Monday, November 24, 2008

Giving Thanks , Everyday

This post is about an individual who had a major influence in my life. Inspired by Kristine over at OBS and about giving "Thanks" this season. Firstly, thanks Kristine for the challenge as I have wanted to write about this for quite some time. Now, the time has come.

As I begin to write this I am flooded with memories from many, many years ago when I was quite young. It didn't take me long to realize that I had my own drummer and wasn't much into dolls or dresses. Mom wasn't thrilled about the latter. Anyways, had it not been for the quiet soft spoken man I called "Dad", I don't how I'd made it to where I am now. Being the youngest of three and the only girl, needless to say I hung out with the boys. I will touch on a few of the highlights so as to not get to long winded.

The beginning of a huntress, somewhere around 1968 I do believe. This was the Christmas dad gave me my first shotgun. A real double barrel side by side 410 gauge, with double triggers, auto eject, straight English grip and amazing fine point checkering. There was no makers name on it, only "made in Belgium". Mom sighed again. I was thrilled beyond belief. He had gotten it when he was in New York city at a business convention. He bought it at went to Abercrombie and Fitch. Back in the day when that was, the outdoor sporting goods store of fine distinction. Not long after he taught me the basics and I passed my Hunter's Safety class with a 96%. Only missed 2 questions, the best test I ever did take! We spent many evenings hunting Doves in September and then waterfowl come October and November.

We had a summer cabin and this was where my dad and I would spend many hours pitching horseshoes. He was good and threw a 3/4 turn shoe and I threw a flip. We both pitched from the same distance and I am sure he let me win on more than one occasion. So when I started pitching professionally a few years back, it was with great fondness that I returned to the horseshoe pits.

He was in the lumber business and had a shop in our backyard. He built a river boat with my brothers when I was quite young as well as many other items. That was where I got my introduction to woodworking. He would bring home bundles of Pine kindling all dimensioned at 2"W. by 3/4 T. by about 14" L. I would build chairs and tables out of the kindling and even though the chair seat was the same height as the table top, he told me "good job, very nice". Oh and how that made me fill up with pride that my dad complimented my efforts. WOW!

I realize that my mom had a big role as well and can not leave her out. She was the rock for my dad and kept the home front running smoothly. Never a meal missed, nor a dinner that we all didn't sit at the table together and enjoy. They were a team and I give my thanks every day for the gifts they shared as well as the values they instilled in me. I feel their biggest gift to me was one of allowing me to be me and pursue my interests regardless of "social gender norms". They were supportive and even though they have been gone for many years. There is not a day that goes by that I don't think of them both and give thanks.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Friday, November 21, 2008

Field Dressing and To The Freezer

I know that there are several ways of field dressing your birds. I thought I'd tell you how I take care of mine.

Most days I am in the blind or walking before shooting hours, and don't get back to where it is I am staying until late morning or early afternoon. This means that the birds I have shot, may spend up to 6 hours in my game vest before I start processing them. In all my years of bird hunting I have yet to have any ill effects from this. I am sure some of you are raising your brows at that lenght of time before the birds are dressed. True, I enjoy the cleaning process more when the birds are warm instead of sub freezing, yet its just not possible all the time.

Usually when I get done hunting I am really hungry and looking forward to a hot meal and some good strong coffee. It's also nice to get out of wet clothes or clammy waders and just relax a spell. Then once my belly is full I am able to concentrate again, and ready to start processing my birds.

So, I grab a comfortable seat outside (a log round) and commence to plucking the wings first. I pluck out to the the first joint, both top and bottom. Then I continue plucking the breast, back and legs. I continue to repeat this for each bird til all plucking is done. The only time I consider "breasting out" a bird is if it is immature and full of pin feathers. Even then I will also cut the legs off at the body (hip joint). After I finish plucking, I cut the wings off at the first joint and cut the feet off at the knee. I leave the head on for transport and identification. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife requires that either, a wing or head must remain attached while in transit.

