Tag Archives: Small Game Recipes

In The Eyes Of A Pigeon

Superdove: How the Pigeon Took Manhattan … And the World (Hardcover)

Why do we see pigeons as lowly urban pests and how did they become such common city dwellers? Courtney Humphries traces the natural history of the pigeon, recounting how these shy birds that once made their homes on the sparse cliffs of sea coasts came to dominate our urban public spaces. While detailing this evolution, Humphries introduces us to synanthropy: The concept that animals can become dependent on humans without ceasing to be wild; they can adapt to the cityscape as if it were a field or a forest.

Superdove simultaneously explores the pigeon’s cultural transformation, from its life in the dovecotes of ancient Egypt to its service in the trenches of World War I, to its feats within the pigeon-racing societies of today. While the dove is traditionally recognized as a symbol of peace, the pigeon has long inspired a different sort of fetishistic devotion from breeders, eaters, and artists—and from those who recognized and exploited the pigeon’s astounding abilities. Because of their fecundity, pigeons were symbols of fertility associated with Aphrodite, while their keen ability to find their way home made them ideal messengers and even pilots.

Their usefulness largely forgotten, today’s pigeons have become as ubiquitous and reviled as rats. But Superdove reveals something more surprising: By using pigeons for our own purposes, we humans have changed their evolution. And in doing so, we have helped make pigeons the ideal city dwellers they are today. In the tradition of Rats, the book that made its namesake rodents famous, Superdove is the fascinating story of the pigeon’s journey from the wild to the city—the home they’ll never leave.


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By Michael Patrick McCarty

 

a vintage photo of a boy watching his homing pigeons exercise their wings after being released from their catch pen
Come Home Soon!

A willing and observant person can gather some extraordinary insights about the natural world in the most unlikely places. It can happen in the short time that it takes to blink an eye, no matter if that eye belongs to you, or to something else. Nature abounds with beneficial lessons and the teachers of true meaning are everywhere. I just happen to gain some of my clues from the clear-eyed and attentive stares of my backyard pigeon flock. You can learn a lot from an otherwise ordinary and common creature.

I spend a fair amount of time with this captive audience of one hundred in their outdoor aviary. I am their provider, and their lifeline from the outside lands. I supply them with their daily ration of grains and clean water, irregardless of the weather or the many other duties or time constraints I may have. I fill their pickpots with grit and minerals. I break ice from their bowls in the winter, and suffer the same stinging snows and biting winds of the day. I clean their flypen and pigeon-house, and keep a sharp eye out for the telltale signs of distress or disease. I study them closely, and through it all, they watch me too.

I am a constant in their lives, and a spoke in their wheel of life. I have come to know of them and their world just a little bit, and they of me. It could be said that they would rather prefer that I was not involved at all, but I am a necessary intrusion they must tolerate, at least for a brief time.

Yet, they wait for me each morning and afternoon, the anticipation building as I drive up to the entrance doors. They mill about excitedly as I approach, ready to perform just for me. I touch the door handle, and they begin their wild jig, dancing like ecstatic puppets on hidden strings. They hop about and swirl their wings like crazed whirligigs, or slap their wingtips smartly as they launch from their perch for a short flight across the pen.

They chant their pigeon talk and coo even louder as I step in through the inner doors, to become completely surrounded by frantic birds, eager to fill their crops before the other’s. They push and shoulder for each speck of grain as if their life depended on it. Perhaps they bicker and fight to establish or maintain some imperceptible pigeon pecking order, or maybe just to remind themselves that life can be a struggle. You would think that they would know by now that their will be enough food for all comers, but it is a wild ritual that they simply must abide for reasons known only to the pigeon.

We have repeated this madcap scene a few thousand times and more, the pigeons and I. It has become routine, with little deviation from the usual suspects. That is until yesterday, when our normal interaction abruptly and inexplicably changed.

