Nanny Stringfellow



I thought, “Dude is that a cow, or a bear?’  as the big black pig stepped out of the yaupon holly in front of us.  Keegan, nicknamed Captain for the Captain America costume he wore constantly during his 4th year of life,  turned over his shoulder (he was looking the other way) and stood up slowly so his 8 year old frame could see out the front window.  The pig was in a half trot, half walk, ambling its way toward us.  It would stop and start.  Our box blind was roomy, but that extra room meant sitting on one end made it impossible to shoot out of the opposite without standing up.  Keegan crept and climbed onto my knee and steadied the little .243, searching for the moving target as it closed in closer and closer to us.

Suddenly the pig smelled us and ran 30 yards away and to our left.  I lifted Captain’s rifle, moving it from the center window to the left window and he steadied himself.

“Take your tim..BOOM!”


I’ve made it a habit of applying to all of the in-state drawn hunts I can.  This year we have been drawn twice and on one the dates didn’t work out for us.  But boy howdy, the hunt last weekend was a dandy.  A gun, either sex, deer hunt with unlimited pigs was on the menu for us.  No guns for adults, strictly a youth affair.

My dad came down to help, and I put my oldest son with him and my 8 year old with me.  We were able to choose our hunting compartment based on the order in which we were drawn in Austin.  We chose fourth, and elected to hunt a pipe line clearing well away from the rest of the hunting areas.

Keegan and I’s stand was on the way to Oliver and Dad’s.  They dropped us off and drove on to their location.  As Keegan and I settled into our stand, a shot rang out from the direction they drove.  Naturally, I worried a shot so soon would be an accidental discharge.  I immediately texted .  Of course, when they didn’t text back I started to get a tad uncomfortable.  But here’s what happened.

As dad unloaded his UTV, a sounder showed up in the first shooting lane.  Oliver saw them from the blind and told Papa still standing just outside the box blind,

“Do you want to shoot them?”

“Yes, the fat one!”

And before Papa was even in the stand, Oliver had a pig down.


It’s now only 1:00pm and rules stated if you weren’t in the blind by 3:30 you couldn’t hunt the rest of the day.  I’m faster than my Dad cleaning pigs, so we decided he’d stay with Keegan and I returned with Oliver to skin and quarter his. Still we needed to hustle because the cleaning station was a couple miles away.

We were in a hurry and so we didn’t weigh this one.  I’m guessing about 80-100 pounds.  Nanny Stringfellow has a fine place to process big game.

Oliver’s bullet passed right through the atriums and the pig didn’t stand a chance.


Pork on ice, I climbed back in with Keegan around a quarter to three.  Oliver and Papa returned to their blind and the wait was on.

Suddenly, a group of pigs shows up for us.  At the range, Keegan doesn’t dally when getting ready to shoot.  In fact, he’s a quick shot and surprisingly accurate.  However, I’m not accustomed to such rapid fire and my camera work was too slow.


We waited about 20 minutes to check for blood.  A pig’s fat will often clog bullet holes making tracking them almost impossible.  However, with no squealing or limping, I’m sure he missed.

While waiting, a raccoon visited.

As we watched the raccoon munch our corn, a “megafat red pig” passed by Oliver and he slung lead in its direction.  No blood, but according to the grandson/grandpa combo, an apparent hit.  Staggering into a knee deep swamp, the megafat red pig squealed in rage.  I think this rage intimidated the dynamic duo and they elected not to wade in after it.

A little while after that, Oliver missed a long shot on another sounder.  He also failed to find in his scope a pair of doe crossing his area, but all the game kept him pumped.

About an hour later, the largest buck I’ve seen not on TV stepped into view and immediately saw us.   Antlers a full 4 inches beyond each ear tip, it looked to be a classic 12 point buck in rut.  Swollen neck, sway backed–a thing of beauty.  Just at the edge of Keegan’s shooting abilities, he took his time and fired.  Miss.  We looked hard for blood both during daylight and after.  Nothing.  No blood, it didn’t limp off, or fall down.  Bummer!  After an hour of looking we got back in the stand.  After dark, we looked even more with no success.

Shortly after getting back in the stand, Keegan slammed the aforementioned hog.  A big one!  160 pounds of pure pork perfection.  Returning to the skinning station we found a backup of youth hunters skinning nice bucks, big and little pigs and lots of doe.  Keegan enjoyed dawning the gloves and helping me with his very first game kill.  I’m super proud of my guy.

Sunday came and Oliver and Papa picked up where they left off.  In Papa’s own words:

“Life is good in Yellowbush! After traveling to the coast to guide my grandson, Oliver, on a trophy whitetail/hog hunt at the Nannie Stringefellow WMA, where he proceeded to anchor a nice pig before I could unload our ranger, we sat from noon until dark in what I’d describe as nothing less than a sweat box. We reigned terror on several large and vicious ferral hogs in the ninty plus degree heat. We saw several large deer, but the young pup was unable to get the bead on any of them. In the other stand, the young huntsman, Keegan Spencer, dropped a “gianormous”, his word, hog with an earhole shot that would make any granddad proud, under the watchful eye of his dad. We finished skinning the beast around ten that evening. It was a long day. Then next morning, the eager young man under my care and guidance, spied a nice buck at about sixty yards. With the stag approaching straight away, I, in my infinite wisdom, counseled to wait for a broadside shot. Advice was taken, and the good eight point buck dropped like a bad habit. Not looking forward to another hot day in the sauna, we opted to depart the torture box for home, where we ground the swine and venison into future sausages and chilli. Watching these fine young men make the transition from bb guns to rifles is good for the soul.”

All in all, fantastic weekend.




Back at the goal again.  It’s been a while, so to refresh you loyal readers (Mom) I’d like to shoot a squirrel in every state.  Sometimes I travel just for the squirrel, but mostly it’s a side trip during another family escapade.   Recently, I tried to turn a trip to the Big Apple into a New England hunting foray,  but after asking about flying into NYC with a shotgun, I found it was not such a good idea and jail time was a real possibility.

The only squirrel open for hunting during August in Michigan is the Red.  About half the size of a fox squirrel, they make a weird almost tropical bird-like noise and are mean little turds. They don’t hibernate and will run off the much bigger gray squirrels from their 2-5 acre territories.

I hunted just off the North Country Trail in the Hiawatha National Forest where the southern deciduous forest transitions to boreal in the Upper Peninsula.  Impenetrably thick undergrowth make seeing the squirrels on the ground nearly impossible, and the mosquitos–slow and clumsy compared to the mosquitos in Matagorda–made it necessary to bathe in DEET before heading out.

I hadn’t walked 20 minutes before a flash of fur bounded across my trail into the dark green ferns and disappeared into a jack pine thicket.  I stared intently, but couldn’t detect movement.  I began creeping down the trail again.  After about 5 steps, strange high pitch screaming harried me from behind.  I turned and the little buck was berating me just 10 feet off the ground,  tail quivering with hatred.  I silenced him with my trusty Ithaca 20 gauge double barrel, and it felt nice.

I could hear more in the woods screaming at me, but with Michigan now crossed from the list, I opted to return to the lake and resume catching yellow perch with the boys.

I love the Upper Peninsula and the Great Lakes.  Gordon Lightfoot’s The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald played in the background as we journeyed from one outdoor activity to the next. Food was surprisingly good at the taverns, and the only fast food we saw was in Grand Rapids. A good thing.

My buddy Jeff over at Homestead Dad gave us the inside scoop on must see spots.  The first one we hit was the glass bottom boat at Kitch-iti-kipi.

Jeff mentioned the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore of Lake Superior and surely it’s one of the most beautiful places in the world.   Definitely worth seeing.

We paddled Lake Michigan in our kayaks and splashed around Lake Huron, but Lake Superior proved too cold to paddle.

We looked for Petroskie Stones and Agates while Gichi Gumee sneaker waves wet my shoes and made us shiver.

All in all, fantastic trip.