Then I cut the ducks butt off and make a small slit on its belly side up to the cavity opening. This makes it easier to get my hand inside the cavity and remove all entrails. The intestines, gizzard and heart come out easily compared to the other parts. I like to remove as much of the lungs as possible, also trachea and poop shoot too. These take a little bit of work and are the last parts to be removed. After that I give them all a good rinsing inside and out with a hose. Then I hang them(by their necks) in the shed. If it is warm I will use a sheet to cover them so no flies can lay eggs on them. Usually it is cold enough that I seldom need to cover them. Yet this year has been very warm and I have covered them.

I have kept ducks and geese like this for up to 5 to 7 days if conditions are cold enough. Typically they will freeze within a day or two and are just fine. Then once I get home I will remove their heads and give them a final going over in the kitchen sink. Making sure I got all the insides out and pluck any remaining stubborn feathers or "pins" if needed.

Then I wrap them in clear polyvinyl plastic (Costco lifetime roll) making sure to get out as much air as I can. Next, I wrap them in butcher paper that is waxed on the inside. I bought a roll that is 18" wide and have found that size works great for all my wild game wrapping. I use a good quality freezer tape and make sure no air can get to the meat, and then into the freezer they go. I tried using the Food Saver for birds but found that the plastic was not durable enough. Especially when I start rummaging around in the freezer. If there was a bird with a broken wing it punctured the plastic. With the freezer paper I can throw a tape patch over the sharp broken bones and found that to be a good solution. I typically will have birds frozen for up to a year and without any signs of freezer burn doing it this way.

Before going in the freezer I use a sharpie and write on the package; date harvested, location, species, gender and condition of bird. That last note consist of either a star for a perfect unblemished breast (meaning no shot holes) and will make a beautiful display for a roasted presentation, all the way down the scale to a note that reads "best for Parmesan Nuggets, a bit shot up" or "really shot up".

So there you have it, that is what I do with my birds. I am a bit old school and a traditionalist. For me I feel best plucking the entire bird and not breasting it out. For me I sleep better doing it the way that I was taught by my dad, even though it takes a bit longer.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Unfair Advantage ?

On my recent waterfowl trip I learned I have some competition. The weather has been lousy for duck hunting. Temps in the mid 60's and barely freezing at night. No northern storms to push waterfowl south. So the resident population are taking it in the shorts.

The habitat that I hunt on is a mix of alfalfa fields that are flooded seasonally, as well areas that are not cultivated but have a mix of natural foods and give waterfowl a safe haven from predators. Some of the fields have a few high spots (mounds) that we sit on when we hunt over decoys. The field are flooded by a complex series of ditches and head gates. These are the dikes that I walk in search of jump shooting dabblers. There are not many ducks using the place right now, and it takes several groups of hunters set up through out the property to keep the birds stirred up and moving. Being one person is not conducive for decoy hunting at this stage of the season. I most likely would be more of a spectator instead of a participant. So that is why Jet and I walk and walk and walk in search of ducks.

This last trip was fairly successful considering the conditions. I didn't take any short sleeve shirts and paid the price. The lightest shirt I had was a long sleeve chamois and I still sweated buckets in it. None the less onward we trudged and on Saturday afternoon headed to the back ditch. Typically this is my honey hole and is usually worth a couple opportunities for Mallards.

