Category Archives: Outdoors


Big Game Ammo And All That Remains: How to Make Game Stock

The stock making process starts with a scrap bag—a gallon-size Ziploc kept in the freezer that collects the trimmings from onions, carrots, celery and other vegetables. (Of course, you can also make stock with fresh ingredients, but this method is kind of like saving your pennies for a rainy day.) A simple stock can be made by adding the ingredients of the scrap bag into a pot with the leftover carcass from a pheasant, grouse, duck, or goose, deer leg bones or other game scraps, covering everything with water and letting it simmer for a short period of time, say 30 minutes to an hour. However, with just a couple more steps and a bit more time (mostly unattended), you can achieve a richer, fuller flavor by roasting the scraps before soaking them.

Here’s a recipe for pheasant stock, but you could easily substitute the pheasant carcass for just about any game bird or whole or cut leg bones from deer, elk, moose, and other venison.

Pheasant Stock Recipe

– Pheasant carcass or assorted pheasant bones
– 1 cup each of celery, carrot, and onion scraps
– Assorted herbs, including thyme, parsley, and rosemary
– 1 bay leaf
– 12 cups water (or enough to cover pheasant)

1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the pheasant bones and vegetables in Dutch oven or heavy, ovenproof stock pot. Place the uncovered pot in the oven and roast for 30 minutes, or until ingredients are browned.

2. Move the pot to the stovetop set the heat to medium-high and add a few cups of water, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any browned bits. Cover the pheasant and vegetables with the remaining water, add the herbs and the bay leaf and raise the heat.

3. When the water just starts to boil, remove any scum that has risen to the top. Lower the heat and cover the pot. Simmer slowly for at least 1 hour; two is even better.

4. After a few hours, remove the pot from the heat and let it cool slightly. Remove the bones and vegetables with a slotted spoon and discard. Pour the stock through a cheesecloth-lined strainer or other fine sieve.

You can let the stock sit overnight in the fridge and skim any hardened fat from it the next day, though, with lean birds like pheasants, this generally isn’t necessary.

Stock can be stored for up to a week in the refrigerator or several months, covered, in the freezer.

Finally, NOAA Officially Recognizes Saltwater Sportfishing


NOAA Fisheries is the agency charged with managing marine species and those who target them. Well, saltwater sport fishing has been a part of the nation’s marine fishing scene as long as there’s been a nation. In fact, as Whit Fosburgh of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership pointed out, it’s a rather large part of that scene: 11 million saltwater anglers spent $27 billion in 2011, generating more than $70 billion and sustaining 450,000 jobs. And we’ve had numbers like that for many years.

Yet it’s taken this long to be recognized as important enough to actually deserve a policy – something the commercial sector has had for many decades.

The reluctance to recognize the importance of sport fishing really goes back to that word “sport.” Unlike freshwater species, marine fisheries have always been seen as having commercial value only – which is why its management is domiciled in the Department of Commerce. So while recreational anglers have been shouting for equal treatment in the faces of NOAA managers for a generation or two, we really didn’t start to get noticed until the business end of our pastime – tackle companies, boat and motor makers – got involved. And now it’s finally happened.

While it’s important to credit this administration for finally doing what others should have done decades ago, it’s still a little early to move that chip off our shoulders. They don’t deserve gratitude for doing the obvious.

Now for the cheers:

Having a policy is important because it will establish the framework not just for how the species are managed, but also for how decisions are arrived at. And in this case, according to NOAA, that process will include active involvement by the recreational fishing sector – from industry components to angling groups.

Marine anglers know damage can be done to a resource when we allow fishing without input from science. Just as much harm can be done to a fishing community when an agency manages without input from that sector.

This change in attitude wasn’t the result of a light bulb going off somewhere deep inside the agency. It was the fruit of a long campaign by industry and marine conservation groups. Progress started in 2009 when NOAA agreed to reach out to the sector, and in 2010 held the first recreational fishing summit.

The sport fishing coalition took a giant step forward last year when it outlined a roadmap forward with the report “A Vision for Managing America’s Saltwater Recreational Fisheries.”

Those years of work paid off with NOAA’s announcement, which tracks many of the recommendations in the vision report.

The deal was unequivocally sealed by Eileen Sobeck, assistant NOAA administrator for fisheries, with these words,  “I commit that NOAA Fisheries will actively engage the recreational fishing community, and we will do our part to find cooperative solutions.”

Those words should have been said decades ago. But it’s still good to finally hear them.


