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Beek kabobs and red cabbage: A May Day meal.

A nearly all red kabob using deer meat, beets, red cabbage, red onions and Roma tomatoes.

  Fatigue does interesting things to my brain in that it often goes off on wild nonsensical tangents with little provocation. Good friend Bill Krantz sent me an E-mail where he said that he was going to do a beef-kabob on a grill for his and a friend’s supper. He struck a wrong letter and it came out “beek-kabob” instead.

  My mind took off and decided that it wanted to ponder what a “beek-kabob” might be, and it derived a May Day kabob of all red elements, including beets, red cabbage, red potatoes, red onions, Roma tomatoes, red bell peppers and the meat from a red deer. Although there are some red deer in a pen not 20 miles from me, I did not have any red deer meat; but I did have sufficient meat from whitetail deer to make a reasonable approximation.

 I thawed the deer and marinated it overnight in Italian dressing to give it some garlic and spice. Come cooking day, I washed and sliced up one beet root, cut the cabbage and other vegetables and then skewered the meat and vegetables prior to putting them on the charcoal. Not all plans go ideally.  I forgot the red potatoes and red bell peppers costs four times the price of the green ones, so I compromised.

 On with the cooking.  The beets were sort of tough, so I put them on top of some of the hotter coals. I turned the kabob four times to give each quarter some cooking time. The result was a little black on the edges of some onions, but the deer meat was done. This ate well and gave a crunchy sort of vegetable, rather than being cooked to mush, as we Southerners so often do. The beet sections were warm and soft enough to chew.

Red cabbage with beets, beet greens, onions and bell peppers.

 There was still a lot of components left over. I washed and cut up the other three beets that were in the bunch, trimmed the leaves, chopped the cabbage and put the remaining bits of bell pepper, onions and tomatoes all in one pot and added sufficient water to cover. I also put in a quarter-cup of diced deer roast that I had from a previous meal. The beets, comparatively few beet tops, and cabbage colored the contents of the pot red including the liquid. There was a slight sweetness derived from the beets that flavored the cabbage. The result was an interesting variation on boiled cabbage that turned out very well. The only seasonings that I added was a quarter-teaspoon of salt.

  Needless to say, these dishes were consumed with a glass of red wine to complete the all-red (or nearly so) May Day theme. I don’t know if anyone needs or wants a May Day meal, but here is one for you – Beek-kabobs and red cabbage. Enjoy.

  This dish has been tested and received the enthusiastic approval of  hound dogs, Demeter, Ursus, Diana and Casey.

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Wild hog killing with black-powder pistols

Author's Texas boar taken with Thompson/Center's Encore pistol and T/C's Ken French at the Nail Ranch in Texas.

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 Wild hogs have become more and more of a pest throughout much of the South, in California, Hawaii and likely, ” Coming soon to a location near you.” They have very excellent noses, but relatively poor eyes. If you can get downwind of them and if conditions are wet, you can very closely approach hogs making them nearly ideal big game targets for the muzzleloading pistol hunter.

  These hogs can get huge, 600 pounds and more; but are also available in smaller sizes which are much better eating. About 200 pounds or so is the break-even point for an eating hog in my book. Unless they are looking for trophies, many avoid taking the huge ones in favor of  better eating wild pork.

  My personal preference is for powerful loads from single-shot pistols, such as the Thompson/Center .50-caliber Encore shown with the big Texas boar hog in the  photo at the head of this article. This one was taken with a single shot at 30 yards using two 50-grain Pyrodex pellets, a Wonder Wad and a 370-grain Thompson/Center MaxiBall. I have used this same load in Africa on warthogs with identical results.  I have also taken hogs with other black-powder pistols including Traditions’ Buckhunter Pro and Davide Pedersoli’s Howdah hunter. The minimal load for these pistols consisted of the equivalent of 85 grains of FFg and a 200-grain Buffalo Bullets’ BallEt with musket-cap  ignition.

  Notably absent from the foregoing is any mention of black-powder revolvers. I have owned and shot many of them; but the only one that I use regularly is the Ruger Old Army which I use to brain-shoot alligators that I have bowfished and drug up to the boat. At point-blank range I like this load because it does not destroy the skull or risk sending bullet and bone fragments through the boat’s hull. Otherwise I condemned these revolvers as being too puny for big game hunting except for back-up shots delivered at very close range.

Rudy Betancourt's wild hog with a stainless steel Pietta 1858 Remington pistol with a 12-inch barrel.

