Sunday, November 5, 2017

Follow These Wild Game Chefs for Thanksgiving Recipes

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As hunters, anglers, farmers and foragers, a Thanksgiving feast has a deeper meaning than those who toss a Butterball and a box of Stovetop Stuffing into the shopping cart, then head for the register. The holiday offers the opportunity to give thanks for the harvest season, and share the bounty with our friends and family. With tales of blood, scales, and dirt on our hands, we are also sharing a connection to the foods that not only sustain, but enrich our lives. As the rebellious youth at the table discusses their plan for tomorrow's "Buy Nothing Day," remind them how much of their meal didn't come from the grocery store.

It's interesting how a concept as simple as gathering your own food in the natural world rather than under the beam of fluorescent lights has evolved to be a subversive way of living. Using every last piece of an animal, preserving food, or making something as simple as soup stock may not be the most popular cooking methods, but they haven't lost their luster. In a culture of modern conveniences, these are simple acts that even your yuppie relatives can admire. The resurgence of wild foods as a boujee, bohemian culinary style has allowed for a few talented chefs to emerge from the landscape, representing an expression of that hunter-gatherer culture with mass appeal. If you plan on sharing your harvest with family and friends for the holiday, study from these gurus and step outside the box this Thanksgiving.

Hank Shaw
His first book "Hunt, Gather, Cook" has quickly become recognized as a staple in the world of wild foods. His website, highlights his Hunter, Angler, Gardner, Cook cuisine, giving a detailed view of his passion for this lifestyle. Shaw's intimate connection with wild foods and their historical relevance is captured with text that would make foodies like Michael Pollan want to pick up a rod and a rifle. His fascination with forgotten foods also expresses no fear in his will to be weird. Shaw also engages his readers in a Hunt, Gather, Cook Facebook Group as an open-source exchange of information with those who share a similar interest. His second book, "Duck, Duck, Goose" is an alternative guide to the big bird feasts, and his most recent book, "Buck, Buck, Moose" includes "recipes and techniques for cooking deer, elk, moose, antelope and other antlered things." You can also look forward to the release of his book "Pheasant, Quail, and Cottontail" in the spring of 2018.

Steven Rinella

As an outdoorsman and advocate for public lands, Rinella's NetFlix television show "Meat Eater" has fueled the appreciation for wild foods by giving a point of view from the journey that led to the meal. Rinella leads a narrative through film that few of us can put into words. He speaks to the inner-monologue that hunters and anglers experience in the wild. A true ambassador to this lifestyle, he identifies with the simplistic nature of humans as just another omnivore in the circle of life. Beyond being a face on camera, the Meat Eater website provides tips on field dressing wild game, recipes, and podcasts that are an extension of the narrative on his television program.

Jeremiah Doughty
If you think you need to wrap everything in bacon to appease your relatives that complain about that "gamey" taste, Doughty will challenge you to think outside the box while you're in the kitchen. Doughty's website will open your mind to less traditional methods of cooking your wild game. If you want to try a recipe for Wild Turkey Mexican Pizza this Thanksgiving, he has one. Like other wild chefs, Doughty enjoys knowing the origin of his meals, and expresses the gratitude for them in a manner that is spiritual to him. A From Field to Plate cookbook is in the works, and you can follow his From Field to Plate Facebook Page for updates, as well as butchering tips, recipes, and an inside look into his personal hunting expeditions.
As a TV personality for the Sportsman Channel's program "The Sporting Chef," Leysath first entered television by scripting for HGTV's "Homegrown Cooking with Paul James." He is also the cooking editor for Ducks Unlimited magazine, and the author of the "Sporting Chef's Better Venison Cookbook" and "The Sporting Chef's Favorite Wild Game Recipes." A extensive library of helpful tips for the everyday hunter and angler is available on the website, including suggestions on how to package everything from your small game birds to your underwear.

