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.
8:30 PM. The opening of Wisconsin's gun deer season is Saturday. Imagine 600,000+ blaze orange-clad hunters heading into the woods in search of the elusive thirty point buck.
I'm already all tingly. Not just about the hunting prospects but also about the camaraderie and deer camp shenanigans that surround this event. It's really quite social what with friends and family - the whole nine yards.
Here's the deal. I'm already at our camp. I snuck out of my day job this afternoon while nobody was looking. The balance of the crew arrives tomorrow. That includes Wench, Lawyer, Sid, Mennonite, Android and Braumeister - the usual suspects.
I'll be posting daily updates to this year's deer camp. Pictures too. Maybe some recipes of our starvation diet.
So check in from time-to-time and enjoy the fun and enjoy the hunt. Vicariously as it were.
By the way, since I started publishing these on-line hunting diaries I learned that our wives (and at least one girl friend) began checking this blog as a way of keeping tabs on their men-folk. Ladies, you can count on me to make sure that only fair and balanced reporting of the facts ever finds its way on-line. Nothing but the truth. No outrageous tales like you might get from a fisherman. You know me, I don't want any trouble.
On a serious note; for all of you hunters, good luck, shoot straight and be safe.
I'm going to put another log in the wood burner and return to my book. More tomorrow.
Oops. Forgot to tell you that it is freak'n cold here. 20 degrees! I went out earlier and turned the thermostat up on the hot tub.
11/21/08 - Get Ready. Get set...
Everyone is here.
We're all settled-in and relaxing.
Dinner tonight featured deep fried Wisconsin crappies.
Accompanied by frijoles, slaw and really spicy chipotle-mayo sauce and cold beers.
4:30 AM. Daylight in the swamp boys. Well, not quite anyway. It is dark - hardly any moon. It is 8 degrees above zero. I believe I have found the perfect breakfast for these conditions.
I looked everywhere trying to find the Heinemann's recipe for baked oatmeal. No luck.
So, here's the bbest surrogatefor deer camp baked oatmeal.
1/3 c of butter.
3/4 c of brown sugar
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 1/2 t of vanilla extract
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t salt
1 c + 2 T milk
3 c oatmeal (quick or regular)Take a stick of butter and generously butter a baking pan. Beat the eggs. Add brown sugar, baking powder, vanilla, spices and salt. Beat further and pour in the pan. Melt the butter and add along with milk and oats and add to the pan. Mix. Cover with foil and put in a cold garage overnight. The morning of the hunt get out of bed before everyone else, fetch the pan, remove the foil and put in the oven to bake at 350 for about 40 minutes. Go back to bed. Doze for a spell and get out of bed to check and see if it passes the toothpick test. Serve with milk, raisins, walnuts, dates and vast servings of strong black coffee.
This serves 6 – so you need to at least double the recipe for your normal deer camp.
In our continuing tradition of surprises Braumeister just left for the hospital - seems he woke-up with what might be a detached retina.
9:30 AM Coffee break. Braumeister is back and out hunting. Something about floaters and a bad vitreous humor. He had the entire ER to himself until the cops brought in the guy with multiple stab wounds. Everyone has seen deer but nothing tagged yet.
5:15 PM. For the first time ever our deer camp didn't tag a deer on opening day. I am bummed yet optimistic. Our visions of venison bourguignon have vaporized. We have been reduced to eating chicken wings and bean soup tonight. For now I am enjoying a Ketel One on the rocks (with twist) and King Oscar sardines.
Bean soup: Start with three smoked pork hocks from the local butcher shop. Simmer in a pot to make the stock. Remove. Add two packages of navy beans, one sweet onion (chopped fine) and 1t of chopped garlic to the stock. De-bone the hocks removing skin, fat and gristle. Return meat to the pot. Cook all day - low and slow. Add salt to taste. Put in the garage to set. The next day remove the congealed fat on the top. Reheat and serve with Caesar croûtons. Yum.
9:30 PM. Good night.