Snapper Fishing on the New Buccaneer

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My middle son, he’s not much of a morning person.  A deep sea fishing trip sounded fun to him, but getting up at 4, not so much.  Quite the conflict for his 8 year old brain.  After a bunch of encouragement where I used the term “gigantic” “whopper, and “big old shark” and he brightened.  The thought of a whopper revved him up and so we got up early the next morning and got after it.



I looked at this trip as a chance to learn as much as a chance to haul in some fish. I talked to the deck hands, what appeared to be the owner and then a few of some “regulars” who appeared to have their whatnot in order.

Here’s what I learned:

1. I’m glad we used the dramamine and bonine. I took both the night before and morning of the trip. Redosed around noon. The boys just took the dramamine on the same schedule and did great. We also thought eating dill pickles helped the little nausea we experienced.  Didn’t puke, bark charlie, talk to ralph about a buick, quote O’Rourke, toss cookies, blow chunks, shout groceries, or vomit one time.  Others did.

2. Learn to vent a fish so you can keep the right fish. Many people on the boat were keeping 16 inch fish when plenty of fish 20+ inches were to be had.

3. Bring plenty of cash. I brought enough to tip the deck hands, but not enough to pay for filleting the fish. No biggie, I wanted to show my 5 and 2 year old the fish anyway.

4. Big baits are good for big fish and they are not always on the bottom. We caught many of our biggest ones halfway to the bottom. I even caught one big one free lining sardines for king fish.
5.  Expect tangles. Just relax, take your time, the fish will still be there and just get untangled and back to fishing. But, learn to recognize if you are playing tug-o’-war with another fisherman.

6. Snagging a spot in the AC on the way out was definitely smart. I would recommend bringing a dvd player or other diversion to pass the time on the trip out and in.

7. A pair of gloves would have been nice, and I forgot them.


All in all we had a fine time and Keegan did great.  The battles between him and the snapper were epic.  He was glad he came and I was proud to see him push through his trepidation.  A fine time had by all.



Jelly Legs

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“Buck fever”, “performance anxiety”, “the yips” whatever you call it—looking through the peep sight or scope at an animal can cause even the most steely nerved to get shaky.  

This weekend, my son and I hunted the Chaparral Wildlife Management Area’s Youth Doe/Spike hunt.  Located down by the border in the Brush Country, this is a highly managed game preserve by the Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Stephen Lange is the project leader, and he gave a short orientation where he discussed the goals and rules of the hunt.

When I am coaching kids, I’m all about positivity.  Even if I have to fake it.  During little league this year, I experimented with  what I call manufactured enthusiasm.  I’d tell the boys “I’ve got a good feeling about tonight’s game,” or “Kaiden I have a feeling you are going to get a big hit for us.”   

 Its manufactured because it’s conscious decision I make regardless of of how I feel after work, my thoughts on the team’s focus, or the ability of our opponents. I find the smurfs feed off of your emotions, so you might as well generate the ones you want them to emulate.  

The flip side is that kids can just as easily have the wind sucked out of their sails.  And I’m really good at doing that as well. On this last hunt, we were getting out of the truck to walk to the deer stand, I started to hand my little guy his rifle, but he couldn’t grab it because his hands were full of a Pokémon catching IPad. I chastised him for video game hunting while we were out hunting for real.  I didn’t go overboard or abuse him, and he didn’t start crying or anything, but I did the exact opposite of what I wanted to do….stole rather than stoked his enthusiasm. 


We arrived and things cooled down and we were going over our shooting lanes, but before we could finish, out came a javelina at about 100 yards.  The stand was cramped for two people.  Throw in a couple of backpacks, and this forced Oliver to leave his seat to shoot to the right, over on my side of the blind.  

I could tell he was nervous, still a bit deflated from my tongue lashing and he couldn’t get comfortable.  He tried to half stand/sit, rushed his shot, and missed.  Way to go Dad.  

Now I could tell he was visibly upset, and we were literally just five minutes into the hunt.  I hated to see the look of disappointment in his eyes. Something had to be done so I went on a total positivity overdrive:  

“Shake that off dude, we all miss sometimes.”

“You will nail the next one.”

“Don’t worry about missing.”

“Be like a cornerback–have a short memory.”

“Get ready, I know you are going to make the next shot.”

“You can do it.  I know you can.”

Things like that.  I told him I’ve missed several times, asked him why he thought he missed.  We made a plan for him to get totally seated and stable before the next shot.  

God smiled on us and about fifteen minutes later, out came another Mexican Musk Pig and this time Oliver was ready:  

Can you tell he was excited to redeem himself?  Pretty cool stuff.  

So now we were faced with a decision.  Temps were edging close to 80 degrees and it was only 1:30.  We had lots of hunting left but there was no way I could leave the javy lying there, or really even just field dress him.  We needed to get him cooled down.  

Fortunately, the Chaparral WMA is the premiere public hunting spot in Texas.  They have a walk in cooler and for the second weekend in a row, the biologist asked if something was wrong when we showed back up to the check station less than half an hour after being dropped off.  

“Nope, we have something for you. ” Oliver said and quickly told them about his javelina.  

The biologist then aged our stink pig, at about 8-10 years old, and weighed him at 47 pounds.  A nice mature specimen.  

We field dressed him, hung him the walk in cooler, and got back to our stand at 3:00.   

We sat for three hours and the only things we saw were a solid covey of quail. 

Then, in about the same location as the collared peccary, out came a pair of spikes.   Brimming with confidence, Oliver carefully took aim and dropped his first deer.  

On each of these public hunts in Texas, the biologist want to extract information from the animals brought in…age, weight, location, and they also wanted to test for Chronic Wasting Disease.  

Biologist John Clarke writes down information from Oliver’s kill, while wildlife tech Chris Schroeder calls out measurements.

All of the young hunters stood around basking in the lights of the porch and the triumph of their kills.  The energy of the young ones is infectious and the parents were equally happy.   


Letting go of a Tarzan screamed appropriate at the time 












Jelly Legs is very real condition.  But with the right attitude, even Double Jelly Legs can be overcome. Just put your mind to it.

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Youth Hunt in the Las Palomas Wildlife Management Area


Oliver is one lucky little hombre. He wasn’t drawn once, but five times to hunt various state parks and Wildlife Management Areas (WMA).  In Texas over 700,000 acres are divided into 47 different WMAs. Controlled by the Wildlife Division of the Texas Parks and Wildlife, these acreages are representative of nearly all ecological regions in Texas. Biologists use each area to study wildlife. The public can use it to hunt, and that’s what Oliver did.

The Las Palomas WMA, specifically the Arroyo Colorado Unit, is in a region known as the “brush country” of south Texas. It is a veritable sea of thorns. I’ve hunted in it before, but this area is a little wetter.  There is abundant wildlife due to the large amounts of cover and food.  Further west water is a rate limiting factor, but not here.  Cameron County has these things called resacas. Either coming from a contraction of rio seca meaning “dry river” or from resecar meaning “to dry out”they are naturally occurring diversion channels off the Rio Grande.  Except they are usually dry.   The brush around the resaca is dense and blood thirsty.  It’s not hard to imagine the blood shed when old General Zachary Taylor fought his disorganized and bloody battle in the Battle of Resaca de la Palma against Mexican General Mariano Arista on May 9, 1846 in the Mexican American War.

The picture shows where we hunted and the aerial photo was taken during much wetter time.

Snow melt from Colorado used to cause the Rio to flood and fill these with water.   The Rio Grande doesn’t swell much any more and so what’s left over is a big dry river bed with only a few areas of marsh and fresh water.  These and the senderos make for animal highways.   All kinds of critters make their way up and down and across the resaca, like turkeys:

and this bobcat I called up by kissing my finger:

and a whole lot more.   A scorpion visited us, fiddler crabs burrowed just outside the door to the blind, and we almost ran over a blue indigo snake.

The success of this hunt started with my efforts back home. I applied to as many hunts as possible in the “youth” category boosting our shot at getting drawn. It will make for a lot of travel, but I dig travel hunting.

