t know where this place is, and if I ever hear of this place I will avoid it like the plague) or if a person lives in a family where hunting is considered  “savage” and “not needed in this modern civilization” (they probably live in that place where they can’t try deer meat) then I think it is nice that they will be able to try a “tamed” down version of the real thing. If someone has never tried game meat, and after trying these sandwiches they become an active part of wildlife conservation ( Remember the Pittman-Robertson act? The one that guarantees that a 11 percent of firearm and ammo sales goes directly back to that states wildlife management. Fishing and hunting liscences go directly back into the state too.) then thats also great. But it isn’t “wild game”, and it will never have the same appeal as an animal that lived free and was harvested in its own enviroment, with fair chase ethically. If you have never ate a rear inner tenderloin from a deer so fresh it hasen’t hit room temperature yet, you haven’t lived. Chicken is great, but it can’t hold a candle to the flavor of a freshly harvested grouse breast pan fried in a cast iron skillet over an open fire. Last night I made grilled stuffed burritos with cilantro rice, black beans, jalapeno, bacon, and pan seared widgeon and gadwall that I harvested, cleaned and cooked myself. (Don’t tell Chipotle grill, or it may be on the menu next week!) Wild game gains flavor with time, both in the aging process, and in the persuit of the animal. No commercialized politically correct version of “wild game” can ever compete with the real thing, and the memories of hunting with friends and family will far outweigh the memories of eating a damn sandwich. Sorry, its just the facts.

-Grant Willoughby 11/05/2017-

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We really need to stop…

It happens every year… Thanksgiving day, around 2 o’clock the old man backs into his drive way in that old Ford pickup. He gets out gingerly, retrieving his ancient .32 Winchester special from the gun rack in the back window, and continues his stroll towards the front door. Several minutes later with youngin’s in tow , the garage door raises and he gently lowers the tail gate. “That old man did it again” you mutter to yourself in a tone you hope will be quiet enough to disguise the jealousy in your voice. You look over to your wife, “I don’t know how he does it? He hunts one day a year, leaves at 6 A.M., returns home in time to carve the bird, and always gets a buck. What’s he doing that I’m not? I think he borrowed that rifle from Jesus for Petes sake.”  Your wife just smiles and goes back to tending the gravy, and mashing potatoes.

With a World that has become entirely structured by political correctness, it amazes me that we still do it, but we really need to stop, and we need to stop it now!.. Stop Caliber shaming! It’s not just black rifle calibers that matter, ALL calibers matter! In being a red-blooded ‘Merican, and collecting a paycheck working for a beer distributer, its pretty easy to guess that I work with a lot of dudes who love to hunt… And every person that slings up a rifle and heads out looking for backstraps and glory, has their own personal preference as to what the best critter getter caliber is. I do too, but one thing that I learned selling firearms is that people like to tell you why their opinion is right for them, and why every other option is wrong, and boy do those conversations ever get heated. Just yesterday I had a guy tell me that this year he is actually hunting with a “REAL” gun, he finally got rid of that .270 Win, and got himself a “THREE-HUNDRED”. After asking him which of the “three-hundreds” he got, (remember, there is a .300 H&H, .300 Winchester, .300 Winchester short mag, .300 Weatherby, .300 Remington ultra mag, and even the .300 Savage for that matter.) After determining that he had acquired a .300 Win mag, I asked him why he felt so compelled to get rid of the .270? “.270’s a girl gun, and ain’t good for killing nothin’ except for maybe a doe or something. Two years ago I took a shot at a buck at like 300 yards with it, and it just don’t have enough power to put something down at that range. Last year I shot a buck four times and didn’t even kill it.” Well I’ll be damned, I own a .270, I had better just run right down and trade it in. The .270 Winchester is just garbage right?.. I mean who wants a damn girl gun, that can’t shoot 300 yards, and is incapable of both killing bullet proof deer or automatically adjusting for both windage and elevation in order to make up for your poor shooting ability? Who cares that Jack O’Connor (who was a man) traveled all around the World killing the hell out of everything (the list does not only include “does”) with one? Who cares that the caliber was in fact created to be used on big game animals at long ranges (some sources even claiming up to 1000 yards) All that means nothing, because “I know a guy”… We have all heard mis-information fairytale’s start the exact same way. You know what they say about opinions and excrement holes… Hell, I knew an old-timer who lived in Whitefish Montana, he bought a Winchester Model 70 chambered in the .243 Winchester in 1955 (the first year of the calibers inception) He proceeded to shoot everything (and I do mean everything) that lives in Montana, from marmots, to mountain goats and moose, a 100 grain .243 bullet displaced everything just fine. Does that mean that it is the perfect do all caliber? For him it was.

Lets be honest here, There are a TON of calibers, and if given the opportunity I would own one firearm in every one of them. Why? Because I appreciate all of them for what they are, and don’t condemn them for what they are not. I think that the .17 Remington is one pretty stinking sweet varmint round, would I want to use it to kill an elephant? Nope. I understand its limitations in the same way that I don’t want to hunt coyotes with a .460 Weatherby (ok maybe I wouldn’t “mind” blasting a yote with a 500 grain bullet at 2600 fps for around 7,504 foot pounds of energy just one time 😉 ) There is a right tool for every job, but a skilled craftsmen can make up slightly for inferior tools with exceptional skill. (Noah built the ark… He didn’t own a laser guided sliding compound miter saw or anything.) No amount of “ballistic chart” hype can make up for lousy shooting. As for calibers, any round developed with the idea of taking “said” size animal will do a pretty amazing job at it if you do your part. Be it the now long forgotten .250 Savage (otherwise known as the .250-3000, because it was the first American made cartridge that achieved 3000 fps) or the 8mm Remington magnum (most people would only know this round as the parent cartridge of the 7mm Shooting Times Westerner, which according to Kris, when you shoot the STW, you don’t “call your shots”, you “file a flight plan with the FAA”) each round has a place in the particular set of hands, and in the hearts of those that choose it as their preferred weapon. Just because you don’t select it as yours, doesn’t mean that it has no use.

