Life Is A Garden: Do you dig it?

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Life Is A Garden: Do you dig it?

By Sarah Fromenthal

EvoOutdoors Team Member

So you’ve gone out and harvested yourself some wild game. What pairs well with the fresh, “free” food you just harvested? That’s right…. fresh, “free” vegetables from your own vegetable garden in your back yard! What could be better than a meal prepared by yourself, from items you harvested yourself?
Growing up, I had the benefit of watching my parents and grandparents, year after year, grow a fairly large, successful garden. When it came time to do mine own, I began to do my research and realized there is a lot more to it than just throwing seeds into dirt.

A backyard garden can be the most rewarding or the most painful process, depending on the amount of effort and forethought put into it.

It takes the realization that gardening is more of a long term process than a weekend project to be successful. I compiled a list of a few things you may want to research on your own before starting your first garden.
What are you planting? This part should be fairly simple right?

  • First take into consideration what do you like to eat. Think of the recipes you most commonly eat and what fresh produce it takes to prepare that meal. Does your family consume more venison spaghetti than the law allows? Plan on planting some tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and possibly fresh herbs.
  • If you produce too many, will you have a way to preserve it such as canning, freezing, donate to more than happy to accept neighbors, sell at a local farmers market, etc?
  • Do you plan on getting small plants from a local nursery or starting from seeds? If getting seeds please read the seed packet carefully for planting instructions. Some seeds need to be sewn indoors before being planted outside, while others prefer to be planted directly into the garden.
  • Keep in mind there are hundreds of varieties of the most basic vegetable. Look at your local agricultral publications to find varieties that have proven to work best in your area.
  • Some plants benefit from being grown next to certain plants while others when planted close by will cause problems for each other through disease, bugs, etc. This is called companion planting. Think its just by chance that basil pairs well with tomatoes in many dishes? Nope! Basil is often grown in the garden next to tomatoes. This pairing helps with repelling pests while attracting bees for pollination. In addition, it improves the flavorings of your tomatoes.

Where to plant?

  • What kind of garden do you want to have? Old fashion rows in the dirt, raised bed, vertical gardening, flower pots, etc. I’ve also seen people plant directly into a bag of potting soil.
  • How much of a space are you are willing to sacrifice from your yard? How much do you plan on planting? Are you feeding yourself, your family, or the whole neighborhood? Keep in mind a larger garden is a larger time spent tending to the garden. Also remember bigger plants (tomatoes, eggplants, squash, etc) need more space per plant
  • Take into consideration you will need a spot that gets at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight. Also think about water drainage; you don’t want a spot that water collects in your yard. Most importantly you will need access to a water source near by unless you want to haul pails of water.

Get into your “zone”!

  • What is a zone you ask? The USDA has established a map called the Plant Hardiness zone map.  This map helps to determine minimum temperature ranges of your local area. When choosing your plants, look closely on the plant tag or seed pack and they will often tell you planting schedules based on this or similar zones.
  • Each plant has a specific “growing season” in which they thrive. For example, tomatoes love warm weather and aren’t very cold hardy. Because I live in Louisiana where it warm for most of the year, I have a larger “growing season” for tomatoes compared to my friends further north who may only get warm enough weather for only a few weeks a year. All this information on the plants you chose can be found with very little effort online.
  • Soil types, minerals, and pH vary from place to place. You should send off a sample of your soil to your local Ag center for soil testing. They should be able to tell you what needs to be added to your soil prior to planting. Either amend your soil according to their suggestions or chose plants to fit with your soil type.
  • Warmer areas tend to have a larger bug problem. Have a pesticide plan in your mind. If you are choosing to go a more natural route with pesticides, research more organic options and ideas on companion planting to help reduce the bugs.

Use some common sense:

  •  Don’t “Go Big or Go Home”! Start off small and manageable. It’s easy to get overwhelmed at first and you can always expand next season. Also, you won’t need the fanciest of tools to get started. A simple, rake, spade, trowel, and pruners will get you far.
  • Ask plenty of questions. Online resources are there by the millions (just be sure to look up more area specific information) or go to a local nursery. Use local Ag center publications. They are often free and full on great information. Youtube is also a great tool to see other’s techniques.
  •  Recognize symptoms before they become a major problem and fix it before the problem turns into a disaster. For example, if you see a couple of bugs on your lettuce, look into a way to get rid of them before you come back to a half chewed up plant or they spread to others.
  • Don’t forget some plants require a little extra support from trellises, stakes, cages, etc. Some require special pruning, fertilization, etc. Want free, easy, fertilizer? start your own compost pile from uncooked kitchen scraps. Anything from paper products, uncooked fruits and veggies, the fish you filleted for dinner, shellfish peelings, egg shells, etc. can be collected and made into a compost pile while cutting back on your waste.

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow. -Audrey Hepburn

Now that I’ve given you enough to get you a good starting point to begin your research, I will tell you how I started my garden last spring. I first decided I wanted a raised bed. This would help decrease my weeds, give me good soil drainage when we get our crazy spring monsoons, and I could personally keep better control of my soil type. I simply picked a spot, laid out my timber, and got to work. I first took my shovel and removed the top layer of grass (not a required step but it will definitely cut back on the weeds). I then screwed together my timber and I drove some heavy duty angle iron into the ground and screwed it into my timber for support. The angle iron step is not a necessity, but the weight of the soil can easily cause your boards to bow outwards. I then laid out a layer of flattened card board boxes and news papers as an additional weed barrier before adding my soil. I personally used a 25:75 mix of bagged topsoil and garden soil to promote good drainage and aeration. I also chose to go the “difficult route” and start all my plants from seeds.  Yes, over the course of the growing season, I struggled with bugs and plant disease, but as i previously mentioned, it is important to make these observations early and correct them. After long weeks of drawn out anticipation but very little effort, I began to see my little seeds grow and turn into huge plants which then turned into vegetables that we were able to eat.

