Saturday, October 31, 2009

season delay

Today marks the first weekend of duck season in the region we hunt. However, we won't be on the Rio. Our wide retriever is temporarily disabled.

He claims he can get in the game and play a full four quarters, but we're keeping him on the bench for a while in hopes of preserving the rest of the season. Also, dog boots are on order so we can arrange some protection of the wound. Going down to the Rio without the dog to hunt ducks is kind of unthinkable at this point.

Maybe next weekend.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Elk Season

This first image is of the sky on the first day of this year's recent Colorado elk hunt and represents the majority of our days, which set a new standard for bluebird weather. It was the warmest hunt I can recall in twenty-some years of September, October, and November elk hunts. Each morning I walked out to hunt in only shirt sleeves.

We had a bit of frost the first day, but even that went away.

My father and I got to the mountain in the afternoon and got busy turning the full pickup into the camp set up.

Cabela's tents, like this one, have really started appearing in the woods- rivaling military surplus and traditional canvas wall tents in popularity.

The next day, Chris and Chris arrived from points farther east and got arranged, easy camping marred only by a balky, annoying, and soon useless chainsaw. At least we got most of the wood needed (not much in such pleasant temps) cut to length before it gave up on me. A sale "bargain" Ryobi, it started having troubles in its first ten hours of operation. Next saw will not be the same.

The recession affected this hunt in the form of fewer hunters. About half as many camps as usual appeared to be up there and I didn't see as many other hunters or track in the woods. Not a bad thing for us, but you have to feel sorry for all the folks who've had to give up their hunt.

It's a great pinyon year in this part of western Colorado, the ground under the trees littered with fat nuts and more still clinging to the cones. Lots of birds were taking advantage of the easy food and nice weather a birder would have had a field day. Unable to identify any but the most common species, I just enjoyed hearing and seeing them all. I saw dark eyed juncos, western tanagers, crows, ravens, Clark's nutcrackers, red shafted northern flickers scrub jays, stellar jays, pinyon jays, and nuthatches and a bunch more that would have required a field guide and spending time looking more at birds than for elk.

Here's a ponderosa pine marked with a Forest Service plaque, noting the tree's historical significance. I had to do a little research on "Ute Scarred Trees" to figure out what they meant.

I've seen ponderosas with similar scars before, but never realized what I was looking at.

A couple of us hunt grouse while we're up there, not while waiting for an elk or stalking in the early morning, but making our way back to camp in the afternoon or the like. There weren't a lot of birds to be found, but we got on the right side of a few. The pistol is a High Standard "Field King" made between 1950 and 1953. Unlike the more commonly seen (at least in my case) "Sport King", the Field King features an adjustable rear sight and a medium-taper barrel. I found this one with a 6 3/4" barrel and then got a 4 1/2" barrel (not in the correct configuration for this particular model, but that fits) for carry. Heavier than my little Smith and Wesson, it has better sights and is easier to hit with. First game with this gun.

The grouse were taking advantage of pinyon nuts as well, along with rose hips, grouse whortleberry, and the usual spruce needles.

The above sequence shows that some of the grouse made it into the Dutch oven, to be joined with biscuits. My father put the grouse dish together, I made the biscuits and managed to burn the bottoms. Oak coals are harder to regulate than charcoal and seem to burn a bit hotter. The top two-thirds were pretty good, though. Clearly, more practice (on site) is called for.

One of the Chris's got his cow the first evening of the hunt, a nice big specimen that wasn't too awful far down the canyon. We got to her about seven pm and had three quarters back in camp by ten. Chris retrieved the remaining quarter the next morning. With meat on the pole and demands of work and home, we were ready to knock down camp just a couple of days later as the weather blew in.

Not any too soon, in terms of getting out before the storm. By the time Dad and I had made it to the good road, the rain was snow and sticking well. Fresh tracking for the guys staying until the end of the season.

Another good trip to the mountains. It's pretty hard to spend any time up there at all without learning at least a little something. Even if it were, time with friends and family tramping about the country would be more than worthwhile.

Friday, October 23, 2009

addition to blog roll

Long time commenter Dan has a new-ish blog with lots of fantastic photos and back country adventures in Newfoundland. Check out Out On The Rock!

