Saturday, March 19, 2011

Guy Weekend = Trip to Cabelas!

So the first weekend of Spring Break, my lovely bride and daughters headed up to Oklahoma to visit family for a few days with plans to return mid week.  I had to stay home because I was needed at work and couldn't be gone, so I had the whole weekend to myself, a real "guy weekend".  So what is a guy to do?  Well I had grand plans to take the kayak out and try to catch a few crappie.  I wouldn't be able to start fishing until Saturday afternoon since the family wasn't leaving until Noon, but that was my plan.  Well when the I had packed up my wife and kids in the car and watched them drive away the wind was HOWLING!  I hate kayaking in the wind so plan B was a trip to Cabelas!

I was giddy with excitement!  I needed to pick up some new diaphragm turkey calls for my Spring hunt that is coming up, I have been looking into getting a backpacking stove for future backpacking trips, and I always enjoy just looking at all the camo and gadgets on the market.  I thought to myself, "this must be what is like for my wife when she goes clothes shopping".  Before leaving I threw some deer steaks and a frozen block of ice that I believe contains a couple quail into the fridge to defrost for later and hit the road.

Another great aspect of this trip is that I am in no hurry.  Usually when I go to Cabelas, it is with the family and we are on the way somewhere else.  My wife and daughters have come into Cabelas before, but more often they just hangout in the SUV and wait for me.  The usual routine in this situation is for me receive cell calls while I am in the store from my daughters saying "Dad! Mom wants to know how much longer!"  Well today I am on my own time, so no pressure.

I am amazed how there always seems to be a constant stream of people coming in out of this store.  I like looking at the happy hunters and anglers leaving with their new prized possessions complete, with dreamy looks of anticipation on their face.  I enter the front doors and I think I hear a chorus of angels singing "ALLELUIA" or was that just in my head?  I immediately begin my search for turkey calls.  I was surprised that they really didn't have that many to choose from, but they have what I need.  I grabbed a three pack of H&S double reeds and checked off the item in my mental list.  I wandered to the camping section and found good news and bad news.  The compact camping stove (a MSR Pocket Rocket) that I had looked at last month, but didn't buy, is now $5 more!  The good news is the titanium cup/cooking combo that I needed to go with it with it is now $25 less!  Woo Whoo!

Now with my shopping objectives complete, I am free to wander.  One of my traditional activities when I go to Cabelas is to look at their trophy mounts.  They have two rooms completely dedicated to big game mounts.  My favorite is a wall of gigantic trophy whitetail deer.  Each one has framed document beneath it to tell the story of how the hunter bagged this deer and other interesting details relating to the hunt.  I haven't read them all mostly because it would take too long, but also because I want to savor this as something I do each time I visit the store, like taking one piece of candy from a dish and enjoying it over time instead of pigging out all at once.

Next I marvel at the full body mounts of the elk.  I have hunted for these monarchs of the mountains only once and I want to go back soon.  You really don't appreciate how big they are relative to a deer until you see both of them together as I have here.

While leaving the big game exhibit, I noticed a plaque on the railing that I hadn't looked at before.  It was a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt that stated (and I am paraphrasing here) that those people who are against hunting do not understand that reason big game animals continue to thrive is because and not despite the efforts of sportsman!  As I soaked in this quote, I was surprised that in the era of President Roosevelt there was any opposition to hunting.  I think conservation is more prevalent now than then, but I had always thought of our nation being mostly "pro hunting" until more recent times.  Reading this caused me also to remember that Roosevelt had enacted legislation to create numerous National Parks and had really been a conservationist well before his time.  

Well once I had my fill of looking at all the hunting and fishing gear, it was time to head home.  The rest of the weekend was relatively uneventful.  The weather didn't cooperate on Sunday for fishing either so I did the usual chores that were put off during hunting season.  Later I prepared to cook my quail for a nice evening meal.  I grabbed the bag that once held a huge hunk of ice, but was now defrosted.  It looked odd, huh, those aren't quail!  There in the bag were two small dove breasts.  Dang, I really need to start labeling all my bags.  I usually do, but I had been in a hurry the evening I had cleaned these particular doves (I had intended to put them with some other doves to make enough for a meal).  Well that won't be enough of a meal so I grabbed the deer back-strap steaks that were supposed to be for tomorrow and began the marinating process.  Nothing fancy, just Stubs pork marinade.  I like it because it is spicy, but has a sweetness to it as well.  I dug through the pantry for some sort of side dish and discovered a sweet potato to complete my meal.  

So as the sun set on my guy weekend, I savored deer steaks, dove, and sweet potatoes.  I miss my family when they are gone, but a guy has to make the most of his opportunities!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Deep Thoughts: The Last Batch of Deer Chili

So we had a return of winter weather this week and that inspired me to cook a little deer chili.  I knew I was running a little low on my ground deer meat, but I was sure that at the bottom of my freezer, under the deer steaks, quail, dove and fish, there was more.  I purchased a new grinder this winter and put in many hours of grinding so I was confident this wasn't the end.  When I started digging in the deep freeze and taking an inventory of my wild game, I realized that although I had many packages of deer steaks, I only had two ground meat packages left.  That's just enough for one more batch of chili! (cue the dramatic music, dun, dun, Da!)

Now I don't claim to be be a philosopher, but as I cooked my final batch of deer chili from the 2010 hunting season, it caused me to reflect and see similar parallels with my life.  Here I have been, going through my ground deer meat supply like it will never end.  I have been enjoying it, but not really appreciating it and treating each meal like it is the last.  That is how most of us live our lives, living each day like we have all the time in the world and that there will always be tomorrow.  Maybe it's because I am nearing 40 and am feeling my mortality creep up on me, but lately I have been thinking about the limited time I have left in my life to spend with my children before they grow up, with my wife while we are relatively young and good looking (well at least she is), and to do the things that I want to do before I am not able any more because I am to old and not able.

Now I know what your thinking, that this parallel falls apart because I can always get another deer or two next fall and your right (I didn't say it was a perfect analogy).  But, the lesson is still a good one and we should all practice what I coincidentally heard in a country song just the other day, "live like your dying".  Now I don't usually take advice from country songs, or else I would be writing about "mom, prison, and trains" (that's a reference to "you never even call me by my name" by David Allan Coe if you were wondering).  But it is a good perspective to keep in mind as I live my life and make choices about where to spend my time and who to spend it with.

In my last blog post I outlined the major big game animals of North America that I want to hunt before I am unable.   I have planned a trip this fall to pursue Elk, but I recently hurt my knee and I am unsure if I will recover in time to be able to hike the high country wilderness of Colorado.  I hope that this isn't one of those things that I thought I still had plenty of time to do and it turns out that my time has passed.

Well enough of the deep thoughts, back to the chili!  Since this is my last batch before replenishing my supply of ground deer meat, I needed to make this an extra special chili.  I used a store bought brand of chili mix that has the usual seasonings, but I added two cans of dice tomatoes, one can of kidney beans, and two bell peppers (a red one and a green one).  Add cheese and jalapenos and you have a feast!

Warm weather is approaching so it will be time to bring the grill into service and begin cooking the deer steaks!  I'll never run out of those!  Just kidding.