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Practical Bowfishing: Cleaning and Cooking Gar and Carp

Common, or German, carp and gar fish are two frequently taken bowfishing species that can provide good meals.

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  Gar fish and the common, or German, carp are two of the most frequently taken bowfished species in North America. When bowfished from clean waters (always check with state advisories for mercury and other potential contaminants) these are excellent eating fish. They were originally brought from Asia by the Romans into Europe as a food fish and from England and Germany into the U.S. 

  Once the carp were here they were held under guard in Washington D.C., and doled out to favored congressman to stock in their home districts. The German carp have been here every since. They have been joined more recently by the silver, grass, bighead, white Amur and black carp. These carps occupy different habitats and compete with native fish for food. 

  Carp are the most commonly consumed source or protein on earth. They make an excellent baked fish (particularly those about 3-feet long) and the larger ones may also be cut to smaller pieces and fried. Carp do have “Y” bones, and in the larger the fish these are easier to remove.  Bigger carp, like the silver or grass carp, are preferred for frying. 

  The largest gar is the alligator gar found in the Gulf Coast States. These once reached sizes of 600 pounds (in the 1840s) and 300-pounders are still taken. The longnose is the next largest and weighs up to  50 pounds. The spotted and shortnose gars are smaller. Gar eggs are toxic, and any contaminated meat needs to be cut away. The eatable meat is from the “backstraps.” This meat is white, boneless and very mild tasting – like white perch. 

  Much more information on bowfishing is available in my book, Practical Bowfishing.  This book is out of print, but is available from me for a little over $20.00 at my website,  Activate the PayPal button below the book’s description and it will take you to an order page. This book is now selling for over $50.00 at and elsewhere.    

  The following video takes you through the cleaning process for both gar and carp. If it is difficult to view here, it is also available at YouTube by activating the following link:


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Beginning Bowfishing: Equipment, Fish and Cooking

An afternoon's daylight bowfishing on Georgia's Lake Oconee. I was shooting by myself, in daylight and paddling up to the fish. Two guys, shooting in competition often take 1000 fish a night.

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  In many cases the beginning bowfisherman starts out by himself, picks up whatever can be purchased near where he lives and thrashes around trying to shoot few fish. If he persist, he will run into someone who is more experienced and start to learn the basics.

  My book, Practical Bowfishing, contains considerable useful information on the sport, equipment and what to do with the fish once you get them. This is an excellent way to get started. Some copies are available through retail channels, but the book is out of print. I still have copies  for $20.00. The best way to get one is to send me a check to Hovey Smith, 1325 Jordan Mill Pond Rd. Sandersville, GA 31082. I also have the book on, but the least expensive way to get the book is to order it from me.

  For more information  go to my website: The book will be the third title on the welcome page. Orders may be placed by activating the PayPal link below the book’s description.

  Bowfishing is an exciting sport, can be done almost anywhere, almost anytime there is open water, result in taking some of the best-eating fish that exist and improves the fishery at the same time. Now during the spring spawn in March-April, carp and gar come into the shallows and can be easily taken in a few inches of water. These fish can be shot by wading, from the shore, from shallow-draft boats and either day or night.

  When derived from clean waters (check with your state fish and game department for any advisories) they are good eating. In future postings, I will take you through the fishing, cleaning and cooking processes.

  For equipment you need a low-pull weight bow (about 40-lbs, and an old double wheel compound or recurve will do fine)  a reel seat, reel (you can order these from Muzzy and other suppliers), some 200 lb. bowfishing line and fiberglass bowfishing arrows. The first thing that you will have to learn is how to tie a knot with a standing loop so that you do not lose all your arrows (as well as your fish).

  A simple knot is to take your line and about 5-inches up tie an overhand loop leaving the loop open (a granny knot). Then take the leading (running) part of the line pass it through the hole in the back of your arrow and then through the open loop. Tie another overhand loop and then pull everything tight. The result will be a non-slip knot with a long open loop.

  The next decision, even before you start bowfishing, is to decide what you are going to do with your fish. These can go into the garden for fertilizer or, when taken from good water, can provide some of the best eats ever. My book also has recipes for carp, gar, paddlefish, suckers and stingrays, among other species.

