Wednesday, October 10, 2012

A Hunting We Will Go!

I love the hunt. I love every aspect of it. I love getting up early in the morning and packing my shotgun in the truck. I love the hugs from friends who arrive with white clouds of breath escaping with their words. I love the excited whimpers of the dogs and the way a mug of coffee feels on the truck ride to the game lands. I love the anticipation, it's my favorite drug. And most of all I love the brisk pace you keep up behind a dog with a nose in the thick brush and the burst of energy a flushed up cock bird explodes with into the sky. There's a few seconds of communication: who's taking the shot, where did it drop, etc. But mostly it moments is pure pumping adrenaline between intense and tempered strides across the landscape.

I was with Holden Daughton, Patty Wesner, and Patty's dog Harley. Harley's a Large Munsterlander and a hell of a tracker. With that dog we had the secret weapon against the hiding birds. He would sniff them out and scare them up into the air where we could take safe shots with our guns. I had my trusty .12 gauge with Upland and Small Game shots. Patty and Holden both had the lighter .20 gauge shotguns better suited to the bird hunting. But my trusty pump Mossberg is my all around gun. I use it for turkeys, pheasants, varmints, and with a riffled barrel and some slugs Deer in November.

We walked across the fields and wetlands for hours, in and out of rain showers, watching the dog and smiling wide as we each got a chance to take home a pheasant for each of our farms. Patty got her bird first, a fat hen. I got to shoot at my bird second, a nice flush and straight line of flight just 10 yards away from me. I managed to just hit him in the bum but he went down and Harley helped us find him when he did. After those two back-to-back successes it took a long time to find Holden's bird. We had just about given up and were practically back to the truck when the biggest cock bird we saw all day shot up into the air and Holden smote it down. Harley retrieved it from the treeline and we three happy hunters went back the truck with grins across our tired faces. We had walked for hours, stood in the chill rain, and had the kind of constant alertness that makes just a few hours feel like a marathon. It was one content ride home to Cold Antler after that.

I love animals and I love hunting them as well. To some that sounds like a cringing contradiction, and I understand that completely. I was, afterall, a vegetarian for ten years before a rare bit of hogget crossed my lips. The transition for me was based on ecology, politics, and how animals live and coexist in this little green world. My place in the scheme of things is a pack animal that hunts by daylight. That is where my bliss writhes and turns up to the sun. Everyone's got that place somewhere and mine usually ends up with a wood stove and a stew pot. To each their own.

After everyone went back to their own farms (after a celebratory brunch at the beloved Burger Den) I went to work cleaning the bird on the tailgate of my truck. There's not a lot of meat on a pheasant, but there is a surprising amount of yellow fat. I cut off the birds head, skinned him (faster and cleaner than plucking), cut off the hefty thighs and breast and set the rest aside to compost. All that was left was feathers, a ribcage, and entrails really. I put it into the compost with a shovel and brought in the two pounds of white meat. I set it in a big pyrex bowl of cold water and ice cubes that would slowly cool the bird down. Soon I'll add salt and bay leaves and make a simple brine to soak it in all night. This brine will soften the tense new meat and make it retain moisture better when it is cooked. My plan is to either make a crockpot pheasant and wild rice soup with potatoes, squash and carrots or make a honey glaze and roast it and serve it on a bed of wild rice with a side salad. Both ideas are making my mouth water a bit as I type this and I suppose the weather will tell. If it is a cold and blustery day tomorrow stew will be the word of the day. If the sun shines and I spend a deal of it on horseback, then a roasted bird by the wood stove will win. Snow is already in the forecast here for Friday with a night time low of 26 degrees!

Glad I have my wood in!


Anonymous Adam said...

Sounds like a great hunt! When the Homebrew demo is done fermenting, I've had good results using beer brines for game; may be worth a shot.

October 10, 2012 at 3:44 PM  
Blogger Becca at Rabbit Moon Farm said...

Sounds like a grand time. I found a place near the apartment to practice with a bow so maybe this time next year I'll have the chance to write about my own hunting expeditions. Fingers crossed.

October 10, 2012 at 4:00 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth from the Berkshires said...

Oh, it sounds marvelous.

October 10, 2012 at 4:00 PM  
Anonymous Awfulknitter said...

There might not be much meat left on the pheasant carcass, but it might be worth roasting (particularly if the oven is on anyway) and boiling up to get a little bit of tasty stock.

October 10, 2012 at 4:39 PM  
Blogger Kristen said...

Rock on, Jenna. Hopefully you're not getting too many judgmental anti-hunting comments. I don't hunt yet, but hope to be able to someday. Love your stories!

October 10, 2012 at 4:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a grand day, and great that each of you had the opportunity to bag game.

Great choice on shotgun, too Jenna. Not a light upland gun by any means, but a pump Mossberg is the swiss army knife of shotguns,(as you pointed out) able to do it all, and with modest care it will serve you for a lifetime of use.

October 10, 2012 at 4:56 PM  
Blogger Alison said...

Yumm-o. You didn't mention picking shot out of the bird's butt...did it end up in the nonedible parts of the bird, or did you skip that bit?

Also, would you consider writing a bit about how/when you got your gun, and how you learned to use it safely? I missed that part of your evolution and would be interested to hear your perspective on firearm education.

October 10, 2012 at 4:57 PM  
Blogger Kimberlie Ott said...

Nice job! I had pheasant/chukkar curry last night for dinner, so I am all in on how your eating! congrats! (also glad your wood is in after hearing your forecast~ :)

October 10, 2012 at 5:02 PM  
Blogger Susan said...

