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.
Thursday, November 15th
Saint Peter stood at the Pearly Gates of Heaven as three men stood in line waiting to enter.
Saint Peter said to the first man in line, before I let you in, I have to ask you a question. What was your I.Q.?
The man answered, 180. Saint Peter replied, What were you? A rocket scientist? Yes sir, the man answered. Okay, go on in, said Saint Peter.
The next man came up to Saint Peter. Peter asked the same question of him. 160, replied the second man. What were you, a brain surgeon? Peter asked the man. Yes, sir. He was allowed in, too.
The third man came forward and was asked the same question. 68, he replied. Well, said Saint Peter. Did you get your deer?
Greetings fellow hunters, outdoor enthusiasts, gourmands and readers. Deer camp is back at WauwatosaNOW
for the next ten days or so between now and the first week of January.
It has been a glorious fall of hunting so far. Black bear in Ontario, ringnecks in South Dakota and now whitetails on the Door peninsula.
I'm already here - along with my ladies. Chores, chores, chores. We fetched the memory cards from three trail cameras. Check out that boy deer above. Vegetables have been chopped. A kettle of soup stock is simmering in the kitchen. The pH and bromine in the outdoor hot tub has been perfectly balanced and the temperature adjusted to a sultry 103 degrees. I've got a fire in the wood-burner, the Cowboy Junkies on the Hi Fi, Girlfriend and Sister are snoozing and there is a refreshing adult beverage at my elbow along with a good book - A Tale of Two Cities - by Charles Dickens.
Tomorrow morning I have to run to the grocery for supples and the guys should begin trickling-in. With a big pile of hunters and a couple of Labrador retrievers things are bound to get interesting.
So check-in each day for updates and find out how a real Wisconsin deer camp clicks like a finely-tuned deer camp machine.
Friday, November 16
Everyone has been here for a spell.
Bunks claimed, adult beverages, feet by the fire and lots of yucks. There is also pizza.
Take a hand-tossed pizza crust and top with Alfredo sauce, roasted red peppers, green peppers, mushrooms, garden onions, smoked wild turkey and a variety of cheeses.
When you pull it off the pizza stone dress it with fresh spinach and a splash of balsamic vinaigrette.
Saturday, November 17
4:45 AM. Daylight in the swamp. Well, not just yet.
Steaming mugs of hot joe, dogs underfoot, coffee cake, more yucks, blaze orange clothing hung on the porch overnight is covered in frost. 23 degrees and no moon. It is black as pitch.
9:30 AM. In to prep breakfast and feed the dogs. It is a beautiful morning.
Early shooting all around the neighboring properties. Not a shot from our group.
12:30 PM. The good news is that we're seeing deer. I spied a couple skipping between the thick pines this morning about 8:30. Sid and Android were taken by surprise when a buck dashed between them and vanished into the impenetrable tree plantation. The bad news is nobody has had a shot opportunity. Our meat pole is barren.
It's a slow start for sure but too early to fret about it.. I'm heading back to my stand until 4:37 shooting time.
7:45 PM. Awesome dinner of corned beef and cabbage. We're making homemade apple pie later. Everyone is watching football by the fire.
And Six Deuce got his deer this afternoon. A very nice doe.
The skunk is out of the bag...
Sunday, November 18
6:00 AM. Dark, foggy, wet, 35 degrees. Had to send the blonde Lab upstairs to wake one certain hunter. The crew is out and on stand.
8:00 PM. Another day of hunting under our belts and still only one deer hanging in the shed. I don't know whether to blame it on the morning fog, the nice afternoon weather or the thick cover. It's a good thing we're not subsistence hunters or we'd be one hungry camp. Last night it was corned beef and cabbage. Today a midmorning breakfast of biscuits and gravy and dinner of Limburger cheese, horseradish braunshweiger, stuffed jalapeño peppers and navy bean soup accompanied by grilled artisan bread topped with grated Parmesan. I have a feeling the atmosphere upstairs will be infused this evening. Hopefully tomorrow will bring better hunting results.
