Friday, October 29, 2010

Squirrel! It's Whats For Dinner!

After a many years of turning my nose up at the thought of eating Gray Squirrel, watching a recent episode of Bizarre Foods (Appalachia) on the travel channel had me quickly changing my mind. What you choose to eat or perhaps more appropriately, what you or others choose not to eat is often simply a matter of cultural or regional differences of opinion. One persons eating of lobster is to another the consumption of a VERY strange spider like, spiny, red sea creature that loudly SCREAMS don’t eat me! Some see feast and others see famine, it’s all based in your set of perceptions.

Obviously the first step in preparing a squirrel for the dinner table is the proper cleaning of the animal. After reducing the squirrel to “meat” there are several fine web sites available that detail different cooking methods.
If there is one suggestion I can make, about eating squirrel, it is to make sure that you parboil or otherwise work to tenderize the meat. Taking an old gray and throwing it on the grill with a little adobo sprinkled on the top (like I did) is sure to have you reaching for the dental floss. In other words, it can be a little bit stringy and tough. However, if you can spend some extra time preparing the meat, my overall opinion of the taste is it's fantastic. There was no “wild” or apparent off taste and it reminded me a little bit of grouse. Sporting brotherhood, if you have yet to add gray squirrel to your dinner table I strongly suggest that you give it a try!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Birth of Baby Moose

Talk about being in the right place at the right time! Enjoy!  


Slide show that starts automatically.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Duck Power Incorporated

Against my better judgment and contributing much to Mr. President’s angst, was the addition to this year’s waterfowl opener by my brother (Diesel). As if Duck Power Incorporated wasn’t already brimming with sarcasm, mockery and cynicism, the combined forces of the brothers grim is enough to test the patience of any mere mortal.

Appearing in the middle of the night, recently off the late shift, via kayak and decked out in the latest and greatest in high-tech waterproof, duck repellent materials, Diesel arrived reeking of hunting prowess. Assisting him with his gear, I noted that approximately half the space in his small watercraft had been reserved for shotgun shells. My immediate estimate had the count at approximately three hundred rounds. Inquiring if he felt he had brought enough ammo, he replied with a hesitant, “I hope so”.

Awakened before my alarm, by motivated duck hunters high on adrenaline and lustful with the promise of opening day, I struggled though prying myself from the warmth of my sleeping bag. Slowly gathering together my gear and donning my waders, I wasn’t surprised to find that I was last into the duck blind and a pot of coffee was already at full boil. Fully 4-5 hours before the first legal trigger pull, I was wondering if perhaps we had awakened to early. Slowly time slipped by.

Whipping out half a box of doughnuts, a liter of sugar laced coffee and sucking on a lip full of Grizzly Wintergreen, Mr. President literally vibrated in the blind, in a display of excitement teetering on utter loss of self-control. Possessing no watch, I was able to accurately predict the hour of legal shooting, by the rapidly shaking floorboards.

The sudden appearance of ducks, driven by hurricane force winds, had Diesel jumping up like a gas powered, dynamite fueled jack in the box. Three quick shots rang out, there was a quick re-load and three more were fired. This entire procedure occurred in precisely the same amount of time it would take a man with a heavy Downeast accent to say SKYBUSTING.

Just as the barrage of echoing gunfire faded, ducks on the distant horizon, had an adrenaline fueled Mr. President frantically grabbing at his call lanyard. Blowing on his duck call, with complete and reckless abandon, Mr. President sounded like a four year old attempting to play “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” on a kazoo. After mentioning, his calling technique had a greater chance of attracting reefer-smoking hippies than mallards, Mr. President carefully placed his treasured duck call into his jacket pocket, where it resided for the remainder of the morning. Unprepared, for this onslaught of helpful support and assistance, Mr. President flashed a thousand dollar smile and extended a hand offering doughnuts and fresh brewed coffee to appease the brothers grim.

