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

Broken in the Backcountry: Preparing for Emergencies

Broken in the Backcountry:

Preparing for Emergencies

By Lisa Halseth

EvoOutdoors ProStaff

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It was the weekend before the 2014 archery opener, my dad, Dan and I had just finished setting up our hunting camp.  It’s our home away from home in the fall, tucked in the endless mountains of Montana. Since the hard work was done we decided to head out on the horses to do some evening scouting for bulls. It was a beautiful evening, the weather couldn’t have been better. After a six mile ride, as we crested the highest ridge we spotted a couple bulls down below us in a lush meadow. We tied up the horses, and sat down to get a better look.  We stared in awe, as we witnessed eighteen bulls grazing, sparing and raking the ground. It was an amazing August evening that I was lucky to share with two of the best men in my life.

An evening I would never forget.

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As we rode back towards camp that evening, I had a serious case of elk fever. We anxiously discussed our game plan for the following Saturday, which would be opening morning of the archery season. While daydreaming of those big bulls, I completely lost focus on my horse and the horse I was ponying behind me. As I looked over my shoulder to check on Kimber who was following behind me, my horse decided to snag a quick bite of grass. As she reached down my right rein slipped from my hand and fell to the ground. I turned back and realized what had happened. This was not a big deal, I was just going to reach forward and grab the rein which was hanging to the ground from her bridle.  As I stood in my stirrups and leaned forward toward her head to grab it, she simultaneously stepped on the rein and jerked her head to release the tension that had pulled her head down. As her head jerked back, it met my face hard.

All I remember is hearing a loud crunching noise and seeing stars.

The next thing I knew I was on the ground on all fours holding my face and completely out of it. The blood immediately started to flow. Once my dad and Dan realized I was on the ground they came running.  There was so much blood gushing from my face that they weren’t sure of the extent of my injuries. My dad threw me his handkerchief as he said, “I hope you didn’t break your nose!” At that moment I brought my fingers to my face and then I knew my nose was not in the right place. It was pushed to the right side of my face. Luckily, I had enough adrenaline going through my system that it numbed my face and I wasn’t able to feel where my nasal bone had pushed through the skin on the bridge of my nose. The guys were on their knees trying to get control of the bleeding as the blood began to pool up below me. They were trying to play it cool and not let on how bad the damage really was in order to keep me calm. Luckily, my dad was prepared and had a first aid kit in his saddle bags. Granted, it had been in there for years and he wasn’t sure how stocked it was. It was more than Dan and I could say. We hadn’t even thought to pack something as simple and important as a first aid kit on the ride. We managed to find enough gauze to pile on my face hoping it would stop the bleeding or at least slow it down. They helped me to my feet.  I was very light headed and every foot step felt like another sharp blow to the face. The pressure of every little movement I made was felt in the fragile fractured bones of my face.

image7We were still a few miles from camp and I knew I wouldn’t be able to handle the rough ride out on horseback.  My only choice was to start hiking.  The guys grabbed the horses and we began our slow trek back to camp.  I had so much gauze piled on face, I could only see my feet and the trail directly below me.  We eventually made it to camp and left the horses with my dad. Dan unhooked the horse trailer, got me in the truck and we made our way to the nearest hospital. Three hours after smashing my face, we finally pulled up at the ER.  After a six hour visit in the emergency room, my face was x-rayed and finally stitched up after 8 hours of heavy bleeding.  I was a few drops short of a blood transfusion. I had a concussion, three loose front teeth, compound fractured nose, broken cheek bone and eye socket. Five days later, once the swelling had gone down, I laid there, looking up at my doctor used his thumbs, with as much force as he could, to push my shattered nasal bone back into its proper position. It was the most painful experience of my life but thankfully it wasn’t on the right side of my face anymore. I was devastated to miss that opening weekend, but thankfully I was able to make it out the rest of the season and it was a memorable one. After six months of healing, the bones had finally healed and the pain was gone. My nose and face will never quite be the same but I’m thankful that I healed up as well as I did. Considering how many breaks there were in the left side of my face, the doctor said I’m very lucky that the whole left side didn’t shatter. Taking that hard of blow directly to the face from my 1,200 lb. horse and considering we were miles from civilization, this incident could have been so much worse. God was watching out for me that day.