Monday, November 19
5:45 PM. I've been neglectful in getting a post out today. After last evening's addition I went straight to bed and was sound asleep by 8:15. A couple of days of getting up at 4:30 AM, letting the dogs out, scarfing a light breakfast, walking out to my stand, walking back to feed the dogs and let them out again, hiking back to my stand, returning to cook breakfast, repeating a similar routine in the afternoon AND not getting my deer had the cumulative effect of leaving me somewhat fatigued.
With only one deer so far - today we laid plans to sit for the morning and then conduct a couple of deer drives before breakfast. Back at it today at 0'dark-thirty. At first light a shot rang-out but nobody fessed-up to being the shooter. I figured it for one the neighbors to the east who had been shooting all kinds of deer. This was followed by a second shot. Before too long Android reported on the radio that he thought he had a buck down. Mennonite called-in to say he thought he did too. Upon further inspection Android found nothing but a big divot in the trail 40 yards from his stand. A snap shot. And a swing and a miss. Mennonite made a similar snap shot and found his deer just off the trail - a nice size seven point buck.
Firearm injuries and fatalities while hunting are virtually all due to careless firearm handling and a violation of one or more of the cardinal rules safe hunting. About a third of all firearm hunting accidents are self-inflicted. Another third come from conducting deer drives. And we were going to conduct a drive. After posting marksmen in elevated stands (so that any shots were on a downward trajectory) and away from the direction the pushers would be approaching - we set out. The plan was to slowly push any deer bedded down in the thick tree plantations out to the trails and open areas.
More walking added to my daily regimen. Remarkably we pushed only one deer out (that we could detect) who easily avoided all of us. It was bedded down in a tangle of willows and alders not but thirty yards from the stand Braumeister was hunting from. They are like ghosts in their ability to remain undetected. Especially following a couple of days of persecution.
After a hasty breakfast the finely tuned deer camp machine swung into action.
There were deer skinners.
And deer butchers.
Creating great treats of wholesome venison.
There were deer wrappers.
And a runner who ferried packages of Foodsaver-wrapped meat to the freezers - returning with cold beers. As we like to say - Drink beer and butcher deer.
There were even stackers of firewood and a team who policed the house and scrubbed the porcelain and vacuumed the dog hair and washed knives and cutting boards.
The boys have left. And I took my Lab girls for a run with the ATV. Sure, I know it's lazy - but they've been short on walks and long on energy. Me? I've been long on walks and running out of gas. Jill has just arrived and I'm going to part company with my laptop.
I still don't have my deer.
Tuesday, November 20
12 Noon. Slept-in today. None of that getting-up at 4:30 nonsense to sit in the dark in a deer stand. Instead I took the girls for a proper walk and caught-up on the day job. It is 58 degrees outside. Positively tropical.
This is the bunkhouse.
AKA - Das Furz Haus. New Guy mentioned the possibility of developing technology to capture the methane for recycling as a supplemental fuel source.
Camp life was slightly different this year. A new hunter was introduced in the form of Six Deuce. One of the founding members - Wise Guy - came out of retirement to join us. And after several years of postings in the Middle East - Android returned. After living in Saudi for an extended period of time his only request was pork and adult beverages. While I made every effort to make use of wild game in our daily diet - Marchant's pork eventually found its way into the menu. I have no idea how it happened but a perfectly good bottle of Gibson's Sterling that I brought back from Canada vaporized over the weekend. Amazing.
I have to admit that our deer camp includes one of the closest-knit, hardest-working, self-motivated group of hunters around. So - Wise Guy, Lawyer, Sid, Mennonite, Android, Braumeister, New Guy and Six Deuce...you're the best.
And they do recycle - in a manner of speaking.
I'm going to sit this afternoon and see if I can't get my deer.
5:15 PM. Hunted the last two and half hours of daylight this afternoon. No shots from anywhere close either. Speaking of shooting - I am hunting this year with a recent acquisition. A sporterized Mauser 98. WWII era too.
I can shoot one-inch groups at 100 yards with handloads featuring 8mm Nosler Partition 200 gr. Spitzer bullets.