-Grant Willoughby 10/22/2017-

Like a Boss!

Ownership does not constitute competency. We have all heard it, it doesn’t matter if it is playing a guitar or proficiency with firearms. It doesn’t matter how many you own, if you are not well-practiced and disciplined in your drive for success, you are nothing more than a collector. We talk guns all the time, if im not shooting for sport or hunting, chances are pretty good that I’m flapping my gums, or pounding away at the keyboard about boom sticks and smoke poles. Whether those surrounding me want to hear about them or not. But not this week, no Sir, were going to talk about the really important stuff. Cookin’ and Eatin’!

It still amazes me that for all the people who hunt and fish, (somewhere around 250,000 hunting licences, and nearly half a million fishing licences are sold annually in Idaho alone.) how few of those people know how to cook a meal with the animals they harvest. Anybody can open up a pack of deer burger, smash it between their grubby mits and burn the snot out of it on a barbecue, that’s not what im talking about. I am speaking about crafting home cooked delicious meals with delectable protein that you have harvested, cared for, and prepared correctly. Some hear the word “venison” and instantly turn their nose up, stating that “deer meat is gross”. Well I’ll be damned, I must have always been cooking it wrong, because mine has always been super tasty. Lets break a few things down, and burst some bubbles before we even get into cooking with game and fish. First of all “venison” isn’t deer meat, “venison” is technically speaking any meat that is harvested by a hunter ( Its originates from the latin word venari, which means to hunt or pursue) typically though the term refers to any animal from the Cervidae (deer), Leporidae (hares), Suidae (wild pigs) family’s as well as some of the goats that are traditionally hunted. So pretty much all the things that we hunt with the exception of bears and cats are venison. Secondly, deer meat isn’t gross. Sure, some has more of a distinct flavor than others, but that really has more to do with the care and the handling of the meat than anything else in my opinion. In previous blogs I have given a few recipes for tasty dishes, and a few pointers for insuring that your hard-earned protein is treated with the greatest respect (if you don’t remember, you can go back and read them all again and click the like button, we can always use the positive feedback) But for now I would like to focus more on the cooking aspect wild game.

Red meat: You knew I was going to go here first huh? Why? Because it is the most sought after protein that hunters pursue. That being said, it is also the protein that is most obviously “abused” by hunters who believe that venison is “gamey”. Often times after a successful harvest, a hunter will take the cleaned carcass and drop it directly off at a butcher to have it processed. Just because you have a professional do your knife work for you does not guarantee that you will have better meat, the flavor and tenderness of your animal has as much to do with your post shot practice, than it does with someone’s ability to cut muscle groups apart. I know of more than a few hunters who will have their whole deer turned into jerky and burger, and I guess if that’s all you like to eat that’s fine, but at the same time there is limitless potential with the animal that you have laid before you. Venison is more moist, higher in protein, lower in calories, fat and cholesterol than grass-fed beef or pork. But it can be used in all the same dishes as either. Use your imagination, and learn to make meals that you look forward to preparing and presenting to your loved ones. I personally make quite a few brats out of my deer meat, because I love a good sausage (yes I can hear you giggling) and I own a combination grinder and sausage stuffer. Even at that, I don’t just season them the same and throw them into a bun (I do that also, but im not limited to it). My last batch of sausage consisted of standard brats, jalapeno cheese smokies, and sweet onion teriyaki sausages. Tasty as they were on their own, they also lended themselves well to being added to pasta dishes, stuffings and gumbos, just the same way that I would with any other store-bought sausages, but mine were better, and I never heard once that they were gamey. If you are not big on venison sloppy joes, tacos, meatloaf, stuffed bell peppers and burgers (and you consider yourself a hunter and an American?) then don’t get your animals ground up. Use those same low-fat cuts of meat that you would usually grind, and turn them into something that you like. I personally love a good Reuben sandwich, That sweet and salty corned beef or pastrami, the deli rye, the kraut, and a swiss cheese and coarse ground mustard… I’m drooling on my keyboard just thinking about it, and you can make your own pastrami with venison, and its pretty simple.

Venison pastrami:

Prep process:

  • 3 pounds of venison meat (leg meat works very well, it tends to have less connective tissue and is pretty lean)
  • To make your brine use 2 tablespoons of pink salt #1, a cup of kosher salt, 3/4 cups of brown sugar (or 3/4 cups regular sugar and a table-spoon and a half of molasses), and about 3 tablespoons of pickling spice (if you want to make your own, just add together 2 tablespoons mustard seed, 1 tablespoon whole allspice, 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, 2 whole cloves, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, 1 bay leaf, crumbled and 1 cinnamon stick (2 inches). Just mix it all together and put it into an airtight container. It will yield about 1/3 cup, so you will have plenty to use on future pickling projects.
  • In a stock pot add all brine ingredients to a gallon of water and stir frequently over medium heat until all sugar and salt is completely dissolved. Place brine into a non-reactive pot or crock (let’s be honest though, if you own a crock you probably have no reason to be reading my pastrami recipe) let the brine cool to room temperature (this is an important step because you don’t want the meat to try to boil when it enters the hot liquid, it will give a weird consistency to the outer crust of the meat)
  • Add the meat to the container, making sure that it is completely submerged in the liquid. Cover it tightly (or seal it with as little air as possible in a ziplock bag) and place it into your refrigerator to cure for 5 days.
  • Once the cure process is over, remove meat from the fridge and rinse it thoroughly. Move it to a pan and let it sit for an hour to completely dry. At this point you should cut a small piece off the roast and fry it quickly to check for salt content. If it is too salty just soak it in water for an hour or two. then move onto the cooking process.

