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Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

Deer Camp 2011-The Compilation

Bicycling, Critters, Deer Hunting, Deer Management, Door County Hunting, Economics, Family, Friends, Gourmands, Governor Scott Walker, Green Bay Packers, Holidays, Hunt Camp Humor, Hunting, Life Is Good, Outdoors, Scott Walker Deer Management, Sister, Terrific Cooking

11/18/11

A couple of days before deer camp a hunter's wife puts her foot down and tells him he has to stay home and whittle down his honey-do list of chores. 

The fella's friends are upset and understandably disappointed that he cannot go.

Alas, they are powerless to do anything about it.

Two days later the crew has gathered at deer camp.  The fire is stoked in the wood burner.  Blaze orange bibs and parkas are hung in the garage.  Even the boots toe the line.  Firearms are carefully stacked on the gun rack at the back door.  Bunks are claimed and everyone is enjoying a refreshing adult beverage in the testosterone-infused atmosphere.

Suddenly the dog barks as the door from the garage opens and the heretofore grounded hunter materializes.

Dang dude!  How did you manage to talk your wife into letting you go?

Sidling-up to the kitchen counter and opening a beer the hunter explains...

This morning I was sitting in my chair feeling poorly when my wife came up behind me. 

She put her hands over my eyes and said - 'guess who?'

I pulled her hands away and was surprised to see she was wearing a flimsy negligee from Victoria's Secret. 

A collective gasp emanates from the group. 

The hunter continues....

Then she took my hand and pulled me over to our bedroom. 

The room had candles and rose petals all over.  On the bed she had handcuffs.

There were ropes too. 

She told me to tie and handcuff her to the bed. 

You know I follow directions - so I did what she told me to do. 

Then she said - 'Do whatever you want.'

So, here I am.

Stop by over the next week and-a-half for some deer camp updates. 

If you're hunting - shoot straight and be safe!

 11/19/11

10:00 PM - Great deer camp so far. Most everyone spent the entire day hunting - packed lunches the night before and toughed-it-out with some serious stand sitting.

Finished with this - 

Sausage-stuffed jalapeños.

We have three deer hanging in the machine shed and tonight we dined upon - get aload of this - bear tenderloin and deer tenderloin.

Roasted root veggies, spinach salad with bacon dressing, wild game and the buds.  It doesn't get much better than this.

Cheers!

 8:30 AM - In for a cuppa joe and to let the dog out.  Girlfriend is still recovering back in Tosa while Sister gets to accompany the guys at camp.  For excitement last night the blonde dog raided New Guy's stuff and dined upon a container of mink oil.  Passed over the granola bars and went straight for the greasy boot rub.  Yum.  She's fine and has just discovered the rare pleasure of someone returning home with bloody trousers.

Lawyer has a deer down and I have two for myself.

So far - so good.

9:30 PM - Here's that awesome venison loin...

 And the Tiramisu afterwards...

 11/20/11

4:40 PM - Shooting time.  Sid and I have been toasting our tootsies in front of the wood burner and nibbling on bear tenderloin leftovers while watching the Bear/Chargers game.  It seems appropriate.

The guys should be stumbling-in before too long.  Judging from the chatter on the radios Braumeister shot a deer that ran over the property line and was immediately dispatched by the neighbors.  A couple of shots confirmed that.  Da Kid missed a shot at a six-pointer - no blood, no hair.  This stuff happens from time to time. Nevertheless, there sure seems to be plenty of deer around.

We've got dinner under control.  Grilled venison loin accompanied by pickled garden red cabbage, garden green beans almondine, crashed garden potatoes (recipe courtesy of blogger Christine McLaughlin) and a yummy dessert.

While freezing our packages of venison we discovered a couple of racks of frozen Schuetzenfest BBQ'd ribs.  They are in the oven warming for cocktail hour riblets.  There are also the remainder of New Guy's stuffed jalapeños.

You sure don't sound like a real deer camp.  Aren't you supposed to be eating bacon, beans and chili or something?  You sound like snobs.

That is a good observation.  We are not snobs.  We may be gourmands but we hunt much of our food.  Furthermore, the guys have been hitting the woods pretty hard and a well-fed crew is a motivated crew. Back by popular acclaim we even had fried spam this morning with our eggs.  You are what you eat after-all.

One more thing.  We called one of our missing deer camp members - Android -  who is posted in Saudi Arabia.  It is 2 AM over there.  We had a nice chat about him living in the compound with the American contractors.  There is no such experience like deer camp in the Middle East.  We pointed out to him that we were about to enjoy a happy hour with adult beverages and finger-licking pork ribs - something he could only dream about in the House of Saud.

He was not amused.

I'll post some pictures of the final dinner production later.

1:15 PM - Took a break from hunting to catch the game and cut-up one of the deer. The guys will be heading back out before too long.  