Sean Sherman
Founder and CEO of the "Sioux Chef," Sherman's commitment to indigenous foods shares the voluntary omission from industrial farming and shines a spotlight on traditional Native American cuisine, and the meticulously labor intensive processes of creating things like salt and sugar from scratch that modern conveniences have afforded us to take for granted. While many non-traditional wild game chefs highlight depression-style cooking techniques, the historical relevance of Sherman's cuisine speaks to the truths about colonization. "There's no Joy of Native American Cooking cookbook," says Sherman. In an effort to give visibility to Native American cuisine, his culinary ventures have drawn the attention of National Geographic. The significance of revitalizing indigenous foods is culturally empowering, and pays homage to the ways of Native American ancestry. The Sioux Chef cookbook, "Indigenous Kitchen" co-authored by Beth Dooley, is an exodus from the modern culinary cultures that excessively call for flour, dairy, and domesticated livestock. The website provides a calendar of events for book signings and speaking tours. You can even book the Sioux Chef for catering options.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Mushroom Hunting 2017

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Rains that appear early in the fall paired with periods of warm, dry weather, are ideal conditions for producing some of the season's first flushes of wild mushrooms. Sulphur shelf, or “Chicken of the Woods,” along with lobster mushrooms, and the ever popular white and yellow chantrelles begin to show in increasing numbers. Some pigs ear, bolete, and coral mushrooms follow, rising from the substrate of the forest floor. As the season progresses into winter, hedgehog and yellowfoot chanterelles begin to show themselves.
Chantrelles are one of the most common varieties, and there is an abundance of them along the coast range at higher elevations. Closer to the coast early in the season, and further inland as rains progress. When you stumble upon one, stop and look around in your immediate area. Where there's one, there's probably more. Be careful not to trample several other mushrooms while zeroing in on your first find. Look for mossy areas under old growth, evergreen debris, and where salal grows.
While having enough rain for the moisture to penetrate the soil is vital to activating the mcyelium, you will find that some mushrooms that are more exposed to the elements tend to deteriorate, become moldy, soggy and inedible. The best days for harvesting are during periods of warmer weather after rains have saturated the soil enough that it still remains damp. When the ground is really wet, look underneath the gaps of fallen logs that have made contact with the forest floor. The areas in which the log shields the ground from rain creates a dryer environment that will produce firmer mushrooms that tend to keep longer. When the ground is dry, look for slopes that don't get as much sunlight and won't dry out as quickly, or areas near springs or streams.
Here's a few more tips when looking for mushrooms…
-Be aware of your surroundings; keep in mind that’s it’s fairly easy to wander into private property on accident if you don't know your boundaries. Check your local regulations on harvesting and entry permits for public lands.

-Keep in mind that a lot of public land is also used for hunting, so wear bright clothing and try to avoid areas where it appears someone else might be exploring.
-Do not consume any mushrooms you can not identify with confidence. Learn to identify not only your target species, but lookalikes as well.

--Don't forget to look up. It's easy to spend the day focused on the ground beneath you and miss out on a lot of scenery, as well other wild edibles like huckleberries and elderberries that appear during the early fall.
-If the quality of your find is in question, employ rule of “When in doubt, toss it out."
-While on your hike, keep track of time and your path so you don’t get lost in the woods after dark. If you are unsure about how long your hike will be, bring a headlamp or flashlight.

Mushrooms: Pick 'em and preserve them

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With the bounty of fall harvest season also comes the dilemma of food preservation. When wild mushrooms appear, they usually appear in abundance. Generally speaking, fresh is best, but in the event that you end up picking more than you can eat, you'll have to find ways to extend their shelf life. Wash your harvest thoroughly and explore these options to figure out what works best for you.

Saute and freeze
If you have the freezer space, this is by far the best way to preserve the natural flavor and consistency of wild mushrooms. Melt some butter in your skillet and add some fresh cut herbs like thyme, basil, oregano or rosemary to infuse the flavors in the butter. Cut your mushrooms into bite sized portions along with some sliced onions and toss them into pan with the butter and herbs. Add salt to taste. Ideally, you'll want to cook them on a medium heat just long enough to reduce the moisture content of the mushroom and avoid over cooking. Once the onions are transparent your mushrooms should be fully cooked as well. Place them in a glass pan or bowl and sit them aside to cool. Once cooled, place the ingredients into meal sized appropriate vacuum sealed bags, or a sandwich bags, remove the air from the bag, seal and freeze.