Cooking process:

  • Seasoning a pastrami roast varies a lot depending on your personal tastes. A good base rub consists of 2 tablespoons black pepper, 1 tablespoon ground coriander, 1 tablespoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoons brown sugar, 1 tablespoon paprika and 1 tablespoon mustard seed. I personally like a lot more pepper, and I also like to use the 3 pepper medley with white, red and black pepper.
  • cover your roast with your rub, making sure to cover all surfaces.
  • At this point you need to fire up the smoker and get it up to 225 degrees. The internal temperature of your roast will need to register 145-150 degrees before the smoke process can be considered done, so plan accordingly with enough soaked wood chips, and briquettes.
  • Once you have reached desired temperature, remove the roast from the smoker, and place it into a roasting pan with a wire rack that suspends the meat off of the bottom. Add an inch or two of water (or stock) to the bottom of the pan making sure that the meat does not make contact with the liquid. Tightly cover the pan with aluminum foil and place into an oven that has been preheated to 275 degree. Steam your pastrami for an hour to an hour and a half, or until it reaches your level of tenderness.
  • Let cool for at least 15 minutes and slice for sandwiches. if you have a meat slicer this task is much, much easier. You can also reserve half of your roast to make hash for breakfast… but that’s a whole different recipe all together.

If you are like me, you probably already have a barbecue, a smoker, a crock pot, an oven and who knows what else that you can use to cook with.  But, how many of you are truly proficient in the use of all of them? I know I sure as hell am not, but I’m trying to get there. I know that it is sometimes hard to work up the gumption to attempt new cooking styles (or even new recipes for that matter), but with hunting season upon us, we have the opportunity to do a little experimenting with our menus. Step out of the norm and you may be surprised at what you have crafted with the amazing protein that you have procured. Turn the cries of “Not deer burger again” to cheers of “can you please make that dinner every night?” With a little practice and some patience you can be feeding your family amazing healthy meals, that they will rave for years about, and commanding the kitchen… Like a Boss!

-Grant Willoughby 9/15/2017-

You asked for it…

All This heat… I blame it on you! If you remember way back on October 29, 2016 I wrote a little piece called “Can you feel the nip in the air” explaining my love of all things in the changing seasons of fall and winter… Shortly there after Kris posted a blog by the title of “I’m dreaming… But it’s not of a white Christmas”, explaining how he was not “built” for the cold, and how the dark days with nothing to forage, mentally challenge him. In all truth I think that a lot of people follow that same sentiment. But take a look outside right now (it was 68 degrees on my porch at 6:13 this morning) and I think it may be time to reevaluate your thought process. According to the local news, which I watch with the sound turned all the way down… in the early hours of the morning… in my underwear… (Yes, I guess my actions are finally matching the grey hairs I have recently been cultivating in my beard) it has been around 30 DAYS since we have had a measurable amount of precipitation, and the temperatures are going to fluctuate between 96  and 103 degree’s for the next 14 days. What the hell is this, Death Valley? If I have to live in a place that you can’t enjoy being outside, I at least want a better selection of Mexican food to choose from! This summer sucks, this late summer and early fall is going to be filled with fire restrictions that deem camping senseless (if you can’t have a camp fire and cook outside, I just don’t want to go). Say what you want about the short cold days of winter, but it is a scientifically proven fact… When its cold you can always throw on an extra coat, but when its hot you can only get so naked. Speaking of outdoor activities, and being limited by the cold… How many of you have been outside soaking up sunshine, and participating in the same activities that you do every other summer? I am guessing that this weather has forced you to adjust your vacation plans, at least to some extent. My friends have been picking huckleberries for the last couple of weeks, but now they have to leave at 3 a.m. in order to get to the woods, get some picking in, and be back into town before the real heat sets in. No more hauling the quads up, packing a lunch and making a day of it. It’s just too damn hot.

So whats a fella or lady to do? Just sit inside and gripe about the heat? Well that’s one option, but you and I both know that s not going to get us anywhere. Some people use this time of year to take that boat out that they have to make payments on all year and only get to use 6 times a summer. (Personally, I think it’s too hot to even be out on the boat, let’s be real honest here. Its 100 degrees, you’re sitting in the middle of the lake with no shade, probably having some wobbly pops, your super prone to heat stroke, a sun burn is inevitable. The fishing is horrible. Even when you jump out of the boat to cool off, you have to worry about every other yahoo on the lake running you over. How safe of a recreational activity does this really sound?) Personally if I can’t be fishing or hunting, I want to be getting ready to go fishing or hunting. Enter living room scouting: Of all the years I have spent in the field, and reading books about refining my craft, I (up until a few  weeks ago) had never heard of a stereoscope. Basically a stereoscope is a device that is to be used in conjunction with two identical images (in a 10″ x 10″ format) that have been shot from slightly different angles (or elevations in the case of some aerial photos) and when used correctly they give a true three-dimensional view. For the avid outdoorsmen, this is a fantastic tool for scouting. The USDA offices usually carries quite a few of your local areas maps shot in 2 formats to be used in a stereo scope. If they do not, they will gladly help you fill out the paperwork that needs to be submitted to have the Aerial Photography Field Office in Salt Lake City Utah, send you the pair of images that can be viewed with the stereoscope for your hunting area, all for $6 a picture. What this does for the hunter is give them the ability to see exactly how the land looks, as opposed to the generalities that are typically shown on topographical maps. Whats even cooler than that, is that when you order your smaller maps, you can also order maps in sizes up to 38″ square. If you have these maps laminated you can use a use both sets of maps in conjunction, and use a grease crayon to mark the larger format map with probably hunting locations to be scouted when the temperatures finally drop. All this without leaving the comfort of your own bunker, I mean home.

