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Category: Hunt & Fish

Hunting and fishing are important parts of adding meat to our diet. We hunt for turkey, ruffed grouse (partridge), black bear, deer, and hopefully a moose soon. We also hunt predators to help our small deer herd.

We fish mostly for bass but perch, salmon and trout are also favorites on our plates.

Deer Hunting Season Ends – wins and losses

Deer Hunting Season Ends – wins and losses

Deer Hunting Season

Deer hunting season is over for me. It’s my least favorite, least productive hunting season. I get cold easily, though this year it was unusually warm for the first four weeks and I wasn’t cold until the end. There aren’t a lot of deer around so we can shoot only bucks. I hunted almost every day and saw one buck right here on our land. I heard him crunch dry leaves and snap a branch on his way to an apple tree behind my right shoulder. Big bodied and four points, one of three bucks we have pictures of on the game cameras. He ate the apples on the ground and walked away from me. I watched his antlers over raspberry bushes and then his wide rump disappear into the woods. He had no interest in my bleats. His ears didn’t even twitch.

Food Plot

Steve built a food plot in the spring. I cut down a few trees but he really did all the work. He built it and they came. A ten point and two four point bucks, a lone doe, a doe with one fawn, and a doe with twins. Last year we had two bucks, the lone doe and a doe with one fawn. Progress. The ten point disappeared after being on the camera at the end of the second week of deer hunting season. Neighbors a quarter-mile down the road have a doe with quadruplets at their apple tree on a regular basis, and they’ve put mineral blocks out for them. They look great, strong and healthy. Seven fawns in a quarter-mile section of road. That’s encouraging. With our food plot and their mineral blocks and a major decrease in logging in the area for an extended period of time, our deer herd has some time to increase.

Decreased Logging

The major land owner that won’t be logging in the near future has blocked access to side roads. They’ve lined boulders up across the roads’ entrances and dug up culverts. When there weren’t culverts or boulders they dumped large piles of gravel or dug out the road. The number of heater hunters (they drive the back roads and don’t get out of the warm truck until they see a deer) dropped drastically. The folks who got out and walked harvested some big bucks. We saw a ten point with a drop tine being registered at Waite General Store. Five years from now we should see more and bigger deer. It’s encouraging.

Wins and Losses

Neither of us harvested a deer so that’s a loss. The wins for the deer and their habitat are huge and far outweigh venison in the freezer. Winter is here with single digit temperatures and a little snow here. Five miles from here the ground is still bare. Another easy winter seems unlikely but an average winter will be just fine. Survival of the fittest keeps the wildlife healthiest. deer hunting season, splay
deer hunting season, 10 point buck
deer hunting season, doe with twin fawns
deer hunting season, doe and twins
four point buck, low antlers, deer hunting season,
deer hunting season, four point buck, high antlers

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Harvesting a Black Bear

Harvesting a Black Bear

Harvesting a black bear

It was a long bear season. I spent 60 hours at two sites, in a tree stand and two ground blinds. Steve spent at least that much time baiting; he did the majority of the work while I literally sat on my butt most of the time. It paid off in harvesting a black bear on September 16. (A plugin is acting up with photos.)

There were days I had to dig deep to stay seated while it poured. None of the downpours lasted more than an hour but still, I despise sitting in the rain. “How bad do you want it,” I asked myself. My Prois hunting apparel kept me warm and dry. If it weren’t for that gear I’d have been back in the truck and heading home in the first few minutes. When I took this pic I’d lost a battle with the rain. Sit and wait it out or walk the half mile to the truck in the down pour. I chose the walk. It stopped raining before I got there so I went back to the tree stand.

harvesting a black bear, Prois

Behind the Bait Barrel

harvesting a black bear, ground blind
harvesting a black bear, bear hunting, MaineThe light on my phone was flashing so I picked it up to see who’d left a message. It was Tammy; there was a huge bull moose headed her way. I looked up in time to see a glimpse of Three following the trail behind the barrel. I pushed my Browning .308 BAR’s safety off and lifted the rifle off my lap. “Bear” I texted to Steve. She disappeared to the right of the barrel. I knew where she’d come into the site – on the right, about three feet in front of the barrel. I waited. Thirty seconds passed. A minute. Ninety seconds. Where did she go? Two minutes. Was she simply passing through?