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This whole experience made me realize how caught up I was on getting to hunting camp and chasing the elk that I never took the time to really think about the things that could go wrong out there and the preparations I should have taken. I knew the terrain well and had two others with me to help get me out of there but not having something in my pack as basic as a first aid kit was an eye opener.  I realized that one can get so excited and distracted by the excitement of big game, that we can lose focus and get sloppy. That is the moment accidents can happen and unless we are prepared, those moments can be disastrous.  Growing up in the saddle and being an experienced rider, I have had my fair share of accidents but never something so severe and never in the backcountry. After spending so many years riding I have become very relaxed in the saddle and maybe a little too relaxed at times. I was guilty of this that night and should have paid more attention, instead I was daydreaming of those big bulls and opening morning which was fast approaching. It’s crazy how fast accidents can happen.  Thank goodness I had my dad and Dan there to take care of me and get me out of the mountains safely. As traumatic as my accident was, I wouldn’t change a thing. I will continue my adventures in the backcountry but from now on I will be more prepared for accidents that could occur.

I will be sure to do the following and I hope all of my fellow hunters and outdoorsman will take these things into consideration.

  • If possible, hunt with at least one other companion or leave a detailed plan of your excursion with a loved so they have a general idea of your location and when to expect your return.
  • Familiarize yourself with the area you are hunting, know the terrain, and weather forecast.
  • Carry a map, a compass, and/or GPS system with extra batteries.
  • Educate yourself on basic first aid and always carry a first aid kit with you.
  • Pack a flash light, fire starter, food, water, or water filtration system, space blanket, knife, flares, or mirror
  • Dress in layers and wear clothes that are weather appropriate and be prepared for a change in the weather.
  • Carry a cell phone in case you have service, or two way radio if you split up from your partner.

Venturing in the great outdoors has provided me with some of the best and most memorable experiences of my life. In nature is where I truly belong but I will always be sure to use caution for it can be unpredictable and things can change in an instant. Tagging the big one or just filling the freezer will do no good if we end up injured, lost or worse.  With the fall hunting seasons beginning, I wish all of my fellow hunters a great season.

May your hunting season be fun, successful, memorable and most importantly safe.

-Lisa Halseth

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Lisa continues to spend every archery and rifle hunting season at their family hunting camp, tucked away in the endless mountains of Montana. When not in the saddle or at hunting camp, you will find her driving her Percheron draft horse team, spending time with her family, exploring the great outdoors, and photographing her adventures along the way.

Bow Shooting Tips

Bow Shooting Tips written by Andrea Haas was originally published via The Huntress View



With more & more people getting involved in archery & bow hunting, I feel I should share a few basic, but important, archery tips that help me when shooting my bow.

-The number one, most important thing to me is that you shoot the exact same way each time. Form & consistency is everything so make sure you are anchoring the same way each time. I have a kisser on my bow that really helps find my anchor point quicker each time.

-Loosen up your grip. Gripping the bow too tightly can cause you to torque the bow left or right & make your shooting off.

-Shooting at smaller dots on your targets help improve your accuracy & will help you shoot tighter groups. If you always shoot at the biggest dot on the target & can cause you to get a little sloppy. I like the Mckenzie Shot Blocker.

-For the women bow hunters: Here’s a tip to see if you are pulling back too much weight with your bow: Get your bow & sit down in a chair. Pull your feet up so they aren’t touching the ground & pull your bow back. If you can’t get it back, or are struggling too much, you are pulling too much weight. I only shoot about 45 pounds, and that’s really all you need.

Refusing to Hide: Tanning Part 1

Originally published via Armed Rogue- Armed with strength. Armed with knowledge. Armed to survive.

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When I decided I wanted to teach myself to tan animal hides I received a lot of mixed responses. Notably negative remarks such as, “Why would you do that? It’s too much work.” Or even, “That’s nasty” followed by gruesome faces of disgust. And those were from hunters! Honestly, the fact that something was hard work or “nasty” never stopped me in my tracks…Besides, I wanted to find out for myself.