A few things that I learned along the way in my first year:

  • Do not lose your cool when one plant seems not to be growing as hearty as the others, it may just need a little more TLC but will soon catch up with the others.
  • Checking the buds every twenty minutes will not help them grow faster.
  • Bees love the garden. They will pay little to no attention to you working in the garden and are not there to attack. Lizards are also a necessity to keep some of the bugs at bay.
  • I needed stronger stakes for my tomato plants that got carried away and had the tiny metals ones nearly bent in half.
  • Try growing something you’ve never tried before and it’ll force you to get creative with recipes.
  • I just love my garden. Growing and hunting my own food gives me a true appreciation for what I’m putting in my mouth and how it affects the way my body functions compared to junk food.

 

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I was born, raised, and am currently living in Thibodaux LA (about an hour SW of New Orleans). There is nothing I don’t at least attempt to do. Gardening, cooking, kayaking, bow fishing, crafts, hunting, etc. I like to stay constantly busy.

Slow Cooker Venison Burritos

Slow Cooker Venison Burritos

Scott Emerick, EvoOutdoors Team Member

Are you sick of the same old venison recipes you have been cooking for years? Try these delicious and extremely easy venison burritos and I guarantee you wont just cook them once.

This recipe wins no awards for being the fanciest but is by far my family and friends favorite.

scottWhat you will need:

-1.5 – 2 lb boneless venison round

-1 (16 oz) Jar salsa (hot if you like spicy)

-1 (15 oz) Can corn – (drained)

-1 (15 oz) Black beans – (half drained)

-1 (8oz) Package cream cheese (4 oz needed)

-1 Package of your favorite flour tortillas

-1 (8 oz) Package shredded Mexican cheese

Lets get cooking!

  1. Place your venison into the bottom of your slow cooker.
  2. Cover with the jar of salsa, drained can of corn and half drained can of beans.
  3. Set the slow cooker to LOW and cook for 6-7 hours or until the venison pulls apart easily with a fork. It is easiest if you remove the venison from the slow cooker and pull apart on a cutting board. Return the venison to the slow cooker.
  4. Cube 4 oz cream cheese and stir in until melted.

That is it, time to eat!

Place the desired amount on a tortilla, top with shredded cheese, along with sour cream and hot sauce if you prefer and simply enjoy!

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Scott Emerick was born and raised in Michigan. He came from an outdoors family but aside from fishing, they never hunted. “I always was and still currently am the only one out of my family who hunts. I was introduced to hunting from a buddy in college. After a few hunts I was beyond addicted.”

BBQ Shrimp: A Quick Cajun Favorite

BBQ Shrimp: A Quick Cajun Favorite

Sarah Fromenthal, EvoOutdoors Team Member

www.evooutdoors.com

Do you love seafood, spices, butter, and crusty bread and want a quick weeknight meal (approximately 20 minutes total)? Well this is a meal that will quickly grab your heart by the tastebuds! Unlike the name suggests, this is far from your traditional ” BBQ” and requires no grill or BBQ sauce. Also, be warned in advanced that this is a finger food that is NOT meant to be neatly eaten, but instead, it encourages finger licking.

Now the original version that I have indulged in over the years contains an inordinate amount of butter, but I have knocked the butter content down from a pound of butter to under an individual stick of butter. Its also traditionally served with crusty bread to sop up all of the juice, but since we are going healthier I chose to use lightly steamed cauliflower.

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You will need:

  • About one stick of butter (my conscious only allowed me to use about 3/4 of a stick)
  • One can of your favorite beer
  • 1/2 Cup of green onion
  • 1/3 Cup of Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 Tbsp of liquid crab boil (I use Zatarain’s)
  • 1 Tbsp if cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp of red pepper flakes
  • 1 Tsp of hot sauce (I’m partial to Louisiana Hot Sauce)
  • 1 Tbsp of kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp of black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp of dried thyme leaf
  • 1 Sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 6 Cloves of minced garlic
  • 2 whole bay leaves (remove before serving)
  • 1 Lemon
  • Approximately one pound of large shrimp- de-headed but not peeled (the peelings enhance the flavor)
  • Juice sopping option (crusty bread, cauliflower, etc)

Melt the butter on a medium heat in a large saucepan. Once melted, add the beer and allow to simmer until some of the beer begins to evaporate. Once the beer is slightly reduced, add the green onions, garlic, bay leaves, Worcestershire, crab boil, cayenne, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary sprig, and hot sauce.

Roll the whole lemon on the cutting board before cutting in half to release its juices, then squeeze the juice of the halves into the pan then drop in the whole lemon (don’t let the seeds fall in because it will add an unwanted bitterness).

Stir all the ingredients well and let them come to a low boil without allowing it to smoke. If for some reason you think it needs more liquid, add additional beer.

When ready, add the shrimp in but be sure they are laying in one flat layer to ensure they cook evenly. After approximately two minutes depending on size, flip them over and allow that side cook until shrimp is all evenly pink in color but not overcooked. Remove the bay leaves, then pour all this deliciousness into a large plate and serve with your favorite bread (or other option to soak up the juice) with a handful of napkins!

Enjoy!

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Sarah Fromenthal was born and raised in Southern Louisiana and has a strong passion for hunting, fishing, the outdoors and cooking.

 

Women’s First Lite Merino Wool Base Layers Review

Women’s First Lite Merino Wool Base Layers Review

By EvoOutdoors team member Andrea Haas

Original Post: Huntress View

When I first started hunting about 10 years ago, my hunting attire consisted of bulky men’s camo over a couple pairs of long johns as base layers, depending on the weather. Needless to say, that system just didn’t work for me and I was happy to see that soon women’s hunting apparel companies started to appear, like SHE Outdoor Apparel and Prois. But one thing was still lacking for me: good quality women’s base layers.

Base layers are crucial when the temperatures really start to drop in the winter and can either make or break a hunt. I spend hours in the tree stand and need to be able to withstand the elements, rather than being forced to pack up and head home at prime time because I’m too cold. This happened to me last season and cost me a very nice 9 point with my bow.