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Road Kill Deer Cleaning: Narrated Slide Show

Could you process this road-killed deer if it appeared in your front yard?

 Still photographs from a 40-minute video have been used to make a  7-minute  narrated slide show on cleaning road-killed deer that has been posted on YouTube. This may be accessed via the following link:

  The deer gutting part of this video is shown in an earlier post, “3-Minute Video: Gutting a Road-Killed Deer” for those who would like a “live” segment. Salvaging road-killed deer is something that I do as I need fresh meat to supplement the deer that I take by hunting. Any meat in excess of what I can use is given away.  

  There is considerable difference between a hunter salvaging meat and a butcher cutting meat for a market. It can, with justification, be said that what I am doing is not “sanitary” in that I am not working in a “sterile” environment with all stainless steel components, using knives that may have been contaminated with body fluids, working with my hands, exposing the carcass to the air, insects, and so on.  

  All of this is true, yet the food that I serve has never sickened anyone. How do I get away with it? We Southerners cook our food. Nothing is served rare or bloody.  In the case of stews or ground meat used in spaghetti sauces, the meat is first fried and then boiled – double cooked if you like.  

  Any discolored, stained, dirty or bloodshot meat is put in a pot and boiled for the dogs. Even after it is frozen, the exterior muscle sheaths are removed and any discolored meat is discarded as the meat is cut. Prior to cooking,  the cutting boards and knives are washed, and re-washed between stages in the process. Implements used on meat are not used to cut raw vegetables or anything else that is going to be served raw, like salads.  

  Take prudent care, cook your wild meat well done, store it properly, don’t let it sit out (cooked or raw) and all will be well – even if the animal was a road kill.  

  For those in pre-med or pre-vet programs, doing your own road-killed deer not only will give you a head’s up when you start on your anatomy programs;  it will also cut your food expenses. 

  State laws vary considerably on if, who and under what circumstances a road-killed deer may be in possession. Some flatly prohibit it, others permit anyone to salvage any dead deer on the public right-of-way while still other states require a road-kill possession tag.  Know your state laws before picking up a deer.

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Cleaning and Cooking a Wild Turkey

A wild turkey on the kitchen table ready for processing. Plucking is easier when the bird is still warm with body heat. This process will take about 30-minutes.

A video, 3-Minute Cleaning and Cooking a Wild Turkey, is now up on YouTube at . A series of still photos and  narration will  take you through the cleaning and cooking of a wild turkey.

 Although is expedient to take only the breast meat and leg quarters, turkey plucking is only about a 30-minute job if the carcass is still warm with body heat. This yields a bird that it fit to serve as a holiday meal and, when cooked correctly, does credit to both the hunter and the bird. Like almost all wild meat, cooking with moisture is the best way to produce  tasty products.

  Keep in mind that this wild fowl is not pre-injected with butter, salt water and preservatives. It is a healthy, natural meat; but it will not taste quite like the “flavor enhanced” turkeys from the store.

 I utilize almost all of the turkey. The breasts are used for cut meat, the other meat is taken off the carcass to be used in  turkey-pot pies and the carcass and any remaining meat is used in turkey soup or turkey hash. My adult dogs enjoy the bones. However; DO NOT feed turkey bones to a puppy. He can have small portions of  meat and gristle, but his teeth and body are not developed enough to process splintery bones.  

  The feathers from the fan are used to refurbish some of my turkey decoys and the wing ends  are dried and used to make fly-down noises and scratching sounds in dry leaves.  Others fletch their homemade arrows with turkey feathers and may even used other feathers in fishing flys or in craft projects.  I also make a traditional turkey call from the wing bones of young turkeys.

  More detailed instructions are in my books, Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound and   Crossbow Hunting.   Backyard Deer Hunting  is now available in hardcover, soft cover and in all E-book formats. These may be ordered from on-line retailers, and from a link on my website,, where you will also be able to find out about my other books and projects,  biographical information and much else.

The end result. Sliced turkey breast, cornbread dressing and giblet gravy over rice on the Christmas dinner table.

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Minimalist Turkey Hunting: Gun, Calls and Decoys

While is it fun to use different guns, calls, and accessories to hunt turkeys; successful hunts can be done with only a few pieces of basic equipment.