5 AM. It is a balmy 24 degrees outside as the camp stirs to life.
11 AM Post-breakfast report = nothing tagged. Beer rhymes with deer and since I haven't any deer pictures to share - here is a beer picture.
Braumeister (incidentally a national home brewing champion) makes our deer camp beer. This year a lager and an imperial stout
7:00 PM. Hunted this afternoon with everyone's lack of success weighing heavy on our minds. At least mine anyway. The weather was positively fine. 36 degrees with a 10 MPH breeze out of the southwest - subsiding by 2 PM.
I covered a 15 acre wildlife opening adjacent to a cedar swamp and an impenetrable alder thicket. I have my trusty Browning A-Bolt - 7mm magnum. Big optics too.
At 3 PM a younger buck wanders out of the thicket and walks slowly in my direction - head-on. At about 125 yards I put the cross hairs on his chest and... POW.
The skunk is out of the bag.
Awesome venison tacos tonight with authentic frijoles and garden salsa. I am in a jolly mood. Good Night.
4:30 AM. 30 degrees and snow.
4:30 PM. We got about 3 inches of the white stuff today and we all thought that the contrast might make hunting a bit easier; harder for those tree-munchers to sneak against the contrast of the snow. We all came-in for breakfast after 10 AM without seeing hide nor hair of a whitetail. Things were quiet with only a couple of distant gun shots heard. This has been some slow hunting. Kind of like watching paint dry. I did see several flocks of these little fellas. They've arrived from further reaches to the north to winter here. Wisconsin winters for them must be like Florida winters to people. Anyway, they're fun to observe searching for seeds because they do it with both of their feet scratching simultaneously.
A word about tree stands and snow. It scares the crap out of me. Clunky boots, bulky clothing, rifle, pack, gloves - a wonderful combination for a slip and fall to the ground. It's a pain to haul your stuff up on the end of a parachute cord but safer. Same for climbing in and out - three out of four limbs in contact at all times.
The boys cleaned the place and we butchered, packaged and froze my deer. They've left and I'm puttering about doing laundry. Ordinarily I'd have gone out and sat for the last couple of hours of daylight; but truthfully I'm pooped. I'm also beginning to feel a bit lonely. Funny how that sensation materializes so quickly.
After chores tomorrow I'll head back to Tosa to attend to some day job stuff then return with my darling wife and Girlfriend. Guests too for Thanksgiving. It should be fun.
3 PM. Back in good ol' Tosa - albeit temporarily. I afforded myself the decadent pleasure of sleeping-in until 7 AM. It was great. On the drive home today I observed an interesting roadside curiosity. A survey crew was working in a field along a county highway with transit, a GPS device on the end of a stick and the other usual contraptions. They were all dressed in their blaze-orange bibs, coats and hats (a good idea during gun deer season). They all also happened to have their back tags on.
So here's the $1000 question - did they have guns in the back of their crew cab pick-up in case a deer popped into view?
7 PM. Back to the hunt. It was a quiet afternoon - only one neighbor hunting along with me and it stinks. Really. The farmer across the road has been spraying liquid manure on a freshly plowed 80 acre field. This would not be the time to be hanging laundry out to dry. Whew! Anyway, no deer and no shooting and aside from the obviously pungent atmosphere it was an altogether fine afternoon. No need for scent control.
When you sit outdoors by yourself on a sunny 32 degree winter afternoon you have plenty of time to think. I spent most of my afternoon thinking about the Budget and Finance Committee meeting of last night. Jill and I both attended. Jill is a member of the Parks and Forestry Board and I am a simple citizen. We both share a serious interest in the future of Hart Park. I thought the comments by Alders Ewerdt, Purins, Krol and Maher (Committee Chair) were thoughtful and insightful. Donegan's email too. Anyway, thanks to those committee members that voted for the motion to proceed with the demolition and rebuilding of the athletic fields at the park. Speaking for myself I want this investment in Tosan's quality of life to move forward. On to the full Council.
The mayor and I had a nice chat. A sense of humor the mayor has. Really. But I digress.