Thankfully in 2015 First Lite came out with new Merino Wool base layers specifically for women and I was able to put them to the test. Over the years I have tried a few other brands of base layers but I feel none of them performed as well as the First Lite base layers did in regards to thermoregulation, scent control and moisture wicking ability, which is exactly what Merino Wool is known for. They were soft and comfortable without any itching like what you may think of when you hear the word “wool”. Not only did they perform well in the cold, they did just as well in temperatures over 80 degrees by wicking away moisture; I didn’t sweat at all while walking to my tree stand. I was extremely impressed!

Base Layer Options

Firstlite collage

Lupine Crew Top and Larkspur Full Length Bottoms in Sage Green

The Syringa Shorts can be worn underneath your full length bottoms as undergarments, or can be worn alone as a base layer in warmer weather under your outer layer pants.The top layers consist of the Lupine Crew Top and Artemis Hoody, and the bottom layers consist of the Larkspur Full Length Bottomsand the Syringa Short. If you are considering purchasing the base layers, I would at the very least, recommend the Lupine Crew and Larkspur Bottoms.

The Artemis Hoody can be worn as a base layer top, or over the Lupine Crew top as a mid layer.

Artemis Hoody with Lupine Crew Top underneath, and Syringa Shorts

Artemis Hoody with Lupine Crew Top underneath, and Syringa Shorts

I used the sizing chart on the First Lite website to determine what size I needed based on my measurements. I am 5’3”, 110 pounds and I went with an XS in the Larkspur Full Length Bottoms and the Syringa Short, and a Small in both the Lupine Crew Top & Artemis Hoody. I originally ordered an XS in the Lupine Crew top but it was just a little smaller than what I like so I ordered a small instead and it fit perfect.

Sizing/Fit

I found that the bottoms fit best when I went down a size smaller than what I would normally wear, and that the tops fit best when I went up a size larger. The bottoms seemed to stretch out just a tad after being worn a time or two, but shrink back to normal after being washed. I love that the waistband on the bottoms stretches with you and does not dig in too tight on your hips or mid section, creating the dreaded “muffin top”. Both of the tops have thumb holes in the arm cuffs for added warmth and concealment, and helps keep them from rolling up whenever you put on your outer layers.

These are available in sizes XS to XL.

Color Options

There are 3 solid colors available (Black, Golden and Sage Green) and 4 camo patterns (ASAT, RealTree Xtra, RealTree Max-1 and First Lite Fusion). I ordered my base layers in Sage Green and the Artemis Hoody in the new First Lite Fusion camo pattern.

Artemis Hoody in First Lite Fusion

Artemis Hoody in First Lite Fusion

First Lite Accessories

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Talus Fingerless Merino Glove in Dry Earth

There are several other First Lite apparel items that have became my hunting staples, the Talus Fingerless Merino Gloves, theMountain AthleteCold Weather Sock and the First Lite Beanie. The gloves have open fingers, which I prefer for bow hunting, and have worked great for me all season long. In late season when it gets colder, I recommend either a full glove, or adding a hand muff for added warmth. The socks work great to wick away sweat which is great for both warm and cold temperatures. The beanie is fairly lightweight & what I like to wear during early bow season when it is still pretty warm.

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First Lite Beanie and Lupine Crew

The First Lite Women’s Base Layers have played a crucial role in my hunting success this season. I’ve been able to hunt more comfortably in both the cold and the heat, and have even noticed a big decrease in the amount of times I have been winded by deer thanks to the merino wool’s natural resistance to odor. I highly recommend these for any female hunter looking to extend their time in the field!

Success In The Field

Pheasant Hunting: I wore the Lupine Crew & Artemis Hoody

Pheasant Hunting: I wore the Lupine Crew & Artemis Hoody

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Rifle season doe: I wore the First Lite Lupine Crew top, Larkspur Bottoms & Talus Fingerless Gloves

Duck Hunting: I wore the Lupine Crew, Artemis Hoody and Larkspur Bottoms

Duck Hunting: I wore the Lupine Crew, Artemis Hoody and Larkspur Bottoms

First Lite products available at EvoOutdoors.

Get to know team member Andrea Haas via her hunting blog and Facebook page called Huntress View where she shares her hunting stories and gives hunting tips and advice. “I feel that more women will become involved in hunting and the outdoors if they are able to learn about it from other women.” -Andrea Haas

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Going Greek: Venison Gyros

Going Greek: Venison Gyros

Adam Parma, EvoOutdoors ProStaff

Kristin Parma, EvoOutdoors Media

“Gee-ro”

“J-eye-ro”

“Hee-ro”

I still don’t know how to pronounce it however, no matter which pronunciation you decide, the Gyro sandwich has been deemed an American-Greek fast food staple. Served at festivals, carnivals and a select number of Mediterranean restaurants around the United States, the Gyro sandwich is a delicacy that I don’t often get to eat, but absolutely savor when I do.

According to Whats Cooking America the Gyro type of sandwich has been known, and sold on the streets of Greece, the Middle East, and Turkey for hundreds of years. Greek historians believe that the dish originated during Alexander The Great’s time when his soldiers used their knives to skewer meat that they turned over fires. Even today, a proper gyro is made with meat cut off a big cylinder of well-seasoned lamb or beef on a slowly rotating vertical spit called a gyro.

I don’t know about you but I don’t have a slow turning vertical spit in my kitchen. Heck, I barely have a kitchen! If you’re anything like us, you like to think outside the box when it comes to your wild game meat. After all, you worked hard to harvest the animal and what better way to honor your hard work than to experiment with different recipes.

Here is our own take on a venison gyro, or as Adam calls it a “Deer-ro”

Ingredients:

2 lbs venison steak- any cut.

We used a package of deer venison steak at the very bottom of the freezer…you know, that package that is unmarked and questionable. The one that clearly you were either too tired to label during processing or didn’t even know what to call it. Any cut and type of venison meat will do, from deer to exotic game.