Even before I became a hunter I always found it interesting the way humans categorize animals- from levels of disgust all the way to admiration. We admire the bald eagle because it is America’s symbol of freedom however, it is no more important to the ecosystem than a turkey vulture which is an animal many find repulsive. For the record I like eagles and turkey vultures all the same.

Perhaps their faces of disgust came from the fact that the very animal I decided to learn to preserve was a javelina. A javelina is one of those “nasty” critters that I find absolutely fascinating! Though similar to a pig the javelina is really a member of the peccary family. They are a relatively small 30-70 pound pig-like creature with a stink gland on their back and long razor sharp tusks adapted to crush hard seeds and roots. By rubbing their tusks together, the javelina can make a chattering noise that warns predators to back off. Their hair is long and bristly with a porcupine like quality to its appearance. They are known to be viciously aggressive and their habitat ranges from the southwestern region of the United States through Central and South America.

Having just recently moved to Texas I couldn’t wait to see my first javelina, from a safe distance of course. So when I found myself sitting in a ground blind on our good friends 2250 acre low fence property in Whitsett, Texas (New Ranch Outfitters) with nothing but a slab of wood between me and the peccary I was extremely surprised and invigorated.

I watched as the large boar, nose to the ground, sniffed out his next meal. I could hear his pig like snout at work when he winded my husband and I and ran into the brush only to show himself from a distance a few minutes later. So it turns out that the first javelina I ever saw I got to harvest with my .243 rifle…half standing, half kneeling on my husband from the ground blind. Not only was it my first javelina sight and kill but my first animal harvested with a rifle. A decent size at 55 pounds with large tusks he didn’t seem nasty to me. In fact I have seen deer with more fleas and ticks then this so called wicked creature.

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Immediately I went to work researching more about tanning hides. What I found wasn’t a whole lot of information. The information that I did find was either conflicting or made tanning seems like a science experiment gone wrong.

Surely the Native Americans were not running to their local WalMart for battery acid to tan deer hides. Well, I am a pretty simplistic gal so I highlighted different methods step for step and made a game plan to experiment myself how to tan a hide.

  • Step one: Fleshing & curing

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On a cold but sunny January day at our property in Adkins, TX I pulled my freshly skinned javelina hide out of a cooler of ice and laid it flat, fur side down, on a piece of plywood. My husband Adam, also known as Boots, helped me nail it down and gave me pointers on how to shave the flesh off with my knife without poking a hole through the skin.

I found that the javelina skin was very hard and tough which was good for me as a beginner because I was less likely to stab my knife through it…or stab myself.

Holding my trusty knife (BRT Bladeworks) at an angle in my right hand I held the flesh in my left and slowly shaved piece by piece off, peeling it back in strips as much as possible. If you’ve never skinned or fleshed an animal before it is hard to describe the action.

To me it is something you feel. You just know when you’ve got the right angle of the blade to line up perfectly with the flesh. The sun was setting on our property and though my hands were freezing and my latex gloves were too big I found it exciting work.

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Once as much of the flesh was off that I could handle for the evening the question came up of where to store the hide for curing, aka drying. Living on acreage in South Texas is a little different then my accustomed suburban life in Oregon where I am originally from. I had learned previously that leaving any sort of bone/skin out (in my case a fresh jackrabbit skull) will result in burglary from a predator be it raccoon, wild hog, fox, coyote, bobcat or neighbors dog. Lucky for us we had recently built a new duck pen for our mallards and their old pen remained a vacant prison cell perfect for protecting my hide. It is now affectionately referred to as “The skinning shed”.

That evening Boots and I went to the local grocery store in the neighboring town to purchase a large amount of one key ingredient in drying an animal hide: non-iodized salt. Non-iodized salt on the flesh of the animal hide aids in the effort to draw moisture out of it.

We made it home in the dark and I salted the hide immediately with generous amounts of salt. I mean generous! I read to use one pound of salt per pound of hide, but who’re we kidding? Can you really over salt a hide? I didn’t bother with worrying about my salt to hide ratio (Reason number one why I am a terrible baker).