Just because Summer has been miserable so far, does not mean that you can’t try to make the most of the remainder of it. Knives have to be sharpened, packs need to be cleaned and reorganized. This is a great time of year to get your hunting buddies together and make plans for this years adventures, dust off the maps, break out those last few packages of venison and toss them on the grill. Now is the time to get excited for the seasons to come, it’s also a great time to start putting away a few extra bucks to soften the financial blow that hunting season almost always causes (by the way its much easier to find ammunition and reloading components during the summer months too, when everyone else is focused on their tans and polishing their boats). Most importantly try to use this not so exciting time to be around your family and love ones, before we know it hunting season will be upon us, and whether you believe it or not, those are the people who are the most supportive of your primal drive to fill the freezer. Speaking of freezers, it’s all the way up to 91 on my deck right now, I think I will throw a little camo on my face, grab a duck call and crawl into mine. Come on winter, I’m waiting…

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-

The Measure of a Man…

The hike always seems to be longer on the way in. As the trace amounts of snow cover the tracks of last nights hoofed visitors, you pick and place all of your steps into the areas that don’t make you sound like an elephant tap dancing on bubble wrap. “4 days left on that tag, whats your plan?” Anything with horns you whisper. You had made a little promise to yourself at the beginning of this year. Earn a buck. It was a simple statement, but you were going to hold fast to it. You had lucked into a few before, and by no means is shooting a doe a bad thing, hell if we didn’t the deer population would run even further out of control then it already is.  But this year you want to earn that buck. So as the weeks passed by in deer season, so did the number of animals you saw, its like they can sense your target and realize that they are not it (much the same way Elk will stand broadside in the middle of the road 3 days after season has closed, knowing full well that you can’t shoot them). How many had you seen this year? A hundred? Maybe 150? I guess the number really doesn’t matter, What matters is today. What matters is that you use every opportunity to try to fill your tag. What matters is that you are keeping tradition alive, and experiencing nature just like your forefathers did.

Maybe for you it isn’t big game hunting. Maybe it’s a duck blind, a quail covey or that secret honey hole up the river that always has the biggest trout in it, Maybe its that hard line that you climb on the atv once a year just to prove to yourself that you STILL can. We all have our proverbial crosses to bear. The real question, is what are we proving? Why do we do it? And most of all who is Judging us? I find it funny that when we hear of someone who walks 50 feet from the truck on opening morning and kills a “good buck” we immediately call it “luck”, Then we hear about a hunter who spends 35 days in the woods searching for that one elusive deer that keeps evading him, we will in the same breath, Call him “lucky” and state that any one who gets to spend that much time afield is sure “lucky”. Well which one is it? Are you lucky if you stumble into one and shoot it at first light? Or are you lucky to be able to spend all that time in the woods? And who the makes the decision? I guess we get back to the argument about destinations, and journeys… If I was in a situation where food was scarce, and I was expected to bring home meat so that my family was able to live, my hunting season would have been very different then it was. This year I personally saw more deer then I have in any other 3 hunting seasons combined. Hell, yesterday I had 2 does close enough that I could have done them both in with and ax handle! But Much like you, my desperation for meat is very low, while my want is still very high. I enjoy hunting, but I am truly not in a situation where I “have” to harvest in order to survive. We have enough money to pay for food (even though its expensive, and I hate to do it), and I’m sure that you do too. Don’t believe me?  If you (or I) take what we pay for our cell phones and add to that the cost of the internet that we run in our houses, we are left with a pretty substantial sum of money. Surely enough to pay for any meat that a family would need to survive month to month.”But wild game is so much tastier, and better for you” you say. I could not agree with you more, I love all wild game. But if pressed and your freezer is low on protein, you can go to the store and still buy meat, as I do when things don’t go as planned.  I know of a few people, who have not consumed store bought meat in over 15 years! If I was 20 years younger, popped my collar, and listened to drake (the rapper, not my third favorite feathered target) I would say that is “EPIC”, but I’m not, so I won’t. What I will say is that is conviction, and that is living the path. Most cannot. It’s pretty easy to throw a “live to hunt, Hunt to live” bumper sticker on your Prius, its another to actually live it.

SO how do we quantify success? Is it meat in the freezer or horns on the wall? Is it a limit of green heads or that lone bull turkey that you have always dreamed of? Is success even attainable, or is it just an imaginary finish line that we have created as something to strive for? Last Saturday I was fortunate enough to spend the day hunting with Trent. Nope I didn’t shoot one, but Trent did. Just a 3 x 4 “doiker buck” as he would call it, but we basked in its glory, and admired him for quite sometime before we started to drag him out. For once the walk out was longer! 2 and a half hours later, we finally had drug the deer out to the main road and got it loaded into the truck. As we sat dead tired sipping a Powerade,dripping sweat and up to our elbows in war-paint and brush scratches,  I though about how successful the day had been, not only as a hunt, but as my birthday no less.To me, personally, it is all of those things that show your true measure and grit .Some of my most memorable hunting trips have been those where I never even pulled the trigger. From sitting in my parents frozen garage on a cold November’s eve processing out my first deer, to throwing decoys on what should be frozen water in January. Being outdoors has become something more to me then any number of trophy’s on my wall ever could. So if you wish to measure me as a man, do it not by the number of horns that I use to adorn my walls, but with the passion, friendships and memories that I use decorate my soul .