While I didn't see any deer I did have a visit from a half-dozen of my favorite birds - the black capped chickadee. And I didn't even have any birdseed to share. (note to self - pack birdseed) A blue jay stopped-by to scold me and as darkness settled across the land and the swamp gas formed low to the ground a horned owl started hooting. Not a bad close to the day.
Wednesday, November 21
11:30 AM. Fetched the memory cards from the trail cameras this morning.
Not only are there hunters on the cameras...
There are still some big bucks...
5:30 PM. Hunted from a stand nobody has been in for awhile. Nice, balmy afternoon. Blaze ball cap and no gloves. With the wind just right the last half-hour I still-hunted along a deer trail through the tree plantations. Six steps, stop and survey. Eight steps, stop and look around. Slowly working my way home.
Brother-in-law and Sister-in-law are here along with Gilligan the dog.
Thursday, November 22
6:00 PM. Took the day-off from hunting. Guests, chores, Thanksgiving dinner and more chores. What an absolutely unbelievable day. It got up to 68 degrees and I cranked-open one of the kitchen windows to let the great outdoors inside for a change.
I fetched the grinder and ground-up all the venison trimmings...
...and packed and froze fifteen large bags of what will be the foundation for someone's sloppy joes, chili, tacos or whatever.
Jill, her sister and Brother-in-law hung Christmas lights on the gutters today. And everyone sat on the porch afterwards to savor an icy-cold beer in the summer sunshine.
Knocked-off mid-day for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner of a giant, free-range roast chicken with all the trimmings. There was even spinach salad with a hot-bacon dressing,
Here's the recipe:
Hot Salad Dressing (Colorado Cache Cookbook - Junior League of Denver)
12 slices bacon
6T bacon grease
3 egg yolks
6T sour cream
½ t salt
Cut your bacon in ½ inch squares and cook. Drain, reserving 6T of the grease. Add vinegar to the bacon grease and cool. Add water to the egg yolk and blend in the flour. Add this mixture to the pan combining the bacon and bacon grease with vinegar. Cook on medium heat stirring constantly until the mixture thickens. Add the sour cream, salt and sugar and bring to a boil. Pour over your salad and serve. Makes 1 ½ cups and is good on either spinach or making wilted lettuce.
Take an extra statin before bedtime.
I'd bet that if you reflect upon it in the warming glow of your computer monitor - just like me - you've got a great deal to be thankful for.
So take a moment to think about those that are separated from their families today because they're serving in some God-forsaken outpost on the other side of the world or have had their lives turned on-end by Hurricane Sandy.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
Friday, November 23
10:45 AM. Did you get your deer?
I ran to town this morning to fetch a paper and some items at the local grocery and the lady at the checkout inquired about my season so far. There are signs (literally) of the hunt everywhere, A freshly tagged deer in the back of a pick-up at the local café. A splash of blaze in the woods here and there. Welcome Hunters banners at the grocery and the local watering holes. Even the manufacturers of this swill have gotten into the act with blaze orange packaging...
My thermometer took a 40 degree swing. From what I hear the sultry day we had yesterday broke the previous record set in 1963. The wind is howling today and there are snow flurries. Speaking of records - in 1962 there were only 14 bucks taken in Door County on the opening weekend of deer season.
The First Mate and the Missus are on their way for a visit. That should break-up the monotony. No, I haven't gotten my deer yet. It's a long season though.
Saturday, November 24
6:00 PM Still no deer. Nevertheless, we're having wild game tonight. The First Mate and I thawed a wild turkey in preparation for assembling Turkey Roulades.
We ran dark meat through the meat grinder with garden onions, bacon, eggs, Granny Smith apples, dried Door County cherries, chanterelle mushrooms, bread crumbs, thyme, salt and pepper. Just for good measure we ran it through again. Butterflying the breast halves and whacking them with the meat pounder we spread our homemade sausage stuffing over the breasts and rolled them up and tied them-off with butcher twine, They're in the oven now having been anointed with olive oil, sea salt and fresh cracked pepper. There are root veggies roasting as well and The First Mate is going to make sautéed, chopped Brussels sprouts. I have a stock reducing on the stove which is going to involve capers, cream and Dijon mustard for topping our feast.
