Over the Christmas holiday we made a quick trip down to far south Texas to visit family. My cousin had arranged a Christmas Eve duck hunt via airboat in some of the back bays of the Laguna Madre system. Reports of recent hunts were very encouraging, as a general drought down there has moved a lot of the birds out to the bays. On the other hand, few things make me more nervous than going on a hunt or fishing trip after hearing about how great conditions have been lately. Somehow, that always seems to work out to "you shoulda been here last week".
We started off with a short boat ride to a palatial blind on a back waterway. Once the blocks were out and the boat moved back, we waited for shooting light and listened to the cries of various shorebirds. Those cries were particularly easy to hear, as the wind was nearly completely still.
Not surprisingly, the ducks didn't really move given the bluebird conditions. We had a few come in: a greenwing teal drake, a mottled duck, and four spoonbills all fell, but we had been hoping for pintails, mottled ducks, wigeon, gadwall, redheads and maybe some divers, not spoonies. Given the conditions, we loaded up and went out to a couple of blinds near the Intercoastal. There, a lone hen redhead came in and fell, with several big flocks trading well out or range. On the ride out, we saw tens of thousands of birds out on the flats. Here are a few hundred:
Since things weren't working out, we moved again, this time to a back channel between a couple of bays.
Though things were still slow, this last location resulted in a small bunch of snow geese coming in to the spread.
We also had a few pintails come in.
Even though we didn't get into a bunch of birds, it was a good hunt with family and a great experience getting to see a bunch of the backcountry that is normally inaccessible. Much of the time we were running over four or five inches of water (lying on top of a very soft bottom) and, absent the airboat, never could have gotten there. The shorebirds were a kick to watch, with roseate spoonbills, snipe, yellowlegs, long billed curlews, brown and white pelicans, and dozens of others I can't identify trading about and around the decoys. For that matter, hunting ducks in a tee shirt is a bit of a novel experience. It's pretty hard to beat a holiday hunt and catching up on the year that's passed while waiting for birds to come in.
Of course, the weather swapped around, with a nice stiff north wind, the day after Christmas. I'll bet the guys out there slayed them.
That's about 2 inches of water and the rest is sticky mud, which makes having a dog to send out for the bird even better. A front was supposed to blow through today, so A and I headed to some salty little ponds not too far out of town. Water is, unsurprisingly, low and before the morning really got going the wind laid some and the temperature stopped dropping. Given the conditions, there wasn't much going on to move the birds and only a very few ducks were flying. We missed a couple of chances but ended up with 2 mallards, one of which donated two breast fillets for prosciutto and the other of which is destined for stir fry or some other quick cooking. Not bad for our first waterfowl outing. Meanwhile, the wind is tearing down out of the North and braised oryx shanks are about ready for dinner. Tomorrow will likely be a great day to be on the water.
We were very much meat hunting this year, looking for the first buck (or first two bucks) we could get to. An obliging fork horn is now in the freezer, all except for the bits and bobs that were ground into sausage, of which I'll write a bit more in the future.
We had our first frost the other night and, although it wasn't a hard frost, tender things like peppers and basil have bit the dust and the tomatoes are knocked well back. Consequently, A and I have some last of the season canning to accomplish. We've put a bit by this year, including one wild fruit new to me.
On an unsuccessful mushroom hunt in late summer, we came across some heavily fruiting elderberry trees. The first tree we saw had quite a few berries on it, but was a lone tree. I'd seen elderberries fruiting in the mountains before, but never very heavily and this lone tree was interesting but nothing more than that. However, on our way off the mountain, we passed a number of trees drooping with ripe fruit, inspiring us to stop and pick what turned out to be 11 pounds of berries off three trees in just twenty minutes or so.
Lots of elderberries.
A day or two later, we sat down in front of the tv and de-stemmed the whole batch, then weighed it out.
We cooked the berries in a bit of water to soften them, then extracted the juice- enough for 3 1/2 batches of jelly and a batch of "membrillo" as well.