Olive oil

Unsalted butter

1 white onion

Salt, pepper, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, garlic and any other spice combinations you may like- oregano and mint would be good!

Pita bread

Feta Cheese

Tzatziki sauce

Typically you can buy tzatziki sauce in your local grocery store. Store bought has a very strong dill flavor and I like mine a little more diluted. Click on the link for an EASY TZATZIKI recipe which you can tweak to satisfy your pallet.

Roma tomato, sliced

Romaine lettuce, shredded

Hot sauce- Because we live in the South y’all

Directions:

1. Thinly slice one white onion and the venison steak.20151130_183658

2. Season with spices. 20151130_185330

 

3. Using a cast iron skillet, heat and coat pan with olive oil and a tablespoon of butter.  Add. venison and onion mix. Sear venison on both sides, making sure not to overcook but letting a crust form on the edges of the meat (that will give it the true gyro texture!). Add more olive oil/butter as needed. 20151130_1856134. Assemble sandwiches by heating pita bread. Layer tzatziki sauce, meat and onions, lettuce, tomato, feta cheese.

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Add hot sauce for a spicy kick!

5. If you are feeling really creative, wrap your Gyro sandwich in foil for that real street food feeling. Enjoy!

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Kristin and Adam Parma pose for Christmas portraits on their ranch in Adkins, TX.

Adam and Kristin Parma co-own the Czech Out Ranch in Adkins, Texas.

THE WORLD IS YOURS: Guiding through the Texas Youth Hunting Program

THE WORLD IS YOURS

By Kristin Parma, Evo Media

www.evooutdoors.com 

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            “Ariel, I am here for you,”

the words of her father, echoed in my mind as he braced his daughter in the ground blind the morning of November 14th, 2015. Ten year old Ariel had the determined but worried look of a beginner hunter as she shouldered up to the rifle the way her father had taught her. The kick of the barrel, the pressure of making the right shot, and the consequences of missing her target. The check list of thoughts that we as hunters think about at one time or another in our lives. Ariel took the rifle off safety and peered through the scope.

The target? A sounder of feral hogs.

DSC_0830According to Texas Parks & Wildlife, feral hogs are distributed throughout Texas, with the highest population densities in East, South and Central Texas. Feral hogs compete directly with livestock and often cause damage to agricultural crops, fields, wetlands, creeks and trees. Because of this and many more reasons there are few regulations in the state of Texas on the harvest of feral hogs. For more information about feral hogs visit TPWD: Feral HogsDSC_1028

After a few more encouraging words from her father and I, Ariel pulled the trigger. The sounder scattered in all directions. A young hog was hit as it slowly made it’s way into the thick south Texas brush. That morning we saw many whitetail does. Ariel however, made the decision not to take a shot. The does were walking in front and behind, chasing one another. Ariel was not confident she could shoot in time to only hit one deer. Visibly, she was worried and felt remorse for the beautiful deer in front of her. Based on her training, Ariel wanted to make sure any shot she took was a clean, ethical one. An extremely important and mature decision to make for a ten year old child. A decision that her father and I supported despite any effort we made to coach her through it.

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Sunset at Hoffman Ranch

For the second year in a row my husband Adam and I have been blessed with the opportunity to volunteer with the Texas Youth Hunting Program (TYHP). TYHP is the joint effort of the Texas Wildlife Association (TWA) and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) to offer youth hunts that are safe, educational and affordable, all while learning about the valuable role that landowners and hunters play in wildlife conservation.

ThDSC_0935is was our second year as hunt guides/mentors at the Hoffman Ranch, a low fence cattle farm owned by Mr. & Mrs. Hoffman in Alice, Texas. This particular TYHP hunt included four children ages 10-14, their fathers and four volunteer hunt guides/mentors. The primary target was to harvest one doe whitetail deer and/or varmint. Volunteers like Hunt master Jack Thompson and cook Dan Griffin, as well as the generosity of the landowners made the hunt possible. In addition to hunting two evenings and two mornings the kids were treated to an educational and enthralling talk from Texas Game Warden Carmen Rickel.  Kids and adults alike, were invited to look through Carmen’s night vision goggles, ask questions about gear and hunting regulations, as well as take an oath to uphold the responsibility to be wildlife stewards.

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The experience of volunteering your time with a youth program is a wonderful feeling however, guiding this hunt with Ariel and her father made it rewarding beyond measure. Prior to that weekend, I questioned my skills as a guide.  I am not an expert hunter and I have reservations about ever considering myself one. I believe ego can kill our compassion for wildlife. I refuse to think I am so good at something that I forget what it is like to learn, to grow, and to be excited about a day in the field, harvest or no harvest. From the smallest white-wing dove to the largest game animal I have hunted, the Roosevelt elk, I respect all wildlife beyond the kill. What I do have are many experiences in the pursuit of game that have helped me gain the knowledge to help others in the field. In particular, animal behavior and tracking. Some time after Ariel’s shot I took to the brush in search of her harvest. I was determined to find that hog and though I am scratched and scarred from the cactus and assortment of thorny trees, I did. An accomplishment and affirmation to myself that I am worthy of being a guide and mentor.

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Ariel’s first harvest on her father’s birthday! This hog was dressed and taken home by the father/daughter team for consumption.

I came away from the weekend with a renewed sense of what hunting really is. Hunting is time spent outdoors pursuing and celebrating all wildlife. Some people may contest that I did not hunt that weekend. I would challenge that argument. I experienced everything a hunter experiences and more- except pulling the trigger. I prepared, watched, analyzed, tracked and felt the adrenaline, remorse and excitement of a weekend in the field. All the components that we perhaps take for granted sometimes as adults in the hunting community. After all, we don’t call it “killing” for a reason. Hunting is so much more than that.

Wildlife we saw: Coyote, bobcat, quail, turkey, deer, javelina, hogs, fox, geese and more!