I lifted the rifle up and pulled it snugly into my clavicle in anticipation of harvesting a black bear.

She stepped into the edge of the shooting lane exactly where I expected her. I study game camera pictures like an over-achieving high school senior studies for the SAT. Where does each bear come in? What direction does it go as it’s leaving? Does it ever stand sideways to give me a broadside shot? I knew where she’d come in because it’s the same spot she used each time she appeared this week.

Over in a flash

The bear walked six feet into the shooting lane, stood in front of the barrel as I knew she would, and looked up the lane at the ground blind. I wasn’t expecting that; she typically looked at the camera, probably because she heard the click as it snapped each picture. One. Two. Three. She turned her head to look straight ahead. Squeezing the trigger slowly and firmly, pulse normal, breathing normal, no excitement at all. I was the most confident I’ve ever been while hunting.

She went down hard and fast, landing on her left side. It wasn’t an instant death but it didn’t take long.

She started to get up so I took aim and squeezed the trigger again, this time seeing the flames fly from the barrel. I hit her the second time, squarely, and she rolled to the left. “Bear down,” was the second text to Steve, this time at 6:29 pm. From start to finish it took less than three minutes to kill the bear. The first shot, through both lungs, would have been enough but I didn’t want a repeat of my 2014 bear. I didn’t want to look for this bear for hours, spend the night tossing and turning, and wondering if it was still suffering. No suffering. Death should be swift.

I waited and listened, hoping to hear it to be sure she was dead but the death moan didn’t come. I stood, took the safety off again and walked to the right. Death throes are hard to watch no matter how many times I’ve seen it happen. This is the first time I’d watched a bear die. I walked 15 feet to the left and looked through the red pines. She was in the dip but I could see her well enough. No movement, she wasn’t breathing now, but no death moan. I returned to the blind and called Steve. “It’s already dead.”

harvesting a black bear, black bear hunting, bear hunting, bait barrel
harvesting a black bear, Robin Follette, Prois, bear hunting
harvesting a black bear, bear in pickup
Black bears are known as the black ghost of the woods. Heavily furred and padded feet keep their footsteps quiet and their prints minimal unless they’re in mud. You might hear branches snap as they break under the bear’s weight or rotting stumps and logs giving way to their long claws, but you’re unlikely to hear footsteps.
black bear foot,

Confident choice in a small bear

I wanted to harvest Chubby. He’s been a challenge from the start. He came in at 9:30 pm and then sometimes, though not usually, later during the night. On Thursday night he was there at 8:15 pm. I studied the game cam pictures to find out more about the small bear from the night before.  I had four hunting days left. Hunting on Thursday night was out of the question in case I made a shot but had to go back in the morning to get the bear. I’d be on a plane to Texas in the morning.

If a small bear and a big bear walked in together and stood broadside I would most definitely shoot the big bear to harvest more meat. But do I refuse a bear that will feed and nourish myself and family because it’s not a “trophy” animal? Hell no. Maine’s bear population is too high. My bait site has been visited by ten bears. That’s far too many bears in a small area right outside town.

Small bears are tender, especially when death is swift. I had no hesitation at all. No regrets. She provided 36 meals.

No High Fives

I took down the bear in three minutes but there was nothing to celebrate. There were no high fives, whooping or hollering, or anything else when Steve, Peter and Chris arrived. Harvesting a black bear is a huge thing and I’m proud of our work but killing wasn’t something I could celebrate that way.

Sitting with the bear’s head at my knee, I stroked her fur. “Thank you, bear. Thank you for feeding us. I prayed before I left the house today for a swift death for you and that’s what you got.” She walked 15 feet and was dead in 60 seconds. I had more to say but that’s between me and the bear.

Have you heard the saying “don’t shoot anything on closing day that you wouldn’t shoot on opening day?” Hogwash. That lumps all animals and situations into one inconvenient package. I hunt to put meat on the table. I have a big buck, larger bear and big turkey mounts on the walls. And I have a small bear that’s going to be delicious. I’ll never shoot an animal I am ashamed of because of its size. Goodness knows I love to talk about hunting. If I were too ashamed to tell everyone then I’d implode and that’s just too messy.