Membrillo is quince paste cooked to a jelly-like state, often paired with cheese. The elderberry membrillo, rather than orange color you get with quince, is the beautiful dark purple you see below. Slightly sweet, we dusted it with sugar to keep the wedges separate. Served alongside manchego cheese, lucques olives and perhaps some thinly sliced tasso, it is very good.
Both the elderberry membrillo and the jelly have a flavor similar to dark cherries, although slightly less sweet and with a vinous funk near to that in some red wines- a slightly green, earthy note that recalls to me a bit of the flavor of the cambium of some trees. (What, you never split a piece of green oak and thought it smelled so good you had to taste it, or wondered what elk find so appealing in aspen bark?) The flavor isn't quite the same, there is another note, perhaps a little like latex or green fig that also goes along with it. However, all this is a subtle undercurrent to the overall tart cherry flavor, making elderberry jelly or paste both reminiscent of and more complex and appealing than cherries.
Once again, a wild food that is unique and very, very good. The juice of elderberries is supposed to be a tonic and a bit mixed with a citrus soda (or likely, club soda and vodka) was quite nice. With any luck the elderberries will come on again next year and, if they do, we'll spend some time up in the mountains gathering more to put aside.
I've now spent two months in one small region of Alaska, a week at a time, in eight trips spread over ten years with each trip occurring between mid-August and late September. In this way, you get to know a little bit about a place, at least in a particular slice of season. In much the same way, I feel I know a particular series of ridges in western Colorado, based upon eight or nine fall hunting trips spread over twenty-some years. For that matter, I used to know a particular mountain in western New Mexico and I have a fair idea of a particular basin in the northern end of that state, along with a few other spots.
I've mentioned before some of the various trips we've taken to fish for
silver salmon (see here, here, here and here). Consequently, I don't have much new to say, more of a report. This year saw a little bit of sun and also a fair bit of rain. Over one 48 hour period, about 7 1/2 inches of rain fell. It felt like more to me, but that's what the web says fell for those days, and I'm sure the web wouldn't lie. I don't really have the experience to grok that level of rainfall, as less than that has fallen in my slice of New Mexico for the last 18 months. In any event, the rain brought all the rivers, creeks, and sloughs up quite a bit and rendered them unfishable. We ended up on some of the smaller tributaries and got to wade through some waist-deep water in head-high alders.
The fishing was pretty tough and most of the fish ran a bit smaller than we're used to, lots of eight pound fish instead of tens and twelves. For wildlife, apart from the usual ducks, geese, cranes and swans we had some river otters swim right up to us. No bears, apart from one little black bear right in town.
This portion of Alaska strikes me a lot like the Grand Canyon- photographs, at least my snapshots, never capture the scale of the country. It feels a little bigger than the already big Western landscapes that I call home.
Thinking about the near-annual, one-week-only connection with a place over 2,500 miles from my home, I'm reminded of the conflict between local and visiting interests and the power of conservation movements. I've put a bumper sticker (only one that actually says anything) on my truck that addresses an issue local up there. Driving on a high-desert highway, I've had occupants of an overtaking vehicle honk and wave thumbs-up in apparent agreement, again, thousands of miles from the scene of the issue. I like to think that hunters and fishers are more than regular tourists- that if a place special to us is changed for the worse we just don't find another spot and move on, because our time in those places is more significant, that we'll invest a little more and fight a little harder for them.
In the meantime, we'll head up there with friends and family as we can, enjoying the cool clean air and the rain, the scenery, and the salmon.
One of the best weeks of the year.
I think I need another few hundred hours of artificially chilled air to cool off, core temperature wise.
A and I have been pretty busy for the last month or so, and, a couple of weeks ago we completed a big game hunt that is unique in my experience. This is the first time I've hunted large animals in conditions that could fairly be called "Africa hot".