In addition I read that you can let a skin air dry like the Native Americans did however, it is best to use non-iodized salt if there is excess flesh or folds in the hide to speed up the process. Since this was my first hide and salt is so inexpensive I figured it was a good route to take.

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The next few weeks proved interesting. I read that the salt would become absorbed within two or three days and to re-salt for a total of two weeks. However, we had a spell of interesting weather in South Texas that was not condusive to drying anything out: Rain. Rain. Rain.

Because I could not house the hide indoors (I have only about 300 sq ft of living space) I covered the hide with several boards in the skinning shed but moisture still found its way to it. Every day I shook off the excess rain and moisture and re-salted the hide.

Finally- sunshine in Texas!!!

Nearly a month later, with the addition of a couple raccoons**and a lot of salt, my hides are finally cured and are ready for the next step in the tanning process which I will share with you in my next post.

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It isn’t that I think I will have to tan hides to actually survive when a natural disaster occurs- probably not. Being a survivalist to me is not only about real knowledge but mental preparation.

Learning any new task is demanding on your brain in many ways. The ability to focus, follow directions (I am terrible at that!) and execute a new task is sometimes a lot harder then it seems.

Ultimately, in an emergency situation you might not get a second chance. Mental preparation is a key element to survival.

Not only that but working with raw flesh is also taxing on the brain and stomach- and while I do “ew” my way through tasks, sometimes I feel it prepares my body for the unknown emergency.

Sharpening my knife skills are a plus! This is why I think it is always important to learn and try new things- whatever interests you, take on the obstacle and it will mentally prepare you for different situations.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you CAN’T or that it’s too hard. You can, and you will.

IMG_20150130_085640Kristin Brooke Parma

Evo Media Coordinator

**Check your local hunting/trapping regulations, license requirements, etc. before harvesting fur-bearing animals

Connect with me at:

https://www.facebook.com/Czechoutranch

Instagram: Mrsbootsparma

#Czechoutranch

Gumbo: One Dish, Endless Possibilities

Ingredients

The endless possibilities of gumbo are due to the different combinations of ingredients that are possible to include, but one thing they all have in common is that it’s a favorite heart-warming, comfort food of choice for most Cajuns. No two individuals will fix a gumbo exactly the same and most will argue to the death that no one makes it better than their Momma!  I will try to breakdown the different parts of gumbo and explain a few possible variations to give you the basis for your gumbo attempt while sharing my favorite recipe for chicken and andouille gumbo. Fear not! It may look complicated, but in actuality, a gumbo is pretty hard to screw up.

 

Roux (pronounced “rue”) 

Even down to the basic building blocks of the dish, there is often debate on the type of roux that should be used and how dark to make it. You can make a classic roux or an oil free roux just depending on your preference.  All roux is a 1:1 flour to oil (or omit the oil for the oil free version) mixture that is slowly toasted over a low heat  stirring constantly until the desired color is achieved. The darker the coloring, the richer,deeper,nuttier the flavor, so I personally prefer my roux very dark, almost the color of a rich chocolate.  Constant stirring is very important to getting the entire roux a uniform color without burning it. Start over if even the slightest hint of burnt roux is present.  Roux can also be done in the microwave to save time, just be sure to heat in small increments stirring between each. Roux is the basis of many Cajun dishes and it’s flavor can be easily varied by using different oils and flours. If at any point your roux becomes even slightly burnt, do NOT attempt to salvage it in any way. A even slightly burnt roux will mess up the flavoring of the entire dish.

**Warning: Never, ever, EVER let hot roux get onto your skin unless you want to experience what we call Cajun napalm! Seriously, Madea’s hot grits has nothing on a hot pot of roux,**

Roux

 

The Flavor of “The Trinity”

Chopped onions, bell pepper, and celery often make up “The Trinity”.  This, like a roux, is often a staple in the beginning of the majority of Cajun food. I personally am a garlic feign so I add garlic to it (usually in obnoxious amounts) and I often leave out the celery out of personal preference.  Adding the chopped Trinity into the piping hot roux once the desired color is achieved helps break down the veggies quicker and also tempers the roux down so that it doesn’t continue to cook and potentially burn.  You want to be sure to cook down these veggies until tender before added the liquids.