The next and most important thing I did was give Jimmy Stout, the head biologist for the unit, a call. He gave us lots of info and seemed like a swell dude. He verified the hunt was an assigned blind hunt, because the Arroyo Colorado Unit is only 700+ acres and answered all my queries.  There hasn’t been a wild pig killed since 96, but deer and javelinas were plentiful.  Oliver and I were both pretty stoked about his chance to shoot a “stink pig.”

When we arrived Jimmy guessed it was us despite having not met. He went through the rules and regulations, assigned our blind, off we went. A nice fella close to retirement named Alex took us to the blind and got us tucked in.

This is the view of the blind from where I spread a little extra corn. 


A circle of corn, hopefully to attract a whole herd of collared peccary, aka Javelina.  


After spreading the additional corn, we were quiet and in the blind at 9:45. Then, at 10:02 this happened:

I’ve been bear hunting, I’ve chased elk, and I kill a bunch of birds, but this is by far my favorite hunt to date.  .

Earlier I made up scenarios of a javelina coming from the left, right, behind us, etc.

TPWD has a nice cleaning station, and the guts are just thrown over to the alligators in the arroyo. But don’t fall! 

We drove back to the check station and they guys thought something went wrong, because we were back so quickly.  Nope things went really well.

A couple of admirers came and offered up there opinions and congratulations. 

Next weekend we are hitting the Chaparral WMA looking for some more javelinas, a fat doe, and possibly Pumbaa.  Stay tuned.


First Split Produced Lots of Firsts


Well the first half of duck season is over and with it saw many firsts in my circle of manly influence.

My oldest little alpha male got his first duck.



His friends got their first as well:




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One of the Middles got to go on his first hunt, with his own waders and face paint!

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Even got a new hunter, a work friend, his first duck.


Fiona retrieved her first duck. 194.JPG

I got my first:

Black Belly Whistler (the brown duck)


Fulvous Whistler



and Ringneck.


Despite the hunting being fairly slow, thanks a lot El Nino, we’ve had a good time.

Sometimes I got bored and we opened up on some coots.  This did not impress Fiona or the oldest boy.   But my cajun buddy is cooking a giant pot of gumbo and we are stockpiling the little water chickens.


The look of shame says it all. She made me bathe her when we got home.



Shoot a coot?  Dad!

So far here our season totals.

Birds to date

Poldeaux: 32

Blue Wing Teal: 22

Ruddy: 12

Gadwall: 5

Spoonies: 4

Green Wing Teal: 3

Wood Duck 3

Redhead: 1

BlackBelly Whistler: 1

Fulvous Whistler: 1

Ringneck: 1


So now we give the ducks a two week break, during which I’ll chase some geese, pigs, deer, snipe and perhaps a squirrel or two.


Do any of you keep a log of the birds you kill?


Young Ducks and an Alligator *Experience*



“Listen Oliver, let’s just wait till duck season is over before we tell Mom about the alligator.  Ok?”

“Sure dad,” he replied.  Yet, somewhere during the 20 minute drive home this hush-hush agreement got lost in his little memory bank because as soon as we opened the kitchen door at home Oliver loudly announced “Dad almost got eaten by an enormous alligator!”

This is what happened:  Oliver and Braden knocked down a couple birds in the rice canal.  I sent Fiona, my lab, to get the birds.  She brought the first one, but dropped it somewhere before getting to me. I sent her back to get the one she dropped, but instead she grabbed dead bird number 2.  I then step down into the canal, thinking she dropped the first in the grass at the edge.  With my back to the canal, and up to my waist in water, my son exclaims “Alligator!”  I startle and scold him as a look over my shoulder “Oliver, don’t joke about….” I then set a personal record for high jumping with waders, and scrambled out of the canal.  I did not see it’s head, only its tail , which looked about 6-8 inches wide.

This is what I think happened:  splashing from half dead birds and the dog brought a large, hungry alligator to chomp down on something juicy.  By the time the beast gets there, I’m in the water.  The monster, (looking back I figure its at least 14-16 feet long, twice as big as the initial estimate by my friend Brent), started to eat me, but realized I wasn’t bird or dog and left without attacking.

Anyways, other than my second near death experience with alligators, we had a great time taking a couple young hunters on their first gun carrying duck hunts. Despite hurricane Patricia bearing down on us, we managed to get the boys their first ducks (bluewing teal) and their first poule d’eau.  As a bonus, while setting out the decoys, I managed to channel my inner Swamp People and grabbed 15 bullfrogs.


All in all, exciting start to the waterfowl season.

Thundered and rained the whole time, but lightning only in the far distance.
 The teal were super fat, but this was the fattest.




Nice amount of fat rendered from just three teal.

Looking forward to cold weather and the arrival of the big birds, but this was a great start.  Any of you hunt the youth weekend?

Duck Pond Planting–Timing is Everything

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Just before I closed on The Hermitage™ I managed to get stuck. To the axle, in 6 inches of water and a foot of mud.  I called my friend to come pull me out, but his truck got sunk before he could even get to where I was stranded.  He’s since replaced his Chevy with a Ford.  Just saying. Nonetheless, in our desperation to become “unstuck” we first tried this trick, but alas it doesn’t work if there is moisture at all.  As a last ditch effort, we spread some wild birdseed hoping to make traction, but all we really did was plant a nice little food plot. 001

Luckily, we were rescued by a couple of youngsters from Michael’s church.

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As a pleasant surprise, it seems the often flooded clay I own is fairly fertile.  A month later, and it’s a veritable milo miracle.

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This led me to plow straight into my grand plans to grow Japanese and Brown Top millet in my fast evaporating ponds.  I say plow, but really, all I did was spread the 100 pounds of Japanese and Brown Top millet onto the pond mud.  There really is no “raking” of the millet because of the sticky mud.  Just good seed contact with the mud is all I was looking for.



I placed a fence post into the pond to mark the approximate water level as of July 20, the day I planted the millet.  As you will see, the water level will keep receding and with each recession I broadcast more seed.


It grew quickly, and was soon discovered.


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The ducks and dove are eating the unsprouted millet while the pigs and deer are getting some water and munching some sweet millet shoots.  Bodes well for my deer food plots don’t you think?

The millet grew and grew and managed to produce really good heads of grain and well timed rain really had me excited.


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Then, the Monday after Teal season closed, a flock of 20-30 bluewing teal moved onto my pond.

The little fat brown paper bags managed to eat every last stick of millet.  Within about a week and a half, despite my efforts of scaring them off the pond.  Once the millet was gone, haven’t seen them once.  I’d hoped the millet would last until at least the Youth Duck Opener, October 31, but within a week, the teal had eaten every last bit of the millet.  Not a duck was shot.  Next year, I plan on doing two plantings, July 20 or so and again on October 1.  Lesson learned.

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big crow 2big crow 3 Last picture on my game camera, this dude enjoyed my schadenfreude.

Option Period–Using a Game Camera to Determine a Hunting Land Purchase


I’m currently in the option period of my land purchase–meaning the contract is turned into the title company, but I have a 21 day “option period” to decide not to buy it.  I’m interested in buying land solely for the recreation purposes, mainly somewhere to take my boys hunting, fishing and various sundry outdoor shenanigans.

So to verify if there is going to be critters to shoot, skin and eat I tossed a little corn on a trail on my land and set the camera to see what strolled by.  Here are the results.


My first capture, we’ve jumped this pair many times as we drive in.


A second doe


First Horns!


It’s a dude party


Some dudes are genetically challenged…




Didn’t think so…


I believe this is a second bachelor party….





A little close to the camera…or a elk swung by


Possibly a third group of bucks? Notice the spike in the lower left corner.


This one should meet the antler restrictions come season.


I wonder if this spike’s antlers have been damaged.


This little eight looks like it has thicker antlers than the others.


Night time porkers!


And some early morning pig action as well.