It was immediately obvious when I pulled up in my truck. The absence of sound or flashing wings struck me first, and what pigeon heads I could see sat on top of outstretched necks, alert, with searching eyes. They crouched in the classic manner of all prey, with feet tucked under their bodies, coiled and ready to spring out and away from impending danger.

A close up photo of a common pigeon with eye

The birds stood frozen and paid me little mind as I entered and searched the ground for an animal intruder. I investigated the pigeon houses and the nest boxes and found nothing. I checked every nook and cranny of their limited world and came up empty. I paused to scratch my head, and ponder this puzzling circumstance.

Hand on chin, I stared at the closest pigeon and wondered, determined to discover just why he would not fly. And then he cocked his head, and I saw his eye focus on something high as he grounded himself more tightly to his perch. At that moment I spied a wide, dark shadow moving across the dirt floor, and smiled. I knew exactly what belonged in that kind of shadow, as did my fine feathered friends. All I had to do was look up, to see just exactly what it was that had struck such all-consuming fear in their hearts.

I had no doubt that the shadow maker was an eater of birds, but there were several possibilities in this category. A red-tailed hawk maybe, or a gleaming eagle from the nearby river. In this case the black shadow belonged to an animal of equal color, with a distinctively naked neck. It was not what I expected to see.

The Turkey Vulture, or Buzzard as it is sometimes called, is quite common to the American West and many parts of North America. A six-foot wingspan casts a long shadow across the land, and he covers a lot of it as he travels. That great red and bald head is immediately recognizable from afar, and known by all. His sentinel like posture and hovering demeanor create and perpetuate his iconic image. It is a form often associated with death, and it is a meaning not entirely lost on my domesticated, but anxious, pigeon flock.

The Vulture is classified as a bird of prey, after all, even though he finds most of his meals by smell after they are already dead. I suppose that it is a distinction utterly lost on the brain of a pigeon.

His generic name is Cathartes, which means “purifier”.  It is an appropriate name, as the Buzzard is the sharp-beaked “tearer”, and recycler of flesh and feather. He is part of nature’s cleanup crew, and a perfectly ordained sanitizing unit. His kind is often referred to as “carrion eaters”, as if it were a derogatory term used to define the sordid parameters of their defective character. Nothing could be father from the truth.

I, for one, am a defender of this homely yet beautiful animal. The manner in which he makes his living should not be used to demean or degrade his standing in the larger scheme of things. His shadow may strike terror in the souls of countless scurrying and furtive creatures, but he has not come for them. Not now. He is where our lifeless bodies might naturally go, may we all be so lucky. There are far worse fates to suffer than those borne through the belly of a bird.

Still, it makes me wonder about the sensibilities of the pigeons in my charge. None of this buzzard business should be of any concern to a bird so far removed from a natural environment. It may be true that their only protection from flying marauders is a thin, nylon mesh that forms the roof of their cage. But what of it?

Most of my birds have never known anything else than the limited boundaries of the aviary. They were hatched here, reared by their parents and brought to adulthood without having to worry about danger and death from above. They have never enjoyed a truly wild moment in their lives, and I doubt if the thought of escape and a different kind of life has ever occurred to them.

Likewise, their parents have grown up in much the very same way, as did their parents, and their parents, and so on and so on. In fact their domestic lineage goes back for thousands of years, to the days when the first man-made his first hopeful departures from the relative safety of the caves. They are mankind’s first domestic animal partner, and their history is our history. One would think that very little of the wild would be left in the soul of a pigeon. On the contrary, it would appear that the thin margin of safety above their swiveling heads provides little comfort.

It makes me wonder about the level of domestication in the so-called domestic pigeon. How much wild is left in an otherwise non-wild creature? What does he remember of his life on the cliffs? Is it some latent genetic memory, or something else that keeps him looking skyward? Something tells me that there are some wild yearnings left behind, and that it might not take them very long to surface if given some small opportunity.

Truth be known, the story of the vulture and the pigeon is a tale as old as time and one not so easily forgotten. Each has something to tell us in their own way. Their interactions remind us that the primordial spark of life burns on as brightly as ever. They beckon us to live fully while we are alive, no matter the circumstance or the crosses we bear.