  I was called to task about this, and several people protested vigorously that the Walker and Dragoons and open-top Colts were worthy hunting guns. I had shot these ill-sighted and weakly put together guns to the point where  I was sick of them. However, modernized version of  Remington-pattern guns with  TrippleSeven loads and adjustable sights appear to offer real potential, as mentioned by Rudy Betancourt who used a stainless Pietta revolver to shoot hogs as in the following photo. His brother-in-law was also successful with the 17-inch .50-caliber barreled Davide Pedersoli Bounty pistol, which I have also used for deer hunting after smoothing up the action and taping more than a pound of  lead shot to the muzzle so that I could hold it down.    

 Another hunter used an 1860 Colt replica and took a 90- pound black hog with what appeared to be a spine shot from what I can tell from the photo.  

A percussion revolver loaded with Triple Seven and round ball got the job done on this 135 pound sow.  Rudy Betancourt took this 135 pound sow with a round ball load and charge of 37 grains of TripleSeven at a range of 35 yards. The bullet completely penetrated the animal after apparently going through the spine for an instant kill. Not to depreciate Rudy’s accomplishment, this was a moderate-sized hog, a sow (so it does not have the added protection of a gristle plate over the shoulder); but this load was effective on this size hog.  He informed me that he has also used conicals in his pistol, but although these often provide pass-through shots, he gets better accuracy and faster kills from the expanding round-ball loads which are cast of pure lead.  

Armando Martinez’s outsize percussion Bounty  pistol used 70 grains of TripleSeven and a .50-caliber Lee bullet to take a 60 pound hog with a single shot at 40 yards which is excellent work with this crudely sighted gun. This young sow also fell dead with the bullet apparently hitting the area of the off-side shoulder and exiting through the middle of the body. Had there been a need, I have little doubt that this load would likely work on hogs up to 200 pounds.  

Betancourt states that this hog was taken by another hunter with an 1860 Colt replica revolver using an unknown load. From what I can tell from the hide, the bullet penetrated the spine a little less than mid-way the length of  the animal and may have exited the other side.  The old warhorse worked on this relatively small hog for an apparent one-shot kill.

  All three of these guns worked on these smallish hogs. The use of  TripleSeven in steel- framed revolvers, longer barrels and adjustable sights all aided in generating sufficient energy to accurately provide game-killing penetration.  Shot placement ramains the most important factor in getting quick kills. Had any of these hogs been gut-shot with no damage to the spine or legs, the recovery of such animals would have been difficult without trailing dogs.

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Secrets of Southern Fried Chicken

The traditional Southern fried chicken ready for Sunday dinner.

  The traditional fried chicken of the deep South is a simple product made from a freshly cut-up chicken that is shook in a bag with a mix of flour, salt and black pepper and fried in hot oil. Multi-million-dollar businesses have been built on variations of this technique with changes in seasonings, frying methods and marinate soakings in attempts to derive a product that is sufficiently distinctive that a customer will select one brand over another.

  Before trashing around with an infinite range of possibilities, it is best to first master this basic recipe and then, if you can improve upon it, go for it. This recipe is the fried chicken for Sunday dinner, church socials, visits from in-laws and family meals. It is made by  flouring  a damp, cut-up fryer in a mix of one cup of flour, one tablespoon of salt and one-quarter tablespoon of black pepper and frying in sufficient oil to cover the chicken.

  For frying, younger chickens are preferred (so-called fryers). These have tender meat, have smaller pieces for quicker frying and cut up easier. Huge-breasted chickens are not desired because the outside portions of thick breasts can become hard and dry as they overcook while you are trying to insure that the meat next to the rib bones is done. Avoiding this differential cooking  is why chicken “tenders,” “nuggets” and “strips” are so popular.

Murray Carter (center rear) giving instructions to his class on forging Japanese knives.

  A robust knife is needed to cut up a chicken. This can be a 10-inch knife of the traditional “butcher” pattern with a peaked swell closest to the point. This weight-forward blade permits this knife to function something like a cleaver for easily chopping through joints. If you have a lot of production to do, one hit with a cleaver will split the  breast nicely as well as separate the back from it. Many families feel uncomfortable with having a cleaver in the house, so a 10-inch butcher knife is a reasonable choice for occasional use. It works significantly better than a similar length slicer, boning or Chef’s knife. I often find myself using a Japanese pattern utility knife that  has a straight blade, rather than the pronounced curve of the Chef’s knife. This is the type of knife shown in the accompanying video.  I made this knife using traditional techniques at Murray Carter’s forge in Washington State during one of his knife-making classes.

 Because of likely bacterial contamination, wash any knives, cutting boards and tools used on chicken before processing any other products using these implements. It is dangerous to cut up a chicken, wipe the board with a cloth and then use that same knife and board for cutting up salad or other ingredients that will not be cooked. WASH these before using them on anything else.