The entire camp experience has been good for the dog. Plenty of opportunities for socialization and mischief.  Took her out after breakfast to stretch her legs with the Frisbee and she came-up short with this first encounter.

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11/21/11

4:00 PM - Like a well-oiled assembly line the crew processed the remaining three deer today.

Many hands make for quickly processing our venison for the freezer.  Lawyer and Sid hang and skin the deer.  They also perform the dismembering of the forequarters and de boning.  New Guy, me and Da Kid perform the trimming and conversion of large pieces of meat into steaks, chops, roasts or kabob.  Clean trimmings go into a pile to be ground into burger. Braumeister does the packaging and labeling.  All of the carcasses go into the bucket of the New Holland.   Da Kid (upper right) is a natural butcher.  He can de bone and trim a piece of meat as good as anyone.

The guys cleaned and tidied the joint before they left.  I drove the tractor out in the middle of the big field behind the house and dumped the bucket.  In the coming months those deer carcasses will feed the birds that over-winter on the peninsula.

It's kind of lonely now - just me and Sister.  I'll probably go out sometime tomorrow and sit with my favorite Ruger .270.  It's going to be interesting if I shoot another deer.  My hip is killing me.

9:30 AM - New Guy is one frustrated hunter. He's seen eleven deer and hasn't had a decent shot situation.  That happens from time to time. Better to see deer than none at all.

Today's rib-sticking breakfast was sponsored by the American Heart Association.  Pheasant wild rice soup and toasted cheese sandwiches.

Time to butcher the deer.

 Deer Camp Pheasant Wild Rice Soup

3 – South Dakota pheasants (de boned and cut into pieces)

3 – 32 oz. cartons low sodium chicken stock

2 – Sticks of butter

2 – Garden onions (chopped)

2C – Celery (chopped)

18oz – Wild rice

1pt – heavy cream

Flour

Easy recipe made easier if you spread the work over a couple of days.

Cook the wild rice until done, strain and set aside. Adding some concentrated chicken base to the rice while cooking has a favorable end result.

Sauté the onions and celery in 4T of butter and set aside.

Sauté the pheasant in 4T of butter and set aside.

Combine the pheasant and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Cook slowly for 40 minutes. In a large stock pot melt the remaining stick of butter and add a cup of flour (give or take) to make a thick roux. Add the onions, celery and wild rice to the pot. Combine the pheasant, stock and cream. Bring to a slow boil while stirring regularly. Simmer another hour.

Serve with saltine crackers. Salt and pepper to taste. Even better if you reheat the soup after sitting in the garage fridge for a couple of days.

11/22/11

9:00 PM - Sat for a spell and saw a few deer.  No shot situations.  Did catch a spectacular sunset. The blonde dog has got a serious case of the haints.  Imaginary intruders have been lurking in the surrounding countryside today.  She's making me nuts with barking while out on her tether or running from window to window with her gruff vocalization of - RUFF.  Probably has something to do with just me and her constituting the current make-up of the family pack.  Can't wait for Jill and Girlfriend to get here.

Just brought the pooch in from her potty break.  The night sky is spectacular.  Clear and crisp with nary a vestige of light pollution.  The constellation Cassiopeia, The Queen, is to the north - positioned to circle the North Star, Polaris, in reverse clockwise.  There is perhaps Jupiter (I think) - at a hands width - above the eastern horizon. 

Deer Camp - the  total stress reliever.

1:30 PM - Ran to the big city of Sturgeon Bay to purchase an additional antlerless deer tag.  Since I used my two antlerless tags on opening day all I had left was a tag for an antlered deer.  With the back-up tag I now have all my options covered.  Big buck or big doe - brown is down.  Also had the oil changed on the car, fetched the mail in town and picked-up a few grocery items for Thursday's feast.  I have a humongous wild turkey thawing in the garage.

I found out that the DNR Service Center is only open on Mondays.  That sort of sucks but is continued evidence that Wisconsin is open for business.  Good thing the Walmart was open for business so I could purchase my tag in the sporting goods department.

Speaking of business - deer hunting is a big deal in Wisconsin.  When you add-up all of the gas, food, lodging, ammo, clothing, dollar bills for the girls, etc. it amounts to about $1.4 billion a year.  Yup - billion with a letter b.  That's huge.

It's also huge from a cultural perspective.  I was talking to Jill last night on the phone and mentioned that I thought  the guys had a reasonably good time.  She got a chuckle out of that.  If you hunt deer everyone waits for this time of year with breathless anticipation bordering on a religious celebration.  Heck, weddings are not scheduled and funerals are delayed.  So I guess deer hunting borders on religion.

I stumbled across a curious  tidbit on the web today.  It would appear that recreational bicycling slightly out paces the economic footprint of deer hunting in Wisconsin.  I am not making this up.  You can read all 42  pages about it here.  Cycling infuses $1.5 billion into the state's economy each year. 

