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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Shredded Venison Au Jus

This is based on a recipe my wife had for shredded beef, except that I've added a few tweaks to it, along with some delicious and nutritious venison. I think this would be a great recipe for deer camp because you can put it together quickly, let it cook overnight, shred it real quick in the morning before heading to the woods, then leave it on warm, come in for a couple hot sandwiches when you return for lunch. Enjoy!

  • 1 Venison roast ~ 2 to 3 lbs
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tsp beef bouillon
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp seasoned salt
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 -3 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 sweet onion chopped
  • 2 jalapenos chopped (optional, but add a nice, subtle kick)
  • On a cutting board, cut several small 1/2 inch "X" slits into the roast with a knife, then stuff the chopped garlic into the roast slits.
  • Spray slow cooker with non stick spray & place venison roast in. 
  • Combine water, bouillon and dry seasoning then pour over venison.
  • Add chopped onion & jalapeno
  • Cover & cook on low for 8 hours or until meat is tender.
  • Remove venison, cool slightly, then using 2 forks, shred the venison so that it's suitable for sandwiches or wraps.
  • Return venison to liquid to soak up more of the juices. It can be kept on warm for a few hours, or eaten immediately. Your choice!
  • Using a slotted spoon, serve it up on a toasted bun, top with some shredded cheese and DIG IN!!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Heavy Hearted Opener

The blind bag was stocked with a full box of steel shot, some freshly smoked deer jerky, and a few granola bars for good measure. My gear had already been stacked by the back door, waiting to be loaded into the truck in the predawn darkness. Timber, my three year old chessie, had been ready to roll since the night before when he started to put two & two together as I was casing my 870 pump, his anticipation overflowing. Waders, a bag of goose decoys, along with another mixed bag of duck decoys were already secured in the bed of the truck. Even the coffee marker was set up ready to brew a full bodied pot to fill my thermos as the alarm chimed precisely at 5:30 AM, interrupting my somewhat restless slumber, and wag-starting my dog's tail. It's opening morning of the 2011 - 2012 duck season.

As we made our way to the pond that was planned for the day, my mind stayed distracted, only thinking about wind direction, decoy placement, and the hope that some birds would cooperate. Pulling into the farm I hopped out of the truck to unlock the gate, feeling the wind against my face blowing steadily out of the west. A short drive back along the dirt two track bordering the unharvested bean field's edge had us arriving at the oak tree lined pond unloading both trucks, dogs greeting each other under the dark, cloudy sky. It was good to be here right now.

7:15 AM was legal shooting light. Any minute now. Then as if they were on the same schedule as us, my ears picked up on the sound of a pair of wood ducks as they cupped their wings, sliced through the dimly light morning sky, and precisely plopped down on the water in front of Timber and I. They were the first to arrive for a breakfast of acorns floating along the ponds edge. My dog's anticipation again rose to the surface with an eager whine as my finger eased over the safety, quietly pushing the button off. Looking over and seeing that Rob was still getting his gear together, I quietly laughed inside, knowing that the shotgun's blast that would be following in a few seconds would probably catch him a bit off guard. As I rose to my feet, so too did the wood ducks rise to the air at the sight of unnatural movement from within the trees. The 870 simultaneously flashed fire in the morning darkness and threw steel out the end of the barrel. One duck left, one duck stayed. A quick "fetch 'em up" command had Timber diving from the shoreline for his first official retrieve of the season. It was good to be here right now.

The rest of the morning proceeded in much the same way with birds coming in from the western sky, turning back into the wind, before cutting down toward the decoys. Rob & I each shot our limit of wood ducks within the first hour of the morning, in fact, we had our limit before I was even able to pour a thermos lid of coffee. The remaining hours that we sat pond side with our pooches was spent waiting on mallards or geese, that for one reason or another, decided not to show. And that was fine by me. It was just good to be here right now.

For me, this hunt wasn't about shooting limits. It wasn't about shooting anything for that matter. That actually was the last thought on my mind when my alarm sounded off in the morning. This hunt was indeed weighing heavy on my heart in that I had just lost my Grandpa the day before, 12 hours had barely passed since I received the phone call telling me the news. It was a phone call that I knew was coming, one I was preparing for, but one that I just didn't want to hear...

There's a chance that this hunt may have never even happened without my Grandpa, who was now with me both in spirit, and in my heart. He was always the first person I called after a good outing, after I arrowed a deer, after I dropped a limit of ducks or geese. He was the one who introduced me to the outdoors, whether it was camping, fishing, hunting, or just being outside. He has been a mentor, a friend, and often times my very best accomplice. Even though thoughts of my Grandpa frequently brought a lump to my throat, or even started to fill my eyes with tears that morning, I knew he was watching over me. Sitting there on the shore line next to me. He'll always be there with me, walking with me, hunting with me, fishing with me, guiding me to be the patient teacher and mentor to my own children that he was to me. For all of those things he shared with me, and so many, many more life lessons he taught me over the years, I am forever thankful. Rest in Peace Grandpa, we'll hunt again soon...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

October 1st Bowhunt

Glad to be back up in a tree!
An opening in the family social schedule appeared on Saturday morning, and having not yet been out on stand there was virtually nothing that was going to stop me. Well, if it was raining really, really, really bad I probably would've slept in, but other than that I had a few stand sites in mind that were begging for a sit. With a couple daylight pictures of G3PO coming from the "M" farm, along with some fresh scrapes and rubs along the fence row that housed my trail camera, I figured that was going to be first choice.