We worked hard and long for this bear. Better a small bear close to the end of the season than no bear when all is said and done. That’s not a blanket statement about harvesting a black bear that will fit all situations. It’s what works for me. I am grateful for this meat, food on the table and an opportunity to share recipes with you.

Thanks to Tana at Floyd Family Homestead for inviting me to join this week’s blog hop!

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Bear Bait Barrel

Bear Bait Barrel

How to Make a Bear Bait Barrel

Making a bear bait barrel isn’t difficult. I’m using an old plastic barrel the girls had for barrel racing their horses and pony. Steve cut a hole in it with the chainsaw. The size of the hole isn’t particularly important to me. I’ve seen large holes bears can stick their heads into and small holes they have to reach into with a paw. One doesn’t seem to work any better than the other.

bear bait barrel, how to makeThe hole should be large enough for a bear to reach in and grab bait.

You need two holes in the back of the barrel. I watched two seven and a half month old cubs work together to turn a barrel on its side so they could get in easily. It took them less than 60 seconds to accomplish the job so we place the holes at the top third of the bear bait barrel. The barrel should be chained or otherwise attached to and anchor the bears can’t drag away such as large trees or stumps. Run the chain through the holes, around your anchor and secure the chain tightly using a padlock.

bear bait barrel, logs

Securing Your Bear Bait Barrel

We chain our bear bait barrel to tall stumps or strong trees to keep the bears from rolling them away. Keep the chain tight enough to keep it from moving away from the tree. If you use a five gallon bucket as a bait barrel you can drill holes on two sides and run the chain through the bucket. Don’t reply on the handle, it’ll make the raccoons laugh as they roll your bucket into the woods.

Bears will approach the barrel, sniff around, and then take time pulling the logs out. Logs give extra time to assess the bear. Is it a shooter? Is it a sow with cubs that will come tumbling in behind her? When my adrenaline rush settles in two minutes will the bear really be as big as it seemed when it first cautiously approached the barrel? Judge the size of the bear compared to the size of the barrel.

On The Fire – The Big Wild Radio Show

On The Fire – The Big Wild Radio Show

On The Fire

Exciting news! The first segment for my new gig as co-host of On The Fire, part of The Big Wild Radio Show airs this weekend. Gundy, my co-host, has been on the air for ten years. It’s exciting to be part of a well established show. It airs on 19 stations in eight mid-western states. We’ll be making my introduction, talking a little about what I do as an outdoorswoman, and about cooking bear meat.

Want to know about Cooking Bear Meat or need a recipe for Bear Stew? Swedish Moose Meatballs sound good? (delicious!) Pesto bread, Blueberry Rhubarb Crumble and more recipes are in the blog already.
foraging wild foods, chanterelle mushrooms, sautee, On The FireI’ll add recipes we talk about in On The Fire to the blog on the Saturday the segment first airs. You’ll see a new recipe format that creates a grocery list and menu and makes printing everything simple. Look for On The Fire tags to connect those recipes. I’m going to try something new with this software. You’ll be able to contribute your recipes if you’d like to, and I’ll link to your blog or social media.

Bears! So Many Bears! – Bear Hunting 2016

Bears! So Many Bears! – Bear Hunting 2016

Bears! So many bears!

There are so many bears on Bait 2 this year that it’s a little overwhelming. We have more bears at that site already this year than three sites combined in 2015. I name and study the bears for the same reason I name the livestock we eat – to keep them straight in my mind. I’m going to call them something. “The smallest bear” can change when a smaller bear shows up. The current smallest bear is Patches because he has patches of fur missing.

If you missed why we need to bait bears in Maine you can read the first entry for the bear hunting season.

Note: Brain cramps caused me to set the camera dates off by a month. When the date shows up as July it’s really August unless I’ve edited the photo.