As Jet and I got close, I peaked my head over the top of the dike to look for ripples on the water. I saw a whole lot more than just ripples. Looked liked a wake board tournament was going on. There weren't ripples but waves! I scratched my head and looked hard for the intruder. Surely there couldn't be a Muskrat putting out a wake like that? Nope, it was a large River Otter and Jet was ready to go after it. Whoa girl, this one will bite back. I was dumbfounded. Never in all my 30 years of walking these ditches have I ever seen an Otter in them. He was a good half mile from the Klamath River. This was starting to make sense now. That is, the fact that there weren't many ducks using that ditch. Also the remnants that I'd found the day before of a Red Shafted Flicker, several duck carcasses and a Skunk were littering the top of the dike. Mmmm, I can see that someone is eating well. Jet and I watched as he swam around and then realized he had an audience. He then swam through the culvert into the flooded field and began to make a hissing sound at us. Well let me tell you, I hissed right back at him. I was not impressed and if only I had a Fur Trappers License I'd, I'd, ahhh well maybe not. She -he- it! I have been out done by an Otter. I can just imagine him stealthing beneath the water in search of little orange feet. Then grabbing them and pulling them under. Can you imagine the look on the ducks face? Wow, and all without a duck stamp or license.

After taking a few pictures of my worthy opponent we continued our walk down the dike. Hoping that he hadn't been where we're heading and just maybe there was a duck within 40 yards of the ditch. As it turned out we jumped 2 drakes and 1 hen Mallard as we neared the end of our walk. I was feeling a bit smug, knowing I had beaten my nemesis to the quarry. Jet retrieved steady as a rock with hand signals for 1 of the drakes. The other 2 she marked visually and didn't need my help.

We began our walk back to the truck and thankful I had only 3 ducks in my game vest. It was about 3 p.m. and I was hot and beginning to drag a bit. We got back to the truck and never did see Mr. Otter on our return trip. I just hope he found his way back to the Klamath River. We got our birds field dressed and called it a day.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wet , Wet , Wet

Along with that Mallard that had the large tumor, I also harvested some fine waterfowl to bring home last week. It was a very wet trip from the beginning. I awoke to the first snow of the year, ugh. There was about 3 to 4 inches on the ground and I figured time to go hunting.

Jet and I arrived at Lowlands early afternoon and unloaded our gear then started a short afternoon hunt. Walked ditches jump shooting and being selective for Drake Mallards primarily. Eventually we made our way to the banks of the Klamath River and had "Tumor Mallard" plus 2 drake Mallards in my game bag. The river was chucked full of Buffleheads, and as much as I enjoy eating them I decided to leave them be.

We were also trying to kick up a Pheasant or two. The club plants 100 male Pheasants a year, well at least most years. So far we had zero Pheasants, let alone not even hearing a single cackle. Ummm, I start to think that maybe the coyotes and raptures got the better of them. Yet that many in only a couple weeks, surely there had to be a few "smart" ones still around. As we near the Willows and head in to the thick cover Jet begins to get a little birdy. I am optimistic and yet we never found a single Pheasant. Those are Jets favorite and she gets more than a bit "glazed" over when Pheasants are in the area. That is her drug of choice for sure. She goes from being this gentle, calm and mild mannered dog into a type A, "don't hear a word your saying" dog on a mission that will yield, only after she flushes that stinky old Pheasant. She is really something and we usually are both grinning ear to ear. Although on this day it was not to be. We wandered back to the cabin with 4 ducks to clean.

The next day it was overcast in the morning, and we headed to the back ditch. We did well, shooting 3 drake Mallards , 1 beautiful mature drake Gadwall and 1 N. Shoveller. The clouds were starting to let loose and the rain was coming down. Got back to the cabin and ate breakfast then cleaned birds. By this time it was snowing hard, big wet flakes that were sticking. I was not happy about that. It was the type of conditions that no matter how good of rain gear you have, you're gonna get wet. If not due to the fact that your gear doesn't breathe well, or wet from the outside in. Take your pick cause that's just the conditions. So we went back out early afternoon for a short walk and got 2 G.W.Teal and 1 N. Shoveller. We were both drenched and happy to get back to our little cabin. That was it for the day, we had our limit. I ate the Teal for dinner and they were delicious. There have been 2 small flocks of Swans flying back and forth across the river, what a sight to see. Not legal in Oregon, yet in Texas they are.