I want to hear from you folks, would you be pleased with the amount of game seen in this three day period on my camera?  Let me know in the comments below.

A Lab, Some Land, and a Newborn Baby


mossI’ve been busier than a Ryan’s Steakhouse bathroom on Chili Mac night.  Coaching two little league teams,swim season, welcoming my fourth baby boy (Finn), picking up a daughter in the form of a cute little yellow lab (we call her Fii, which is short for Fiona or Confit depending on the day), and buying some land near home, leaves me precious little time to write or anything else. IMG_3930finn

Adjustments are hard with your first baby boy.  After three it’s easy.  During the fourth trimester,the 3 months after birth when babies are like larva, it’s pretty simple.  I change a ton of diapers, bathe him and daydream about the whatnot we’ll be doing.  Pretty much fall in love with him now that he’s not in mama’s belly. Finn’s already bonded with my oldest son, and is greatly amused if not a bit scared of his two other brothers, who are 6 and 3.  They adore him.  He’s a happy baby now, and has good reason. His every need is met.  For now, we are in a calm as far as babies are concerned, he’s immobile and quiet.  If he’s like my other progeny, that’ll end in about 4-6 months.

Meanwhile, Fii is assimilating into the family as well.  Her background story is romantic.  Her mother is a working girl for the guide service I used in my hunt with Hank Shaw.  Her father is a registered blue blood master hunter owned by a big wig in Ducks Unlimited.  A few furtive glances, and no doubt sniffs, led to an unpaid for roll in the marsh and pregnancy. Unpaid for being the key term.  See, stud fees for dogs like her father typically run about $2000 and the puppies are sold for anywhere from $1200 to $5000.  Nice gig if you can land it. Her owner couldn’t pony up the stud fee, so she’s without papers. But pedigrees don’t mean much to me, I just want a dog to go get what I shoot and let me scratch her ears. So when my professional dog trainer buddy Robert Murray of Murray’s Kennels, told me about her, I went and picked her up for close to nothing.  Fiona

Since moving to my rural community, I’ve looked for hunting leases and land with little luck.  But a few weeks ago, a Facebook listing on one of our local Buy Sale Trade groups produced a perfect property only 15 minutes from my doorstep.  It has electricity and a well, two ponds, a ton of pecans and oaks.  I saw three deer my first visit and there are pig wallows all over the place.  Should be able to draw in some teal, wood ducks and Mexican whistlers to the ponds and there’s a small but present dove population.  Squirrels and rabbits abound.


The woods to the north area bout 50-70 acres, which should hold a bunch of game. I plan on planting some grains, greens and more trees to attract even more animals.


The owner is leaving his pig trap and feeder.


Fii checking out one of the wallows and many game trails criss crossing the land


We don’t know if the pond is stocked, but we will soon be making a fishing trip to determine if it is.


I’m really enjoying life right now, with a wonderful baby boy, a dog and some land to play on.  God has been too good to me and I look forward to writing about my exploits.  Stay tuned.

Being Direct–A West Texas Approach to Brisket


Our fourth and fifth baseball rainout inspired me to put Wanda The Marvel of Modern Engineering™ to work, scoring a 16 pound select packer’s cut brisket.

Select is the lowest standard grade of meat, a grade dependent on the amount of marbling, maturity and bone ossification in a ribeye. But I’m cooking the brisket, not the steak so it doesn’t matter. Packer’s cut still has the deckle and the brisket flat which I prefer to trim myself. If like me you are a meat geek, click right here and read up.

I’d planned on doing a fancy smancy rub I’d never tried, but I decided to go with the simple and familiar: cayenne, salt and black pepper.  A BBQ crime in some circles, I cook over direct heat. Done in 7 hours, it’s moist, tender, and didn’t require any caffeine at the start or end for me to finish.

A recent article about a world famous BBQ food truck that’s been around since February said you needed at least an hour and a half per pound and to never use mesquite when cooking brisket.  Huh?   Cooking my 16 pound brisket for 24 hours might work, but claiming mesquite can’t produce a quality brisket is absurd.  Don’t listen to that.   Mesquite’s fine and I like oak, pecan, and hickory as well.

Here’s how to do it over direct heat:


Sear it on each side for about 5 minutes to set the spices




Move 3-4 feet above the fire
Keep the temperature up. This works.
Let it rest. Show some courage.
Or be weak and dig in.

Tremendous Ten: 10 Reasons to Rodeo





Last week I got to take my buddy from New York and his Panamanian wife to their first rodeo.  The night before, I took my two oldest boys. Entertainment wise it doesn’t get much better.  There’s danger, speed, power, and finesse.  Beer, bulls and BBQ.  A dose of comic relief and Americana as well. Here are 10 reasons you need to check out the rodeo for yourself.

1. Bull Riding. Ken’s wife, knowing I’m a pretty typical Texan with rural roots, asked if I ever rode a bull.  Of course not I told her, and she asked why.   “I enjoy living.” After the first ride, she understood why. Still, its my favorite.  Bull riding is really three events in one: 1) the challenge of getting the bull to behave while the rider mounts up, 2) the fight between brave, if not psycho, young men fighting to stay atop the spinning 2000 pound wrecking ball of beef, and 3) the battle between the raging bull and the bull fighters over the unseated rider.  Heart pounding stuff.IMG_3983




Looking for an anger release…



Too bad they don’t use any muscular bulls.

2.  Clowns.  My all time favorite is Quail Dobbs.  There are funny clowns and working clowns, and sometimes funny working clowns.  Barrel-men have form fitting barrels they will get in to distract the bulls and be silly.  Bullfighters are agile athletes who protect the rider once they dismount (elective or otherwise).  The way these guys to jump in the middle of the bulls face is an art.


Bull rider coming off


Rider crawling to safety


Bull spins around to kill the crawling cowboy


Leaping into the animal’s face, our clown high steps past while slapping a horn.

3. Vendors.  The culture of rural Texas, and no doubt America, is on display at your local county fair and rodeo.  Western themed artisans will be on hand selling you everything from bullwhips to rattlesnake skin boots, belts, and wallets.

4. Future Farmers of America.  Most of the time, a livestock show will be held concurrently.   The stock don’t look like the animals in your average pasture.  A show steer is to a pasture steer, what an NFL linebacker is to an accountant.


My friend’s son’s steer. Lotta junk in that trunk.



Not a baaaaaaaad goat.



Another friend sporting his bunny belt buckle with pride. Each winning rabbit sold for over $1000.  I’m in the wrong business.

5. Barrel Racing/Rodeo Queens.  The rodeo isn’t only about men though.  If the ladies in your life like competition, barrel racing features women on Quarter horses racing around three barrels for the fastest time. Definite athletes, there were also a couple women ropers.  If Frozen is more your girl’s thing, a pageant of sorts is held and a local beauty is selected Queen of the rodeo.  She often carries the flag and banners of local sponsors in between events.  She has a court of princesses and gets to dress up in girly whatnot.


Her Majesty Saddling Up


Her Grace takes the time to mingle with her fans.

6. Carnival Rides.  Yes, there are carnies…but as long as you keep your wits about you, a lot of fun can be had on the rides.


A typical “carny” child.  Notice the aggressive behavior displayed: teeth bared, hair unkempt, shoes (when worn) appear on the wrong feet. I wouldn’t feed or make direct eye contact.


The view from the Ferris’ Wheel.  Next to Pabst Blue Ribbon, the best thing to come out of the 1893 World’s Fair.

7. Food.  I’ve been to many different county fair and rodeos, and each has its own spin on the food.  All of them have funnel cakes and corn dogs, and at most of the Texas ones you’ll find BBQ, fajitas, and deep fried everything.  Being a coastal county, Matagorda had a seafood truck and alligator as well.  I even snagged a gyro one night. 005

8. Saddle Bronc and Bareback.  Classified along with bull riding as a “rough stock” event, these are different than bull riding in that a cowboy has to “mark out” his ride.  This means the cowboys feet are in front of the horses shoulders before the horses front feet hit the ground. If not, the rider’s disqualified or “missed him out.”  These rides create a bunch of work for chiropractors so I enjoy them as well.