Preserving the flavor of dehydrated mushrooms is a tricky process, but ideal for smaller varieties like black trumpets, morels, candy caps and yellowfoot chanterelles. Place them on trays in a food dehydrator in a manner where they can get air flow around all sides. Heat will reduce flavor. Run your dehydrator on the lowest setting, and if necessary, remove the door or cover from your dehydrator to maintain the lowest drying temperature possible. If working with larger mushroom varieties, slice them into smaller, thin pieces. Leave them to dehydrate, checking their texture until it turns crispy and brittle. Once they're completely dried, place them in a jar and wait several days for them to continue fully drying before placing on a lid. If you're low on shelving space, or you simply want to try something different than dehydrating and reconstituting, put your dried mushrooms into a coffee grinder and turn them into powder, which can be used as a seasoning, dry rub, in sauce, stock, etc.

Dehydrating is simple, easy, and doesn't take up freezer space, however canning is another option that better preserves texture and flavor of meatier varieties like chanterelles, boletes, hedgehogs, etc. There are a couple different options if you're choosing to preserve your mushrooms in jars depending on the canning method. Regardless of the method, the USDA recommends using smaller jars in the half pint to pint size. Cutting your mushrooms into smaller pieces is also universal, but smaller mushrooms can be left whole. Pressure canning is a little more time consuming, but a simple recipe only using the mushrooms and water. Place the mushrooms in boiling water for 5 minutes, then remove and place them into sterilized jars, leaving an inch of headspace before wiping the rims and placing on the lids. Pressure cook at 10lbs for 45 minutes, adjusting pressure to 15lbs for higher altitudes. While pressure canning is simple, pickling and water bath canning is a better way to preserve the complex textures and flavors from wild mushrooms. Pickling will allow you a little more creative license to add herbs and spices to your liking within the jars themselves, also giving the final product more of a visual appeal. There are a few different processes to explore depending on your personal taste. If you're going for a milder flavor appeal, this marinated mushroom recipe from involves boiling and straining the mushrooms, as well as an element of added oil to the brine to tame the flavors. If you want to preserve the full intensity of the flavors and textures, a dry saute and vinegar based pickling brine would be a better option. I would recommend following Hank Shaw's recipe at Hunter, Angler, Garderner, Cook. Either way, the water bath canning process only takes about 15-20 minutes, adjusting time for altitude.

Fall is the best season.

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Fall is a time to 
recondition your raingear, as well as your mind. The changing colors of the leaves are a signal to nature to begin preparations for winter. While some of us are caught up in the consumption of pumpkin spiced lattes and halloween costumes, fall has special meaning to outdoor enthusiasts. Escape the noise of everyday life and pay homage to the tie-dyed kaleidoscope of deciduous trees that paint the landscape of public land. The Smoky Mountains National Park website has an amazing Fall Foliage Forecast Map that allows you to slide a chronological scale to display peak times for peak colors in your area. This could be your last chance to store some vitamin D from the sunshine with the coming of cloudy days, take advantage of it.

As the leaves turn and you begin to dread the chores of raking, blowing, and mulching your lawn, keep in mind that wildlife geeks like David Mizejewski of the National Wildlife Federation actually recommend that you leave them on the ground where they fall. "A leaf layer several inches deep is a natural thing in any area where trees naturally grow. The leaf layer is its own mini ecosystem! Many wildlife species live in or rely on the leaf layer to find food and other habitat," says Mizejewski. What a great excuse to skip that chore and enjoy the outdoors beyond the perimeter of your immediate surroundings. Do it for the critters!

The late Greta Wrolstad's poem 
Fontaine de Vaucluse says, "The season of rain is coming, hold out your hand." Fall is harvest season, and not just for farmers. Deer and Elk hunters are packing their freezers while salmon fishermen are filling up their smokers. Mushroom hunters are plucking fungus from the forest floor, while other foragers are focusing on the last berries that are ripening at the end of summer. If you're hoarding the remnants of previous harvests, now's a good time to start rotating your stock and burning through it to make room for more. While the weather may not be dependable, one thing that remains reliable is the inevitability of change. Make the most of your days and enjoy the seasonal bounty. The harvest season is a season of abundance, and it's abundantly clear, that fall is the best season.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Your Next Meal in the woods is on the House

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With backpackers chasing summits and hunters chasing big game, sometimes it's best to pack light when you've got to haul your meals along with everything else you need to survive. Dry goods that can boiled in water are popular choices, but not exactly the most appetizing, and they can become a bit monotonous eating them day after day, night after night. Mountain House meals are often viewed as the five star restaurant of camp cooking, but it's a luxury to have that kind of meal while out in the bush.

