Monday, November 29, 2010

Update, With Disappointment, Anticipation, and a Tragic Photo.

Florida Hunting Zone C Doe Week:  A bust, as in not busting a cap, as in nothing.  Full moon, warm weather, prodigy doe with a 3G connection checking the FWC website, donno, the does were not present at John's hunting world the week of Thanksgiving.  I went up three times, John went every day (sometimes twice).  Hey, if it was easing, they'd call it finding and not hunting.  I still enjoyed every minute of it, with no complaints. 

I'm currently gearing up for my 5 days on Catalina.  Hiking and hunting.  My cousin George is going also, and Charlie is guiding the hunt (the FC pseudonym of earlier posts, which stands for fencing coach, of course).  Its the first time I've seen the island in winter, I'm looking forward to the day of rain that is forecast.  I doubt there will be any cooking or other updates until I get back, but afterward there should be pics and hopefully stories.


We spotted an interesting oddity on the way back from spending the holiday with my family in SC, a piebald deer.  My understanding is that this is the result of recessive genes.  Unfortunately, this one was already dead.  It may have been shot and abandoned, but it might have been roadkill.  I've never been more than average squeamish about dead critters so I apologize if anyone viewing this is, but I figure somebody might want to check it out.  I don't have the knowledge but I wish someone like Charlie had been there to skin it out and tan the hide.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Sans Cervid.

I had high hopes for this morning.  John invited me back up for the opening day (yes, another one) of the short non-antlered season, or Doe Week as everyone called it.  On my other two visits I'd seen nice does, a couple of which would have almost been impossible to miss.  Alas, as the stockbrokers reluctantly inform us, past performance is no indication of future performance.

We heard a few deer talking to each other as we walked in just before 6 am.  When I turned on my amplifying headset after I slipped into the stand there was still a doe bleating somewhere behind me.  Its amazing how much they can occasionally sound like a soft little elk bugle when amped up.  

But that was it for deer activity.  The sun rose, the squirrels starting doing all their squirrel stuff, the cardinals were bouncing around, but nothing bigger appeared.  There is a full moon right now, I suspect they ate and socialized all night then bedded down for the day.  Not all though, we heard a few shots over the course of the morning.

Unconcerned with our failure.
 We called it quits about 9:30.  There were more pumpkin pancakes back at John's house and a PBR in my fridge at home.  Not a bad morning at all, but we won't be having fresh liver, onions, and bacon for dinner tonight.
Right before I left the stand, view unobstructed by deer.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Use-it-up Curry

I've got a history of making somewhat Indian-style-like curry using pretty much whatever I feel like throwing in.  The only thing these have in common is the use of some style of Patak's curry paste and some kind of milk product.  Almost any kind of meat or vegetable has been used over the years.  But not deer, until today.

Today's cooking adventure was an exercise in using up stuff in the fridge, the most important of which was the venison bits not used to make steak last night.  Basically, I sauteed a thin-sliced sweet onion in olive oil, tossed in the cubed venison, and added a large dollop of curry paste.

A few minutes later I stirred in some sour cream and whole mile (usually I use yogurt but I had the milk and sour cream), and some leftover frozen cubed hashbrowns I had in the freezer.

I let this simmer for a bit until the meat looked done, then put in a can of spinach and some broccoli left over from last night.  Oh yeah, and a couple glugs of Worcestershire sauce.
Should have called this Creamed Spinach Broccoli Curry.
Very hearty dish.  It could have used a bit more more curry paste but I was out.  Plenty left over for lunch though. 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


OK, so far I only have a sample size of one deer (a muley doe), for which biological bilateral symmetry allows two tries at each major muscle cut.  Based on this introductory foray into venison I've got to say that here at Rancho Highlife we have a new favorite non-organ portion:  The Sirloin Tip (i.e. petite ham sens FC).  At least on this girl, that piece of hindquarter musculature was definitely  superior to the backstrap halves I have cooked so far.  I was clued into this when I used one of these cuts for a take on a classic recipe and had the portions fairly melt in our mouths.