-Grant Willoughby 12/3/2016-

Somethings never change…

We are all creatures of habit. We find security in our rituals, no matter how strange they may be. I think a lot of the ideas that we carry into our “adult” lives were manifested in our youth. The more that we try to “put away childish things“, the more we long for them…

Not gonna lie, I still have a hard time sleeping the night before I head out on a hunt. The excitement is just far to much. Even at this very moment, if I close my eyes and concentrate real hard, I can feel the icy morning air fill my lungs, I can taste the last sip of scalding hot coffee, feel the weight of my pack, even hear the tiny “snick” of my action closing on a fresh round. Maybe I live in a dream state someplace between reality and memory (We all know that our memories are almost always cooler then what actually happens. I think that’s a trick our mind plays on us to keep us coming back for more.), and if that is the case, you can’t pry me out of this reverie with a 8-ton  Warn winch and a hot stick.  Come next Saturday, I will have possessed a hunting license for 21 years. In that, I started to think about how much different my life has become since those wasted days of my youth. Yes, just shy of 34 I’m happily married for 7+ years, have an awesome 5 year old son, a mortgage, bills, hell I even have life insurance. But I’m still the same “kid” from way back when…

Ever since I rode my first dirtbike, on road trips I always day dreamed about flying down the shoulder of the road and jumping every crossroad that met up with the highway, even putting my hand out the window and using the wind to help me visualize just how high and far I was gonna go. In an essence I had successfully transformed the whole world into the rhythm section of the coolest motocross track ever imagined. After a good motorcycle crash, I learned that maybe I wasn’t going to be the next Jeremy McGrath, but it didn’t stop my need to pretend. If you see a guy driving down highway 95 in an old ford truck, hand out the window, making 2-stroke noises, don’t call him crazy… You can just call me Grant.

When I was younger, we spent quite a bit of time in the summer fishing at local lakes. A crappy  bobber and a dozen night crawlers was all it took to burn up those dog days of summer. As I fished more, and started to learn (more so watching fishing shows, and take everything as gospel) I parted ways with going “fishing for fish” and decided that I needed to be an angler, and not just a fishermen. $1 worms got replaced with $6 Rapalas, and $10 K-mart fishing “poles” got replaced with $200 G. Loomis fishing “rods”. Some success was had, and I am still known to throw a spinner bait til I get a sore arm, but by the end of the day I end up sitting on the dock with my boy, pitching a worm and bobber to bluegill too small to even be called bait. That is what made me fall in love with fishing, it taught me patience, it taught me resilience, and most importantly it taught me to laugh and enjoy my surroundings. I hope that it has the same effect on him. Plus it is almost impossible to not have the time of your life playing the “who can catch the smallest one” game.

SNOW. I’m sure some of you just cringed at the word, by now you know that I have quite the obsession with those tiny crystallized water particles, I definitely don’t suffer from chionophobia ( yep you guessed it! $5 word from extreme dislike or fear of snow. First thing you have ever learned from one of my blogs right?)  I have always loved snow,  from November hunting, to Christmas eve late night strolls through downtown Coeur d’Alene with my Mom, snow has always added a certain beauty to the memories. Or maybe it was the time of year… I am not a holiday person per se, but let me explain. I am not a big fan of receiving gifts, even though I love to give them. My favorite holidays are gift free ones, that is why I have always loved Thanksgiving (and no it isn’t  because I was born the day after it.) any time people gather to spend time with each other, eat great food, and be thankful, is my idea of what a holiday should be. The smell of turkey and home made pecan pie fills the house, the wood stove warms your bones, and every time that the door opens you look to see how much snow has collected on your walkway. The only things required are a health appetite, and a smile. And as the night wares on, and pie is sliced everyone sits together as family. As a kid I waited all year for it, and I still do now.

Yes as time goes on, people do change. As I get a little longer in the tooth, I realize that I have changed. With responsibility and age a boy grows into a man, he who was once fueled on emotion and impulse, becomes more collected and intrinsic. We adapt our lifestyles, we think much longer about decisions, and we seek True North, the absolute truth. But as we grow in age, as well as spiritually, we have to remember that our youth is what made us who we are today. Make a snow angel, throw a snowball, take an extra minute to watch the sunrise as opposed to looking for horns, laugh til it hurts, have that extra piece of pie. When its all said and done, those moments, the ones where you regressed back to childhood excitement, are the ones that will often mean the most.

I wish you all the happiest of Thanksgivings.

-Grant Willoughby 11/19/2016-

Excuses are like A**holes…

I know that I should be writing a blog about the upcoming election, but to be real honest with you, I have really just had it with politics. I’m sure that you have too. First it was a big debacle just to figure out who was going to be running, then it was millions of dollars spent on campaigning, then millions more spent on negative political ads. (If you type in “negative political ads” on google it gives you quite a few stats, like for instance, out of all of Hillary Clinton’s television commercials, just over 60% of them were adds that tried to shine a nasty light on her opponent. I’m not pointing out one side or the other, I’m just saying that as a collective body, we (as Americans) have shown a greater tendency to make decisions from feelings of anger, then from anything else.) That is a lot of money spent trying to get people to like you (or in reality, just dislike the other person more) That being said, I hope that you visit the poles on Tuesday and let your voice be heard. By this time of  year you have already heard everything that you need to hear in order to make an educated decision, hopefully  “We The People” will have made the right choices and America will keep working its way back to greatness…

OK now that we got that out of the way, lets talk hunting and guns shall we… Finally something that I can completely get behind. I spent yesterday in a duck blind, trying to put a little meet in the freezer. We got an “A” for effort, but its hard to cook a report card. Most Of my time spent in pursuit of ducks (or deer for that matter) is with a buddy of mine named Trent. Trent is an assassin, If you ask him, we will be humble and say that he gets lucky every once-in-a-while, But in all reality Trent puts in a ton of work for his critters, in so he is rewarded (and rightfully so), that’s why his freezer is full of elk, and mine is full of frozen burritos. So with travel to hunting locations, and blue bird days in  duck blind’s, Trent and I spend quite a bit of time talking all things fins, feathers, fur, fletching and firearm. Its funny in the course of any conversation, how many “facts” we have been told over the years, and how many misconceptions their still are when it comes to the lifestyle that we all choose to partake in. SO… Let’s see how many people we can thoroughly frustrate and challenge with this one.