Well known mountaineer Mark Twight once said, “It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.” If I interpret correctly, what is meant by this quote, is that even when the rain is pouring down sideways, your shivering and there isn’t a single duck in sight, my bets are that most waterfowl hunters would be tucked into a marsh blind, brandishing a colossal smile. While the weather certainly challenged us, sitting together in the blind that cold morning was an experience begging for repetition and something I am sure will long be repeated, by the members of Duck Power Incorporated, until time robs us of our ability or desire.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Duck Stew

Adverse weather conditions, gear failures and forgotten equipment can quickly make a usual trip into the wilds, outrageously unusual. When these challenges don’t pose a significant hazard to safety, they become a fantastic learning opportunity and a chance for sportsmen to practice a healthy dose of Yankee ingenuity. Possessing a tool kit of skills, learned through a lifetime spent in the outdoors, the sporting brethren often embrace these opportunities.

With a wind driven rain, pouring buckets down upon us, we the members of Duck Power Incorporated, began to seriously question the sanity of our actions. Despite being “prepared”, this year’s weather forecast, for the waterfowl opener, was categorized as torrential. Mercifully saved by Mr. President’s forethought, to bring a tarp large enough to be seen from space, the three of us sat in “relative” comfort. Lacking the ability (or perhaps better said the desire) to keep a fire burning in the bucketing conditions, we pondered how to cook this year’s culinary masterpiece. Though a day of duck hunting had blessed us with one mallard apiece, we needed to harness our combined brainpower to determine a viable solution to the cooking dilemma.

The final solution had a large Dutch oven filled with seared duck breasts, turnip, potatoes, broth, carrots and a menagerie of other spices and root vegetables, perched precariously on the top of a cooking apparatus resembling a blow torch. The aroma of the simmering concoction was intoxicating and my stomach growled a loud warning to anyone foolish enough to even ponder the idea that they would be fed first.

The thick stew was belched forth from the bubbling cauldron, into my bowl. Raising it to my face, a rich steam rose and my nose drank heavily of the odor . . . Ahhhhh! Each member of the incorporation filled their bowls and in turn completed the same nose tasting ritual. Jacked up on avian protein and more vegetables then a normal man eats in a month, we proceeded to enjoy the remainder of the evening telling tall tales, down right lies and enjoying the camaraderie of the sporting brotherhood.

Duck Stew – Enough to feed 3 crazy duck hunters
3 Breasted Drake Mallards (Mergansers maybe substituted if they are first parboiled with a pine board or if you can’t shoot worth a damn, try Spam)
3 Potatoes
½ a Large Turnip
4 Large Carrots
3 Celery Stalks
4 Cloves of Garlic
1 Large Onion
½ Cup of Pabst Blue Ribbon
Beef Broth to cover all ingredients
Pinch of Salt
Dash of Black Pepper

*To be properly enjoyed, it is recommended that Duck Stew be served with a healthy dose of inclement weather and Pabst Blue Ribbon or other fine ale.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Impatient Bow Hunter

One thing is certain, archery hunting in Maine is the true mark of the impatient outdoorsman. Apparently genetically cursed, lacking the simple ability to wait, these poor sportsmen are forced to endure long and unnecessary hours in stands and blinds waiting for a miracle. As soon as those first few leaves drop and mornings begin to carry hints of frost, these desperate souls, lacking an ounce of self restraint, head into the woods with lustful thoughts of seared tenderloins and turkey salad sandwiches. Don't these idiots know that in one short month they can use a gun?

It surprises me that in this day and age of laser beams and cruise missiles, among us there are those foolish enough to enjoy the self abuse of pursuing whitetails and turkeys with technologies barely above that used by cave men. Like shooting big game animals in Maine isn't hard enough with a firearm, bow hunters are truly suckers for punishment.

If these sportsman were only born possessing the ability to wait until the woods swell with hunters in November, maybe they would be more apt to "stick" or "poke" a deer as the animals are driven through the woods by hordes of florescent orange clad hunters. Even better, dissolve the Maine Bow Hunters Association, send them to archers anonymous and give them all guns!