See his turquoise chaps clearly ahead of the horses withers, clearly “marked out.”

9. Horses.  I grew up riding horses, so sometimes I find myself immune to their allure.  County rodeos give you a chance to get up close, pet and talk to the owners about their prized steeds.  If you know the dog family down the street, or the old cat lady next door, (or if you are the old cat lady– Hi Grandma!) horse owners are no less fanatical about their transportation pet and are happy to tell you all about them.


This color is known as appaloosa, and would make a fine rug….I mean pet.

1o. Seating.  It’s easy to get seats within inches of the action.  I prefer near the chutes where the rough stock action takes place.  Yet, there is a risk of getting dirt and other stuff thrown on you. Emphasis on the “other stuff.”


Not, mud.  One of the dangers of being too close. You’ve been warned.

This year’s rodeo rocked. Before the last ride of the night, the bull wouldn’t cooperate in the chute.  Alternating horns and legs kept hanging up and it took a good ten minutes to get him and the rider squared away.  Each minute the bull stayed in the chute, the louder and more pissed off he got.  Finally, pried free with a 4×4, away they exploded not 50 feet from us.  Luckily, the rider was not hurt, despite his spur getting hung up in the rope.

If looking for something manly to watch, cancel that dinner and Rom Com date and find yourself a rodeo, Podnuh.


Recipe: Mesquite Grilled Rattlesnake Stacked Enchiladas



If you had to pick an animal symbolizing Texas or the Old West, you wouldn’t go wrong picking the Western Diamondback Rattlesnake.   By far the most feared snake in North America, and for good reason. 95% of snakebite deaths in the US are from rattlesnakes.  Interestingly, 99.9% of snakes eaten in the US are rattlesnakes.  Of course, 72% of statistics are made up on the spot.

I don’t “hunt” for rattlesnakes, but I do run across them hunting other critters and they are a welcome bonus.   West Texas kids grow up attending Sweetwater’s Rattlesnake Roundup and I was no exception.  It sure gets a bunch of bad publicity, with many outright lies, but it’s a blast to attend.  The snakes killed aren’t wasted-their venom is used to make anti-venom, they fry up the meat, and sell the skins.  A lot of eastern medicine practitioners buy up the internal organs for medicinal use, while other snakes become conversation pieces as taxidermy in homes across the state.

The coolest part is the snake handling.  This is the Texas version, not Kentucky.  You won’t see any poison being drunk, but old men wearing cowboy hats will walk into a pit with hundreds of slithering serpents wanting to sink some poison into them.  They put on demonstrations debunking some of the myths surrounding the rattlesnake, as well as showing you how to safely move about them. Generally, they just play with them to most everyone’s delight.

I only handle them once I’ve removed their heads.  Shotgun blasts being my preferred solution, but any decapitation method will work.  They are easy to skin, just start on their belly and head south.  Be sure to leave the rattles on and save the hide because it is beyond easy to tan.

Rattlesnake is a white meat and can be on the chewy side sorta like alligator and bull frog, but different.  It has more body to it than poultry and fish, yet not the same toughness as squirrel or rabbit.  I find it rather bland, which makes it a good vessel for your favorite flavors.

You can see in the picture below rattlesnake is not as red as the quartered cottontail, but a bit different than the javelina loin.  That’s the javelina heart, not the snakes’.  Like members of Congress, they don’t have hearts.


Here I’ve chopped the snake into 4-6 inch sections, each section yields about a cup of meat.  I don’t even attempt to serve it still on the bone to snake eating newbies.  Just too much strangeness to get over in one meal.


This manly rattlesnake recipe is so easy, even the most clumsy culinarist can pull it off.



  • 2 pounds of snake (I’d stick with rattlesnake, a buddy told me about a water moccasin tasting rotten, and I’ll take his word for it.)
  • 24 corn tortillas
  • 1/4 pound roasted hatch green chiles
  • 1 purple onion sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper sliced
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 8 ounces of green enchilada sauce of your choice,  I highly recommend this right here
  • 2 TBS of olive oil
  • lard
  • 2 cups of mozzarella cheese
  • 1 cup of cilantro
  • lime wedges
  • queso fresca or sour cream
  • Salt


  • Fire up your grill.  While in the brush country, I stocked up on some mesquite to use on Wanda the Modern Marvel of Engineering™.  If you have no mesquite, any approved BBQ wood will do.  Or charcoal.  And if you don’t have any other option, gas.


  •  Oil your grill plate.  Sprinkle on a high quality salt on your rattlesnake and let it reach room temperature.  Slap on the grill hollow side down.  Grill for about 8-10 minutes over a medium hot fire.  Flip it over and cook another ten minutes or so, paying attention to the tenderness of the meat.



  • Pull the meat from the grill and let it rest for at least five minutes up to half an hour.  Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a skillet and cook the onions and peppers for about five minutes until the onions are not quite caramelized. Add the garlic and cook another minute.  Remove from the heat.
  • IMG_3812
  • Debone the rattler, which is surprisingly a lot like filleting a flounder.
  •  In another skillet, heat the lard until its shimmering, but not smoking.  Line a cookie sheet with paper towels and dip the tortillas in the hot grease and set on the towels to drain.  The tortillas should be stiff, but not crunchy like a chip.
  • Warm the enchilada sauce.


  • Add the meat to the sauteed peppers, onions and garlic and return to medium heat.  Mix thoroughly and add the mozzarella cheese.  Stir until the cheese is melted and stack each plate with an enchilada as follows:
    • Tortilla
    • Meat, veggies, cheese mixture
    • Spoonful or two of green sauce
    • Tortilla
    • Meat, veggies, cheese
    • Green Sauce
    • Queso Fresca
    • Cilantro
    • Squeeze of lime

Obviously, other white meats can be substituted if you find yourself short a rattler.  But if you do run across one, try a bite.



If You Burn it They Will Come

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So while I was mowing my practice field for little league, I almost burnt it up.

All I had to put it out was a rake, a half drunk bottle of Diet Dr Pepper, and some flip flops.  The wind was blowing and the lit pile of grass got bigger with each gust.  I was able to keep it relatively contained, but each time I’d start mowing, it would roar back to life.

A kind woman did stop and give me some of the melted ice from her beer cooler to put it out, but no luck.  She didn’t offer me a beer–just sayin.  I called my wife and she brought a giant ice chest full of water, still not enough.

I relented, and called in the professionals.


I stomped it out temporarily for this picture, but with each gust of wind the flames would reappear. This is after a couple coolers worth of water.



Of course my little minions were excited about seeing the fireman come….



Me? Not so much. 


OK, maybe a little. 






Fire out, I resumed mowing with no further incident.  Practice field looks pretty decent now, with one notable exception.  Nevertheless, I think it’s safe to say we’ve started this season red hot!

Javelina Heartbreak



I second guessed my decision to sleep in my pickup at a truck stop when I cruised past the 12 or so black leather clad fellas sitting on motorcycles.  Decked out in bandannas and gear adorned with demonic looking insignia, they stared at me as they not-so-discreetly passed around a paper bag covered bottle.  I doubt it was kombucha.   So I thought it wise to park and sleep on the other side of the lot, under the lights and video camera.  That is, until the flat bed truck and trailer piled with no less than 50 leaning mattresses pulled in beside me blaring the latest Tejano hit.  After 15 minutes it was clear the music was staying on.

So I eased around to the back of the truck stop where 20 or so big rigs were lined up sleeping for the night.  I parked next to the one on the end.  I was the only pickup parked among them, but I liked my odds better with a mad trucker or two than with a motorcycle gang.  With nothing but a hatchet to defend myself,  I spread my sleeping bag out in the back seat, set my Iphone to “Do not disturb,” and figured if my alarm went off, it meant I’d survived the night. Still, sleep was uneasy–hearing the strange big rig sounds during the night, subconsciously thinking I might have to make like Pee Wee Herman, and about 6 inches short of having enough room.