The snow turned to rain late that night and as morning broke the skies dried up for a short time. We hunted the same area as the day before and the results were similar. Shot 3 drake Mallards, 1 hen Mallard and 1 N. Shoveller. It was a short hunt, as I needed to get things cleaned up and head back home. Jet did really well. Her 8 and a half years of experience shined through. Her ability to mark fallen birds and deliver to hand was incredible. She is not as quick as she was, yet neither am I.

Our first hunt of the season was in the books and all went well. Both dog and huntress returned home safe and sound, if only a tad bit sore. My shooting was better than anticipated as was Jet's field work too. By the time we got home the first snow of the year had all but melted and the sun was beginning to peak through the grey skies.

I think it's time to head out again, really! I can hear the marsh calling my name. Catch you in a few days.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Monday, November 10, 2008

Looks Can Be Deceiving

It seems that each year I get a few ducks that aren't quite what they appear to be once I have them in hand. This hen Mallard is just one of those.

From her initial jump when Jet and I crested the top of the dike she seemed a strong healthy bird. It was after we returned to the cabin and had brunch when I began processing (cleaning) my mornings harvest. I typically begin plucking the wings out to the first joint and then pluck the body. Well as you can see from the picture this duck had a golf ball size tumor on her upper left breast. It was very firm and not mobile at all. There were no signs of a previous wound, no gang green and from all appearances seemed to be an internal issue. I was reluctant to finish dressing her out and decided best to leave her in the field. I don't like not being able to eat what I kill, yet this time it seemed to be the prudent decision. I thought about taking her to Fish and Game on my way home, but I forgot to put her in the freezer and by the next day, it was to late. She was not an overly robust hen Mallard like some are with a nice fat layer under a corn colored skin. I suspect she was last years hatch since she is void of pin feathers(2007) and just didn't have the ability to bulk up like some Mallards can and do. So she went to the Magpies in the end and I was sorry to have seen her end up that way. It wasn't my first choice that's for sure. Not knowing what the tumor was, it was not worth the risk to my own health.

Over the years I have shot ducks and geese that had been previously shot and showed a greenish tint or color to their skin around the wound. Definitely gangrene and in most of those cases I have cut out the affected area and eaten the birds with no ill affects what so ever. This was just not one of those cases.

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thanks everyone for all your comments. I am retiring for the season from my doe hunt. The snow has come and time to go duck hunting. Jet is more than ready for her turn and it's the least I can do. When I return I will share with you the adventures that lie before me. Hopefully get to jump some Pheasants and maybe even some Snipe. Have a great week!

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Nervous In The Woods?

I thought I would take some time and tell you a little about last years Elk hunt. This was the same area as we hunted again this year.

My hunting partner John and I had spent a lot of time in the thickets and willow patches. We decided to return to an area we had hunted 2 days before to see if there was any fresh sign of elk in the area. As we crossed a small creek heading for another patch of timber, I noticed a "cantaloupe" rump. Unmistakably an elk, and it was on the ground in between a few small trees. At first I thought that it had been shot and the hunter was unable to recover it, due to the fact it was on private land. As John and I got closer we grew more suspicious of its demise. There were no bullet holes or arrow holes that we could see, nor any sign that the elk had been bleeding. Yet what we did see sent chills down to the tips of my toes. The young cow elks head and throat were covered with pine needles. In fact it was buried in such way that it looked as if the needles had fallen from the trees. There were no scratch or drag marks anywhere that John or I could find. We carefully removed the pine needles and saw the fatal injury to the throat of the elk. The blood was still red and no sign of decomposition (maggots) yet. The elks neck had not been broken, nor had rigor mortise fully set in . So this kill was pretty darn fresh! Well it didn't take much ciphering for us to know what kind of animal had done this. A cougar, (click on link for description) plain and simple.