Two Ways to Deal with Mule Deer Buck Fever


We know that the sight of a big-game animal can have a profound physical effect on the body. Back in the 1990s, at a plantation loaded with really monstrous whitetails, scientists attached heart monitors to a number of deer hunters who then climbed into their trees stands to await one of these behemoths. When a Serious Deer did stroll by, heart rates went instantly from normal resting (about 72 beats per minute) to close to 200 per minute, which is a trip to the ER for many people.

Some hunters are immune to buck fever. Some get it only once or twice in a career. Some get it all the time. Some get it with one species and not another. I know of a Texan who stood up to Cape buffalo charges without turning a hair but went into paralysis when a bull elk came screaming and bellowing to his call.

Experience is not necessarily a cure. The worst case of buck fever I’ve seen personally involved a hunter who was a veteran of 20 safaris, but this particular time, when he encountered a lion at close range, shook as if stricken with the palsy and made a bad shot. On that same safari we had a fellow whose buck fever was a miracle of consistency; he disintegrated completely every time he got a shot, regardless of whether it was warthog, kudu, or wildebeest.

The only way I know to deal with mule deer buck fever is to shoot in competition, which is shooting under pressure, which is what shooting at game is. It doesn’t matter what kind of competition, just as long as you expose yourself to being publicly humiliated if you screw up and rewarded if you don’t. A leisurely afternoon of shooting cans with your .22 will not do this.

Or climb into the Octagon with Ronda Rousey and get your brains beaten out and your arm broken. After that, buck fever will seem like a pleasant afternoon in the sun. You may even enjoy it. Who knows?


March Madness: The Final Four of Whitetail Buck Hunting Shotguns

And so, we are ready for tip-off—and mercifully done with sports analogies until next week. Here’s the updated bracket and Bourjaily’s original seeding. Scroll down to vote.

(See the Sweet 16 here.)

Division A

1. Remington 870: America’s most popular shotgun is a perfect match for America’s most popular game animal. Available in the right configuration to shoot any type of slug or buckshot, the 870 can be made even better with a host of aftermarket accessories.

2. Remington 1100/11-87: It’s everything the 870 is but in a softer-shooting package thanks to its recoil-reducing gas system. Almost any aftermarket part made for the 870 is made for this gun, too.

3. Tar-Hunt: This semicustom bolt-action shotgun is more like a rifle that just so happens to be chambered in 12 gauge. It takes a scope easily and has a rigid action and free-floated barrel. “Slug Accuracy” ceases to be an oxymoron when you shoot a Tar-Hunt.

4. Mossberg 500: The first production shotgun to come with a fully rifled barrel, the popular 500 Slugster has a cantilever scope mount and removable raised comb. The LPA model is fitted with Mossberg’s adjustable Lightning Trigger for optimal accuracy.

5. Winchester Super X3: This very soft-shooting and reliable design represents a family of semiautos that includes the Super X2 and the Browning Silver and Gold. With a rifled barrel and cantilever mount, it’s capable of shooting slugs very well.

6. Benelli Super Black Eagle:
 The dream gun of many waterfowlers makes a good slug gun, too, when you add a rifled barrel. It takes a scope well, and Benelli offers interchangeable soft combs so you can make the stock fit for shooting with a scope, too. [Some slug trivia: The very first recorded 1-inch, 100 yard group shot with slugs was fired through a Benelli with a custom rifled barrel and BRI sabot slugs 20 years ago.]

7. Winchester SXP Black Shadow Deer:
 Formerly known as the 1300, this inexpensive slide-action is one of the smoothest, fastest cycling pumps ever. The Black Shadow comes in all black synthetic with iron sights, a rifled barrel, and a drilled and tapped receiver.

8. Winchester Model 12: Although never made in a slug version, the Model 12 is the classic choice for taking a stand in a swamp and waiting for the hounds to run a deer by your stand. With six in the magazine and one in the chamber, the slick shucking Model 12 could put out a lot of buckshot pellets in a very short time.

Division B

1. Savage 220/212: The company’s reputation for affordable accuracy shines in this shotgun. Fitted with a two-round detachable magazine and Savage’s excellent Accu-Trigger, the 12-gauge 212 and the 20-gauge 220 are great shooters for surprisingly little money.

2. Ithaca Model 37 Deerslayer:
 Besides having the best name, the deer version of the bottom-ejecting Model 37 has a reputation for excellent accuracy. Deerslayers have been made in almost every configuration imaginable, from take-down smoothbores to the mighty nine-plus-pound Deerslayer III, with its fixed, free-floated, fully rifled heavy fluted barrel.