  1. “I carry a .45 ACP because shooting twice is silly”, 9MM vs. .45 ACP…                     I’m pretty sure that if you look around at cave drawings, you will probably see Paleolitic representations of one tribe making fun of another tribe because they used smaller spears. This debate is not only played out, but pretty silly anyways. I have a 9mm, .38 spl., 40 S&W, and a .45 acp. I carry the .45 because I like to shoot it, there for I shoot it more, thus I shoot it better. Pistols are pretty piss poor as defensive weapons anyways. “Wow, did he just say that?” yes I did. If I had the choice between a shotgun with bird shot, or a pistol with the best defense ammo available, I would take the shotty every day. Why? Because it is efficient, even with an adrenaline charged trigger jerk,  you can still effectively stop a bad situation. “But you only have 3 (or 5 or 8) shots?” Yes that is true, I don’t care. I carry a pistol because its convenient, but I know its limitations. Pistols poke holes, and reliability of expansion is always a limitation. Would I rely on my .45 to save my life? You Bet, if I had a 9mm that I shot as well, would I feel as confident using a “puny 9”? Sure would. I can be realistic, and honest with my decisions. Now .40’s on the other hand…
  2. “I would never shoot (insert caliber here), it has a trajectory like a rainbow”              This one is actually as multifaceted as a princess cut diamond. Lets first come to the realization that most people have no real idea about external ballistics. They buy deer bullets for their deer gun and try to shoot a deer. They miss  because the don’t know much about the flight of their projectile (I actually think most people miss high,  But ill get into that later) because they missed, they need a magnum cartridge. “That old .308 or 06 just doesn’t have the oomph to make those long shots, .300 Weatherby actually is going so fast that it rises as itleaves the barrel” No it doesn’t, and you sound silly when you say things like that. Here’s a fun experiment. Take your favorite bullet, hold it directly in front of your right shoulder right where you mount your rifle, then drop it. If you were to use a high-speed camera, you would be able to measure the exact time that it takes to fall from shoulder level to the ground. Now  take your favorite pill pusher, and place a level on top of your scope base. When the bubble is dead nut squeeze the trigger. Using that  same high speed camera you could measure the amount of time it takes the bullet to touch  the ground at the end of its flight. Then compare the times… They are the “SAME!” its called gravity. The only difference between a .308 a 30-06 and the .300 Weatherby is the distance that they travel before they hit the ground. For example: If it takes .750 seconds for the bullet to drop from shoulder height to the ground. you can easily do the math. 165 gr. .308 win @ 2700 fps, 165 gr. 30-06 spr. @ 2800 fps, .300 Weatherby 165 gr. @ 3300 fps. If all three calibers are shot in the same conditions with all bores exactly level, The 308 will travel 2025 feet before it touches down, the 06 will travel 2100, and the 300 will travel 2475 feet. Yes the magnum has an advantage, but it is also more expensive to shoot, and the recoil is more punishing. If you are scared to pull the trigger, and you flinch every time you do, then what is the perk of all the foot pounds of energy and flatter trajectory? Now lets look at your set up. If you do the standard (mount your scope as close to the rifle as possible, Ideally 1.5″ from center of scope to center of bore for hunting rifles) and you sight your rifle in for 100 yards, your .308 will drop 37.08 inches at 400 yards,  the 30-06 will drop 33.85 inches, the .300 Weatherby will drop 20.31 inches at the same distance. That’s no small potatoes, But I think the general consensus for people that plan on making longer range hunting shots (say 300 yards plus) is to set your rifle up as such. I know a lot of fellas that sight everything they have, to be 3 inches high at 100 yards. With that you are left with a ballistic chart that reads something like this: .                                                                       308 Winchester: 100 yards: +3.00″, 200 yards: +1.63″, 300 yards -6.99″, 400 yards -25.07″.                                                                                                                                                 30-06 Spr.: 100 yards:+3.00″, 200 yards: +2.06″, 300 yards: -5.56″, 400 yards: -21.82″                                                                                                                                                 .300 Weatherby: 100 yards:+3.00″, 200 yards: +3.79″, 300 yards: +.27″, 400 yards: -8.29″                                                                                                                                                       So what does that tell us? Well it tells me that yes the .300 Weatherby is a pretty flat shooting rifle. But then the question needs to be asked, How often do you shoot that far? and How often are you willing to practice at those distances? A large whitetail buck has a chest height of somewhere between 18″-20″. So even with the lowly .308 Winchester you can shoot that deer all day long, all the way out to about 350 yards WITHOUT holding over the hair, and that ain’t too bad. You know what else it tells me? That uncle that you have who sights his 300 Savage dead on at 100 yards, then says he “shot that deer at 700 yards, held on lungs, and hit right where he was aiming” is a liar. Sorry that’s just the facts folks. Now to why I said I think more people miss high (even with those huge negative numbers that represent the drop of those 3 cartridges) It is really hard to guesstimate range on critters, just like no 2 snowflakes are the same, no 2 deer,( or elk, moose, bear, coyote or Sasquatch) are the same either. Have you heard of ground shrink? Its what happens when you shoot bears most of the time. Through the scope the it looks like a cement truck with fangs and claws. You pull the trigger, then walk up to it and see that somehow between the time that you pulled the trigger and the bullets impact, your “state record boar” was replaced with a slightly overweight black lab. Its alright we have all been there. A good deer at 400 yards looks like a coyote to the naked eye, what does one look like at 700 yards?  I don’t know either, I live in the part of Idaho that is covered with trees and brush, anything with 500 yards of open space and no trees or brush is either a flight strip, or the parking lot at Walmart. So when we see a deer that is “way out there” most people grossly overestimate how far away it actually is, even a small buck at 300 yards looks like he is at least 900 miles away, and what do we do? Find a rest, aim right for the shoulder, then start worrying about how far away it is. As apposed to getting closer, or just not taking the shot (or ranging it, then using a drop chart, or practicing at ranges out to that far, so that you know how far away it is), we aim half a deer over the shoulders and let er fly. We miss, chamber another round, and aim even higher figuring that we had to have missed low, and keep making the same mistake until were out of bullets. 2 inches of drop, or 200″ of drop, if you don’t know how far away it is, no super magnum is going to make long shots easy.
  3. 3 1/2″ shotgun shells don’t make your 12 gauge shoot farther.                                  (Might as well piss off the shotgun guys too right?) Lets start with the basics first, a shotgun is a gun that shoots shot. In accepting that, you also have to accept the fact that no single shot in the load can be precisely aimed. You bank on the theory that as your shot cup is constricted going through the choke, it will lay an even dispersion, or “pattern” of shot across your target (usually a 30″ circle is used for determining  the percentage of shot in your pattern.) what a 3 1/2″ shell does for hunters that have shotguns so equipped, is give you the opportunity to have more shot in the pattern (a heavier payload). a sphere is the worse velocity retaining projectile invented. that means that they slow down greatly once they leave the barrel.  “Well… Yeah but if you have more shot it will kill farther out right?” Nope, what it will do is give you more chances to catch you intended target inside your pattern. If your goose hunting with “BB” shot, and shooting a 3″ magnum round with 1 1/8 ounce of steel (1500 fps), you have exactly 81 pellets (or 81 chances) to try to hit the goose in a vital spot (head or spine) at 30 yards with a modified choke your pattern will be roughly 30 inches. That is not a whole lot of chances to sneak one into something important. If you are shooting a 3 1/2″  1 5/8 ounce load of steel “BB’s” (1500 fps) your total number of pellets goes all the way up to 117 pellets, or 36 extra pellets, or almost 1/3 more chances to hit the vitals. I like those kind of odds. But it does very little for elongating your actual range, mostly due to the loss of velocity. If you want better long shot potential, the answer is really choke selection, shot shells that are created to keep the shot cup together for longer,(read flight control) and heavier shot.