They tell us that danger is but a heartbeat away, though we try to deny it by surrounding ourselves with shallow and petty distractions. The realities of life and death lie closely behind the delicate veil, no matter how hard we may try to separate and protect ourselves from the natural world with the cages of our own clever designs.

The Turkey Vulture occasionally wishes to feel like a master predator on the wing, and a hunter of live prey. Perhaps he flies over our birds to feel the power of his blood and history. He dares us to be watchful, yet hopeful, lest we gain the finality of his steady gaze. We all must eventually return to replenish the elements of the earth. We are needed, we are welcome, but perhaps not today.

The great purifier embraces the rising thermals and circles ever upward, hanging on the edge of consciousness to remind us that a little bit of wild remains in the most cowered and tamed of the earthly realms below. We shall all have plenty of time to rest, and to watch, in our time.

 

Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) riding the air currents while searching for prey or carrion and something to eat
Patience Is A Virtue For a Vulture

By Michael Patrick McCarty

You Might Also Like A Skunk Is A Down Low Odiferous *Weasel (But That’s O.K.)

https://steemit.com/homesteading/@huntbook/in-the-eyes-of-a-pigeon-observations-of-an-amateur-naturalist

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“Soak it up, go into it softly and thoughtfully, with love and understanding, for another year must pass before you can come this way again”.

Gene Hill, Wingshooter’s Autumn, 1986

 

October 2015

Recently, I was honored to be an invited guest of a member of Black Canyon Wing and Clay in Delta, Colorado.

The use of their hunter friendly facilities and their gracious hospitality will be forever appreciated. And thank god for good friends too.

Give them a call if you are looking for a well-managed shooting property and a fine place to train your dogs or spend a stress free afternoon in a field of upland birds. And oh by the way, a round of wobble trap shooting is a whole bunch of good time (if you hit them).

Here’s a small look at some of the fun, and a couple of game recipes too.

A hunter, Michael McCarty, poses with a shotgun and a ring-necked at Black Canyon Wing and Clay Shooting Resort in Delta, Colorado. A great place to shoot trap and enjoy a hunting shooting reserve
Who Could Ever Tire of Pheasant in the Hand

 

Hunter’s “Go To” Pheasant Marinade

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • juice from one lemon

This should be enough marinade for about 4 pheasant breasts and 8 legs. If not, adjust amount of marinade to the amount of meat (It is not necessary to completely immerse it). Marinade in covered dish in refrigerator. Best cooked on a hot grill. Don’t over cook.

*This is a fairly powerful marinade, so shorter marinade times of 20 minutes to 2 hours are best.

**It is difficult not to overdo it with this simple marinade. It’s that good! This works equally well on many kinds of wild game. Give it a try on some prime elk steaks and you won’t regret it.

A upland game bird hunter shoots some wobble trap at Black Canyon wing and Clay in Delta, Colorado. Trap shooting is a great way to practice your shotgunning skills for upland birds
Time To Check The Eye
An upland game hunter poses with a Rooster Pheasant at black Canyon Wing and Clay in delta, Colorado
Pheasants Always Make You Smile
skeeze / Pixabay
Logo found on a pickup truck for the Black Canyon Wing and Clay in Delta, colorado. A colorado shooting and hunting preserve reserve
Where The Action Is!

“Now you know your first big cock pheasant is a sight to see. There maybe ain’t nothing as dramatic, whether it’s an elephant or a polar bear. A cock pheasant is like a mallard duck. Maybe the pintail or the canvasback is better to eat, but there is nothing in the flying department as wonderfully gaudy as a cock pheasant of a he-mallard. Well, maybe a peacock, but we have so few peacocks around our neck of the woods”. – Robert Ruark

Read More About Black Canyon Here.