However, for a limited time, your next meal in the woods could be on the house, Mountain House that is. The company is offering it's consumers a one-time rebate offer of up to an $11 purchase for one of their dehydrated, pre-packaged culinary camp meals.

With camp cuisine like biscuits and gravy, lasagna, chicken teriyaki with rice, breakfast hash, and a chicken fiesta bowl, Mountain House has become one of the top choices for outdoor adventurers for over 50 years.

Just like any other kind of outdoor gear, you'll probably want to do some background research on the products you plan on using before you head out into the woods. Why should your meals be any different? A quick search of Amazon reviews will reveal a 4 out of 5 star rating, with most of the complaints being based around the price. One 5 star rating reads: "Mountain House is pretty much the gold standard when it comes to freeze dried food for backpacking, camping, or whatever other occasion might call for quick, easy to prepare meals. The down side is their cost."

With that being said, if you're tired of boiling oatmeal, grits and ramen noodles, what do you have to lose? Give it a shot! Most of the individual packages weigh between two to four ounces, can be prepared in 10 minutes, and eaten directly out of the bag.

The promotion ends on Halloween, so you'll have plenty of time to stock up for hunting season, camping, or if you're a survivalist that just wants to add a great last meal to your bug out bag! Rebate requests must be post-marked by November 14th, so get to your local outdoor outfitter and stock up now. Once you've got your proof of purchase, mail it with this rebate form to Mountain House, and they'll pick up the tab. Bon Appetit!

Young women are the fastest growing demographic of hunters

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Young women are the fastest growing demographic of outdoor enthusiasts. Research from a 2016 report by the Outdoor Foundation surprisingly shows that among all age groups, 18-24 year olds showed the most significant increase in participation of outdoor recreational activities. Within that 18-24 year old demographic, the participation rate among females was 16 percent higher than their male counterparts.

Rosie the riveter would take pride in seeing modern women break through age-old stereotypes, moving into the forefront of the typically male-dominated culture of hunting and gathering. Just in the state of Oregon, the Statesman Journal reported that the number of female hunters increased 16 percent within a decade, in spite of the purchases of hunting and fishing licenses being on a steady, historical decline.

Michelle Bodenheimer is one of those Oregonians, and the draw of the hunt transitioned her from living a vegetarian lifestyle to eventually becoming the regional director for the National Wild Turkey Federation. She believes that it's becoming more socially acceptable for women to become hunters because society as a whole is tearing down conventional stereotypes. "The outdoor sports help women gain confidence and a sense of purpose." She explains each milestone as a snowball effect that makes women only want to do and conquer more feats as hunters. Bodenheimer also credits leaders in the outdoor industry for recognizing the growing number of female participants, and providing the resources to encourage that growth. "Female participation continues to rise due to accessibility. More and more companies are making clothing and gear specifically for women, making their pursuits easier. Organizations are offering classes and clinics to help women and strengthen their skills (which helps build confidence) to get them outdoors."

Hunter Asha Aiello explains the appeal of hunting not just as an experience, but an offering of something tangible. "Women want to know where their food comes from. We want to be able to participate in the process, and there's no better way to access organic meat. You can push yourself to limits you never knew you had, and beyond, walking away with not only a stable of memories, but food for your family."

As a Cabelas Marketing Manager, Aiello's business is understanding what makes new hunters tick, and what experienced hunters want. She points to growing educational opportunities in the outdoor industry like Ladies Hunting Camp as a great resource for introducing new hunters to the sport, as well as strengthening the skillsets of experienced hunters, and offering a venue for women to network and access environments where they can develop the opportunities to mentor and learn from each other.

"I will never judge anyone if it's pink camo or a purple handgun that gets them outdoors. If you like to wear sparkly stuff because it makes you feel cute when you shoot, then go for it." However, she recognizes that kind of marketing will only take things so far. "I once had a knife maker tell me that for years the outdoor industry thought all it had to do to grab women's interest was pink it and shrink it." While those initial impulse purchases might still have their place, she's had to respond to the demand of providing quality gear that is specifically designed for women. "Women need pants that fit properly so we can move quietly in the field, boots that fit our feet, and knives that we can comfortably hold in our hands." While several companies have taken feedback to create lines for women, she says that, "The challenge is that many companies have simply assumed what women want, when in truth, they've never been out in the field with a woman to see what challenges we face, and/or what opportunities there are." Female consumers are often an untapped demographic in the outdoor industry, in spite of making up nearly 20 percent of all hunters in the United States, increasing 85 percent from 2001 to 2013 from 1.8 to 3.3 million hunters according to the NRA.