(There is also the option of adding chopped tomato at this point, but then you are diving into the argument of “Creole” vs Cajun gumbo. I’m not a fan of the “Creole” gumbo, so you will never find tomatoes in my gumbo.)

The Trinity

The Meats

The meat choices for gumbo are incredibly unlimited. Basically anything you can catch, shoot, or raise on a farm is considered fair game (well except fish, I’m sure it can be done, but those are better saved for a grill or a Cajun courtbillion).

A few favorite combinations include but not ever limited to are:

Andouille or smoked sausage with chicken, turkey, and/or duck

Shrimp and crab (some add okra to this too)

I usually brown all of my meats (with the exception of seafood obviously) in my pot before cooking my roux and place it aside while the roux and Trinity cook down. It is added back in once all the liquid has been incorporated into the roux so that they simmer in the stock allowing the flavors to incorporate into the gumbo. Be aware that some seafood may overcook if simmered for too long, so add accordingly.

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The Liquids and Seasonings

Only liquids that are hot should be added to the roux and Trinity mixture. I repeat ONLY HOT LIQUIDS! If cold liquid is added the oil/flour mix will separate and cause a “curdled” appearance and preventing the gumbo from properly thickening. The liquid of choice to add is completely up to you, but be sure that it compliments the ingredients. I typically use a half flavor complimentary stock/half water mixture.  Add a large ladle full at a time, being sure to fully incorporate the current hot liquid before adding the next ladle full. Continue to add liquids until desired consistency is reached.

Once the liquid is fully incorporated and your meats have been added, add your seasonings of choice which can vary from a General Cajun seasoning like Tonys to herbs and peppers. Just be sure to remember not to over season or salt the gumbo at this point because as it cooks down the flavors will greatly intensify. I almost always add a few dried bay leaves in there during the simmering process also to add a subtle depth of flavor.

Once everything is added I continue to cook it down for no less than an hour, but I recommend letting it cook for several hours or simmering slowly overnight in a crockpot.

Finishing It Off

A completed gumbo can be topped with a medley of things such as gumbo file (powdered, dried sassafras…my favorite), green onions, paprika, pepper, etc.

Most gumbo is served over rice, but I was brought up to also always have a healthy serving of potato salad along with it (often served right in the bowl). The potato salad we use is of the mustard variety, consisting of minced boiled eggs and potatoes blended together with mayo and mustard and optionally pickle relish and chopped onions. A slice of bread also works wonders as a accompaniment to soak up the juice.

The SINGLE Most Important Part

I know, I know. By this point you’re thinking, “Seriously, Sarah? More to remember?!” Yes!

The single most important part of having a any Cajun dish be the best it can be is to share it with others. Having said this, on a recent adventure to visit some friends up in Pennsylvania, I froze my favorite andouille and packed it in my suitcase so that I could share a taste of Louisiana with them. This is the recipe for the gumbo I shared with them one day after a long day on the  snow catching a few perch on a frozen lake and glassing for elk. Doesn’t get any better than that does it?

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Chicken and Andouille  Gumbo

(Caution: I never actually measure when I cook so these are rough estimates, and I made a huge batch so that they had plenty left overs so feel free to cut down on portions)

2lbs of andouille sliced and halved

2 large chicken breasts diced

8 oz of olive oil

8oz of all purpose flour

2 large onions

2  green bell peppers

3 cloves of garlic

10 cups of half chicken stock and half water mixture

seasonings: Tonys, Louisiana hot sauce, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, gumbo file powder, salt and pepper

Rice, bread, and/or  potato salad to finish it off

Brown the meats, then place them aside as you prepare the roux and the Trinity as I have previously mentioned. Slowly incorporate the stock and water until you get the desired consistency, then reincorporate the meats. Season and let simmer for a few hours.  Serve with rice, bread, and/or potato salad.