Bait 1

Site 1, large black bear

The sow and cub that visited in the first few days haven’t been back. There’s only one bear at the barrel now and she’s there every night but seldom, once if I remember correctly, during legal shooting time. She’s my first choice for two reasons. She’ll put a lot of meat in the freezer, and because, as you’ve noticed, I refer to the bear as “she.” I’m reasonably sure this is a sow and think it’s the bear I wanted when I took a much smaller bear in 2014. Taking her is a management choice that will help with population control. Nuisance bears have been trapped nearby and relocated. I call this bear Tail because when she’s standing up her tail sticks out further than normal. It’s unlikely she’ll change her habits from night to day. I don’t expect to harvest this bear.

many bears, black bear, big bear

Site 2

It started with Dibs and eight bears later, nine have been to the site in the first three weeks of baiting. They don’t all come back. Dibs hasn’t been around in close to two weeks. Patches and Chubby are there nightly and sometimes during legal shooting time. Smarty and Pima (pain in my ass) are there two or three times a week. You can bring them food but you can’t make them eat. And eat they do. I picked up a 50 gallon drum of mixed nuts yesterday because there are so many more bears than prior years we were caught unprepared.

Flagging shows us the bears’ height. This is Patches.

many bears, bear hunting in Maine, bear baiting

Chubby, for obvious reason.

many bears, chubby bear

Smarty is long and lanky. He looks like Pima but is a bit heavier and has a wider head.

many bears, bear hunting season, black bear, bait 2

Pima

many bears, bear hunting, bear baiting

Instinct and gut feelings are tools we use to keep ourselves safe. I got the creeps one afternoon as I approached the blind. Something wasn’t right. It felt similar to knowing you’re being watched. Steve tended the barrel while I switched cards in the camera, and then I did some investigating but couldn’t turn up anything reliable. Reasonably sure a bear was walking too close to the blind, we put up a camera. I was right.

That’s Pima walking down the trail about a foot from where I planned to sit behind the blind, and in the feature photo for this entry. (Note: different camera, date is correct.) This bear is a pain in my ass because it walks a foot from where I planned to sit behind the blind. I prefer ground blinds over tree stands even when bear hunting. We have a stack of softwood trees as a blind.

All was well and good until Pima showed up, crossing the road behind the site, following the trail we use to get to the barrel, and brushing up against the end of the blind as she passed. We did a little work to discourage it from following the trail. I dragged a fallen tree into the way, added softwood branches as obstacles and other work to encourage this bear to go out and around the blind. It went out alright but swung a hard right and walked parallel to the blind. In the picture above it’s about a foot from where I planned to sit. We put a tree stand up the next day.

Pima and Smarty are the largest bears at 2. Smarty is a little taller than Pima, and Pima’s head is narrower.

Where to Sit on Opening Day

My best chance at harvesting a bear as of today is at this site. Everything can change quickly. Dogs ruined another hunter’s site. As of now, every bear at 2 is large enough to harvest. I’m guesstimating Patches at around 125 pounds and Pima and Smarty are probably around 225 pounds. Don’t hold me to these weights, they’re guesstimates.

What Are the Bears Eating?

Their weight will continue to increase rapidly as they feast on huge amounts of raspberries, blackberries, sarsaparilla, apples and other wild foods as well as the three or four gallons of food we bring them almost daily. There are so many bears sharing the food we bring, as well as skunks and raccoons that are also eating, that it isn’t making a huge difference in how much weight they gain.
bear scat, many bears, what do bears eatScat (poop) tells us what they’re eating and it’s almost completely berries right now. The scat is full of raspberry and blackberry seeds. This bear ate raspberries, blackberries and sarsaparilla. It caught my attention because it looks like it should glow in the dark thanks to sarsaparilla.

So here we are, three weeks into baiting and one week from opening day. Two bears do show up at 2 during legal time, and I’ll most likely take the first one I see.

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Bear Hunting Season 2016 – work begins

Bear Hunting Season 2016 – work begins

Bear Hunting Season 2016

Bear hunting season, my favorite of all the seasons we use to put meat on the table, has started. This isn’t going to become a hunting blog anymore than it’s solely a gardening blog, fishing blog or foraging blog. Hunting is one of the first methods homesteaders used to put meat on the table way back when. It isn’t nearly as common for modern-day homesteaders to hunt but some of us still do. I promise, this won’t become unbalanced overall.