As technology advances, and as people become more interested in the “outdoor lifestyle” we have a ton of new toys and tools at our disposal. So some of the old stand by rules just aren’t as set in stone as they used to be. But the fundamentals will never change, be smart, be respectful, be ethical, be a student of mother-nature, be an example, and most importantly pass it on. Without us teaching the correct way to the future generations of outdoorsmen our tradition, our responsibility,and our passion, will surely disappear. It won’t be that long until they are making the decisions that will govern this Country, lets raise them up right, and hope that they will do the same. Pass it on…

-Grant Willoughby 11/06/2016-

Can you feel the nip in the air?

The icy wind tares at your jacket, the corners of your eyes well up with tears. “how can it be this cold, and still be raining? Shouldn’t this be snow?” You mutter quietly under your breath, no one can hear you complain, even if they could, you would receive no sympathy. Wishing for snow makes you feel like a child, you escape to your youth,waiting through late November, just hoping that it would snow. ..

You remember seeing the first few specks of those soft white crystals descending to the earth. At once you were to your feet, throwing on last years too small snow pants, that match perfectly with this years too big, hand-me-down jacket. Without tying your sorrels you were out the door and running towards the wood shed to grab your sled. There wasn’t even enough snow on the ground yet to cover the dog-doo in the yard, but you were hell bent on being the first kid in town to make a snow angel and build a snow man. You remember coming in tired and wet, shedding off the layers of wet polyester and nylon for Mom to hang around the wood stove, (we all had a pair or two of snow pants that got just a smidge too close to the fire, and we learned that not only were snow clothes warm, but also flammable 😉 ) The smell of your clothes drying (everyone remembers the smell of snow mixed with sweat that fills the house after a good snow day), the taste of hot cocoa, the warmth… oh the warmth of the wood stove, nothing has ever compared with the assurance of a tamarack stoked wood fire. No matter what was for dinner, it was  the tastiest thing that you had ever eaten. Everything about snow felt like a new beginning, it made everything look fresh and untouched, and even as a small child you started to understand what beauty actually is. Like miniature diamond that covered the land and twinkled just for you…