As witnessed by the paucity of blog posts, reflecting a paucity of time afield, work has been kicking our butts the last couple years or so. Reflecting the lack of time afield is the fact that our freezers have gotten pretty bare of red meat. In an effort to increase our opportunities for big game, A and I put in for elk in some relatively local areas (that don't offer great odds of drawing), deer in similarly local areas (and drew for November), put in for antelope (which are very long odds nowadays) and also put in for oryx off the White Sands Missile Range. Tags on the Missile Range are popular and hard to draw, but off-Range tags offer better odds. Most of the animals are on the Range where the habitat is good for them, but off-Range hunts run for an entire month rather than a weekend to give you a better chance. Since oryx breed year round, the hunts also run year round. As part of the odds game we put in for hunts scheduled for June and August, months not often associated with big game hunting and featuring less competition for tags. We also applied for tags separately, hoping one of us would draw.
I drew, for August, but A did not draw at all (we also blanked on elk). Tag in hand, back in July we headed over for the Tularosa Basin and scouted some BLM and state trust land. Since we lucked into the draw for an on-Range oryx hunt a couple of years ago, as recounted here, we had some ideas about what we were looking for. We found a few likely locations and got some tips from a guy much more familiar with the area. Our first day out, we started glassing at the first spot and, within minutes, A spotted a pair of animals.She stayed up on a little promontory keeping an eye on the oryx through the spotting scope while I dropped down into a wash and headed in their direction. Getting nearly to where one of the animals bedded in the shade of a salt cedar, I hit a fence that marked the edge of huntable territory. Leaving the oryx to lounge in safety, we headed to other promontories and spent the rest of the day glassing and checking for tracks. Sixteen hours and nearly four hundred road miles passed without success.
Another Saturday, and we headed out again. Glassing first thing in the morning, A again spotted an oryx nearly right away. Again, it proved to be a pair of animals, feeding and meandering around. Again, I dropped into a wash and headed down toward the animals. This time, the oryx crossed over the fence and off of public land before I was halfway to their original location. Moving over to another wash to work my way back to A, I cut a pair of extremely fresh tracks that headed into a sandy pocket below a low ridge. I followed, expecting to come up on the oryx somewhere under the ridge in some fairly heavy brush. Instead, the animals had wandered up over the ridge and into a broad shallow draw on the other side. Two and a half hours into the hunt and with the heat rising, I decided to head back so we could check out another location. Before doing so, I eased over a shoulder of the ridge to take a look at the country over there just to get a better feel for the lay of the land. No sooner had I gotten over to about where I could see, but a pair of oryx started up and to my left. They paused a minute and I shot the slightly larger second animal.
Once the oryx was down, I got in touch with A. We met up to fix relative locations and then she headed back to the truck to move it to a point somewhat nearer to the animal while I proceeded with field dressing. A bit over a mile from the truck, something near that from the nearest vehicle access, we had our meat.
Usually, New Mexico benefits from the "monsoon" rains in August, a weather pattern where moisture from the Gulf of California moves into the Southwest to condense over the mountains, resulting in afternoon thundershowers and cooling things down a bit. Not so much this year. August has been darned hot and the two towns closest to where we got this animal had highs of 102 and 103 F, respectively. I had two quarters off and in what scanty shade was available when A made it over from the truck. She helped me with the last two quarters and sawing out the skull plate. With everything we couldn't carry on a piece of plastic under a mesquite, A took the backstraps, loins, every bit of miscellaneous bit of gear out of my pack and some other odds and ends while I took a forequarter and a hindquarter. Although we had very little elevation loss or gain, that stretch out to the truck was one of the more challenging I've done in a while. All water in us, sandy, a good load and hotter than all get out, I had to stop every hundred yards or so for the last third and kind of stopped enjoying the hunt. The fact that every year I'm a bit older and that I'm pretty much completely out of shape and a bit out of practice packing might have contributed something to the situation, too. In any event, the hard half out, we sat in the truck, cranked up the air conditioner, had a cold drink, had another cold drink, and gathered ourselves up. Out and back with another quarter each, we had all the meat on ice and a cold beer in hand by 4 pm.