We could kiss this area good bye as far as trying to find elk. Although, now I was feeling like I needed to grow eyes in the back of my head. Well we're not always the smartest when it comes to hunting, so we actually continued on with our game plan. We knew the elk had crossed the creek there and since the cougar already killed one, we figured that the pressure was off the elk herd. So on we go, this time even more aware of the fact that we were most likely being watched. I was nervous and whenever I heard a twig snap, I looked hard and long in that direction. The one thing about Cougars is that they are stealthy beyond belief. I have no doubt that cat was watching us. Perhaps we were the ones to push it off its kill? May well have been. We never did see the Cougar.

If one was interested in harvesting a Cougar that would have been an excellent place to sit, wait and watch. Waiting for his return to the kill. I was not of that mind, let me tell you. I was of the mind not to stray away from John to far and was looking forward to returning to our rig.

Fast forward to 2008 and my first waterfowl hunt with Jet along this same creek. All the while we had been hunting elk, John and I saw several small flocks of Specs (White Fronted Geese) in the area. So after elk season was over I had permission to spend a day waterfowl hunting. It was a nice day, very pleasant with mild temperatures. Jet and I walked N. along the creek through the willows looking for Specs. The willows had been thrashed and shredded by rutting elk. Eventually we flushed the Specs from a grassy patch and they flew and landed in the creek. I quickly glassed them with my bins (binoculars) to mark their location and Jet and I began our stalk. We used the willows to our advantage and got within about 20 yards and then I stood up. The Specs jumped out of the creek with a froth and we got a double. Jet made nice retrieves and we continued on our way again. As I was walking I noticed Jet had dropped back behind me. I looked back at her and she was sitting and wiggling her nose in the air. Uh Oh! I instantly recall last years elk hunt. I call to Jet to come and she is reluctant at best. Head hanging a bit low and ears down. I do all I can to use my happy voice to try and give her confidence(actually, for both of us). She does come and over the course of travelling another 200 yards repeats her protest to following me. By this time we have jumped the Specs again and had 1 more on my game strap. I looked at her and said, "alright lets go back" and she understood.

We cut through the willows moving away from the creek and headed to a road that is in the timber. Usually when a dog gets to a road they'll follow their nose in the direction your going. Well not this time. I check my GPS and tell her we're a 1/2 mile from the truck. All the while using my upbeat happy voice. For a split second she is comforted and then sits in protest again. Ahh s--t, come on girl lets keep going. We both had our tails tucked and kept our focus, all the while hyper aware that we may have company. I never smelled anything, at least not bear or elk. I am less worried about bears and the only issue with elk is that I don't want Jet chasing them. Don't know if Cougars have much scent that a human can pick up. Yet dogs can sure smell them.

We arrived at the truck in tact and I unloaded my game vest and walked over to the creek to begin plucking and field dressing my birds. I kept my loaded shotgun next to me and Jet was watching my back . . . literally. Jet was gaining her confidence back and an extra scooby (dog biscuit) didn't hurt either. We got our birds cleaned up and headed home, wondering just who else was on our hunt or keeping an eye on us?

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

I must admit that I am a sucker for good cookies. Especially Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip cookies. When I was a kid I loved Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. Still do, only they seem to have found my waistline, so this is a compromise on my part. This recipe came to me via a friend and I have made a few modifications to it. These are delicious and it is next to impossible to eat just one.


In a bowl add the following and mix together;
1 c. Adams Crunchy Peanut Butter (I drain the oil off the top)
1/2 c. softened butter
1/4 c. white sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar

after mixing add the following;
1 egg
2 tbs. Hazelnut Coffee Mate creamer (sugar free)
1 tbs. whole milk
1 tbs. vanilla extract

In a separate bowl mix together;
1 1/4 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
then add to wet mix.

Next add;
1 c. chocolate chips
1 c. dry roasted unsalted pumpkin seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 and bake for approximately 12 to 14 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool 3 minutes, pour yourself a cold glass of milk and begin dunking!
MMMmmmm Good! Enjoy

Women's Hunting Journal Integrity For The Hunt
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