Gumbo

Total Archery Challenge: The ultimate 3D trial

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When I first saw mountain goats effortlessly move about a treacherous rocky ridge along the Snake River on the Oregon/Idaho border I dreamt of what it would be like to hunt them with my bow. How exhausting it would be to hike miles in search of the ghost-like creatures and what kind of impossibly lucky shot you’d have to have the opportunity to get.  For a moment I got to imagine that I was there on that ridge at the Total Archery Challenge event in San Antonio, Texas. On a steep muddy incline in the south Texas hill country I drew my bow at 35 yards. Focused. I shot my arrow across the deep ravine and made contact with my target, even if he was only made of foam.

If you’ve never heard of Total Archery Challenge (T.A.C.) you’re about to wonder why. Total Archery Challenge is one of the biggest and best 3D archery shooting events in the United States. The T.A.C. crew is selective about where each event is held in hopes to focus on family friendly locations across the nation where archers of all skill levels can practice their craft.

I had become a fan of 3D archery shooting when I joined a small league in my home state of Oregon. It wasn’t until I moved to Texas last year that I heard about Total Archery Challenge through none other than a conversation about my new dentist (a bow hunter). I immediately contacted the T.A.C. coordinators and volunteered my time for the event at Natural Bridge Caverns in February 2015.  At the event I expanded my knowledge of the benefits of 3D archery from a volunteer and a participant’s perspective. In this article I will discuss and elaborate on my experience.

1. Practice With Purpose

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Adam Parma. EvoOutdoors ASAT hat, EvoOutdoors jersey tshirt

As an outdoorswoman and bow hunter there is much to be said about practicing your craft. Whether you’re a beginner or pro athlete, practice leads to confidence in the field.  Confidence should lead to an improved shot placement when bow hunting wild game. In general, a swift ethical shot is the number one goal when I am hunting. While shooting at Total Archery Challenge I was able to envision bow hunting situations such as the mountain goat on the ridge, an alligator on a riverbank, a strutting turkey in a clearing and much more.

If you read our previous blog written by Stephen Casey, you will know the many benefits as a bow hunter to practicing shooting at different distances and angles. Stephen Casey writes:

I always find it shocking how much can change out on the 3D range when shooting 40 yards downhill as opposed to horizontal… I like to practice with the target at varying inclines and declines, at uneven yardages, and from a kneeling, sitting, or other position(s). A great 3D range with a course that enables this kind of shooting is a great place…I like to consistently push myself to be accurate and consistent at farther distances, so that 40 or 50 yards feels like a breeze.

Total Archery Challenge really emphasized this model. Various courses offered different types of angles, distances and targets.

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EvoOutdoors ASAT hat, EvoOutdoors Women’s Fitted Tee

Intimidated? Don’t be.

One of the best rules about Total Archery Challenge is that participants are allowed to move closer to the target. This rule gives shooters of all skill levels the opportunity to practice what they are comfortable with.

As the name suggests the event was challenging, in more ways than one. I will admit the challenges did toy with my emotions. What I didn’t expect to be an added challenge was the weather. It was an unimaginably cold weekend in South Texas and many elements were against us- wind, rain, freezing temperatures. I watched many Texans struggle against Mother Nature but alas, it was just another obstacle to tackle…and very good practice for hunting in the cold weather.

It must be emphasized  that you don’t have to be a bow hunter to enjoy an event like Total Archery Challenge. In general, any 3D archery event will challenge you and force you to shoot fun, inventive shots which will ultimately help you master your craft.

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NO hunt’N, NO Fish’N, NO Nuth’N

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Members of a local youth archery club at the “warm-up” course

2. Entertainment

Participating in a Total Archery Challenge event might help you develop your bow hunting skills however; the event’s number one goal is to provide a fun and entertaining shoot for all. That being said, not all shots set up would be considered ethical and/or realistic while hunting (Unless you like to think that one day you’ll be taking on zombies hiding in outhouses and hunting blinds).

In addition to several different courses the event boasted a 3D pop up shoot controlled by computers. Described by the event’s coordinators as the archer’s “whack-a-mole” a handful of 3D targets raced across the lawn and popped up without warning. This was an extremely entertaining course to watch and very popular amongst those brave enough to tackle the challenge.