The last oryx hunt, on-range, was interesting but crowded. In contrast, we only saw a couple of other hunters this time, those rolling up on the highway as we brought out the last load. It was harder to find animals and they were much more scattered but, all in all, this was more my preference. Now, the meat is cut and wrapped, the horns are on the fence and we're looking forward to fall.
Seven weeks to go until the upland bird seasons start. Used to be, I was looking forward to mountain grouse, but we're a day's drive from that hunting now and a bunch of my spots went up in the Las Conchas fire last summer. They'll probably be great in a decade or so.
Meanwhile, I've been noticing all the doves around town. We have mourning doves, whitewings, and Eurasian collared doves. Last fall, we got into all three.
From the top left, you have mourning dove, whitewing, whitewing, collared dove, and pigeon.
For below, in the front row, you have collared dove, pigeon, whitewing, collard dove, and mourning dove.
All good eats and great shooting. So, as the summer staggers on with almost enough rain, nearly too much work, and no fishing, I'll keep watching the doves on the streets and in the treetops. In just a couple of months, minus a week or so, we'll load up the dog, take a bunch of water and a cooler of drinks, and go out and see how rusty our shotgun skill have become.
If successful, we'll fire up the grill after the hunt, crack a cold beer, and toast the fall with some of the finest botanas around.
Sometime back, we engaged in a side by side comparison of chicken from various sources, including a pricey fresh free-range heritage bird, a slightly less-pricey fresh organic bird, and a mass-produced grocery store bird (that had no doubt been frozen). Check the link to read more about that test.
Here recently, in an unintentional and limited reprise of that test, we grilled a fresh young Delaware rooster alongside a grocery store bird. The rooster was courtesy of friends, who provided us with the just-processed bird when over to pick up some spare seedlings from our garden for their own, which their chickens had ravaged. The young rooster nominated himself for the axe by a nasty disposition and not playing well with others.
Like last time, both birds were spatchcocked. For grilling, I prefer to just flatten the breast with my palm, breaking the keel and spreading the bird out some, rather than actually removing the keel bone. If you remove the keel, the bird is a lot less stable when you are flipping it over while on the grill and may even fall in two as it gets more done.
Delaware on the right. Reading about the breed, I was somewhat surprised to learn that they were developed for sale as roasters. Compared to the current meat bird, the leg/wing to breast ratio on this guy is startlingly high. Also, the dark meat is much more dark, which might be as much a function of the fact that he was living a life running about, pecking on others and marauding gardens, instead of sitting in a cage as it is a matter of breeding.
I recently came across Alice Waters' directions for grilling chicken in "The Art of Simple Food". She essentially recommends the same technique (including breaking the keel bone rather than removing it). For these birds, I used both spices- salt and pepper, but then tucked a little piece of water-soaked green oak in a corner of the grill to add some smoke.
As you can tell from the picture above, the skin on the Delaware was much more sturdy than that on the grocery store bird. It was still good, even though a bit chewy. Overall, in contrast to our last experiment, the heritage bird came out way ahead here, with a more strongly meaty or chicken-y flavor. Here's to ornery roosters and sharing resources!
Mostly food-blogging lately, but that is in part because the high country is either burning up or subject to fire restrictions and, for the lowlands, it's hot out there- supposed to get up to 104 F today. Once the summer rains hit, if they do, things should get more interesting. Also, only another eleven weeks or so to dove and grouse season.
For the most part, my approach to handling game meat has been to try to keep it clean, keep it cool, and trim it up pretty quickly, boning out big game animals and then removing every bit of sinew and silverskin I could get to. For the most part, this works very well for elk, deer, and antelope. When my father and I used the same process on a feral hog, we ended up with a lot more trimming than meat. Also, rather than spending so very much time trying to grind and trim elk or deer shanks, I've taken to letting the oven, some wine, and time do the work. In what may turn out to be a bit of culinary evolution, when a friend got on the right side of a feral hog a little while back, we took a different approach.