I was en route to hunt Javelinas with high school friends I hadn’t seen in nearly 20 years.  They left Northeast Texas around 11 pm and would meet me just off I35 around 6.  My drive was shorter, right at 4 hours.  Problem was, my friends–both Caseys, one Reynolds the other Wightman– had no idea what I was driving and arrived 2 hours early.  So, walking quietly to each pickup in the parking lot, they shined lights in to see if it was me. Bold moves I must say.

When they shined the light in my cab, I startled, twisting in my bag, and fell to the floorboard.   Reaching for my hatchet– I took the laughter I heard as a good sign, since it didn’t sound like Sociopath Mexican Biker Gang laughing.  Glass wasn’t crashing in on me, another good sign, but when I fumbled for my keys I set my truck alarm off.  I then dropped the keys, making it another 30 seconds of HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK HONK.  Finally I shut it off and climbed out.

“Crap Casey, I thought you were ISIS coming to chop my head off.  Good to see you man.”

“Well, we didn’t know what you were driving. We tried to call you.  Look, we better get out of here before these truckers wake up and kick our ass.”



And so started my first javelina bow hunt.  We were hunting the South Texas brush country, an area defined by dense thorn covered trees, shrubs and cactus.  By far the most game rich environment I’ve hunted, this desert is full of small and big game alike.  I saw blue quail and bobwhite. Turkeys gobbled along the oak lined creeks in the morning and whitetail deer crept out of the mesquite choked brush in the evening.  Tracks of javelina and feral pig  criss-crossed the senderos (Spanish for paths).  I saw a bobcat, the largest armadillo I’d ever encountered, and several coyotes.  Tons of rabbits, even sand hill cranes and snow geese could be heard overhead. Unlike many hunting ranches this part of the Texas, it was low fence.


Wednesday we scouted a sendero where Wighty killed two javelina last year, and others in his group had shot opportunities.  Most of my research  had been for hunting them in the Big Bend, New Mexico and Arizona region.  Mountainous areas.  This was not a mountainous region, nor was it like the Hill Country.  It did have some long sloping hills, but nothing like canyon land.


Like any animal I hunt, I focused on food, water and cover.  Yet, unlike other animals, water is not an issue as Javelinas can go ten days without water.  Moreover, they get a lot of water from the cactus they eat, mostly prickly pear.  So in short: food is everywhere, dense cover everywhere, and water though in short supply, isn’t too important. Rut is long past done.

Thursday morning found us hunting the productive area last year, but I didn’t feel good about it for some reason.  I found tracks, but the desert can hold onto a track a long time when they are made in mud.  I didn’t find any freshly eaten cactus and found no poop when I walked about a half mile through the brush.   I did nail a cottontail. IMG_3411

Doug, another friend of the Caseys, needed something back at camp and  managed to drive past a herd not 200 yards from our tents. They quickly piled out of the Rhino, but the javelina ran back into the brush.  They stalked a little ways, but never managed to come upon them.

When we met for lunch, they mentioned seeing the javelina and I said I wanted to check it out.  Doug opted to stay and hunt the prior year’s spot, but me and Reynolds went back to the spot near camp.  While easing through the brush, we both found areas we liked–about 300 yards apart.  While scouting, I ran across several impressive sheds, and a monster skull.


The above picture is a rather open area for the Brush Country.  In a thicker spot, a cottontail tried to slip past Casey and while he was stalking it, he nearly tripped over this impressive skull.


We heard something escape through the thick brush, and we were seeing tons of javelina sign.


So by now it was near 2 y and Reynolds and I made our stand in the thick brush.  He hunted deeper into the brush in a dry creek, and I hunted a slight draw where he and Doug had seen the javelinas run.


I caught all kinds of hell for wearing my sniper ghilley suit.  But I was looking at an area about 15 yards wide and figured I needed all the help I could get since I was new to bow hunting.


Night fall came and I saw jack squat.  Wighty, Walter, Doug and David saw nothing at the hotspot from the previous year. Reynolds on the other hand, forgot his range finder, but had a shot at 30 yards.  He didn’t want to risk over/under shooting it, so he passed.  I respect his decision.

Doug did manage a trophy jack rabbit.  This might make the book for low fence rodent.

trophy jack

Though we were all disappointed in the lack of stink pig action, Reynolds excluded, we were upbeat that night in

Casey and I decided we liked the sign we’d seen in our area and elected to return the next morning.  Wighty and the rest wanted to give the old spot one more morning, and then scout a new area.  After a huge dinner of venison fajitas, we turned in.

Daylight came and found me staring at the same 15 yards or so I had the night before.  I didn’t like it.  Fifty thousand acres to hunt, and I was looking at this well traveled but small area.  Still I hung out till 10, then texted Casey who wasn’t happy about his spot either, despite the last night’s action.  We decided to go scout as well.

Wighty and Doug left one way, we went the other.  I didn’t know if we were making the right choice, leaving an area with so much sign, but it was really close to camp and we were not a quiet camp.

We covered lots of ground in the ATV’s and the dust was incredible.   Hunting from ATV’s in the brush country, goggles and a face mask are mandatory.


We found some likely areas, but never felt like we found anything better than where we’d been hunting.  We decided to return to the same place for the evening hunt.

At about 1:30, Reynolds and I head to the brush. Though I thought I knew where Casey was hunting, I didn’t.  So when I moved deeper into the brush, I actually moved within 60 yards of his area.  I knew the cross wind would be tricky, but I thought he was further in and the cross wind wouldn’t affect his area. Nope, blew right at him.

During hunt research, I read calling can be effective.  I practiced a few times and thought I had it down pretty well, so with 5 minutes of light left, I let’er rip.  I thought it sounded decent, something like this, but in reality Casey likened it to a pig with a smokers cough, or someone choking on a cotton ball. Only 3 doe responded.

We returned to camp, to find Wighty successful.  I asked if they got any and he told me to go look at the back of their Rhino.  This is what I saw:


Not one, but three.  Closer inspection showed one full javelina and two extra heads.  Turns out, some dudes killed a couple but didn’t want the heads. Strange.  Nonetheless,  Wighty has a tannery and does skull mounts so he took them for display purposes.

While scouting they rode up on an empty ground blind with javelinas all around it.  After glassing for a hidden hunter, they verified it was empty.  Bows in hand they stalked within 40 yards and shot a peccary. It ran a short ways, turned and snapped its teeth repeatedly.  Not exactly a friendly sound, Wighty opted to shoot it a couple more times.

wighty stink pig

Everyone was really fired up as we turned into bed.  Me and Reynolds decided to to hunt an area near Doug and Wighty where they felt the herd they saw were bedding.  I really wanted to hunt an area where I could see a long distance, and this sendero went for miles.

Saturday morning I awoke before my alarm.  The weather up until then, had been cool to pleasantly warm.  We set up on the long sendero with the ability to glass about a half mile in one direction until the road formed a Y,  and 2 miles the other.  We could see a lot of fresh sign, like this recently nibbled prickly pear.


I felt bad about scaring Casey with my call….I mean scaring his javelinas away the night before, so I told him to take the first shot opportunity of the day.   At 7:50 I spotted a two about 250 yards away and we began our straight line stalk.  By straight line I mean, walking up the road to them.  I thought we’d be able to weave in and out of the brush as we approached but its so thick you can’t.

Covering the first 150 yards, we slowed our pace significantly once within 100.  I whispered the distances to Casey as we crept,

“100 yards”


As we got within 80 yards, we only moved only when their heads were down feeding.  I edged along side Casey, thinking since there were two we would time our shots.


By now, we were moving really slow.  I felt good out to 35 yards, I knew Casey was good to 40 at least.  He’s been bow hunting for years.


To my surprise, Casey draws and lets his arrow fly.  Too high.  The skunk pigs, take off.  Casey sighs, pauses and then questions me,

“You sure that was 38 yards?  I don’t think it was.”