Hunting opens August 29 but the work began a week ago. We set up three bait sites on July 30. Bait 1 is in its third year and is the bait where I harvested my first and only bear. The game camera dates are off by a month due to a temporary brain cramp I haven’t adjusted. On August 1 a sow and cub came in early in the morning. The sow came first and was followed two and a half minutes later by a cub.

Can you even eat bear meat?

You can! Bear meat is similar to 100% pastured beef but a little darker and more flavorful. When harvested, field dressed and butchered well the meat isn’t gamey. Bear Stew and Bear Chops are a couple of our favorite dishes.

Is this Fair Chase?

Is baiting bears fair chase? Fair question. There isn’t any spot and stalk involved in baiting when it comes to deer or bear, the two most baited big game animals I’m familiar with. There isn’t any fair chase in this method. But is it necessary? Yes, here in Maine it is. Our bear population is too high, a problem for humans as well as the bears. Baiting produces more harvested bears than hounding, snaring and by-chance numbers combined. Biologists would like us to harvest 5,400 bears during bear hunting season but we’re harvesting less than 50%. We’re going to reach social carrying capacity soon.

Is Bear Baiting Necessary?

I’ve already answered the question. Did you recognize what I said? “The sow came first and was followed two and a half minutes later by a cub.” Maine is about 90% forested. Unless you’re in a new logging harvest or a plantation your view is harshly limited in distance. You can’t see the forest for the trees, literally. If a sow wanders through without a reason to stop and give me a good look at her, I might make a quick decision on her size and take her. It’s very hard to tell a sow from a boar. Bait gives hunters time to make an accurate assessment, and time for the cub(s) to show up. Sows with cubs are off limits for me and Steve. It’s not illegal to harvest either but for us it’s a choice we’ve made based on our personal ethics.

Bear baiting is oddly questioned often but baiting deer is common in many states (not in Maine) and nobody bats an eye. It’s really not that different than putting food in a trough in front of cows, pigs and chickens. Livestock has no choice.  The difference? Bears can walk away, and I’ll show you that in a moment.

The bears weren’t the first out to breakfast.
skunk, bear baiting, fair chase, maine bear hunt
black bear sow, bear baiting, bear hunting season
bear hunting season, sow's head
bear hunting season, bait 1

These bears walked away without eating from the barrel. They have a choice.

What’s This?

This critter wandered through. It’s not a bear, raccoon, skunk, hare or porcupine. Beaver? What do you think? This is the only picture on the camera.

bear hunting season, unidentified animal

Over on bait 2, things are hopping. This is the second year at this site. We moved the barrel about 100 feet because a bear knew I was sitting behind the blind last year. It showed up on the camera five to 15 minutes after I left every evening it came to the site. I need a better place to sit this year.
bear hunting season, snowshoe hareI named this bear Dibs, as in “I call dibs!” The names I give bears during the season help me keep them straight when I’m talking about them and probably will you too. Dibs showed up on July 3 and stayed only a minute before he left. He didn’t approach the bait.
bear hunting season, first bear at bait

Note the logs in the barrel. They haven’t been moved. Dibs came back on August 3.  You can offer up bait but you can’t make them eat. There are a lot of raspberries right now and the blackberries are going to be the biggest crop I’ve seen in 32 years (I remember because I was hugely pregnant while picking).
bear hunting season, bait site 2, Maine
This time Dibs is hungry and figures out how to get to the food, but he scares himself (herself? I don’t know.) when he tips over the barrel. He came back two minutes later. He’s tipped it over two more times and reacted the same way.
bear hunting season, dibs spills the barrel

We’re off to a good start this bear hunting season. Site 3 will be a separate entry. There’s a bear I’d like to harvest at bait 2 but a lot can happen in the three weeks until the hunting season opens. He might disappear or more bears might appear, like last year’s bear.