CHUKHAR WITH SHALLOTS

  • 1/2 stick butter
  • 4 chukhar
  • 1 pound shallots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme

Brown the birds in 1/2 of the butter and salt and pepper to taste. Set Aside. Add the shallots, and cook until soft. Set shallots aside. Melt the remaining butter and add flour; stir for two minutes. Add broth, return the shallots, chukhars, and thyme. Cover and cook until tender (about 15 or 20 minutes).

At Mesa's Edge by Eugenia Bone. A celebration of the food from Colorado's North Fork Valley of the Gunnison
Bring On The Chukhars, and the Pheasants Too!

*This recipe was taken from At Mesa’s Edge: Cooking and Ranching in Colorado’s North fork Valley by Eugenia Bone. It provides great insight into the Gunnison Country and the unique pleasures of this area.

You May Also Like Our Thoughts On  Pheasant Hunting HERE, and a recipe for pheasant burritos that we love.

By Michael Patrick McCarty

And, You Might Also Read Our Post About Trophy Pike Fishing at Manitoba’s Silsby Lake Lodge

https://steemit.com/hunting/@huntbook/sporting-destinations-black-canyon-wing-and-clay

It Was the Best of Food, It Was the Worst of Food

Close-up photo of a Brown Bear Track in Comparison to the Size of a Human Hand
A Good Reason To Look Over Your Shoulder
Close-up Photo of Cottontail Rabbit Running
Full Charge!

 

The best meal I ever ate, anywhere, featured cottontail rabbit fried hot in an electric skillet, hunted up fresh from the fields within sight of the big picture window of my friend’s southern New Jersey family homestead.

I had eaten many a rabbit by the time I had nearly finished highschool. Cottontails were our sportsman’s consolation prize. They were everywhere in our neck of the woods, and we could always count on bagging a brace or two when we could not find a covey of bobwhite quail or other small game.

But the rabbit of my experience had never tasted like a lesser prize. My friend’s mom knew her way around the kitchen, and she knew exactly what to do with farm fresh ingredients, be they wild, or not. She was, in fact, a culinary wizard, conjured up to look like an ordinary woman.

What she did I suppose I will never really know, but I suspect it had something to do with buttermilk, flour, a perfectly matched selection of spices, and hot lard. The meat hit the pan with crackle and sizzle, and it spoke of blackberry leaves and sweet clover and sun dappled woodlots.

It literally melted in your mouth, and I remember watching as a heaping plate of rabbit pieces disappeared into smiling faces around the long farm table. It was ordinary fare, dressed in high style, and I was the honored guest of their simple realm. I knew then that I would never forget that wonderful dinner, and I have never looked at the unsung cottontail in the same way since.

A long farm table setting for a large group
Farm Table Magic About To Happen

Contrast that with the worst meal I ever had, which I had the displeasure of ingesting in a windswept Quebec-Labrador Caribou camp north of Schefferville, somewhere below the arctic circle.

It was a vile concoction of rancid grease, pan drippings, and rendered fat, and we ate it with a big metal spoon of questionable cleanliness. My native guide kept it stored in a good-sized mason jar, and he carried it around like it was the holy grail of gourmet cuisine. He ate it while sporting a huge grin, and I tried it because he wanted me too, and because he acted like it was so damn tasty. Who knew?

It seems that many people in the far north country can develop a bad case of “fat hunger”, as a result of their super lean, high protein diets. This affliction is also called “rabbit starvation”, having been given its name by those unfortunate souls who at one time or another subsisted solely on rabbits.

A hefty jar of partially congealed fat can be a highly prized commodity in that world, where calories count, and the lack thereof can literally mean the difference between life and death.

One throat gagging spoonful was quite enough for me, followed by an old candy bar of some kind to dull the taste, and washed down with some lukewarm canteen water. To this day, the occasional thought of that wretched goo turns my stomach inside out, now almost 40 years later. It definitely gives one some perspective on the otherwise fine cuisine of Canada.

With that in mind, an honorable mention must go to the partially raw and burnt slices of elk heart I skewered over an aspen fire one clear, brisk night in the Colorado back country.