  While it appears that everyone is trying to sell turkey hunters everything, this sport can be done with relatively few pieces of basic equipment as I did the second day of Georgia’s turkey season. Not so many years ago turkey hunting was done by a man with a gun and a homemade call. That was all. More successful results will be obtained using calls that work in wet and dry weather, using decoys and by wearing camo clothing. These few things and a few tools will get the job done.

I describe these in an 8-minute video that I have posted on Youtube. The address for this is . The brief video that follows shows the bird and explains how it was shot from a blind at about 5:45 PM on a wet-weather day. If you have trouble viewing in here, it is also posted on YouTube as well as a follow-up one on cleaning and cooking wild turkeys at

Patterning is a vital part of pre-hunt activities.

  A key to success is to pattern the gun with the load that you are using so that you know what your sure-kill range is. With the antique 12-gauge  Stevens Long Tom that I used with 1 1/4-ounces of  no. 6 shot lead shot, that range was 30 yards. I also found that I needed to aim at the turkey’s head as the bulk of the charge struck about 4-inches low.

 You can purchase some very expensive turkey loads. Chances are  that some of your older relatives or friends have some 12-gauge 2 3/4-inch  1 1/4-ounce  lead duck loads with no. 4 or no. 6 shot that they can no longer use for waterfowling now that non-toxic shot is mandated. These will do just fine.

 I fire about six rounds a year. A couple are shot to sight in the gun and I take four  hunting. This is almost always enough to shoot two turkeys and the  occasional rattlesnake.

  Turkey hunting offers more psychological benefits that meat. This is a time to spend a half-day  (few can hold out longer) looking and trying to out-wit these cagey birds. This gets a person out of the house, away from the pressures of every-day life, gives some healthy exercise and may provide a successful hunt. Even for experienced hunters it often takes from 7-14 trips to bag a tom.  Many more turkeys will answer the call, or be seen. than shot. The key is to be persistent. The more time that is spent in the woods the greater the probability of success.  

  I provide complete cleaning and cooking instructions in my book, “Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer  to dinner for pennies per pound” if you are wondering what you do with a wild turkey after you kill it. The short answer is that you EAT it.

A roasted wild turkey with cornbread dressing on a Christmas platter. The end result of a successful turkey hunt.
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Mossberg’s 835: A User’s Point of View

The author's friend, Paul Presley, shooting the author's weight-enhanced Mossberg 835.

  When steel shot was mandated I sold my Winchester Model 12 and Model 21 Duck Guns that were chambered for the 3-inch 12-gauge and bought one of the early Model 835 Mossbergs chambered for the new 3 1/2-inch shell.  The reason for this change was so that I could thrown enough steel BBBs to kill geese, as the lighter-weight steel pellets in no. 2 size did not carry sufficient long-range energy to do the job. 

With any gun, patterning is a necessity to find out where the gun shoots.

  I quickly found that this gun was terrible to shoot with these loads and even worse with lead turkey loads. As described in an earlier post, “A Man’s Gun for a Man’s Work,” I added lead shot and beeswax to the butt and put a piece of steel rebar in the magazine tube to give the gun sufficient weight to make it shootable. 

  Since then, Mossberg has vented the 835’s barrel to reduce recoil and also offered a pistol-grip stock. These changes help, but in my opinion more weight is still needed. It is one thing to fire maybe three shots a season at a turkey and shoot 10 or more rounds a day at ducks or geese. 

  I like the gun’s ability to digest any length of 12-gauge shell, and I have never had any troubles with it (or with Mossberg’s Model 500s). The only fault that I see with these guns has been more cosmetic that functional. The aluminum receiver is easy to scar up, and  the finish is not as durable as on steel-framed guns; although this has improved in recent years. 

 I have used a variety of after-market turkey and waterfowl chokes. Some are heavy enough to add a little weight to the end of the barrel to help tame it, but the addition of  more weight to the butt and magazine tube is the best practical way to reduce recoil. If the gun beats you up so badly that you start flinching, you will start missing turkeys or making poor shots. 