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Though Ariel had never pulled the trigger until that weekend I learned that she helped her mom and dad with an array of activities including hunting, baking, canning wild edibles, and tanning snake skins. I learned from Ariel that weekend about many of those things. I treasure the time spent with her and her father. Most importantly, I respected her father’s patience. If Ariel decided she didn’t want to shoot something it was OK. There was no pressure, only support and guidance from the both of us. To spend the following morning after her harvest in the blind taking pictures of all the beautiful animals and being an audience for the fidgety, spitfire antics of Ariel, was more than enough to satisfy any of my goals for the weekend. A girl who wanted nothing more than to make her dad proud, and of course, laugh. Something I can completely relate to as a wife and daughter.

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A father daughter pact

That morning I stood outside the blind watching father and daughter make a pact.

“I will hunt the piggies and you can hunt the deer.”

Ariel told her father. The love of a father is something very sacred and special. To know that a father wants the world for his daughter is even more special. To be thanked by that father for my guidance and help to instill the confidence in his daughter was beyond measure.

20151114_111227My message to Ariel:

Ariel, the world is yours. You can do anything you put your mind to. Never stop dreaming and striving to fulfill those dreams. You ARE a hunter however, continue to learn and be in wonder of the wildlife around you. A picture is just as special as a harvest. May your father and you be blessed with many more hunting memories. Now, bring home the bacon!

Adam and I hope to visit Ariel’s family in the new year and give Ariel her first archery lesson. I am also told that Ariel’s homemade biscuits are melt in your mouth good!

 

Kristin Parma  Czech Out Ranch

“Look a hawk in the tree!” -Me

“There’s a hog in the tree?”  -Ariel

“Yeah when pigs fly!” -Ariel’s father

(Laughter)

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TYHP Hunt: Hoffman Ranch 2015

Follow the link below to read about my first TYHP experience at Hoffman Ranch:

TEXAS TRADITIONS

Group shot

TYHP Hunt: Hoffman Ranch 2014

Healthy Living: The Effects of Western Hunting on a Southern Girl

In Louisiana most whitetail deer hunting is done on private land. You can ride an ATV up to any spot, throw a lock up in a tree and sit for hours. Do not get me wrong, many south Louisiana hunters put in a great effort working on the land, sometimes walking through waist deep water. Tackling the swamp while being mauled by mosquitoes for hours on end. However, it is very easy to get complacent in ones physical health, clothing/gear choices and still be able to perform the tasks required to hunt down here.

My eyes were opened to a new world of hunting necessities when I set out on a new (to me) adventure of elk hunting in the public hunting land of Colorado. 

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Heading out west, I had no clue what to expect nor had I ever seen mountains before.

I studied articles and videos to prepare myself for what was to come however, nothing prepared me for the way it would change how I thought about myself. The mountains showed me that although I was physically fit enough to be able conquer the hikes we took from the base camp, I was in no way fit enough to accomplish a pack in hike. My dream was to be able to hike in for miles with a heavy pack and sleep in the wilderness away from everything. To hike further and higher everyday than I had on that first trip. I knew doing this would take months of preparation to ensure that I was fit enough to do not only the long hike in but to also recover quickly in preparation for the following days hikes.

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As hunting season in Louisiana wrapped up, I decided to buckle down and start living a healthier life. My first step was to build a raised garden bed in my tiny back yard. Growing up, my parents and grandparents always grew a beautiful garden therefore I knew with the knowledge I had gained from watching them over the years I could grow my own veggies. It was a huge money saver. A few dollars spent on seeds translated into many meals and even some vegetables preserved to be enjoyed all year. As every hunter knows there is a sort of “slump” that sets in after season ends. My garden kept me physically and mentally active.

I quickly found working in the garden to be very therapeutic, rewarding, and a huge confidence booster to see the tiny seed that I planted flourish into a huge plant.

I decided I needed to do more than integrate a few vegetables in my diet so I joined in on an “accountability group” 9D144EC0-0EA2-49BE-8C1A-06003E9DCC9B_zpsdef38gtsthrough work.  This forced me to weigh in weekly. The fact that I was doing it with coworkers forced me to stay focused. I didn’t want a simple diet where I was omitting a certain type of food completely; I wanted a lifestyle change that would change my way of eating forever. I worked on portion control, which I have always struggled with, by weighing and measuring everything until I had a better idea what a serving size actually looked like. In addition, being creative with my wild game, seafood, and fresh vegetables, I recreated my favorite dishes into a new healthier version of its previous self. I used seasoning and spices to give food more flavor so it was more filling. By making these simple changes to my diet, I began seeing a change on the scale.

858DB16B-58B1-4135-AE06-1E2F126229B7_zps9hvnk1qhI quickly realized that in addition to eating correctly, I needed to start a workout regiment for myself to be able to get stronger and gain muscle. I started off slowly by walking around the local university. Slowly it progressed into a walk/run and further distances.  I incorporated various weight lifting workout videos I found online. After I felt that I was strong enough, I decided to start working on building “mountain muscles”. I started off with a fifty pound sack of deer corn in my backpack I planned on using for my Colorado hunt. I walked to the university stadium and did the bleachers, then I walked a lap around the campus. Over time, I slowly added more and more weight until it was time to leave for the hunt.  Not only was this building muscles but it helped me get my pack adjusted correctly with heavy weight. By adding these additional exercises to my daily routine, I was able to drop weight even quicker and I was seeing a big boost in my energy levels.

The next part of my “elk ready” process was to re-access my gear and clothing choices. I knew we would be doing a pack in hike so I worked to find lighter alternatives to the supplies I had and reduced the amount of unnecessary supplies. I planned to bring dehydrated meals, vacuum sealed “harvest kits” containing such items as game bags. I planned out how to stuff all of these items into my pack. I weighed each item and then the pack as a whole to be sure that I could easily carry everything I needed. When I went to access my new choices of clothing, I tried to pinpoint problems I saw in my previous gear and worked along with EvoOutdoors CamoConcierge service to find products that would best solve these problems.