I decided to thaw the other sirloin tip, cut nice steaks from the thickest part, and make bacon-wrapped medallions from them (the rest I've saved for tomorrow night's dish)
Bacon-wrapped, salted and peppered.
Here they are after a grillin':
Tender and delectable with sides of potato and broccoli.

Stay tuned for a more non-trad dish tomorrow.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Another Interlude

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I'm up for learning more about being an archer.  Other than reading about it, I haven't made much headway on that quest.  My woodworking friend who I discussed making a bow with is basically too busy with school and his upcoming second child, so I'm not banking on our grand bow making project, but it might still happen one day.  Just for a pastime thing to do, I'm trying to follow online instructions for making a simple board bow out of red oak I found at Home Depot.  I'm probably making a right cock-up of it since I don't really have the patience for woodwork, but its just something to play with. 
Poorly-shaped bow form.
Fortunately, I checked Ebay today and it seems older recurve bows aren't that difficult or expensive to come by.  I might get one after the holidays.  I probably need to start with something with a lower draw weight since those muscles on my person aren't exactly well exercised. 

Friday, November 12, 2010

An Evening With Deer.

John invited me to come up and sit in "the bunker" (as we call the stand carved into the side of the dirtpile) this evening, provided he was done with work early enough to go.  Of course, this morning one of his crew members didn't show up so that complicated matters, but it turns out he had an easy assignment so he still got back in time. 

Its amazing sometimes how busy a place the rural countryside actually is.  The stands are not more than 300 yards from a county road, and there is a sort of rush hour that goes on.  Random noises intrude from the distance in all directions.  Cows, dogs, roosters, saws, what have you.  The wind was blowing our way from the river, so the voices of some kind of crazy party was actually carrying all the way to us (its about a mile away, very unusual).  About when everything settled down John's wife's young cousin started target shooting with some kind of .22 on the property next door.  An annoyed text message took care of that.  Its amazing the deer can edit it all out.

Shortly after sunset I could hear a deer approaching from behind me (I can't see that direction because of the way the blind is made).  She must have detected me in some way, because she paused and barked (or whatever the proper term is) at me.  I've read that's basically a way to try to bluff something into moving, which I did not.  A few minutes later the doe and one of her girlfriends walked right in front of me.  They were close enough that I caught a few whiffs of their musty odor and could hear their teeth crunching.  Its still antlered deer season, so they were in no danger from me, but I have to admit that after a while I began using them for aiming practice with the safety on.

I probably shouldn't say this so I'm not jinxed into not seeing another deer all year, but they lingered to the point of being annoying.  I didn't want to climb out the stand while they could see me, and they were in no hurry to leave.  Finally at very last light they took off across the field and I was able to sneak back over to the shop where John was waiting.  He had seen nothing from his stand.

Two Saturdays from now is anterless season, if this luck holds up we'll have some meat to split up that day.

On another note, I've got an inspiration for two venison meals that I want to try really soon, I'm about to take the cut of Ms. Catalina that I have in mind out of the freezer to thaw. 

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Standing with numb toes.

Today I had the honor of joining the brother-and-sisterhood of those who get up way too early in the dark and the cold (it frosted today in North FLA!) , drive with half-open eyes to the countryside, and sit in a stand (or in my case a blind dug into the side of a dirt pile) to await the glorious coming of the dawn.  I also joined the sub-set of the above mentioned group who walk out of said stand hours later with numb toes and hope for the future, because no legal cervid presented itself for selection.  Not that I would ever complain, I loved every minute of it.  Watching the day form itself before my eyes is always a treat, especially so when no ticks, chiggers, mosquitoes, or other members of the phylum Arthropoda lining up to partake of my precious bodily fluids. 