I should have been more than happy that lonely, star filled night. I had taken a fat four point bull elk with my recurve bow just hours before, and I was headed back to my friend’s small hunting shack when I ran out of daylight, and flashlight batteries.

I took a breath snatching fall from a low cliff, and by all rights I should have hurt myself badly, but did not. So, I gathered up some branches and hunkered down for the night, and thanked my guardian hunting angel. The animal’s heart and liver was all that I had packed with me.

It wasn’t so bad, after all, if you enjoy rubbery, half-cooked offal, but it could have used some salt. And it would have been far better if I had some water, which I had run out of during the hot afternoon. The head pounding hangover left over from the previous night’s shenanigans was still with me, which did not help my predicament.

In my defense, let the record state that it was the weekend of my bachelor party, and it is fair to say that the boys’ and I had just a little “too much fun”. I had been the only one to stagger out of camp that early morning, and only then because I had somehow managed to pass out in my hunting cloths, with boots on. One downhill step, and I was on my way.

My head and parched throat told me that I was in for a rough night, but my heart said that there were far worse places to be than in the abiding lap of the Rocky Mountains, with elk bugling all around, even if the meal was merely marginal. It’s how memories are made, and I would not trade them now for all the world. We laugh about it still.

The supper I am most grateful for consisted of one big can of yellow cling peaches, packed in heavy syrup. I ate them while huddled in a sleeping bag, in the low light of a small gas lamp. I did so from a short bunk in the cabin of a small crab boat, anchored just off the beach somewhere in Prince William Sound, Alaska.

My guide and I had spent the day above timberline hunting mountain goats and glassing for coastal brown bear, and we had been late getting back to our pick up point. Loaded with the heavy hide and meat of a white-robed goat, we struggled down through the rocks and heavy underbrush in a race to beat the faltering late night sun. We didn’t make it.

Left with no easy choices, we made our way to a gurgling stream in the bottom of a canyon, and waded in. We thrashed and slipped and bullied our way down through knee-deep water for more than a few miles, while desperately trying to keep our feet under us.  It was a truly dark and soul-searching night, made far worse by the occasional loud crashes of large, big things, just out of sight. These things most probably had huge tearing teeth and long, flesh ripping claws to go with them. It was not a pretty picture, and I am not proud of the terrified thoughts and hobgoblins which danced and screamed inside my head and nearly got the better of me.

I have never been so happy to break clear of thick brush, and to see a low slung skiff waiting hopefully on an open cove in the light of a wispy moon. My father could barely speak, relieved from his duty of pacing the shoreline and imagining the worst. Once on board the main boat, and safe, I had enough energy to slurp down those aforementioned peaches that had appeared under my nose, to then lie back and fall instantly asleep.

A can of peaches is certainly not much of a meal, but it was heavenly sustenance to me. It was much better than the alternative, which most importantly meant that I had not become the hot and ready to eat snack of a snarling 10 foot beast. Thank god for life’s little graces.

Last but not least, I savored my most memorable meal on the day after my wedding in the high mountains of Colorado. We spent a pampered night or two in Aspen’s only five-star hotel, and dined in its’ fine restaurant.

The company and the conversation was grand, to say the least, as was the atmosphere, and the setting. The hotel has a grand view of the area’s towering, snow-covered peaks, and sits within close proximity of summering herds of elk, and the occasional black bear. It was a most appropriate location from which to approach a colorful plate of elk tenderloin with sun-dried cherry sauce and sweet potato fries, duly crafted by the expert hands’ of one of the world’s greatest chefs. I can only describe the entire experience, as well, absurdly, …grand…

Now that was a preparation for the ages; a far cry from a flame scorched elk heart to be sure, and almost as good as that lovingly tendered rabbit dinner of my youth.

So, these are some of my food highs, and lows, in the proverbial nutshell.

No doubt you have several of your own. If you do, we’d love to hear about them.

Care to share?