Last Year’s Bear

Last year’s bear has entered this year’s bear hunting season. He came in late at night on August 5 and again very early on the sixth. This is Smarty. I had to pull up last year’s pictures to make comparisons to be sure it’s him. This clearly is a boar as evidenced by the anatomy on some of the pictures. There are pictures of him clacking his teeth at whatever it is he’s looking at in this photo. He continued to look in that direction between bites. There was probably another bear nearby.
bear hunting season, black bear, bait 2
One more thing. I know this is long. Thanks for sticking with me. Note the times on the pics below. When I went back today I beeped the horn as I pulled up and repeated “hey bear” as I walked through the woods. Dibs came back 90 minutes after we left and spent a while sniffing around to figure out what scared him before he went to the barrel.

(Ѝâ@½è‡

bear hunting season, steve on cameraIf this wasn’t already too long I’d show you great pics of a bear sleeping and a skunk… It’s bear hunting season, lots to talk about. I’m sure they’ll pop into a post soon.

The next update tells you about some of the many bears coming to Site 2.

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Clean Trout in 15 Seconds or Less

Clean Trout in 15 Seconds or Less

Clean Trout in 15 Seconds or Less

Uncle Harold came knocking with four brook trout, commonly called brookies, for me Monday morning. He left with a dozen duck eggs and we’re both happy with our exchange. You can clean trout in 15 seconds or less once you get the hang of it. I think brookies are the easiest fish there are to clean.

How to Clean a Brook Trout

You might or might not need a cutting board. I use one to make clean up easier but I don’t actually make any cuts on the board. It’s easier to put the board through the dishwasher than clean the fishy smell out of the counter.

Start with a small sharp knife. I used a four inch paring knife. Hold the trout in one hand. Please excuse my fingernails, this wasn’t the first trout I cleaned this morning, and we’ll leave it at that. I don’t rinse the fish before I clean them because it will make them slippery.

Clean trout, how to clean trout, brook trout belly

Start cutting at the anus (yes, I know…but it’s fine, you can do it). This will take a little pressure even with a sharp knife. Expect to use very little pressure. The tip of the knife indicates the starting point. Make the cut all the way to the top of the body cavity.

clean trout, how to clean trout, brookie Slice up the belly with only the tip of the knife, all the way up to the gills. The knife will slide through like it’s cutting almost room temperature butter. This isn’t messy.
clean trout, salmon, cut here
clean trout, fish intestinesYou’re going to make two cuts, one at the top and one at the bottom. You can slide your fingers under the guts to pick them up.

clean trout, cut here
clean trout, slide fingers under, brook trout, how to clean a trout
Make the second cut at the end of the digestive tract, slide your fingers under everything inside, and pull out. There will be little resistance. Wash the body cavity under cold running water. You’re done. clean trout, fish guts

That’s it. That’s how to clean trout in 15 seconds or less.

First Fly Rod Catch – Confession Time

First Fly Rod Catch – Confession Time

My First Fly Rod Catch

chub, eagle lake, Maine, fly fishing, green wooly bugger, first fly rod catchI started fly fishing three summers ago. For the most part I’ve had to figure it out on my own. I spent a couple of hours with a guide the first time I fished in Grand Lake Stream, and Steve gives me pointers from his limited knowledge. Steve has more fly fishing experience than I do thanks to fishing with guides on the Restigouche River in New Brunswick, Canada. I’ve been eager to make my first fly rod catch. Eager. Working hard. Staying in the water until I realize I probably got cold an hour earlier and didn’t notice. I’ve been putting in my time in hopes of landing a landlocked salmon in Grand Lake Stream or a brookie or salmon in several lakes and small streams.

Confession time. I had my first fly rod catch the first year I fly fished. The first year, and if I remember right it was the second or third time I fished. I thought it was a brook trout until I landed the fish and found a small chub on my fly. I dismissed the experience because it wasn’t a “worthy” fish, and I told few people. When I did tell someone I was sheepish, shrugged my shoulders, and practically apologized.

Fast forward two years. Two years of maturity and growth as an outdoorswoman. Two years of depth as an outdoorswoman. Steve and I have been on vacation at Fish River Lodge in Eagle Lake. We fly fished in Fish River Saturday morning and Steve caught fish. I brought three salmon into sight as they followed my lure but I could not for the life of me figure out how to make them bite. Wrong fly? Wrong movement? Why can I not catch a “real” fish on my fly rod when I can land a lure on a bass’s nose and bring it to the boat over and over and over and over again? I’m frustrated.

first fly rod catch, seasonal stream, eagle lakeWhile trolling for salmon on Saturday I heard a temporary stream rushing into the lake. That’s typically a great place to catch brookies if they’re in a lake. Steve circled back so I could make a couple of casts with my fly rod. tug tug I tugged back to set the hook and reeled in my catch. Another chub. first fly rod catch

Another chub. “Attitude, Rob. Check your attitude,” I told myself.

