While I usually pluck birds and roast them whole there are times when I either have one a bit shot up or too many birds to process that way in which case I breast them and take the hindquarters (along with the heart, liver and gizzard for Lira.) We use the breasts in place of chicken breasts in recipes and usually slow cook the the hindquarters in a creole, cacciatore or some other similar dish. This last week I have had a bad cold and was in the mood for a Thai Tom Kha Gai soup so decided to try and make one from pheasant. I merged together a few recipes I found on the web and came up with something delicious and cleared out my sinuses. The recipe is totally Paleo, Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free.
I can hardly believe that 2017 is drawing to a close already, where did it go? As I sit back and look over the year I realize that I have had one heck of a year with a lot of firsts. For the first year in a while health was just not an issue, as you can tell from my lack of health related blog posts, so it freed me up to get back into fly fishing, to really get into hunting and to finally reach my goal of stocking my freezer by myself. On top of spending almost one-third of my days in the field I was able to get out for daily hikes (and later runs) with Lira and still find time to work all year long.
Growing up all we ever shot was lead and when I started hunting again I have to admit I used lead shotgun shells where I could and took my first deer with a lead bullet. After that though I got religion and went lead free this season and found that non-toxic worked just as well as lead and is much better for the environment. For more info on hunting with non-toxic ammo check out the Hunting With Non-Lead Ammunition website or this MeatEater blogpost.
Locally for pheasants I needed to use non-toxic shot because of the wetland habitat we hunt but this year I’ve only used non-toxic anywhere bird hunting. I like the Federal Premium Prairie Storm FS Steel and that is all I’ve used now for two seasons. The stuff takes down birds with either my 12 or 20 gauge shotguns.
For elk hunting I used a 140 grain Barnes TSX-BT bullet loaded with 55 grains of IMR 4831 powder in a .270 cartridge. This bullet knocked my cow elk down in it’s tracks at about 150 yards no problem. I had also loaded 130 grain Hornady GMX bullets for use with deer during Modern Firearm season, these use 56 grains of IMP 4831 and are great because I can use the lead SST bullet at the range and switch to the all copper GMX for hunting.
For muzzleloader I switched to a Federal Premium B.O.R. Lock 270 grain bullet and it knocked down the doe in its tracks no problem. I had tried several bullets and found this one gave me the best patterns at 50 and 100 yards at the range plus performed well in the field so I am sticking with it.
After filling my elk tag I kind of figured I was done with big game hunting for the year and that my Washington deer tag would go unfilled. I had hunted a few days during early muzzleloader season without so much as seeing a deer and figured that would be it. When we thought we may have had a mix-up on the elk samples for CWD then I realized that late muzzleloader season was my last chance to put some meat in the freezer should I have to throw out my elk so I started looking again. I put out cameras locally again but the farm was flooded so I started looking east of the mountains back to special unit 3372 by Sunnyside and unit 130 over by Cheney. I opted for Cheney since I had seen no deer at all in 3372 so I made a plan and set up a trip in early December for a few days to hit unit 130. I had scoped out the small amount of BLM land there and gotten a bit of intel and also found Miller Ranch which offered access to its private land mostly via guided hunts. I talked to Scott Miller and he was very busy with bird hunters and another doe hunter but gave me an offer of a small trespass fee to hunt on my own and I took him up on it. (I know this wasn’t a Public Land hunt which I fully support but I’m taking baby steps, on my own in private this year, on my own in public next and I’d so far struck out on public looking in early season.) Of course a few days before the trip we finally got resolution on the elk, mine was safe, and I really didn’t need to do the hunt but decided to go anyway since it would be my first totally solo multi-day hunt and I had scouted out some nice looking canyons where I hoped the deer were hanging out.