 

A close-up photo of canned peaches in a mason jar
Canned Peaches – Nectar of The God’s

 

You may also wish to see the recipe for grilled elk loin and cherry sauce here.

skeeze / Pixabay

Posted By Michael Patrick McCarty

https://steemit.com/life/@huntbook/it-was-the-best-of-food-it-was-the-worst-of-food-of-an-outdoor-life

Hunting For Colorado’s Mountain Gobblers Is Always a Thrill (On The Grill)

By Michael Patrick McCarty

 

Michael Patrick McCarty Poses In The turkey Decoys With His 2017 Colorado Merriam's Longbeard
Decoys and Calling Are A Deadly Gobbler Combination

 

Spring 2017

Springtime is turkey time in my hunter’s world. Snow season slowly yields to mud season in the heart of the Rockies, and milder nights and that sweet, sweet green-up simply cannot come fast enough.

No doubt that the turkeys are quite happy about their prospects too. It is the time of yelping hens and owl hoots and gobbles from the roost. It’s the time of the hunter’s moon, and of hurried walks to one’s favorite ridge or field well before fly down.

Anticipation hangs thick in the air, for turkeys, and hunters too. They must fulfill their need to breed, and we, in turn, must hunt. And, I say, is there anything more thrilling than spying a wary old bird slinking towards the decoy, suddenly halting to lay its head back and roar as that big, magnificent fan jumps to life?

Such are the joys of turkey hunting, and the mere possibility of those memorable moments are calling us out, just over here, and there. It is a serious outdoor addiction waiting to be born. Once acquired, it must be respected, nurtured, and satisfied. Sometimes, you may even kill a turkey.

I did just that, late last week, as did a great friend and hunting partner (and master caller too!). As you can see, pictured below are two fine examples of Colorado’s turkey hunting opportunities. The hunting can be grand, though almost always challenging.

Colorado offers a vast catalog of public hunting lands, and the turkey population is expanding every year. That’s some very great news for the turkey hunter.

With that being said, one of the downsides of hunting in Colorado is that much of the turkey hunting areas are easily accessible, and hunting pressure is increasing exponentially. Frustration can run high, and success can be a rare and elusive target.

But it can be done.

Both of these birds were taken on some of the heaviest hunted public lands in northwestern Colorado, and they both came to a call. We left a few in the woods too!

So, get out there and burn up some boot leather. See what’s over the hill and down in the draw, and listen for that unmistakable springtime exaltation!

The birds are there, ready for action, and a thrill. I wouldn’t miss it for the world…

 

Michael Patrick McCarty Poses With His Spring 2017 Shotgun Turkey Gobbler. Photo by Rocky Tscappat
Spring Turkey Hunting is a Blast! Photo by Rocky Tschappat

 

Wild Turkey Spring Gobbler Harvested at The Snow Line in The Colorado High Country
Climb to The Snow Line – It’s What the Merriam’s Do! Photo by Rocky Tschappat

 

And by the way, did I mention that wild turkey can be most excellent table fare.

SPRING TURKEY HUNTER’S BRUNCH

  • 1 turkey breast, cut into strips, or cubed into small pieces
  • yellow mustard
  • italian dressing
  • garlic powder
  • cracked black pepper
  • 1 pound mushrooms
  • 1 package fresh spinach
  • small package of goat chevre (or other cheese)
  • sourdough english muffins
  • unsalted butter

Mix and cover turkey meat with mustard, garlic powder, and italian dressing. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Saute mushrooms and spinach in butter. Fry or grill turkey meat until just cooked through, about 170 degrees. Spread Chevre on toasted sourdough muffins, and top with meat, mushrooms, and spinach.

Serve with chilled Champagne, or a Mimosa on ice.

Enjoy!

– Marinade Recipe provided by Rocky Tschappat, who was given it by a grizzled old turkey hunter whom we would all no doubt like to meet…

Pass it on…

 

Close Up Photo of a Wild Turkey Breast Ready for Preparation and Marinade and the Grill
The Wild Turkey – A Gift That Keeps on Giving

 

By Michael Patrick McCarty

You Might Also Like They Grow Them Turkeys Big…

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