“Nope, it was.  I mean, I suppose my range finder could be broken.”

Grinning, but frustrated he says, “No way that was 38 yards.”

Never to miss an opportunity, I respond, “38?  I didn’t say 38.  I said 18.” Knowing full well it was 38.

Nonetheless, we both stuck to our stories. Later, I did apologize in front of everyone that I couldn’t get him closer than 18 yards.


Scene of the 18 yard miss.

We resumed our positions: Casey at the top of the hill, me at the bottom, and our ATV between us. 45 minutes later a group of javelina, about 9-10, entered the road beside the ATV.  Casey was much closer, and by the time I fished the phone from my pocket, most of the group had slipped into the brush.  I recorded the stalk as best I could.




The travelling javelina left little time for a stalk, so we saturated the sendero with corn.  The temperature rose as we watched for the next herd to come through.  The sun proved relentless.   By noon desperation crept in.   Our best efforts at shade were weak, and we needed to do something different.  Casey said,

“Lets jump into the stock tank.”

Best. Idea. Ever.  In the tank we went.



While the rest of the country is in the grips of winter storms, I put on some SPF 50.  The water,about 70 degrees, ended any threat of heat stroke in the 94 degree weather.    Refreshed, we returned to the hunt, this time pulling out a tarp to create shade. IMG_3525

We waited.

Around 2, Casey moved to the top of the small hill, leaving me watching the Y.  Shortly, I see more javelina have appeared because Reynolds goes into full grrrrr mode.  He’s up and stalking.  He let an arrow fly, but an unseen limb sent his arrow wayward.


I walked up to get the report.  While recounting his tale, we glassed about a mile away and there a dozen or so javelinas come tumbling out of the brush surrounding a brush blind.  Looking closer, we see a woman sound asleep.  We watched as they fed for a good five minutes until she stirred and sent them running. She awoke startled and we laughed.

I moved back down hill, and resumed my position watching the Y.


Not the Y I hunted, but similar.


Another hour passed and out walks a loan boar at the end of the Y opposite Casey.  There’s about 45 minutes of daylight left.  The pig fed my direction, and my range finder said 350  yards.  I shoot pigs often, so I decided to hold out  for some javelina action.


Another 15 minutes passes, and I decide I might as well move into position at the fork of the Y, so I can still see up the hill while I wait for the hog to feed his way to me.  The sun is at my back and the wind is blowing cross-ways, north to south.  Not the best wind, but doable.  I figured I could shoot the hog before he came through my crosswind.  He’s now only 150 yards away and will probably cross just before dark.

Suddenly, I hear lots of grunts, squeals and I look directly across from me and see about 15 yards into the brush a herd of pigs making their way toward the Rhino and corn laden sendero.  As they approach the sendero, see the Rhino, and abruptly stop.  Unlike the javelina, these pigs are not comfortable coming out right beside the vehicle.  They scrambled back into the brush.

I hustled back to the ATV, knowing full well those porkers can’t resist corn.  Just as I arrived, they burst from the mesquite and began to feed 58 yards away.  Now Casey watched my stalk from his hilltop perch.




The closest pile of corn is 32 yards.  The pigs fed a little toward me, then a little away.  Time running out preferred a shot at javelina anyways..  So I decide on an end run through the brush at the the back of the ATV.  I eased though cactus and mesquite, closing the distance to 40 yards.  I edge around a small mesquite when the snap of a branch beneath my foot sends the pigs bolting off the sendero.  I return to the base of the sendero fork bitter.

But, I look and this fat pig continues to feed.


Maybe 100 yards closer, but not running towards me as I had hoped.


5 minutes later and he’s now about 200 yards away–I go for it.  Sun’s at my back and the wind, while crossing, is not blowing to him.  His head’s down feeding.  I get to 100 yards away and go into full predator mode.

I get to 75, his butt is facing me.

I get to 60….and out runs the previous herd of pigs on the other side of him.

The sow promptly looks directly at me, and they haul hams back into the thicket.

Back at the Rhino, I look up to see Casey perfectly silhouetted at full draw against the skyline, a scattering of javelina in his midst.  Perhaps the most picturesque scene in my hunting lifetime.   Alas, no camera.

Meanwhile, Doug and I have an ongoing rabbit killing contest and are tied.  Despite the focus on rabbits, he nonchalantly kills a collared peccary at less than 30 yards, claiming it as the tie breaker.  I ceded victory, returning to camp without any pork and a rabbit short.

Doug's kill

With my best friend pregnant at home, I packed up camp and called it a hunt.  Said my goodbyes to the boys and camp and drove to the skinning pole to tell Doug and Wighty adios.  They had a surprise for me.  While skinning the javy, one of natures sweet denizens crawled into the light while they processed Doug’s kill.  Of course, they killed it and gave it to me with the condition I cook it and report back.  I agreed.


This was a fun hunt, unlike any I’ve been on.  A unique country, unique quarry and definitely some unique dudes made this a trip I plan on making every chance I get.

Recipe: Canadian Bacon


canadian bacon

I once rated pork loin as my least favorite cut of pork. Since the vast majority of my pork is wild, I felt obligated to cook it done or else. The result being an overlooked dry, lifeless meat.

Canadian bacon has changed everything. Consider the loin last place no more, my friends. A simple brine and time in a smoker has transformed this difficult cut (for me) into my favorite charcuterie dish to date.  With multiple levels of flavor from the smoke and herbs, this Canadian Bacon is not your typical Egg McMuffin meat.


  • 1 Gallon of Water
  • 1.5 cups of Kosher Salt
  • 1 Cup of Brown Sugar
  • 8 tsp of instacure #1 (pink salt)
  • Handful of fresh lavender
  • 8-10 leaves of fresh sage
  • 2 ounces of crushed juniper berries
  • Crushed Black Pepper
  • 5 pound pork loin, leave the fat if it’s sweet.


  • Kill a fat pig and have your minions (if you own any) skin it.  IMG_1176
  • If the fat is sweet tasty goodness (test some by frying up and smell it), leave a good layer on the loin.
  • Combine the sugar, salt and water and bring to a slight simmer to get it nice and dissolved. Allow it to cool to room temperature.  If in the winter, setting it outside and adding a ziplock bag full of ice into your pot will speed the chilling process.  You don’t want to add the loin to the brine when it’s warm because you will slightly cook it.
  • When finally cooled, add the loin and rest of ingredients.  Brine for about three days, weighing the meat down so its fully submerged.
  • Remove and rinse in cool water.  Pat dry and place on a cookie rack back in the fridge for another day.
  • Hot smoke the bacon with your smoker at about 200 degrees to reach an internal temperature of 157-160, depending on your level of trichinosis paranoia.   I used apple wood, but any approved BBQ wood will do.

Canadian bacon is excellent alone, as the featured entree, or to just keep around in the kitchen for sammiches and pizza. Make it as complex as you like by adding more and different spices, or keep it simple. Either way, it’s a good place to start with your next wild pork loin.


Feeding the Ducks—Little Boy Style


Remember how I got into ducks?  Well today I was digging the trench for potatoes I was planting and my 8 year old stops me, scoops something into a bucket full of grub worms, and asks for my phone.  He films his catch, and then films the duck feeding session/frenzy. Enjoy.**



**A snake was definitely harmed in this video.  Normally, I don’t mind non-venomous snakes, but not when I’m messing around in the garden.  Plus, a duck’s got to eat.

Squirrel Confit




Apparently the French think true confit, (pronounced “konfee”),  can only be made with goose or duck.  If they had squirrel however, I believe they might just change their tune.   I managed to slip away from my mother in law’s house and had a killer hunt just outside Austin.   As part of a large dinner party menu, I was inspired to give this recipe a try from my friends in the Facebook group Hunt Gather Cook, which I highly suggest you join.  Originally I was going to make tacos from the confit, but at the behest of my friends (who are always behesting me) they decided to eat it with just their grubby little fingers.  It was that good.