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aProblem 1: Stretch and maneuverability in durable pants. I quickly realized that my previous clothing was actually working against me while hiking because of its lack of stretch, especially in the pants. I decided to get a pair of the FirstLite Kanab 2.0 pants and the Corrugate Guide pants. Both offered a unique fit that was looser in the hips and thighs but more fitted in the lower half. This fit allowed for full range of motion. Both have high waisted fits and can be worn with suspenders, preventing them from riding down over time with a heavy pack and impeding maneuverability.  The Kanab 2.0 pants are made of ultra light merino wool with body stretch 1441587702159-1927885061nylon and also feature a rip stop pattern making them perfectly silent for a spot and stalk while being durable. The Corrugate Guide pants are made of a lightweight, durable, breathable nylon fabric that makes them nearly bombproof against all but the most extreme weather. While they aren’t as silent as the Kanab’s, they truly proved themselves to me in the rain we endured on an almost daily basis while in the Colorado mountains.  Not only were they somewhat water resistant, but when it came to getting drenched in the downpours, they dried very quickly making it possible to wear them again day after day. First Lite also features a “shooters cut” on their shirts (see problem 2) that have specially designed shoulders to allow full range of movement and fitted lower sleeve to prevent bow string interference.

Problem 2: Odor control after days of continued use. Knowing we would be in the back country for a number of days1430188149902-2353460841430071241262694008033a with limited ability to wash clothing, I needed clothing that would naturally neutralize odors, even after days of continued use. It was suggested that I use a merino wool based product because wool naturally wicks away moisture (as much as 30% of its weight) and releases it into the air. By doing this the moisture doesn’t remain on the skins surface, allowing bacteria and therefore odors to be created. First Lite created a women’s line of merino wool base layers that fit my needs perfectly. The set of the Lupine crew shirt and Larkspur bottoms created naturally odor resistant base layer that I topped with the Artemis hoody and finished it off with a pair of their Mountain Athlete Compression socks. Even after days of wear, these products remained relatively odor free (except for the socks, but I blame the waterlogged boots). Minus 33 has a line of merino based underwear that I also used and highly suggest.

Problem3: Reusable gear. Lets face it, I am a tight with my money so I wanted gear that not only worked well in the mountains but would also be good for hunting at home so I needed something that could span from the heat of 14301875240601376827267Louisiana early season but could stand up to a cool Colorado mountain archery season morning. I also wanted a pattern of camo that would work for both areas. First Lite accomplished these as well. Another 1409588562924-768062539great attribute of merino wool is because of its extreme moisture wicking abilities, it helps maintain the body’s natural micro-climate by removing the excess moisture in the air between the skin and clothing. This makes the wearer cooler in the heat and warmer in the winter. Previously, I was using a well known popular brand of camo that blended well in some locations but not in others. The fusion camo is a unique pattern described as “crackalature” by First Lite is designed to distort the hunter’s silhouette while avoiding “color blobbing” that has truly14398583972051093645653proven to blend in with everything from the rocks to the swamp. It uses large and small shape disruption to cause distortion of not only the general shape but of “texture” and depth also. Their website truly has some very interesting literature on this subject, but I can tell you from first hand knowledge that it is easy to lose someone sitting only a couple feet away from you in the fusion camo.

 

With these changes to myself and my gear, I headed west again with confidence and the ability to conquer whatever mother nature could physically throw at me. After a little over a ten mile hike, uphill, in the pouring rain into our designated camping spot and spending nearly a week in the back country, I could not conjure a single negative statement about the First Lite gear that had been suggested to me. As for my physical fitness, I had advanced leaps and bounds over what I would have been able to accomplish had I stayed on the path I was traveling.  I am no miracle worker or extraordinary case.

If I can change my life for something I am passionate about, just about any one can if they put in the time and effort.

Sarah Fromenthal, EvoOutdoors ProStaff

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Sarah Fromenthal was born and raised in South Louisiana. Sarah has a strong passion for hunting, fishing, the outdoors, and cooking what she catches/kills flowing throw her veins. She believes archery is a sport you can never completely master and is always reading, listening, and observing to become the best archer she can be, but she also loves to share the knowledge she does have with others.

The Hunt Has Just Begun. [A Reflection of Bear Camp]

The Hunt Has Just Begun.

[A Reflection of Bear Camp]

By Ryan McKinney

EvoOutdoors, ProStaff

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Bear Lane Guide Service is located in Wesley, Maine and has been family owned and operated business for over twenty years. Frank Perkowsky, a registered Maine Master Guide is at the helm of this outfitter. Along with two other registered guides, Frank tirelessly devotes his time to bringing clients the best guide service that Maine has to offer. That being said, I’m quite bias. Bear Lane happens to be my family business, and I’am fortunate to be a part of it. I don’t write this article to promote Bear Lane, but to reflect on my time there.

I won’t speak of other outfitters, rather explain how our guide service operates. In Maine, bear season lasts four weeks, in the fall, opening the last Monday in August. Furthermore, Bear Lane legally hunts two ways, over bait and with hounds. When clients book with Bear Lane, they get a package that includes food, lodging for five days and guide service. So what exactly is guide service? If you are not familiar, becoming a guide is no easy feat in Maine. You can research the guidelines here. In short, the guides responsibility is the client. Period. Frank and his team are an established outfit, with countless bait sites and thousands of acres of hunting land. They work to maintain bait sites, maintain a continuous rotation of trail cameras, transporting clients, tracking and processing harvests and most importantly, ensure the safety and success of their clients. While the guides do everything they can to ensure you’re successful, you’re left with the responsibility to eat like a king, sleep and hunt. Moving forward, let me clear that Bear Lane and it’s staff have an impressive track record and are a very successful outfitter, this article is under no circumstances is a reflection of them.

bear 1I have been fortunate enough to be able to hunt bear in Maine for a couple of years. At this point, I have yet to harvest a bear, and that has been the best experience I could ask for. The woods in Maine are a relentless place, thicker than I’ve ever experienced. So imagine that you’re in your tree stand, and all you can see is the shooting alley that you have to the bait site. You’re lucky if you can see anything else, or any further. That being said, bear are very sensitive to movement, so that means, you need to sit painfully still. This is where I struggled the most.