3. Browning A-Bolt: The 3-shot A-Bolt shotgun was ahead of its time when it came out in the 1990s, when slug shooters were more interested in quantity of fire over quality. But tastes change, and the A-Bolt has since been reintroduced. It’s a great shooter with a clean trigger and good fit and finish, too.

4. T/C Encore: This gun’s versatile receiver can be fitted with a 12 or 20 gauge fluted, rifled shotgun barrel, turning the Encore into a very accurate single shot slug gun with an exposed hammer and a nice clean trigger.

5. Benelli Super Nova: The slug version comes with a rifled barrel and the Nova’s innovative synthetic receiver is drilled and tapped for easy scope mounting. The stock is adjustable by means of shims and comb inserts for a semi-custom fit.

6. H&R Ultra Slug Hunter: If “bang for the buck accuracy” was the sole criteria, this H&R would win hands down. Available in 12 and 20 gauge and featuring a heavy, rifled barrel, the Ultra Slug Hunter is cheap, crudely finished, offers only one shot, and weighs a ton. But it’s very accurate and has a surprisingly not-bad trigger for a gun that sells for under $300.

7. RBL Professional: The lone double gun in this bracket, the rifled RBL from Connecticut Shotgun Manufacturing Company has fully rifled 20-gauge barrels and a mechanism that lets you regulate the barrels to the same point of aim. It’s not cheap at four grand, but if you can’t afford a double rifle or a trip to Africa, you can hunt whitetail buck hunting at home with one of these.

8. Browning Auto 5: Although its moving barrel makes it a difficult gun to scope, the popular, classic Auto 5, with both plain and rifled slug barrels, has taken down countless whitetails over the years.

Division A

(1) Remington 870 vs (4) Mossberg 500

Division B

(2) Ithaca Model 37 Deerslayer vs (3) Browning A-Bolt


Deer Hunting Article: Cut Your Shooting Lanes Now

The following evening I sat the stand again and readied myself to fill an antlerless tag as a doe noisily walked through the slough. When she hit the spot I had trimmed, her eyes bugged out and she back-peddled. She offered no shot as she walked stiff-legged back into the cattails. Nearly 30 hours had passed since I’d handled that brush with gloved hands, yet it was more than enough to turn the doe inside out.

The memory, though bittersweet, is a good reminder to do as much trimming as I can now; not this summer, and certainly not this coming fall. If you’ve done a bit of spring scouting, I suggest you do the same, whether you’re looking to trim a shooting lane, or carve out a route to your stand.

Taking care of these details right now gives the deer a chance to get used to the changes you make in their home territory and also allows Mother Nature the chance to soften the edges of your intrusion through time. A shooting lane, trimmed judiciously in April will look like nothing more than a natural opening come September. Ditto for the well-seasoned exit route cut through the bush.

Most of the trimming you do now, provided you’re not too conservative with your saw-work, will suffice throughout the hunting season. This is good news if you’re concerned about any deer, let alone mature bucks, knowing you’re in the area. However, due to unchecked weed growth, some of the trimming you do now might need a touch-up in August. Because of this, I typically mark all of my entrance and exit trails with biodegradable flagging tape or reflective markers so I don’t waste any time looking for my earlier handiwork. Before a rain shower, I’ll don my rubber boots and take a midday stroll just to make sure that my lanes and trails haven’t grown over too much. Ideally, I’ll do very little work on these return trips, and whatever intrusive olfactory clues I’ve left behind will wash away during the predicated rain.

Little details make a big difference in the whitetail woods. Cutting trails and shooting lanes early can allow an encounter to transition from the adrenaline-pumping first sighting to getting the deer within shooting range.

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Trophy Mule Deer – Write Best Caption, Win a Cabela’s Trail Camera

You don’t own a camera? Well, you can fix that right now. All you have to do is write the winning caption for this photo, and you can have any one of the three camera in the Cabela’s Outfitter Series ™ line.

You win, and you can choose between the 8MP IR model, the 8MP Black IR, or the 10MP model that takes color video, even at night. If you need proof of how cool the latter is, check out this awesome video of a badger defending a mule deer carcass from coyotes.

Most of you know the drill by now. You’ve got one week to submit a killer caption for this photo of trophy mule deer. Hurteau and I will be down in Kentucky, shooting bows for our 2014 Best of the Best bow test, and we’ll need some humor to look forward to after a week of flinging arrows. So have at it!
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