Feral pigs are spreading into New Mexico and have reportedly achieved the Rio Grande valley, which will serve as corridor and entree to the rest of the state. They've also been in the Sacramento mountains for a while and our friend found this one out in relatively flat country. In any event, he has a freezer or so full of meat and so very generously offered the skinned and dressed hog to us. We were a bit short on time, so rather than boning and trimming out the quarters, we turned to other methods. First, one bone-in hind quarter, which, hip to top of hock weighed about nine pounds. This we rubbed with salt and pepper and let sit a few hours, then smoked for another four hours over oak and pecan. The next morning, we popped the quarter into a big roaster with a cup or so of water and braised it at low temp for hours, until falling off the bone, for Carolina-style pulled pork.
For the fore-quarters, I cut the meat off the bone in long strips, then we rubbed them with a spice cure containing pink salt, following a recipe from Polcyn and Ruhlman's "Charcuterie" for tasso ham.
Like the pulled pork, we smoked the tasso pieces, in their case for about 8 hours, then
wrapped them in foil and baked them at low heat until they hit an internal temperature of 165
F. Spicy and smoky, the tasso will no doubt be excellent in gumbo or jambalaya, if we don't eat it all just thinly sliced and accompanied by a cold beer or glass of vinho verde.
As to the last hindquarter, that we brined for a week, then smoked it for ham.
Ham and tasso on smoke:
After smoking, we wrapped the ham in foil and baked it to an internal 165 as well.
The ham came our really well. Nice texture, nicely salty and spiced with a bit more of a meaty flavor than most commercial hams I've had.
While this is a bit of a "me and Joe" or, in my case, "me and A" post, I hope to convey that the time put into curing or cooking isn't really that intensive- a lot of it is just patience- and the wild character of the meat still comes through in some very positive ways. Once things cool off in the fall, we'll be looking for wild pigs pretty hard, as I could easily use an entire hundred pounder's worth of tasso over a winter and want to try turning a loin into Canadian bacon.
We're a week into turkey season in New Mexico, with the Glorious 15th (of April) being the usual start. A and I considered going out last Sunday, having scouted out a few likely locations earlier in the spring. However, the day before the season the wind howled, and roared, and blasted across the plains. In my experience, turkeys don't call in the wind. So, rather than a 3 a.m. wakeup for a long drive and a dark walk all likely to be assayed in futility, we went fishing. In this part of the state, there are some warm water reservoirs and rumor had it that the white bass were starting to run.
The wind did in fact come up with the dawn, making us feel good about our guess that turkey hunting was a poor proposition. Once up at the lake, we found a small arm tucked away from the wind and, after a while, picked up a few fish. While the action wasn't fast (not surprising in cold and very murky water), there was enough going on to keep us interested and the variety was kind of neat. The stringer ended up being a smallmouth bass, a black crappie, a walleye, and some white bass, all caught on jigs or spinnerbaits. Just enough for a mess for two.
That night, fresh fillets dipped in cornmeal and fried crispy, here divided up by species. We'd never had walleye before and the flavor was fine but the fine-grained texture of the meat wasn't my favorite. I'll take white bass or crappie for choice.
It has been quite a while since I've tried to catch fresh water fish besides trout and it was a lot of fun using an ultralight rod and bouncing a jig off rocks for whatever might come after it. This weekend is dedicated to chores, garden, and work, but if the wind will cooperate we'll try to find a gobbler next weekend.
Behind on blog reading, let alone writing, I recently chanced across Steve Bodio's contribution to a recent meme, that of "5 dream guns".
I suppose I'm just not very dreamy with respect to guns right now. Most of what I list, I own. This comes not from years of searching, trying different arms, or collecting, but in part by chance and in part by selection. Guns that I don't have would mostly be for niches in my battery that are currently full, and might not be improvements. That said, here are five choices for five very broad categories of useful firearm (for I'm interpreting the meme as Steve does, five dream guns that would be the only five you've got)- big game rifle (North American, that is); rimfire rifle; rimfire pistol; shotgun, and centerfire pistol.