If this turns-out I'll post some pictures later.
Edit to add - Yup. The wild turkey roulades turned-out just fine. And these are the two small ones! The others have been partially baked and are chilling in the garage for frozen storage. They are destined to be - Meals Ready To Eat.
Along with all of the sides of roasted yams and rutabagas along with sautéed Brussels sprouts.
And while it's a long story - I would be willing to bet that we were the only remnant of a deer camp in North America to enjoy a bottle of this this vintage and label of French wine...
Sunday, November 25
Like most sportsmen, I’m tired of sitting in a deer stand all day and not seeing any deer, said Walker. As governor, I will name a ‘Whitetail Deer Trustee’ to monitor the health and population of the deer herd. That way, we take the politics out of the forest and put the deer back in. Press conference - September 3, 2010.
I feel your pain Governor. I still don't have my deer. Speaking of which - did you ever get yours? If not - that's OK. Some years I only get one deer. On a few occasions I get two deer. One year I got three deer (not counting the one I hit with Jill's Jeep which would technically make it four). Going without a deer once and awhile comes with the territory. That's why it's called hunting. If we're all entitled that would make it more like shopping. Dontcha think? In any event, I have a black bear and a pile of pheasants in the freezer along with my share of the two deer the fellas killed last week. Besides, I still have some bow hunting ahead of me plus a late season gun hunt. I know we disagree on the role of government with regard to everyone getting their deer. I just want you to know that you don't have to fret over my self esteem - I'm perfectly satisfied to take personal responsibility for filling my tag.
I have to go now. My girls are looking forward to a walk and we got several inches of white stuff last night. Perfect conditions to do some scouting.
Saturday, December 8
12 noon. Back at camp. I drove-up following the day job Christmas party last night and didn't arrive until the wee hours of the morning. Braumeister, Timothy Leary, Six Deuce and New Guy were already here. As I was unpacking a few things and getting Girlfriend situated snoring was filtering down the stairwell from the second floor.
We've just finished a breakfast of cabin hash and eggs and Six Deuce has gone to town to register his second deer. It is a sunny and gorgeous day with a light dusting of snow on the ground.
Sunday, December 9
3:00 PM. It's been a mini-deer camp this weekend. Four grown men and a youngster. Only a couple of days to cram some hunting-into and have some fun too.
Like these awesome Bloody Marys that we served when the sun went down yesterday...
Squeeze a wedge of lime into the bottom of a pint glass, add vodka, ice, celery, along with a pickled green bean and pickle from the garden. Homemade juice from my garden tomatoes seasoned with Worcestershire, steak sauce, and horseradish. Top with a dusting of celery salt.
The only thing better than that are these grilled venison kabobs along with sweet onions and peppers. Served rare with a fine Merlot.
There was a morning hunt today which produced zilch. Following breakfast we started on the solitary deer hanging in the machine shed at 10:15 AM. By 12:15 PM the deer was skinned and de-boned, the meat packaged and in the freezer, the cutting board and knives washed and stowed, the shed swept, carcass disposed-of, house vacuumed and picked-up. If nothing we are a model of efficiency.
So far, three deer this year - two does and a buck. The newest member - Six Deuce - killed the two does. Why do the new guys have all the luck? Such nerve. But I would like to think that each deer camp has its own karma. As Six Deuce and New Guy we preparing to depart Six turns to me and says - Where are my tenderloins?
I dunno. You were the one de-boning the deer. Did you remove them?
A ghastly look crossed his face and he turned pale. He's left a deer carcass out in the field with a pair of tenderloins. Food for the crows. Putting his boots back-on and grabbing his coat and a plastic bag he dashes from the house. Rule One - Always remove the tenderloins first. I trimmed his tenders and packed them on ice for the trip home. Someone's getting some good grilling tonight.
It's howling snow outside right now. Girlfriend is snoozing by the fire. And I still don't have my deer.