Thursday, August 20, 2015

Myco hunting

A little while back, A and I got out for a morning to see if the late summer rains had done much for the mushrooms up in the nearest-by mountains. A reliable spot yielded no edibles; however, on the way out A spotted a nice flush of oyster mushrooms up on a poplar stump:

There was one drawback to their location:

wrong side of the creek! (click on the photo above to see the 'shrooms in the left side of the frame)

Fortunately, there was a relatively easy way across that didn't involve wet feet, leaving only head-high stinging nettles to contend with. Stinging nettles: one of the many reasons to wear long sleeves and canvas pants in summer time in the woods. There were thistles, too.

The mushrooms proved to be large,  fresh, and largely bug-free:

They were just a little high up there:

Requiring us to resort to Rescue Tape (tm) from the truck box.

I'm looking to patent the "Mora-on-stick" mushroom collection device:

 Failing to field the falling 'shroom meant hunting it out of the nettles, a real incentive not to miss your catch:

In the end, leaving a bit of the cluster to spread spores around, we had a couple of pounds of oysters, enough to provide a very generous pizza topping to a couple of large 'za.

That bridge would have been a lot better if the bark wasn't slipping. Mycophagy is way more exciting that bird watching.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

February to August

Lotsa work, a little play. Looking forward to the fall and a little more time available. Alaska for silver salmon, a deer hunt later on, and what is currently shaping up to be an epic quail year.

In the meantime, spring and summer moisture has helped some of the fruit along.

A short photo essay:





Finished.  I highly recommend the preserves.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Rabbit (or making meat while the sun shines)

We've had a couple of storms and some wet weather come through since the holidays, welcome moisture that, with luck, will get a chance to soak in some rather than just sublimating away. With snow on the ground and a chilly, still, and sunny morning, the conditions said  "rabbit hunting" on a recent weekend. Snow to see the rabbits against, cold, but sunny and without a breeze so they'll be out sunning. A couple of our trips to find quail had revealed quite a few cottontails, so A and I loaded up the dogs and shotguns (just in case we had to defend ourselves against a covey of quail) and a couple of .22 rifles and headed out early the other morning.

Sure enough, we'd only spotted and missed one bunny when we had to defend ourselves against some quail, then hit a second covey on the way to another rabbit-y spot, taking up more valuable early morning rabbit hunting time. I hate when that happens.

Those are quail tracks in the foreground. No time for photos when they're running and flushing.

 Fortunately, the day stayed cold enough that a fair number of cottontails remained out soaking up the rays and we collected a half dozen in relatively short order.

When A asked about getting more, I opted out as we had all the cottontails that I really wanted to deal with, enough for a generous couple of dinners. Given the conditions, we could have taken twice as many without a lot more time and effort. Plenty of game and the right weather made for a fun hunt.

 As for these rabbits, a couple of the saddles are slated for frying alongside the quail, but the others went into one of my favorite rabbit preparations, Paul Prudhomme's "Smothered Rabbit" from his "Louisiana Kitchen" cookbook.  This recipe is adapted a bit, using all three of the holy trinity in the roux and changing the spice mix some. You could use chicken or domestic rabbit, cutting the latter into smaller pieces, but this is awfully good with wild rabbit and, with such, makes for a dish that strikes me as very classically Louisiana in terms of flavors (and ingredients).

You start off with very Prudhomme-esque spice blend, in our version consisting of:
 2 1/4 t salt                      1 1/2 t sweet paprika                1/2 t white pepper
1/2 t black pepper            1 1/2 t dried shallots (ground to a powder)    3/4 t garlic powder
1/2 t cayenne pepper        1/2 t dried basil                  1 t dried marjoram

You combine all of these in a small bowl, then sprinkle 2 teaspoons onto on 3-4 cottontails, cut up into legs and saddles.
Put another 2 teaspoons of the spice mix into a plastic bag or a large dish along with a cup of all purpose flour to flour the rabbit in. While the rabbit is sitting out and seasoning up, and before you dredge it, get together:
1 c finely chopped onion        
1/2 c finely chopped celery  
1/2 c finely chopped bell pepper

and have ready 6 c of rabbit or chicken stock.

Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a large, heavy skillet over fairly high heat. You don't want the oil to smoke or burn the flour that falls to the bottom, but you do want it pretty hot. Shake or dredge the rabbit pieces in the seasoned flour and then brown in batches.

Once the rabbit is brown, pour off all but 1/2 c of the oil, leaving the sediment in the pan. Add the flour from the bag and whisk over medium heat (medium high if you're brave) until you get a red/brown roux. Turn off the heat and add the veg, stirring until the roux stops darkening. This last step is a bit unusual, in my experience, but it works pretty well.

Once the roux is done, heat the stock to boiling in a heavy dutch oven (or, get it heating while you're browning the rabbit in the step above). Stir the roux into the boiling stock by the spoonful, stirring or whisking each spoonful until it is incorporated.

Once the roux is incorporated, lower the heat a bit, add the browned rabbit pieces, then reduce to a simmer. You can add any remaining seasoning mix at this time.

Simmer partially covered until the rabbit is tender. Depending upon whether you have any tough old critters in there, it'll be a couple of hours before it is ready.
Serve over rice. As the dish sits it gets better, so if you can make it a day ahead of time and gently re-heat, you'll be glad. A nice rosé works well with the spice and the delicate meat.

If you have more than three rabbits, you might consider doubling the spice mix. You won't use it all, quite, but the extra will help you get to the right spice level and ensure that the rabbit pieces get well seasoned in that first step.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Damn, time just keeps on flying by.

Happy New Year- hope you all have a happy and prosperous 2015 with timely rains, lucky draws, the right set up and plenty of time out in it!

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Happy Holidays, and quail

Happy Holidays!

Hope you all are keeping well and spending some time with friends and family. A and I dashed down to south Texas to be with my folks and family, dashing back up to NM for work this upcoming week. With the New Year holiday, it'll be a short one and, weather permitting, we hope to get out for quail. There are a few blues around. Earlier this year...

Click on that picture above and check out the left hand side of the road.

Rolling up- see em in the bar ditch? More visible when enlarged.

Here is a laggard. These birds were pretty tame, safe on private land. Coveys that get hunted tend to flush away from the truck and hit the ground running.

With a bit of the grass on the range, Booker earns his keep finding the fallen birds. Though he loves any sort of bird hunting quail aren't his favorite. Fortunately, we came by a tank that held ducks and he got to do some proper Chessie work.

A dropped a drake Redhead. Not a great snapshot, but I ran out of space on the memory card and managed to not record half a dozen that, no doubt, would be better.

Maybe we'll get some snow- the blue quail will hold a little better than and the dog likes the cold.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Third part

While A had a very good draw for big game this year, I can't exactly complain. We put in for oryx, pronghorn, elk and deer and, while she drew another pronghorn I drew a bull elk tag, the first one I've put in for in six or seven years and the first one I've drawn in nearly a decade. One of the nearby mountain ranges has a good elk hunting and the muzzleloader season falls just about the time the rut is in full swing down in the southern Southwest. Drawing is long odds, but, if you do draw out the bulls are likely to be distracted. So, very shortly after A's antelope hunt, the weekend after, in fact, it was time for my elk hunt.

Work took its usual toll on our schedule and so we found ourselves driving up into the mountains late on a Friday afternoon as rain showers marched here and there over the country. Starting up in elevation, we even saw a little snow on the side of the road.

Old, tired, out-of-shape, wimpy, or perhaps wise, rather than set up the tent in the dark and the rain with the prospect of snow overnight, I opted to spend the night in a very nice hotel in a tourist town on one edge of the hunting unit. Warm bed and a hot shower made a 4:30 get up easier, while a tall coffee and an Allsups burrito (semi-native hint: get a crispy one that has been in the hot box for a while) got us headed to our choice of starting places. 