As to the first, a rifle for deer, elk, etc., I have previously gone over my current primary hunting rifle and the genesis to its current configuration. I wouldn't categorize it as quite a dream gun, but I would have a hard time configuring something more precisely to my tastes. To my mind, for class, you can't do better than a pre-64 or "Classic" Winchester Model 70 action (although a classic Mauser 98 action is close), and I'd barrel it to 22 inches, put on a fixed 4 power scope, and for elk have it chambered in 35 Whelen, a cartridge of no little romance (or elk dropping ability). A nice piece of walnut would round out the package. That said, the trigger on the Model 70 would probably require some work or a replacement by Canjar or Timney, stainless or some sort of high tech coating would provide some more weather protection, and a laminate or composite stock would help prevent zeros from drifting. Then, too, 35 Whelen wouldn't be anyone's first choice for pronghorn and is even more over-gunned for whitetails than 30'06, which is no less classic than the Whelen cartridge (which derives from it) and loses romance only through ubiquity. Suddenly, I'm carrying something that looks very much like the rifle in the safe right now- an all-weather rifle, not nearly "classic" in detail, that is reliable and comfortable and has a good trigger. Hunh.
As to the next, a rimfire rifle, I've been carrying and shooting a Remington 541-S for over thirty years now. This rifle started off with a 10 power target scope on it and fired thousands of rounds in smallbore rifle silhouette competition and practice.
The competition explains the sticker on the forend- it is from an old match and indicated that the rifle had been inspected and met the requirements for competition. There are more on the other side of the rifle. Now, this is not the perfect rimfire sporter. The plastic faux-burl forend tip is ugly and the magazine and magazine release protruding below the stock isn't ideal. However, it has a very good trigger that breaks at twelve ounces and will hold an inch at 100 meters with Eley Tenex and not much more than that with some other ammunition. Remington cleaned up the aesthetics with their short-lived Model 504 and you can get a prettier rifle that is as accurate from Cooper, or a prettier (and in my experience, frequently troublesome) Kimber, but, practically speaking, you'd be hard pressed to find a better small game rifle than this one, particularly topped as it is now with Leopold's most excellent 2x7 rimfire scope. I suppose a Cooper would be the dream gun, but given the many rounds I've put downrange with this rifle, I'm not sure I'd exchange it for one.
Nearly as handy as a rimfire rifle is a rimfire pistol. I've got a couple (few) but for me the dream pistol is a Hi-Standard "Field King". A relatively rare model, the Field King had adjustable sights and a "medium weight" barrel as opposed to the much more common "Sport King" which was made with a lightweight barrel and fixed sights. My father carried one while hunting or in the truck for years and shot a fair bit of outdoor pistol with it. A few years ago, I came across a Field King with a 6 inch barrel at a gun show. The pistol was in very good condition, except that the Davis rear sight was bent, likely from someone dropping the pistol. The guy selling didn't want very much for the pistol and came down from that based upon the bent sight, which was easily taken care of by an order from Numrich.
It was made between 1950 and 1953. I haven't found a proper 4 1/2 inch barrel for this pistol, the pictured additional barrel comes from an Olympic model (which can be told by the rib on the barrel and a slot for weights on the bottom of the barrel). Nonetheless, both barrels work fine and, while a bit heavy in the holster compared to my S&W 422 or my S&W 317, it is easier to shoot and has a much better trigger than either of them. If I ever get around to shooting .22 pistol competitively again, I'll slip in the 6 inch barrel and be ready to go. Meanwhile, after over 50 years of sitting around (apart from being dropped that once), this pistol is getting carried and used.
For shotguns, if it comes down to one, I wouldn't make much different a choice than the Browning Citori I received as a graduation present from my folks. I fell in love with over/unders after being loaned a Zoli 20 gauge to shoot doves when my single shot Winchester Model 37 broke and, at the time I got it, the Citori was one of very few reasonably priced over/unders available new and the only one you could get with interchangeable choke tubes. With 26" barrels, it weighs a substantial 8 pounds, so it isn't quite a quail wand.
