Backyard deer hunting

Inexpensive food from the outdoors

Archive for November 2009

Cleaning and Cooking Black Bear

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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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Written by hoveysmith

November 15, 2009 at 10:02 am

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Flintlock Reliability in Hunting Guns

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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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Written by hoveysmith

November 13, 2009 at 8:07 am

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Cooking North America’s Rabbits and Hares

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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

Written by hoveysmith

November 12, 2009 at 10:38 pm

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Cleaning and Cooking Wild Hogs

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E-mail Author with good eating sized hog.

A good "eating-sized" hog ready for processing. It is now 7:00 PM and skinning and cutting up the animal will go on until about midnight.

 Wild hogs, or boars, are rapidly becoming the second most common species of big game animal taken in many U.S. states. High populations are found throughout the Southeast, Eastern seaboard, Texas, California and in Hawaii. Butchers and game processors will often not take these animals, leaving their processing to the hunters. Here is how to do it.

E-mail Smoked wild hog with blackeyed peas

What your wild hog can be. Roasted, smoked backstraps and black eyed peas seasoned with smoked hog meat.

E-mail Hog dressing with Case XX changer knife

Initial skinning cuts on a wild hog. Once the skin is removed, the excess fat is also trimmed away.

  Very often wild hogs do not come out until just about dark. If you hog hunt more than a few times, you will find yourself with a dead hog and darkness rapidly approaching. Rig a place where you can hang a hog , cut it up and have sufficient light to see what you are doing.

  Process hogs as quickly as possible. At least get the animal gutted, the hide off and the meat in the fridge within a few hours if you do not have a walk-in cooler big enough to hang a gutted carcass. Hogs, and bears, should always be cleaned when wearing rubber gloves. They can carry some very bad diseases that may cause debilitating illnesses if introduced into the blood through a cut on the hand.

E-mail Removing the entrals 2. A few cuts along the backbone and they will fall free

Getting ready to "dump" the entrals of a small hog. Unless the animal is gut shot, there is little smell or mess.

  “Deer processed” hogs are skinned and cut up just like deer. I make sausage, take roast, the backstraps, ribs, liver and heart for my use. I sometimes skin and smoke the head to make Brunswick stew. The best-eating hogs are the young ones and sows. I shoot whatever hog happens to be in front of me, and they have ranged in size from 12 pounds to over 400.

  The keys to having good hog meat are to cool it quickly, always use gloves when cleaning or handling the meat, cooking it slowly, serving it well done and applying a little smoke to some meat to use for seasoning vegetables. Much wild hog is bar-b-qued, but roasting, sausage making or even using ground meat in chilies all turn out well.

E-mail Flame flipped wild hog ribs 2

Flame tipped wild hog ribs on the grill.

  Recipes may be found in my books, Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound and  Crossbow Hunting. 

E-mail Sausage from wild hog

Sausage making from shoulders and cut meat from other parts of the hog.

Written by hoveysmith

November 12, 2009 at 7:37 am

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Ossabaw Island hunt with Crossbow and Flintlock

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E-mail palm tree and golden marsh Ossabaw Is.

A view of the marsh off Ossabaw Island, one of Georgia's "Golden Isles"

  Hunts on Georgia’s coastal islands are a different kind of deer hunting experience, particularly when done with a RMC flintlock rifle and Horton 175 lb. Super Max crossbow. Ossabaw Island is an almost magical place in the fall with huge oaks and palm trees dripping with Spanish Moss and good hunting to be had if you are willing to walk far and drag back.

E-mail Typical tent camps Ossabaw Is

Tent camps are needed for the 3-day hunts. A charter boat brings hunters to the island.

  The island is part of a GA WMA and the quota hunt is open to out-of -state and in-state applicants. There are gun hunts for deer and hogs and primitive weapons combination hunts (early Nov.) during which two deer may be taken along with an unlimited number of hogs.

  This year I chose a Rightnour .50-caliber flintlock rifle and the Horton Super Max crossbow. For the hog I set up over a wallow at an abandoned water-well head and took a pig at 35 yards. For the deer I walked in about 1 1/2-miles and took it adjacent to the marsh. The shot here was at about 8-yards. The Grim Reaper head with its extra-long blades took out the animal nicely leaving a good blood trail about 100-yards long.

E-mail Deer sled with gear and deer

A handy plastic sled (L.L. Bean Catalogue) for dragging out deer.

  On these hunts you are taken out on trailers (take a cushion with you), put out  before daylight, picked up to come in for lunch (and to bring your game in) and put out again for an evening hunt. Before hogs could be shot, success rates on deer were often about 100 percent. Now that hunters are also fooling with hogs, deer success rates have declined to around 50%.

E-mail Detail of small Ossabaw hog and RMC flintlock

Roasting pig taken with RMC flintlock.

  If you are willing to walk to the best areas away from your drop-off point, hunt all day and drag your game back some distance; your probability of success on this hunt is very good. If you sit in one spot and expect to be overrun by bunches of deer and hogs you are likely to be disappointed.

E-mail Pieball Ossabaw doe taken with Horton Super Max 175 Crossbow

A crossbow deer taken from GA's Ossabaw Island. Although limited to about 40 yards, crossbows are very effective for island hunting.

 Ossabaw hunts are among the state’s most popular hunts and it generally takes two or three attempts to be drawn. There are also archery hunts, parent-child hunts, cartridge gun hunts and hog-only quota hunts. The archery hunts are held first. These are often in hot, very bugy weather and are the easiest ones to draw.  

Rifle, crossbow and point furnished by manufacturers.

Written by hoveysmith

November 10, 2009 at 2:34 pm

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