I suppose that such a start might be a modern classic, the very low rent version of McGuane's "New Rugged". No long pack string heading up days before the season, setting up a wall tent and scouting, not even winding up into the country in a pair or convoy of pickups, setting up a group camp and checking out familiar country. Instead, A and I drove blacktop, gravel and then dirt in turn, getting to the mouth of the draw we were looking for just about a half hour before daylight. Overnight, the weather had cleared and the wind had died, leaving the woods cool and fresh, just a bit more chilly then shirtsleeve weather.

As I was loading the rifle, we heard the first bull bugling.

I'm pretty much a novice at hunting with a muzzleloader, having only had one previous hunt and having fired fewer than a hundred rounds through my rifle. In keeping with the spirit of a primitive weapons hunt, I use a traditional style mountain rifle with fixed iron sights. Not completely traditional, that rifle has a fast-twist barrel to shoot longer projectiles rather than a round ball. With 90 grains of Pyrodex  black powder substitute, the rifle will put three 350 grain bullets in a three inch circle at a hundred yards. In the last decade I have yet to see or speak to another hunter who uses a traditional style muzzleloader, most of them using primer fired in-line guns with scopes.  In any event, full of the optimism opening day usually brings, I set off up a ridge on one side of the draw while A hung out down below.

An hour later, I could hear a couple of bulls regularly bugling at each other, the problem being that they were on the ridge opposite my location and the wind was not in my favor to even head that direction. I eased down slope until I came to a small tank at a fork in the draw and decided to wait a while in hopes that the thermals of the warming day would swing the wind around and let me make a try at one of the bulls. As I sat back from the tank and listened to the elk while watching some cattle drink, I heard what is perhaps the worst sound known to a modern foot hunter, that being the buzzing, putting grumble of a number of 4-wheelers. They were quite some way off, over another low ridge from the elk, but easily where they could hear the bulls. For fifteen minutes I sweated as the machines grumbled away out of sight, greatly relieved and more than a little surprised as the sound faded out of range. Apparently, the riders never stopped and turned off their engines, so as to hear the elk up above them. Some half hour after that, the wind switched around. Impatient, I made myself wait fifteen minutes by the clock to before heading up towards the elk, just in case the breeze tried to switch around some more.

The wind held true and before long I was up on top, working through thick mixed timber toward the bulls and straining my eyes with every step to try to spot satellite bulls or cows before they noticed me. Coming to a little saddle, I was about to head toward the bull on my right, who was moving a good bit but sounded a little more guttural than all but one of the other three bulls I could hear. Before doing so, I poked over to the left to look into the shallow swale coming off the saddle. As soon as I did so, I saw a piece of elk, which a little glassing revealed to be a feeding cow. Soon I saw another and they move in and out of sight as they ate. Having a favorable wind, I very slowly crawled up a little on them to where I could see down into the draw as well as a decent part of the saddle. From that position, it was mostly a matter of waiting and hoping that the heard bull, who was moving about and bugling up on the other side of the shallow draw, maybe a hundred yards away, would come into range and view.

After about forty minutes, the bull down the draw came up into sight, moving through the timber down toward the cows. Before I could find a lane and get a shot, he moved back out. Just about that time, an some elk further up the ridge must have crossed my wind, as then came trotting and running down the far side of the draw and pulling the cows I had been watching with them. Figuring I was blown, I eased a little further in that direction, only twenty yards or so, to have a bit better view of that side of the swale in case there was a trailing bull. Despite the commotion, the herd bull bugled again and, as soon as he did so, the bull from down below came charging in- literally at a trot and bugling as he came. I suppose he thought the herd bull was moving his cows off and he had to make a challenge right now. In any event, his path was directly toward my new location. At about twenty-five feet from me, he paused at a large downed log preparatory to jumping over it, and I rolled over a little and shot him, knocking him down immediately. He got back up and so a reloaded as quickly as I could. Mortally wounded, the bull stopped after stumbling fifty yards and I knocked him down again. He continued down the draw another hundred yards before falling for the last time, taking another bullet through the lungs in the process.

I have a new appreciation for the amazement expressed by hunters from the turn of the previous century regarding the shock affect of modern smokeless cartridges and the high-velocity projectiles they propel. Despite three good fatal hits, the bull was able to get up and travel a fair distance before succumbing. I don't think he'd have gotten up a second time had I been using my '06. 