More hunting tomorrow. Family visiting too. The critter that left this sign is on the menu.
11 AM. The house is beginning to fill with all sorts of wonderful smells. Baked squash to make squash casserole. In my view what is likely the world's best pumpkin pie. From the Moosewood Cookbook - Mollie Katzen's No-Fault Pumpkin Pie. I grew Connecticut field pumpkins in the garden this year. I like to take what I call the eater size gourds - 9 to 10 inches in size - slice them in halves, scoop-out the seeds and bake them face down on a cookie sheet until they soften and collapse. Scoop-out the cooked flesh and puree in a food processor. Freeze in pie-size amounts.
Most of today's dinner came from the garden - squash, pumpkin, potatoes, corn and green beans. The centerpiece is wild turkey - about as organic and free-range as it comes.
Our neighbor's son-in-law just stopped by to ask if they could trail a deer that wandered over the line fence. Hunting's been slow for them too.
6:30 PM. Wow. The smells of good food cooking! Family, a fire in the wood burner and dogs under foot. What fun. I have much to be thankful for. There's the obvious stuff like a career that affords me all kinds of flexibility in my schedule. Good health. There is the great state I live in that is part of a great country. But most of all it is the company of friends and the love amongst family that I am thankful and grateful for.
I'm also thankful for the bounty of nature that seems to come my way.
Once again this afternoon I recited my silent prayer of thanks.
There is a doe hanging in the machine shed.
5:30 PM. I did not hunt today. Our guests departed late morning, Jill went to town to pick-up a tractor part and brave the holiday shoppers. I assumed my alter ego - Tom the Butcher. That's like Joe the Plumber only I have this fantasy of having a snarky conversation with some lame politician while stropping a very sharp knife really close to his liar nose. Anyway, I butchered my deer today. That makes three for the year so far.
I'm really picky when it comes to butchering which is why I couldn't do it for a living. I'm just too darn slow. Nonetheless, others like my style because I'm one of the few people who can skin a deer and not get hair all over everything. There is nothing worse than deer hair in your steaks or chops. I'm also meticulous about trimming every last vestige of silver skin and fat from my meat. That's the stuff that imparts a gamey flavor to venison.
The other way to make your venison taste bad is to cook it wrong. Here's the deal. Grill or sear it to medium rare. Do it fast on an exceedingly hot grill or skillet. This method is suited to steaks and chops and the better cuts of meat. Otherwise cook it low and slow and very long until if falls apart at the touch of a fork. Roasts in something like a crock pot are excellent. Anything in between is guaranteed to be tough and not taste very good at all.
Some of the tougher cuts that come from the shoulders and hocks are really suited to grinding into hamburger. If you do that be sure to add no less than 10% pork to the grinds so as to give the burger some fat for binding.
Some other tips. After field dressing your kill get it cooled-down as quickly as possible. For an early season bow kill I'm often stuffing the body cavity with bagged ice. Also, do not split the pelvis. Doing so exposes the hams to the air and possible contamination. I see deer at the registration station in this condition all the time and it makes me nuts. There's no good reason to do this so what's the point. Leave all the hide intact until you're ready to skin the animal. If you hang your deer hang it from the hind legs. All the better cuts are in the hind quarters and you want those elevated above the animal's shoulders.
If any of you readers are carnivores be careful not to drool all over your keyboard. This stuff is better than any fatty, feed lot raised, antibiotic-infused dead cow from the grocery store.
Venison kabobs tonight on the Smokey Joe.
5:45 PM. I completed everything on my list today. Made a trip to the town dump with a couple of barrels of recyclables, post office, grocery store, smoked a batch of pheasants (very popular during the upcoming holidays), scrubbed my cutting board and deer tarp, disposed of the deer carcass and sat for a couple of hours until dark in hopes of adding another deer to the tally.