My friend John, who's inlaw's land he and I were hunting, is still a dedicated bowhunter.  He was on a tree stand nearby.  I was out with Aunt Mary's .270.  I had on a pair of the headphones that cancel loud noises but amplify soft ones, so listing to the woods come alive was even more incredible.  I made good friends with a yearling squirrel who foraged around "the bunker".  About 8:30, well after sunrise, a good-sized doe nibbled around in plain view almost exactly 200 yards from me.  A .270 could do that, but its antlered deer season right now in FWC Hunting Zone C. 

We are a little too modern in some ways, as we were texting each other about the mornings developments.  Just when I asked if John was ready to call it a morning (it was damn cold for us acclimatized to FLA) he said a doe was headed to me.  And so she was, a little small but vectoring slightly to my right.  She ended up passing about 15-20 yards away, going into the overgrown hardwoods behind me.  The wind was blowing straight to me from her, and I could smell her musty odor for a few moments.  That will be a happy memory for a while.

Back at John's house, his wife Erin had made pumpkin pancakes and they hit the spot.  John gave me some fish they speared recently in the gulf (suppose that's where the arrow thing came from, huh?). 

On another note, today is what we consider to be our anniversary, 11 years now since the hubby and I met in real life (as opposed to online chat).  We are planning to take it easy today and celebrate it with a day trip to Cedar Key tomorrow, probably with a few stops along the way. 

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Killer Hike

Backpacker Magazine put an article from their October 2010 issue up on their website.  I mentioned it in an earlier post, entitled "Killer Hike" its about a guy who has more than passing similarities with me and my recent reintroduction to hunting.  Very good article.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Opening Day, And We Really Mean It This Time!

Like most places in the country, the term Opening Day isn't quite the big deal I imagine it must once have been.  Between public and private land, there have already been Opening Days for bow, crossbow, and muzzleloading season.  For many areas here, those methods of termination are now stacked, so with this new Opening Day for General Gun basically every legal means to kill a property-antlered native cervid is in play.

With almost accidental timing, a friend of mine has invited me to sit on a stand Saturday morning, the last Opening Day of the season (unless of course, you count the opening day of anterless deer season, but that's another story).  I feel no pressing urgency in this hunt, since we are only about half done with the Catalina doe and I'm likely coming back with another cooler of muley in December, but its kind of cool to think that for the first time in decades I'll be out in the field on Opening Day, waiting to see what wander up.  With some luck, maybe I will get to do that muley-whitetail culinary comparison I've wanted to try.

On other notes, I haven't really voiced it here but I've had a bit of prejudice about bow hunting.  Part of it was gut feeling, part due to the greater chance of wounding instead of killing the deer (I still idealistically aim to cause less suffering in my meat) and partly because aesthetically I think modern compound bows are about the ugliest things made by man (sorry, I just do).  I have been reconsidering this opinion though, as I know practice and preparation make all the difference and being skilled with a bow would open up a couple hunting opportunities in places I have access to but can't use a firearm in.

Fortunately, I have a good friend who is a very accomplished woodworker for his age who has a well-equipped workshop and connections to get about any kind of wood he wants.  After looking at some beautiful recurved bows online, I sent out some feelers about his desire to become a bowyer.  He replied that he'd often thought about it and felt sure he could make one, he has all the basic skills down.  So, with plenty of time to work on it before next season, in a couple of weeks are going to set to bowmaking and see what can be done, you'll be seeing pics.

I do a lot more in the woods than hunt (Contrary to the subject of this blog, I actually do just about everything more often in the woods than hunt) and I think that may be reflecting a lot more in my posts here.   I've been doing a lot of hiking lately for the Florida State Forest Trailwalker Program (I've almost achieved their rank of "Trailmaster" now).  Here are a few pics I took recently on a 13 mile day hike in the Green Swamp area:

Richloam Tract, Withlacoochee State Forest.  Prime Skunk Ape habitat!

Withlacoocheee River

Limestone outcrops in the Withlacoochee river.  Believe it or not, this would be a cool little rapid at higher water.