Even more entertaining, the event offered some extreme shots for prizes. By extreme I mean shooting a bulls-eye at an 3D elk target at over 150 yards to be entered into a drawing to win a new truck. Every time an archer would commit to take the challenge a crowd would gather to encourage the shooter. Instant comradery was formed.

My favorite entertainment at the event was a demonstration by local mounted archery rider Serena Lynn of S.T.A.R. (South Texas Archery Riders). The demonstration was a most impressive display of concentration as both rider and horse became one. Serena cantered and galloped across the open field while shooting her recurve bow with ease. Afterwards, Serena invited spectators to come forward with questions and pet her mare, affectionately named “Moonshine.” Serena states that the sport is “empowering and addicting” and hopes to inspire others to get involved. Serena is also confirmed to attend next year’s Total Archery Challenge in Texas. For more information on Serena and S.T.A.R. visit www.southtexasarcheryriders.com

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Serena Lynn of STAR (South Texas Archery Riders)

 

3. Comradery  

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Locals Course: Adam Parma, Kristin Parma, Morgan Garcia

 

Volunteering for the Total Archery Challenge event my friend Morgan (Armed Rogue) and I were given the task of overseeing the warm up course. During our long day spent at the course I spoke with many archers of all backgrounds and ages. I witnessed the gathering of so many types of archery enthusiasts as well as their family and friends who attended the event to cheer them on. In the hundreds of people I laid eyes on at the event not once did I see any severe negativity, aside from cursing the weather.

Adam & I enjoyed getting to shoot with our friends. In addition, we ventured on to another course and made friends a long the way. There was so much comradery between strangers, as well as guidance and direction. Each person wanted to see the other succeed. Inspiring to me was a 16 year old girl named Gabby whom we met. This sharp shooting girl had no fear of any target situation. If she missed the target she laughed, nocked another arrow and tried again. I asked her father how long Gabby had been shooting and he replied, “1…2…about 2 months now.” I couldn’t believe it! It was fun to be inspired by those around me and to be a part of such a positive atmosphere.

Noteworthy, I witnessed the constant dedication of the event’s staff. Setting up and running a large event smoothly is taxing and tough. As volunteers and as participants we were treated with utmost care, concern and hospitality. A true testament to their love of archery and all that comes along with it.

 4. Giving Back: The next generation

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Big kids can shoot the Kid’s Course too!

As outdoorsmen and women we know the value of passing on our passions to the next generation. Total Archery Challenge is a family friendly event and the staff encourage parents to bring their children. The warm up course as well as the kids course offered a fun challenge for kids of all ages. While volunteering, my husband Adam was stationed at the Kid’s Course. Adam reported that he enjoyed seeing kids with all the right equipment and more to get them started in archery. In the end, this is what it’s all about! Inspiring and giving back to the community and the next generation.

Don’t have a bow?

Total Archery Challenge has you covered. You can rent all the equipment you need to participate! No matter your experience with archery I encourage you to join a 3D league or find an archery shoot near you. Contact your local archery shop or to find the nearest Total Archery Challenge near you visit www.totalarcherychallenge.com You won’t regret it!

Thank you to EvoOutdoors for your support at this event. Thank you Total Archery Challenge, especially Monica DeGray for your kindness and hospitality.

Happy shooting!

 Kristin Brooke Parma

EvoOutdoors Media Coordinator

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See you next year Total Archery Challenge!

Find Your Shed: The benefits of shed hunting

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Shed hunting is one of those scarce American hobbies that many have never heard about. It can be a challenging and rewarding pastime, and it seems like one of deer hunting’s mysteries. There is value in shed hunting other than actually finding antlers. First and foremost it can be a family occasion. Second, shed hunting also aids in late season scouting, which is my favorite part about shed hunting. Its also a great way to keep tabs on which deer made it through the season on your hunting grounds and the surrounding grounds when you find their sheds. Lastly shed hunting will ultimately help you understand your land better and help you to become a better deer hunter. Highly successful shed hunters find more bone because they spend more time in the woods, they cover more ground, and they have developed a routine of places to look. I can’t help you with the walking, but here are some tips and tricks that will help you find sheds and ultimately get you into shed hunting.