Did you know that a small town dump is probably the best possible source of local information? Think about it - a small town. It is difficult to keep a secret in a small town. Everyone has to go to the dump. Aside from a place to dispose of garbage, recyclables and old appliances the dump is also a giant repository of secrets and information - both useful and otherwise. Jill routinely asks me what I learned whenever I return. Today all the talk was about how lousy the hunting has been. Seems everyone was grousing about earn-a-buck rules or grumbling about not seeing deer. Our total for the year is only three deer - about half of what we usually kill by this time. But I've seen plenty of deer and have countless pictures of gangs of them from the trail camera. Plus there's still more hunting opportunities remaining between now and early January. So maybe these guys are sleeping in their stands or not spending enough time in the woods.
I have mixed feelings about deer numbers. On one hand they're magnificent creatures and absolutely fun to watch in the wild. On the other hand as a tree farmer I am constantly reminded of their impact when I see the damage they cause to young trees. Visualize thousands of ten year old soft maples - knee high and sporting about three dozen branches. Maple bushes I call them. They grow fast - but not until you can get one above the browse height of a whitetail.
As further evidence of my theory about the dump being a veritable trove of information the local paper today said that deer registrations for opening weekend were off by 27% percent compared to last year. So it will be interesting to see the final numbers after the DNR counts all the registrations after the seasons close.
Anyway, seeing as it's the season to be thankful for all things there is a deer in the woods tonight with much to be thankful for. I doubt he has any personal knowledge of this fact. I had him in my crosshairs for about a minute with fifteen minutes of daylight left. A nubbin buck. I let him walk. This old hunter is such a soft touch. Sheesh.
6:30 PM. Last day of camp. Woke-up to a sky the color of slate and the winds have picked-up. This morning the weather guessers forecast bad weather. A good day for soup. So I located my largest stockpot and commenced to reduce the remnants of the Thanksgiving bird to soup stock. Following that I fired-up the ATV and we fetched a bow blind, a stool from a deer stand and a Christmas tree.
The weather grew progressively worse. About the time the Packers took the lead it was blowing like a gale and the snow made visibility close to nothing. The weather guessers are calling this Winter Storm Andrew. With the wind howling I figured any self-respecting deer would be hunkering down. I stayed in and hunkered down to watch the Packers lose their game and started putting my stuff away.
Two cartridges expended resulting in two deer. A few comments about the business end of taking a deer with a firearm.
This season I hunted exclusively with my Browning A-Bolt - chambered for a 7mm Remington Magnum round. I call it The Thunder Stick. When fired the grass will lay flat and everyone knows that Tom got a deer. The rifle is largely made of stainless steel with a composite stock. It's ideally suited to hunting in foul conditions. It is also equipped with a BOSS (a muzzle brake) that allows you to fine-tune the barrel harmonics to the rounds you are using. The result is really tight shot groupings. The BOSS significantly reduces the walloping recoil of the magnum load. The rifle is topped with a Leupold 6.5X20 scope with a 300 yard zero.
Each round in the rifle is tipped with a 150 gr. Swift Scirocco boat tail Spitzer bullet. With a muzzle velocity of about 3100 fps it imparts about 3200 ft/lbs of energy. Using a bonded bullet results in complete expansion upon impact along with retention of most of the bullet's weight. Here is the bullet I recovered from the deer I shot last Sunday-
Tonight I will lovingly clean my rifle of every last molecule of copper fouling, I'll anoint the bore and moving parts with a light coating of gun oil and then lock it in the safe with its brethren. Treat your weapon well and it will serve you faithfully for your entire life. Handle it with careful respect and understand its capabilities.
As for the soup the yield on an adult wild turkey is impressive. I could probably serve my small collection of readers and still have leftovers. We've been eating leftovers for days. Turkey sandwiches. Turkey with gravy. I have a vision of turkey salad when I get back to Tosa. After cooking the stock for most of the day remove all of the bones and save any remaining meat. Add a chopped sweet onion along with a big pile of cut carrots and celery. Salt to taste. Simmer. Twenty minutes before serving add all the meat and a package of noodles. These are best. Top with chopped parsley. Now I have a humongous batch of leftover soup.