When I hunt whitetail, I can basically do jumping jacks in my tree stand and still be successful. It’s very difficult to stay engaged when bear hunting; you end up staring at the same site, for hours, without moving, at all, for five days.

Process that for a second. Most people can’t sit still for 10 minutes, let alone several hours. If I were to be totally honest here, I would say I contemplated quitting several times and I didn’t want to bear hunt anymore. I found myself going through a whirlwind of emotion, starting excited, engaged, focused, and as the hours passed, you couldn’t get me out of the woods fast enough. I was frustrated. And it’s for this reason that I wrote this article. As the week passed, the desire to quit grew. I hunted hard for five days, I was mentally exhausted. Any avid hunter will tell you, sitting for several hours, and remaining hyper alert, is taxing. I was done.

Another year passed without a bear harvest. This year was especially difficult because I felt the pressure to perform from various avenues. Even on a less formal level, my friends and family eagerly awaited my call or a photo on social media boasting my success. I received an overwhelming amount of support, and for that, I am grateful. However, It didn’t happen. I couldn’t get over this overwhelming feeling of failure and disappointment. Oddly enough, this is where my greatest success seemed to be. I was better for it. The lessons I learned from NOT being successful is where I grew the most. If I were immediately successful, then I’m not sure I would have gotten much out of it, other than a mount on the wall and some classic harvest photos. I really feel strongly that this is where the hunting industry falls short. Up-and-coming hunters see nothing but Boone and Crockett bucks, Pope and Young black bears, and various giant animals harvested on TV. Of course no one wants to see a hunter sit in a tree stand for hours on TV and not see a thing, but I don’t think the industry is doing anyone any favors here – But that’s another article. I vividly remember watching Bill Dance catch giant bass after giant bass on TV when I was a kid. It was fun to watch, but it made my expectations unrealistic when I was fishing with my dad.Bear 4

 

As I sit in my comfy chair a week after my hunt, I am able to think a bit more clearly and really look back on this hunt. Im a better hunter and outdoorsman than I was two weeks ago. Hopefully, I’m a better example to my family, friends, and outdoor community from these experiences. I will hunt black bear again.

This article is my mount on the wall.

I want people to see the other side of hunting. You’re not always going to harvest an animal, but you can always be successful. I continue to grow, learn patience, perseverance, and gain experience. When I began this journey in the outdoor industry, it was immediately important to me to teach my boys, and anyone else who wanted to learn, the things that were taught to me by my mentors. This is a chapter in that book.

“A hunt based only on trophies taken falls far short of what the ultimate goal should be.”~Fred Bear

Ryan McKinney

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MORE THAN JUST BEARS

MORE THAN JUST BEARS

By Erin Merrill, EvoOutdoors ProStaff

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Kryptek Camo from EvoOutdoors

Seven miles down a narrow dirt road, into the back woods of Maine, away from towns, pavement, electricity and cell service, five Maine outdoors women of varying ages and backgrounds are at camp for the same reasons:

We love the outdoors and we want to hunt black bears.

For some of us, we want to keep pushing the boundaries of our comfort zone and become better outdoors women.

Estimates put Maine’s bear population at around 30,000 and with successful hunters taking an average of 2800 bears over the 16-week season. The Maine Black Bear is thriving if not over-populating species in the dense woods. However, these animals are incredibly smart and keenly aware of their surroundings which makes successfully hunting one a great accomplishment.

Robin and I have each shot a bear before; her’s over bait and mine using hounds. Tammy is a professional photographer and has been bear hunting for a handful of years now. Taylor is an incredible biologist by trade and while she was at camp, the bear she wanted is at a different bait site closer to her house.  Sue is a trauma nurse and active leaders in the outdoor women’s movement in Maine.  Robin enjoyed silencing critics who questioned if, as women, we could handle bears by ourselves in the woods alone by pointing out,

“We are five women who have and know how to use high powered rifles.  No person or animal is going to mess with us.”

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Since it was early in the season, we were sitting over baited sites waiting for the bears to hit hyperphagia and begin to come into the sites before dark.  Each morning Robin would get the bait together and with a truck and 4-wheelers, we would check the sites to see if they had been hit and add more bait and smells to lure the bears in.  It is no easy task to get the bears to steadily come to the sites when there is so much natural food around.

‘I’m terrified of them,”

Sue said when I asked if she enjoyed her week in camp so far even though she had not yet seen a bear, “I came here to conquer my fear and if I haven’t done it, I’ve come close.” For Sue, conquering her fear meant sitting on a metal chair placed behind a piece of camo fabric tied between two trees and looking between the trees towards the bait site.  For a beginner with a healthy fear of bears, sitting on the ground and waiting for one to come in is about as bad ass as you can get. Bears are silent in the woods which is how they earned their nickname the black ghost. It tests your mental and physical limits as you sit, listen and watch – without moving and giving your location away.  As night sets in and new sounds emerge, you need to be on your game and ready for a bear to stroll in.  Every sound you hear may be a bear or it could be a moose, deer or coyote or fisher.  Hunters know how many other animals are roaming the woods with us.IMG_6501

Hunting and her relationship with Robin helped Tammy become more independent and grow her confidence in her outdoor skills.  She sat in a treestand as the winds from an incoming storm steadily increased and decided to build herself a ground blind when the swaying of the tree got to be too much. Using fallen branches, leaves and a piece of canvas, she created a small blind that she sat behind until dark.  Just a few years ago, she would not have had enough confidence to get down alone from her stand, let alone build one on the ground.

