Monday, December 03, 2012

2012 Hunt Report

Well folks, the hunt seasons this year were both fun and frustrating. For the first time in many years, Minnesota opened up the Fall Turkey hunt without a lottery. Many of you who know me well will now realize how excited I was for that! I've been trying without success to get a turkey license for many years. Last year we had so many turkeys in the area, I could call them up from my cabin porch with just a few chirp and gobble noises I can make without the need for any hardware assistance. Well, as it turns out, after getting my turkey license and my waterfowl, HIP cert. and sand hill crane license and a new ground blind I was ready for the hunt. Unfortunately, the birds had migrated to the top of the hill outside the hollow this year and I had no access to them. Nor could I call them down no matter how hard I tried. And even though John and I tried several WMA parcels, there was nary a big bird to be seen. And so my bird-less hunting streak continues.

John and I went through the archery season dry, but not without some incredibly exciting sights! On opening weekend, I happened to notice about a half dozen or so does being herded along by a small 4-pointer and at the same time, John saw a 4-pointer come out trailing a doe in the meadow. Then, just as his little herd begins to grow in size with a couple more, the 2 groups met down by my little seasonal pond at the foot of the meadow. So John and I started making our deer calls, and the more we called, the randier they got until they were practically jumping all over each other out there! But they stayed just out of bow range. Then, all of a sudden, out steps this majestic 10-pointer with a good 2-3 foot neck strutting across the field in a slow manner as though he owned the place, which well he might! I didn't catch a glimpse of him but John did and here I relate his tale. He watched that beautiful creature cross below the pond and over toward the corner of the property before he remembered he was here to hunt! Well, needless to say, once he got his bow up and shot off, he was so twisted around in his stand that the shot went wide and we haven't seen that big fellow since.

But such are many of the stories we had this year. We could see them, but they were just out of our range. When in range, we could hear them, but not lay on eyes enough to bring our sites (or scopes) to bear and bring home our quarry. Tom again joined us for the hunt during rifle season and what a blast we had! Just us three brothers, in our cabin in the woods, hunting for meat for our families back home.  At last, in the final weekend of the firearms season, John brought down a little doe which eventually yielded about 20 pounds of ground meat, 33 pounds of homemade sausage and the straps, loins and liver. 

Now it's on this last point that I want to address you hunters out there.  Do you process your own or do you take it in and have someone do it for you?  There is certainly nothing wrong with letting someone else take on the burden of the butchery and grinding of the meat, especially if it is someone you know and can trust and who doesn't gouge you in the wallet.  But let me once make a small case for the idea of processing the meat yourself.  First, you know where every piece of that meat came from. Second, you control the percentage of cut to grind, and the mixed in meats as well, such as pork or lamb.  Also, if you are making sausage there is another benefit.  Many butcheries use a standard venison seasoning for all of the sausage and only give you the shapes and sizes that match your favorite store-bought links. So the venison brats and Italian sausages taste the same except that the butcher added a little cayenne to the Italian to heat it up a little. And they all taste the same as the summer sausage except that that one is smoked. The only thing that really stands out is the breakfast sausage, and that's because of the excess about of sage the butcher puts in.

Do yourself a favor next year and try this.  Buy yourself some Backwoods sausage seasoning in your favorite flavors and make sure to buy enough pork shoulder and pork fat to give your ground sausage meat a 25-30% pork to 70-75% venison mixture.  Follow the recipes on the seasoning packets to the letter with the following exceptions:
  • for the Bratwurst, use your favorite beer instead of water and add about 1-2 tablespoons of coarse ground black pepper for every 5 pounds to the mix. You won't regret it. 
  • You can also add a 2 cups of cheese for every 5 lbs ( or as much as you like) to make Cheddar Wurst.  
  • Use a mixture of 1/2 water and 1/2 red wine in the Italian and always buy the sweet recipe. If you want it hot, just add cayenne to taste. 
  • Buy only the sage breakfast sausage and add your own favorite syrup (Maple, Honey, Blueberry, etc.) to the mixture to taste.  
  • And don't forget to get fresh apple wood, mesquite, oak or hickory chips for your smoker. Nothing ruins the flavor of your meat faster than old or mildewy wood chips!  
  • Also, don't do this alone! You hunted in a party, so process in a party as well and get all hands on to help. you'll have a great time extending your hunt into the processing phase, and you'll bring some really tasty, quality meats to your holiday tables. 
If you follow these tips, you may well find you enjoy your venison sausages so much more than your local butcher can provide and have a real blast doing it!  Well that's my 2 cents for now. Hope your hunt went well and your Holiday season goes even better!