Various spring-piston recoil-reducing mechanisms have been tried on light-weight guns, but with many designs it is arguable if the greater part of the recoil reduction was from the mechanical operation of the mechanism or from the added weight of the parts. More recently, compressible “polymer buffers” have been added to stocks. This makes for more complex, and more costly, stocks. 

  To my mind, the best solution was to make these guns weigh at least 9 1/2-pounds to start with, or if you already own a Mossberg 835, add some weight to it. 

  If you want a light-weight gun, go to the 20 gauge, put a scope on it and shoot the new HeviShot loads from 3-inch shells. These loads pattern very well in the 20-gauge Model 500 when used with appropriate chokes.

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The Bison Bull: A Huge .45-70 Revolver


The Bison Bull in a cut-away model to show its huge parts. This massive revolver is chambered for the 2.1-inch-long .45-70 cartridge that is shown beside the gun.


  In the 1970s I wrote a letter to Thompson/Center Arms asking if they would consider chambering their Contender single-shot pistol for the .45-70.  They replied that the barrel length required to burn sufficient powder to make that a realistic load was too long for them to consider (At the time their longest barrel was 10-inches.).

  In later years, they changed the potential use of the Contender from a plinking to a hunting pistol, outfitted it with longer barrels and offered a 16-inch .45-70 barrel. This popular military cartridge was also added to the Encore’s chamberings when that pistol was introduced.

  The Bison Bull is a huge 6-shot revolver with a 10-inch barrel, a nearly 2.5-inch-long cylinder, maganese bronze frame, plow-handled grip, dragoon-style trigger guard and is fitted with a Millet adjustable rear sight. Its over-all length is 17 1/2-inches and it weighs 6.0 pounds.

  Since I was about 12, I have never been without a .45-70. These have included 1886 Allen-action Springfield and 1886 Winchester lever actions and their replica editions. I like the way this 2.1-inch cartridge shoots in rifles, but it needs more than 12.5-inches of effective barrel length to work for me.  The shorter .45-60 case with a 300-grain cast bullet would have been a better selection so far as ballistic efficiency and functionality goes.

  Revolver or not, I would like to see this gun with a 14-inch barrel and chambered for the shorter .45-60 case. These cases can be easily made by trimming .45-70 brass and reloading them with the longer .45-70 dies.

 I did not have the opportunity to shoot the Bison Bull at the 2010 Shot Show, but will at the soonest opportunity.  Functionally, the massive mechanism worked well. Its things like muzzle blasts and recoil with 405-grain factory loads that concern me. Is the gun really shootable? I am assured by the maker that it is

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Why Troops Hated the Brunswick Rifle

Although the author did take a turkey with this .69-caliber (14-gauge) version of the Brunswick design, the 2-groove rifle was so innacurate as to be inappropriate for this size game.


  Of all the guns imported by the embattled Confederate States of America, the one held in worst regard was the British 2-groove Brunswick rifle.  This sentiment was also felt by British and colonial units who were issued the gun.

  Now that I have had a chance to shoot the Brunswick rifle that I described in an earlier post , I can see why.  (Post and video below).  Used with either shot or ball, the gun did not shoot accurately enough to make precision shots on a man at 50 yards.

  The gun’s designers thought it held high promise. This was supposed to be a gun that would shoot as well as the American rifles used in the Revolution, incorporate the newest trends in arms design and be a low-cost combat rifle that could replace the smoothbore 1842 musket. The 1842 was the percussion version of the historic Brown Bess that, with progressive improvements,  had been in service for a century.

  The Brunswick rifle was fitted with a new back-action lock, two sights (one that could flip up for longer range shooting), a strong bayonet fitting, a patch box, a patent breech to allow easy detachment of the barrel for cleaning and  a reduced-caliber sub-chamber in the barrel for more efficient ignition of the powder charge. These improvements added to the novel 2-groove rifling system were  to produce a “new world standard” combat arm.

  Using the issue sights, my gun consistently shot more that a foot to the left at 50 yards and would not have touched a man at 100. In addition, the sub-chamber tended to gum up with black powder residue  which resulted in hang fires or misfires. The back-action lock’s trigger pull was so hard that  it was difficult to do precision shooting at any range. In short, although the gun would function (at least most of the time) I could not hit anything with it. Even the original flintlock Brown Bess was more accurate, which was not saying much as this gun had no rear sight.