Once he was down I dropped down the ridge and into the draw, then down to where A was waiting near the truck. Having dropped off my rifle, driven a little nearer, and gathered my help, A and I got up to the bull and got to the business of dressing and quartering him out. That process, along with three round trips to the truck, took us over six hours.

Packing out.

Once the load gets around a hundred pounds, there's no real way to get it comfortable that I've found.

Once back at the house, we rested an evening and then began cutting and packaging meat, which took longer than the hunt and the pack out lasted. Good work, though, and a year's worth of red meat. I was a bit concerned that a rutting bull would be strong, but it is as good as any elk that I've eaten.

I have best luck keeping meat in the freezer wrapped first in Saran, then butcher paper. Long way around an elk!

The sign below can often be paraphrased "good hunting".

Tuesday, November 11, 2014


The weatherman tells us that tonight we're going to have the first of a series of fairly hard freezes- mid-20s, so that's it for the last of the figs, basil, tomatoes and peppers. The weather today would be familiar to anyone who has spent much time in northern or higher elevation NM (even though we aren't northern or highland)- not much breeze, brilliant blue sky, but chilly, particularly in the shade.

We're going to build our first fire of the fall and, in further recognition of winter, have our first pot of green chile stew. A and I have slightly different takes on this dish, she favoring a modernistic, wide ranging interpretation wherein whole kernal corn, pinto beans and other ingredients are incorporated. Rather than nuts, twigs, berries and flowers in my green chile stew, I adhere to a more basic version comprised of only a few ingredients. Monday, we had our last pizza margherita of '14, tonight we'll enjoy a late fall or winter dish. Should you decide to make a basic, NM style green chile stew, I'd suggest:

1 pound or so of pork, beef, orxy, antelope, deer or elk, in ascending order of preference, tough cuts, cut into decent sized chunks- about 1/2 inch by 2, no larger than 2 inches by 2.

2 medium onions, in a fairly large dice

1 cup (or more to taste) of New Mexico green chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and chopped.*

1 can of tomatoes, either whole or diced

about 1 1/2 pounds of peeled potatoes, cut roughly the same size as the meat

flour for dredging, salt, pepper, and a bay leaf

In a dutch oven or 6 quart pot, heat a little oil over medium high heat. Brown the meat pieces that have been dredged in seasoned flour, with all excess flour shaken off, on each side and in batches. Set the browned meat aside on a plate, then add the onions to the pot and cook until translucent. Stir the onions around once they've sweated some to get the browned bits from the meat up from the bottom of the pot. Add the potatoes, tomatoes, chile, bay leaf and meat back in, along with any accumulated juices from the meat, and pour in enough water to cover all the ingredients. Once it has come to a simmer, reduce the heat to keep it there and let it simmer slowly for a couple of hours. Check the seasoning and add salt to taste. Once everything is tender, serve with flour tortillas or other bread.  Whoever gets the bay leaf has to do dishes. Good for dinner, breakfast, in camp or at home.

You can make the stew without flour if you choose, the potatoes will thicken it up some. A claims that browning the meat without flour give a more meaty, complex flavor to the dish, and I'd believe her except that she'll throw garbanzo beans or black olives or whatever in the pot and still call it green chile stew. A and I switch off on pots of green chile stew, from her more catholic approach to ingredients to my more basic style. The proportions above are general, I'd just suggest plenty of chile, as it is supposed to be green chile stew, not just stew with chile in it.

* If you don't know about New Mexico style green chile, you'll have to read around a bit, as that is a subject unto itself. In the fall, many residents of the Southwest buy the green chile pods, have them roasted, then freeze them for use all winter. If you don't have access to a green chile roaster in season, you can roast "anaheim" or New Mexico green chiles over a gas flame, barbecue, or in a hot oven, slap them in a plastic bag to sweat for fifteen minutes, then peel, seed and chop. Alternatively, the internet is your friend. New Mexican green chiles, often called Anaheim chile in stores, is important to the dish. Poblanos or other chiles will have a very different flavor. It might be good, but it won't be right.