Further, it is made in Japan and, while the wood is nice, the glossy synthetic finish doesn't show it well. On the other hand, the gun shoots well for me and has shot everything from quail to cranes to turkeys. 3" chambers and choke tubes mean I can shoot steel shot at ducks and geese through fairly open chokes or switch out for full tubes and shoot turkeys (after wrapping the gun in camo). With those heavy loads, I appreciate every ounce of the weight. At the same time, the short barrels are quick to swing when it comes to quail or doves. All things considered, I'd rather have double triggers, a round-knob pistol grip and the "Lightning" model forarm, but as with the .22 rifle, I'm not sure I'd switch out at this point.
Now, I admire quite a few classic shotguns and for a while considered getting a side by side. I came across a somewhat beat up L.C. Smith Field Grade a few years ago and have shot it some since. This gun has a replacement butt stock and someone polished the sideplates, removing any traces of case coloring (and doubtless some rust), so it is very strictly a shooter. Apart from that, it has extractors, 30 inch barrels choked light improved and (very) full and weighs just under seven pounds. From the serial number, it was built in 1913.
It also shoots very well for me. All in all, if it were a dream gun, the 3 position safety would be only two position, the butt stock would sport a half pistol grip and match the forend, and it would be perhaps an Ideal grade, as I admire the engraving on those. For that matter, it could be a hinge-pin Fox Sterlingworth or a New Ithaca Double, or one of a whole host of British or European doubles with similar features and I'd be as happy or happier. As it is, though, if down to one gun, some small variant on the Citori up above is more versatile.
Which brings us, finally, to a centerfire pistol. I have to say, I have no such dream gun. I'll likely always have such a pistol around. I admire some of the old Smith & Wessons and, a few years ago, passed up buying a Lightweight Colt Commander in 9 mm that would have made a great concealed carry piece, but I can't really categorize any of those weapons as "dream". Centerfire pistols, to me, are protection pieces and an inexpensive yet reliable truck gun, or an accurate and well set up target pistol are each great things, I don't really have one or the other that gets me excited. Guess I'll just have to dream shotguns or rimfires while keeping a good enough pistol or revolver in the nightstand.
Still busy working lots and messing about outdoors relatively little. However, a while back we managed a morning duck hunt followed by a walk for quail. While on that quail hunt, a fine black-tailed jackrabbit jumped up beside me and took off to the rear. I had just been talking to someone about the fact that I'd been intending to try eating a jackrabbit for some time using one of the many European hare recipes, so as soon as this guy hit the top of a leap and before he got too far out, I gave him the top barrel, trying for mostly head.
Once back home, we skinned and dressed the fairly large buck jack rabbit. Abandoning a chance at true authenticity, I failed to save the blood for thickening my sauce. Nonetheless, I marinated the legs over night in red wine, onion, and herbs in a combination of the recipes from The River Cottage Cookbook and Fergus Henderson's The Whole Beast. The saddles I boned out, yielding a surprising amount of meat in two fillets.
I browned the legs and then set them in the oven for a long braise with wine, stock and mirepoix. I then deboned the meat and reduced the sauce before returning the meat to it, again following Fearnley-Whittingstall and Henderson for the most part.
The saddle fillets I rubbed with a bit of salt and cracked black pepper, then seared in a hot cast iron skillet and rested in a warm oven, making a quick red wine sauce (not quite bordelaise, lacking demi-glace) in the same skillet. We accompanied all this with braised red cabbage, mashed parsnips, and crispy roasted potato wedges. Hare 2 ways:
So, how was it? Very good- surprisingly sweet and somewhat reminiscent of mourning dove. I was a bit concerned while dressing out the jack- he was a big one and smelled quite strong. None of that could be found in the final result, with the saddles providing the most distinct flavor but still quite mild. Also, there was a surprising amount of meat on him- I'll take the occasional jack in the future as more than an experiment. Definitely worth a try for a winter evening's meal or three.