This year I went on my first elk hunt to an area near Craig, CO known to have Chronic Wasting Disease, CWD. In fact, the units we were in had a high enough incident of CWD among the deer population that they required all bucks be tested. Elk testing was optional since the rates were only 1-5% but we chose to test mainly because I’m health paranoid after all I’ve dealt with an no sense risking a fatal disease especially when a recent study shows it can possibly transfer to humans. A few weeks after the hunt was over I got back my negative result from Colorado Parks and Wildlife and would have immediately eaten some elk had it not been for the fact I already had some other meat thawed that needed to be cooked. Before I got around the getting elk out my friend called and said his elk came back Suspect for CWD and that he had to wait another 7-10 days for more testing. On top of that he was pretty sure that we had mixed up the two heads that were dropped off for testing and that it possibly was my cow that was suspect. Another few weeks went by and we found out that the elk was indeed positive for CWD and now we weren’t 100% sure which elk was the positive one.
You know the saying that you eat an elephant one bite at a time, well I found out this past week the processing an entire elk by yourself is about like eating an elephant. After our hunt it took me basically a full week to get from the time the elk hit the ground until I got everything packaged up and in the freezer not counting the 1.5 days the elk meat was in transit on the way home. The good news is that the freezer is mostly full and we should have plenty of meat to get through the year. Meat crisis averted!
Way back during tag hunting season in February my friend Tom asked me if I’d be interested in going on an elk hunting trip with he and his two teenage daughters in the fall, it was to be their first elk hunt too. After my Idaho mule deer hunting trip last year I was up for an elk. We both looked for outfitters and he finally found Hellander Outfitting in Craig, CO that had openings during the 3rd Rifle Season hunting out of Yellowjacket Ranch between Craig and Meeker. I had to quickly go through Hunter’s Ed and take the Colorado opt-out test so I could put in for tags in time for the hunt and decided that for my first elk trip I would just target a cow figuring a cow elk would be plenty to feed Catherine and I for a year since it would have as much or more meat than the quarter cow we usually buy in the fall. In July we found that we all drew tags, the girls and I for cows and Tom for a bull and it just became a matter of getting geared up fully and waiting until the end of October to roll around.
Last year Lira did pretty well as a pup hunting in the fall, she found birds, she mostly pointed and rarely bumped them and she retrieved most of the time. She also liked to chase other dogs around the field quite a bit and locally found ‘easy’ birds that were not in too thick of cover for the most part. This year she really changed a lot. No more chasing other dogs around or even wanting to outside of the usual parking lot sniffing and the who let the dogs out initial walk into the fields. Once she gets to the grass she is all business, nose to the ground looking for birds. She’s also become fearless of heavy cover. She will go into anything that she can possibly get into to go after a pheasant and has flushed birds out of brambles so thick that i couldn’t get the bird to move by kicking the crap out of the outer layers of the stuff. She’s grabbed cripples and even a few unscathed birds that got trapped in thick stuff and couldn’t get out before she got to them. Just a few days ago she ran down a wing shot rooster who took off up a corn row and brought the bird out still kicking and flapping but Lira’s tail was up. She also finally lets me take a photo without constantly trying to grab the bird on the ground, that was a huge accomplishment. We’ve gotten twice as many birds in the first three weeks of the season than all of last season and I’ve missed or not had shots at quite a few that she found in really thick stuff where shooting can be a challenge to say the least. The season is about half over since I’ll be gone most of next week but I can’t wait to see what November brings.
While I’m busy prepping for the upcoming hunting season I’m also busy trying to clear out the freezers in hopes of re-filling them soon. I had a few pheasants left from last winter and decided to try something new with them after doing some variation on smoked pheasant for the last several. We had some Shrimp Creole a few weeks ago and are inundated with tomatoes from the garden at the moment so that inspired me to make Pheasant Creole last night and it was awesome plus I did it in the slow cooker so it didn’t heat the house up too much on a hot day.
A little over a month to go before the season opens and I’ve been busy as heck between work, fishing and trying to get myself and Lira ready for the season. I’m going at this on three fronts:
- Shotgun – I wanted to go through at least 1000 rounds in my shotguns before bird season opens up.
- Rifle – I wanted to get at least 500 rounds through my rifle before deer season.
- Physical Conditioning – Need to get myself and Lira ready for heaving walking.