The growth of female hunters also means that they are taking on multiple roles in the outdoor industry. In 2015, the Outdoor Industry Association named Amy Roberts as their Executive Director, who also serves on the boards of The Conservation Alliance, the Candadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. A recent story in USA Today highlighted several women that are changing the face of the outdoors, including Jennifer Drake, Michigan's first and only female hunting guide, and Angie Reisch, the first female game warden in the state of Kansas. Both mention the challenges of working in an outdoor industry that is primarily dominated by men. However, the growing number of women not only participating, but stepping into leadership roles in the outdoor industry has led to organized, collaborative conservation efforts.

Jessi Johnson began volunteering with organizations to preserve public land opportunities, which eventually led to creating Artemis, a conservation group named after the Greek goddess of the hunt, geared towards the purpose of conserving resources and preserving public lands while building leadership among sportswomen to give them a collective voice when lobbying public officials. While the organization is still in it's infancy, it's already been well received at public events, with lines forming by women interested in signing up to participate in a conservation group that respects and amplifies their voices. The group also recently received a grant to further develop membership engagement, and has plans for a National Sportswomen's Summit in the Spring of 2018.

It's easy to see how the outdoor industry faces it's own challenges in keeping pace with the growing number of female hunters, but with women participating on multiple levels, their voice is one to be heard as both consumers and leaders by companies and public officials.

Fallen Outdoors Archery Event

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While hunters are preparing for the upcoming bow season, I spent an afternoon with The Fallen Outdoors veterans group at the E.E. Wilson archery range near Adair Village, Oregon. All ages and skill levels attended the event, which is as much about the camaraderie as it is becoming better archers.

A crowd of about 30 adults and 15 kids spread across the range, as the smell of burgers and hot dogs from the grill filled the air. A family friendly event, there was guidance and instruction available for everyone, as well as encouragement. Although some attendees drove an hour or two to get there, events like this one are being held regularly by the organization in all over the country. TFO is a non-profit that caters towards providing outdoor recreational opportunities for Veterans, and currently offers hunting and fishing trips in all 50 states. Since the organization was conceptualized in 2009, over 3000 veterans nationwide have been participated in the program.

Eli Cronin helped organize the event. Cronin says he got involved with TFO after seeing a request for volunteers in Oregon in a fishing group on Facebook. "I was going through a rough time in life, and helping get vets out was also helping me. Since the first trip I've been hooked. I'm now the state lead for Oregon, and we're working hard to build up our Oregon team. I'm excited for what the future of this organization holds."

Jared Mikoleit, another event volunteer says he was approached by a friend he fished with in Washington to become a staffer for TFO Oregon when the organization was still very new. "I thought it was a cool opportunity to help vets and service members get outdoors who are new to the area," says Mikoleit.

TFO is run exclusively by veterans, with the help of guides, land owners, and everyday outdoorsmen and women that offer these recreational opportunities as a way of saying thanks. Founder Eric Bakken, a Washington resident originally from Minnesota, says, "Most guys join (the military) and leave what's important to them at home or lose touch with their hobbies because they get to a new place in a new state and it's hard for them to learn the elements of hunting and fishing in their new surroundings." The organization aims to provide knowledge, leadership, proper gear, and the opportunity for these experiences in each state.

As the surviving family member of a veteran suicide, I personally understand the necessity of programs that support our troops as they return home and resume their everyday American lives. The epidemic of PTSD is a constant struggle for returning veterans, many years after their service ends. A veteran commits suicide every 65 minutes, and nearly 70 percent of them are over the age of 50. A recent study by the Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine points out that veterans may be less likely to seek help from a mental health professional. Meanwhile, research from the University of Essex shows that "ecotherapy" benefits mental health and reduces social isolation, aiding those with mental health issues to improve their physical health, gain confidence, and return to work. A key factor to the approach of introducing veterans to outdoor recreational activities like hunting and fishing as a form of therapy, is that it can be effective simply because it's more likely to be utilized by veterans who would be less likely to seek out other forms of therapy.

You can get involved by making a donation to the Fallen Outdoors, or joining their online community on Facebook. TFO facilitates outdoor recreational hunting and fishing opportunities for veterans of all branches of the military.