Sadly, I killed very few ducks or geese this season, and was left with no waterfowl fat to confit my squirrels.  This recipe uses olive oil, the method used in Provence, but the results were still spectacular.  We’ve used it as leftovers on pasta, salads, and some fried rice.  It’s versatile and yummy.


  • 9 fox squirrels, skinned and quartered.  Rib cage removed.
  • 8 cups of olive oil
  • Bay leaves


  • 1 cup of salt
  • 1 cup of dextrose sugar
  • 1 tsp instacure #1 (pink salt)
  • 2 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp course ground black pepper
  • 1 TBS of satsuma zest



  • Pat your squirrel dry and put all of the cure in a shallow pie plate.  Press each piece of meat into the cure and set on a cookie rack over a baking sheet to catch the excess juice.  Refrigerate uncovered for 8 hours.  Longer if you like things a bit salty.  029
  • Rinse, pat dry, and place on a cookie rack to dry for half an hour.  Turn your oven to its lowest setting or WARM.
  • In a large dutch oven, stack in your squirrel.  Cover with olive oil or other fat of your choice.  I intended to use lard from wild boar, but opted at the last minute for olive oil.  Toss in a handful of bay leaves if you like.
  • 044
  • Place in the oven, and with a digital thermometer ensure the temperature never exceeds 200º.  Cook for 12 hours.
  • Shred and crisp in a cast iron skillet.  You can also leave whole and crisp as well.  Both are delectable.

Confit is a great way to enjoy pecan pirates.  If you like to squirrel hunt, but are looking for something a little different to do with your take, use this old school French approach.

Dallas Safari Club 2015 Convention



As luck would have it, my sons’s  were swimming in the Winter State Games of Texas, which coincided with the Dallas Safari Club’s annual convention. They didn’t swim until Sunday, which left us with a Saturday to play in DFW.   During my stent in law school, I joined the Dallas Safari Club in the hopes of making contacts with attorneys in the Dallas area.  Of course, I came from a more modest background than many of the members, but this didn’t keep them from being a friendly bunch.


Lots of fun for boys, but my toddlers legs gave out.


Where my friends might show each other polaroids (pre smart phone days) of the big buck or limit of dove they shot, the people sharing tables with me in the DSC monthly dinners would pass around shots of elephant, leopards and Cape Buffalo.  Immensely cool.


But, I decided I didn’t want to be an attorney and started college over to become a CRNA.  I moved back to Austin. My membership remained in good standing and I would often get calls from professional hunters going something like this:

“Mr. Spencer, what are your safari plans for the upcoming year?”

To which I would respond:”Well, so far I’ve got a 2 day woodlands hunt planned in Camp County for fox squirrels, other than that, I’m wide open!”

Then of course they would let me know they had a late cancellation for a Marco Polo hunt in Kyrgyzstan, a bongo hunt in Cameroon, etc.  At the time I was living on student loans–a safari was out of the question.  But a man can dream can’t he?


So when I saw the DSC convention was going on this weekend, I was stoked.  Though my wife doesn’t hunt, she likes the idea of going to Africa and many safaris cost about the same or less than hunts in Canada and Alaska.  It’s a plan in the works.


Turning the corner, my dear wife is trampled by an escaped buffalo



This convention is perfect if you need information for planning a destination hunt, want to see some incredible taxidermy and gun collections, or just need inspiration for a dream.  Along with Africa’s professional hunters, outfitters from Alaska to South America are ready to regale you with stories from the bush. And really, who doesn’t need more bush stories?


Well known clothing, boot, and optics dealers as well.    There was also some cool jewelry and lots of other conservation groups like Rocky Mountain Goat Alliance ready to share their causes.  Simultaneously, seminars are going on with guest authors and speakers lined up covering an array of topics ranging from planting a food plot to planning a safari.


I think anybody who likes  to hunt, regardless of safari aspirations, would enjoy the convention.  So if in the Dallas area in January, make plans to attend.


Notice the lions eyes are open.  2015/01/img_3053.jpg

Now blinking.  Freaky. 2015/01/img_3054.jpg


I’d like to return, with a specific trip in mind, about 5 years from now when the boys are older–spend about three days, learn all I can and visit the different hunting outfitters offering my hunt.  Most outfitters were offering nice discounts for signing up at the convention.  Until then, I’ll just dream.



Recipe: Southern Style Roasted Possum



Pregnancy causes some strange food cravings. Last night I had a dinner party for some friends during the college football national championship.  Many were new to game, so I wanted to trot out some good food without asking them to get out of their comfort zones.   I made a ham and Canadian bacon from a wild boar, a Thai dish with fried dove, some squirrel confit and wild boar gnocchi with marinara sauce. Yummy, but safe.

Meanwhile, my son likes to trap and wants to learn to tan furs.  The other night, I saw a pair of eyes a little too close for comfort to my duck coop, so I had him set out a cage trap.  The next morning–bingo:



Didelphis virginiana, the ubiquitous Virginia Opossum, growled and hissed at us as we approached the trap.  Named by John Smith in 1604 after the Algonquin word for “white animal,” scientists believe they’ve been around since the dinosaurs.  Of course they are North America’s only marsupial and have more teeth than any animal on our continent.  They are practically immune to snake bites and rabies, are famous for playing dead when threatened, and will burp at you when agitated. Males are Jacks and females are called Jills, and if you run into several, well, you’ve discovered a passel of possums.

With no intention of actually following through with the proposal, I asked my guests in a text if they’d like an additional item on the menu. I followed the text immediately with the picture above. I expected revulsion.  Nope.  In fact, the two pregnant and only non-Southern women delighted at the prospect of possum.   The rest of the party then joined in with demands for possum.

Well, not wanting to peeve the parturients, I skinned and butchered the critter.  For some reason, the prospect of eating Mr. Slicktail kinda got to me.  I don’t know why, but I had trouble envisioning it being food.  Yet, I persevered.

I’ve always said the best bait for catching a possum would be a saucer full with drippings from the back of a dumpster truck.  These animals eat anything.  Dead horse?  Not only a months worth of meals, but a house to live in as well!  It was common knowledge in Camp County in the 1930’s you needed to keep a possum under a potato crate, fattened on a diet of sweet potatoes for a month, before you had prime eating.

The meat was pink, not unlike pork, but more tender.  They only live to be about 4 years old, so maybe they don’t have time to get tough.  I decided to brine it, and keep the spices on the sweet side.  I expected it to yield the aroma of soggy wet trash, with hints of vomit.  I guess you could say the bar was set pretty low.

Turns out I was wrong. During the roasting time, it smelled like a pork roast.  Everyone dug in.  The two preggos went back for seconds.  I’d say if a pig and squirrel could have a baby, it would taste like possum.  In fact, during my research I discovered the appropriate way to butcher a possum is to scald it like a pig, leaving the skin on.  Maybe next time.




  • 1 cup of Kosher Salt
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground all spice
  • 1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon whole cloves


  • 1 grinning possum, quartered
  • 4 sweet potatoes sliced in 2 inch chunks
  • 4 apples cored
  • 2 cups of dry white wine
  • 2 cups of water
  • Flour
  • Dried Thyme
  • 1 TBS cinnamon
  • 1 TBS all spice
  • 1 TBS grated nutmeg
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper


  • Simmer brine to dissolve salt and sugar, allow to cool to room temperature.  Add the possum and brine for 24 hours. If necessary, add a plate to keep the meat fully submerged.
  • Remove from brine, rinse and pat dry.
  • Combine the flour, salt, pepper and thyme.  Coat the possum with flour mix. Place in a roasting pan at 350 degrees, uncovered for an hour and add the wine and water.
  • At the end of the hour, add the sweet potatoes.  If necessary, add more wine and water.  Cover and cook another 45 minutes.
  • Add the cored apples, and the rest of the spices and return and cook covered for another hour.


This was a pleasant surprise.  If you are adventurous, give this one a go.  So, any of you ever dined on possum?