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Salvage Cooking when the Freezer Thaws

Gumbo incorporating salvaged ham and okra from freezer failure for a non-traditional Thanksgiving dish.

   All mechanical things will someday fail, and when your freezer gives out there are few alternatives. These are: A. Cook everything that is partly thawed, B. Take what’s still solidly frozen to a neighbour to put in his freezer, C. Hope you can find enough coolers and dry ice or D. Put it in safe storage outside if it is cold enough.

  Do not re-freeze items that are partly thawed.  You can put these in a refrigerator to cook over the next couple of days, but use quickly.

  It was Thanksgiving week, my sister was in the hospital recovering from a hip-replacement surgery, her children were down and  this was the instant that the freezer decided to expire. Fortunately, I eat down my freezer every year in preparation in for deer season and had some room. My brother-in-law also found a friend with a half-full freezer.

Making up three-sausage cabbage stuffing for a wild pig.

    When I arrived he was sorting things into a throw-away bag and a freezer chests. I took one chest and bag to re-sort at my house. Too far gone to re-freeze were some frozen pot pies, a package of Jimmy Dean sausage, pizza and an apple pie. These immediately went into the oven with the sausage being used along with two other varieties for a sausage-cabbage stuffed wild pig that I was planning for my Thanksgiving meal.

  There was also some mostly thawed ham slices, okra, strawberries, broccoli, beef meat paddies and cooked chicken strips. With the okra it looked to me like it was “gumbo time.” I cut one of the ham slices, added a package of Zataran’s Gumbo Mix that I had just purchased that afternoon, threw in a chopped onion, some bell pepper,  a can of stewed tomatoes and the package of okra. When these had cooked, I added a package of pre-cooked shrimp and made a better gumbo than I have ever had in New Orleans or anywhere else.

It is really poor when commercial "Ground Chuck" meat paddies contained so much fat so as to not even be fit for dog food.

   Some of the pizza was eaten and the remainder frozen, the pot pies were converted into dog food as was the thawed burger paddies that were too fat-rich for anything to eat.  These paddies were fried, a third of a cup of grease poured off,  and the remainder mixed with cut cabbage and  boiled. My dogs like their veggies, and the meaty-cabbage dish was instantly wolfed down.

A salvaged ham-vegetable dish dressed up with a little low-fat cheese.

  The extra ham was diced and boiled the next day. These slices were mixed with potatoes, broccoli, a portion of a bell pepper and some salt. These were boiled until done. I extracted most of the solids with a slotted spoon and put some cut cheese on the top and with broken-up crackers made into a mixed meat-vegetable dish.  The liquid with a few pieces of meat and vegetables made a fine soup.

  I kept a bit of what I cooked for myself and sent the remainder next door for my niece and nephew to feed on while they were here. This made for a non-traditional Thanksgiving and follow-up meal, but everything that had thawed got cooked and consumed by someone or something.

  If worse comes to worse, cook and throw a block party. If the object is still cold to the touch it is probably O.K., if cooked and consumed within a couple of days. If things are solidly frozen, these just need to be transferred to another freezer. All of the half-frozen stuff needs to be cooked. Be inventive and cook some new things. Under these circumstances you can do no wrong so long as you pay attention to food safety issues. If it is warm or smells, throw it away.

 For more wild-game recipes go to and http// and books Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound and Crossbow Hunting.

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Getting the Most from Your Deer

  The photo below is a disgusting image of a deer which has its back half skinned out, the rear legs and backstraps removed and the remainder of the deer left untouched. Not only this, but the carcass was left at a public Dumpster, despite a sign that no dead animals parts would be accepted.  This is unfortunately not the only such carcass that I have found nearby.

Even if you have never skinned a deer, you can do a better job than this.

    To me not taking as much as can be reasonably had of a deer disrespects the deer, hunting and hunters. Even a beginner who had never processed a deer, could have done a better job  than this. Although  the Georgia limit is 12 a year, that is no reason to waste this much meat.  Some states have strong laws against purposefully not utilizing the meat from game animals. Georgia is apparently not among them, and this may be because game meat spoils so quickly in 80 and 90 degree weather.  