  Not even when sent to Nepal on the fringes of the British Empire, was the gun any better regarded. There was a .69-caliber smoothbore version (14-gauge) of the Brunswick design that had a better reputation.  The rifles were put into storage, and the brass patch boxes were salvaged to recover the metal.

  British ordinance officials did learn, and their next rifle; the .58-caliber Enfield, was a world-wide success.

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Writings Available to International Viewers

  Besides this blog, there are several other ways to read my works. The newest is to follow my articles on the E-Magazine, Pedersoli No. 1, which is now working on issue  No. 3. The first two issues are archived and are available on-line.  My articles from nearly 50-years of hunting all over the world with muzzleloading guns will be featured in this publication. This E-zene is free, and you may subscribe by activating  a subscription link.

  I also publish in many magazines, such as Muzzle Blasts, that post some of their articles on-line. In addition, some of my newspaper and other writings will be posted by Google and other search engines. As I am blessed with an uncommon name, Hovey, almost any link with Hovey and  hunting, crossbow, bowfishing, cooking, knives and, most recently, marketing will not only bring up my books; but also related articles.

  I purposefully do not post long items on this blog, but provide what I believe to be sufficient info to cover the topic and sometimes supplement this with a brief video. I also have videos on Youtube and photos on Flickr. Commonly, the Youtube videos are longer and of better quality than those published on the blog. These videos may be accessed by activating a link on the right-hand side of my blog.

  My book, Backyard Deer Hunting: Converting deer to dinner for pennies per pound, is available as an E-book as well as on most E-reader book platforms. These may be purchased through and other E-book retailers worldwide for $7.99 U.S.  Crossbow Hunting is being carried by distributors in Europe, South Africa and India that I know of at present.   Practical Bowfishing  is available from and other electronic book-sales outlets. If ordered directly from me, the U.S. cost is $20 for pre-paid orders.

  A Google for Pedersoli No. 1  will find that publication for you as well as provide the quickest access to my other works.

  I am giving away a free 5-day hunt for the best 600-word essay written by a Facebook Fan  by September 1. details are provided in an earlier post.

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Cleaning and Shooting the .75-caliber Brunswick Rifle

  Following this post I did some shooting with a patched round ball which was not successful. I discovered a maker in England who would make a custom belted-ball mold for my gun. This has been ordered (4/2010). The original testings of the Brunswick rifle with these belted balls gave better results. I hope to get sufficient accuracy using the new balls to hunt with this gun this Fall.

  To obtain better accuracy than was possible with smoothbore muskets, the British government experimented with belted balls which were mechanical fits to grooves cut into the gun’s barrel. The resulting Brunswick 2-groove rifle was introduced into the service in the 1850s to be used by Marines to snipe at enemy sailors and was also provided to some land units.

  The objective was to issue guns that would be of the same caliber, but shoot more accurately, that the  Brown Bess smoothbores. I had never worked with such a gun, and when the opportunity came to purchase a Brunswick rifle  from Atlanta Cutlery, I did.

  The only markings on the gun are in a script which indicates  that the gun was made in India (I suspect) or Nepal (as the importer reported).  Although the gun was old, the  lock was made of well-tempered steel, the barrel had only a few  pits and the walnut stock, despite some worm holes, was basically sound. I thought that it might be possible to shoot and ultimately hunt with this 150-year-old gun.

 The following 5-minute video goes through the cleaning and test- shooting process. Another video will follow when I hunt with it. Although my gun was safe to shoot, many of those brought back from Nepal from Atlanta Cutlery are not. That firm sells their guns only as collector’s items. Before shooting any old gun have it inspected by a knowledgeable gunsmith to insure that it is safe and heed his recommendations on appropriate loads and uses for the gun.  

In this version of the narriation I call the gun a smoothbore. It is, in fact, a .75-caliber two-groove rifle. There were also .69-caliber Brunswick smoothbores in the Royal Arsenal.  

 I have a longer version of this video on Youtube that you may access by the link  .  The Youtube version not only contains more material but runs more smoothly than the one posted here.