Back from CO and elk hunting, I hope to post about it here pretty soon.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


"As we crowd more and more on to public hunting lands, that nebulous something one of my friends calls The Quality Outdoor Experience grows more rare. As more people use less, more laws are passed, some to preserve that quality and some to preserve anything at all, stifling the freedom that is an intrinsic part of The Quality Outdoor. This crowding and regulation doesn't only apply to hunting. These days we have to apply a year ahead for reservations to camp in Yosemite National Park, and something very similar is going to happen to Yellowstone very soon. AS public forests in the East grow not just crowded but actually dangerous to hunt in, more and more hunters come West, to hunt forests already crowded by folks who moved to Wyoming and Idaho and Montana to get away from a crowded California.

And so it goes. Those of us who were lucky enough to be raised somewhere close to the land, with a sense of self-sufficiency and (dare I say it?) The Quality Outdoor Experience, just go deeper. That can mean hiking farther into the Wind River Range, moving to Alaska, or just hunting something not so damn popular, like sage grouse."

John Barsness, Western Skies

Monday, October 05, 2009

near frost

The gardens got nipped a bit a couple of days ago. We did end up picking basil and making a couple of batches of pesto, which have been stashed to brighten up some winter meals. The bit of freeze is a little early. A's beans soldier on, while the squash and peppers got bit pretty good:

Meanwhile, Booker continues to beg raw green beans, the Chessie-approved vegetable, as they're snapped and prepared for the deep freeze:

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Food thoughts and food tv

Cooler weather turns the mind toward cooking. We're still enjoying some of the tag end of summer, with a couple of weeks of home-grown tomatoes to go and a few peaches still at the grower's market. However, fall is pretty much here, as evidenced by the really good apples also at the grower's market and chilly nights that have me eying the basil plants- they don't stand anything approaching a frost and so are destined to become pesto soon, thus preserved for the freezer but marking the end of pizza margherita. Getting the eyeball, too, are a couple of elk shanks left from last year are going to come out of the freezer and meet up with a bottle of cheap wine and a long stay in a slow oven, a dish that requires cool weather to really enjoy.

In the vein of thoughts on food, I went over to Ruhlman's blog for the first time in a while and, once there, found an essay on the movie "Jules and Julia", with links to a Michael Pollan essay inspired in part by the movie, and an older Bill Buford article on the changing style of food tv.

One thought running through that writing is the conundrum that Americans are still cooking less and less while paying more and more attention to food matters, as reflected by the changing style of cooking shows from the seminal example of Julia Child's "The French Chef" to popular competition cooking shows like "Top Chef" and just-plain-eating shows, where you watch some host travel around eating at restaurants. Separate from the subject of television, the theme of actually cooking vs. being "into food" appears to be current, Hank Shaw just announced his book project centered on "honest food" in which it looks like he'll detail his amazing energy and efforts in producing and processing intricate foods and dishes in part to try to inspire folks to take the same level of care with their ingredients and tackle some significant preparations.

In one of the above-mentioned articles, Buford's last lines are "Never in our history as a species have we been so ignorant about our food. And it is revealing about our culture that, in the face of such widespread ignorance about a human being’s most essential function—the ability to feed itself—there is now a network broadcasting into ninety million American homes, entertaining people with shows about making coleslaw." In another, Pollan asserts toward the end of his essay that "The question is, Can we ever put the genie back into the bottle? Once it has been destroyed, can a culture of everyday cooking be rebuilt? One in which men share equally in the work? One in which the cooking shows on television once again teach people how to cook from scratch and, as Julia Child once did, actually empower them to do it?"

Rulman, appropriately I think, takes some issue with the idea that people are cooking less, perhaps placing the nadir of American cooking a bit behind us and pointing to the food blogs as heirs to Julia Child-style information sharing. However, Pollan's essay makes a pretty convincing case that while millions of people are watching food shows and reading about food and are, perhaps, getting into more exotic ingredients, many aren't following up by going into the kitchen regularly and cooking themselves. It does seem very, very strange.

For some fun cooking stuff, check out the new addition to the blog roll.