  From this half of the deer, I would have taken the ribs, side meat on top of the ribs (for burger or fahitas), the neck for a neck roast (among the best parts of a deer) and salvaged the heart and liver. Others, more experienced than I could have used even more of the deer.

  This is a small deer, and I can appreciate that the shoulder would not yield nearly the meat found on the rear legs, but even this can be skinned off the bone,  wrapped with bacon and tied up as a roast or turned into burger meat.

  I work hard for my deer, and when I get one I am going to make better use of it than this. For cleaning instructions consult my books, Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound  and   Crossbow Hunting.    


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Can I Shoot a Deer? Post 2

Few hunters will have the opportunity to see, much less shoot, an elk of this size. However, whitetailed deer are found almost everywhere in the U.S.

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  A previous post discussed the need to harvest deer, and other game animals, to preserve healthy populations, the environment and to reduce vehicle-deer collisions.  This post addresses the question, “Can I take a beautiful creature’s life to feed upon its flesh?”

Few would object to shooting and consuming the rat-like nutria.

  There is a perverse illogic that says, “It is socially acceptable to kill ugly creatures and utalize them for food, but not attractive ones.”  So hunting and eating the rat-like nutria would be fine, but not beautiful animals like swan. I do both, and both eat very well.

  Humanely killing a wild animal for food, processing that animal yourself and serving it to your family has always been regarded as an activity that does honor both to the hunter and to the animal being hunted. My personal view of hunting is that this activity is not score keeping, not about who can shoot the beastie with the biggest horns but about the harvest and utalization of potential food on the hoof, foot or wing.

  This process takes a degree of skill, dedication, learning about the species being hunted, forming bonds with fellow hunters and the conservation community, finding out how to properly prepare and cook the products obtained as well as going through the mechanical steps of teachng yourself  how  to effectively use whatever hunting tool you select.

  Can you learn to do all of this by yourself? Yes, I was forced to because I lost my father at an early age. My book, Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound  is a good start for any beginning hunter as it covers every step of the process. It is always best to be taken hunting on these first trips by an experienced hunter. If you find people who hunt at work, in the unemployment line or elswhere, ask.  If you want to go, you can find someone to take you, or at least show you the processes.

  In many states it is now too late for a beginner to kill deer, because a hunter safety course must be taken before a big-game license may be purchased, but where it is allowed (or there is a state mentoring program),  participate in some small game seasons or at least go as an observer. Only after you personally go through the experience, can you truly answer the question, “Can I pull the trigger on a deer?”

Deer stew with a reminder on the table of how it was derived.

  If you are well practiced with your hunting instrument, confident that you can make a killing shot and know how you are going to process and cook the animal; the answer is much more likely to be, “Yes, I can.”

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Meals from Deer and Wild Game

A nearly all-deer meal with everything from salad to dessert containing deer meat

  “What can you cook with deer meat?”

  I am often asked this question by those whose experience with deer and wild game is frequently limited to an occasional package of deer meat given them by someone else. The short answer to this honest question is, “Any dish that contains meat.”

  Since I eat deer or wild game almost every day, I change my menu constantly. Within the past few weeks I have cooked the following: deer spaghetti sauce on whole-wheat spaghetti, deer roast, deer stew, deer chili, deer meat loaf, smoked- wild- hog- seasoned rutabagas, Italian sausage-seasoned eggplant, bar-b-qued deer ribs, smoked-wild-hog-seasoned string beans, deer burgers,  fried gar tenders, Dear Heart Soup (using deer heart, the recipe is in an earlier post) and wild hog liver and onions. 

  For the holidays, I will cook a whole roast wild pig with sausage-bread stuffing (from my Ossabaw Island hunt described in an earlier post) and may well do a baked carp for Christmas, unless I take a goose when the season comes back in later this month.