“It’s a chub,” Steve said.  “Just a chub,” I thought.

chub, fly fishing, green wooly buggerSee that chub? That fish there on the left? That’s my Wooly Bugger in its mouth. I caught that chub!

I caught my first fish on my fly rod two years ago. It wasn’t good enough so I dismissed it. Maturity, depth, understanding, education, knowledge – and you know what? A chub IS good enough. It’s not just a chub. I used the same skills to catch those chub that I used when I didn’t catch a “good” fish.

I’m learning to cast with a bit of accuracy. I seldom land the fly where I want it but I can probably get close. I can bring the fly to a salmon but I can’t make it rise to accept my offering. I’m developing muscle memory, and it’s pretty cool when I realize I’ve stopped thinking about every single action and am doing it naturally. I know mid-cast when I’ve made a mistake that’s going to cause the fly line to pile up on itself at the water’s surface. Everything I’ve learned so far applies to landlocked salmon, brookies and chubs. I’ve learned enough to know I have a lot to learn, and I probably don’t know enough to know how much I have to learn.

My first fish caught on my first fly rod should have been a trophy  regardless of its small size. It was a lesson. I don’t have to catch the “right” fish to be proud of my accomplishment. My second fish caught while fly fishing was a whopping 10 inches long. You can see how small it is by comparing the fish to the fly in its mouth. I didn’t take it off the hooks and hold it at arms length to fool you into thinking I’d caught something bigger than I did. This is my reality. If my fish are small or not “right” I will own it, just like I owned my small trophy bear and big trophy buck.

LOOK! I FREAKING CAUGHT ANOTHER FISH WITH MY FLY ROD! haha I’m learning!

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Pickled Venison Heart

Pickled Venison Heart

Pickled Venison Heart

Never did I imagine pickled venison heart would be the number one entry in the old blog. Number one. It has 50% more page views than the second place post. It’s one of the posts that must be moved here. Hunting is one of the methods used by homesteaders to provide meat. partnerships

I knew I wasn't going to like venison heart but I was determined to try it. Waste not, want not.Click To Tweet

Pickled Venison Heart Recipe – Cooking Wild Game

pickled-deer-heartI knew I wasn’t going to like venison heart but I was determined to try it. Waste not, want not. I’ve been looking at recipes. Pickled venison heart? mmm…no thanks. I love cooking wild game and seldom try anything I don’t like, but this might be the exception. I didn’t expect to like heart at all but the first recipe I tried today was fantastic.

Peter did an excellent job of cleaning the deer heart for me after also field dressing the deer for me. I didn’t have to do anything more than wash it again. I cooked three-quarters of it one way and a quarter has been pickled. Yes. Pickled. I did it.

Did you just crinkle up your nose? Ya…So did I. Pickled heart? I think I’m going to like it.

Pickled Venison Heart Recipe

The venison heart I pickled was sliced one-eighth inch thin. Simmer a few minutes in water. Remove from water and cool. (I saved the water to add to the dogs’ supper.) I used about a cup of heart so there will be only two jelly jars of pickled meat.

Put 1/2 cup of thinly sliced venison heart in each jelly jar.
Add:
1/2 tsp seasoned salt (I used Lowry’s)
1 tsp pickling spices
1 pinch of garlic powder or a dab of freshly chopped garlic

Mix a brine:
1 part water to 2 parts cider vinegar. If that seems strong to you, mix it 50/50%.

Fill the jars with brine to 1/4″ from the top and close snugly. jars and store in the refrigerator. I’ll try it in a week or so. I meant to put a little onion in but forgot. I’ll do that next time.

pickled venison heart, pickled deer heart, pickled heart

 

Fishing for Supper – bass and brookies

Fishing for Supper – bass and brookies

Fishing for Supper

I often say “hunting isn’t all about killing.” As well, fishing isn’t always about bringing home supper or even fishing. Both methods of putting supper on the table involve little killing. We were fishing for supper last weekend when we went to Pleasant Lake (the one off Rt 6) to fish for the first time. I’m a die hard bass girl. I grew up with a pole in my hand and catching mostly bass and white perch.