 Rather than cook in a traditional black-iron frying pan, I like a high-walled heavy pot and use the bottom of my pressure cooker.  The chicken will displace considerable oil and you need to have two or more inches of space between the top of the oil and the chicken to prevent the oil from boiling over.

  I prefer to fry in Canola Oil. This will take more heat before smoking than Olive Oil and a bit less than Wesson or Peanut Oil. These last two oils will give a crisper end product, but the Canola Oil is healthier for you. The oil needs to be at  frying temperature before you put the chicken into it. Test by taking a pinch of floured skin and dropping it in. If it instantly bubbles and reacts vigorously in the oil, the oil is ready. After the chicken is added, you will want to turn down the heat to prevent the oil from splattering out of the pan and possibly catching fire.  Always keep a pot lid handy to smother a fire should one start in the pan.

  Even in a large pot, I fry in batches. I start the breasts and back pieces and then follow-up with the remaining pieces after removing the breasts and back. These are drained on unprinted white paper or the brown paper from paper sacks. You may also use paper towelling, but avoid any paper that is printed – particularly colored newsprint.

  The chicken will smell wonderful, but delay in starting to eat it until the oil has cooled sufficiently to keep from frying the inside of your mouth. Once you taste it, pay particular attention to how salty it is and if this level of salt taste is what you want. Most of us need to reduce our salt, yet commercial fried chicken is loaded with it. One significant reason for cooking your own chicken is being able to control the amount of salt. The tablespoon of salt per cup of flour will be slightly salty, but not overly so. Taste will also depend on how often the oil has been previously used. You never want to fry your chicken in oil that has been previously used to fry fish.

The following video “Secrets of Southern Fried Chicken” will take you through the process. I have another on YouTube “Cutting Up and Flouring Southern Fried Chicken” which covers these previous steps. You can see than one by clicking on the following link: .

Secret of  Southern Fried Chicken

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Getting Crossbows Ready for Next Season

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  Now that it is early Summer, it is time to take a close look at the crossbows that you own and get them ready for next season. For months now they have been neglected and unfired. It is time to take stock of what, if any, repairs or equipment changes you need to make and give them, and you, some “limbering up” exercises.

 Perhaps you might want to change out your sights and sight in a new red-dot sight or scope. Then it is fairly obvious that you need to look at the latest archery catalogue, pick out what you want and get it ordered. Less obvious are that you need to systematically check your bolts on your front end to make sure none have loosened as well as inspect and wax your string, cables and deck.

 Carbon shafts with synthetic fletching are the most forgiving shafts that have yet been devised, but even these may be cracked or the nocks need to be freshened out or replaced. Your points also need to be inspected, sharpened and lubricated. Now that you have ample time to replace anything, and everything, if need be; take that time and be relaxed and methodical about your tasks. 

  Although the strings have been under relatively little tension while the crossbow has been stored, they can slowly lose strength by stretching. The more powerful the pull weight of the crossbow the more likely that they may have changed characteristics sufficiently to throw off a shot. The same is less frequently true of the crossbow’s limbs. Almost all modern crossbow limbs are of some sort of composit material or construction, including the fiberglass ones. Sunlight and heat can weaken them.

  Once everything passes muster, spend a few enjoyable hours over the next months shooting your crossbow. Then you will be absolutely assured that when that once-in-a-lifetime buck walks in front of you, your crossbow will be ready and you will too. Having absolute confidence in your equipment and the certain knowledge that you know how to use it well are the best insurance against “deer fever.”

A Barnett RC-150 crossbow took this nice Georgia doe with a single arrow.

 If you do not have a second, or spare, crossbow this is also time to purchase another one. I like to have a peep and pin sighted 150-pound crossbow in reserve just in case mine gets inadvertently damaged during a hunt. This also gives me a less expensive instrument for rainy day hunting or as a loaner to a new hunting companion or a younger shooter. Such crossbows are simple for most people to use and will anchor a deer or hog at ranges of under 30 yards without any problems or excessive hold-overs. I was fond of the now discontinued Barnett Ranger and RC-150 series of crossbows for this purpose. While not as durable as more expensive instruments, they were light weight, effective at short ranges (with good shot placement) and had adjustable stocks and moderately good triggers.

  They have now been replaced in the Barnett line by Jackal which is heavier  than the Ranger-RC series, takes 18-20 inch arrows and is in every way a higher-quality instrument in a 7-pound package for about $300.  Some of the older used crossbows might also be attractive, but one that I cannot recommend for any purpose is the Horton Steel Force which had such terrible non-adjustable triggers as to be nearly unshootable.

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