  Deer and game recipes are in my books, Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound and Crossbow Hunting.  My fish recipes for gar and carp cooking are in  Practical Bowfishing.   For more information on my books go to

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Hunger Figures Expand to 50,000,000 U.S. Families

This book can help those who are underemployed feed their families

  Since I started work on Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound, two years ago, hunger statistics for the U.S. have increased from 36 to 50 million families –  many of whom struggle to put even one meal on the table each day. These figures are co-increasing with unemployment which  now stands at about 15 million and is projected to rise even further over the next two years.  

  While my book will certainly not solve this problem, it can contribute to the solution by explaining, in a thorough manner, how to hunt, process, cook and eat some of the nation’s abundant deer and other wild game and even salvage road kills for human and pet use.

The rear cover outlines what readers should get out of the book

  If you wish to help alleviate this problem there are three things to do. First, call your librarian and suggest that local libraries stock this book. 

  Then at least those who might be inclined to hunt or utilize road kill will have access to good information. Secondly, you might give copies to this book to homeless shelters, reading rooms and other such organizations. Third. If you hunt, give one of your underemployed friends the book and offer to take him hunting. Several states have mentoring programs that allow people to try-out hunting before they take their hunter safety course.

  More information on the book may be found on my website, The book may be ordered by clicking on the link in the right hand column of this blog,  from, other web-based book sellers,  or from your local bookstore.

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A Man’s Gun for a Man’s Work

Guns like this aluminum-framed Mossberg 835 need some added butt and barrel weight to comfortably handle heavy waterfowl loads.

   Every since I started reading hunting articles in the late 1940s there has been a relentless trend on the part of gun scribes to write about and promote lighter and lighter-weight guns. Technology has allowed this trend to prosper to the point that some modern guns are so light as to be almost unshootable with the loads for which they are chambered.

  “Focus groups tell us that buyers want  lighter  guns, so that is what we make. If we make heavy guns, we can’t sell them.” This is what a representative of a major arms company told me at a recent Shot Show when they introduced a 7 1/2-pound pump shotgun chambered for the 3 1/2-inch  12-gauge shell.

Some barrel weight and set triggers helped make this off hand shot through the heart of an Italian boar.

  Smith and Wesson has also responded to this demand and produced aluminum-framed revolvers in 38 Special and used titanium alloys to make a very light-weight revolver in .44 Remington Magnum. I have always liked the short guns and carry, shoot and hunt with them. My favorite cartridge hunting handguns are Thompson/Center single-shots with 14-or so inches of barrel. This is a sweet-shooting pistol in .44 Magnum and almost any experienced pistol shooter can do good work with this gun.

  When short barrels and light weight are combined with things that generate recoil, hunting accuracy suffers. Off hand-shots become almost impossible to make at ranges beyond 30-yards unless these guns are shot from the bench or an improvised rest. Then, they can do good work, but without a rest your chances of making good hits are more luck than skill. In addition, much shooting with these guns is almost guaranteed to generate flinching.

The author's buffalo was taken with a Traditions 12-pound Traditions muzzleloading double rifle using 150 gr. of powder and a 530-gr. bullet.

  I doctor my aluminum-framed Mossberg 835 by adding lead shot and beeswax to the butt and a piece of steel reinforcing rod to the magazine to make this gun much more nearly shootable with waterfowl loads. With muzzleloaders I have done the same and replaced the aluminum ramrod with a steel rod that has been drilled and tapped to take the loading accessories. These are expedient solutions to enable a shooter to actually shoot hunting-weight loads with a degree of accuracy and comfort.

  If you are going to stand up on your hind legs and shoot like a man, you need a man’s gun with some barrel weight.  When in Africa I toted a 12-pound gun which was able to tame a 150-grain black-powder equivalent charge of powder pushing a 530-grain bullet that I used on Cape buffalo. Yesterday I was carrying a 1842 British .75-caliber musket that weighs 9 1/4-pounds. My chances of making effective hits on game out to 50 yards with this smooth-bore musket are actually better than if I were using an iron-sighted 6 1/2-pound modern  technological wonder in .30’06.

  For mountain hunting there is still need, and use, for very light-weight guns, but for those who only carry their guns a few hundred yards to their deer stand or duck blinds, heavier guns will allow better and more effective shooting from either rests or off-hand positions.