Good job! I am not a hunter myself, but I appreciate hearing about it and seeing the end results. The birds look great. Enjoy!

October 10, 2012 at 5:17 PM  
Blogger Lara said...

The cackle of pheasant has seemed the soundtrack of my youth—and there certainly is nothing like a good hunting dog to inspire. So glad you could partake in their pleasure today--and love the front door view. Favorite way to have pheasant is roasted chicken style with a teriyaki glaze basted over the bird as it roast; one of my treasured memories is a 15 year-old self going out and bagging a bird one morning after tending to the stock, prepping it up this way and enjoying it with my little 7 year-old brother one late fall day when I was staying home with him while he had chicken pocks—but you’re suggestions makes my mouth water too!

October 10, 2012 at 6:55 PM  
Blogger Kirsten said...

So what does pheasant taste like?

October 10, 2012 at 7:57 PM  
Blogger Misty said...

Typically after I've slaughtered, the meat is cooled rapidly (add a little vodka to the ice water, it lowers the temp of the ice water) and then wrap and put in the fridge for three days. This allows the rigor mortis to leave the muscle tissue. ( I just had a lamb carcass in the fridge for four days and it was so tender when I cut it up to wrap for the freezer.)

October 10, 2012 at 9:55 PM  
Blogger goatgirl said...

Oh ya...gotta have a good dog! My hubby hunts with a Mossberg. Make sure you check your safety. My hubby almost Dick Cheneyed me because the safety malfunctioned. He found out it was common in that gun and needed to be replaced.

October 10, 2012 at 10:03 PM  
Blogger Ngo Family Farm said...

Congrats on your successful hunt! That honey glaze really has my mouth watering - yum yum yum.

October 10, 2012 at 10:40 PM  
Blogger J.D. Collins said...

When is deer season in upstate? November? I can't remember.

October 10, 2012 at 11:22 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

I like hunting pheasant too. The fall mornings, the flush of the bird, the roosters crowing, and of course the sound of the shotgun. The added plus is that the bird is great tasting! I envision the hunt as you described it!

October 11, 2012 at 12:11 AM  
Blogger Sonya said...

Wow..congratulations! does it have a gamey flavor? I've never eaten one myself. I realise it will have a semi gamey flavor but wasn't sure if it was a strong one or not.

October 11, 2012 at 2:27 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

Good for you! I love that picture of all the mums and pumpkins and those birds hanging by the door. Pure farmhouse country right there. And snow? Stew sounds good to me. Enjoy that bird. And I hope there are many many more for you. And a bog ole deer soon too!

October 11, 2012 at 8:03 AM  
Blogger Kris said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

October 11, 2012 at 8:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of my favorite posts and pictures! Thank you. All the reasons we eat home grown meat and veggies are trebled by wild game or forage...... pure, un-messed-with goodness. Hope you saved a few feathers for a wreath or one of your funky hats! I made some cute door hangers last Christmas with old scrap barn lumber, evergreens, twigs, and wild turkey feathers, also did some with those merry christmas plaques from the $1 store. They were cute! Beth from Ky.

October 11, 2012 at 8:56 AM  
Blogger Luann said...

Don't forget to post a picture and recipe for your roasted bird tonight! So prud of you Jenna you keep me very inspired. I am not sure I can hunt but I have raised 2 piggys that are about ready to be butchered.(thanks for your inspiration) My farm has only just begun.

October 11, 2012 at 9:39 AM  
Anonymous Samantha Burns said...

Beautiful birds for a yummy dinner. Enjoy!

October 11, 2012 at 10:13 AM  
Blogger Michelle said...

Mmmm! Sounds delicious! If you were here stew would win, but I hope you'll roast that beautiful bird. Roast pheasant just sounds so amazing!

October 11, 2012 at 10:51 AM  
Anonymous Candy said...

Jenna, have you ever tried soaking the meat in a weak solution of baking soda in water overnight? My mother did that with the pheasants, squirrels, and fish that we hunted/caught. She claimed it took some of the "gamey-ness" out of the flavor.

And she stuffed the pheasants with onions, celery, salt and pepper and rice, and roasted them.


October 11, 2012 at 1:26 PM  
Anonymous Lisa C said...

I've been following your blog for a while, but 1st time commenting. I used to hunt with my dad when I was younger: pheasant, deer, dove etc. I second the comment for a beer brine, mine turned out delicious (way back when). I love using my great grandfather's 20 gauge with the stock modified for little me and my short arms! Getting up early in the crisp fall air was always my favorite thing to do!

October 11, 2012 at 8:05 PM  
Blogger SusieQT said...

I second the roasting idea! And it really is worth the trouble to pluck it- all that fat makes the skin nice and crispy, plus you have the bones left over for soup. My husband got me into hunting and I love small game and turkey hunting best. I leave the deer hunting to him, because he's so good at it- 2 doe in the freezer already this year!

October 12, 2012 at 10:26 AM  
Anonymous Tree Removal Brooklyn said...

The Hunting Season is one of the biggest year round... The amount of hype, adrenaline, and crispness in the air during the Autumn leaves me with a warmer heart then fresh baked peach cobbler... Good luck this year!! Bag some goodies!!!

-Ken Nicely

October 12, 2012 at 2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've certainly changed a lot in a few years! Love reading your blog.

October 12, 2012 at 6:12 PM  
Anonymous Dani said...

If you are at all interested in sharing those feathers, drop me a line.

October 12, 2012 at 7:50 PM  

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