Maybe the Governor should appoint a Cycling Czar to go with our Deer Trustee.  Hey, I bicycle all over the place.  With a new hip I expect  to pick-up the pace next year.  I'd like to see the politics taken off the road and bikes back in.

11/23/11

Sister and I went out today and fetched the memory cards from the trail cameras.  Whooey!  We uploaded some dandy photos of a large number of deer.  Including some monster bucks - virtually all of them taken after dark.

Male deer mark their territory during the whitetail breeding season.  Think of it like the deer equivalent of giving out a phone number or posting a classified ad on a singles website.

There are glands located on the inside of a deer's hind legs just above the tarsal joint.  Even though this news might offend your delicate sensibilities bucks pee on those glands and paw it into the ground. This is called making a scrape.  There are preorbital glands near the corner of the eyes and deer will deposit scent from these on a branch above their scrape.  This is called a licking branch.

Here is something commonly found this time of year.

When you see a tree scored like the one in the picture above a buck has shaved the bark from the trunk to leave a scent from glands located on their forehead.  This is called a rub.  Whitetail mating rituals Involve all sorts of rubbing, licking, scraping, peeing and general staking-out of one's territory.  Kill a big buck during the rut and he's likely going to stink to high heaven. 

It's all about attracting the ladies.

The following series of photos are of a buck and his harem.  In the third picture he is refreshing his rub.

Unlike the deer portrayed in tthe classic movie - Bambi - whitetails are exceedingly promiscuous.  Bucks service multiple does and does are don't seem to be bothered by copulating with multiple bucks.  Under good conditions the species is burdensomely prolific.  Under less than ideal conditions the species survives.  Such is how whitetails have evolved. 

11:00 AM - Fresh deer tracks alongside the driveway this morning.  Must have been a nocturnal visitor foraging in the rubbish left in the garden.

 11/24/11

Went out after the Packer's thrashing of the Lions and sat until sundown.  A couple of shots from the neighbor's woods and  some crunching in our woods.  Other than that nothing doing.  Haven't seen a deer in two consecutive days.

Today's post is brought to you by Meleagris gallopavo - commonly known as the wild turkey.

This is a bachelor group of gobblers cruising one of the trails.

This is a brood flock  - a hen along with a bunch of poults.

The male of the species is a large bronze-colored bird with a red and blue bald head.  He sports a long beard jutting from the center of the chest and has spurs on his legs.  During the spring mating season males will spar with other males and engage in elaborate courtship displays as they gather their harems. The female is smaller and duller and typically (but not always) lacks a beard.  This is a non-migrating ground-nesting bird.  A bird that works for a living.

Wild turkeys spend most of their time earth-bound - they will walk or run before taking to flight.  One of the few birds that is capable of vertical take-off the turkey can attain airspeeds of up to 60 miles an hour.  It roosts in trees at night.  Coming off their roosts is best described as a controlled crash. 

This is the largest of game birds found in Wisconsin.  Extirpated due to market hunting by the close of the 1800s early attempts to reintroduce the species with farm-raised birds was largely met with failure.  From 1976 to 1985 the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources released 334 wild-trapped turkeys from Missouri in southern Wisconsin.  Reproduction was enormously successful.  From 1979 to recent years an active in-state trap and release program has resulted in wild birds to be found in all Wisconsin counties. 

The successful reintroduction of the bird has opened a whole new opportunity for spring and fall hunting.  With eyesight said to be three times better than that of humans and endowed with excellent hearing they're a challenge to hunt.

We're cooking our wild bird the old-school way.  Plucked with skin-on, season all over and inside with salt and pepper.  Lard the breast and legs with side pork and roast under a foil tent at 325 degrees - allowing roughly 25 minutes per pound.  Towards the end remove the foil and baste with equal parts of butter and white wine.

Serve with family and all of the usual accompaniments.

Deer Camp Thanksgiving Dressing

Olive oil

2 cups red, seedless grapes - sliced in half

1/2 pound of sweet Italian sausage

1 large onion - diced

2 cloves garlic - minced

3 ribs celery - diced

16 oz. bag of bread cubes

2T fresh sage - finely chopped

1/2 cup of fresh parsley - finely chopped

3/4 cup of pecans - chopped

1t kosher salt

1/2t fresh cracked pepper

2 cups of low sodium chicken broth

6T butter - melted

2T Worcestershire sauce

Sauté grapes in some oil until caramelized.  Set aside. In the same pan brown the sausage and set aside leaving the fat in the pan.  Sauté the onions and garlic until translucent, add the celery and continue cooking until celery is just tender.  Melt the butter with the broth and combine all.  Transfer to baking dish and bake at 350 for 20 minutes covered.  Cook for an additional 15 minutes uncovered.  Can  be made a day in-advance.  Serves ten.