  For other tips on guns, crossbows and knives consult my book, Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound.  To find out more about it and my books on crossbows and bowfishing  go to my website,

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Taking on that Thanksgiving Goose


Roasted swan and dressing on a Christmas platter. A goose is cooked exactly the same way.

   Hubby got a goose did he? Now you are thinking about how you are going to cook it for Thanksgiving. I describe how to cook wild turkeys, geese and swan in my books, Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound and also in Crossbow Hunting.   I can’t go into as much detail as I did in my books, but here are the basics. 

    First, pluck and singe the goose with a fold of burning newspaper to take off the pin feathers. Then remove the insides, reserving the heart, liver and gizzard for giblet gravy. Split the gizzard remove the grit and lining and boil the giblets in a small pot until they are done. Set aside giblets to cool and boil one egg.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  Put the washed, clean goose  in a large pan lined with aluminum foil. Make the foil large enough to stick out over the sides of the pan, even if you have to crimp-fold two pieces. Rub salt into goose breast and legs and do the same with slightly softened butter. Put two sticks of celery inside the chest cavity along with a coarsely chopped Spanish onion. Add 2- cups of water to cover the bottom of the pan. Take another piece of foil and seal the top of the roasting pan with it.

 Place in oven and roast for one hour. The goose should start to emit good smells at this point. Taking care not to scald yourself with the steam take out of oven and remove a rear corner of the foil. Attempt to wiggle a leg. If the leg does not move, add additional water if necessary and cook for another half hour. Test again. At this stage the leg should move, but not feel like you could pull it from the carcass.  The desired cooking stage is when you can pull the leg away from the remainder of the goose. Then the breast meat will be done, moist and tender.

  Take up the goose using a large metal spoon to lift it from the pan and put it on a platter to cool. Pour off the “drippings” into a boiler. Add 1-cup to the water the giblets were boiled in, the cut-up giblets and diced boiled egg along with a chopped small onion and a finely chopped half-a-stalk of celery. Add two cups of additional water and simmer. Thicken with raw dressing. Boil until the celery is tender, adding additional water if needed.

  The remainder of the “drippings” are used to make corn bread dressing along with a hoe cake,  toasted bread, diced onions and celery. Do not use too much celery or this will make the dressing bitter. It is critical to adjust the salt carefully so as not to make the dressing too salty when it is cooked. For more detailed instructions please refer to my books.  

 The goose is usually served with rice or mashed potatoes along with a sweet potato casserole.

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Cleaning and Cooking Black Bear

E-mail Author with Canadian bear
The author with a nice Canadian black bear that is going to be turned into prime eating.


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Following deer and hogs, black bear are likely the most common big game animal taken in many states. They are expanding their range throughout North America.  More hunters each year are having their first opportunities  to take a bear, but many hunters don’t know what to do with their animal, outside of skinning it.

E-mail Skinning bear
When skinned the bear much resembles a large hog.

  Bear meat is eatable, and may be quite good, depending on what the animal has been eating. It is rich, red and must be cooked in moisture until it is tender. Gloves should always be worn when working with bear meat or when skinning the animal to prevent potential infection by some really nasty blood-born diseases.

  A skinned bear looks much like a

WHS  A fourth of July plate with bear Bar-b-que and Brunswick stew
A 4th of July dinner with bear bar-b-que and Brunswick stew.

skinned hog, and the meat and fat is handled the same way. The fat may be heated, and turned into oil and lard which has good pastry-cooking qualities. The rendered fat will also yield “cracklings” which, when salted, can be occasionally used as a snack food.

  Bear meat may be roasted (always in water), used in stews, ground into burger or made into sausage. I also use it in some more inventive dishes such as a Brunswick stew made from the animal’s head, or in BBBB&BB which is black bear with black beans served on black bread. These recipes will be found in my book, Crossbow Hunting.