Daylight pictures of G3PO before he shed his velvet.

Weather conditions for Saturday morning: 90% chance of rain throughout the day, but looking at the radar there wasn't anything concerning for the morning hours. Lows in the upper 30's that morning, steadily rising to the upper 50's throughout the day. Barometric pressure held steady at around 30 for most of the morning's hunt. Winds were out of the NW around 15 mph with gusts reaching 30 mph as I climbed down just before 10:00 AM.

Deer sighting for the day were scarce, other than one lone doe that was too far off for any thoughts of a shot with my bow. After a few uneventful hours I decided it was time to climb down, switch out memory cards from the trail camera, and head home for a boys day with my son. Here's the most recent picture of G3PO.

With the beans all yellowed it time to look for the acorns. I think this spot will rest for a bit until the beans fully turn brown and more cruising action starts to take place a few weeks away. Although I'll looking for rainy days to slip in and check the camera to tell me whether or not it's time to hunt here again.

Still a few grren spots left in the beans along the edges

PVC Duck Blind

Since our group was drawn in one of the state's duck blind lotteries to build a temporary blind for the 2011 -2012 season, we've been looking at plans and discussing ideas on what to build. There's gonna be anywhere from 2 to 5 of us hunting at a time with multiple dogs at times, so we were going to need something fairly big. We were also looking at keeping costs reasonable, having easy assembly, good concealment, light weight portability, and based on the spot we selected we would need shooting in all directions. There will be open water on the lake to the front side, with a marshy area that ducks & geese like to hunker down in immediately to the back side of the blind.

So, after a few days of research, planning and discussions, it was time to get to action and build a PVC duck blind frame. For the project I used 1" schedule 40 PVC. Luckily, the guy that came along to help me at Lowes used to be a waterfowler himself, and when he looked over my design plans, he felt that the 1" selection would be stout enough to bear some weight from blind material and also make for a sturdy structure. It would also be cost effective & light weight. Perfect.

Using the 10' lengths that are commonly available at most hardware stores, I drew up the plans for the blind to measure 10' long, by 4' wide, by roughly 6' tall at the front sloping back to about 5.5' in the back. There's lots of specialty fittings that you can find online to build a slightly more specialized PVC blind, but I made our blind based on what was available at the store. The stock lengths of PVC come in 10' sections, and for the fittings I used multiple T fittings, 2 cross fittings (center front & back), a couple 90 degree elbows (top corners), and several of the 3 way elbow fittings (the bottom four and top 2 back corners). I also customized a couple of the T fittings by cutting them in half, and bolting them to other sections of PVC pipe for the middle & top side sections.

Other materials I used: couple cans of flat spray paint to knock down the glossy white finish of the PVC, and zip ties.... lots and lots of zip ties.

Once I had the frame built and spray painted, I went through and labeled all of the pieces so that I would be able to take it apart, then reassemble at the lake. I labeled everything from standing inside the blind and looking out the front side.

Paying attention to details is of the utmost importance.

For the brushing in of the blind, I also used Lowes and hit up their landscaping section, buying some plastic chicken fencing that was on clearance. I picked up 2 rolls of the 36" by 50' fencing that I tied up along the horizontal center sections, while for the roof I had to overlap two lengths of the fencing and zip tie them together along their seams to make one large piece that covers the roof and overhang on all for side by a few inches.

Next, I bought 25 lbs of raffia grass from the Joseph M. Stern Co. The nice thing about buying from this company is not only did I save on shipping because they're located in Cleveland & I was able to schedule a pick up for my order, but they also have a wide selection of pre-dyed raffia grass to choose from. The colored grass does cost more, but it's worth it for being able to blend the selection of colors. I've bought natural raffia grass from outdoor retailers before & had to them use RIT fabric dye to add any colors to it. That's kind of a pain, and can get pretty messy. 25 lbs was just the right amount to brush up a blind of this size, and it's also the minimum order because they are mainly a whole sale company.

Grass laid out and ready to be mixed & attached to the netting.

So with a big box of grass, 200 zip ties, and a frame now ready to go, I assembled my child labor once again and began more of my sweat shop assembly techniques. My son is getting pretty good with the zip ties... pretty soon he'll be ready for things like duct tape, and gorilla glue...

Blends in well to the suburban surroundings.

After attaching all the raffia grass in the garage over the past few days, everything was finally complete and ready to be disassembled. Our goal of building a light weight blind was certainly met, as I was able to lift the whole thing from inside the garage and carry it out onto the driveway where there was more room to operate. When we reassemble in the field, we'll also be adding some 1/4" plywood on to the roof that will help keep us dry on the inside, but it will also keep the raffia grass from collapsing into the blind should it get too much weight on it from rain or snow this winter. We'll also be using available natural material to add to the blind, and brush it in better once we transport everything to the lake.

The raffia rolled up nicely with the netting kept to the outside. Once we get to the blind site, 2 people will easily be able to unroll the sections and zip tie them into the blind.

Backside view of the raffia netting.

Hopefully all the work that went into this blind will pay off this season. Even if it doesn't I'm sure our group will have a good time trying to fill our limits and load down the game straps, and that's what it's all about. Just getting out there with good friends, and having a good time. That, and breakfast in the duck blind ain't too bad either!