We have much to be thankful for.  Happy thanksgiving everyone!

11/25/11 - 7 PM

The last time I looked - the news was that Governor Walker hadn't killed a deer yet this year.  Hunting in Vilas County I'm told he saw only snow.   

I devote today's post, in it's entirety, to an open message to a greatly admired and fellow Tosan. 

Dear Governor Walker-

I know you've been critical of the DNR's management of Wisconsin whitetails.  I would like to share with you my perspective.

I've had a stretch of a couple days without seeing any deer.  I spied two today - fleeing for their lives.  Granted, I've been sleeping-in and sitting on stand only the last few hours of daylight this week.  My bad hip is killing me.  You have no idea how painful it is to limp a half-mile one way, climb a tree stand, climb back down without falling and limp back.  Of course, I also shot two deer on opening day so my needle on the motivation meter is stuck on 'picky'.  The lack of deer sightings is more likely attributable to nocturnal behavior due to the presence of all the bait piles on the landscape and a lack of hunters pushing deer around.  Nobody does deer drives anymore.

Too bad about your Vilas County hunt.  I learned those woods grouse hunting.  It may be useful to know that deer are not distributed uniformly across Wisconsin's landscape.  Here in farm country on the peninsula we have abundant deer.  I happen to think we have too many deer.  But that's just one hunter/tree farmer's opinion.  I am aware that across Green Bay in the counties to the west the habitat and predator populations are different.  A deer hunter's experience there is going to be vastly different from that of a hunter here.

As evidence of this I keep a bag of ear registration tags collected over the years.  I counted 41 this morning.  That's hardly all of them as a good number ended-up traveling home with someone's kill or have been lost.

It is a fact that we have killed a rather large number of deer over the years - therefore my deer hunting experience has been exceedingly positive and rewarding.  As a matter of fact - judging from the body count alone someone might conclude that the DNR has done a stellar job of deer management.  But I think you would agree with me that it is not as simple as that.  Nor should it be as simple as that.  It's complicated.  Right?

Without getting into weighty subject matter like social and biological carrying capacity it is valid to account for the reality that private landowners like me might have an easier time of it.  All of the land surrounding me is privately owned.  It's actually rather ideal whitetail habitat with plenty of bottom land and younger forests.  Hunter access is controlled too.  Relatively high hunter success rates suggest to me a burgeoning deer population.  Is the DNR doing a good job or a poor job? 

Contrast with this.  My pal Lawyer has a brother who hunts public land and he hasn't seen a deer in three years.  That's downright discouraging.  Is the DNR responsible for his predicament?

If you talk to the old timers around here they will speak of their youth and a serious shortage of deer.  I'm talking about an entire nine day season on the peninsula yielding a total kill a tiny fraction of the number of deer we now register on opening day alone.  There is general agreement that hunting is pretty good around these parts nowadays.  Who gets the credit?  

My point is this - over my lifetime things have gotten pretty good for the average Wisconsin deer hunter.  Whether you hunt with bow or firearm every hunter's experience is going to be different.  A function of private versus public land, habitat, predators, scouting, hunting prowess, weather and sometimes a bit of good luck or bad luck.  I'm not sure that legislative lawmaking or DNR policymaking can (or should) guarantee that deer hunters always have a positive experience.  

In closing, I don't want you to get the impression that the big pile of ear tags means that my camp has an easy go of it.  If I had a dollar for every hour I've sat in a stand with my bow or gun, freezing my tush or swatting mosquitoes - and not seeing a deer - I'd be able to retire early.

My wife says that is why they call this pursuit - hunting.  It should not be easy. Not everybody can do it.  Some folks just aren't cut out for it.  If it was easy it would be called shopping.  Like you, I took-up the sport as a mature adult.  My advice is be persistent and take every opportunity to engage in the craft.  You will get your deer.  Probably without the help of big government.

Good luck to you, be safe and shoot straight.

Your neighbor,

Tom Gaertner

 11/26/11

7 PM -

  • It is raining.
  • It is 51 degrees and too warm to hang a deer.
  • If I shoot a deer I'm not physically up to dragging it and processing it by myself.
  • There is precious little available freezer space.
  • I have to help do laundry, fill the wood box and tidy the house.
  • It is much better to sit by the fire on a dreary rainy day and read Hemmings Classic Car magazines.

That is an even half-dozen perfectly acceptable rationalizations for not going out and sitting in a deer stand don't you think?

The traditional Wisconsin 2011 deer camp (mine anyway) is closed.  There will be one last hurrah with a late hunt in early December.  Following that I'm getting a Stryker Mobile Bearing Hip™ System.  I am so looking forward to getting my physical life back and being able to get around.. 

Made wild turkey soup today.  Yum!

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