But there is no escaping this rain, it soaks down through your clothes and into your soul. It permeates your whole existence. You can feel your bones start to chill, and your muscles tighten like steel cables coiled too tightly, You need to get up and move, “get the juices goin again”, but you know that it won’t help, Maybe the lack of circulation from being hunkered down, blocks out the shivers you know will surely be setting in shortly. Plus standing up and walking around just isn’t an option, you haven’t been out here since 0’dark-thirty, wet and freezing, to give up now. You hear the faintest whisper,”30 minutes”. The excitement is short lived, as you try to go through your mental check-list… check, check, check, check, check… You are as ready as you will ever be, but now what to do with the other 29 minutes. Don’t think about how cold you are, or how the wind slices through your already soaked jacket like Boreas’ straight-razor. Don’t think about how you could be wrapped up in a warm blanket, cozy in your own bed.”15 minutes, load em up” False dawn has already been on you for 20 minutes, and you know that within the hour the sun will be creeping above the dark timber on the far ridge, “5 minutes, good luck”. No more words are spoken, only nods given with grease smeared faces. All eyes fall to the mud, and all thoughts go to the task at hand. At once the world comes alive, where before you only heard wind and rain, and all you saw was black. Now you see silhouettes, the darkness isn’t black at all. Dark greens, blues and purples explode into your peripheral. “What is that noise?” Its almost deafening, its coming from the left, But you dare not turn your eyes to the sky. “Relax” you keep telling yourself. “Take em boys!” All at once you can no longer feel the cold, the rain seems to stop and everyone jumps to their feet. Orange plumes erupt from the end of camo barrels,  12 gauge shotgun shells  welcoming the morning Sun. You snick off the safety as you notice one flying low that some how has survived the volley of fire. With the first round you tear the water apart a full yard behind him. “If they fly fast, you have to swing faster” you remind yourself. Even before  you touch off the second round, you know that your aim is true, and look to cover the next one in line. “3 o’clock headed away” you hear the call and swing to meet it, squeezing the trigger before you even catch up to the target “follow through, follow through” pounds into your brain as you watch the shot string overcome the second  target. Before the third shotgun hull hits the mud at your feet, you can see both ducks, feet up, peddling towards the sky, as smoke rises from your barrel. The Dogs excitement is uncontrollable, as you loose them from their leads, at full speed they jump into the 40 degree water bawling with enjoyment. “fetch em up boys, fetch em up” as the birds come to shore, and the labs shake the frigid water out of there coats, many high fives and congratulation are exchanged. You lay the birds onto the shore and admire them closely with many thanks, smoothing their feathers and admiring their beauty. You look up just in time to see the sun break cover, then look back down at your harvest. What just landed on that mallards beak? The first lone snow flake, like a miniature diamond twinkling just for you…

-Grant Willoughby 10/29/2016-

You wanna talk politics, gun control, and separation of church and state?

… Me either, lets talk about the important stuff. Like what a crappy hunter I am, and how much I still love doing it anyways. We at PWP took off last weekend for a little impromptu 4-day, every-critter-that-can-be-seen-can-be-shot-I-got-a-tag-for-them-all weekend. Since the blog picture wasn’t a pile of dead animals, you can assume that we didn’t exactly “tag out”. I guess we should be starting to get used to it. But elk is a hard critter to hunt anyways, They are finicky about where the want to live, temperature, weather, phase of the moon, they are truly the primadonna of the Cervidae family. (says the guy who can’t figure out how to put one in his freezer) But boy are they majestic, and more importantly, DELICIOUS. Se we test our patience,our bodies, and our bank accounts, for just one chance to put meat in the freezer, and horns on the wall. There is a reason why the success rate in Idaho is only a taste over 5%, the hunting ain’t easy, no matter what you have seen on hunting videos. We saw plenty of deer, mostly does, and a couple little bucks, but the season is still early, so we decided to just get rained on instead.

We did get to use some of what we preach though. Lets just say that there was an incident where a rifle (I’m not going to point fingers, but it wasn’t Kris’s or my rifle) took a digger off an ATV. Remember when you were in hunters ed class and they talked about mud getting stuck in a barrel? That story is real, and it is amazing how far soft muddle will travel up a muzzle if it falls in lawn dart fashion. Who brings a cleaning kit to hunting camp with them? I do. Who carries there cleaning kit on there ATV. I sure don’t. So, the hunt was over right? If there is one thing that we always preach, its to just adapt and start looking for a solution with what you have. There is no possible way to carry every tool for every situation with you every day. The important thing is to have enough, and having the ability to think outside of the box for your solution. (Just a little, for-what-its-worth, you can improvise a pretty good bore-snake out of paracord 😉 ) After getting the bore clean, we realized that not only had the barrel made contact, but the scope had also seen a battle, with cross-hairs no longer vertical, and aiming about 3 counties right. So we packed up camp, and drove back to town so that we could have the rifle repaired right? No way, were Post World Patriot, not better homes & garden, we loosened up the rings and scope mounts, squared up the cross-hairs, pulled the bolt, centered the bore on a target, then drifted the scope back to where it should be (just think of it as a poor kid bore site). 3 rounds and 20 minutes later we were back on the road, Even I was a little impressed.

So we didn’t whack em and stack em like we had hoped, and as my son grows ever closer to being able to hunt (I tested him yesterday, I went up north and did some duck hunting, then asked if he wanted to come out and see how to clean a duck. He put on his boots, came outside and watched the whole event, even asking me to explain what all the organs were, little did I know that I needed a biology degree to show my 5 year old how to keel out a duck … Needless to say, not only is he ready… But he will probably shoot a bull before I do.) I realize that hunting, much like all things that are truly important, is a labor of love, and the experience and the journey is as important as the destination. Hunting trips and hunting camps are pretty much explained in 3 steps. The preparation, the hunt, and the afterglow. The preparation is the planning, the excitement, and even the ride out to your “spot”. Its glorious, the hope for excellence is over the top. The day is fresh, clean, and full of potential. The hunt is the work, half of you wants to dance like a 5 year old, while the other half remains stoic. Teddy Roosevelt didn’t dance, neither did Papa Hemingway, keep it together man 😉 . The afterglow can be the ride home or the camp chair around the fire. That is where you catch up about all things hunting and life. You talk about the family, how junior is doing in school, How your new rifle is way better then everyone else’s, about your new honey-hole for small mouths… All the important stuff. As much as the filled tag, and meat in the freezer drives you, it wouldn’t mean much without the experience. If all we care about is meat and horns, there are plenty of racks for sale on craigslist, and Walmart is open 24 hours. But if you truly love the the hunt as much as I do, please take someone new into the woods. Show them the experience, and remember to look around a bit, breath the fresh air, and enjoy the sunrise. Long after you have ate the last pack of deer burger from your freezer, the memories will still keep you hungry.

-Grant Willoughby 10/23/2016-