 Alaskans even use the meat from brown bears to make sausage, which is said to be as good as any. If you hunt out of Kodiak Airport, ask the processor just off the runway, Kodiak Smoking and Processing, to do some up for you.
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Flintlock Reliability in Hunting Guns

E-mail Detail of small Ossabaw hog and RMC flintlock
Although this modern flintlock took this hog it failed to fire when another shot opportunity on a larger animal occurred less than an hour later.

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  A few post back I discuss using a newly designed Rightnour  flintlock rifle on a hog-deer hunt on Georgia’s Ossabaw Island. On this hunt I had a flint dull sufficiently to fail to fire the gun. When I attempted to change the flint in the dark I lost the upper jaw on the cock and the jaw screw in tall grass. I had to rely on sticking a lit match to the pan powder to discharge the gun before taking it back to camp.

  This event brought home why the military powers changed from flint to percussion ignition in the 1840s. It was not that percussion guns were any more accurate or powerful, but they were significantly MORE RELIABLE. Guns with percussion locks were less likely to be disabled because nine external lock parts were replaced by a hammer and nipple.  Percussion locks were also less expensive to make and required less in-field servicing.

 Shooting flintlock guns with acceptable game-killing accuracy requires both physical and mental training to master the gun. The shooter must learn to hold the gun steady when an explosion is occurring inches from his nose. All instincts are telling him to push this source of noise and flame away from him as soon as possible, and it is difficult to learn to hold these “flinchlocks” still enough for accurate off-hand shooting.  

  I accept this challenge, and I often hunt with flintlock guns. In doing so I realize that I will not take as much game with them as with their percussion equivalents. I am now hunting with an original 1842 British .75-caliber musket that was the percussion equivalent of the Brown Bess flintlock used during the American Revolutionary  and Napoleonic wars. It shoots no more accurately than the flintlock, but is more reliable. In a later post I will let you know how it did on this year’s deer hunt.

  I always advise against a hunter choosing a flintlock as his first muzzleloading gun. It is always best to learn how to shoot percussion guns first and then take up the added challenges of the flintlock and matchlock once basic black-powder shooting techniques have been mastered using the more reliable percussion guns.

  In the 2011 issue of Gun Digest, I will be discussing shooting smoothbore guns. This issue will be out in August, 2010. I will also be discussing this subject in a new book ,  X-Treme Muzzleloading: Taking Fur, Fowl and Dangerous Game with Muzzleloading Rifles, Smoothbores and Pistols,  that will be published  in the first quarter of  2010.

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Cooking North America’s Rabbits and Hares

E-mail Steamed rabbit and onion gravy
Rabbits, steamed with onions until the meat easily pulls from the bone makes one of the best wild game meals

   I have had the luck to take on North America’s rabbits and hares from Arctic Alaska to coastal Georgia. Although some, like the jack rabbit, are a bit more challenging to eat than others; all may be cooked using the same basic method. The basic variable is that the larger, and older, the animal the longer it must be steamed until it is tender.

  Use rubber gloves when you might come into contact with rabbit blood and through the gutting and meat-washing steps.  

 Rabbits are the easiest of all small-game animals to skin. The hide can generally be pulled off the carcass once the initial cuts are made. I usually cut off the head and feet during the skinning process. Then open the body cavity cutting through the ribs and throw out the guts and lungs.  There will be a distinctive and mildly objectionable smell.

  After the carcass is washed, cut it into pieces including the front and rear legs, backbone back of the ribs and the front of the backbone above the ribs. I cut the ribs away to allow more room in the pot. Salt, pepper,  flour and brown in hot oil. Remove the smaller pieces, like the front legs as they are browned to keep them from overcooking.  If the rabbits are young, they may be eaten at this stage. However, with mature animals you will need to pour off the frying oil, add some onions and steam the rabbits for perhaps some hours to get them sufficiently tender to eat. Watch and add water as necessary to keep from drying.

  Be patient, the results will be worth the time and effort. Rabbit meat will pick up some taste from their diets. Jack rabbits, for example, will have a hint to a strong taste of sage depending on the age of the animal. 

  I have small game recipes in my books, Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound  and also in  Crossbow Hunting.   Information on these books may be found elsewhere in this blog and at