Here I sit in my bargain bin climbing stand, uncomfortably and precariously hanging approximately 16 feet up a rotten old maple tree. It appears my situational awareness indicates I am where the deer are not. A game of yards, not having to be played were I simply to have in my hands a high powered rifle. Deer, turkeys and even a brave coyote tease me by walking past 75 to 100 yards away, at an appallingly rate of regularity. Though they challenge my resolve, I am a bow hunter and proud to be impatient.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Unknown Animal Caught on Game Camera

Occasionally my game camera will photograph a critter that leaves me pondering as to what it might be. Sometimes only small part of the animal will be captured, within the confines of the frame, making identification difficult. In these situations, it takes a careful eye to decipher exactly what kind of fur bearer is sneaking by. Care to take a guess on the animal in the photo below?
Blown Up and Enhanced Version of the Photo Below

Friday, October 8, 2010

Retreat Into the Maine Wilds II

For those of you who read my "Retreat Into the Maine Wilds" post below is a little more development on my stories main character "GUNK".

The years have left me close to death and forced me to undergo desperate measures to survive. My mind is a savage mechanism, a tool honed to a fine edge by adversity and the challenges faced over the last two decades spent alone in the wilds. Twisted perhaps are my thoughts, to the point where some would classify me as unstable, violent or unbalanced. This would, however, be a dreadful miscalculation of my mental state. The wilds have transformed me into an animal, cunning, calculating and lethal. The primitive and primordial areas of my brain, dormant in the populace of the civilized world, have been awakened and refuse to ever again sleep. Isolation has slowly eaten away at my ability or perhaps more accurately care to speak and my words whispered to the trees are hoarse and garbled. My body acts without hesitation and the animals I stalk are killed swiftly and without celebration. Long gone is the thrill of the hunt and I take from the earth what I need to survive, with little care for mans laws. The animals of the forest whether bear, deer, turkey or squirrel are meat and only seen as the raw fuel needed to carry my body through another day.

My body is ravaged by the harshness of my situation and operates on a level barely above starvation. Infrequent are the days when my stomach doesn’t growl constantly and my waist shrinks as the weeks pass without the availability of a good meal. More famine than feast is the fate of the nomadic traveler and hunger is a constant companion ever alert to gnaw at my mind as my body battles against malnutrition.

Staring at my hands, nine long bony fingers, marked by the scars of frostbite erupt from palms callused, leathery and cracked. The stump of a missing digit itches fervently, despite having been torn from my hand well over a decade ago. Fingernails split, torn and dirty from an unknown age of toil are dragged through my course beard that reeks heavily of wood smoke, sweat and wet earth.
The beast within that in times of turmoil switches off the minds propensity to control anger, violence and aggression. The fight or flight instinct, that has forced the human species to survive in the face of severe and absolute adversity for well over a millennium.

There are places deep within the soul of men that are better left undisturbed. These hidden points of escape can be refuges of peace or focal points to drive hate. It seems that everyone wants to talk about their "happy place" but few are willing to explore the darker areas of psyche that control courser, darker emotional responses. Due to our reluctance to explore these emotions are we becoming socially inept at controlling them or do we simply strive to bury them so deep within our emotional core that they rarely surface?

Monday, October 4, 2010

Deer Caught on Game Camera

Deer Returning to Bedding Area
Deer Caught on IR Game Camera During Nightly Activities
Deer Grabbing Afternoon Snack

Game cameras offer the outdoor enthusiast a unique perspective into the habits and habitats of many unique and interesting animals. Since I began using these units last November, I have captured hundreds of different photos of coyotes, raccoons, bobcats, deer, red/gray squirrels, bear, turkeys, porcupine, moose, the occasional blue jay and generally some fairly strange stuff. While the possibilities for the naturalist and wild life watcher are numerous, game cameras offer hunters the ability to use data, collected from the field, to pinpoint game animals and target hunting times and locations that will most likely link with the animal being hunted.

In support of these valuable hunting tools, here are a few hints, suggestions and general knowledge I have amassed throughout the past year.

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