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Taylor and I

I am not nearly as courageous as Sue or Tammy when it comes to conquering the mental piece of hunting.  I sat in a treestand with Robin and tried to become familiar with the sounds of the Canada Jays, ducks in the bog and tree frogs.  I watched a Northern Flicker land on a branch 15 feet from us and preen for a few minutes, totally unaware that we were in the tree.  A Snowshoe Hare came in and out of the site a couple of times before disappearing into the thick underbrush.

During the entire week, we saw signs that bears had been around and were eating grubs from tree stumps and fallen logs but none of us saw a bear.  We spent time hiking, foraging for mushrooms, exploring the fields, talking about our favorite guns and scopes and drank lots of coffee and wine as we shared stories and our love of the Maine woods.

Bear camp is about more than just the bears.

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Erin is actively involved with local organizations that promote women in the outdoors and has taught classes on writing, campfire cooking and white-tail deer basics. You can find Erin’s writing about the challenges facing women hunters, life in the Maine woods and her hunting and outdoor adventures on her blog www.andastrongcupofcoffee.com as well as in her monthly magazine column “Women in the Wood” featured in the Northwoods Sporting Journal.

Simply Delicious: Pan Seared Dove

Simply Delicious:

Pan Seared Dove

 Kristin Parma, EvoOutdoors Media Coordinator

Recipe from Adam Parma, EvoOutdoors ProStaff

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Depending on where and what you hunt with (November is dedicated to falconry) dove season spans almost all of the fall period in Texas. While perhaps simpler than waterfowl or upland bird hunting, dove hunting does actually require being a good shot with your shotgun. Dove, especially Mourning dove, are fast little birds of quick deception. They can easily be coming in one direction and change their flight pattern quicker than a blink of an eye. Often times they will fly right past your head coming from behind or fall quickly behind the tree line.

Side note: The dragon fly is to dove season what the squirrel is to deer season. 

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My first dove!

460September 2014 was my first dove season. I shot my first white-wing less than 100 yards from my doorstep. For a girl who grew up in the suburbs of Eugene, Oregon I felt so very thankful to be living my dream on acreage in Texas. It felt better than Christmas morning. The emotion of providing my own food in my own “backyard” is more exciting than anything I could have ever hoped for. Non-hunting organizations will have you believe that hunters do not eat the dove they harvest. However, like other wild game birds, the dove is absolutely DELICIOUS .

Dove vs. Squab

In the culinary world a squab is referred to as a young domesticated pigeon. From what I gather though a squab can be referred to as a young dove, wild or domestic. According to Texas Parks & Wildlife there are five different types of dove/pigeon that can legally be hunted in the state. It is important to be able to identify migratory birds as there are several species of dove that are protected. For instance the protected Inca dove shares our home with us at the ranch. These dove are much slower, smaller and mostly ground dwelling. For more information on dove identification visit Texas Parks & Wildlife: Know Your Doves.

So, you ask- why is dove so tasty? Dove has VERY little fat and unlike a chicken, dove is a tasty flavor nugget of all dark meat. This gives it, to me, a beef-like quality.

Ah-ha! These are the “chicken nuggets” our future children will eat every fall in their homemade happy-meals.

According to Genuine Aide Natural Healthy blog the nutrients of one squab are packed with Vitamins A, B and C. Along with other essentials like protein, iron, calcium, potassium and Omega 3 fatty acids. These improve brain function, immune system, healthy skin and nails among other many beneficial attributes.

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My teacher, Mr. Parma!

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Dove Season 2015

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Our collie Jane enjoys dove hunting

Most Southerners opt to take the dove and bacon wrap it with a slice of jalapeño on the grill. I am NOT, I repeat not, in any way putting down bacon…But really? Is it necessary? Dove meat is tender if cooked properly and adding bacon is not needed for flavor or moistening purposes. In addition, there are many fancy “foodie” type recipes out there for wild game birds like duck, dove and pheasant. Any Google search on the internet will make you assume you have to soak, smother or baste an itty bitty dove for extreme hours. A turn off for many.  My husband Adam, A.K.A. “Boots” is my culinary hero. In my eyes he is an innovator in simple, delicious wild game cooking. It must be the beard that gives him those powers. While many of the recipes found online are no doubt delicious sometimes I think we have lost track of the simpler, equally tasty recipes that our grandparents and furthermore, pioneer relatives grew up with. After all, people have been eating wild game for a long time without fancy sauces…

At the ranch I like to think we live like pioneers- 21st century style of course. Currently, we live with very limited indoor space and do majority of our cooking in one very reliable and well-loved cast iron skillet. This year Adam’s first haul of dove inspired this bread crumb and pan seared dove recipe that had my taste buds tingling.

Ingredients (serving size for two):

8 deboned and breasted dove

Bread crumbs (We used store bought spicy breadcrumbs but you could make your own)

1 fresh farm egg

Sea salt to taste

Oil of your choice (We only use olive oil)

Steps:

  1. Remove the breast meat from the dove.

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    Adam teaching friend Melanie how to clean a dove

  2. Place cracked egg and breadcrumbs into shallow bowls. Add any other spices you would like to the breadcrumbs. Dredge the dove breasts into the egg and then into the breadcrumb mixture.

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    When I asked Adam about the egg wash his response was, “You take an egg, wash it and put it in the bowl- egg wash!” *smirk*

  3. Pour about 1/4 inch or less of olive oil to the bottom of a cast iron skillet and bring to 350 degrees.1905
  4. Sear the dove breasts in batches for about 2 minutes turning once during frying. You are looking for a good exterior crust. Remove the dove to a platter and lightly sprinkle with sea salt to taste.1906
  5. Serve with your favorite side dishes and ENJOY natures gift!

Adam and Kristin share their homesteading adventures on their Czech Out Ranch Facebook page as a way to honor all the people in their lives that aided them in following their dreams. They enjoy sharing their story with others to perpetuate the notion that if you dream it, it can happen.

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Dove season 2015