 

10368398_621902124591345_8595388280039438603_nValue of Shed Hunting:

Walking with friends or family for an entire day can provide a better perception of your hunting land and it can be a day of adventure. Its always fun watching family and friend’s faces light up with a smile when they find an antler. It’s also a great way to grow our sport and pass the tradition on by getting a youngster involved in the outdoors. Shed hunting provides an opportunity to teach kids about hunting, wildlife, the land and it’s FUN! Sheds are also worth money and sell for about seven to nine dollars a pound depending on the condition of the shed. Finding a shed is always priceless for me!

 

Aids in Late Season Scouting:

Late season scouting could be a whole other topic for an article with it being so vast. But since you will be deliberately and systematically covering ground shed hunting you can look for rubs, scrapes, trails, etc. to get a better understanding of what the deer are doing on your hunting grounds. I like to carry a GPS with me and mark every rub, bed, and new deer trail I find. When I get back home I mark it on my map. This will help you remember where the sign was late when you start to scout early before deer season.

 

 

10343484_10203605997895102_8890751720329402274_nScout for Antlers:

Scout for antlers just like you do deer before deer season. Some bucks live in the same territory from fall through early spring however, many other deer travel to wintering areas with good thermal cover, warm south-facing slopes, food sources, and heavily used trails. That’s where those bucks are going to drop their antlers. Hike, drive, and glass for these spots and I promise you, you will find sheds. Once you’ve figured out where some bucks are spending the winter, set up trail cameras near feeding areas, well-used trails, or even a mock scrape. Use a map before season and pick out spots you want to walk.

 

Utilize Trail Cameras:

Trail cameras are huge when it comes to finding bone! Utilize your trail cameras like you do before and during hunting season. It’s a great way to know where the deer are on the land you hunt and when they start to shed their antlers. Deer will most likely shed their antlers where they feel most secure. Look near cover that provides the deer with safety and where they don’t have to travel very far to find food. Usually when it is cold deer like to stay within 100 yards of a food source they are attending too regularly. I like to focus my searching on the edges of food plots and other food sources.11016729_10152713864612253_188277947490349076_n

 

Tabs on Deer:

Shed hunting provides you with evidence on which bucks made it through the hunting season and gives you an insight on new bucks that in your area. This and scouting, will help you formulate a plan or strategy for next years hunting season. It also helps you tell the health of the buck or herd on your hunting land by knowing when he dropped his antlers, and by the color of them. If he dropped his antlers considerably early or late then he may have had his health compromised in some way. If a shed is considerably lighter than others or all your sheds have been getting lighter over the years then it tells you that the deer are not getting the proper nutrition that they need.11018578_10152703995637253_5531271716939876153_n

 

Where to Look:

During the late season deer are never far from food. So the best place to start looking is around the food source that your hunting lands produce. Deer usually stay within 100 yards of their food source when it’s cold. In addition, check heavily used deer trails headed to those food sources. Check the thermal cover areas that those trails are coming from. Lastly, check the south facing slopes. Here is an example of where I would look on the land that I hunt. First I would walk to the southern edges right along a food plot. I would do this first because the deer have quick access to a prime food source and they can soak up direct sunlight at the same time. Next, I would walk the north side of the food plots because of the good cover, allowing the deer to bed in that cover. I would then check in my “secret spots,” the spots that are obvious areas that deer love, areas that have a dozen or more rubs, etc. I always check the southern areas of these secret spots because the deer bed along the thicket for the sun exposure and the thicket provides them cover. Thickets offer a good chance for a buck to snag up an antler and drop it there. After that I check every creek and fence crossing. I check these because of the deer usually jump to cross and that jumping sometimes jars antlers loose. You have to be a smart shed hunter and pick apart the cover, searching the best-looking places effectively and efficiently.

 

Shed hunting can be a fun and rewarding time in the woods with friends and family. It can also allow you to get insight on how to hunt a particular deer for the upcoming season. So get out there and find some BONE!

-Cass Via Jr.

EvoOutdoors Prostaff

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