Pleasant Lake boat landing, fishing for supperFishing for supper was more about learning one shoreline of the lake. Boulders, sudden shallow water, a gorgeous and noisy outlet, a tiny stream that’s surely seasonal during melt and again after a heavy rain, and what might be biting where were our agenda that day. Catching fish was a bonus.

The dock belongs to someone who has their camper parked in the campground for the summer. It isn’t for public use.

fishing for supper, view from the boatWe took a slow ride out to the first point, trolling for salmon and togue, neither of which we caught. I’ve never seen a togue (big lake trout) and haven’t caught a salmon in years. I’m allergic to boredom so once the first inkling of “this is boring” popped into mind I was done. I started casting.

Steve turned off the motor while he changed lures. Whatever the salmon and togue wanted weren’t anything he was offering. I heard a splash and looked up to a big circle of ripples. What was that? Splash. Splash SPLASH splash. A feeding frenzy. Mayflies were hatching. I changed to a smaller lure, cast a few times, and figured out how to work the lure. The fish were rising for the mayflies but I had nothing small that floats. By keeping the tip of the rod up I was able to keep the lure a couple of inches beneath the surface and was rewarded with brook trout! HA! I love brookies! They have a soft mouth so the hook is easy to get out, they’re “hand sized” so I can wrap my hand around it if it’s a fish I’m going to keep, and have a good grip while I remove the hook, and they don’t have a big dorsal fin to avoid while holding them in your hand. Best of all, they’re delicious.

We’re told the best bass fishing is on the other side of the lake but what the heck. The water was 54° at six inches, colder below. Bass are a little sluggish now, not at all like July when they’re almost hitting anything you want to throw at them. They need a slower reel and sometimes a smaller bait. I thought I had one heck of a big brook trout on during the feeding frenzy but it was a small smallmouth bass, about 14″. It didn’t put up much fight. I wasn’t disappointed, remember I’m the bass lover, but I let him go. As far as bass go it was small and I hadn’t looked up the regulations for a minimum size bass in Pleasant Lake. Fishing for supper has its rules. The bass had no parasites that we could see, something that isn’t all that common around here. Had it been two or three inches longer it would have been coming home with us. I was going to change lures to something a little bigger when the brookies stopped but didn’t need to – still go the bass.

strong cup of coffee, erin merrillDuring a lull in catching I tried Steve’s fly rod. It’s a little too long for me and it’s heavier than mine. I didn’t get comfortable with it but I did learn a few things. Steve fly fishes for salmon on the Restigouche River in New Brunswick, Canada. They fish from huge canoes and have a guide. He’s had the benefit of working with a guide who can tell him what he’s doing right and wrong, and he passed that along to me. I know now that I’m still using my wrist too much, and more than once he reminded me to not use my whole arm. A man Taylor, Erin from and a strong cup of coffee, and I met in Grand Lake Stream approached me while I was working on my casting. “Would you like to learn how to catch a salmon,” he asked. “I’d just like to learn to cast well.” He gave me a great tip that helps me keep my elbow where it belongs. I hold my net between my hip and elbow for the first five or ten minutes as a reminder. Without the net I was immediately making that mistake. I’ll make it a habit to take my fly rod with me from now on. I’m still trying to land my first good fish (by good I mean not a chub… a story I don’t tell) on the fly rod.

brook trout, fishing for supper brook trout, fishing for supper ten inch brookie, fishing for supper smallmouth bass, pleasant lake, fishing for supper

fishing for supper, sun behind clouds, pleasant lakeThe pouty look I have when it’s time to leave the water. I don’t use photos of myself here very often and now that I have, it’s a pouty face. You’re welcome. The sun was sinking behind clouds, the fish stopped biting, and we had chores to do at home. It won’t be long til we’re back on the water, fishing for supper.

fishing for supper, robin follette